Wednesday, December 2, 2009

You Gotta Get Out Of The Way of The Story

So, I've been banging my head on a brick wall with one story. Parts of it is fabulous. Parts of does everything a story is supposed to do. Other parts make me want to select all, hit delete and save the current changes.

Then NaNo happened and that story sucked me in. And that little 'you suck' voice got drowned out by thousands of shiny new words. The problem was when I went back to the MS That Makes My Brain Hurt it still sucked. Yes it had more fabulous parts to it, but the sucky bits took over the ms and left me wondering once if I had it in me to write a good book.

I made the decision to open up a completely different ms and edit that one. It's been sitting on my computer since September. 2 months is more than enough time to come back to an ms with a fresh perspective and for the story to read as if someone else wrote it.

I stayed up all night reading it. The story by no means is perfect, but when I finished I knew exactly what needed to be fixed and HOW to fix it, which is half the battle. I knew it'd take me maybe three days to fix the major parts. Another day to make all the sentences shine and I'd be ready to shoot it off to a CP or Beta.

But more than that I sat back and wondered why this story was so much easier to fix. The first answer is that I haven't spent a month reading it over and over and over again just to keep hitting a new snag. One major reason is that the goal/motivation/conflict is on point. I can't say it was the prep work before the novel. I did A LOT prep work with the other book.

The defining factor is that with the story that's easier to fix I got out of the way and let my characters show their story through dialogue, action, and narration. It's easy to say I'm just here to dictate and to actually dictate what's happening. My, characters, and I'm sure yours do too, become their own people after a while. But the moment I stepped in and wrote what I thought should happen, what I thought they should say, the whole thing turned into a cluster*****. So every time I read a scene that just doesn't jive I see myself imitating the characters and doing a horrible rendition of them. Much like someone doing an impersonation of Elvis and gets it all wrong, you cringe a little don't you? Now imagine hours of it.

Oy, vey.

So as a public service, I'll tell you to just step out of the way. You can save hours of your time. You can keep your sanity. You can prevent the brain bleed from banging your head on the wall day after day after day. The upshot is getting a story that rings true through the character.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Typing "The End"

by Sharon Lathan

I am thinking we would all agree that one of the high points in writing our stories is to type "The End" in bold print at the bottom of that final page. Maybe it is just me, but I always flash onto the scene in Romancing the Stone when Joan Wilder types those words - on a real typewriter no less - and is dissolving into tears while searching high and low for a tissue. I love that scene! Of course, until recently it was just a humorous moment in a movie with no relationship to my life. Now I have typed those words a few times, most recently two days ago. And let me tell you, it is a fabulous feeling!

Of course, we know that just because we type "The End" it really isn't the end. We will read it over a few more times before we click the attach and send buttons. We will add a little bit here, take away something there, find some typo or misspelled word, all before we are satisfied enough to turn it over to our editor. And then it will be picked over by a series of editors (praise God!) who will find more sentences and paragraphs or - heaven help us - whole sections or chapters that need to be rehashed. Hopefully it will not be too agonizing and the finished, published product will not vary too much from what we submitted.

Yet for all the work that is ahead of us before that shiny bound novel is in our hot little hands, the real challenge is going from a vague concept in our head that starts with some "It was a dark and stormy night" catchy beginning sentence to typing "The End." When we get there we aren't fretting over the work to come. Rather we are leaping for joy at the incredible sense of accomplishment. Like Joan Wilder we are overcome with emotions.

I have typed "The End" after four novels with surging emotions each time. Relief, happiness, satisfaction, giddiness, touches of fear and doubt, and a whole lot more that I am not sure there are names for. The journeys from inception to completion differed and the challenges varied along the way, making each process special. But for me the prior undertakings were similar in many respects whereas this recent “The End” came after a totally unique experience in several fundamental ways.

First off, I was writing a novella. Early in my writing endeavors I wrote two short stories that have now been incorporated into the whole of my saga. I suppose that gave me some experience. However, this time I had a specific word count to keep in mind and that was a very new phenomenon for me. It is one thing to dream up a great story and jot down a hazy outline, and another thing entirely to pull it off within an allotted boundary! “Anywhere from 20-30,000 words” sounds like loads of wiggle room until you get down to those final few thousand and realize you have so much left to say. Yikes!

Secondly, I was given a particular theme to write about. Actually, this was the easiest part for me. My wonderful editor, Deb Werksman, approached me for a Darcy Christmas themed novella that is to be part of an anthology released next year. She was receptive to any direction I wanted to take as long as Christmas and the Darcys were in there somewhere. Oh my! The possibilities are endless when one thinks about it! Yet at the same time for me this was a first: Being asked to write within a specific topic. But since Christmas is my favorite holiday and I had already written of the Darcys celebrating Christmas twice, it was easy for me to come up with ideas. Perhaps too easy! I needed to rein in the numerous thoughts and keep it cohesive with its own plotline.

Third, I was writing under a deadline for the first time. I know, I know.... Many of my writer friends are going to heave rotten tomatoes smack on my head for that one! Sorry!! But for me this was a unique experience. And one I am not sure I liked! Yes, it was good to have that discipline, I have discovered. When Deb broached the subject way back in June, getting a mere 30,000-word novella done by the end of the year (or Nov. 19 as it ended up) sounded like AGES away. No problemo! Heck, I had nearly half of it written before Nationals in July! So what happened? Well, there were vacations to take, conferences to attend, family crisis to deal with, blogs to write, a book to launch, and that pesky RL job to show up for. Oh, and family! Yep, they require some attention! Suddenly that looming date circled in bright red on my calendar was creeping closer and closer. The upside is that I learned to buckle down and get serious, even if that meant turning off the email alert and Facebook chat!

Fourth, my novella was the first undertaking after the release of my debut novel. Somehow the expectations felt different. Maybe most of that was in my head, but with what I hope is a long career stretching out ahead of me and with readers potentially waiting anxiously for the next Sharon Lathan written story (Hey, I can dream!), I felt a keen sense of pressure to perform. Ha, performance anxiety! Something none of my male characters will ever suffer from, but I was occasionally flustered by this annoying voice in the back of my head yammering at me. Sometimes that voice sounded like the critics, sometimes it was my editor, sometimes it was my praising fans, and sometimes it was my own doubt and indecision. Valid or not, like it or not, gone are the days of writing blithely only for my pleasure. I do have others to consider beside myself. *sigh

Yet, as I stare at the typed “The End” to my 29,957-word novella that I have titled, “Reflections of Christmas at Pemberley,” I am satisfied. I really love it! I am confident that Deb will love it and feel it fits perfectly into the themes for this anthology. I know my faithful fans will adore it. I have hope that new readers will smile at the glimpses of Christmas with Jane Austen’s beloved characters that I have given them. And I no longer fret over the critics! LOL! Whatever hair-ripping work may be ahead of me, I have accomplished something remarkable in reaching The End.

Tell me how it felt for you! Your best experience in writing or most celebratory The End you typed.

**On a side note:
This Thursday, Oct. 22, I will be at the Hanford library for the Friends of the Library Author's Chat. Naturally I shall be talking about The Darcy Saga and my journey as a writer. Plus, I will be signing books. If in the area, stop by for fun and refreshments at 7pm.

And, if anyone is in the Sacramento area over this coming up weekend, be sure to swing by the Citrus Heights Barnes & Noble on 6111 Sunrise Blvd. between 11am to 3pm on Saturday, Oct. 24 to see Loucinda McGary and me, along with several other fabulous Valley Rose romance novelists, at our joint book signing. Not only will it be tremendous fun, but it is a fund raiser for area public schools so also a worthy cause. Loucinda and I hope to see you there!

Monday, October 19, 2009

To Be Subtle Or Not To be Subtle

Subtle has it's advantages, especially when you are trying to make a point to the reader. This character is flighty, this character hates their job, this character *insert what you want to convey here.* You can do this by the words you choose, or how a character reacts in a given situation. But sometimes the subtlety can get lost in the other noise of the novel. Readers come to stories with their own luggage and they see what they want to see.

Case in point: I read this Women's Fiction novel. The heroine hated this one character. He rubbed her in the wrong way and she gave her reasons to why she hated him. On the surface those reasons made sense. Also the fact I was reading a Women's Fiction I wasn't on the look out for "Oh, here's the hero" like I do in romance. So by the time I got to the Big Reveal, I was shocked. OMG!!!!!

Now when I go back to read the story I can see where the author put in the clues. A sentence here and there. The heroine completely evading. It was subtle and it was meant to be that way. Even if you caught on earlier in the novel you still somehow felt vindicated that you were right.

Loosely connected--when it comes to a readers own luggage and seeing what they want to see--I was reading The Grand Sophy and I knew it was a romance. So every man that came on the scene I was looking for the hero qualities. It wasn't until half-way through the book that I settled on one character. But the author kept beating me on the head THESE TWO ARE NOT TO BE. I was mildly disappointed, because I couldn't figure out who the hero was and why would the author wait until the very end of the book to introduce the hero. And then Sophy had the long, steady glance, (that we use in romance novels) the one that says YOU'RE THE ONE...with her cousin!

I was reading The Grand Sophy blind. I had never read a review. I had just heard how incredible this book was. So I was coming to this novel with my 2009 way of thinking, you don't marry your cousins. (It's ALMOST acceptable when you start hitting 5th, 6th lineage. Not your 1st cousin.) I brought my own luggage and I saw what I wanted to see whenever Sophy and Charles would make a scene crackle from their conflict. (I totally needed to buy a Romance Clue when I read this novel.)

Now if those scenes didn't crackle and when I got to the point where they had their "glance" I would have needed to take a serious shower. If those sentences and evading hadn't been placed early on in the Women's Fiction my head would have whipped around and I would not have bought as easily that the heroine really had the hots for the hero.

But in both instances I can see what wasn't subtle. Charles did not like how Sophy was turning his world upside down. Sophy (and myself included) did not care for Charles's betrothed. The heroine in the Women's Fiction needed to grow up and stop living in denial. And after a certain point she just needed to peel the hero's clothes off with her teeth already.

And while I'm going through my second round of edits I'm keeping this lesson in mind. What to place in with a whisper (also taking into consideration how many times I'll have to do it) and what to pump up so that the reader can see it no matter what luggage they bring to the story.

What subjects do you introduce to the reader in a subtle manner? What do you choose to put out there for the reader to see and see clearly?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Difference A Year Can Make

I'm in editing mode at the moment so I'm a little introspective. I'm also a little wild-eyed because the story I'm working on is a year old. Remember when I said look at older works? I do practice what I preach.

So in the past 365 days I've learned how to show instead of tell. I'm still not perfect at this, but as I said, I've gotten better. I would like to think my stories are more tangible now that I try to breathe more life into the passages.

For example:

Original Sentence:

She smiled again, more from the warm feeling the alcohol gave her than because of his appearance—at least that’s what she told herself.

Edited Sentence:

She smiled again, more from the warmth flooding through her body, filled at the moment with alcohol, than his appearance—at least that’s what she told herself.

I'm not going to win a Pulitzer Prize for this sentence, and though the change is subtle it has a better impact. I'm describing exactly how the alcohol is skewing her perspective. When I read the original I noted I'd used the word "feel" a dead ringer for when you are telling instead of showing. I should mention I went over this story at least three times last year. I never saw this sentence as a problem. Funny, even now I'm looking at it to see if I can re-word for clarity.

Here's another example.

Original Paragraphs (sentences really):

She got up and made her way to Janice’s office. Janice was shuffling some papers when Hazel entered.

Edited Paragraphs:

Hazel stepped out of her office to find the hub of the company in it's usual state of chaos. The room curved in a semi-circle and the view from the second floor always made her dizzy, not from the height, but of the constant movement below.

The people who made this company work didn't get a moments rest. Phones were always ringing, someone was usually running in or out, and the big boss could step out of her office at any moment to watch. The tension in her neck spread down to her shoulders. She closed her eyes a moment to calm down, but couldn't, not with the constant noise.

She gave up and turned into Janice's office. Her boss was shuffling some papers on her desk when Hazel entered.

Now these passages involve more than describing to the reader where she works. Since I'm fond of lists...

1. The obvious, I'm showing the reader where she works. Instead of an disembodied trek to the Janice's office.

2. It's a busy place and not what someone would call a peaceful place to work.

3. For some reason just standing there puts tension in the heroine's neck.

4. Word choice is an amazing thing. You can create a certain feeling with just the words you use to describe something. "constant movement below" vs. "busy"; "a moment's rest" vs. "full work schedule"; and the one I wanted to convey the most since the heroine is about to go into Janice's office "big boss" vs "the boss, nice boss, Janice."

Going through this book has helped me reevaluate my editing process. I've been looking for any spots in this ms to see when I've missed an opportunity to make it better.

So, the moral of this posts: Watch out for missed opportunities for description, character develop, awkward sentences and telling cues *the five sense: see, feel, hear, touch, smell*. The most important moral is to never stop learning how to write better. If this old dog can learn new tricks and have them stick, then there is hope for everyone. (Trust me, I'm a sssslllllooooowwwww learner.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Biting the Bullet

Well, I've gone and done it. I submitted my most current WIP in a contest. I've bitten that bullet very, very hard! But I know I need some more feedback on that WIP, and hopefully I'll get more good than bad.

So this blog post is two-fold. First, do you think about submitting to contests? At all? Once in a while? I hadn't really thought about it that much, the main reason being I'm so new at this writing business and I still have a lot to learn. Then I told myself that I've already learned a lot.

I finally started paying attention to all those contests posts I send through to the chapter all the time. I found one that I thought would would be beneficial to me. It's the Missiouri Romance Writers Gateway to the Best. They guarantee three experienced judges will look at each entry, with the grand prize winner having her mss looked at and critiqued in full by a published author and the final judges being editors from major publishers like Avon, Grand Central, and Harlequin, as examples.

Now, though I do hold a smidgen of hope and confidence that I could win, I'm just darned happy to get the feedback from one or more of these judges. What a wealth of help that would be!

Of course, it's our own Sarah who got me thinking about entering contests at all. Her enthusiasm over her entries, even despite a rough and mean-spirited-like critique from one judge, was definitely catching. And when she shared her good news that she'd actually finaled, well, who could resist that??

So, Sarah, thanks for all that wonderful exuberance! You know we're all pulling for you!

Second, how do you feel about contests as a whole? Even if you've never entered your work in one, do you think they're worth the time and the money? Is that worth getting any feedback on your story? Is it worth maybe getting negative feedback?

And if you did get negative feedback, what then? If it's only one judge, pfffft to them and go on? If three judges for whatever reason give you feedback you'd hoped to never get, would that be enough for you to finally say well, I knew writing wasn't for me, so there's the end of that dream? Or would it just straighten your spine a little more and push you back to the drawing board?

Of course, the converse is worth talking about. What if??? What if you got wonderful feedback, they really liked your work, you need to do a little extra editing and revising and maybe you can win next time! What if you actually won this time around??? There's always the possibility, so why not take the chance?

Is it fear of what someone will say about your work that keeps you from entering a contest? It's a 50-50 toss-up on which way it could go. Have you been sitting on the fence for a while, trying to decide if you should enter?

I finally decided that I need to know. Know something at least. Whether I really have the knack and talent to write. Whether I'm going in the right direction with my story if I do have the knack. Do I have enough in my story, enough emotion, enough conflict, enough of a dark moment, enough whatever it takes to keep it going. I want to to know some or even all of that and whatever else the judges give me.

I've decided it's all worth the risk. How much risk are you willing to take?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

How To Know Your Writing Is Getting Better

You should know I don't put much stock into outside validation. I don't shun it *who says no to praise?*, I just don't depend on it. One way I've found to know if I've grown as a writer, is to read some of my older work.

Compare and contrast. It's a very simple process. Open up a story you haven't looked at in a while. May be one of the first stories you wrote. It doesn't have to be completed, just earlier work.

Below I will provide a list of possible reactions that let you know you may have grown as a writer:

1. If there is a God why didn't he smite me for writing this dreck?

2. Fork. Eye. Gouge. Please.

3. What? What!?

4. I must have been drunk when I wrote this.

5. I sent this out to publishers?

6. No wonder I drove my CP up the wall.

7. I didn't write this, I couldn't have written this.

I could continue, but I think you get my drift. I was moving some old files onto another computer. I was feeling nostalgic and read my first book. Let's just say by the end of the first page I needed a glass of wine. I also realized that even on the days it feels like I'm getting nowhere, I have grown. No longer do I try to imitate Nora Roberts when I write. Okay, badly imitate Nora Roberts. I've come a very, very long way.

How far have you come?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My First RWA National

I know, I know… It was a month ago that the RWA National conference was held! I really wanted to post blurbs while I was there even though every experienced attendee assured this conference virgin that it just wasn’t going to happen. Well, they were correct, but I did plan to write something up when I came back. I plead at-home craziness and now the insanity that surrounds a book launch. Sandy and the YRW gals have been so gracious in forgiving me – or maybe my punishment for being errant was being placed in the spotlight at the meeting on Saturday, huh Sandy? LOL!

The challenge now will be to sum up the experience in a few paragraphs. First, let me direct to the essays I did manage to post on my blog for my adventures:
RWA Nationals Day #1
RWA Conference Official Day #1
RWA Conference Day #2 & 3

I also have a bunch of photos in my gallery: RWA Nationals 2009

As I said, this was my first RWA, or conference of any sort. I joined the RWA exactly one year ago after briefly popping in at San Francisco last year to meet with my editor and publisher. That tiny taste was enough to inspire me. But I still asked myself some of the questions that perhaps you have asked yourself: Is it worth the cost?

Well, YES! I will admit that I felt a bit lost that first day. I knew very few people other than the fellow Sourcebooks authors who arrived early like me. But by the time the Literacy signing was over, I knew this was the experience of a lifetime. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, was nice. A rather lame word, I know, but it fits. Obviously I had conversations, attended workshops, and met people that are significant to me in a personal way. Yet I imagine there is a commonality that every person feels, and that is the support and sense of community. I literally did not meet one person who wasn’t gracious, open, and interested in sparking up a conversation.

I am a newly published author and as such am still learning the business and growing in my confidence. The conference is filled to bursting with opportunities to mature, and most of them are not the workshops! Hallway, luncheon, and bar conversations are the best ones. It is also THE place to network. I came home with about fifty business cards, many whom I have friended on Facebook and/or connected with via blogs. The education and networking continues long after you fly home.

Writing is a lonely affair. We know that, but when you hear Nora Roberts speak of those precise feelings, it strikes a chord! When you sit next to Stephanie Laurens and talk about the joys of writing and meeting fans, you forget that she is light-years ahead of you. When you chat with Gaelen Foley and Lauren Willig and Julia Quinn about writing historicals, discovering that they share your opinions and obstacles, you are washed with relief. When Janet Evanovich starts to cry while talking about the day she got “the call,” you are moved profoundly.

The sheer energy of being surrounded by thousands of people who love romance and appreciate writing infuses you with a passion that is astounding. I did not want to leave, was already yearning for Nashville, and was so afire with inspiration that I whipped out the trusty laptop on the plane! I could gush on and have done so for long periods of time until my family reached for the earplugs! Happily I will answer specific queries if you wish. But mainly I just want to encourage. Yes, it is not cheap. But if you are serious about writing as a career, no matter where you may be along the road, RWA Nationals is an invaluable pit stop. Start budgeting now because I want to par-tay with ALL my YRW sisters in Nashville!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It's Kind of Like eHarmony

Whether or not I believe in the current characters HEA or HFN depends on a few things. It also depends on how well the author matched up the hero and heroine. An author can have all the ingredients in the novel that would make me believe these two belonged together. They have some shared interests. It could be as simple as the same t.v. show. Or that they both, deep down, want to save humanity or *insert a shared interest* There's chemistry between them. Maybe in some part of the process of falling in love they changed their status quo for the better.

I'm not one of those people who doesn't believe in love at first sight. I also don't get hung up on the timeline of when the characters first meet and when they fall in love. For instance, Agnes and the Hitman timeline was a week, MAYBE two, but I believed in their HFN.

So what do I believe this IT factor hinges on?


Do these characters not only compliment each other, but also challenge and/or encourages the other person want/need to be a better person. Could have someone else encouraged the change in the hero or heroine? I think this factor is why I'm drawn to write stories where the h/h are opposites, at least on the surface. There isn't a better way to change who or what you are than pairing up with someone who sees the world differently. You stop to smell the roses. The other person might say, "what roses I was drooling over the car that just passed."

Lastly, the theme of love makes you a better person is what resonates with me. Hence, my warning. A book where I don't believe in the HEA/HFN ending is dependent on the theme that resonates with me.

Why two people fall in love is as different as the MOMENT two people realized they were in love. It could be over a cup of coffee. The first date. A look across the room. Something about the other person moved their soul. Or, the other person cooked a fabulous meal just for that person in their life.

Love is one of those whimsical things that you can't describe, but you can show examples of it. Your examples may be totally different from mine.

Of course, I want to know what resonates with you? What characters are you drawn to read? What characters are you drawn to write?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Career-Minded: What does it really mean?, Part 2

If you haven't read the first part of this post, you can find it below.

I left off asking an ambigious question(s). That was my point. Success is in the eye of the beholder. Some qualities of a successful author is universal. Some are not. Each journey is different.

Yet these are the five things I saw when I sat back to look at the successful authors around me:

1. Most, if not all, had a fan base.

2. That fan base came from them writing several books.

3. Those books tended to fall into the same genre for a while.

4. They knew about the industry. If they didn't know they knew where to look.

5. They talked about writing as if it had split personalities--writing and Publishing.

There's more to this list, but I think these are the important ones. At least in my journey at the moment. Some of these may be instinctive for you. Like writing in the same genre. You love paranormal, so you write it and only that. You love historicals, so you write it and only that. *please refer to my last blog post to see how many different books I've written.*

The importance of separating writing (the creative act) and publishing(the business side of writing) cannot be stressed enough. I’ve found it easier to write when the door (the business, editors, agents, what my readers will like/dislike) is closed. I’m not alone in this. Matter of fact, Stephen King said in his On Writing how to- the first reader you have to please is you.

But, once you open that door, all bets are off. You need to open that door and think of your book as a product. That’s the purpose of the query and the synopsis. These are the tools you use to say, “Hey, this is why this book is great and you CAN sell it.” It becomes instinctive to think of your book in genre, word count, and the hook when you switch off the creative side. Don’t fool yourself into thinking this isn’t the business side.

Anyway, this revelation made me sit back and re-think what I was doing and how I was acting. I want to be the author in example number one. I want to have a career as a writer. That's going to take work, but I'm already half-way there. I have whimsy goals that need to be ironed-out and made into an actual plan. I need to stop being a slave to my muse. She can be all flighty only because she doesn't pay rent. And, I'm egotistical. Yes, I said it out loud. I want a fan base. One that doesn't consist of just my parents.

I was writing whatever came to me and submitting it. It never crossed my mind that once I sold *insert genre* that my publisher would expect more *insert genre* My mind jumped straight to the romantic suspense I wrote. I barely made it through that story and then I would have to write more than one? *Cue heart palpations* Now *insert whatever you aren't being business-minded about* and let it settle over you for a moment. Did you just have a few palpatations of your own?

Welcome to the club!

What type of author are you? What type of author do you want to be? If you want to tell me where I can put this post that's ok. The line is on the left, and the comment section is on the bottom.

*You can find more snark from me on my website:*

~Melissa Blue and I'm out~

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Career-Minded: What Does it really mean?

I might ruffle a few feathers, but that's okay. I'm a rebel at heart. "Career-minded" If you haven't been under a rock for the past eight months you've read this term in the RWR's Letter from the President. You've seen or heard a few authors head explode when it's mentioned. The President has her own definition for this that I won't get into. I'd rather give it my own spin, because I need to watch my blood pressure.

Overall, the meaning, for me, is that there are two kinds of authors:

1. An author who wants to make writing a career. They make a goal each year to complete a certain number of manuscripts. (Could just be one. Could be 18 months to finish one, but the goal is there.) They study the market. They study the craft. They network. They are in this business for the long-run. They know that once they are published none of the above stops. It only gets harder. It only makes the next level more important. Be it, writing more books a year. Teaching classes. Enrolling in more workshops dedicated to the industry or craft. Getting a support group to help through those tough times.

2. An author who enjoys writing just because it allows them to express themselves creatively.

Note: One type of author isn't better than the other.

The important point is to know which one you are. If you are not falling under the one you prefer then you need to re-evaluate what you can change. I have to admit even after my first book sold, I was still number two. I didn't think past the first sell. I'm a craft junkie so signing up for workshops or being a part of a craft-based forum wasn't a hardship.

But, you had to put a gun to my head to read about the industry. For me, writing was a creative activity and I didn't want to dirty the experience by learning too much about the industry. But then I started to look at the successful authors around me. I came up with five things...

I'm going to break this post up into two parts. I'll be back tomorrow. Tell me what you think so far. What are five things you believe every successful authors has? Do you think of qualities? Do you think it's a mindset? Or do you think it's something they do?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What's Your Tagline?

I just updated our website with information for our newest published member, C.C. Wiley, and I really like her tagline. Passion and adventure worth fighting for. That got me to thinking about what our other authors' taglines are and if any of our pre-published members have thought about taglines. How important is a tagline to an author?

Our authors write in a variety of genres. C.C. is an historical author, so her tagline does her justice. The title of her first book is Knight Dreams, and I'm sure there will more such titles in her future.
Stacey is an historical author but she focuses on westerns. Take a wild ride is perfect for her and her books. And in her video trailer she uses Unleash the West!, another terrific tagline. Our Melissa's tagline is Romance full of snark, which if you know Melissa, there's not a better fit for her stories.

How difficult was it for you to come up with your tagline? Was it a process that took months? Or did you just get lucky and it came to you out of the blue? Did you come up with several to choose from and that made it hard to pick one? Or was there no question when you found the right one, no further searching was necessary?

For those of you out there still working toward publication and if you have thought about a tagline, have you done research to make sure it's not used by someone else? Did you think it through as far as down the road if you consider writing in a different genre, will it still work for you then? Or is a tagline all that important to you now? Or even later when you are published?

I also noticed that several of our published authors do not have a tagline. Did you choose not have to have one? Or still thinking about it maybe? There's time to find one later? If you've chosen not to have a tagline, what was your reasoning at the time for that decision? Is it something you might rethink down the line? Or you just feel one isn't needed? Are you just undecided, still trying to figure out what the best tagline is for you?

Lastly, what's your opinion about how effective taglines are? Do they work? It's branding. If a reader, agent, editor, whoever sees it enough, will it stick so that they will remember you and buy your book the next time they see one in the bookstore, ask for your full manuscript when a partial or your query letter comes across their desk? Is it worth the headache going to all the trouble to figure one out?

Personally I like taglines. When it's the right tagline for the right author, I think they work. It's just an added extra something that makes up the complete package when it comes to your books. But that's just me. What about you?


Thursday, July 2, 2009

National Conference Time

Will you be attending the Nationals? The national conference for RWA (Romance Writers of America) or just “The Nationals” for short. This year’s event will be held in Washington D.C. on July 15-18, 2009.

I attended the conference for the first time last year in San Francisco. There was nothing small about this conference. Being held in one of the largest and most diverse cities in the world made it the perfect setting for a writer. And as a first timer I learned and experienced more then I ever thought possible. Over five days I learned quite a few things I hope to put to good use on my next conference trip.

· Go with a friend. I originally planed on going alone but my writing buddy (Jackie) was able to go with me. We were able to share all the ups and downs of being the new writers on the block.
· Make and take business cards with you. Check. But you need to remember to pass them out and not forget them in your hotel room.
· Go a day early. We did and it was worth it to be able to check out the host city without the worries of meeting or schedules.
· Take a fold up wheel bag. Thanks go to Sandy for this tip. It wasn’t until the second day that I truly understood how many free books I could conceivably come away with.
· Don’t stress over the workshop list. So many classes to choose from left our minds in a mess for the first two days. Then a wonderful thing happened. You too can buy the Conference C.D. for one amazing low price. This piece of advice brought the realization that we could play hooky, take a nap, or get something to drink (Starbucks was in the lobby of the hotel) or (god forbid), get more books. Six weeks later the C.D. arrives and you can listen to all the classes you missed at your leisure.
· Introduce yourself and say hi. To everyone you meet. This is a difficult thing to do if you are an introvert but this is the best place in the word to practice. Say hi when you sit down in a class, standing in line at a book signing and to the people sharing your table at the luncheons. Many of these people will be first timers also and will be glad someone else said hi first.
· Take your camera with you everywhere you go. A photo opportunity is a terrible thing to waste. Yes I did forget it in the hotel room. Twice. Ask. Most of the authors and presenters are happy to pose for a photo with or without you in it. Most will ask you to email them a copy.
· Have fun. This should be a given. But it can be easy to lose sight of this important goal under all the desire to step up your writing career. So just remember to take a deep breath and let it out slowly and look around you. See the people around you and take in all emotional electricity. Store it all away to be remembered and used another day.

The last best thing about going to the conference for me was five days of no laundry, no dishes, no cleaning, and no 9 to 5. No demands except from myself, no expectations except for myself and no responsibilities except to myself.
I’m looking for more tips to add to the list. Give me your best shot.
I was so energized by the Conference and the City by the Bay that I can hardly wait for the next one. Plans are already being made. Think San Diego.

You can start with a small taste of what a conference is like with a local one day trip. Check out our writing friends at Central Valley Writers and their l day symposium.

June Rodriguez

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"There is only the next mission."

This quote came from Ironman, and it reminded me of what it's like to write. When I open up a new word document I forget about the last book. I'm in a new world and the old one is a memory. To be frank, usually, when I open up that new word document I've already forgotten how I did it before. I can scroll through the last book and see all the pages I filled up, and still I can't wrap my mind on how to do it again.

Each book is a new challenge. Here are some examples from my experience. My first book ended up being 90,000 words. The challenges I had with that was sticking to one plot line. Heck, one genre. That book will forever be a women's fiction with strong romantic elements, paranormal elements and a somewhat romantic suspense.

My second book had a built in plot. The heroine had to build the hero's house. The challenge was finishing the novel. When I went back to edit it, the challenge became making sense of the gibberish I thought was a book.

Let's not even mention my third one.

My fourth was learning how to stick to one POV since it was a first person. My fifth, "what is the plot again?" I could go on, but I think you've got the point. Each book you write there is going to be a lesson you learn in writing craft. You may think you have forgotten it, but get back on that horse as they say. It'll come back to you. Soon you won't even remember how painful it was when you first started the book. You'll be at the end. You will have convinced yourself you can do it and man that easy.

Until the next book...


Sunday, May 3, 2009

What's Your Routine?

I'm one of the really new newbies to the writing world. Not even twos years yet from the date I made the decision to do try my hand.

My first attempt at writing was done on the typical old yellow legal pad - in the car on the way to an RWA chapter meeting, no less. Then I graduated to the computer. On my own that's all the forward movement I've had.

In collaborating with a friend, we did sit down together and brainstorm - storyline, characters, etc., etc. I enjoyed that quite a bit. Haven't really done it since then, however.

Chapter meetings are always a learning experience and eagerly anticipated. I've learned to storyboard and critique, just to name a couple of things. And I know there will much more learning to come.

But sometimes I say to myself, "There has to be more." "There has to be a better way." "How do others do it?"

So that is my question to all of you today. "How do you do it?"

Do you have a ritual when you write?

Do have a certain procedure that never changes when you write?

Do you have a designated area where you write?

Do you have certain items in your writing area that you utilize now and then during writing?

Do you have a favorite resource you keep handy when you write?

What do you do when you get stumped while writing?

Do you do anything special to become motivated to start writing?

How do you keep distractions to a minimum?

Or is all you need your computer?

I'm not sure why the answers to the questions may or may not help me in my endeavor. Especially since I know there's probably a million questions I didn't think of to ask. I think writing would go better if there is some type of routine, but I haven't found anything that works yet.

Did any of you start out feeling this way? Or is writing one those things that just seems to come easy to you? If not, how did you remedy your situation to make things more conducive to continue your craft?

So tell me, what's your routine?


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Love Those Little Movies?

Since we've been talking about video trailers the last couple of days, I'm curious about everyone's opinion concerning these little movies.

Do you usually view them when you're at an author's site, promo site, bookstore site like, or anywhere else on the net?

Or do you only check out those of your favorite authors'?

Has a trailer piqued your interest enough that you've actually bought the book? Or do you just think you might and don't really make the effort to head to the bookstore?

Does it make you look at a genre differently, one you normally don't read but now think you might based on a trailer?

Do you even like the video trailers at all? Are they a waste of time for you? You can take'em or leave'em?

As an aspiring author, do you think you'll invest in one when you become published?

Published authors, have you found your trailer to be effective for you? Do you get good feedback on them, letting you know they're working as far as sales? Would you do it again on your next book?

Do you think other means of advertising are more effective? Less effective?

Take a look at Stacey's video again:

If you were to think about having a trailer created for your current WIP, how would you want it to be seen? Do you even think about that at this point?

Have you checked into video trailers at all to know more about them? Talked to an author to find out if they're worth the time and effort?

What's your favorite video trailer? Once you read the book, did the trailer represent the book to your satisfaction?

Did you know that the term "book trailer" is copyrighted? Yep. You can't use that lovely term willy-nilly. COS Productions holds that copyright.

Enough questions? Or have you thought of something I didn't ask? Give it to me!


Friday, March 20, 2009

The Learning Curve by Sarah Simas

I’ve been a new wife, a new mom and now a new writer. Each time, I had the bone-headed idea learning curves didn‘t apply to me.

Although my days as a “new” wife are long gone, my husband won’t let me forget the horrid Three Mustard Chicken I cooked our dog even refused to eat. Lucky for me, he didn’t channel the male species’ innate sense of self-preservation. Had he declared me the next Paula Deen, I wouldn’t have forced myself to open Betty Crocker’s Bridal Edition Cookbook.

Obviously, Betty knew husbands were out there starving to death.

Now I can cook most anything. I’ve yet to see him take a bite and go running for the sink with his hand over his mouth!

When I had kids … well, let’s just say I’m flabbergasted the nurse let me leave the hospital, much less, waved as I drove off with a defenseless baby. I’m sure every time I called the pediatrician, his nurses fought over who’d have to take the “Crazy Lady’s” call. Yet after three years, I feel confident, safe even, being locked inside a house ALONE with three toddlers.

Then I decided to write a romance novel. I’ve read the darn books for years, which is the same as experience, right? I even practiced my signature in preparation for my future book signings. Wanting an adoring fan club, I joined a writer’s group, knowing I’d be hailed a literary genius.

I’m fairly certain my face mirrored the same look of shocked horror I wore when I saw my hubby gagging on his mustard chicken. Yikes! My pages bled! I was afraid I’d leave a trail of red ink out the door.

Was I shocked? Yes.

Did my disappointment keep me from moving forward? No.

Instead, I refused to give up. I asked questions and took notes. I latched on like a barnacle to writers who were willing to show me the ropes. Now seven months later, I no longer write with my head in the clouds or in the 1980s.

I’ve learned things like the importance of word choice and sentence structure. By not giving in to my fears, I’m a lot closer to achieving my goals. I belong to two writers' groups and can’t believe how much my writing has improved. My continued progress keeps me motivated. I’m going to savor the feeling of writing “The End” as much as the day I got my son to sleep through the night.

So join a group! Get out there!

I’ll be just as grateful to the woman who told me my son’s desire to eat dirt was just a phase as I’ll be to the people who said stop worrying and just write the book. Yes, I’m still learning, but I’m enjoying the ride a lot more, because I’m surrounded by people who have the same desires.

The only way I can fail is if I were to throw in the towel. I didn’t then and I won’t now.

So ask yourself, how bad do you want to succeed and what are you willing to do to achieve your goals?

For me, it was simple: I took a chance. Will you?


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Second Times's a Charm?

Or so I'm hoping. I took June's advice and checked out Blogger. So right, June, this is soooo much easier! Easier to get it up and running, easier to post, easier to read, Stacey, and easier to comment, Ginny.

LOL, I know someone's not going to like something I've set up, but, well, you can't please everyone and that's life. We're up and running and we're staying exactly like we are!

Now, you do have to register with Blogger to participate, but, as I said, they're easy, so everyone please do sign up, even if you choose not to participate right now. I believe I've set it up that only members can comment, so even to do that, you must be a member of Blogger too.

I've reposted the two bloggings I've done since January, so if you'd like to still comment on those, especially the one from the beginning of the year, please do so.

We do have the option of hosting this blog somewhere other than Blogger, so that's something I'll have to see if we can do with our particular host. I don't know that what Blogger means is every other host on the internet, but I'll be looking into it. If not, we'll just link it from our site to Blogger.


Are You Ready to Rumble??

Previously Posted March 10, 2009 by SandyM.

Well, I found out at our last meeting that not many members knew our blog was up and running, let alone that I had posted something at the beginning of 2009. LOL, imagine my surprise! Are y’all just ignoring my emails?? I really did send an email for my blog post in January. Honest. Check it out here.

‘Tis okay, we’ll start again!


Actually, what I’d like to talk about now is expanding our membership. We have three new local members join the chapter, which is just terrific. We’ve also had several out-of-the-area members join us and that’s wonderful. We are definitely growing!

But we need to keep growing. So how about a brainstorm session on who we can contact to get the word out even further than we have so far that we’re here and we’d like anyone and everyone to join us. So all ideas and suggestions are welcome!

I’ll tell you what Dawna and I have done so far in spreading that word.

Channel 47

1. We’ve posted information with all four local TV stations in their Community Calendars and will continue to do so each month, especially now that we have great speakers lined up for the rest of the year.

2. We have done the same with The Fresno Bee. With them I’m not sure how much that will help; it’s not their paid advertising, so who knows.

3. We’re emailing the creative writing/English departments at all the Valley colleges and JCs we can think of.


4. We’re in contact with the Fresno County Library, main branch, and are sending our fliers and newsletter to them and they are, in turn, sending those out to the various branches.

5. We have sent out about 50 fliers to people who are on a list that Joan gave to us last year. Since the list is more than a year old, however, we’ll have to wait to see how many come back as undeliverable, but we thought it was worth the try. Is anyone here with PAN or PRO with RWA? If there is, would you mind checking the RWA website to see if there is a listing of folks in the Valley or even a couple-hundred-mile radious that you can get your hands on? We’re assuming that’s where Joan got her list, but we’re not 100% certain. There’s nothing we can find outside of the PAN or PRO areas on their site for that type of list.

Used Bookstore

6. We’re hitting the local used book stores each month with fliers, but we’re down to two or three of those now. So far we’ve been to The Book Nook at First and Herndon, The Bookworm in Clovis (who was very receptive!), and the bookstore in the Tower District, though I forget its name right now. We weren’t successful there yet, however, because they keep odd hours with no lising on the door as to business hours.

7. We’re trying to post fliers on bulletin boards where we can find them. So far there’s been only two: Uncle Harry’s in Fig Garden Village and Whole Foods. We’re looking for more, but they’re apparently few and far between.

8. We’ve shared our newsletter and flyer each month with a couple of other Valley writing groups.

So. Those are our efforts so far. I think we’re about ideaed out, the brains refuse to work anymore. Anything any of you can add is greatly appreciated. So let’s talk it out and see what we come up with! Any and all comments are appreciated!

A New Year Begins

2009On this first day of the new year of 2009, some of us mayhap have made those resolutions that we’re either very good at keeping or very good at not keeping. Myself, I’m not so good at it. Goals are mostly elusive for me too. I do even procrastinate to a point, but then when push comes to shove, I knuckle down and get the job done. Maybe it’s my choice of career for the last 20-some years that’s made me one who can reasonably deal with pressure. Maybe I just let the old water flow off my back and keep looking forward after the stress has been eliminated. Even though I may procrastinate, I’m fairly optmistic. So I do see the bright side, the silver lining, the light at the end of the tunnel in most situations. Guess maybe I’m a contrasting work in progress.


Since our January meeting will consist of creating writing goals for the next year, I thought our first blog of 2009 could go hand in hand with that meeting. What would you like to see happen with, at, for YRW over the next twelve months? We had our first big change when we introduced the structure of our monthly meetings after much discussion among our members. We know we are going to grow and continue to change not only throughout 2009 but also well into the future. So. Is there something specific you’d like to see happen? A particular program to implement that you think might work for us? A different way of doing something that will benefit the Chapter as a whole?

ideasSuggestions, ideas, discussions, advice, plans, proposal, heck even extortion will work if it’s beneficial and they’re all welcome! We’d love to hear what you think, what you’ve seen, what you’ve heard, what you want. I can’t guarantee that what you share with us will be, can be, should be implemented or carried out, but I can guarantee that we’ll listen, consider, discuss, scrutinize, contemplate whatever passes through our hallowed halls, figuratively speaking of course.girlfriends

I propose our first goal for our members is continuing our Blog. We have a terrific and varied membership that even if you’re skittish about talking about yourself, your life, your writing, your kids, your job, whatever, blogging here every couple of months should help you get over that phobia and eventually make it fun for you, as well as the rest of us! I mean, it will be just like talking to your girlfriends over a glass of wine or like those nostalgic slumber parties we all remember back when we were teens. We learn from one another, support one another, and cheer womankind on. (Okay, Bob, I realize you don’t have those experiences in your past, but look at all this as a way to get those female characters down perfect!)

Advice is welcome, secrets are sacred and safe, fun is to be had, ideas are fruitful, support is demanded, and sisterhood is sweet. Let’s revel in what we’re thankful to have, happy to share, and loquacious in what we want and need.

So wanna turn blogging? I’ll start a schedule. You give me a month.