Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Of course, the book is vastly different from that first effort. After all, I had a lot to learn about writing at the time. I'm very pleased that these characters and their story have finally seen the light of day. It's been a long time coming.
***If you'd like to win your own download of ALAINA'S PROMISE, all you have to do is respond at least once to one of my blog posts through the end of January... WHICH happens to be tomorrow, folks! So post something, anything (niceness counts, of course ;) ) and I'll enter your name in the drawing. Good luck!***
Sunday, January 21, 2007
At least, that's my take on that particular term. ;)
How do you write it? It takes practice AND it means no head-hopping! Sorry, folks, it just won't work.
**Covering my butt here in case any editors are lurking. ;) **
Ahem. There is one exercise passed down to me from another writer -- I wish I could remember who it was, but the memory is a bit fuzzy --- although, I'm guessing it was Deborah Hale of Harlequin Romance/LUNA fame. She is a fantastic lady and a wonderful writer. Do check out her books asap.
Anyway, here's what you do:
Write a scene (or a few paragraphs) in first person point of view -- I, me, myself and my. True, I am not a big first-person fan, but do it for me anyhow.
Once you're finished, go back and change all the pronouns to the appropriate gender -- he, she, etc. This can be done, obviously, for any point of view you may feel lacks depth. But try it whenever you have trouble connecting with your characters or just as a writing exercise -- all muscles need a good work-out, even those of the imagination. ;)
Here's a short example of what I'm talking about from my up-coming historical, ALAINA'S PROMISE:
Written in first person:
The cold stillness of the house wrapped around me, chilling me to the bone. I drew in a deep breath as I reached for the banister and climbed the curved staircase.
My father was dying.
I froze midway up the steps, knuckles white as I gripped the smooth wood in an effort to still shaking fingers. Fear snaked around my heart and reached down further into my soul. I squeezed my eyes shut as I fought to dispel the panic. It would do no good for him to see me like this.
“Be strong,” I commanded myself aloud.
Now, I change it to third person:
The cold stillness of the house wrapped around Alaina, chilling her to the bone. She drew in a deep breath as she reached for the banister and climbed the curved staircase.
Her father was dying.
She froze midway up the steps, knuckles white as she gripped the smooth wood in an effort to still shaking fingers. Fear snaked around her heart and reached down further into her soul. She squeezed her eyes shut as she fought to dispel the panic. It would do no good for him to see her like this.
“Be strong,” she commanded herself aloud.
Now, that's not the most perfect example, but hopefully you get the idea. Try this exercise a few times if you're ever unsure of your character; have been told you tend to head-hop; OR you just want to dig a little deeper. Remember, the point is that you can only show things through the narrator's senses. This connects the reader to the character and pulls them more deeply into the story.
Deepen that point of view, and they will care -- they won't be able to stop themselves. ;)
Make them care, and they will come back for more. Don't you? :)
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Check out this information Unique Enterprises has posted about what both Moonlit Romance and By Grace Publishing are looking for ... and the info on their writing contests. You just may be the next winner.
Friday, January 19, 2007
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Monday, January 15, 2007
What's wrong with was? Nothing, unless there's something that could be used in its place. Something that will bring the sentence to life -- give it some spark -- add some pizazz.
Verbs are a fantastic tool for writers ... they can describe the action; intensify the emotions or dialogue. But you have to make sure you break things up a bit. I'm using the 'was' example, because it's one most of us tend to fall back on -- and one that I've had many editors and critique partners fling back at me with comments such as: "You're using this too much -- can you find another way to say this?" **Okay, after about the tenth time their comments are bit less diplomatic, but you get the drift. ;)**
There comes a point when we have to break out the Thesaurus and start looking for different ways to say the same thing. I'm one of those people who tends to get a little irritated with word repetition. I don't often catch it in my own work until that final edit, but let me tell you it is really a big pet peeve of mine. Just ask any of my critique partners. On second thought, don't ask them.
Yet sometimes, no matter what you do, it isn't easy to 'say it differently'. For instance, do you know how many synonyms there are for the word 'door'? Not many... and even fewer you can just slide easily into a sentence without sounding like you're using a "Word of the Day" calendar to write. (Been there, done that...have the bald spot to prove it. ;) )
So, what do we do with was? Like salt or pepper ... use it sparingly or it can overpower your prose. The same goes for adverbs. Sprinkle, sprinkle, sprinkle! No dumping allowed! ;)
If you can think of a better way to 'show' the reader what the character is doing or feeling, then use it! It might mean re-writing an entire sentence or paragraph, but that's all part and parcel of this gig. If you can get in the habit of 'showing it better' from the outset, you are way ahead of the game. Otherwise, save it for that round of editing to come. Just keep writing, no matter what. As the great Nora Roberts is fondly paraphrased: You can't fix a blank page.
By the way, don't completely cut any word from your writing. All words were created for us to use, and 'was' is no exception. Like any other part of the writing craft, it takes trial and error to find your voice -- including the words you use.
Friday, January 12, 2007
IF you want to get published someday, you have to reach those two final words in your manuscript: THE END
Easy? Think again. I know many authors -- including myself -- who have more than one computer file filled with starts and stops of various stories. Some will eventually see the light of day, the rest, well...I believe there's a void where those characters will have to live until they somehow weedle their way into another tale.
Beginning a story can be simple. Then you hit, say, CHAPTER FOUR, and things start to stall out. So maybe you skip a few scenes and get some other stuff down on paper (or the screen). But somehow, the story just dies.
Guess what? No one will ever publish an unfinished novel. (Big revelation, huh? ;) )
So you have to make a plan to FINISH THE DA*N STORY!
No one can do it for you. You may have friends who can help brainstorm a plot point or two. You may have others who can motivate you in other ways. But you, and only YOU can finish that story.
Turn off the internal editor. Bribe yourself if you need to and get it done. I know some authors won't let themselves read other books until they finish a wip (work in progress). I did that once with a Dark-Hunter novel I had bought. I wouldn't let myself crack that spine until I finished what I was working on -- believe me, it worked! ;)
Other bribes work, too. Dinner out; a special candy; a new outfit even. Whatever it takes -- that you can afford, obviously -- make yourself a deal and stick with it.
My other tricks are as follows:
1. I finish a scene and/or chapter and let myself edit it through one time. Then I move on to the next part. Then when I finally write THE END, I go through it again from beginning to end.
2. If I get well and truly stuck on one project -- to the point of not being able to write at all -- then I set it aside for a bit and try to work on something else. In my humble opinion, not all ideas are meant to be good novels. But at least I'll get a good writing exercise out of it.
3. Brainstorm with fellow writers for ideas. If you have a good friend who also writes, they can be invaluable to you when it comes to ironing out those plot twists. I've had friends help me from everything from naming a character, historical inaccuracies, and what occupation my hero should have.
**But always remember: no matter what anyone says, it is YOUR story. Don't change a thing if you feel uncomfortable with that change. Obviously, this does not apply to the opinion of an editor who may want to publish your book.
Again, to finish or not to finish.... well, it depends on whether or not you ever want to get published. Writing is the first step; finishing is the second.
Get going! ;)
Sunday, January 07, 2007
All you have to do is post -- at least once -- and you'll automatically be entered in a random drawing for the prize. The winner will be announced on this blog and at http://writers-across-time.blogspot.com/ on Monday, Feb. 5th.
So, voice your opinion or share your insights -- we'll all appreciate it and you may be the winner!
Personally, I like a variety of romance and some straight mysteries. Give me a good Native American hero, and I'm there! Throw in a sexy vampire, and you have me hooked -- at least enough to check out the back-cover blurb. ;) Add some mystery or suspense, and yes! I want that book! I used to adore Stephen King novels, but I'm not so much into the horror aspect anymore.
So tell us, we really want to know --
What draws you to a book?
What makes it stand out on the shelf OR on that on-line page?
What type of stories are a must-buy?
What type wouldn't you touch with a ten-foot pole?
Do you buy books for your children? IF so, what do they like? Fantasy? Comedy?
Give us some clues, folks. As writers, we love to tell a good story. As writers who want to sell we want to tell a great story that makes you stop, pick up that book (click on the link) and whip out that credit card. ;)
Post away ... readers and writers alike. I can't do this alone. :)
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Well, honestly, I don't often feel that I have much of a choice. The "Muse" makes that decision for me. No, I am not insane. 'She' is my inspiration...the one that takes an idea and runs with it through time until the perfect people are created; the perfect time decided upon; the perfect conflict crafted; etc.
The MUSE is inspiration, and I honestly believe it's something only true writers have. Is it an entity? An overactive imagination? Maybe both?
If you aren't a writer, this makes no sense and you are currently wondering about my mental stability. Like I mentioned before -- I am sane, or as sane as any writer gets. ;)
So, I write what I'm inspired to write. Romance. You may not like romance...then chances are good you won't want to write it. I don't care for science fiction that much except for an occasional Star Trek episode/movie. But I do love paranormal fiction.
Words of wisdom: "Don't write what you know -- write what you love."
Of course you have to do the research if you aren't familiar with aspects of the story -- such as the setting; the time period; a specific occupation one of your main characters has. Research is an important tool to any writer. Get the facts straight or someone, somewhere will catch you...then it'll really hit the fan! ESPECIALLY if you want to write a historical novel. Do not try to fudge your way through history...unless you're creating your own version for a fantasy...because those readers can be very unforgiving.
It all boils down to this: What do you tend to read? What kind of stories draw you in deep and don't let go until that last page is turned? THOSE should be the stories that you write. Whether they be mysteries, sci-fi, young adult adventure, fantasy, etc, etc.... Only you (and your muse) can make that decision.
Don't try to follow the market because the market will leave you behind. Most books put out by the BIG houses (ie: NY pubs) were bought a year ago or more. The editors may be looking for something completely different now. So, write what you love and hopefully someday you'll be blessed to share it with others.
STEPS in WRITING:
1. Choose your POV
2. Let an idea gel in your mind
3. Research as necessary to get started
That's how you begin. But we aren't done! There are a lot of traps and tricks along the way. I don't know them all, honestly. Writing is one of those careers where you are constantly learning and honing your craft. However, I will continue to share what I do know....or think I know. ;) Hopefully, some of my fellow writers will come out to play as well.
Any questions? Please ask! I'll give it my best shot.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
First off, what is it? Well, honestly, this may sound like a stupid question to some, but I believe there's no such thing as a stupid question. (Um, for the most part.)
Some of us do NOT know what POV is or why it matters. When I wrote my first novel -- a 400+ page tome of historical romance, anguish and head-hopping melodrama (cringe) -- I knew nothing about Point of View. And you could tell by reading that story. Hey, it would've made a great travelogue! ;)
POV, as we call it, is the viewpoint from which a story is told. There is first person: "I", "me", "my", etc...which is popular in most of the chick-lit genre; third person: the one I prefer to read and write; and omniscient ... in other words, the all-seeing narrator or 'God', if you will.
Some writers and editors are POV purists. They insist on one POV per scene OR chapter. Using more than one POV in this way is commonly known as 'head-hopping'. To be honest, you'll find more head-hopping than not in most widely published novels today. Particularly in the romance genre. Especially by those with the Big Names.
The Evils of Head-hopping
or... "If so-and-so can get away with it, why the hell can't I??"
The reason you might not be able to head-hop your way through your first novel is, again, simple:
1. Because 'so-and-so' has been around (as in multi-pubbed) for a while...
2. Does it well so no one cares...
3. Is a good enough writer in general that many sins can be forgiven...
4. All of the above.
If you insist on writing it your way -- I say, "Go for it!" But for all our sakes, do it right! The biggest arguments I've heard for avoiding the ping-pong match of flitting from one character's head to another are as follows:
*The reader loses track of who is thinking, feeling, or saying 'whatever' from one paragraph or page to the next. Nothing is more annoying than having to retrace your steps, go back in a book and figure who the heck is talking! It's not only a nuisance, but it pulls your reader right out of the story.
**It's sometimes difficult to 'identify' with a character if you don't spend enough time in their thoughts...feeling and sharing their emotions. If you only get snippets of the heroine's feelings before you jump into the hero's, your reader may have a hard time connecting and/or caring. If they don't connect/care, then they may lost interest in the story. NOT good.
***Sometimes, you can get a stiff neck (mentally) trying to keep up with all the ping-ponging. Sounds silly, but it's true. Nothing gives me a worse headache than trying to keep track of who's saying what to whom over the course of a 200-300+ page novel.
Okay, so what to do?
First, you need to decide what type of POV works best for what you're writing. Then decide up-front how you're going to handle the POV switch -- if you have one. Obviously, in a first-person narrative, you won't have that problem.
Believe me, I can tell you from experience that it's a lot easier to make that decision from page one then to have to go back and edit the entire book. I've done it and it stinks. I have one terrific writer friend who tried to 'fix' his first novel -- a head-hopper -- and gave up. He's in the process of re-writing it completely.
Basic *Rules* of POV:
1. Only 'show' or 'tell' things that the POV character can actually experience/see/feel/know. Don't have your heroine stare at herself in the mirror so she can think about her beauty -- or lack there0f. She'll lose a lot of sympathy right there. Don't make your hero a mind-reader who can decipher every thought or emotion on the heroine's face ... well, unless it's a paranormal story and he can really read minds. ;)
2. Avoid omniscient POV at all costs. It gets old, folks, and most of us don't like it much.
3. Again, decide how to break up the POV if you're going with third-person. I like to use scene changes and chapter breaks. But make up your mind and try to stick with the plan. Revision is available, but it isn't always a picnic.
4. In the end, thumb your nose at the *RULES* and head-hop away! Just do it well.