Facebook Pixel
Adventure into Romance with Shelley Munro
News About Shelley Blog Books Extras Contact Small Font Large Font

Archive for 'Writing'

Writer Tip: Beth Kery

“My simple tip for writers is this: write. Write every day. Don’t let your internal critic talk you out of it because you still need to learn this or that skill, or you haven’t got that perfect synopsis yet or the ‘just right’ computer to get started. Tell that fussy critic to shut it. Learn from action. Set up a word count goal and meet it by writing X number of words daily. If you can’t hold yourself accountable, then do a check-in with a writer friend, and be honest when you don’t meet your quota. If you miss your word count, make it up the next day. Keep track of your progress in a notebook. Writing down your daily word count number is a kind of positive reinforcement, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you accumulate 20 thousand words, 40 thousand, 60 thousand. Don’t get side-tracked by the glittery stuff associated with being an author. Writers write, and if you want to publish, you need to create product.”

Visit Beth’s website at www.bethkery.com
Release, Berkley Heat, February 2, 2010
Sometimes you have to let desire run wild.

Read an excerpt of Beth’s latest book, Release

Writing Tip: Shiloh Walker

“One thing I often hear is this…I’ve always wanted to write a book. I often respond with: Have you started it? Nine times out of ten? The answer is no.

There’s no trick to writing a book other than this. Write it. There are no magic beans, no secret ingredient, no special formula. One thing most writers have in common is the fact that we have stories in our head and we want to put them down on paper. Getting started isn’t always easy–finding the right words isn’t always easy and there isn’t necessarily any proven trick that is going to help you get that story from your head to the page or screen other than this: Write it. Even if the story sucks. I’m convinced that most of my stuff sucks rotten eggs, but I’m trusting my editors, my agent when they tell me otherwise. If you’ve got a story in your head and if you’re one of those people who ‘always wanted to write a book’…stop wanting. Start writing. Be the one out of ten who actually write the book.”

Visit Shiloh Walker’s Website
Shiloh Walker’s latest release: Broken

Writing Tips

This month I’m bringing you a series of writing tips from some of my favorite authors. There will also be tips from my writer friends. You might even find the odd writing tip from me.

Photobucket

Come back every day for writing advice from authors such as Shiloh Walker, Nalini Singh, Larissa Ione, Sarah Mayberry and many more…

Dear Author – A Note From Your Heroine

This post is inspired by Heather at The Galaxy Express and her post, Attention, please! This is your heroine speaking.

Dear Author,

I salute you. You sit for long hours in front of the computer as you labor over our stories. Without you none of us would be here. Mostly, you do us proud but I’d like you to consider the following:

1. Please, please don’t make me go down to the basement when there is a killer on the loose. Credit me with a little common sense and help me do something intelligent. Heroine
I don’t want readers to snigger at me and call me Too Stupid To Live. I deserve more than that, don’t you think?

2. I know popular opinion says heroines are slender and pretty, but how about making me stand out from the crowd? Make me sexy–sure, I like sexy as much as the next girl, but I can be sexy and an average size. Give me a few curves. Don’t you know I enjoy food? Oh, and if you give me curves, don’t go on and on about my size. I’m happy, really I am.

3. Please don’t take a stereotype and foist it on me. I’m not a hooker with a big heart. I’m not an ice princess. I’m not a geeky librarian. Give me individuality.

4. I like alpha men–really, I do, but at least give me a spine so I can stand up to them. No wimps should apply here.

5. I’m not perfect. I know that, but do you know it too? Give me some flaws and balance them with some of the good stuff. Make me human because readers will like me better that way.

6. Give me a snarky voice. I’m cool with that, but don’t make me snark all the way through the book. Readers won’t like me if I do that. They might call me a bitch, you know, and wonder what the hero sees in me.

7. Likewise, if my hero is going to be a bastard, let him fall off his high horse at some stage. Make him see the error of his ways or at least let me use my knee in his private parts. It might hurt him, but it would make me feel better after all the verbal abuse.

8. And finally, if you’re gonna make me have anal sex, please, please, please give me some lube.

Yours faithfully,
A Heroine.

What would your heroine write in a letter? Readers, what do you think the heroine should write?

Birth Order

Today I read a magazine article about the birth order of children and how it affects their lives. Experts believe that birth order definitely influences a child’s personality. It also has a bearing on their career choice and the way they deal with relationships.

I found the article interesting because I have a brother and a sister, both younger than me. It was fascinating comparing the first, second and last born characteristics with my family.
First born children love to succeed, they’re good leaders, are good at solving problems, and easy to work with. They can also be overbearing and insensitive, overly concerned with rules, have high stress levels and strive too hard for perfection.

I definitely like to succeed (who doesn’t?) I take charge (sometimes) and I’m good at problem solving. (yes, that’s true—I’m a facts and figure person). The stress part is true, but I constantly work to keep the stress levels down. I worry too much about order, process and rules—sometimes. Insensitive? Sometimes I can be tactless, but I don’t think I’m insensitive. My family and friends might disagree. I’m not sure.

First born children are often company directors and have valuable and enjoyable careers. In truth, I’ve never aspired to be a company director. I like being my own boss and enjoy the creative writing process even though the business drives me nuts at times.

Middle born children are independent, know how to keep a secret, are mentally tough and are good mediators. On the negative side, they can be cynical, they might feel too much on the outside, may be uncooperative and bottle up their true feelings.

Middle born children can be mysterious and keep to themselves. Yes, this is my brother. They’re willing to do things differently. Yes, again. My brother is very innovative. They see issues from both sides. This actually sounds more like me, but no one said this is a perfect science.

On the down side, they’re often stubborn and unwilling to cooperate and they keep opinions to themselves. Yes, to all of this, but I’m also stubborn when I feel the need.

Middle born children are good in mediating roles (nope, can’t see this one at all) and entrepreneurial roles (definitely! This is my brother) and they enjoy building close working relationships.

I know that some writers use this research when developing their characters and give their hero and heroine the quirks associated with their birth order. It’s definitely something to keep in mind when working on your characterization.

Source: Lifestyle Magazine June/July 2000, The New Birth Order Book: Why you are the way you are by Dr Kevin Lernan.

For those who are interested, I intend to blog about last born and only children later this week.

Are you a first born or middle child? Does any of this sound like you? Does it sound like your brothers or sisters who have these positions in your family? And for the writers out there – have you used birth order when developing your characters?

Pros and Cons of Writing for Different Publishers (part two)

This is part two about the pros and cons of writing for different publishers. Part one appeared yesterday.

Pros and Cons of Writing for Different Publishers (part two) by Brenna Lyons

Choosing your publishers: Risk Management?

Bride Ball by Brenna LyonsSplitting your investments- This is actually another reason that many people choose more than one publisher. There are authors who have experienced the fall of a publisher and had to scramble to place all their books again. Understandably, they don’t want that to happen to them again, so they keep their eggs in different baskets. But…

Watch your percentages in high risk baskets– You have to look on choosing publishers as risk management much as you would view investing your money. What makes a high risk? A new company. A company that doesn’t have a full, competent, experienced staff. A company based on a “radical new idea” for shaking up the industry. An owner who doesn’t have a solid business plan. An owner that lacks people skills…or depends too highly on people skills and too little on business sense. A business that has already had financial and interpersonal blow-ups. You can take on some high risk, as long as you balance it with low to moderate risk publishers. It’s a good idea to weight your basket toward low and moderate risk companies and not high risk. Even the most aggressive planning doesn’t advocate putting all your resources in high risk. Placing all of your work with high risk carries the high risk of losing it all.

Do your homework with ALL publishers– Having more than one publisher does not make you all knowing. No matter how much you might like to claim you can, you cannot “spot a good company or bad” at a hundred paces, though it is usually easier to spot warning signs of a bad risk than it is to say with conviction that the company is a good one at a glance. You have to research all prospective publishers and assess their risk factors. For more information see my two part series about choosing a publisher. Part one. Part two.

New companies/old associates: does experience translate?– As I said earlier, it is never a good idea to choose a company just for…the company you would be keeping, though choosing not to work with someone you clash with may be a very good idea. Just because someone has good ideas for marketing her own book does not mean the person is capable of marketing an entire company. Just because someone was an EIC for five years does not mean that person is skilled as a company owner and will make the right decisions for the company when given all decision making. Not all experience is equal, and friendship is not business savvy.

You can actually hurt your chances rather than help them– Choosing the wrong publishers can hinder you toward your goals….which we will cover more in contracts. But, you can also hinder yourself by spreading your books too thin. Conventional wisdom says that it takes roughly three books with any publisher to start making a name with the company…and making decent money. It is almost impossible to break even and build an audience when you have one or two books each thrown in a half dozen venues.

Special concerns when you have more than one?

Contract provisions to watch out for– You have to be very careful, especially with the contract you sign. There are contracts that specify that the author is expected to keep a web site for only the publisher’s books…or that the publisher will not link to your site if you don’t comply. Forcing you to split your audience (or not giving you the same exposure they give every other author) is counterproductive to your aims of building an audience, and you should not sign something that does it. Always keep your contractual obligations in mind when signing a contract. Can you live to each contract you sign? How long will your rights be held up? How soon can you move to another publisher if things don’t work out? Do you have an “out clause?” Never sign a contract that gives blanket first refusal rights. Why?

Splitting series and related books– You do not want to be forced into a position where you have to split a series or related books from a series because you have signed first refusal to someone else. Keeping related books together is usually a good idea. Putting out shorts in anthologies that relate back to an established world somewhere else, while not overly appreciated by the anthology publisher in some cases, are a different matter. I look on them more as throwing out bait. It’s further exploiting the idea of bringing readers from one company home to another. Always spell out how far that “series” ranges in first right of refusal clauses. If you write the same world in another timeline and with new characters, is that still the series? If you write related books not on the same world (don’t you love science fiction?), is it still the series? The first is debatable. The second is arguably no, even if you see characters from the series there.

Pen Names– Never allow a company to own your pen name. That both steals your word of mouth from you and forces you to split your marketing. Instead of selling YOU and the books. You are forced to sell YOU and YOU and the books. This is a bad idea all the way around. The closer you can bring your pen names, assuming you aren’t writing in clashing genres like erotica and children’s, the better it is for you. It is always better to spend $100 promoting Brenna Lyons than $60 promoting Brenna Lyons and $40 promoting Brenna Stuart, with no apparent connection between them. If you are separating two adult reading genres, you may want a single site that splits into the pen names/genres. That allows for possible carry-over from one pen name to the other from regular readers. If your genres are children’s and adult, you may want two different sites entirely! In fact, it’s probably preferable that you do it that way.

Brenna Lyons is a bestselling, award-winning author in spec fic indie press. With 21 series worlds and stand-alones, it’s not a surprise that Brenna works with between six and eight publishing houses at a time and fields ten or more releases every year. You can reach her at her site http://www.brennalyons.com

Thanks so much for the informative posts, Brenna! If anyone has any questions just ask them in the comments section.

Pros and Cons of Writing for Different Publishers (part one)

I’m a member of the Marketing for Romance Writers loop. There’s a wealth of knowledge available in this group, mainly promo and marketing advice but there are also discussions about other writing related things such as publishers. Late last year the subject of writing for different publishers was raised. Author Brenna Lyons had such awesome advice about the pros and cons that I asked if she’d write a post for me on the subject. Over to Brenna…

Pros and Cons of Writing for Different Publishers (part one) by Brenna Lyons

Why do it?

All I Want For Christmas by Brenna LyonsYou’re a prolific author– It is possible to overload the system of a single publisher, if you submit everything you write to that one. Can you imagine the havoc that could cause with a prolific author?

You write in several genres– It’s a solid fact that authors who write in many genres may not be able to place all of their books with a single house. If you sign with a publisher for your fantasy erotic romance books and then you write a straight fantasy book, that publisher is likely not your market.

To work with publishers/authors/editors you enjoy– This is not my favorite reason to change or add publishers, but some people do choose publishers this way. For me, it is more important that I think the people I will be working with know what they are doing, are pleasant (or at least tolerable) to work with, and have a smooth-running system that I feel will work well for me.

Getting in on special collections or projects– This is actually a good reason to join a publisher…if your other concerns are met as well. Think of it this way. Even if it’s the collection you think is perfect for you, if the contract and staff are far less than ideal, you are better off taking your personal ideas elsewhere. Remember that this is your career!

A new concept or contract option that you enjoy– Unfortunately, some authors are so dead-set on making sure a particular thing is addressed at their next company that they allow themselves to be blinded to the less savory aspects of the company they target. You have to keep the full package in mind. It is typically easier to convince company B to add something you want than to convince company D to change half a contract that you don’t like to suit you, just because it already has that one item covered.

In addition, a new concept in publishing is good…if it works. Keep in mind that many of the more radical designs don’t last very long. A company that gives you 75% of cover price sounds great…until you find out that you won’t be able to sell a quarter of the books you did with your old publisher.

The pros to having more than one publisher?

Reaching new readers who haven’t read you before– There is no denying that you will likely reach some readers at the new company who are not regular buyers of the old one. However, while some readers buy a company, many readers buy the author. That means that, once introduced to you, the readers are typically willing to follow you from publisher to publisher…as long as they are comfortable with the publisher sites…or they follow you to one-stop places like ARe/OmniLit or Fictionwise, where they can buy books from you with several publishers at once.

Name building at double or triple the speed…maybe– This sounds good in theory. But while it is true that you are reaching more readers, there is typically an overflow of readers that read both houses…or one company may have a large audience while another is new and has a small one. You can’t count on doubling your publishers meaning that your double the readers who know you.

Less wait time for editors/release date…maybe– You may very well reduce your wait overall, since you are waiting editors at several publishers, so you can get four books through in the time you might have gotten one or two through at a single publisher. However, you may lengthen your wait on a particular book.

Not being pigeonholed into one genre or style– This is one of the most widely-stated reasons for people choosing to have more than one publisher.

The cons to having more than one publisher?

Planning ahead to fulfill your contracts– You have to keep an eye on what you agree to do and when. If you have three books coming in for edits, you better have everything out of your way and be prepared for some long nights and days getting those edits done in the 30 days you have to do all three! And, you don’t want to burn out.

The “Prolific Trap”– When you’re prolific, you often get contacted by your publishers saying things like, “We have X going on. You’ll put something into that, right?” This is where you get into an interesting balancing act. Do you say “I can’t” and get on a publisher’s bad side? Do you say “yes” and figure out a way to make it happen? That depends on your comfort level.

Glutting the market on your name– It is possible to put out so many books that the readers can’t keep up…or don’t want to keep up. At what point do the readers’ eyes glaze over? The problem is that there is no set number I can give you. If you write really well, that glut may not come for a long time.

Expectations of publishers– Your publishers have certain expectations of their authors. The problem comes when you either have conflicting schedules…you should be in chat with B at the same time C is doing a list game you should be taking part in…or you are get used to the expectations for one and have problems changing gears.

Keeping your mind in the game: which publisher is which– You could make a file of printouts or a database of guidelines and house styles a prerequisite for having more than one publisher. Worse, it’s easy to start resenting one company for not being more like another. You can suggest changes gently, but if they don’t want to change, you either have to live with it quietly or not sign them any more books. You are under no obligation to stay with a company that doesn’t offer what you need as an author PAST what you have already contracted.

Arranging SOME crossover readership to aid in the transition– You want to find new readers, but you also need the old readers following you along and bringing new readers with them by word of mouth. Having some distribution channels or promotion channels that overlap is a wonderful thing.

The “Leave your other publisher at the door” problem– Imagine a well-meaning reader or reviewer congratulates you on an award finaled for with a publisher on the wrong list…or someone mentions a series from publisher B in publisher C’s chat. Though it is beyond your control, and no matter how skillfully you handle it, it will still be held against you to a certain degree.

Come back for part two tomorrow.

Brenna Lyons is a bestselling, award-winning author in spec fic indie press. With 21 series worlds and stand-alones, it’s not a surprise that Brenna works with between six and eight publishing houses at a time and fields ten or more releases every year. You can reach her at her site http://www.brennalyons.com

Playing the Odds

Author Adrienne Kress has an interesting post called It’s Not About the Odds. She talks about the luck required in getting a publishing contract and how you can slant those odds in your favor by doing a great query letter.

Rebecca at Dirty Sexy Books has a tongue in cheek post about urban fantasy stories. If you’re not really sure what an urban fantasy is read the Ten Commandments of Urban Fantasy.

Margie Lawson has a guest post at Routines for Writers. It’s all about writing body language and verbal cues–an important thing in good characterization.

And finally, You Are What You Eat, Foods That Improve Your Sex Drive is an article by Elizabeth Black that makes for very interesting reading. Stay about from fried foods and rich cream sauces – that’s all I’m saying! :grin:

I’m reading a book called The Wolf Almanac by Robert H Busch. It’s research for a new idea I have, and you might have guessed from the title that my story will feature wolves.

What are you reading at the moment?

A White Box

A book is a sum of things—characters, setting and description, dialogue, pace and plot. It’s the combination of all of these elements, done in the right way that makes a book exciting and sought after by readers.

Photobucket

It takes a lot of work to get a book to a standard that’s saleable. My first drafts are like white boxes. People inhabit the white box—my characters that is, but they’re quiet and in shock from the lack of scenery. It’s all white in there, after all.

During the first stages, my characters are a bit superficial and half the time they have no idea what they’re doing, what their purpose is in the box. It’s almost like the first run through of a play where the cast are strangers and feeling their way into their parts.

It’s during the second and third run through that I add the color and turn my white box into a real world, complete with real people. Adding setting and description is a skill I’ve fought to learn—it certainly doesn’t come naturally.

Not so long ago, it was normal to read very flowery descriptions in books. These days descriptions in fiction are briefer and spare at times.

Here’s a paragraph from Powder and Patch by Georgette Heyer.

The Apparition wore a coat of the palest apricot cloth, with a flowered vest of fine brocade, and startling white small-clothes. Red-heeled shoes were on his feet, and his stockings were adorned by sprawling golden clocks. He carried an amber-clouded can and a jeweled snuff-box, while ever and anon he raised a cobwebby handkerchief to his aristocratic nose. He minced down the street towards the market-place, followed by the awestricken glances of an amazed population.

That’s a lot of description for one person, although I have to say I’d love to see him in person. You probably won’t find this amount of description in a modern romance, not focused on one person. We’re more likely to add it in more sparingly in bits and pieces.

This snippet is taken from Dark Lover by JR Ward.

When she was finished with the Twinkie, she flipped open her phone, hit speed dial, and put in an order for beef with broccoli. As she walked along, she looked at the familiar, grim landmarks. Along this stretch of Trade Street, there were only bars, strip clubs, and the occasional tattoo parlor. The Chinese food place and the Tex-Mex buffet were the only two restaurants. The rest of the buildings, which had been used as offices in the twenties, when downtown had been thriving, were vacant. She knew every crack in the sidewalk; she could time the traffic lights. And the patois of sounds drifting out of open doors and windows offered no surprises either.

With this paragraph, we get a little characterization along with a feel for the neighborhood. We learn that although the district is run down, the place is home for our heroine.

In another book, that shall remain nameless, the description of a room sounded like a shopping list. It mentioned an antique rug, hardwood floors, a Victorian sofa and the color of the brocade, a coffee table and the type of wood, the silver tea service on top, two Victorian chairs, a gas fireplace, silver-framed photo frames, the photos inside them, the mantelpiece, a cherry and glass counter and quite a few other things.

The actual story wasn’t too bad, but this description, done list style, made me roll my eyes. I’ve edited the list quite a bit. The descriptions took up over half a page.

What I try to do is show the character experiencing the setting, give sensory details. I show them walking across a thick carpet and wondering if their shoes are going to get lost in the pile or holding out their hands to catch snowflakes, feeling the cold and dampness or tasting it melt on their tongue. They might notice the cars buried in snow or hear the chains on the tires as they fight for purchase. I try to involve the character’s senses of sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing to make the description come alive.

Here’s a paragraph taken from Tea For Two by Shelley Munro

“I see a line of dots.” Hayley Williams peered solemnly into her customer’s white china teacup. Outside her colorful curtain-partitioned area of the tea tent, children shrieked with excitement as they lined up for the Ferris wheel and merry-go-round. Her assistant chatted to one of the ladies in charge of the tea, extolling the high points of a reading by Madam Deveraux. Somewhere in the distance, a toddler howled and a brass band played “Rock Around the Clock”. Closer, touts shouted spasmodically about the exciting things available at their stalls. The clatter of china and the muted gossip of the ladies in the makeshift café added to the cacophony of fairground sounds.

For me this is actually quite a long description, but I hope it plops you right in the middle of a fairground.

When it comes to describing characters, I’m typically very brief because as a reader, I like to imagine myself as the heroine. If there’s too much description I think it gets in the way of my imagination. Just a brief hair color, eyes, build etc is all I need. You might think differently.

How much description do you like to read in your books? Do you like lots of description or a bare minimum? Do you like detailed description of characters? And writers: what approach do you use when it comes to description? Do you have a white box like me or is your world colorful from the start?

Sleepless Night

I had trouble sleeping last night. I don’t know if it was because I read Margie Lawson’s guest post about sleeping at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales or if it was a sign of things to come. Margie’s post was very interesting and included suggestions about ways to aid sleep. It’s worth reading if you have a chance.

Normally, I sleep really well. Last night I was tired. I slept a few hours and woke. Unable to go back to sleep, I applied my brain cells to the problems I’ve been having with my current work-in-progress. Problem fixed! I know how to end my story in a way that isn’t as lame as my original idea. I must have drifted back to sleep and I woke about seven, feeling really tired. According to hubby I was grinding my teeth. I haven’t done that for a long time. It’s something I usually only do when I’m stressed.

If anyone has listened to a person grinding their teeth they’ll know what a horrible sound it is–way worse than snoring. I don’t know why hubby didn’t wake me up.

The good news is that I remembered all the plotting I’d done during the night–it didn’t fade away into dreamland. Here’s hoping I sleep better tonight, but if I don’t, I have another story I need to start plotting.

What do you do if you can’t sleep? Is anyone else tired of 2009 and ready for 2010 to begin?