Thursday, April 29, 2010
I've been thinking a lot lately about what makes an editor decide to buy and publish the books they choose. I read fairly voraciously. I read a lot in the genre in which I write, but I read in other genres as well. Most of the time I can definitely see what attracted an editor to a book. But sometimes I read one and I think "I don't get it." Of course I'm not supposed to, I guess. Books are not all chocolate fudge sundaes. Everyone likes chocolate fudge sundaes, but a steady diet of them, more than likely would make most of us ill. And I am smart enough to know that my taste in books is not the be all and end all of everything. Which is a shame because I really have excellent taste.
So, what influences do we listen to when we sit down to start that new book? I have noticed that everyone and her grandma is writing young adult these days. The same can be said of paranormals. The theory for some is that if you write a young adult paranormal you are guaranteed a sale. I'm in trouble then because I am not overly fond of teenagers. Five years teaching high school English and history will do that to you. I love paranormal, but I think I would want to write something completely different rather than what everyone else is writing.
How, then, do you decide? Do you write to please yourself? Do you write with the absolute intention of making your story marketable no matter what? Is it possible to write a story with one audience in mind and then rewrite or edit if for another audience because the powers that be think it will sell better as this or that?
I guess my real question is how attached are you to your story ideas? How much are you invested in them? When you are looking for that next story idea, what sorts of things influence your choice? Inquiring minds want to know.
I'll be back. Suddenly I am craving a hot fudge sundae!
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Two of Southern Magic's very own have new releases out this week!
And for a double whammy, Last Chance, the third installment of Christy Reece's Last Chance Rescue romantic suspense series, also released on the 27th.
Choices...choices. Which to buy? Which to buy? Ooh! I got it! *finger snap* Buy both and call it research!
Congratulations, Deb and Christy!
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Now when I dream of becoming published, I want a three book deal. One is just simply not enough for me. Yes, I am greedy. It's not the money, I tell myself. I want the continuity of characters who are introduced in one book, continued and expanded upon in the next book. Characters and/or situations that we can identify with and come to love.
I guess that's why I find myself the owner of the White Oak series from Mazo De La Roche. I had to follow each generation of this family reading about their lives for over two hundred years. They became familiar to me and I loved seeing how they fared.
It's also why Sue Grafton is now on book number twenty in her alphabet series. We love her character and like revisiting with Kinsey and all her friends. Still, with only five letters left, I have to wonder what she is considering next? Will it be a numbered series? Based on colors? Or, perhaps an organization that she will weave through several books?
There seems to be a trend towards books that are part of a series. It makes sense for the publisher--it's easier to market. I like picking up a book from an author who has a theme carried through several books and I am crafting my novels with that in mind.
Is this a ploy you use in your writing? If so, what is the common thread that runs through each book?
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Admit it, there it was 'Hooker' and you wonder, really, am I going to tell you how to sell yourself?
Dianna Love and Mary Buckham were quite clear that all of us who attended their Break Into Fiction: Power Writing Workshop on April 17, 2010, hosted by the Georgia Romance Writers, that we would all be Hookers. I and another writing buddy drove four hours to get to this lecture.
I am sure glad we did.
Dianna and Mary took from a variety of sources, including Donald Maas, to create their class on 'Hooking', discussing in depth a number of hooks and using current books as illustrations. Some hook types include:
- Action or danger
- A surprising situation
- Warning or foreshadowing
- Witty/shocking dialogue
- A unique character
- Overpowering emotion
- Evocative description
- Totally unexpected
- Raising a direct question
You can answer all those points in one or two sentences, think about some of the books you have read, that first sentence or paragraph had some if not all of those elements that captivated you. In Joann's blog on "What the Hook gets you into a Book" on March 30, 2010 she made us identify what beginnings we liked in the story, what hooked us. (As you know, humor or creepy will catch my eye).
How about this: "Rats taste like chicken,"
This is an example of shocking dialogue, its evocative, and elicits a question. Don't you want to know who is saying it and why? I do. Unfortunately, I am going to have to write that later (I have the hook, but nothing to back it up). See how simple it is to use and how many points you cover in just four words?
It takes Agents and Editors less than a minute (a page or two) to become interested or bored by your story. Think about that. It is chilling. What keeps them reading? Hooks. In Nannette's blog "Up all Night" on April 11, 2010, she talked about that. What keeps you reading? What grips you strong enough to read all night long? It is hooks. These writers have mastered the art of analyzing a scene and sprinkling in hooks on each page. Just think of a book that is 300-400 plus pages, you know the ones you read in less than two days. Think of the effort it took to put in those hooks. Wow.
I want a story that grips you like that. I want the reader to turn the page. I want to be a "Hooker'. In order to 'strut my stuff' to query, enter contests and to pitch I too better master 'hooking'. This was the perfect workshop for me.
How about you? Do you want to be a Hooker? or What workshop has helped you the most in the last year?
Monday, April 19, 2010
Two words. Definitely enough to spark an idea for that brand new tale. An idea that morphs into an exciting plot with a hero-to-die-for and a heroine he just can't-and won't-live without. A story so magical that we can't wait to type those words onto those pages every day, to share the adventures of those special people we've created in our minds and in our hearts.
Does spring do this for you? Stir in you a renewed passion for storytelling? For some reason, this spring more than most, it has for me. I'm excited about writing again. More so than I have been in quite a while. How about you?
(Now if I could only say the same about spring cleaning:)
Saturday, April 17, 2010
So, NOW that I have your attention with a yummy title that has nothing to do with writing (but a little to do with this blog), I’m putting out a shout to our members. We have so many Southern Magic members who often can’t make the meetings due to family, work, or deadlines. I’d love it if everyone could check in. Just a quick (or long) comment to let us know what you’re working on, how many submissions you have out there, and one thing you've recently learned about publishing and/or your favorite, easiest, kick-ass cheese recipe (after committing to 40k words this month, I’m looking for a few new and easy recipes).
Me? I’m slogging through my YA paranormal with an entire choir of writers on another blog who have been “guilting” me (yeah, it’s my new word this month) into writing when I seriously don't think I can write another word. It’s actually a lot of fun. I also have three full submissions still out in publishing land (or quite possibly in a dumpster somewhere).
Let’s see… what did I learn about publishing this month? I realized that agents are very much like romance writers. They’re super supportive of each other, even though in all actuality, they're competitors. How cool is that?
I have an easy sour cream chicken enchilada recipe (lots of cheese!) if anyone’s interested. I’m off to go make it.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Frodo, upon his first glimpse of the Uttermost West from J. R. R. Tolkien's, Return of the King, Book 6, Chapter IX: The Grey Havens.
Like many of you, I have been hurling myself against that great and seemingly insurmountable wall that separates the unpublished writer from the published. After years of struggle and a sizable pile of rejection letters, I have, at long last, gotten a glimpse of that fair and distant shore. On March 11th, I received the call we all hope and wait for, an offer of publication from Kensington.
Good thing I wasn’t driving at the time or my wonderful, shiny-new career as a published writer might have come to a swift and ignominious end.
To say that I was in a state of shock (and still am!) is to say nothing. Though I’ve dreamed and hoped and schemed and fought the good fight to get published for a number of years, I knew the odds.
Of course, I hoped to be among the lucky few. But I know that talent and persistence are sometimes not enough, that there are thousands of writers out there working to better their craft in the hopes of catching the attention of an editor or an agent. Still, knowing my chances were slim did not stop me from dreaming.
I’ve heard that luck sometimes plays a part in getting an editor or an agent. Now, I am a very blessed person, but I’ve never considered myself ‘lucky.’ I’m not good at games of chance and I’m not the kind of person who is likely to win the lottery.
Before now, that is.
My ‘luck’ came in the form of a smiling, blonde haired member of Southern Magic. Carla Swafford caught a comment I made on the Romance Magicians loop that I was having buzzard luck in the querying process, because I was being told by agents that light paranormal romance is ‘very difficult to sell.’ After reading my lament, Carla emailed me at home. She’d read an interview with Megan Records, an editor at Kensington, on the Southern Sizzle Romance blog. In the interview, Megan said dark paranormal is hot. No surprise there. But then she said something that made me sit up and pay attention. She said, “I hardly ever see funny paranormals. Shame, because I like those too!”
I queried Megan, referencing the interview and her comment, and she sent me back an email requesting the full. Two weeks later, I got The Call.
Needless to say, I owe Carla Swafford Big Time. If not for her, I might not have queried Megan. If not for Megan, God bless her sweet heart and her funny bone, I would not have a publishing contract.
Turns out I’m lucky after all.
Lucky to be doing something I love so much.
Lucky to have that elusive publishing contract and, finally, at long last, my very own agent!
Lucky to have a husband and a family that supports me in my madness.
Lucky to have my friends in my writing group and at Southern Magic.
Networking is essential. I cannot stress enough how important it is to make connections with other writers. Without my connection to Southern Magic and my guardian angel, Carla, I might not be where I am today, looking into the distance at that glistening shore called Publication.
So work hard. Believe. Don’t give up. Keep pounding your head against that wall.
If it happened for me, it can happen for you, too.
Lightning strikes, dreams can come true, and there's plenty of luck to go around.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
But if you're confused or disappointed, listen up. Yes, five people gave you scores that vary between fabulous to horrendous and you want to know how some people hate what you wrote and others love it. And you're probably thinking the ones who hate you are closer to right than the ones who liked you (because writers are contrary like that).
I'm here to tell you that it doesn't matter. That the ones who hate you aren't any more right than the ones who love you. There will always be people who don't like what you write. Trust me. It doesn't go away once you get published. In fact, it gets worse in some ways, because the people who dislike your work will write scathing reviews that will sit on the web for others to read. It's simply one of the things you'll have to learn to live with.
So learn to live with it now, while it's still between you and the anonymous judge. Wear your 5 (or 1) with pride. You made someone feel something, and even if it's not what you hoped to make them feel, it's far better than apathy.
The Golden Heart is a fabulous contest, and yes, being a finalist is a wonderful feeling. But remember that you don't need to be a finalist to sell a book. I was a finalist in 2008, and it was the most wonderful experience. But I didn't win and I didn't sell that book. In fact, though I was a finalist, someone gave me a 4.5. Someone hated me. :)
Obviously, it didn't matter. I sold a different book, and I'm about to celebrate the release of my 3rd book in June. I didn't win the Golden Heart, but I did hit the USA Today bestseller list with my 2nd book. And someone gave me a 4.5 in the GH. :)
So don't worry about those scores. Think about them for a day or so, but put them aside and get back on the horse. Ultimately, they don't matter. What you do now matters. How you move forward matters. That's it. :)
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Our church youth have a yard sale every April to raise money for their summer trip. I'm a pack rat by nature, so I used the annual yard sale to force myself to move out a little of the clutter I've collected this year. Instead of focusing on my closet I decided to go through the books that were still in boxes. I don't really have a place to put them and I thought if they weren’t unpacked for over a year maybe I don't need to keep them. So one by one I drug boxes into the living room and began going through the books.
Most of them are books I've never read. I don't have a keeper shelf. I don't have time to read the book the first time, much less a second or third. So I was a little surprised to find that I had kept a book after I read it the first time. I read the first page just to make sure it was the book I thought it was. Forgetting the mission (sorting the books), I sat in my comfy chair and began to read. Several hours later-3 AM to be exact-I looked up from the book and had an OMG moment. Getting up for work was going to be even more difficult than normal. And I hadn’t finished sorting for the yard sale.
I carried the book to work with me and surreptitiously pulled it out of the drawer to read "just a page or two" several times throughout the day. With only 15 pages left I reluctantly left work knowing other commitments would keep me from the HEA for several hours. When I finally got home that night I finished the book. Much needed sleep was ignored in favor of reading “the end.”
I would love to write a book that kept someone up all night reading. Alas, my skill is nowhere near that level yet, but I can dream. And work. I plan to go back through this book and attempt to deconstruct just what had me so engrossed.
So tell me, have you stayed up all night reading recently?
PS – the book? “Garters” by Pamela Morsi first published in 1992.
Friday, April 09, 2010
Yesterday I received a box, a BIG box, from Amazon (ok, lets not go into any Amazon hate here. I understand many people feel Amazon needs to call a whaaaambulance over the entire Macmillan kerfuffle. I hear you, and I understand. But I love my packages. I need my packages. There is no rush like seeing that box waiting at your door, but I digress). I’d had pretty crummy day, and I was sitting in bed with my head bent over my laptop feigning an attempt at writing. God bless the saint to whom I am married. He came in with a glass of wine in one hand and my box in the other.
“Sweetie, this should brighten your day,” he said as he handed me the box and then the wine. He was right.
Some ladies are addicted to buying shoes or purses. Not me. My addiction is books. I get light-headed and giddy in a bookstore. There is nothing that smells better than a bookstore. The only reason that I enjoy Christmas shopping is that it gives me a legitimate excuse to lose hours, and I mean HOURS, in bookstores. Couple that with the ease of online shopping (Amazon super-saver shipping and its simple challenge to put together an order of $25 or more is my downfall), and it is easy to understand why my fashion style is stuck in 1998, but I am up to date on the most recent paperback releases.
My reading choices are pretty eclectic. I would love to sound all intellectual and rattle off a bunch of literary fiction I’d finished, but I can’t. God would strike me dead with a bolt of lightening for attempting to tell such a whopper. However, with the exception of the books reserved for the smarties of the world, I’ll read just about anything you put in front of me. This always leads to the burning question - what should I read next?
My favorite moment is when I find a new author. I have several “go to” authors that I love, but in trying to fill the time in between releases, I get to go on a treasure hunt. First, I will seek out books by authors I have met.
Meeting an author (and having the chance to get a book signed) is a huge thing for me. I feel more tied to the story and root for the author’s success due to the personal connection. I keep a list of authors I meet at signings and conventions so I can search for their treasures when I am book shopping. This last Christmas, I put together of basket of books from authors I’d met for my mother-in-law. She devoured them. I overheard her telling the ladies in her bridge group, “Oh, you must read this. Heather met the author, you know.” There is something electrifying and contagious about that brush with fame! If you are a published author, and you've met me, you can bet I've bought at least one of your books since then.
Word of mouth is invaluable. I’ve yet to have a friend steer me toward a stinker. But relying on a recommendation feels like cheating. Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to read the book you suggested to me. I hop onto too many bandwagons to be left behind. However, the egoist in me likes to be the one to find the diamond in the rough.
The internet is another great resource for finding that hidden treasure of a great book. I’ve found several books I love by following links on my favorite authors’ websites to new worlds. Podcasts have also yielded printed bounty. In the last year, I've probably purchased five or six books written by authors who I heard interviewed on my favorite podcasts.
I can't be alone on my quest. What treasure maps do you use to find your next read?
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
For example in one of my books, the moral of the story is don’t base your opinion on hearsay as appearances can be misleading. Or like a old cliché, don’t judge a book by its cover.
In another, the moral is breaking the law won’t help you find justice. The cliché for it is two wrongs don’t make a right.
I could keep on but you get the idea. Of course, every book I write has an overall moral. Love conquers all.
How about you? What morals keep creeping up in your stories?
Monday, April 05, 2010
Which got me to thinking (dangerous, I know) about what a hero has to do to be a hero. Regardless of his background and history, what does it take to be heroic?
Could a thief be redeemed? I think this particular crime has the most potential, because slick, sexy jewel thiefs are an old staple of movies and stories, so you wouldn't have far to jump to make one of those guys a hero.
But what about a guy who steals to keep his family fed? It seems a little more sympathetic on the surface--but heroes are supposed to be able to take care of their families without resorting to crime. In a perverted sort of way, it's more egregious for men to steal food than diamonds, at least in terms of what we're looking for in a hero. A diamond thief is doing something very difficult, breaking security systems, taking big risks. He's proactive and alpha in a way a common grocery thief wouldn't be.
But let's think a little harder about the food thief. What if he was a young, single father, left to take care of a new baby, out of work because the economy tanked and thanks to a troubled family life and having a child so young, he's never gotten enough education and training to pick himself up and make something of himself?
We could set his story later in his life, after he's worked his way out of the mess he was in and now he's trying to go back to every place he stole money from (because he's so consciencious, he actually kept a journal documenting where he stole and what he stole because he intended to pay them back. Now we've got a hero with a real quirk, a real sense of honor, and someone who could make a very interesting hero with the right story. By going to lengths to pay back the money he owed, by even keeping the record in the first place, he's displaying honor as well as being proactive and daring about doing what's right. That's the kind of behavior we look for in our heroes, no matter what the background.
Could a con artist be redeemed? I keep going back to the TV show LOST because all of those characters need redemption in one way or another. But James "Sawyer" Ford was, for much of the early run, a near villain on the show who slowly, over time and with much suffering in the meantime, found his way to a measure of redemption. He's still an anti-hero type, rather than a full-blown hero, but he's rootable enough to be our protagonist most of the time.
What has made his redemption story work is that he's not really changed his essential self--he's still clever, determined and at times ruthless, but his motives have changed. He cares about other people in a way he didn't before. He takes into account the feelings and needs of others. He'll even put himself on the line to help others, something he didn't do in the early, unrootable days of the show. He was always proactive, but now he's showing honor as well.
I should point out that Sawyer is also a murderer--twice over--which I think is normally very hard to forgive in a hero. In both instances, Sawyer thought he was killing the man who destroyed his family. He was right one of the times, but not before he mistakenly murdered a man who was not guilty of the crimes he thought. The otherworldy, almost allegorical nature of LOST allows for viewers to overlook some pretty egregious behavior by the characters.
But in a romance, I think it would be very hard to have a murderer as a hero unless the circumstances were extremely mitigating (like killing a man who killed your daughter or wife) and the hero had since repented of his behavior and accepted the moral and legal consequences of such a crime as being fully deserved.
I don't think rapists or sexual predators of any sort would be likely candidates for heroes because sexual violence is usually rooted in deeper psychological problems that those who commit the crimes won't be able to overcome. It would be a really, really, REALLY hard sell, both to an editor and to the reader.
But are there other crimes you think would be unforgivable for a potential hero to have ever committed in his lifetime? And are there bad guy characters in books, on TV or in movies that you think are prime candidates for a redemption story? Tell us about them!
Saturday, April 03, 2010
Thursday, April 01, 2010
So here are Christine's Tips for Easy Revisions
1) Let your first draft sit on the shelf for at least two weeks
2) Send your first draft out to your CP
3) Play for the two weeks you are "off"
4) Read through your MS and be pleasantly surprised that the MS is near perfection
5) Do a quick hunt and search through the document for some pesky "echo words"
6) Double check your spacing and margins
7) Do a quick grammar check just to make sure you haven't missed anything
8) Layer in a few fun words just to up the word count
9) Quickly glance over your Synopsis and realize it's also near perfection
10) Print out the new document and start querying away.
APRIL FOOL'S DAY!
Yeah, like at what point did you all go, is Christine nuts? Or brilliant? Or none of the above?
Okay, parts of the revision process are true. Numbers 1-3 are about right for this current revision. However, after I wrote the first draft of this MS, I actually let it sit for 6 months.
Note: Do not do that to yourself. It is a BIG mistake. Trust me.
Note: This is the 4th major revision I'm doing on the current WIP.
When I sat down to work on this MS again, I did not JUMP into the waters. Why? I had just received major feedback from a published author at a critique session and there was problem with the TONE of the book. I had two tones equaling two stories equaling a HUGE NIGHTMARE to fix. AGAIN.
The truth is the idea of going back into this mangled mess and cutting out new scenes I'd just finished writing and adjusting the tone levels to meet my own desired direction as a writer is pretty much like asking myself to poke a fork into my eyeball.
Note: I'm not into inflicting pain on myself, internally or externally.
Note: I have learned many techniques to avoid facing pain.
Note: I am going to share these soul saving techniques with you.
Here's what I've been doing during my first official week back to writing.
1) I've cleaned my office, made new files and tossed tons of old MS pages (some were older than my Darling Daughter). You can read all about my de-cluttering adventures in my blog.
2) I've cleaned out the email inbox and made new calendars.3) I sat down, finally, and read through the entire MS.
4) I emailed my wonderful CP and apologized for transposing some of my scenes in Scrivener before compiling the document.
5) I also apologized for my horrendous grammar mistakes and promised never to do it again (okay, I lied--I will do it again--it's story revision, it's not time for copy edits).
6) I brainstormed a bit with my fabulous CP about the ending and certain bits that are problematic due to tone changes and cutting out a history for the hero.
7) I promised myself I would hit it hard -- as soon as I judged my contest entries for another RWA writing chapter and after I read through my CP's critique notes.
8) I proceeded to delay doing the two things that would clear the decks for me to get back to writing by signing up for Twitter and going for a long -- super long-- walk today.
9) I looked at my notebook for the current MS and groaned.
10) I decided my duties to Southern Magic's amazing blog were more important and must take precedence over the two things I need to do to clear the deck.
Note: I am a disciplined person. I've become incredibly adept at lofty procrastination methods.
Note: I'm stretching out this blog post just to avoid doing item number 7 on my list.
Okay, the point is, I know I have to revise. All writers know they have to revise. It's just not easy to wrap one's brain around going back into a WIP and fight for the story to emerge. This isn't line editing or hunting for echoing words. This is ripping out the guts, opening arteries and cutting mercilessly while adding new layers and depth to what will remain. THIS IS HARD WORK.
I will do it. But I long for the innocence of my first days as a writer. Back in 2004 when I sent my first book off to my friends, I thought revision WAS line editing (you can stop laughing now). I didn't have an outline for the book I wrote, I just wrote it. Or maybe it wrote itself. And I didn't have an RWA membership (thanks to the wonderful editor at Silhouette Desire for pointing me to RWA in his rejection letter), I didn't know about word counts, I looked it all up on line--and I was requested!! A full. Thankfully, as you can see by the above sentence, SD did reject that first MS.
But oh, I was still so innocent. I believed if I just figured out POV and had a clear black moment along with a detailed outline, well, I'd be on my way. Nope, and I didn't really revise that second book either. I did join RWA, started taking classes, CPs found me (thank God), joined local chapters, took online courses, read more books about writing. MY CPs forced me to revise my third MS and I'm glad they did. However, the more I have learned about writing, the LONGER IT TAKES ME TO WRITE A BOOK -- let alone be REQUESTED.
Talk about ironic. When I knew absolutely NOTHING, I got just as far as when I finally learned something about the craft of writing. But I'd never want to see that first book in print--LOVE BUILDS A CHANCE was proof that I could write an entire book, but it's not shelf worthy (trust me, I know).
Note: There is an excellent article in RWR's April edition about called WRITING INTO THE MIST that covers the way we intuitively write.
Note: I know my process now--it's not easy for me to admit it.
THE TRUTH ABOUT MY WRITING
I am a messy writer who needs boundaries. I need an outline, of sorts, and I need to know where I am going for the first draft, but then I just spill it out onto the pages. Then I go in, find the core of the story, listen to feedback and I carve away the first round of junk writing and off I go again. I gallop through my revision with the same gusto and churn out another draft. Then I send it out into the world and start getting feedback on the first pages (you know, that partial thing with the synopsis?). And ultimately, much to my chagrin, problems are pointed out to me. Back I go into the MS and so it goes.
Now I am on the 4th round of revisions. I feel the story emerging. Again. I am willing to do the work. I will do the work--in fact--after blatantly using this blog to procrastinate just a bit more, I am eager to start the work. I know once I get started, I will get that rush again. The thrill of solving the problem and joy of creating will take over and all will be well in my writing world.
How do you revise?
Note: I actually read through this blog and edited it lightly before posting--I believe I officially have earned the Queen of Procrastination Crown for the day.