Friday, August 31, 2007

I Challenge You To A...Duel

Okay, not really a duel, rather a challenge. But, I Challenge You To A...Challenge just didn't sound right.

(Disclaimer: I took a muscle relaxant for my back and it's left me a little loopy, so if I go off on a strange tangent, disregard for your own sanity.)

Back to our regularly scheduled programming...

I'm going to do something unusual. I'm going to start off with some quotes I want you to read:

"There's no perfect time to write. There's only now." Barbara Kingsolver

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." Jack London

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” Henry David Thoreau

Feeling inspired yet? Ready to write the next NYT Bestseller?

Not quite??? Read on.

My CP, Joan, did something interesting this week. She challenged me to a writing challenge. 1000 words a day for 100 days (I added the 100 days part). The logic is this: At 1000 words per day (roughly 4 pgs per day if you figure 250 words/pg), in just about 3 1/3 months, you could have a 100,000-word completed manuscript. (Or at the very least, a finished rough draft.) Now, this is nothing new. Writing challenges are out there tempting us all the time. National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo), 70 Days of Sweat, etc. I've been invited to join many. And I always refuse. So what's different about this one? One word: Accountability.

Because the challenge came from my CP, I can't shirk out of posting my word count total for the day. There's no anonymity. I know at the end of the day she's going to say, "How'd you do?" and I'm going to have to come up with an answer. It doesn't hurt that I am a very competitive person when it comes to something like this with someone I know. It also doesn't hurt that I'm remotivated as of late to finish the book from hell and move on to the new idea that has me so excited I can barely sit still.

I posted this challenge on my blog and asked if there were any other writers out there interested in joining us. I got a few bites. In fact, Lexi Connor (a writer and teacher) told her students what we were doing and challenged them to something similar, albeit on a much smaller scale - 50 words in 50 days. Several took the challenge. So just for fun, I'm going to turn it over to each of you. I'm challenging you to join us. A 100-Day Challenge, if you will.

Here's how it works. I want you to ask yourself this: What would I like to accomplish in 100 days? And How am I going to go about reaching that goal? Maybe you want to write a complete rough draft. What's your target word-count? How many words per day should you write to reach that word count goal (for me it's 1000-words per day, for you it might be less or more). Maybe you want to complete a novella or write x-# of proposals, etc. Shape the challenge into something you know is attainable and then set your daily goal. One hundred days from a starting date of next Tuesday (Sept. 4th) gives us a completion date of (if I did my math right) December 13th. Plenty of time before the holiday rush to keep you from being stressed. Just imagine what you could get done in 100 days if you put your mind to it!!! The possibilities are endless.

If you're up for this challenge, I'd like you to post your goals and your target word count/day in the comment section. At the end of each day, I'll try to post a short blog asking everyone involved to give us their word count totals for that day. If you commit to this, we're going to be watching you and encouraging you, so don't think you can slide into the shadows and we'll forget you're there. ;) And because I believe in positive reinforcement....our chapter Christmas party will be happening just about the time this challenge is over. For those of you who participate and stick with it all the way to the end, I'll have a special surprise for you at the party.

So who's game? Who's up for a challenge????

Thursday, August 30, 2007

HOW DO YOU STAY PRODUCTIVE?

I have come face to face with my tendency to overbook my time and am wrestling it into the past. I don't have time to be inefficient. I need to spend my time wisely to get everything done I want to accomplish. So how does a procrastinator like me do that? I tried a number of approaches. These are just tossed out. It would have taken more time to figure out a pattern and put them in some kind of order. :)

PRIORITIZE. This went well. I didn't want to give up anything. I am at the fortunate stage in my life that I feel passionately about all the things I am doing. Considering that result, I went on to some other approaches.

SIMPLEOLOGY: There's an entire Web site on this method of being productive. Some of it is free – an enticement to buy books and tapes on this method. I didn't care for his marketing style, but he had some great ideas and examples, which I adapted to fit my thinking.

JUST DO IT. Don't stop if I'm tired or frustrated; push through it. Like turning off the internal editor when writing, this also includes my tendency to nitpick at things to try to make them "perfect." Like great artists who intentionally made one flaw in their works, the flaws in our projects are what makes them unique or one of a kind.

PRACTICE SAYING NO THANKS – without guilt.

RACE MYSELF. If I'm doing a repetitive task, set a timer and see if I can do it faster the next time.

DON'T SLEEP. To quote Danita, "HA!" I tried this for a few nights. Not recommended! However, naps are nice if I do stay up later than I should on occasion.

SCHEDULE TIME TO PLAY. This may seem odd, but some of us have an extra responsibility gene (or two) and haven't actually learned how to relax and play. Take time to get down on the floor and play with your children or grandchildren. If you have neither, take the time to play with your pet or the dust bunnies under the bed.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF FIRST. Especially a challenge for women who have been raised to nurture others but not themselves. In addition to an unlimited supply of chocolate, this can include meditation, yoga, and energy healing. A caution: this can be an experience in itself and may lead you on an entirely new life's journey.

ACCEPT that sometimes things – like washing dishes or folding clothes or ironing the husband's t-shirts (kidding! please tell me you don't do this!) – simply don't get done every day.

How about you? What ways do you use to be more productive? Or do you even worry about it? Do you simply adjust the things you have to/need to/want to do to life's flow?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

ON TAKING AN IDEA FROM THE BACK OF THE SHELF

Picture it:

The car is coming up the icy road. The driver is anxious. He's just found out he can expect the bad guys any moment, he has to get back to his house. He comes up the hill, his right leg throbbing from a former gunshot wound.

Oh, wait. I would really like him to ride the horse for the exit scene. In the snow with the misguided heroine clinging to his waist, bad guys chasing in a car -- not bad, huh?

How do I get rid of the car? For that matter, even if I do get rid of the car, what about his truck? It's still up there. He can use that to get away. Okay, say goodbye to the horse, hello to the truck. Ditch the car. Too ordinary.

Hey, maybe I should have the sheriff tow away the car. That gets rid of one vehicle. Wait, what about the folder in the trunk, the folder all about him? No, the sheriff wouldn't tow the car so quickly, the car has to stay. I'll decide what to do about the folder later.

Back to the hill. He's coming up the hill. He'll find his truck gone. The tied up heroine took the truck and fled. (Smart girl, but misguided as mentioned earlier…) Not bad. It means he has to turn around and go back down the hill and chase the heroine and his truck to a standoff somewhere down in town. Maybe her motel. He knows where's it at, the information is in her car which he is driving up this terribly long driveway. Okay, the truck is gone.

I don't know. I don't think I like that.

Hello! What if the truck is barreling down the driveway at the same moment he is racing up the driveway? Kaboom! Two disabled vehicles! We're back to the horse? Yea!!!!

Okay, so that is one hour in my head condensed so as not to make anyone sick. One little scene, one little hour, one little set up, hopefully a surprise for the reader, certainly came as a surprise for me. I know all of you go through this kind of thing over and over again, so this blog is about celebrating the tortuous gymnastics we put our brains through as we merrily type away. Thank Eli for mentioning torture and writing in the same sentence. It never would have occurred to me…
But what does occur to me is that writing this way is fun.

I had an agent for about fifteen minutes a few years ago. She said, "Tell me what you do to write a proposal." I said, "Well, I write a chapter or two to get the feel of the characters and understand the story and see if I think it can go anywhere and then I--"

She threw up her hands. Actually, she was in New York at the time and I was here on the other end of the phone, so I imagine the hand throwing thing. She said, "That's a waste of time. That's devoting time to an idea that may never fly. You can't do that. Don't write any pages, just write a synopsis or an outline and sell on that."

Which explains why she and I soon parted company. The truth is, I can write a synopsis without writing a single page of the book. I can sell it. But Lordy, the trade off, because eventually it has to be written and without that first fifty pages and the knowledge that comes from it, an idea has to be developed into meaningful story in twelve weeks. Ack!

If that sounds attractive to you, I'd wager you've either never done it or are a better writer than me. Because writing something you've not approached on any level except some intellectual "What if," thing is extremely daunting -- remember, you are under a deadline. There is a contract and money involved. The clock is ticking…ticking…ticking…

Nope, let me spend at least a few days charging up the hill. Is the heroine afraid? Dead? Angry? I don't know, but I wager since this is only page 25, her reaction is going to weigh heavy on the book to come and I need to know.

I am going to approach the current WIP in the following way. When something is about to happen, I am going to do my best to discard the first one or two or three ideas that pop into my head. I'm going to stretch for the one that's just a little further out of reach and hope my subconscious got there before me and loaded that idea with possibilities. I am going to remember that this experience -- the writing, the plotting and ultimately, the reading -- needs to be FUN.

How about you?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

To-Do Tuesday: Still Here!

Welcome to another edition of To-Do Tuesday! Yes, I'm still here & still pregnant, but today's theme also has deeper meaning. I was chatting with the wonderful Eli a few days ago, and we observed (yet again) that successful writers are those who figure out how they work best, become productive, and keep at it. Perseverance is such an important part of this life that we need such daily reminders from friends that staying the course IS doing something. If you're still here, still writing, thinking about writing, struggling to write, or trying to find your way, then you ARE doing something. You ARE making progress. So, if you're "still here," no matter where you are in the journey, be proud of that. Celebrate that today.

Of course, I've got our usual line-up of announcements, news, and a totally fun question of the day to reward you for "still being here."
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Many MWVRWA Members Celebrate Productive Month

My in-box is tumbleweeds again, but some sleuthing has revealed that many of you are chugging away, and just not sharing! Congrats to everyone on an awesome August!
  • Elisabeth Naughton is inching closer to the end of her WIP-from-hades.
  • Jenni Gilliam is 40,000 words into her fourth WIP, and is querying agents.
  • Paty Jager continues to juggle promotion, editing, and three (3!!!) separate book projects. Talk about productive!
  • Barb Cool Lee racked up another contest final last week, finaling in the Golden Gateway Contest. I'm predicting great things for Barb's manuscript, Raven's War
  • Karen Duvall's new blog is wildly entertaining and makes you wonder why she waited so long! She's a natural at blogging.
  • How about YOU? Should you be on this list? Don't trust my shoddy detective skills! E-mail me!
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Contests Need Entries

The Hot Prospects Contest is running low on entries, and this presents a GREAT opportunity even for those usually adverse to contests. They've got a terrific line-up of editors and agents for final round judges, and you've got a great shot at getting your manuscript in front of them! Not, only that, but this is one of the few RWA contests with a short-story category. Click here for more information (September 1st deadline!!).

The Southern Heat Contest is in the same boat, and they've also got a great line-up of editors as final round judges. Click here for more information (Sept. 11 deadline for electronic entries, Sept. 14 postmark deadline).

The MERWA Synopsis contest is also running low, and has extended their deadline until October 1st. This is a great chance to get feedback on your synopsis--a necessary evil, but one that goes unjudged in many contests. Click here for more information.

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Susannah Offers Unique Contest For Published/Unpublished Writers

This year's Susannah Contest is another great contest for contest-haters. Published, but have an unpublished manuscript? No problem! You can enter. Have a great manuscript but suffer from multiple-genre syndrome? No problem! They've eliminated categories. Instead, the finalists will be presented to a slate of top-notch editors and agents. This is truly a fabulous opportunity to bypass slush piles and get noticed. Click here for more information (October 1st Postmark Deadline).
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Question of the Day: Who do you want to be?

Several blogs have had interesting discussions lately about which heroes you'd actually marry. This made me think more about the heroines who DO get their HEA with the hero of your dreams. We've all read books where we think, "Thank the goddess I'm not her!," but the books that tend to resonate with me are the ones where I want to BE the heroine. I want her life: her family, her job, her locale, all her little quirks. I re-read the book(s) because I want to be her again and again. I started this character envy 20-odd years ago by wanting to be Laura from Little House on the Prairie and Anne from Anne of Green Gables. Who do you want to be? Which fictional heroine(s) flip on your green-eyed monster?

Share! And, remember to congratulate yourself on still being here. And keep sending me news of your progress!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Writing space

I'd love to hear about everyone's writing space. I'm moving into a new place that has a second bedroom, which I'm going to use as my office. I'm pumped for it. I bought this amazing, gigantic U-shaped desk a little over a year ago when I moved into the place I'm currently leaving. I planned to turn the garage into my office since my house was tiny. Well, it was always freezing cold or stuffy hot so I never used this magnificent desk.

But not now! Now the desk has its own room. My dad and his fantastic abilities rearranged the desk making it an L-shape and it fits perfectly in the room. There's space for my writing books, notebooks, posters of Gerard Butler on the wall (inspiration people!) and lots of pink things. Oh! And my leopard print papisan chair for brainstorming ;) Not napping (it's for my dog Rufus to nap on)! I'm jazzed to have a creative haven, instead of always using my computer on my bed. I've heard that TVs and computers and the like in bedrooms are a no-no because it hurts the level of restfulness of your sleep. A bedroom shouldn't have those kind of distractions I guess.

So, I've eliminated distractions in the bedroom (hmm...that doesn't quite sound right...some distractions aren't bad! :p) and created a distraction/workspace. We'll see how this little experiment goes.

Where do you write? Do you have a room dedicated as your office or a makeshift space that changes depending on where the rest of your family is? Do you have any tips on colors or objects that spur creativity?

Also, if you have a moment, check out this site. It shows the writing spaces of lots of authors. Makes me feel better knowing I'm not the only one with a messy desk! I think Sherrilyn Kenyon's is my fave, on the last page. I WANT THAT CABINET!! I have a feeling Eli and I would go to blows over it...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

So what's the story about anyway?

I was trying to decide between three different things to blog about today, and would have had this done last night if I could make up my damn mind. Sheesh.

So I decided on story goals because it's a good segue from Paty's character arc blog. When a character takes his or her story journey, we expect change to happen, for them to grow, learn a lesson, become who they're meant to be. But that's just one purpose of a story. The plot has a goal as well. Or does it?

You've heard of the A plot vs. B plot, or Inner Story vs. Outer Story. That's what I'm talking about. The character's journey (i.e. arc) verses the story itself. It's interesting that in most cases a romance novel appears to be more about the hero and heroine's journey than about the plot. That's cool, though I have to admit I'm not a fan of those stories. I want MORE. I want the bigger book, the whole enchilada, the groundbreaking, mind-bending plot that glues me to the pages with more than just fabulous characters who twist my emotions into knots. My expectations are skyscraper-high and I rarely find a good book that meets them.

When I do, I kind of use it as a measuring stick against all books that come afterward. I'm almost finished with one right now and it's so refreshing after nearly a year of searching to find a book to satisfy my fussy reading requirements. But you know what? The plot goal in this story focuses almost a hundred percent on the A Plot, the main character's inner story. In spite of it not meeting my rigid big-book standards, this is a wonderful story that has me by the throat and won't let go.

So what is it about this book that grabs me? It's not a romance, but it's most definitely character driven. It's about one character who's terribly conflicted and carries such an enormous trunk of tragic history on her back that you can't help but feel sympathetic. She's in training to be a superhero. She's running from the shadow agents trying to kill her. Her survival and superherohood is the plot and she's so deeply flawed that she can't save anyone let alone herself, but she's tough as granite and kicks ass like nobody's business. The fate of the world does not rest on her shoulders because she's a neophyte member of a well-established group of superheroes, who are responsible for the survival of the entire human race.

I'm just pleased to have found this book about a wonderful character who's not at the center of the world's very survival. At least not in this book. This is the first in a series, and this character is so intriguing, so spellbinding, that I don't care if there is a plot. It takes a backseat to who she is and the fascinating world she lives in. Her flaws are what make her so appealing. I've never read anything like it, and I have the second book in the series to start on next. But I just thought it interesting how one book can change your "rules" about what you like and don't like to read. That probably goes for genres, too. The book I'm talking about here is The Scent of Shadows by Vicki Pettersson. It's an urban fantasy, a genre that's not yet in the mainstream but should be. Give it a try. You might like it.

So what do you think about the A Plot vs B Plot scenario? Do good books have to have both? Does yours?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sparkly Chapter Meeting

Our chapter meeting last night was about putting the spark back in your writing. Our presenters Susan Lute and Darla Lukenbaugh had a really great handout and exercise for those who attended.

We had to choose one of our protagonists and give them a VISION. Meaning, what they see as their life, their identity, how they try to present themselves to the world around them. I'm not quoting word for word here, so bear with me while I try to explain the exercises. Thanks! And, if any of you who attended the meeting got something different out of it and think I'm waaaay off, please feel free to correct me. Really. I mean it. :)

We also, at the end of the presentation, had to give a vision of ourselves. Our perfect vision of ourselves. So mine might go something like this...

My vision for myself is I'm a fabulous wife and mother who gets all my house work done before six in the morning so I can go exercise, shower, shampoo and shine before my little darlings awake for the day. I fix a healthy balanced breakfast each day for my family and then I whisk them off to school where they get perfect grades because of the love and support they have from such a wonderful home life. While they're gone I sit at the computer and write for five hours straight, never tiring, and the story flows together so perfectly that re-writing isn't even a consideration. Then I close the computer to go prepare another healthy balanced meal for my perfect little family and we all enjoy an animated conversation about our day around the dinner table. Everyone is happy. I'm completely unstressed and have no worries about life because everything always fits together like a delicate hand in a kid glove.

Sickening huh? But that's a vision I can have for myself. I can visualize having my life this way. It's my vision. It doesn't have to be reality.

Your characters can have a vision for themselves, too. But it doesn't have to be their reality. Oh no. You, as the author, can slam them into reality. Here's where the spark can come in. Put your character through the ringer, so to speak. Screw with their vision. Does this make sense?

Next, we gave our protagonist a SECRET (or mystery). What do they not want anyone to know about them. For example, Susan has a character that has a secret identity. It could be anything though. You know the secret. Think about it. What is it?

Then you become your protagonist by answering the questions... "I am..., I want..., I feel..."

You can have more than one sentence to answer these questions. We were challenged to come up with at least three "I want..." statements.

Then finally you need to ask your character this... What will you do to get what you want?

At the end of their presentation they had us write this...

1. I will do whatever it takes to get published, except don't ask me to...

2. I am writing this book because...

It was an interesting and fun presentation to do and even better once I was driving home and pondering it.

I hope my rendition of Susan and Darla's presentation will help those of you who weren't able to attend the chapter meeting. I hope it helps you to think about your characters and your goals for them and your story and that it will help put a spark into your writing too.

Like I said before, please feel free to add to or correct any information I've given here about the presentation.

And if any of you are brave and willing, go ahead and answer these questions and post them in the comments section. (You may want to do this on your own for both your hero and your heroine.)

1. Pick one of the protagonists:
2. Give your protagonist a VISION:
3. Give your protagonist a SECRET (or mystery):
4. Become your protagonist by using the "Magic I" (I am..., I want..., I feel...).

Many thanks to Susan Lute and Darla Lukenbaugh for this presentation and to their partner Wendy Warren.

Good luck and may the SPARK be with you!

Monday, August 20, 2007

To-Do Tuesday: Finding the Spark

Welcome to this week's To-Do Tuesday. I've got good news to share, an introduction to tonight's speakers, and opportunities to take advantage of! And of course, I've got a question of the day too.

I'm excited to hear this month's goals at our meeting tonight. Remember that breaking a big goal into manageable pieces can be a key to success. Think about breaking your monthly goal into weekly pieces, then share your progress with To-Do Tuesday! Can't make the meeting? Set a goal anyway!

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MWVRWA Meeting TONIGHT: Put the Spark Back in Your Writing

Reminder: Our meeting is tonight at 7 p.m. at Salem Public Library.

We're blessed to be joined by two talented authors, Susan Lute and Darla Lukenbaugh. Last week, I shared information about their topic, "Putting the Spark Back in Your Writing." This week, I'd like to share a little background on these authors.

Though she started writing very dramatic “wounded” heroine stories in high school, Susan Lute didn't pen her first completed manuscript until she was...well much older. Four years later she sold to Silhouette Books. A Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Nominee and Holt Medallion Finalist, she’s currently writing mainstream woman’s fiction and long contemporary romance.

Susan lives in the Pacific Northwest, in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, with her husband of thirty-four years and two cats, Larry and Curly. A women’s health Nurse by day, she is particularly fascinated by the ridiculous and unusual, and is happiest when there’s an unending supply of dark chocolate, and vanilla lattes!
Susan's website is packed with useful and inspiring information--from gathering ideas to maximizing your conference experience to using a critique group. Her "Dear Diary" section provides a realistic look at what it takes to move from category to long contemporary fiction.

Darla Lukenbaugh writes Romance Suspense stories about Bad-Ass, Kick-butt Women and the men who would die for them. She has seven completed manuscripts and is working on number eight, the second in a trilogy. Her last completed manuscript, HUNTER'S REVENGE finaled in PASIC’s Book of Your Heart contest this year, Mainstream category. In her spare time, she enjoys kayaking and riding her a motorcycle with her husband of over twenty years. After growing up in the concrete jungle of Southern California, she's living her dream life on the family farm in the beautiful mid-Willamette Valley, with approximately thirty sheep, two head of cattle, four chickens, two cats who are more like children then pets, and one aging border collie.”

Darla's website is coming soon. We're lucky to have both these ladies sharing their wealth of experience with us. Hope you're able to make the meeting!
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Terry McLaughlin Finals in Aspen Gold Contest & Welcomes New Release

RITA finalist Terry McLaughlin continues to rack up the contest wins. Teach Me is a finalist in the 2007 Aspen Gold Reader's Choice Contest. Congrats Terry! Thanks for continuing to inspire all of us!

Terry also has a new release out this month, Maybe, Baby, which is already racking up great reviews. You can read an excerpt here. Terry's in New Zealand right now, following a stint in Syndey, Australia. You can read about her experiences at both conferences on her new blog. Best of luck, Terry!
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Great Interview with Harlequin's Leslie Wainger

Hoping to follow Terry to category success? Check out this interview with Harlequin's Leslie Wainger. She also dishes about her new business as a book doctor. I've seen hundreds of ads for book doctors and independent book consultants (most of which are roundly dismissed at Preditors and Editors and other sites), but this is the first time I've been tempted by such a service.
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Bust Your Writer's Block!

Suffering from writer's block and don't know why? Passionate Ink has a great workshop for you! Their online workshop from September 17-23 examines the causes, benefits, and cures for writers' block. Click here for more information.
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Established Small Press Seeks Submissions

Looking for an established, proven small publisher? Check out James A. Rock & Company. They've been in business since 1977, and they accept submissions in a variety of genres including romance, fantasy, and YA.
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Question of the Day: Losing the Spark


Paty's post yesterday gave me a new spin on a pet peeve I keep encountering: character arcs that end too soon. I've read three books recently where character arcs are essentially completed with a third of the book still to go. This bugs me to no end. If she knows that he's the man for her, and he knows that he wants to commit, there's no tension to carry the book beyond that point. It also bugs me when a secondary character's arc resolves way before the main arc--I like to see everything coming to head in the final chapters. If the subplot is that minor that it only spans the first half of the book, perhaps we could live without it. I've got a bunch of other character arc pet peeves, but I'd like to know yours. Beyond the missing arc that we discussed yesterday, what character arc no-no's top your list?

Remember to keep sending me your news & announcements!

Is He Really Who You Think He Is?


I've been wracking my brain all weekend for a topic and since I can't seem to think of anything pithy, I'll fall back on the topic we discussed at the Wild Rose Press historical chat on Thursday night.

Character Arc:

I found it interesting that about 80% of the writers at that chat liked a bad boy hero and a feisty heroine, yet when Scarlet O'Hara of Gone with the Wind was brought up, a majority of the writers booed and hissed her character and grudgingly agreed she did have an interesting character arc. And they loved Rhett Butler, yet no one could quite remember what exactly his character arc had been.

Which left me wondering- How much arc does a character need to be compelling or an unforgettable character? Do we need to make that arc touch the sky or can it be small and still grab the reader and tug on those heart strings?

I just read a book by a well-known author and thinking it over the heroine had such a minuscule arc at first I thought, "Well, she doesn't have one". Then looking at the hero, he had an arc, not of major proportions but a significant one. Which then led me to ask the question, do you only need to make the one, main character(it was the hero's story) have an arc to have a compelling story, or does the reader want to see growth and change in both the hero and heroine?

After all these questions buzzed around in my head, I started thinking back on the stories I've written and more than once after getting to the end of a story, I'd discover (looking back through notes and scenes I'd jotted down along the way) my character had strayed from the destination I'd intended in their arc and yet, the story came out stronger.

So, my challenge to those who have suffered through my ramblings- Can you write a character arc for either your hero, heroine, or both and if you can do you consider it a grand arc or a small one and do you think it is enough to move the reader.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Writing For Someone Else

I had several titles for this blog, all related to the same topic. Among my favorites were: The Book That Just Won't Die, The Hardest Book "Evah", My Book: Elisabeth's Self-Inflicted Torture Device, and my personal favorite, A Writer's Guide to Losing Your Eyelashes, One Agonizing Page At A Time. As clever as those were though (and true), they didn't capture the true essence of this post, which in a nutshell is what happens when you shift from writing for you to writing for someone else.

I have always been the type of person who works well under presser. I am, by nature, a procrastinator. Give me three weeks to get something done and though I will work on whatever it is steadily, I will save the bulk of the work for two days before the deadline. I did this when I was teaching and had to figure grades. I did this when I was running the school yearbook and had to turn in pages to the publisher. I did this when I was querying agents and got requests on manuscripts that weren't "quite" finished. I did (am doing) this with regard to the conference (shhhh...don't tell Paty). It is - I have learned to accept - my pattern. It's not one I want to pass on to my kids, but for me it works. And I always do my best work, right down to the wire.

Being a procrastinator in this writing business though is probably going to come back to bite me in the ass. I'm already seeing the effects. The book I'm working on now is taking way too long. Wavy talked (jokingly) about excuses earlier in the week, and man-oh-man, could I give you excuses as to why this book isn't done. The kids are home for the summer, it's light too late and they don't go to bed, thus cutting into my writing time, I'm tired in the evenings, DH's work schedule has been erratic, I've been traveling, my two-year-old is in a mommy phase, this book is bigger than the rest, it's a reunion story and harder to write, no publisher is waiting for it yet. I could go on and on, but I'll spare you. Because I know you too have a thousand excuses you could pull up for what's keeping you from finishing your book at the present time. All of those excuses are true and valid and serious reasons as to why this book isn't finished, but last night, thinking about this blog and my propensity for procrastination, I realized at the heart of what's hanging me up isn't the daily stresses or my affinity for pushing things off. It's the fact that before this book, I was solely writing for me. It didn't matter when I finished a book or how long it took, it only mattered that I did.

Since signing with my agent, all that has changed. Suddenly, it's not just me or my friends reading my book, it's an industry professional who's patiently waiting for me to finish this book so she can start subbing it to editors. When I was subbing to agents it was different because they didn't know what I'd written in the past. This time, my agent knows what I wrote before and loved what I wrote before, and somewhere inside me there's this fear that the next one won't be anywhere near as good.

I've heard this before. Mostly from published authors who are trying to make their second sale. They call it the second book syndrome. What no one tells you though is that this can happen to you even before you sell, when you're simply waiting for that first sale and continuing to write. I talked to a writer at the Rita awards in Dallas who's repped by the Knight Agency and she said the same thing happened to her after she signed with her agent. Suddenly, she just couldn't finish anything if her life depended on it. She even went so far as to tell her agent she wanted to back out of her contract because she felt like a fake. Her agent, though (smart woman), encouraged her to stay on and keep writing, and she has.

Before I was agented, I thought getting an agent was the hardest thing. Now I know waiting to sell your book and continuing to write good books is much, much harder. And once I do that, I'm sure there will be even bigger obstacles in my way.

I am roughly sixty pages from finishing this book. But before I can go on I have to go back and fix some serious errors in the beginning. This is my process, and it works for me, so it's not something new and daunting. Seriously recognizing what's keeping me from finishing has been a big eye opener, and hopefully, will allow me to get this puppy done. At post time, I'm about halfway through the wip in my revisions and last night, after my little revelation, I added roughly fifteen pages of new material. I can't begin to tell you how fabulous that felt. Page totals aren't changing that much, but maybe, just maybe I'm on the right track.

If you are a published author (or agented), I would love to hear if you have experienced anything like the second book syndrome. If you aren't, please share how you deal with fears and self doubt and what works to force yourself to keep plugging away at your goal.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

THE BENEFITS OF KEEPING YOUR DAY JOB

I've heard many writers say they can't wait to quit their day job and write full-time. But what if you like your day job? What if the benefits of keeping your day job outweigh that desire to stay home and write?

That's where I was in 1992 when I joined RWA.

I wanted to write. However, I had full medical coverage and was within ten years of accessing a nice retirement fund with my day job. In addition, I loved the graphic design work I was doing, which later expanded to include Web sites. I also wrote, edited and produced newsletters, helped with event planning, put together presentations -- many things I enjoyed doing.

Fortunately, I couldn't afford to quit my day job and write full time. That worked out to be a very good thing. (And I'm not just talking about the passion I share with many other writers who could spend hours in an office supply store picking out paper clips, binders and a dozen different kinds of paper!)

My day job allowed me to "retire" at age 49 with benefits that let me work part-time, write part-time and pay the bills without starving. In addition, I was fully trained (at no expense to me) as a Web and graphic designer, which allowed me to set up my own business making nice money doing this for others, and I don't have to pay someone else to design my writing Web site, covers and promo materials.

Other day jobs have helped tremendously with the business side of writing:
-- As a secretary, I learned filing, organizing, and typing very quickly, just to name a few.
-- As an office manager, I learned "people" skills; striking a balance between bosses who want everything right now and employees who are already overloaded with work. I also learned how to justify the expense of additional people and equipment; how to look at all sides of an idea and package it; how to stretch budget dollars (at home too!); how to manage multiple jobs with looming deadlines. (Think I'd better dust off some of those skills and make them work harder for me!)

Also, I still have connections with former colleagues who are delighted that I will have books coming out and want to buy copies.

What about you? If you could quit your day job and write full-time, would you? How about you stay-at-home moms? (No, I'm not talking about selling the kids to write full-time!) When your kids are grown, do you plan to write full-time or will something else fill part of your hours?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

SHOW and TELL

I'm looking at the title up there, unsure if that's what they used to call it. Maybe you younger people didn't experience this hallmark of grammar school like I did. It's where you found something at home to take to school. Usually on a Friday, after lunch, when the teacher had had enough (though this insight comes to me as an adult.) One by one, we would all take our turns going to the front of the class where we would reveal what treasure we had brought from home and tell something about it.

What does this have to do with writing? Er...nothing.

Wait, maybe it does. I mean, sometimes you had something stunning to bring and you planned and plotted that heart stopping moment of unveiling. You thought about what words you would use and anticipated your audience's gasp of amazement as they joined you in celebrating the wonderfulness of your discovery.

And sometimes, you had nothing. Literally nothing. Sometimes you stood in your bedroom and frantically pirouetted, teeth biting lower lip, palms sweaty as you tried to glom onto something that would do. That rock? Nope, did a rock before. That doll? No, the boys smirk when someone brings a doll. But I can't take nothing. I have to share SOMETHING!

So, you took the damn rock and did your best to dress it up as a chipped arrowhead from some fancy car trip to Idaho or a shard of petrified dinosaur bone.

You made stuff up and kind of hoped the teacher was dozing off during your turn.

So, while we have talked about beginnings of books before, let's do it again. Let's show and tell. Paste in the beginning of an unpublished book. Make it the first paragraph, say. Some people write a single line followed by a paragraph -- if that's what you have done, send both.

And then answer these questions (and any other that occur to you):

1. Did you struggle with it or did it come easily?

2. Did you find yourself editing it before you stuck it in? In other words, knowing it was going to be seen by the millions of people who daily read out blog, did you make changes that you didn't see being needed before placing it here under this spotlight?

3. In retrospect, do you think you accomplished your goal of hooking a reader right off the bat (assuming that's your goal) or does it get really good a few lines further down the page? Is there a way to move that really good part closer to the top? Show and tell how you think you should do this, please.

Here is mine from the second book in the current proposal:
Joey Ryder was ready to call it quits. Two days of lurking around in the cold, snapping pictures of old buildings, old streets and old ranchers had left her stiff and grumpy. Skulking behind fences, loitering in alleys, ducking behind garbage cans -- what was she doing here?

1. This beginning is essentially the same as it's been since day one, only the words have been written and rewritten dozens of times. That's not a struggle in my book, that's just writing. A struggle means the book started somewhere else, in someone else's POV, at a different time in the story, etc. So this one was not a struggle.

2. I am resisting the urge to rewrite it though it did seem better back in the book then it does here!

3. I have no idea if I hooked a reader. If anyone can tell me, I'd appreciate it.

I truly love reading the openings of books and only wish Danita's computer hadn't blown up (we all know how much of herself she puts into the start of a book) and that more of our members dropped by to join the fun. Whether you're a member or not, if you are reading this, feel welcome to show and tell what you're working on.

Finally, I have to ask you all, did you like my rock? It's an unpolished diamond, honest.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

To-Do Tuesday: No Excuses Here!

Welcome to To-Do Tuesday! I'd blame pregnancy brain for the late posting, but that excuse is getting rather old. Hmm. Maybe aliens? No, aliens haven't sold in years. How about vampires? Yes, sexy Vampires came and spirited me away, forcing me to write in second person for hours before they finally released me. Much better excuse. What's your excuse today? Be thinking of a good one while you sift through today's slate of news and information.
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MWVRWA August Meeting: Put The Spark Back Into Your Writing!

If like me, you've been better lately at coming up with excuses than actually being productive, you NEED this month's meeting. As always, we meet at 7:00 p.m., next Tuesday (NEXT TUESDAY, Lisa & Jen G!) August 21st at Salem Public Library. We welcome new faces, and if you're thinking of joining us, email one of us about joining us for dinner prior to the meeting. Our topic this month features two top-notch speakers.

PUT THE SPARK BACK IN YOUR WRITING

When you're writing from the heart and for yourself, you can write about anything that excites your fancy. But, when you're writing to sell or are already under contract, how do you find and keep the spark that both drives you to write the story...and makes it come alive for your readers?

That's what short traditional romance author, Susan Lute and paranormal suspense writer, Darla Lukenbaugh will be sharing in their workshop, PUT THE SPARK BACK INTO YOUR WRITING. Come prepared for an interactive discussion that will include; finding your character vision, giving your character mystery, using the Magic "I" to get to the core of your characters desires and motivations, and how to write with enthusiasm.

Next Tuesday, I'll share more about these talented ladies and their impressive publishing history. Come prepared to think/talk about your current WIP! Don't miss this one!
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Barbara Cool Lee Takes Third in PNWA Contest

Congrats to Barbara Cool Lee! Her MS, Raven's War took third place in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category in the PNWA's 2007 contest. This is a great achievement as PNWA recieved a record number of entries! Barb's been under the weather, but she's not letting that stop her from racking up a slew of contest successes!
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Paty Jager Chats Tonight!

Chapter member Paty Jager, author of two Western historicals, and the recently released contemporary, Perfectly Good Nanny, will be chatting tonight at 5 p.m. Oregon time (8 p.m. Eastern) as part of the Hearts Through History chapter. Check out their website to join the fun!

Even if you're not a Hearts Through History Member, you can still catch Paty in person. Next week, on August 23, Paty will be the featured speaker for the Redmond Writers in Redmond Oregon. She'll be talking about the stages of writing, and her talk is geared towards all levels of writers.

Coming up in October, she'll be addressing RCRW's librarian conference in Central Oregon. These are all great opportunities for Paty, but more importantly, she inspires all of us with her ability to go out and make connections! No excuses here!
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Spotlight on Inspirational Authors!

I've heard rumblings that our Inspirational authors are feeling a bit under-represented with Erotic this and Paranormal that every week. Well, I've got great news for you! Author Island has several new Inspirational contests, and has added new Inspirational authors to their line up. When you check out these great chances to win books and other prizes, be sure to check out their August spotlight on Mysteries!
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Online Workshop on Inspirational Market

The Southern Magic chapter also recognizes the appeal of the Inspirational market. Their September Online workshop features two multi-published Inspirational authors and covers:
GETTING STARTED AND STAYING STEADY--From First Sale to Multi-Published- -How to develop a successful career in the inspirational market. At $15, this class is also a bargain! Click here for more information.
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Paying Short Fiction Opportunities

But, if you DO write Paranormal or Fantasy (I'm sorry, the market's just very hot right now. Hopefully I'll have opportunities for other genres soon!), you'll want to check out these two opportunities to submit your shorter works (both are flexible about length and both welcome new writers):

Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show (5-6 cents per word).
Jim Baen's Universe (6-25 cents per word).

Source: Cindi Myers
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E-Publisher Seeking Submissions

Wait! I don't have to make excuses! I DO have an opportunity for other genres of Romance. Light Sword publishing was started by two authors and currently accepts Contemporary, Historical, Romantic Suspense, Women's Fiction, and Paranormal novels.

Source: Cindi Myers
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Can This Manuscript Be Saved?

Is there a manuscript under your bed or on your hard drive that you're tired of making excuses about? The Heart of Texas chapter has the perfect workshop for you! Their September Workshop features award-winning author Susan Meir. She'll help you find hidden flaws and breathe new life into that problem manuscript. Click here for more information.
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Exercise of the Day: The Perfect Excuse

Been thinking of your excuse? A few years ago, an email forward made the rounds featuring creative excuses for late work. Most of these were fairly simple, but funny. However, we're writers. We don't DO simple. We do creative. After all, we need to perfect the art of having our characters lie convincingly. So, give it your best shot. What's your excuse for not being as productive lately as you'd like? Bonus points for making us laugh!

Remember to keep sending me your news and announcements! No more excuses! Fill my in-box!



Monday, August 13, 2007

Doing a 180

I think it's my day to post...my e-mail is still on the fritz so I couldn't access the schedule, but I think it's me. If not, feel free to take this puppy down! :) How many bloody times has my e-mail gone MIA? Goodness. If I didn't have so many domains on the account I'd switch hosts. Ugh. Ok, enough complaining.

So, this post is about doing a 180, be it in life, or in writing. I'm heading in the direction of a 180 right now in my life, well kinda. I've decided a few things lately:
  • I'm going to stay at my day job, I had been debating a change of pace, but there are many things I love about this place that will keep me here
  • To save some greenbacks (anyone like that commercial? I'm undecided, anyway...) I've decided to move to the town I work in, which is total opposite from what I wanted a year ago. No more 30 minute commute twice a day and filling my gas tank 1-2 times per week at least. Plus, I found a bigger place that costs quite a bit less. Yay! Assuming my application gets approved, I hate waiting! Plus, there are so many hot college hunks ;) I mean, research for my writing *ahem*.
  • I turned in an application to be a student where I work. I'm trying to decide between getting post-baccalaureate degrees in anthropology and history (there are quite a few archaeology classes in there I can take, yay!). Or doing an interdisciplinary studies degree where I can combine both areas of interest in one degree with less classes. Even if I don't work in these fields, many of my story ideas relate to one or the other, and getting some formal education would make writing them easier, more accurate and fun! Hmm...I wonder if the tuition would be a write-off...haha!
  • I dyed my hair blonde. Kidding! That would be a 180, wouldn't it? I did dye it red a few years ago, not quite the same.

Maybe a 180 is what I need to reboot myself. Redevote myself to things that made me so happy months ago, like writing!

I've also done some 180's in my writing and reading. When I began this journey of romance writing/reading - I was firmly a first person girl, both in my reading tastes and writing. Third person didn't entertain me as much and I sure as heck couldn't write it. Everything naturally came out in first person. Plus, I loved series that followed one person and a lead love interest, but it drags you along for a few books rather than a HEA at the end of book one.

Then I went to nationals last year and grabbed a ton of books to read. Most of them were third person books with HEA wrap-ups. Then I got this book idea that demanded I have POV of both characters, with a HEA ending. Rather than the heroine-focused series I had been working on before.

When I started writing that book, I did it in first person to get the deep-POV then went back through and switched it to third. I was surprised to notice I eventually just started writing third person naturally.

Now, a year later, I rarely read first person books unless it's part of a series I still adore. And the thought of writing first person hasn't even crossed my mind.

Have you made any 180's in life or writing recently? Gone from writing science fiction to historicals? Dyed your hair pink and surgically added a third arm to make typing easier when one hand gets tired?

See you all at the meeting tomorrow!

Friday, August 10, 2007

In the begining . . . .

I'm blogging for Danita today. The computer really DID eat her blog. In fact, it did such a good job that she doesn't have internet now. We're hoping that nothing else was lost. Remember, everyone, back up that work!

But, in Danita's honor, I'd like to talk about one of her favorite topics: Beginnings. Or rather NEW beginnings. My WIP is only the 3rd MS that I've finished, but neither of my previous two were quite the problem children that this one is morphing into. Both of my previous MS have had the same basic beginning since day one. In fact, in both cases, the beginning was one of the first things that came to me.

If only it were so for this WIP. Just deciding WHERE to begin was a trial. The book originally came to me in the 1st person POV, then demanded to be 3rd. Then I decided to bookend my novel with two funerals, and the beginning seemed pretty set . . .

Until it wasn't. Now, I've realized that if heroine owns the story, we need to begin in her POV. I've drafted a new beginning, but I'm feeling like there's too much action and too many characters all at once. It's a mess.

And, luckily, I'm not asking you to solve it. Instead, I want to know about YOUR problematic beginning: What's the most number of times that you've rewritten an opening chapter? What's the most radical change you've attempted? How long does it take you to love the new beginning? Ever chuck it and go back to the old? Ever burn a MS based on a beginning that refused to submit . . . .okay, just kidding on that one. I think. But, do share your tales of beginning woes. Misery loves a little company.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Seven Elements of a Story Concept


I don't know how many of you are signed up for the AskAnAuthorPro loop, but they get some really good presenters every now and then. Sylvie Kurtz, a romantic suspense author for Harlequin Intrigue, is presenting a workshop on the seven elements of a story concept. It's really good! And her website has a section on writing tips with a lot more good stuff for writers.

Here are Sylvie's seven elements:

  1. a main character (person through whose eyes the reader will see the story)
  2. a flaw (defense mechanism he feels he needs to survive)
  3. a goal (something concrete and specific hero is working toward)
  4. an ally (someone who helps hero overcome his flaw)
  5. an opponent (someone who pushes hero’s emotional buttons)
  6. a lifechanging event (instigated by opponent—opportunity, challenge or threat; related to flaw)
  7. an implied journey (where the main character risks losing something important to him either physically or emotionally)

Sylvie says: "A story concept is a tool. It's a one- to three-sentence description of your story. It allows you to see your story in a concentrated form and helps you see if your story is structurally sound before you write. You can also use this tool to help you refocus as you write. And ultimately, it may help you sell your story."

I love this because I'm one of those who likes to have a quick, one-minute elevator speech about my book and this works great for that.

Sylvie goes on to say: "The nice thing about building a concept from these seven elements is that you can start anywhere. If you know only one of the elements, you can use it to figure out the others. Everything you're going to add to the piece you know is going to add conflict. If you're a plotter, you can start with the life-changing event and find the best characters to go with it. If you're someone who lets the characters take you along for the ride, then you can start with the hero or the opponent or the ally and work your way to a fitting plot."

Cool, huh? 8^)

She gives an examply from her July Intrigue, Spirit of a Hunter (The Seekers, Book 5):

A security-driven (flaw) mother (hero), desperately seeks to find her son (goal), kidnapped by her mentally ill ex-husband (life-changing event) before her manipulative father-in-law (opponent) takes him away from her. With the help of the dark and brooding Seeker (ally), who was her ex’s best friend, she faces her fears and finds the courage to battle her father-in-law to reclaim her son. (implied journey).

Based on the 7 elements, can you write up your book's story concept? I'm going to try it later this afternoon. I'm swamped today (what a surprise. Sigh) but I've been wanting to try Sylvie's exercise all week. Come on and entice us with your great concept!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I Just Don't Get It...

Happy Wednesday to you all. Hope your week has been terrific thus far. Mine has been filled with tons of stuff to do so, sorry I've been neglecting my duty of commenting on the last few blog posts. Please forgive me and know that I was with you all in my thoughts, but waaay to swamped to take it much further than a good guilt trip. ;)

Okay, here's what I just don't get...

Hard back books.

Ugh.

I mean, what's their appeal anyway? Why would anyone want to hold a big ol' heavy, stiff book to read when there are such nice wrap-aroundy paper ones? (Yes, I meant to say "aroundy".)

While making dinner together last night, my daughter and I were discussing a great YA series we're reading by Stephenie Meyer. We couldn't discuss too much because I've not had anytime to read anything the last few days. I only made it to page 154 then handed the book over to her because I knew I'd not have the time to finish it this week. So, good mommy that I am, I let her read the series first. She finished the first book in one day, sitting up in her room, only coming out to eat, drink, and pee. LOL

Anywho... The first book in the series is one of those big trade paperback books, it's called Twilight. The second book in the series, New Moon, is a hardback. So, what's up with that?!! Lame! I'm hoping the third book, Eclipse, is all bendable like the first one, but I doubt I'll get that lucky. It comes out this month, big excitement!!

What I don't get is why publishers publish the first book one way and the rest another. It makes no sense. I like all my books in a series to match while they sit on the shelf. Is this weird? I don't think it is. I'm very anal about stuff matching. LOL

Like the Harry Potter series, it doesn't match! Oh, sure, they sell matching ones now, but I already bought the ones that DON'T MATCH!! And I'm not putting more money out just so they line up the same. I'd rather get rid of the entire mis-matched set!

So tell me...

How do you feel about hardback vs. papery-bend-aroundy type books? Do you like your keeper shelf to have matching sets in their series? And finally, what book OR series are you currently reading and are you enjoying it?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

To-Do Tuesday: Keep Going

Welcome to Today's installment of To-Do Tuesday. I've got a great line-up of ways to keep your motivation strong and keep going until you meet your goals! I've also got a neat exercise for you putting Paty's post on passive voice into practice.

Remember, even when you don't have BIG news to share, we all benefit from sharing the small milestones--the page goals met, the queries sent, the outline finished. I invite you to set a goal RIGHT NOW for next week. Now, mark your calendar to e-mail me on Monday night and tell me that you MET your personal goal. Think about how good it feels to share at our monthly meetings, and how much you enjoy reading others' successes in this column. YOU are ALREADY a success story in the making. Share it!
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Whodunnit: A Writer's Guide to Working a Crime Scene

The MWVRWA conference will be held Saturday, October 6th from 9:00 to 4:00 in West Salem, Oregon. We are now accepting online registrations, and if you register before September 18, the cost is only $25. This is a true bargain! We've lined up local law enforcement experts who will walk us through a fictional crime scene--from first reports through to prosecution. Each expert will describe their role and take questions from the audience. Bestselling Intrigue Author Alice Sharpe will moderate the panel. Click here to view the brochure.
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Lisa Jackson Releases Almost Dead

Chapter member and NYT Bestseller Lisa Jackson has released her latest thriller, Almost Dead. This book is the sequel to the #1 hit, Fatal Burn. From her press release:

In ALMOST DEAD, Cissy Cahill, still sharp-tongued, is a young mother who married the man of her dreams. Or so she thought. She has an eighteen-month son and outwardly appears to be living the American dream. But her idyllic life has a dark, evil underbelly and soon the facade of her happiness slips as she realizes nothing she believed in is true, and a series of brutal murders brings terror to her and her innocent child. One by one, the people closest to her are being killed. With the death of each victim, the killer is grows closer to Cissy and her precious child. Cissy can trust no one, not even her husband, and love of her life, What does she really know about Jack? What does she really know about anyone? Can she save herself and her child? Or is it already too late? Is she really ALMOST DEAD?

You can read an excerpt here. (Be warned that the site now features music!)
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Synopsis Article in RWR--Don't Miss it!

Alice spotted the great synopsis article in this month's RWR. This article is particularly helpful because it speaks to synopsis writers at all stages of their career--whether you've never written a synopsis before or whether you rely on proposals to sell your next release. The author takes great pains to show how you don't have to be a plotter to write a great synopsis. Don't miss this article!
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Midnight Showcase Accepting Submissions

Midnight Showcase, an e-book publisher, is currently accepting submissions for a wide-range of genre fiction: westerns, mysteries, historical, contemporary romance, paranormals, and erotica.
They are also currently seeking submissions for an array of anthologies. For complete guidelines, visit their website.

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Allison Brennan Offers Online Workshop

If you need more motivation to keep going, Bestselling author Allison Brennan is offering "The Art of Storytelling," sponsored by the Louisville Romance Writers. Many writers have raved about Allison's classes, so if you've missed her at conference, this is a great chance to benefit from her wisdom about what advice to take and what advice you can ignore! Click here for more information.

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Exercise of the Day: Showing not Telling

Paty's great post on passive voice hits at the heart of great storytelling: showing, not telling. Passive sentences TELL your reader what has happened. The subject of the sentences isn't DOING anything, and the emotional impact of your scene is lowered. Focus on using active, descriptive verbs and making the subject of each sentence DO something, and your storytelling will improve. Barbara made the great comment that most of this work occurs in editing--and she's right. You can always punch up the impact of a particular passage--even one that you've already rewritten several times.

Try this: Open your WIP. Hit scroll down, and count to 10. Slowly. Stop wherever you are in the document and highlight the first 5 sentences or so that you see. Concentrate on just this little block, and focus on making each sentence as active as possible. Do you have the right subject? If you're struggling with passive sentences, often you're trying to force action out of the wrong subject. Try changing the object/character that's the subject of the sentence. Add descriptive verbs. Really analyze this passage to gain an idea of what you can work on in the rest of the document. Do this for YOU, and if you feel comfortable, share your revised sentences with us.

Also, don't forget to share your goals for this week. YOU are the key to your own success, and YOU are almost there! Keep sending me your news and announcements!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Passive Voice

Since I still have company and haven't had a creative thought since they arrived I'm going to paste the information I gathered for an online class I presented to the Hearts Through History online RWA Chapter. The following information was gathered from various sites on Passive Voice I googled.

Passive Voice- How many times has someone marked that on your manuscript or contest entry? Do you really know what passive voice is?

A passive construction occurs when you make the object of an action into the subject of a sentence. That is, the one performing the action is not the grammatical subject of the sentence. Passive constructions are easy to spot; look for a form of "to be" (is, are, am , was, were, has been, have been, had been, will be, will have been, being) followed by a past participle. (The past participle is a form of the verb often, but not always, ending in "-ed." Some exceptions to the "-ed" rule are words like "paid" and "driven.")

It is also passive when you write a sentence:

She was trying.

She tried.


He found the game was stripping him of his money.

The game stripped him of his money.


For example:

The metropolis has been scorched by the dragon's fiery breath.

When her house was invaded, Penelope had to think of ways to delay her remarriage.

**NOTE: the passive voice is marked by a form of "to be" + the past participle--not a form of "have" alone + the past participle, as some students believe. So don't let the combination of "have" and "to be" fool you. In the next section, we discuss why you often want to avoid using the passive voice, but let's briefly look at how to change passive constructions into active ones. You can usually just switch the order, making the actor and subject one--putting the doer up front:

The dragon scorched the metropolis with his fiery breath.

After suitors invaded Penelope's house, she had to think of ways to fend them off.

To repeat, the key to identifying the passive voice is to look for both a form of "to be" and a past participle, which usually, but not always, ends in "-ed."

The primary reason why passive voice is frowned is because the reader often has to guess what you mean. Sometimes, the confusion is minor.

Some people believe passive voice signals sloppy, lazy thinking--that those who use it have not thought through a process they are discussing. Imprecision follows. Consider these sentences:

The group was chaotic.
African Americans were discriminated against.
Women were not treated as equals.

Such sentences lack the precision and connection to context gives the reader clarity and draws them deeper into your story. Better sentences would be:

The college students pushed and shouted as they made their way down the boulevard.

African Americans had a hard time finding decent housing, jobs, and schooling in the past.

Until recent years, women did not live with the same laws and salaries as men.

Passive voice can cause prose to be flat and uninteresting.


Some sites for help with passive voice-

http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/passive.htm

http://esl.about.com/library/grammar/blpassive.htm

http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/print/grammar/g_actpass.html


Now I’m not saying to never use passive. There are times when it is necessary or conveys the message you want to get across. The main thing is to KNOW what passive voice is and when to use it. You’ll see passive voice used in nonfiction works and literary works, but if you are writing romance and want to lure your reader in, it's best to use it as little as possible to keep your reader in the moment.


Are you a writer who uses passive voice and do you know why you use it? Or are you someone who uses it and didn't have a clear idea of what it was ? If you are one who uses passive voice, give us a sample and explain why it works.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Just For Fun

Okay, so I know today isn't a scheduled blog day, but I finally downloaded pics from my camera and thought I'd share a few with you from Nationals. (And Lisa will rue the day she sent me copies of her pics....hee hee hee.)

First one is the skyline of Dallas from our room.


Next is from the Literacy Signing. Me with Pocket & Kensington author, Karin Tabke.

Here's the cutie patootie Lisa with Intrigue author Isabel Sharpe. Oh, wait!! Isabel was sitting in the next chair. This is ALICE Sharpe (or, better known as Alice The Great).

Here's that hat I was telling you about. Sherilynn Kenyon during the Literacy Signing.
This one's of Lisa working hard between sessions. Or hardly working. I'm not sure which. I can't believe I forgot to take a picture of the chair in the corner of the room Alice laid claim to and wouldn't let the rest of us sit in.

Some people have no sense of humor. I'll leave this one up to your imaginations.

Okay, fast forward to awards night. All the GHers were camera happy before the ceremony.

And finally, here we all are after the awards.

I have more, but I'll spare you (and Lisa and Alice would kill me if I posted them anyway). ;) Next year, hopefully we'll have a lot more more pictures to share!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Knowing What You Write

Genene's fun post yesterday about learning to write got me thinking about what it is we all write about. I'm not talking genres, specifically, but more knowing where the genre and story and characters you write fit into today's market.

For most of us, publication is what drives us to write. I think most writers (and I say most because there are exceptions, even in our chapter) long to see their name on the spine of a book. To stand in Borders or Barnes & Noble or your local bookstore and think, look at that. That's me. I did that. When I was at Nationals, one of the questions I heard over and over again posed to published authors at workshops or on panels was, "What do you think was the element that pushed you from unpublished to published?"

If you're a published author, can you answer that definitively? Most of the published authors I saw asked that in public couldn't. They mentioned timing, of having the right story at the right time, of hitting the right editor who was looking for something specific, but for most, the why of how they sold is still a mystery.

Not very encouraging, especially for those of us who are still waiting for that first sale. But I think there are some things you can do to make your chances better.

The first thing you need to do is read within your genre. Okay, Alice will disagree, but she's been published so long and has a proven track record, so she can write anything and we all love it. ;) For newbies, it's important to know what's being published in your genre, and specifically, what new authors are being published and what they're writing. Of course, there's lag time, and what's being published now might not necessarily be what's being bought, but you can look at recently published books and get not only a feeling for the state of the market of your genre, but what readers are looking for as a whole.

For example, when I sat down to work on my last book (the one I got my agent with, the one that finaled in the GH), I thought long and hard about what I'd written before, what I'd read recently, and what I wanted to write. And one thing stood out to me. Though I was writing romantic suspense, the romance was overshadowing the suspense and my "thrills" were taking a backseat to the emotions. My solution was to try my hand at writing what I call a chase book. To add an element of time, to up the stakes and give the romance more immediacy, to put my characters in more imperative danger. I looked at what was being published in my genre and what I could do differently. Those are the kind of books I was reading. Why wasn't I writing them? The result was a book which garnered more attention from agents and editors than any other book I'd written. Has it sold yet? No, but I'm still hopeful. In the meantime, I'm working on the next book, which, yes, you guessed it, is another fast paced chase-like book.

The second thing most writers need to look at is what type of book they're really writing. Are you writing category or are you writing single title? Trust me, it makes a difference. During the Golden Network retreat, Terry Mclaughlin (from our chapter) told the group she thought she was writing single title when she first started. She kept subbing to the big houses and getting rejected. She didn't realize what she was actually writing was a Superromance - one of Harlequin's longest category lines - until an editor finally told her why her book wasn't right for the single title market.

This was me. I thought the first three books I wrote were single title. That's all I'd read. I'd never even picked up a category book until I joined RWA, and by that time I was well into my second and third books. And my books were loooong. (I used to be veeerry long-winded.) Well over 100K words. But what I didn't realize was word count doesn't determine category or single title, and that the first few books I wrote had elements that would forever make them category - amnesia, secret baby, big, big BIG misunderstandings. It wasn't until I stepped back to study the market before writing books four and five, that I realized what I was writing was never going to sell in single title.

Finally, though we've all heard "experts" say don't chase the market and instead write what you love, I think a writer (or at least a writer with the goal of publication) has to keep one eye on the market and know whether what they're writing (and want to write) has a chance of selling. Maybe what you love to write isn't selling right now. It doesn't mean you have to shelve your book forever. Perhaps writing a proposal and sticking it away for the time being is a smart idea. As the market shifts back (which we all know it will do at some point), you'll be ready to go. But if you continue to write in a genre you know isn't selling, then get frustrated over and over because no one's buying you, you only have yourself to blame.

There are more - many more - things a writer should look at to make their chances of publication better. I'd love to hear what those are from the rest of you. What do you think a writer can do to position their work better in this ever-changing market?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

HOW DID YOU LEARN TO WRITE?

I was making notes the other day for a presentation and realized once again how fortunate we are to have RWA. When I decided to actually try to finish writing a romance novel back in 1992, I had the good fortune to read about our local RWA chapter in a newspaper article about Samantha James. I went to a meeting and decided I had found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

There were real writers at the meeting! Not only had they finished a manuscript, they had books in print! And they were willing to share their expertise with writers like me who were just starting out. I was so excited I wrote a check to join that night.

Soon after I joined RWA, the chapter in Eugene (which has since disbanded) hosted a three-day conference. Once again, I was in heaven. More writers sharing their knowledge. However, I quickly crashed into the reality of how little I really knew about writing a manuscript.

This set up a pattern I repeated several times over the next few years. Susan Wiggs and Stella Cameron were the speakers at the Salem chapter conference. I took copious notes, had a major AHA! experience, and rewrote my manuscript. Guest speakers came to chapter meetings and I slowly gained an understanding of point of view, building characters, conflict, and the other pieces that make up a manuscript. So I rewrote that same manuscript again and again -- probably six or eight times.

That is the manuscript I sold to Awe-Struck E-Books in the fall of 2006 –– fourteen years after I started working on it.

Of course, in the meantime, I bought books on writing, attended more conferences, joined a critique group, and even became an online class junkie one year. Once in awhile, I actually sat at the computer and wrote .

How did you learn to write?

As you learned more did you stick with your first manuscript? Is it setting under the bed or hidden away somewhere? Did you shred it before someone found it?

Please share your journey of learning to write.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

GIVING BIRTH

It's been awhile since I actually gave birth to a human being, but I remember the process. And as I labor through getting these proposals out of my head and into the light of day, I am struck by the parallels, even though at this moment giving birth seems the easier task.

Both processes start with a tiny piece of raw material provided by you and fertilized by another source (i.e. the father or in the case of a book, all the information and details you've absorbed from the world around you.) Tucked safely away in the womb or in the head, the baby or the idea grows, taking additional nutrients and creating interesting side effects for the "host." With a baby, you have fatigue, tender breasts, backaches. Hormones going catawampus. Too many tears, odd cravings, water retention --

Okay, some of those side effects fit "hosting" a book idea as well. Add distraction, talking to yourself, laying awake at night hearing voices inside your head -- oh, I see the difference. With a baby, the side effects are physical and emotional. With a book, you're actually showing signs of psychosis. Hm -- that explains a lot.

Time passes. In pregnancy, the body does most the work with or without commitment from the mother. In fact, the mother can pretend the whole thing isn't happening if she wants and it will happen anyway. But with a book, there's no slacking off. Every little twist and turn is its own small birth, and in any book, let alone a mystery, there are many twists and turns. You have to be on deck for a million decisions, like a foreman at a construction site who can't go inside the trailer, put up his feet and suck down coffee all day. Like a director at a play during the first run through. Like a million other jobs that demand someone be in charge, day or night, rain or shine, no rest for the wicked.

I am currently having twins. And because I have alerted the powers that be in my corner of the publishing world, there is a feeling of inevitability about this. In other words, just like their human counterparts, these books will germinate, come to full term and be born. And then, like their human counterparts, they will need nurturing. They will do the literary equivalent of messing diapers and demanding two a.m. feedings before eventually struggling to their feet and walking a few steps before breaking a lamp. Then they will open the back door and race into the yard. They'll climb trees while I beg them to stop. They'll start dating and maybe have a minor run in with the law which I'll have to bail them out of. Eventually, they'll take one last step into maturity, be full blown gown-ups with a future that is out of my hands and I'll send them forth, kind of like giving birth again. I'll wipe away a tear or two of pride mixed with relief as they disappear from my sight.

And then I'll probably do it all over again, because just like a real pregnancy and birth, the end result will diminish the sometimes painful experience of producing the end product.

I don't have an exercise for you to do or even a lot of pithy questions but comments about your own "birthing" experiences would help distract me from my current overwhelmed state and would be most appreciated. Maybe you've discovered something that makes this easier. Do tell.