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Archive for the 'Writing Life' Category

Writing and Writer’s Tools

I have a selection of interesting posts and info today.

The first is a link to Holt Uncensored that talks about ten mistakes writers make. This post makes for interesting reading and serves as a good reminder of the basics.

For those of you who like gadgets, Paperback Writer has a post about shareware and freeware especially for writers.

At Novelist Inc. Joe Nassise tells us about another writing tool, one to help in backing up a work in progress and for syncing on two different computers.

And finally for both readers and writers: I did my answers for an interview today. One of the questions was: if you could choose one dessert, what would it be? My answer, after much deliberation, was ice cream. Which dessert would you choose?

Penises in Paranormals

Okay. I’m totally borrowing/stealing this topic from Nicola O.

Nicola mentions in her post that penises in some paranormals are different from the norm. I’ve run across this phenomenon before. Most notable are Lora Leigh’s Breed books where barbs and knots appear during the sexual act, locking the hero and heroine together for long minutes. I remember reading this for the first time and thinking, well. That’s interesting. I’m glad it’s not me. Since this happens in nature I can accept it in a book, but it does make me squirm and not in a good way.

I remember reading ebooks written by Brenna Lyons (Kegin series) where a similar thing occured. In Brenna’s books, the heroines were a little astonished. Yep, that would be me as well.

I’ve also read a couple of sci-fi romances where the hero has two penises. For the life of me I can’t think of the title or author, but I remember that I had to read the paragraph twice. It could have been an EC book. The title will come to me, if I think about it for long enough.

Recently I’ve been reading some of Shannon McKenna’s romantic suspenses. I really enjoy Shannon’s books, but I’ve noticed that her heroes are all very well endowed and that they’re good with foreplay. They have to be because of their size. She also mentions the term “girl juice” several times, which just cracks me up.

In a more recent post Nicola also mentioned that her blog stats went crazy after her paranormal penises post, so I just had to experiment you understand and try my own penis post.

Now in my own writing I keep the size vague. I don’t go into great detail about length but I might mention appearance. My feline shapeshifters don’t have this mysterious barb, although the more I think about it, the more I want to introduce one. :grin: Watch this space.

Writers – I know most of my writer visitors write erotic romance so what do you do with the size and appearance thing?
Readers – what is your opinion of the barbs and knots and extra dangly bits? Do they make you go eek or do they just make you giggle? Do you skip those paragraphs?

The Curious Series of Events

This is a bit of a story, so grab a coffee and get comfortable.

Mr. Munro went to pick up Scotty from the kennels on Sunday. The kennel assistant came out with Scotty and a basket that didn’t belong to her. Hubby said, “That’s not Scotty’s basket.” But evidently Scotty had slept in that basket the entire time we were away. (Let’s call this event one)

The kennel people ran around looking for Scotty’s tatty basket and couldn’t find it. It is tatty with the stuffing showing through the fabric but she doesn’t like the new ones we purchased for her. She likes the old one. They looked high and low and finally said hubby could take the basket Scotty had been sleeping in. Subsequent investigations i.e. looking at the label says this basket belongs to a dog called Dexter. (Let’s call this event two)

Hubby and Scotty went off to collect a chainsaw from a friend so he could cut down a tree. When he went to load the chainsaw into the car he discovered the wee dog had had an accident of the smelly kind. Hubby assures me he didn’t shout at her, but I don’t really believe him. Scotty is very good but sometimes she can’t move fast enough to reach the great outdoors. In this case she was trapped inside the car. (Let’s call this event three)

Hubby and Scotty arrived at home. Scotty went straight into the tub for a wash and shampoo while I put her new basket (the one that used to belong to Dexter) into the washing machine and cleaned out the car. (Let’s call this event four)

Scotty went outside to dry while hubby prepared for his tree chopping adventure. I went inside to check my email and think about writing, housework and the like. I heard sudden shouting and swearing in the garage and went racing out to investigate. While hubby was washing Scotty in the tub, she knocked the washing machine outlet pipe and it dropped to the ground, unnoticed by hubby. When the washing machine emptied, it emptied out into the garage and we ended up with a flood. (Let’s call this event five)

Hubby and I frantically mopped and wiped up water, shifting stuff in the garage and panicking in case the water seeped through the wall into the house and wet the carpet. (Let’s call this event six)

Now: I’m going to leave you on a traditional hook – Will the Munros save their carpet from becoming wet and moldy? And will Dexter turn up to reclaim his basket?

It struck me while I was mopping frantically and running the weird series of events through my head that this was typical plotting. It’s what writers try to do while plotting a book. They try to make each crisis bigger and more alarming to test the characters. Yep, I’d experienced a lesson in plotting all in the space of an hour. It actually served as a reminder. I need to be a little meaner to my characters in my current Middlemarch book. They needed to suffer just as Mr Munro and I suffered.

Do you think some authors overdo the series of events and torture their characters too much? Do you think that characters aren’t tested enough and we authors let them off too easily? What are your thoughts about plotting?

Are They Old Enough?

I’m off on my mini-vacation today, but I’ve scheduled some posts, and I’m posing some questions for you all while I’m away. And don’t forget that Emily Bryan is here on the 9th giving away her upcoming release. You don’t want to miss that!

A few years ago, I read an interview with Linda Howard. She was talking about her MacKenzie series. (The first book in this series is called MacKenzie’s Mountain and it’s just awesome. I remember the characters clearly, even though it’s years since I read the book. The first line is “He needed a woman. Bad” and Linda Howard hooked me right there.)

Readers, including me, were clamoring for books about the MacKenzie children. I remember Linda Howard saying that she couldn’t write the story because the characters were children in her mind. She needed to give it time, at least a few years, before she could think of them as adults. Huh! I thought. How silly. This is a fictional world.

Fast forward to a few years ago. I’d written several stories in my Middlemarch Mates series, but the story for the two youngest Mitchell siblings, Joe and Sly, just wouldn’t gel for me. In my mind I thought of them as unruly teens and way too young for the naughty goings on that I wanted to write for them. My solution was to write other stories while they grew up. I packed them off to University while I waited for them to mature. They make a brief appearance in Leticia’s Lovers (coming in Feb) and to my surprise they have grown up. Oh, they still like to tease their oldest brother, Saber, and in Leticia’s Lovers they were plotting and trying to think of a suitable sex toy gift to embarrass their sister-in-law Emily and by extension, Saber.

I’m thinking that 2009 is the year for Joe and Sly to meet their match. They won’t be laughing quite as much by the time the heroine and I have finished with them.

I started thinking about this subject again because I’m reading a book written by Pam Crooks. In the first book the mother is the heroine and in the second book, the child is the heroine. I haven’t finished them yet but it will be interesting to see how I feel when I’ve read them both. (note: there was a publishing gap with the books coming out in different years)

Question: Do you agree with Linda Howard? Do you find it difficult to write/read about characters who were children in a previous book?

The Boredom Factor

Author Kaye Manro had a good post at her blog last week about opening lines in novels. As authors we’re told first lines are important, and we should work at making them perfect.

While I go along with this advice and try to make my first line intriguing, it made me wonder. I used to finish reading every book I started. I’ll admit there might have been times when I skimmed toward the end of the book, but I finished reading it.

These days my personal reading time is valuable. Heck, if I’m truthful, I don’t have personal reading time because I’m always analyzing how other writers do things. When I pick up a new book to read, I tend to give the author one to three chapters to grab my attention. If I’m not interested by then, the book goes and I move onto the next. I’m not that faithful reader any more. LOL – I guess I tend toward the slutty kind. If I’m not hooked I move on to the next and the next until I find one that satisfies my needs.

I’d also like to say that we’re all different. There’s one author everyone seems to like. I find her here. I find her there. I find her everywhere. On blogs, that is. Yet her books just don’t grab me. What works for one reader doesn’t necessarily work for another.

What about you? How long do you give an author to make an impression on you, the reader? Do you give them the first line? The first paragraph? The first chapter? How forgiving are you as a reader if the first line doesn’t hook you in?

Naming Names.

I saw this ad on TV the other day. It’s from my favorite New Zealand store, Whitcoulls, and it made me laugh because this name problem has been me for the last three weeks. Today, I sat down and toughed it out, choosing names in much the way this couple did. In fact, I used the very same baby naming book to work out character names for my new work in progress.

How do you choose names for your characters? How did you name your kids?

Characteristics of a Good Website

Michael Hyatt, the president and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers has an interesting blog post about websites. He ran several author websites through WebsiteGrader to see how their websites performed.

I scored an 84, which shows room for improvement. I lost marks for too many images. Mr Hyatt’s post is very interesting and concludes that a slick website doesn’t necessarily equate to more traffic.

This test made me think about the characteristics of a good website. I did a little online research and came up with the following list:

1. Good keywords – these are words that describe your site and what you do. For example I’m a romance author.

2. A simple design – nothing too complicated. Keep your page simple and on topic.

3. Easy naviagtion – don’t confuse your visitors. Make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for.

4. Fresh content – update on a regular basis and give your readers something new to look at. Give them a reason to come back. Keep the content short and organize it.

5. The Wow factor – make your page different and original. Make it stand out from the crowd.

6. Optimized – make your website search-engine friendly by using page titles and meta tags.

How did you do with the test? Do you have author websites you return to time and time again? What keeps you going back?

One of Those Days!

I hope my Monday isn’t indicative of the week to come because I didn’t enjoy it. Nothing really bad happened, just lots of little things that on their own would have been okay, but together made me grumpy. I’m going to have a late night trying to get my word total done for the day. Sigh…

Good luck to everyone who is taking part in NaNoWriMo this month. I see another Sweat with Sven challenge is about to start as well.

I’ve tried these types of writing challenges and have found they don’t work for me. I write at a fairly steady pace anyway and something formal like the above mentioned or a book in a month challenge seems to play with my head. I work better on my own. That said, I am pushing fairly hard for the next month to complete a 90,000 word manuscript. Apart from today I’ve been going pretty well, and if everything continues this way, I should have my first draft done by the start of the month.

Do writing challenges like National Novel Writing Month, Book in a Month or Sweat With Sven work for you, and if so why? Why not? Are you doing NaNo this year?

How Do You Keep Track of Your Characters?

Here’s a question for all you writers out there – both aspiring and published. How do you keep track of a character’s physical attributes, their quirks and baggage? Their family history?

I’m forever forgetting what color eyes I’ve given my characters and little things like that. It’s becoming even more difficult now that I’m thinking about writing book eight in my Middlemarch Mates series.

So, how do you keep track of your characters? Spreadsheets? Notebooks? File cards? An incredible memory? A software program? How do you do it?

PS – Don’t forget to check out Christina Phillips post (just down the page a couple of posts) about how her witchy heroine came to her in a dream. Post a comment and go into a draw to win a download of her debut release.

Goals, Motivation and Conflict

A good romance needs conflict to make it memorable. Our characters need motivation and goals, otherwise why are we bothering? For a beginner writer, conflict is often a difficult thing to grasp. It’s more than mere bickering.

The turning point for me came when I read Debra Dixon’s book GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict. I don’t read a lot of craft books, especially when I’m writing, since I start to second-guess myself. However, this is one of the books I found really useful. Here’s the link to the book.

Debra does charts and talks about internal and external conflict. I still use her method, but I also answer the questions below.

When I’m writing, I always work out the GMC of my two main characters and any important secondary characters before I write a word. Often I’ll layer in more conflict as I write, to strengthen my story, but the basics are in place before I start.

If I can answer the following five questions about my characters, then I know my story is workable, and I’m ready to start.

1. What do my characters want?
2. Why do they want it?
3. How do they plan to get it?
4. What’s standing in their way?
5. What will happen if they don’t get it?

I try to arrange the answers to the above questions so that my hero and heroine want the opposite, and during the course of the book, I try to make things worse. I throw in road blocks, and the characters need to work out another way to get what they want or buckle under the pressure.

How do you go about working out your goals, motivation and conflict for your characters? Do you have any favorite how-to books that help you in this area?