New Beginnings #amwriting

There is nothing quite like starting a brand new story. I love all the aspects of writing – plotting, wording, editing, publishing. I complain about some of it. There are parts I like more than others. One of my favorites is plotting.

I talk about plotting on my own blog on a semi-regular basis. From cool tools to use, to the things I do for my stories. I’m not here to chat plotting today, but actually writing a new story.

I recently wrapped my second book in the Bona Fide series (the first book is coming out on March 6th), but I once again digress.

New stories (my top five things about them):

  • Fresh characters – these are new people, with new flaws, wounds, misconceptions, traits, and histories. I love digging into their backgrounds and discovering the things that make them tick.
  • Discovering the world – there’s something special about a new book’s world. Whether revisiting a previous setting from a series story or visiting a new one – if it’s a different pair of eyes certain things will stick out more than others.
  • The endorphin rush – the slow burn, the first kiss, the falling in love, the simmering attraction. It hits all my high notes.
  • The pet name – every book I write the hero has a pet name for his heroine. Most of the time I don’t know what this is in advance. It’s a discovery as I write.
  • The chapter hooks – it’s a special art to write a good chapter hook. I have no problem hunting for them and my brain is pretty fast at picking up on how a chapter or scene should end. Let’s hope it translates to the reader in the long term.

For my writers – what are your favorite parts of starting a new story?

For the readers – what do you like about reading a new story? Is it tropes? Is it the possibilities? A favorite setting?

 

Bona Fide Beauty ~ Coming 3.6.18 ~ Book 1 in the Bona Fide Series

Blurb: 

She’s going to lose her house.
Kathleen Baum has four months to complete the city’s required code changes to her grandma’s home. Otherwise, she loses it. Strapped for cash, Kat’s only way to get the funds is to bargain with her devil cousin. She agrees to an unwanted makeover, but she’s not good at taking direction, pretend or not.

He’s going to lose his business.
Devid Esposito has worked all his life to build a successful image consulting company, but if he doesn’t start bringing in new clients the business will be bankrupt in three months. The board is ready to oust him when his partner, Kat’s cousin, enters with the opportunity to get his mojo back; all he needs to do is help Kat, with a makeover. Unfortunately, Dev doesn’t take on female clients anymore since the last one broke his heart and used his tips against him.

When they find out they have a common enemy, his heart-breaking client is her code-breaking-whistleblower, and the easiest way to bring the foe down is to accept the other’s help. Losing their hearts to each other was the one thing they didn’t plan for.

About Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

4 Books to Help Improve Your Writing Craft #writing #writetip

Hi, all! Jennifer here.

I talked a little about one-word goals last month. But this month I wanted to talk about some individual goals I have for the year.

Here within my critique group every year, we all post writing and personal things we’d like to accomplish.

One of mine was to improve my writing craft.

Even though I am a published author, I still feel as if I have only scratched the surface of what I know and where I want to be as a writer. So in conjunction with me attending conferences and taking online courses, I also made it a goal to read at least FOUR craft books this year as well. In fact, I’ve already picked them out and read one of them.

Here are the four I’ve chosen to Help Improve My Writing Craft this year:

Layer Your Novel: The Innovative Method for Plotting Your Scenes by C.S. Lakin

I liked this book. It gave loads of examples from various books on how authors build upon their plots.

Writing Deep Scenes: Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Martha Alderson (Goodreads Author), Jordan E. Rosenfeld (Goodreads Author)

I just started this book. But I chose it because I heard good things about it and was interested in going “deeper” with my writing.

Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere)by Lisa Cron

Picked this beauty up because of a critique partner who was reading it. I’m about halfway through and so far I’ve been nodding and agreeing with everything that was said.

Characters and Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing)  by Orson Scott Card

I picked this one up because I was looking for something beyond plot. I wanted to work on my characters. I hear this author is a master on this subject so I’m looking forward to reading it.

 

Hopefully I’ll be able to read more than just 4, but I haven’t found any other craft books that interest me.

Maybe you have some suggestions of your own! If so, please let me know!

Until then,

HAPPY WRITING

Jennifer

 

About Jennifer Shirk

Jennifer Shirk is a USA Today bestselling sweet romance author for Montlake and Entangled Publishing who also happens to be a mom, pharmacist, Red Sox fan, P90x grad, and overall nice person. Check out her latest sweet romance: BARGAINING WITH THE BOSS.

Self Care During Nano

We all do it.

Roll out of bed, park ourselves in front of the computer, hair not brushed and still adorning our favorite pair of pjs or sweatpants, coffee in hand as we pound out the words to our next novel. Maybe we brushed our teeth, maybe we didn’t (this is a judgement free zone). We cringe when we pass by a mirror, wondering if we were body snatched.

I’ve done it. Plenty of times. #noguilt #bedheaddontcare #pajamadayeveryday. Eventually though, I have to do something that allows me a mental break. I need a moment to reset or I fizzle out (and I was specifically ordered by some of my Nano-ing partners in crime that there will be no fizzling unless it involves a beverage).

Seriously though, if ever there is a time that we, as authors, should pay attention to ourselves, it is during the lovely month of November. We push ourselves to the bring, pulling our hair out, putting in the time and the words to hit that magical 50k+ in a single months time. Every man, woman, and child participating will need to take a step back, regroup, breath, and let themselves focus on something else for even a mere fifteen minutes.

My own personal take on self care probably varies from the many pieces of advice floating around. I tend to look at things I don’t typically allow myself the time for during even a low key writing month or work day. Here are my ideas for self care…

  • Read a book. I’m often so busy writing or dealing with family shenanigans that I don’t do this enough. It’s nice to read a book. It takes your mind on a journey not of your creating. You don’t have to think, you just go along for the ride.
  • Bubble baths. #luxury! I love a good bubble bath. As a parent, you are often lucky to find a single solitary moment in which you can have a peaceful moment in the bathroom, which is why this is a self care luxury in my book.
  • Go get a massage, manicure, or pedicure. Letting someone else do the pampering for you….you will feel like a king or queen for a day.
  • Take a hike. No not in the mean get the hell out of here sort of way. Literally go for a hike. So many great spots out there where one can convene with nature. I’ve found some great ideas from hanging out with ol’ Mother Nature.
  • Go have a girls or guys night out. Sometimes, just hanging with the friends is just what the doctor ordered.
  • Follow the family dog or cat’s lead and curl up for a little afternoon snooze. I don’t do this often, and I will admit to sometimes taking it so far that I wake up feeling a bit groggier than when I put my head to my pillow, but man when I manage a simple power nap, I come back refreshed!

I have many more things that go on my list, but these seem to be the ones that always seem to get my mind working again…and sadly they are also the ones I usually avoid like the plague. However, this month I am planning a #nanoselfcaresunday journey. Every Sunday, on my Instagram, I will post a selfie of how I am indulging in a little self-care.

How do you take care of yourselves during this month of endless writing, yelling at the blank screen, and overall writing chaos? Join with me on my Instagram journey…who knows, maybe we can make it habit and it will just become part of what we do from here on out. I’m game.

About Kinsey Corwin

Kinsey Corwin, a contemporary romance author who really is drawn to small town stories, beaches, and cowboys (I know, that is quite a mix). She is a single mom of amazing boys, a fan of kitchen experiments, a lover of country music, and a dreamer.

When Your Writing Misses the Mark

This post is for the writers. The aspiring authors, the seasoned veterans.

Sometimes, you write a story and it just flows. It comes together like it has a life of its own, fully-formed and perfect. This isn’t about those times.

Because even when you have those stories, you’ll also have stories that are just… off. They’re missing something, the something that makes them a story worthy of telling.

Maybe it’s your structure or conflict. For me, it was an under-developed character.

I couldn’t figure out: how did this happen to me? Me, who spends a month or two pre-writing. Polishing characters’ histories, their GMC, plotting out a story based on those things before ever putting fingers to keyboard and executing. I spend as much time pre-writing as I do writing the first draft.

But, there was no denying that’s exactly where my story was at. The bad news came from my editor. (Mistake number one–I was in a hurry and didn’t have it beta read by my trusted critique partners before submission.) My heroine’s backstory and motivation were… weak.

I couldn’t believe it. In the weeks following my grandmother’s death, I’d written Exactly Like You, edited it, submitted it, and it was published in June. It was one of the aforementioned stories–it just flowed together perfectly, seamlessly.

How could I have done that so well and missed the mark so completely in the other story? For one, I didn’t dig for backstory and motivation. I latched onto the first idea that came to me. The first idea is never the best idea–don’t let anyone tell you any different. (This would be mistake number two, in case you’re counting.)

I revised and then sent it out for beta with two very smart CPs (all my critique partners are smart, but I digress). They came back with the same verdict–I’d missed that mark again. She was still underdeveloped. Her motivation wasn’t quite believable. That’s what happens when you try to make your character fit your story rather than the other way around. (That, friends, is mistake number three.)

I’m very happy to say that I conferred with one of my CPs, sending her five pages of notes to address the specific issues she called out, then had another CP take a look at my opening and made adjustments again. This had become the story that would not live.

But I wasn’t giving up. All is well now (I hope–it’s been resubbed to my editor, so we’ll see). I can tell you that I don’t think there’s much more of me left for that story. If it’s not enough? This may become one of those stories bound for the far reaches of my hard drive.

I wish I had a happy ending, but don’t all the true life-lesson stories end ambiguously? Take what you can from this, writers. Dig into that back story, then dig some more. Don’t skimp on character, ever.

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

I read for the good parts *wink, wink*

Before I start in on this little rant, I want to preface this blog post with the following:

Everyone likes to read what they like to read. There’s nothing wrong with sweet romance vs. regular romance. I’m not writing this to tear down a genre, but because I’m tired of the stigma that comes with writing sex scenes. With that, let’s begin.

I write sex scenes. I don’t close the door on my character’s sexual interactions with one another.  When I announce such a thing in a group of people the following reactions occur:

  • “Oh, you’re a freak, huh?”
  • “You write mommy-porn.”
  • “But you say you don’t like gratuitous sex.”

These are just a few of the comments I’ve heard. Some involving the winking eye from the guys, the casual drop in conversation by the gals, and anytime a conversation veers to the inappropriate people get a little shocked when I say the discussion is a bit risque since I write such things.

No one ever imagines that it’s not about the sex. At. All. The physical act on the page is usually a very limited part of the equation. Why do you think Twilight was so popular? It wasn’t because of the sex since there wasn’t any. What is important is the emotions, the way the act propels the plot either by causing conflict, bringing the couple closer together, dividing them apart, challenging core beliefs, and the list goes on. Some of my favorite books involve sex scenes that don’t actually describe the body parts entering bodies and such, but how the characters emotions evolve throughout the scene.

Not to mention, not every book requires 5 sex scenes, even an erotic romance, the scenes must fit the characters themselves. Writer’s really do ask themselves if the scene is necessary. In editing, and critiquing for others, I’ve removed sex scenes and added in others. Sometimes the comments are for more intimacy and less physical description.

I don’t write mommy-porn, I write emotional growth and discovery. A lot of the sex scenes are about that. Pushing the limits of what the character believes sex is really about and forming a genuine connection between the two people sharing it.

Books I recommend that do such a thing:

Tell Me Lies by Jennifer Crusie

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

Evening Storm by Anne Calhoun

The One In My Heart by Sherry Thomas

There are many more authors and books, but these are the ones that came to mind. What books can you name where sex is more emotional than physical?

Also, how do you think we can break the stigma?

About Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

If I Knew Then: Writer’s Edition

Today, I thought I’d blog about craft. Specifically, the things I wish someone had told me (or helped me understand better) when I first started writing. I’m focusing on three main areas today.

Goal-Motivation-Conflict

There’s this fabulous book, if you’ve never heard of it, by Debra Dixon, called GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. When I first started writing, I kept hearing about GMC. Maybe you have, too. No one really explained it in a way I understood or, worse, they assumed I knew what GMC was. At that time, you could only order a hard cover from the publisher to get this book. I paid $20, plus shipping, and I’ve never regretted it. It’s incredible.

To summarize, characters want GOALS because MOTIVATION but CONFLICT. It’s a little more complicated than that. For instance, goals are the future, motivation is the past, and conflict is the present. If you can pull all those together, give your character an achievable goal for a realistic reason (motivation) and then have someone stand in their way, you have instant conflict.

Protagonist/Antagonist

Speaking of someone standing directly in the way, pushing back against the hero/ine, that is your antagonist. You really do need an active antagonist. It can’t be your characters drunk, dead father because he can’t push back. Alcoholic daddy can be part of the motivation, but he can’t be the antagonist.

The protagonist has a goal they are working toward. The antagonist has a goal (GMC of his or her own, in fact) and they are actively standing in one another’s way.

Conflict Boxes

Conflict boxes are these nifty, simple little boxes that help you show how the protagonist and antagonist are in opposition. They’re explained best, in my opinion, by Jennifer Crusie in this blog post. Their goals are mutually exclusive, which means only one of them can achieve their goal. The other has to lose. Sometimes, if you aren’t sure who you’re antagonist really is, a conflict box will show you in about two seconds.

If Only That Were It

Obviously, there’s more to learn, but these concepts will get you well on your way. I highly advise reading GMC and checking out the Basics of Fiction blog post by Jennifer Crusie if you’re at the beginning of your writing career or even if you feel you need a little help in these areas.

We’ve got a slew of helpful writers here, so if you have a question, one of us will do our best to answer. Or maybe you have a tip for a new writer. Just post it in the comments below.

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

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