Want to Write a Book?

When we sold our pharmacy in Pryor Creek, several friends asked me what I was going to do. One day, a pretty friend with long, dark hair asked the question.

“Well,” I confided. After all, she was a friend. “I’m going to write.”

She smiled happily and chirped, “Oh. I’ve always wanted to write.”

“Really?” I asked. “What do you want to write?” I’d known for years I wanted to write romance for the HEA factor if nothing else.

“Oh, I don’t know,” my friend answered. She didn’t know what kind of book. Didn’t know what it would be about. Had no idea of genre, publishing houses, characters, plotting or anything else people usually study up on, even if they never really get a story idea.  “I just want to write a book.”

That was my first encounter with that attitude, but not my last. I had no idea how to answer her.

Today, I’d tell her to read, “5 Ways to Develop a Book Idea.”

It might have been named, “5 Ways to Go Beyond Just Wanting to Write a Book.”

BTW: I love #5. FORCE YOURSELF TO HAVE FUN (girls love having fun!) AND BELIEVE IN YOUR WRITING! (Easier said than done, but doable.

English: Photo of the Pryor Creek Bridge just ...

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Synopses–ugh.

Don’t you love, love, LOVE writing synopses?

Snort.

In my mind, if you do, you must be nuts! (JOKING!)

Honestly, I’ve only met one woman the entire time I’ve been writing who said she really liked writing the little buggers. (And yeah. She might have been . . . )

Maybe short story or non-fic writers have a gas writing them, but as a rule (my rule, anyway) people who write fiction over 50,000 words hate them.

Why? Because as a rule, a novel author can’t tell you her name in less than ten pages. 😉 How could she tell you about her great story in that space?

Maybe, if we stand back and look at the how, it’ll be easy. (Snort, again.)

Here’s some great advice from Writing the Smart Synopsis by Nancy J. Cohen:

Open the action with a hook. You already know this is crucial in your manuscript, but it applies to your synopsis as well.

Use action verbs. Your story should be engaging as you convey it to the reader.

Make sure the story flows in a logical manner from scene to scene.

Include your character’s emotional responses and stay in her head as you would in the story. Use transitions if you switch viewpoints.

Show your character’s internal struggle as well as her external conflict. What’s inhibiting her from making a commitment to the hero? What is causing her to doubt her abilities? What lesson does she need to learn about herself in this story? Motivate your character’s actions so her responses seem logical.

Explain the ending. In a mystery, this means you tell whodunit and why. In a romance, it’ll be your dark moment and the resolution of the romantic conflict. You’ll want to describe how your character has changed or grown from this experience.

Okay, that SOUNDS easy peasy (clears throat, rolls eyes) but it’s more than that.

  • Let your voice shine through. (And when it’s a long-winded voice, that ain’t easy.)
  • Include the tone of the book. (You don’t want it to sound humorous if it’s a dead serious suspense.)
  • Make sense. (That’s the hard part.)

The best advice from Nancy’s blog on writing the smart synopsis? “Let your critique partners read your synopsis.”

Believe me, it’s easier to see problems from the outside looking in than it is to see what you didn’t include, even though you think its there. And to make sense. 🙂

Please pop over to Nancy’s place and read the entire blog. She’s a real help!

Better Sex, Part 1

Susan here. Today I’m introducing a “new” writer, blogger, Smart Woman and friend, T. D. Hart. And although she doesn’t know it, she’s part of one of my Small Town Worlds! 😉

I love watching T. D. while she learns and grows as a writer. I thought y’all might enjoy her, too.

Her website is: http://tdhart.blogspot.com . Keep an eye on this woman. She’s going places!

Take it away, T.D.!

The Professional Writer (or: Better Sex, Part 1)

 How does one go from being a professional-something-else (in my case, a veterinarian) to becoming a professional writer?
The answer: It Depends. On what, you ask?The journey depends entirely on the type of writer you  want to become.If blogging is your thing, the path is simple: Study your target audience (a.k.a.-future revenue source), decide on the best topics to attract said audience, create a killer web platform, then
compose-measure-refine your message based on the results.Repeat until you’re sick of blogging or have become the next Pioneer Woman.

If you’re a left brain sort, maybe your future lies in non-fiction. Say you’re an expert at growing garlic the size of baseballs or a whiz at organizing socks. Perhaps you’ve produced eleven children and delivered them into adulthood without so much as a single detention slip or snotty eye roll. If so, condense those wisdomy pearls into something called a book proposal, then query agents who represent your particular flavor of non-fiction. Based on what I’m seeing on the grocery store racks these days, you shouldn’t have much trouble
selling.

Kicked your embarrassing butternut squash addiction? Lost half your body weight on a diet comprised of dill pickles, kale, and Diet Mt. Dew? Tell us how you did it in 1200 words or less (don’t forget the bullet points) and send it to Men’s/Women’s/Kid’s Health magazine.

Want a sure thing? Use the words ‘Better Sex’ in the title, regardless of topic.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand how difficult it is to blog regularly and successfully. How tough it is to write (and sell) non-fiction books or magazine articles. In my veterinary practice I devoted long hours to writing client brochures and how-to handouts. In deciding to sell my practice to write full-time, I considered writing articles for equine publications in order to pay the bills. (And even now haven’t completely ruled it out.)

But if you really want a tear-your-still-beating-heart-out-of-your-chest thrill, try becoming a
professional writer of fiction.

To start, you find–and fall hopelessly in love with–characters who exist solely in your imagination. Maybe (like me) your first book begins as a lovely, vivid dream you can’t shake. Just to clear your head, you write the scene down in a ratty spiral notebook. When it’s done you shove it under the bed, then get up the next day and go back to your real job.

But when you come home that night, you can’t wait to dig out the notebook and see what happens next. Soon, you’re stealing moments to work on your story: sick days, lunch hours, that magic time in the morning before the kids get up. Your characters feel real, as if they’re telling you what to write.

Before you know it, you’ve bought two more spiral notebooks and a package of really good black pens. Then, like a junkie with an ever-worsening need, you spring for a used laptop and download Word or Scrivener to keep track of all your chapters, character descriptions, and plot points.

At this point it hits: You don’t want to just write this story. You want people to read it…and thinks it’s good.

Problem is, you don’t actually know how to write a book. Sure, you’re a voracious reader, but appreciating a thing isn’t the same as knowing how to do it. (Karaoke, anyone?)

Enter the next phase: Soaking-up-information-like-a-Brawny-towel-on-steroids.
(to be continued.)

Expectations

Debra Dixon.

Just say  her name and what comes to a romance/women’s fiction writer’s mind? “GMC,” of course! (And we ain’t talkin’ cars here.)

Goal.

Motivation.

Conflict.

Of all the craft of writing books I’ve had in my clutches over the years, GMC is one of the few I’ve read cover-to-cover. (So shoot me.) And I’ve read it more than once. 🙂

I decided to take yet another look the other day, and guess what. Something new jumped out at me.

GMCPlease note: I added the Susan sticker. The books don’t come from the publisher with your name sparkling on the front.

Before I go on, maybe I should confess something. When I read a book on the craft of writing, I tend scan until I come to what I’m reading to learn. Yes, I’m reading the entire book to learn, but usually there’s something specific I’m trying to glean.

Goal: Read Deb Dixon’s book. Motivation: To learn to use GMC and write a great book. Conflict: I have tunnel-vision.

gmc2

Just to make sure someone doesn’t mistake my GM&C book for their own.

 So this time, I started reading it just for general knowledge. Not to learn how to fill out the GMC charts. (page 21) Not to figure out how to use GMC to write a synopsis and/or query letter. (page 135-136) Not to learn how to write a tag line.  (page 92)

The most amazing thing happened! The answer to writing the hardest section of the actual book jumped right out at me.

She tells, right there on page 9, what you have to have in a first chapter. Everything! Written down in black and white. All the things Marilyn has reminded me of every time I start a new book. (Okay, she doesn’t actually have to say them each time, I’m not that slow a learner, but I hear the echo of her sweet voice as I work on that hardest of chapters.)

From “Goal, Motivation & Conflict  The Building Blocks of Good Fiction” by Debra Dixon.

The first chapter of a book performs the same function as those first minutes in a movie. The first chapter must establish what’s at stake and make an introduction. You are introducing the reader to their guides for the evening–the hero, villain, and maybe even one or two other characters.

That’s gold! And I missed it all these years. If I were teaching a class on this book, the handouts would read:

First chapters must:

  1. Establish what at stake in the book.
  2. Introduce
  • hero
  • heroine
  • villain

She makes it look so easy, doesn’t she? She also spills more gold on the page when she tells us the reader is supposed to “identify and empathize” with the hero. You’d be amazed at how many newbies miss that! (Yes, I’ve stepped in it a time or two myself.)

gmc3

Bragging: “My book is autographed by Deb herself!” 🙂

She goes so far as to tell us what the readers want–to experience the struggle for this person’s goal and the conflict that keeps him/her from getting it.

She goes on:

If the hero has a wonderful life and everything he wants, then your book is going to be boring. An editor won’t buy the book. Readers won’t pick it up. And if they do, they won’t finish it. Because you will not have met their expectations of being taken on a journey of uncertainty.

(Emphasis mine.)

Don’t you love that description of writing? “A journey of uncertainty.”

Instead of purple and white, this book’s cover should be gold. And sparkly!

If you don’t own Deb’s book on GMC and you’re an aspiring writer of any kind of fiction, find it and buy it. Now. Don’t wait.

You can order it here for $19.95. (I checked other sites and saw it starting at $88.00.)

Deb’s gold is waiting for you.

If you do own it, get it out and read it again. You’ll be surprised at the new gold you’ll find in there. 😛

 

Sunrise, Sunset

Not much news going on here. I finished my final step on A HERO TO COME HOME TO — the page proofs — and am now concentrating on the next Harlequin book. It’ll be out next Agust — that gives me books in April, June and August — and it just got titled last week: COPPER LAKE ENCOUNTER. I’m putting my words into the book, so I don’t have much to say here today. Instead I decided to share a picture from my last walk.

December 2012 066

Adventures in Writing: the Mom Years, Part 2

60021_155207424504348_100000452755006_366987_7349827_nLast week, I blogged about writing while juggling family obligations. Here are a few more tips for managing your word count while raising kids:

–Explain what you do to your children as early as you can. Be specific and talk to them in ways they can understand. A two-year-old cannot see that Mommy needs to have 90,000 words edited and turned in by next week, but a teenager with homework can understand that you have a deadline and need to do certain things to reach it.

–Have a place for them near where you work. Whether you’re a kitchen table writer or have your own office, provide a spot where children can sit and do their own thing. It can be a desk, a corner or whatever. When I had my office, I had a sofa in there. My kids could hang out, read, nap, whatever, and they were with me. It was their space, which made them feel like they weren’t banished even when I wasn’t to be interrupted unless there was blood or the house was on fire–but I digress :).

–In conjunction with the previous tip, keep a calendar–preferably in a public place like the fridge. If you’re already doing this with your family, then great. Add your word count goals to the calendar just as if they were another family event such as soccer practice or a dental appointment. LOL–and sometimes it does feel like the latter, doesn’t it? If you’re a “pantser” and don’t have weekly or monthly goals, then at least put your deadline up there for all to see.

–Buy a crockpot. Use it. BBQ sauce or salsa thrown over frozen chicken breasts becomes a gourmet meal in 6-8 hours. Trust me on this.

The bottom line is this: To quote my son Jacob, “Life is too short.” Spend time with the people you love. Forgive yourself when you don’t get everything exactly right. Those are the ingredients to a life well lived. And, if you can write a few good books along the way, even better.