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Archive for 'Writing'

Make-Believe Monday

I’m guest blogging with Debra Parmley today and talking about writing, books and Middlemarch. Here’s the link to my Make-Believe Monday post.

First Draft in 30 Days.

30_DaysAs a writer I’m always interested in craft books, and I’ve been meaning to pick up this particular one for a long time. The title—First Draft in 30 Days is a bit misleading because if you follow the methods prescribed you’ll end up with a very detailed outline rather than a first draft. Ms. Wiesner does state though that because you revise the outline so much before starting to write, the end result is more like a final draft, which will require only minor polishing before submission.

The first part of the book deals with preparation and the things the writer should do during thirty days. Days 1 – 6 are for the preliminary outline and include character, setting and plot sketches and a summary outline. Days 7 – 13 are for research. Days 14 – 15 are for story evolution, internal and external conflict etc. Days 16 – 24 are for a formatted outline where research, character and setting are incorporated into the outline. Days 25 – 28 are for evaluating the outline and days 29 – 30 are to revise the outline.

The book includes a series of worksheets for each day, which are helpful. They can be handwritten or done in a computer file.

The second part of the book shows how to incorporate the 30 day method when you have a completed manuscript or a partial one that is perhaps not working. There is also a section on setting goals for projects and book promotion.

One thing Ms. Wiesner stresses is the importance of brainstorming throughout the outlining process, which is something I agree with. She says constant brainstorming during your day means you’ll never sit down in front of a computer and wonder what to write.

I’ll admit that I’ve always been a determined pantser, but after reading Ms. Wiesner’s book I think I’ll try her outlining method. I’ve decided to plan a new story while I complete my current work-in-progress. I am a little worried about sticking to a rigid plan because I’ve always thought too much planning spoiled the story for me, so it will be interesting to see how I go during the next 30 days.

The methods outlined in this book will not work for all authors, but it is definitely worth reading.

First Draft in 30 Days by Karen S. Wiesner is available from Amazon.

Writers: Do you read craft books? Do you have any favorites that you reach for on a regular basis?

Readers: I’m always on the lookout for book recommendations, in particular young adult stories at the moment. What are you reading this week?

Romance Tropes and Why I Love Them.

My special guest today is Jennifer Leeland. I read about her new release Marked For Pleasure at Leah Braemel’s blog and immediately pestered…ah emailed her to come and do a guest post for me. Being the nice Romance Diva that she is she said yes, and here she is talking about romance tropes! Over to Jennifer…

Marked For PleasureI’m so sad and pathetic. I stand in front of the book section at my local grocery store and sneer at the “The Sheiks Virgin Princess’ Secret Baby” titles but the truth is, I love the familiar romance tropes.

The Secret Baby trope–She’s pregnant…or had a baby that belongs to him but he doesn’t know a thing about. I have to admit, I love these. (Favorite example: Lucy Monroe’s “Goodness had Nothing To Do With It”)

The Bodyguard trope–She’s in danger, he protects her. The opposite variation is fun too. (Favorite example: Any Christine Feehan Ghostwalker series. They all have elements of this trope)

The Mate/Mate trope–“You were made for me”. I don’t know why I love this one, but it’s just so cool. (Loribelle Hunt’s Delroi series)

The Arranged Marriage trope (or Marriage of Convenience)–I actually just started one of these as a sci fi erotic romance. To complete a peace treaty, the heroine has to marry an alien. Conflict ensues. My absolute favorite of these devices is “Prince Charming” by Julie Garwood)

The Reformed Rake—I ADORE this one. I know. Sad, isn’t it? Can the playboy ever stop playing? Will the heroine find love or heartbreak? Variations are also “The Hero Who Is Determined Never to Commit”. My absolute favorites are “Master Of Cormus” by Charlotte Lamb (1978) and Kate Pearce’s “Simply Sexual”.

The Damaged Hero/Heroine Healed By Love–Oh, my FAVORITE. “Simply Sinful” with Peter being “healed” by Abigail’s love. Joey W. Hill’s “Mistress of Redemption”, a complete twist on this trope. “Rough Canvas” by Joey W. Hill.

Those are the highlights. All of my favorite books have elements of these. “Paul’s Dream” by Rowan McBride has the Bodyguard trope since ultimately Kian attempts to protect Paul from an evil sorcerer and Paul ends up saving his bacon instead. “Lonely Places” by A.L. Debran features a marriage of convenience. (Though that book took that trope and twisted it all around. LOVED that.) All of Kate Pearce’s “Simply” books feature men who are determined to maintain their freedom.

My newest release MARKED FOR PLEASURE is a combination of the Mate/Mate trope and a marriage of convenience. In a dangerous situation, Conner marks Rhea as his mate, tying her to him to protect her. I love to place my heroes and heroines in danger and make them work together to escape.

So, what’s your guilty secret? Do you love the Slutty Virgin Trope? You know, the hero thinks she’s been sleeping around, but she’s really a virgin….which he finds out the hard way. Or how about Friends To Lovers Trope? They’re friends but he’s never thought of her “that way”. What will she do to get him to see her?

Did you ever notice how silly the word “trope” looks? LOL.

Leave a comment and I’ll pick one random commenter to receive a copy of MARKED FOR PLEASURE by Sunday November 8th.

Tell me all about your favorite trope.

Lovable Characters

Thursday Thirteen

I picked up a copy of The Everything Guide to Writing a Romance Novel by Christie Craig and Faye Hughes the other day and came across a great list of how to make fictional characters lovable.

Thirteen Ways to Make Characters Lovable

1. Make your character an underdog. Give them a handicap and have them refuse to give up.

2. Have your character willing to admit he made a mistake and set out to make amends.

3. Make your character hurt emotionally but remain strong for others in his life.

4. Make your character kind to the underdog, small children, elderly people or animals.

5. Have a character who is self-sacrificing.

6. Have a character who is able to laugh at his or her own mistakes.

7. Have a character who is levelheaded.

8. Have a character make a mistake but for the right reasons.

9. Have a character who is the strong, silent type and means well but is unable to express it.

10. Have a character who takes risks and is willing to pay the price.

11. Have a character who has depth, layers and secrets.

12. Have a character who is able to forgive.

13. Make your character work against the odds to succeed.

Source: The Everything Guide to Writing a Romance Novel: From writing the perfect love scene to finding the right publisher–All you need to fulfill your dreams (Everything Series)

What makes characters lovable for you? Can you think of other reasons to add to the list?

Interview with agent Holly Root

Today my special guest is agent Holly Root from the Waxman Literary Agency.

Shelley: Tell us a little about yourself. How did you become an agent?

Holly: I actually had no idea that “agent” was a job until after I’d already landed in publishing. When I moved to New York I knew I was interested in trying something a little different than the editorial work I’d been doing, and that led me to make my way to the agency side. Agency work allowed me to work with authors shaping their books but also shaping their careers.

Shelley: What are the most recent books you’ve sold?

Holly: This summer was busy with renewing contracts for clients at Pocket, Grand Central, Harlequin and elsewhere, and that’s always fun, seeing an author’s series continued. I have some great debut fiction heading out on submission soon too.

Shelley: You’re going on holiday. What books do you take with you for your reading pleasure?

Holly: If I were leaving tomorrow I’d take the four books at the top of my TBR pile, and these are books everyone should read: Jennifer Weiner’s Best Friends Forever, Sophie Kinsella’s Twenties Girl, Malinda Lo’s Ash and James Dashner’s The Maze Runner. Unfortunately there are no holidays planned soon!

Shelley: A query letter is very important these days. What mistakes or problems do you see in the query letters you receive?

Holly: Most are just not quite ready for prime time—clear first drafts, or letters that lay out the entire plot to less than stirring effect. I also see many letters that say, “Writing this was very therapeutic.” I find most authors feel that way, but it doesn’t affect the market appeal of the work so it doesn’t belong in your query.

Shelley: How would you describe your ideal client?

Holly: Crazy talented as a writer, thoughtful as a person, and cool-headed enough for the wild ride we’re about to go on together. Ideally we’d also have similar communication styles; nothing is harder than working on a subjective endeavor like fiction with someone who doesn’t speak your language editorially.

Shelley: Do you offer editorial advice for your clients?

Holly: Yes. We do at least some editing before every submission. Once there’s an editor involved, I defer to that person so as not to have extra voices whispering in the author’s ear while writing, but I am always available for advice, even if the advice is just “write it and see.”

Shelley: A lot of aspiring authors struggle with high concept and the fact agents and editors are looking for a high concept in submissions. What is your advice to writers with regard to high concept and how would you define it?

Holly: I actually did a blog post on just this question, so I’ll refer readers here: http://waxmanagency.wordpress.com/2009/02/06/recipe-for-success-high-concept/

Shelley: For authors who live outside America, one problem that comes up is setting. Is a US setting necessary or does it depend on the genre?

Holly: That’s an excellent question. For contemporary genre fiction I think a setting outside of America is a bit tougher sell, but of course historicals (mystery, romance, general fiction) have often, even primarily been set outside our borders. If you’re in the more upmarket fiction market there’s more openness to settings beyond the US as well.

Shelley: What is your best craft tip for aspiring authors wanting to submit to an agent?

Holly: 90% of writing is rewriting. I don’t know that it ever gets easier, but I know that the more you learn to self-edit and polish, the stronger you’ll be at those skills.

Shelley: Thank you very much, Holly!

For more information about the Waxman Literary Agency, and up-to-date details of genres they represent or would like to see in the future, check out their website and blog.

#8 Wire

Number eight wire is a gauge or thickness of wire used for fencing. In New Zealand it’s also a term used to indicate a can-do attitude. A number eight wire mentality means that a person can turn their hand to anything or will attempt to do anything even though it seems impossible. This term comes from the fact that #8 wire was used to repair almost everything when a better alternative wasn’t available.

I like to think I apply #8 wire mentality towards my writing. I try to never give up, no matter how many knockbacks I receive. After a rejection, I dust myself off and leap in again with both feet. Insert wry grin – I’ve had a little practice at this recently…still ticking along…

Here’s the link to a Tim Finn song called Couldn’t Be Done which always cheers me when I hear it. It’s a song about doing the impossible. (Note – for those who think Tim looks familiar, he was in bands Split Enz and Crowded House)

Recently this new Toyota ad has started playing on our TV screens. It’s a cute look at the New Zealand can-do attitude.

What is your favorite inspiration for times when things are a bit tough? A saying? A favorite book? A movie? A person?

Character or Plot Driven?

I’ve been in the writing cave again today and doing some heavy-duty thinking about the story I’m plotting. I took a bit of a break to write a post for Selena Illyria for her menage a trois week. While I was writing my post, I started to think about character driven stories and plot driven stories.

A character driven story is where the characters drive the story. Whatever decisions they make direct the course of the story, and at the end of the story the characters should have changed and grown in some way.

A plot driven story is where the events unfolding in the story direct the characters’ actions. At the end of the story, the characters are not necessarily changed or different.

Romances, by their very nature, tend to focus on the characters and their journey.

When I first started writing, I tended to write a plot driven story. I like action and lots of things happening, and this showed up in my writing. Over time I’ve noticed this has changed with my latest release, Leticia’s Lovers being more character driven.

The Nocturnes I’ve been reading recently are very much plot driven, although there’s a character driven element to the stories as well. If you enjoy paranormal stories and haven’t tried the Nocturne line yet, there are some great reads waiting for you. I highly recommend Patrice Michelle’s Scions series (for a different take on vampires and werewolves) and Rhyannon Byrd’s Blood Runner series.

Do you prefer character driven stories, plot driven stories or a combination of the two?

How Many Characters Are Too Many?

I love reading series and books about families or groups of friends. I enjoy secondary characters, especially the ones who bring humor to a story and lighten what would be an otherwise dark book. Secondary characters sometimes help show the hero or heroine in a different light, give us a new perspective and make our main characters seem more multi-faceted to the reader.

A secondary character shouldn’t overshadow the hero or heroine. If they’re that interesting, give them their own book.

A secondary character should have a specific purpose in driving the plot forward. Sometimes they provide important information for the reader and the main characters.

There shouldn’t be so many secondary characters that the story is overwhelmed. Sometimes a secondary character can do double duty, allowing the writer to get rid of one of their cast of characters.

I’m a big Sherrilyn Kenyon fan, but in some of her books I struggle with the sheer number of characters. I can usually get my head around the main characters and the other Dark Hunters who make an appearance. Add Acheron and Simi and I have no problem because they’re my favorites. It’s the casts of Gods and Goddesses who get me confused.

I’m also a huge fan of Lorelei James’ western contemporaries. I emailed her after reading one of her books and told her I loved her latest release but had she considered doing a family tree? I was getting dreadfully confused trying to keep the family characters straight. Several of them have Christian names that start with the same letter of the alphabet, as is tradition in the area where Lorelei sets her books. She ended up adding an awesome family tree to her website. Here’s the link so you can see her family trees.

With my Middlemarch Mates series, I’m currently working on book nine. I’ve been thinking about doing a family tree for my website. I don’t have any problems keeping my own characters straight, but I’m not sure how my readers are faring. If you’re reading my series, do let me know what you think about a family tree.

How many secondary characters do you think are too many in a story? What do you like most about secondary characters? What do you think about family trees? Do you like having them as a reference when you’re reading a book?

Negative Traits for Heroes

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Negative Traits For Heroes

I’m pondering book nine in my Middlemarch Mates series and the heroes in particular. Of course, it goes without saying that the heroine will love her two heroes to bits and think they’re the best thing since the invention of sliced bread (maybe even chocolate) but they need to be well-rounded. They need to be human. They need faults along with their positive traits. So, here are thirteen possibles for my heroes.

1. Overbearing.

2. Too flirtatious with other females.

3. Smug or boastful.

4. Too arrogant.

5. Possessive or prone to jealousy.

6. Selfish.

7. Moody – prone to dark moods or temperamental.

8. No sense of humor.

9. Impractical.

10. Manipulative.

11. Impatient.

12. Restless or quickly bored.

13. Fails to plan adequately.

Of course, these traits can be applied to women as well. I could also include things like obsessed with sex, speeds in car, leaves dirty clothes all over the floor, gambles or smokes, swears too much, burps or farts in public, hogs conversation.

Which vices/negative traits do you think are good for heroes in novels and in particular in romances? Do you have more suggestions for me? Do you like heroes to have large faults or do small ones work better for you?

Barbie and Karen Walker

Barbie turns fifty this year, and New Zealand fashion designer, Karen Walker was asked to design some outfits for Barbie’s special celebration. To date around seventy designers have designed special outfits for Barbie’s exotic shape. Karen Walker downsized some of her designs for next season especially for Barbie. Here’s a link to an interview with Karen Walker about the designs. I thought it was interesting that Karen’s very first design was a circular skirt for Barbie and this started Karen on her designer career. (some of you might enjoy the Kiwi accents in the video interview)

Hubby and I watched the news headlines about Barbie. I said to hubby that I’d never owned a Barbie. My doll was called Suzie and my sister cut her hair. Suzie looked bald in the front by the time my sister had finished. You can probably imagine the resulting war in our house that day! Hubby asked if I’d like him to buy me a Barbie. I told him a Barbie might come in handy but I’d need a Ken as well. Maybe two Kens since I’m writing some kinky stuff these days. Some erotic romance writers use their Barbies or children’s Barbie dolls to work out their love scenes. Hubby was aghast. Surely not? It was really funny, and we had a long, very interesting discussion about Barbie and Ken. It’s probably best if I end my blog post right there…

Did you own a Barbie doll? Do your children? And for all the erotic romance writers out there–have you used Barbies or Action figures for help in working out love scenes?