Thursday, June 30, 2016

Z is for Zig Zag Writing

Debra doesn't always work from start to finish on a story.

For a long time I was what I'd call a 'zig zag' writer. I never wrote a story from beginning to end, but would skip around as inspiration struck. I'd always start with chapter one, but from there it was anyone's guess as to what part of the story the next idea would spark from. It certainly made things interesting when it came to 'connecting the dots' to finish a project. I always had to be really careful about continuity and character development.

When I started writing my Holidays at The Corral series, I wrote them from start to finish with no skipping around. It was definitely a new way of writing for me, and one that worked well. Maybe the short length lent itself to a more chronological style. Since the stories weren't as long or as complicated as a full-length, there were less scenes to write overall and I had a more comprehensive picture of how the story would unfold in its entirety.

When I'm writing a full-length book, there's so much character development and plotting that goes on while I'm writing, that the story truly is a work in progress that is constantly evolving as it goes. I generally know how the story starts and how the story will end. However, for everything else in between, sometimes I don't know what's going to happen until it happens. Thus the zig zag...I write a little about this and then I write a little about that and then I might go back to this. Even though I'm writing all over the place, I usually have a good idea of where those scenes will fit into the final draft and overall arc of the story. From time to time I'll switch things around, which is the beauty of 'copy', 'cut', and 'paste'. As you can tell, I tend to be much more of a pantster than a plotter...especially when I'm writing full-lengths.

Now, the interesting thing will be I have several ideas for new full-length stories. I wonder if I'll continue with my newly found straight-arrow style of going from beginning to end or if I'll revert back to the zig zag style that has served me so well in the past for longer stories. Only time will tell, I guess.

How about you? Do you write from start to finish in a straight line like an arrow, or do you zig zag around?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Z = Zzz

Paula looks at what might send readers to sleep!

Yesterday Jennifer wrote about getting her best ideas just as she’s falling asleep. Today I’m looking at the other side of this – the kind of things that cause readers to fall asleep!

1. Too much backstory at the beginning.

2. Too much description of places and/or narrative and/or researched detail which is not necessary to the story.

3. Slow pacing, with nothing much happening for several pages.

4. No emotion, or feelings stated rather than shown.

5. Too much description of characters doing ‘ordinary’ things like cooking or gardening i.e. scenes which don’t advance the plot or give an insight into the character(s)

To this list, I would add the following – which might not send readers to sleep, but which could irritate them and stop them reading, even when they’re not sleepy:

1. Unnatural/stilted dialogue or characters who talk like they’re in a 1940s slushy movie.

2. Too many characters introduced too quickly in the story (especially at the beginning).

3. Hero/heroine not very likeable – selfish, petty, ‘too stupid to live’.

4. Author intrusion – telling us things the characters don’t know or see.

5. Plot holes or loose ends not tied up at the end of the story.

What would you add to these lists?

 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Z Is For Zzzz

Jennifer usually gets her best inspiration while falling asleep...

I’ve said this many times before, but some of my best ideas come to me right before I fall asleep. I used to be embarrassed by this. I mean, how can I claim an idea is good or a story idea is great if it puts me to sleep? But now I know better.

When I’m about to fall asleep, my brain relaxes enough to let my thoughts drift. And if it’s a really great idea, it lets me dream about it and in the process, fall asleep. So while I hope my books don’t put anyone else to sleep, I want my ideas to do that for me.

Lately, with all that’s going on in my life, I’ve had a hard time coming up with ideas, and falling asleep hasn’t come easy. Turning off my brain from everyday stresses so that I can brainstorm the next scene or chapter isn’t easy. Which means, it’s editing time!

Unless I get stuck and need to create a new scene, I don’t need to worry right now about coming up with ideas. I need to flesh and smooth out the ones I already have.


And hopefully, get some sleep!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Z is for Zow!

Ana muses about old Batman reruns.

When I was growing up, my family lived in Germany. We did not have a tv, so when we vacationed in the States, I was glued to the television set. One favorite was Batman. The fight action was punctuated by cartoon Pows! and Zaps!

I wish we could do that in writing. Throw in cartoonish icons. I'm no artist, so graphic novels are not in my wheelhouse. But an occasional Holy Batman Zow would be fun.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Y is for Why


Margaret lists questions to be answered before starting a book 

 

Writing a story is a whole list of why questions.

Why does the heroine act as she does?

Why does the hero act as he does?

Why am I starting at this point in the story?

Why are there trust issues?

Why does the heroine feel vulnerable?

Why does she fall in love with the hero?

Why does he fall in love with her?


All of these need answering before you even begin to write. It’s a necessary and intriguing process but a very useful one, and I’m sure there are far more questions you can add to this list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Y is for New YEAR'S Eve Revisions

Debra is working on edits and revisions.

Well, I'm supposed to be working on edits and revisions. Over a month ago I received my first edit for New Year's Eve at The Corral back from my editor. It was accompanied by this note:

I enjoyed this but didn't get the satisfaction I get from your others. In such a short space you weren't able to fully develop the characters. Ideas: More physical contact while decorating in that opening. Maybe everyone sits to eat before the crowd starts arriving--even if it's lunch instead of dinner. Not sure what to suggest. Did you have a beta? Was he/she happy with it as-is?

I did not use a beta reader...I rarely do which is probably something I need to reevaluate and perhaps do more of in the future. It is shorter than my other stories - on purpose - but maybe it's a bit too short. And while it's good to know she really liked my past work, obviously this particular one needs a bit more...something. So I told her I would see what I could do. I also told her I was busy with other things and wanted to do it right and that it would take more than a weekend or a week to figure something out. She said that was fine.

To be honest, I haven't done much with it aside from taking a passing moment or two and asking myself how I'm going to add some oomph and character development to this story. Between the end of the school year and some other projects I've been working on, writing has taken a back seat. (In fact I totally forgot about the release date for Fourth of July at The Corral until it was literally a day away.) This isn't unusual, I feel that my writing career goes in phases of spurts and stops from time to time. And to be honest, I'm okay with that. I always seems to have ideas in my head for stories, but I don't always have the drive to get them down in written format. When I do have the drive, I go full steam ahead.

Yesterday, however, I got a 'checking in' e-mail from my editor asking how it was going. It had been over a month since I'd been in contact with her, so she probably was wondering if I'd dropped off the face of the earth. I told her it was coming slowly (if a standstill can be considered 'slow') but now that summer vacation had officially started I had time to dedicate to the project.

So...today I'm doing a read-through. It's been a while since I've read the story, so hopefully coming at it with fresh eyes will help me to see opportunities to strengthen the story, more fully develop the characters, and really make it pop. I feel like I know my characters pretty well, since they've been appearing in the other books in the series for a few years now, but obviously a reader picking up this story for a read-alone is going to need a bit more to go on.

And so there's Goal Number One for summer writing.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Y is for Your and You're

Paula gets irritated by GPS errors i.e. Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling.

Your going to have to watch you’re grammar! Does this make you cringe? It ought to! How many times have you seen ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ used wrongly? Or Their, They’re and There? I can cope with this kind of error on Facebook and Twitter – after all, people are often dashing off quick responses, and we all make errors and/or typos.

I can usually forgive GPS errors in blogs too, since many bloggers are not aspiring to be authors. However, if I see this kind of error in a book blurb (as I did recently), or worse still, in the text of a published book, it’s a huge turn-off for me. All it says is that (a) either the author doesn’t have a clue about correct GPS or (b) he/she hasn’t bothered to do a thorough and careful edit or (c) has an ‘editor’ who hasn’t a clue either!

I firmly believe that, as authors, it is our responsibility to write correct English. By that, I mean we should know and obey the basic rules of GPS. Admittedly, some can be broken, but we need to know which can and which can’t.

I’ll stick my neck out and say the rules concerning apostrophes should never be broken, but frequently are. I’ve recently seen ‘Lilians’ hand’, and ‘The Bartlett’s were going on vacation’. In the latter case, the author (admittedly not a published author but one who writes a lot of online fan-fiction) replied to someone (not me) who pointed out that it should be ‘Bartletts’ saying ‘It looks better with an apostrophe’. I was speechless!

There are plenty of grammar websites where authors can check on GPS rules. Although I was fortunate to be educated at a time when there was great emphasis on grammar, I still have to check on things sometimes. I just wish some other authors would do so too!

What grammar or punctuation errors irritate you the most?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Y Is For Yay!

Jennifer sees improvements with editing...

My favorite part of writing is starting a new story. I love the inspiration that flows and allows me to sit at my keyboard, creating people and situations and ultimately, the happily ever after we all crave.

My second favorite part is typing “The End.” It means I’ve completed the project, seen my original vision through to the end, even if it’s very different from what I first imagined.

But then the difficult part starts—the editing. I usually leave a manuscript to sit for a few weeks so that I can tackle it with fresh eyes. And those eyes often weep when they see what first passed as “writing.” As I’m rereading and editing what I’ve written, I’m convinced that everything is horrible and it will never make an even halfway decent story. I question everything I ever thought, including why I wanted to be a writer in the first place.

If I’m lucky, though, the edits I make start to sharpen the story, further developing the characters and plot and somehow, make the good parts shine. And I can start to see that not everything about the story is awful. Ultimately, with a lot of hard editing work, things will improve.

That’s where I am with my current WIP. I wrote the entire book in February. I’m just getting to the editing now—life has been a little busy. And in my first pass, I was heartbroken, because as much as I want to like this story, it was pretty awful. But little by little, as I’m editing and being ruthless with what works and doesn’t, I’m sorting through it and focusing on the good parts. And there are good parts, which, with a lot of work, will make this into a terrific story, I hope.


The bones are there. The potential exists. Now I just have to put in the work!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The X Factor

Paula asks what gives a novel the X factor.

The dictionary defines the X factor as “a quality that you cannot define that makes someone or something very special.” The judges on the X Factor reality shows claim to know which singers have this indefinable quality; the members of the public sometimes have different ideas.

The same applies to novels. I’m not talking about professional critics versus the reading public, but about how different people can have very different ideas about what gives a book the indefinable X factor.

Has anyone ever recommended a book to you –and then you’ve read it (or maybe just started to read it) and wondered whatever they saw in it? That’s happened to me several times.

I’ve seen plenty of articles online that tell us the ‘essentials’ for a successful novel but, in the end, it’s not the writing tutor or even the writer who can pinpoint the X factor. It’s the readers – and, of course, their perceptions of that X-factor are individual to each of them. That's very apparent when you look at reviews, which can range from 1 star to 5 stars for the same book. Each review is valid, because it represents that person's reaction to the story.
 
As writers, we can’t hope to please all the readers all the time. All we can hope is that some of them find that 'indefinable quality' in our stories.

X As A Signature

Jennifer talks about signing your name...

Yesterday, Ana mentioned how X is used as a signature and that got me thinking. Well, honestly, I’d thought of X as a signature the night before as I was drifting to sleep, so technically, Ana reminded me, but I digress.

Before people learned to write, or for those unable to write, X is an acceptable form of one’s signature. I’m not quite sure why, since anyone can use it. It was often used by women who weren’t taught to write. It was definitely used by the lower classes.

It stuck in my mind because I’ve been filling out a lot of forms recently, which require signatures. Even my kids have had to sign the forms, and what strikes me is the look of their signature. Cursive is still taught in school, but not for very long. My kids type almost everything they do, and they much prefer printing to writing in cursive, so their signatures look like little kids are signing their names, even though they’re teenagers and one is almost legal, at least when it comes to forms.

As authors, we sign our books for book signings and when we give our books to someone we know (whether as a gift or not). If we just signed “X,” how would the reader feel? I know as a reader, I love when I get a personalized message from an author I know and like. An “X” wouldn’t be as meaningful.

I have some author friends who ask me to sign my books but not to write messages because they may want to use my book in a giveaway of theirs. While I love the idea of getting my books in front of other eyes, there is a small part of me that feels weird when they actually admit they’re not going to keep my book. Is it the same as admitting you’ve returned a gift or given it away? I’m not sure, but it feels like it sometimes.

One of the nicest things an established author did for me when I had my first book published was give me a roll of “Signed by author” stickers. She was happy for me and said I’d need them. Every time I sign my books, I think of her and her kindness. Someday, I’ll pass that roll (or a similar one) onto someone else.


Our signatures are more than an X. They are our identity.

Monday, June 13, 2016

X is a hard letter to write about

Ana muses about the letter X and x-treme astronomy

X is like a bull's eye, marking the exact spot where the arrow or scalpel should penetrate.
It swallows accompanying letters, like the 'e' in extra.
It's the default signature for those who can't yet read or who've suffered a serious stroke.
It can be penetrating, as in X-ray.
It's a choice for beginning names of new subatomic particles, which only a few scholars understand.
Curiously,  the light from a distant black hole is brighter than that of a visible star.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

W is for (Pat) White

Debra gives a shout out to a former chapter mate.

So many people pass in and out of our lives it's hard to keep track of them all. Over the years in my writers' group, I've met a lot of amazing people and talented authors. Pat White is one of them. Way back when, I was the secretary to her Madame President. Eventually I moved on to become president and she moved out to the west coast. She's done so many things since then, but what I always remember her for is her contemporary romance books based in the pro-wrestling world. As I was perusing my library shelves looking for inspiration for the W theme this week, her colorful covers jumped out at me.


I love them. I think they're kitchy and fun. However, since their release over ten years ago, the covers have been updated. A bit sexier for sure.


Here are the blurbs for each:

GOT A HOLD ON YOU
When conservative number cruncher Frankie McGee offers to help her uncle save his wrestling promotion, she doesn’t sign on to dress as a scantily clad tigress and prance into the ring on the arm of a sexy cowboy wrestler. But bad boy Black Jack Hudson isn’t just any cowboy and pretty soon the chemistry sizzling between them threatens to unravel Frankie’s plans for a perfect life with her pre-fiancĂ©. Will Frankie’s intellect win over her desire, or will she go down for the count, risking everything for love?

RING AROUND MY HEART
From Headlocks to Lip-locks

How on earth was PR Pro Alexandra Hayes going to turn wrestling’s biggest bad boy into the hero the league craved, especially when looking at his chest made her want to take him down on the mats herself? Loverboy Luke needed a make over all right, and she desperately needed this job.

Luke will do anything to keep his bad boy image—his armor—in place, even seduce the adorable publicist. When Lexy realizes his machismo is just an act to hide past failures, she’ll risk everything, even her heart, to help him find forgiveness and maybe even…love.

LOVE ON THE ROPES
Take It All Off
Where do you put your service revolver when all you’re wearing are spandex briefs? That’s just one challenge facing DEA agent Jason McBain who goes undercover as pro wrestler Jack the Stripper. His other challenge is staying focused when physical therapist, Sandy Ryan, sets his body on fire with her healing touch—and she’s his prime suspect!
Sandy’s been burned and knows not to mix business with pleasure, yet there’s something about the Stripper’s vulnerable eyes that tugs at her heart. But will she forgive him when she discovers his ultimate goal to take down the wrestling promotion she calls family?

Not sure if pro-wrestling romance is your thing? Give it a try with a free copy of the novella THE PERFECT MATCH. Click HERE to download it to your Kindle.
A ballerina in a wrestling ring?

After an injury ruins her ballet career, financially desperate Julianna Wright takes a job in a pro-wrestling show as the Dynamic Dancing Delila, aka Triple D. She’s been managed for years, and will do anything to find her independence and support herself, darn it, even if it means dancing for rabid wrestling fans and being named after a bra size.

Hunky pro-wrestler Marco the Magnificent is stunned when he sees his childhood crush performing center ring. It’s no place for a lady, well, not a fragile and lovely lady like Julianna at any rate. Marco wants nothing more than to protect her from the brutalities of the business, but, as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and his attempts to talk her out of her career choice simply fuel her fire to succeed.

Julianna’s need for a job, and Marco’s desire to protect her, force them into a partnership both inside and outside of the ring, a partnership that sparks feelings neither of them expects. Pinned under the weight of their explosive chemistry, they’re forced to realize that they truly are… The Perfect Match.

For more about Pat, check out her web-site: www.patwhitebooks.com

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com



Wednesday, June 8, 2016

W is for Websites

Paula needs some answers about websites!

I set up a website about six years ago, without really knowing much about them! It was a freebie site, and fairly basic, but it was sufficient at the time. I confess that all I have done since then is add my books whenever a new one is published.

Now I am thinking of either rehashing it or even starting again, but first I have some questions.

First, two basic questions:

a. Should I pay for a website that will give me more flexibility and allow me to create more interesting pages?

b. Should I find someone to design the site for me, or do it myself?

Next, assuming I start with a new, blank website, what should the it contain? In my current site, I have the details of my books, of course, and the links (mainly to Amazon), and also brief details of my earlier work i.e. the books which are now out of print, and lists of published magazine stories and articles. There is also a ‘guest book’ (which doesn’t seem to get many guests!) and a ‘contact me’ page.

In my new site, I would also include a page about myself – but what else should I include?

And the final question (and perhaps the most important one): do readers actually visit authors’ websites? I admit I only do this very rarely, so there’s a part of me that wonders whether it is actually worth the time (and possible expense) of setting up a new website to replace my current one.

All help, ideas, and suggestions gratefully received!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

W Is For Work

Jennifer talks about her writing career...

I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately, publishing-wise. I’m still writing daily and have several manuscripts in various stages of completion. They will each be done within the next few months. My writing doesn’t stop.

However, my publishing has taken a back seat as I wait to see whether I can reach the next rung or not. I’ve got my agent working on some things, and until I get a definitive answer, I’m holding off on my own submissions.

On bad days, I feel pretty useless. On the rest of the days, I know I just need to exercise patience.

So it was a little disappointing for me to hear my daughter tell me that her friends and her friends’ parent don’t think what I do is actual “work” and certainly shouldn’t prevent me from catering to the needs of the children.

I try not to let people’s careless words bother me. I know what I do is work. Writing requires discipline, stamina and brainpower. It is not for the faint of heart. The fact that I continue writing even when I’m discouraged is proof of that. My ability to juggle many things and still write daily is a pretty impressive accomplishment, if I do say so myself.

Writing is a job with ups and downs. That’s part of its natural flow. Just because I don’t make money unless I publish and people buy my books does not make it less of a job. Just because it’s my choice to do this and I’m trying to fulfill a dream of mine, doesn’t make it less important.

My daughter gets it and she stood up for me. I care less that she stood up for me and more that she does understand, to some extent, what I do. She says she has two parents who work.

One of them writes.


And for me, writing is the work I want to do.