Monday, April 28, 2014

Series Arc

My mother's church had a cake social today and ... well, I had 2 cupcakes. :( My butt is ashamed. My tummy is astounded. That has nothing to do with writing...Or maybe it does. Dieting does not feed my muse. LOL And after a five-day dry spell I finally feel like writing again. 

Anyway, not one to waste time, I spent Saturday morning on the phone with one of my best writing buds, Paula Matter. I have come up with a really good single title romantic suspense idea...

Or maybe the nugget of an idea.

And Paula is helping me bring shape and life to the series arc. Specifics of the individual stories won't begin to take root until I know I have the arc for the series.

So, right now, you're saying...Really? You have NO IDEA what the individual books will be about. Well, I have an inkling. When it comes to a series -- a kind of important, single title series -- I wanted to get my series ducks in a row first. 


Two reasons. First a good friend of mine wrote a book that did so well that her publisher came back and said, let's make this a series. With a first book written, she'd limited her options of what could be in books two and three. She said if she'd known this was going to be a series she would have taken the time to plot it out.

I took that like a foreshadowing in my own career! LOL

Coming up with an arc first means I can put things in books 1 and 2 that foreshadow book 3. But also I know what not to do, what doors not to close in book 1, so I have some stuff to write about in books 2 and three. I can come up with bigger themes. I can create a complicated plot. I can torment my people but good. :)

Second, I'm a firm believer that if you want something to be really, really good, you have to think it through. What seems like a nice, tight, interesting...compelling, even...story line might not seem so fantastic after a good night's sleep, or a week away from it.

Thinking gives you a chance to find the holes as well as stumble upon (or actually create) really great plot twists, story lines, characters...and the ever important conflicts.

The longer I ponder something, the better the chance I will come up with something magnificent. And that just tickles my fancy. LOL

I'll be talking about plotting a trilogy at the Pennwriters Conference in Lancaster on May 16-18 or something...Wait, let me go find a link...

Join us. We can be lots of fun. :)

Happy Reading...
susan meier

Thursday, April 24, 2014

If you keep doing what you've always done...



Scrub sleep out of eyes...Wait.

What day is it? Thursday? How the heck did that happen?

I missed the Monday Morning blog. I know half of you probably forgave me because of the holiday. Then Tuesday was my birthday. But I have no excuse for Wednesday.

Actually...I do have an excuse, but you may not like it. I'm up to my ears in books to write. It's the perfect problem for a self-employed writer to have. LOL But it also means something's got to go. And it might be the regularity with which I do this blog. :(

At one point last year, I came across the quote, "If you always do what you've always done, you're going to get what you've always gotten." I took that to mean unless I ramped up my productivity, I would always only write the same ## of books per year and I wouldn't be able to branch out.

I desperately wanted to branch out. So I signed a contract with a second publisher and now I'm doing some serious producing! And I am very happy. VERY happy.

And it made me wonder...Does this principle apply to writing your book?

If you always do what you've always done, you're going to get what you've always gotten...


Think this through with me.

What result are you getting?

If you're published, how are your reviews? How are your sales? Are you winning contests?

If so...You might want to stick with what you're doing! LOL

If you're not published, are you finalling in contests? Getting good feedback from editors and agents? Feeling you're a gnat's eyelash away from a coveted contract?

If so, you might want to keep doing what you're doing! (As long as you're continually making progress.)

But if you're stuck, if you're not improving, if your contest entries are coming back looking like they're bleeding from red ink, if your reviews are lackluster, if your sales are iffy...

Maybe it's time for a change.

I'm not talking big change here. I'm not saying find a new agent, editor, publisher, genre. I want you to look at your writing habits.

If you write slowly, and write and rewrite your first chapters so much you never get to chapter 4, try fast drafting. Force yourself out of your comfort zone.

If you write fast, try slowing down.

If you pants, try writing an outline.

If you outline, try pantsing.

Revolutionary, I know!

Whatever you try might not work. You might realize you're not made for outlining, but it could teach you some better plotting skills. You might realize you can't write fast, but it could teach you how to move on from chapter 3! LOL

When I signed these contracts that forced me to put my butt in the chair for more than 4 hours a day and to create a good storyboard and stick to it, I found a whole new joy in my work. And I think I'm writing better stories than ever before. Why? Because I pushed myself out of my comfort zone.

As I said, no genre shift, no agent firing, no editor change was required, but more of a look at how I was writing.

So take a minute and repeat our phrase...If you always do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten ... and ask yourself, "Are you satisfied?"

If not, take a deep breath and try something different...

Happy Thursday.

susan meier

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring-Board Your Story Idea with Character

Today's guest post is by my friend, New York Times Best Selling author, Shirley Jump!

Enjoy! (And don't forget the rafflecopter entries below.)

Spring-Board Your Story Idea with Character
By Shirley Jump

Thanks so much for having me here! I thought I’d talk about character today, because I get asked about creating characters all the time. For me, my book derives from my characters and plot at the same time, in sort of a ying-yang thing. Okay, that sounds crazy. It’s not as nut as it sounds. I swear ;-).

Lots of writers come up with an idea for a book but then aren’t quite sure where to go from there. I always start with character, and by doing that, the book becomes character driven, rather than plot driven. Character driven books are more emotional, connect more, than plot-driven stories.

For me, I have often have a What-If situation—What if a commitment phobic Coast Guard Lieutenant is suddenly saddled with two kids? What if a woman who is trying to start a new life finds out she’s walked into a money pit of a change?

Then I decide on WHO my character is. Is she a murderer? An actor? A chef? Is she the protagonist or antagonist? Is he the father of the murder victim? The doctor who diagnoses a life-threatening disease? A lot of times this vocation will come from the plot. If you’re writing a murder mystery, obviously you need a killer, a victim and a hero. If you’re writing a romance, you need a hero and a heroine who have a few conflicts between them but not so many that they can’t get together. If you’re working on a children’s story, then you need a child protagonist who goes through a life-changing event.
For THE SWEETHEART RULES, my latest in the Sweetheart Sisters series with Berkley, I chose a hero and a heroine who were opposites in everything from their jobs to their approach to life. Responsible single mom and veterinarian Diana has decided never to rely on a man again. Then she has a one-night stand with no-strings Coast Guard Lieutenant Mike Stark. Six months later, when Mike returns (after being saddled unexpectedly with his two daughters), she ends up having to rely on him when her life is un upheaval. So I had two great characters, with sparks between them. The next step was to figure out who each of these people were and why they were who they were.

Many things help you make these decisions. What kind of person would be thrust into this situation? And why? This can send your plotting into a 100 different directions so brainstorm on this. One of the best ways to brainstorm, and something I teach in my class on my “Brainmap” method, is the spoke and wheel. Draw one word in the center of the page (protagonist, murderer, and antagonist) then draw out lines that lead to all kinds of possibilities. Maybe the murderer is an innocent framed for the crime. Maybe it’s a desperate woman backed into a corner. Maybe it’s an accident. Maybe it’s a serial killer. Feel free to let yourself go, even if you end up with 100 ideas on the page, and come up with as many ideas as you can. Even if you don’t use all these ideas, hold on to the paper. When you get stuck later in the plot, pull this out and see where it leads you.

With THE SWEETHEART RULES, I had my heroine show a secret she is keeping at the very beginning of the book. That secret underlies every decisions she has made, and will come back to haunt her in several different ways. Then I figured out why she would keep such a secret, and what toll it has taken on her life and her relationships.

Third, you need to name your character. For me, I like names that have meaning. I have a baby name book I use to look up meanings, derivatives and nicknames. In THE SWEETHEART RULES, I wanted names that showed their characters. Dependable, reliable Diana and sexy, charming Mike seemed to fit well!

Fourth, create a character “bible.” This can come from a character interview, from your own thoughts, however you want to develop it. The character bible is comprised of the simple stuff - eye color, hair color, etc. But also tackle the bigger issues -- what happened to this character as a child? What is he or she afraid of? What’s his worst habit? Greatest trait? Biggest weakness? How does he feel about his parents/ pets? Last girlfriend? All of these things become fodder for great, well-developed characters. For THE SWEETHEART RULES, this became even more vital because it’s part of a three-book series, and I needed to keep everything and everyone straight.

These are the kids of details that give characters life. One of my first rejection letters praised my writing up and down but aid that my characters didn’t breathe and live on the page. I had no idea what this meant at the time, but learned later how to pump life into people on a page.

How do I do it? I filter EVERYTHING through that character’s past. When my character looks out the window at a tree, there is a memory associated with that tree, a memory that impacts on the plot, and that makes the tree and the moment with the character have ten times more meaning.

Characters shouldn’t be static -- they should have past habits, annoying traits, likes and dislikes, etc. Those are the little details that make them as real as the neighbor you don’t like or the favorite aunt you love. And creates books that readers love!

If you pick up THE SWEETHEART RULES, I hope you’ll share with me your favorite character! If not, tell me: Who was the most memorable character you read about? What made them so interesting? What kind of traits do you love in heroes and heroines?

If you love THE SWEETHEART RULES, it here or in a bookstore near you! And read an awesome review here, if you’re so inclined :-)

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway, too!


New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shirley Jump spends her days writing romance and women's fiction to feed her shoe addiction and avoid cleaning the toilets. She cleverly finds writing time by feeding her kids junk food, allowing them to dress in the clothes they find on the floor and encouraging the dogs to double as vacuum cleaners.

Look for her Sweet and Savory Romance series, including the USA Today bestselling book, THE BRIDE WORE CHOCOLATE, on Amazon and Nook, and the debut of her Sweetheart Club series for Berkley, starting with THE SWEETHEART BARGAIN in September 2013.

Visit her website at or read recipes and life adventures at" rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 7, 2014

Has to do a lotta things

I read an article the other day about how the "next" generation doesn't like watches. "They only do one thing," a kid in the article was quoted as saying. If he wants to know the time, he looks at his phone. Which does lots and lots of things.

Ah. I get it.

Because your story has to do the same thing...Work on several levels. So do your characters. In fact, so do your scenes.

Nobody wants one-dimensional.

HER SUMMER WITH THE MARINE is the story of a woman coming to terms with her father's death, as she inserts herself back into the small town she'd thought she'd left behind for good, makes friends, runs a funeral home...falls in love. At the same time, it's the story of a guy rescuing his mom, who loves life and people, who likes to win, falling for the last person he should want...his high school nemesis. He learns that friendship isn't just about him "being there" for's about letting go and letting someone be there for him.

The story "works" on several levels. The characters are multidimensional. And if I did my job the scenes do more than push the story forward. They also display character, show character growth, give readers a sense of small town life, and, read one after the other, tell a story.

The next time you look at your watch, think about your scenes, your characters, your story...Are they doing more than just tell time? :)

Happy Monday...and Happy Reading...

susan meier

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Guest Blog -- Barbara Wallace -- Enter via Rafflecopter (at bottom) to win prizes!

I'm participating in a spring blog hop with the CHOCOLATE BOX WRITERS! So For a little change of pace this week, we have more than one blog. This morning's is friend, Barbara Wallace, Seven Tips for Aspiring Writers

If you're looking for my Monday blog on digging deeper...just scroll down.


Seven Tips for Aspiring Writers
Don’t chase trends.  Ignore talk about what’s hot and what’s selling.  Chances are, by the time you perfect your manuscript, the trends will have shifted.  Focus on writing a good book, not a marketable one.
Hone your voice.  So often I read unpublished manuscripts where the writer attempted to emulate her favorite author.  As a result, the manuscript is often technically perfect, but lacking spark.  As much as you might love their books, there can only be one Kristan Higgins or Ruthie Knox.  Be yourself.  Don’t be an imitation of someone else. 
Finish your book.  Sigh.  If I had a nickel for all the times writers drop a story because they got bored halfway through.  Or spent their energy honing the first three chapters as though writing a proposal.  I’ve got one word for you.  STOP!  The only sure way to publish a book is to have an entire book.  Similarly,
Understand the difference between a finished manuscript and a publishable manuscript.  The dark side of self-publishing is that it’s led some authors to believe that simply writing a book qualifies them for publication.  Not every book deserves to be in print.  I know – I have a half dozen books on my computer that will never EVER see the light of day.  Nor should they.  Be ruthless about your craft, and be honest with yourself. 
Accept rejection and failure as inevitable.  Everyone stumbles.  Falling down is part of the learning process.  What falling down isn’t, however, is a judgment on you as a writer or as a person.  Learn from your mistakes, and grow.

Never stop learning your craft.  Too often, I go to writers conferences only to find the hallways filled with new authors networking.  Meanwhile, there are bestselling authors sitting in the front row of the craft sessions taking notes.  The best writers know that learning never ends.  Strive to be one of those writers. 

Barbara Wallace" rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway