Importance of Continuity

Continuity.  Readers notice everything.  Voracious readers especially notice everything in series.  If the author makes an error, the avid reader will pick up on it immediately.  Finding spelling or grammatical errors are not nearly as jarring to a reader as finding a continuity discrepancy.

Spending time organizing the characters between stories becomes just as important to a writer as doing research.  Nothing is more frustrating to a writer than to be writing a book and not be able to remember the name of the butler in the previous book.  Keeping accurate records of this information is an important part of setting the groundwork in the novel.

Tonight, I spent seven hours (7) pouring through my first three books in the series writing down every character so I would not have a problem while writing the fourth book in the series.  Sounds like tedious work, doesn't it?  It can be, but mostly it's rewarding in a perverse way.  For me, having all of that information at my fingertips on one chart, is tantamount to having a dictionary available to finding the proper word.  Before I got too far into Neil's book, I needed to make sure I had all the names of each character on a spread sheet.

Seeing the connections and family relationships gave me additional insight for the main characters in Ice Moon.  Before I could do that, I needed to scan Midnight Moon, Scarlet Moon, and Harvest Moon.  The little nuances of each character needed to be noted as well.  By doing this, I could make sure I did not repeat characters or names.  I remember once reading a book where several characters' names started with C.  Every time I saw a name beginning with C, I was forced to pause and reread the name to make sure I knew which character it was.

How do we keep the names separate, distinct, and interesting?  Keeping a baby naming book nearby is helpful.  It allows the writer to search for names according to ethnicity and meaning to make each character unique.  For instance, if the main character's name begins with S, like Selene, you do not want the maid's name to also begin with S.  If the two of them are in the same scene, imagine how jarring it would be to your eyes to see Selene and Susanna.

Tell me - what do you do to keep your characters straight?  When I first started writing, before I could use a computer, I wrote all my novels in notebooks.  On the inside cover, I would write down the characters' names, their ages, and their relationship to the main characters.  This allowed me to keep the names straight as well as making sure I did not repeat any names.  Also, if I'm writing additional stories in the series, I can just flip open the notebooks to see the names and not repeat any of them.

Do you make a spread sheet?  Write them in a journal/notebook?  Or do you keep an index file on all names utilized in each of your books?

Happy writing and creating characters!1!!

History is Candy for the Writer's Soul

Books line the shelves of every moment in history.  We devour these books like salivating children.

Upon entering a bookstore, if you are like me, your fingers start to itch over the possibility of purchasing a new book.  Of find the perfect book to satisfy that hunger deep in one's soul.  We are not even sure what we hunger for sometimes, only that a need exists and we must fulfill it.  The feel of the book in our hands.  The sensation as the words pour off the page and seep into our brains.  The feeling we get when we finish the book and long for another.

Books are like carefully wrapped presents.  When we read the brief blurb inside the jacket or on the back, our curiosity is piqued, and yet when we read the book, there is nothing more exciting than discovering something more inside.  The delicious sensation that we have been surprised.  When the author has created such a tale that even we are surprised by its turns and blossoming.  Research has a way of doing the same thing for a writer.

Finding just that surprise as we look for a moment in time to inspire us to build our next stories are the very kernels that begin to pop in our brains.  Lighting the fire that begins the chain reaction to send us rushing to our computers and writing the next story.

Someone once asked me, what time period do I write.  Some authors specialize in Regency or Victorian.  Others write the obscure historical - taking place in far off places we don't usually think about.  Many authors keep their stories deeply rooted in British history.  For me, inspiration comes from so many different areas, I cannot remain in one time period.  I have written early 1700s pirate tales that swept across the Caribbean and into the American colonies.  From there, I took the family's offspring to Georgian England and Austria during the War of Austrian Succession.  While writing these stories, I fell in love with different characters, and heard their voices - deciding to give them their own stories.  While writing these stories, I read as many books on the time period that I could find.  I read books on piracy and their tools of the trade.

The bookstores, libraries, and now the internet are ripe with luscious fruit to help nurture this hunger to make our books accurate and bring our readers into a world of our own creation.  One time, I was at a conference in New Orleans, I happened upon the most delightful used bookstore.  While browsing the shelves, I found several old books to bring my books new life.  Hearing about a time period from the actual lips of people who lived during that time can change our perception.  Can give our stories the spark that makes it stand out next to hundreds of others.

Under this pursuit of publication, I continue to pour through books, diaries, autobiographies, and maps in hopes of finding just the right kernel to light the same fire in my reader's soul.  I relish the challenge.

So, tell me - what do you look for in a book?  What kernels will pop in your brain?  Post a response and give me further inspiration.

Entering Contests

I made only one goal for myself this year - submit to at least one contest every month.  For many writers, this is nothing new to you.  I see all the contests and the winners and cheer for each one, especially when I see Chicago-North members winning their fair share.  For several years, while my children demanded more time than I had, entering contests just did not seem feasible to me.  So I would read my loop and cheer all who finalled and then cheer for all who won.  

I remember a friend who wrote affirmations every day in order to see herself published.  I tried writing them down, but why is it so hard to keep writing "I will be published this year" 25 times every day?  Perhaps it's because it reminds me so much about writing punishments when I was in grammar school. (oh wait, that wasn't me, that was other kids).  The affirmations never stuck for me.  I needed something more.  I needed more time.  I already spent every free moment writing and periodically sending manuscripts to editors, so why was I still not published.

I didn't see it!

Get it?  I did not see it happening.  Does that sound like you?  Boy oh boy, was that me.  I knew I was a great writer, but entering contests just did not seem like something I should do.  Does that mean that entering contests was beneath me?  Absolutely not.  It just meant I just didn't have the time to squeeze that into my life at the same time.  So why is this year different?

I think, and correct me if I'm wrong, but it's because I made a promise to myself this year.  Promise number one - to start attending my chapter meetings on a regular basis.  This was hard to do, but I'm on a roll and I am loving it so much.  I had no idea how much I missed seeing all my writer friends and attending the workshops.  When I went to the national conferences, I felt disconnected - like I was a phony attending something I did not deserve.  Oh, I wrote novels - I never stopped, but I didn't know my fellow chapter members to feel connected.  Now, I do.  

So, my promise to become more involved in my writing - started with attending more meetings and has moved to entering contests on a regular basis.  I've signed up for the national conference in New York and my next goal - to make professional business cards.  

Entering contests.  I fully intend on becoming published this year.  DO YOU HEAR ME?  I WILL BE PUBLISHED THIS YEAR!

The Mini Synopsis

For two days now I have been puzzling over the mini synopsis.  For years, I wrote the longer ones for editors - 10-12 pages long.  Now, it seems everyone wants them shorter.  The shorter the better is what I heard.  Of course, for writers, who are accustomed to writing novels - summarizing their books into 1-3 pages seems almost impossible.

I imagined if I had to describe my book to a friend, how would I do it?  Obviously, if I'm going to get my friend hooked, I have to lead with a great opening line - like - Tonight was the night she was going to find a lover.  That sounds great, doesn't it?  After all, what woman doesn't want to just announce to the world she's going to find a lover?

Of course, after I've hooked the editor or reader with that one great line, I have to lead with my characters, while signifying time period, type of novel, and word length.  To me, that's just boring and takes up far too much room especially when I have to be super concise.  As you can see, I like to ramble a bit and add in the flavor of my voice.  Now, that I've gotten rid of the perfunctory time period, type of novel, and length, I can get into character - whose story is it?

Let's say the story truly belongs to the heroine.  Well, if she's going to find a lover we need to establish rather quickly, why this is important and be sure our heroine does not sound like slut.  (Can I say slut here?)  Ah, so she must meet the hero rather quickly or my synopsis won't work.  She meets him and, though quite charming, he is going to change the way she looks at everything in her life - from the color of the sky to how she sees men.  Because she cannot objectify them if she's going to fall in love with our hero.

Now the hero - the man that makes us want to read more.  We may root for the heroine to find true love, but we all want the hot steamy sex scenes.  Admit it.  Our hero needs to be amazing in every aspect.  Not only will he know exactly how to woo our dear sweet heroine, but he will melt her on the spot with just the look in his eye or the smile on his face.    But we have to keep in mind what his goal is - and how will his goal get in the way of heroine's goal.  Then, we must make sure we discuss how her goal interferes with his goal.

Got all that?  Remember you only have 1-3 pages to get all of this down.

Now you understand why it's so difficult to whittle down something that used to be 10 pages into only 1-3 pages in length.  I am open to suggestions.  I've been working steadily on it and it seems the more I work on it, the harder it becomes because I always think of something else to say better, or something I think I should have added.  Funny part is - it's extremely difficult to cut out anything.  Wish me luck.

Keep your fingers crossed I complete this by tomorrow.  It must be in the mail for a contest (remember my goals? Not resolutions?)

It Happened One Night

Great classic movie with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.  Last night when I could not type or read because I got my eyes dilated, I put on this classic movie.  A poor, misunderstood rich girl escapes from her father's domineering clutches and runs away.  While trying to escape, she meets a handsome, rogue who knows who she is, but agrees to help her.  Of course, she has no street smarts, and without the assistance of this rogue, she might not have survived the trip to New York.  She learns a lot about herself during the trip, as well as other human beings, and falls in love with the rogue along the way.

How many of you have seen or read this story before?  An ageless story that could easily be adapted to any time period and be a successful story.

So, another story idea begins to percolate in my brain, but since I have a synopsis to write, I better get working on it.

Hope your writing day went well.

The Elusive Synopsis

Today I think I'll address the elusive and ever-changing synopsis.  For as long as I have been writing, I have labored over the proper synopsis.  I have gone to many workshops, read tons of articles, and worked and reworked my own synopses until I can honestly say, I still do not understand what makes a good synopsis a great one.  Here is my dilemma - some want them 10 pages, others want 5 pages, and some are asking for 1-3 page synopses.  So, how do you trim your story to meet these ever changing requirements?

I believe the hardest thing for a writer to do is to whittle down a story to just a few pages.  In those few pages, we must include a brief character sketch with evidence of a character arc, the basic plot making sure to include the development of the romance, and of course include such information as type and length of novel.  I know I am leaving out several other key pieces but this is where the issue gets sticky - how does one take a 400 page novel and reduce it to such mean lengths?

So, tonight, that is my job - take several of my novels and create the most compelling synopses imaginable to entice others to want to buy my books.  I have a deadline here - Feb 1 for my first contest, so I must work quickly and efficiently.

Wish me luck and, if you have any advice, I'll take it!

Resolutions

Do you make resolutions?  I don't.  I have never seen the sense in making a resolution to do something that I know I won't be able to do.  I know that sounds defeatist, doesn't it?  But if you think about it, how many of us keep our resolutions?  I think if we were to do a poll of the percentage of people who really (let's be honest now) keep their resolutions, I would think the number would be low.

So, I thought to myself, what if instead of making a resolution I would make a writing promise to myself.  That sounds so much better.  We make promises to other people, so why not make a promise to myself.

My promise is to submit my manuscript to one contest every month.  Just one.  That's not only feasible, but I can see myself really doing this.  Remember - one key to success is to visualize yourself winning or doing what you want.  I've never made this promise before.  I've submitted to Golden Heart almost every year, except for last year.  Remember the post about life interrupting us?  See, it happened last year.  I have submitted to contests in the past, but just sporadically.  Usually, I just send my work to editors, but one thing I have noticed is how entering contests has helped many of my fellow writers get published.

Since the goal of writing all these novels I've written is to get published, wouldn't it make sense to enter a contest?  Sounds more like common sense, doesn't it?

So here is my promise - One contest per month.

Do me a favor - post your promise to yourself.  What is your writing promise?

Life is Unpredictable

I've been working on my book all day.  Got up at 5:30 and wrote until 7:00, took my daughter to her test, got home and wrote until noon.  Picked up my daughter and wrote more.  Been writing all day long.  I think I got through about 50 pages of editing so far, and added in 16 new pages today.  And I'm still not finished.

So, what makes today more productive than any other day?  Time.

We all have those days.  Days filled with good intentions.  We plan to write all day but so many things happen to keep us from writing.  It's days like today that make it all worth it.  We accomplish so much.  Yesterday, I announced on my fb page I had just gone over 90,000 words.  At this moment, I'm at 94,000 words.  If I calculate this correctly, at approximately 250 words per page, that means I added in an extra 16 pages.  I'm in sync with my writing and characters today.

Trust me, not all days are like this.  There are days when I sit in front of the computer and wonder why I can't figure out where to send my characters.  Then there are the days when my children need me more so I have absolutely no time to write.

When asked if I plan my writing, I have to say no.  I read somewhere by an author, I wish I could remember who so I could give her credit, that her writing was more organic.  I think it was Eileen Dryer in the most recent RWA magazine.  I heard her loud and clear.  I honestly try to make a plan.  After all, I plan everything else in my life.  But with my writing, it just does not follow a plan.

I'll give you an example, I was writing the third book in the Order of the Golden Apple series when it just wasn't working.  No matter how many times I tried to organize it through an outline or a synopsis, it just wasn't working.  So, I did what I usually do when the characters are building roadblocks - I think on it.  I let it percolate in my brain.  Sometimes it takes one night, sometimes several nights. This time it took almost a month, but finally it began to flow.

When my writing flows and life is not so unpredictable, I can write non-stop, allowing it to develop organically.  Happy planting!

Why is it?

I'm sitting here writing and editing my book The Perfect Gentleman, when I realized something.  Writing rejuvenates me.  After a long day at work, up at 5:15 and working non-stop, I come home, do more work for my job, then I start writing.  So, I should be exhausted.  But I'm not.  As soon as I open the files and start writing, it's like I'm transported to another time and place.  I watch and listen to my characters as they move about scenes I created and before I know it, it's past midnight and I know in the back of my mind, if I don't sleep soon, I'll be exhausted again.

Noise is all around me.  Children talking, the television blaring and yet I can still write.  Seems almost impossible doesn't it.  Some writers I know have to find a special place to write.  They need solitude.  They need hours upon hours of time to pump out the book they want to sell.  For me, writing is therapeutic.  It heals whatever weakens my soul.

For many years, I typed on a desktop in an office, playing my music in the background, surrounded by all things that could inspire me.  After my kids went to bed, I would write for hours.  Then my husband realized how much he missed me, so I got a laptop.  This was so I could still write, but sit with him.  After all, he only really needed my presence.  So, I would plug in my headphones and write.  Write for hours again.

Which brings me to where I am now.  Laptop here - check.  Music on - check.  TV on for children or husband - check.  Dogs lying all around me - check.  And finally, inspiration firmly in tact.

I hope your writing experiences are just as exciting as mine.  Happy Writing.

Ideas are Funny Things

People always ask me - where do your ideas come from?

You'll laugh when I tell you where my first idea came from.  My children would watch those Disney sing-a-long tapes (before dvds).  They were watching the one called Disneyland Fun - and there was the Pirates of the Caribbean song - Yo Ho, Yo Ho!  While watching the song, I saw one animatronic pirate chasing a woman around a barrel.  A sign said - "Wench for a Bride".  I got this great idea about a historical taking place in the Caribbean with pirates where my heroine is purchased as a pirate bride.  Voila, my first historical.

Another historical I wrote because someone asked me if I had ever written a novel during the time of the Crimean War.  I hadn't and I can honestly say I was unfamiliar with the war, so I did research and found I had a great story there.  This became Dance of Love.  My Irish novel came from my husband going to Ireland for a wedding.  I did research and found this particular time period I adored - 1620s, when Oliver Cromwell came through Ireland and decimated it, taking over the estates, giving them to his loyal soldiers.  And as you can guess - another historical.  Whispering Moor.  This one involved ancient fairies.

My most recent idea came from something my son said while we were driving to school one day.  Immediately after he said it, I could envision the book and the characters and a plot began to form.

So, my question to you is - where do you get your ideas?

I live to write

If many of you are like me, you were born to write.  Nothing else in this life made sense unless I was writing.  I clearly remember telling my parents when I was in fifth grade I was going to be writer.  My parents laughed and said I needed to get a real job.  Wasn't writing a real job?

At the age of 17 I began to write my first novel.  There in ABC Shorthand class in high school, I used my stenopads to write my first novel.  Two hundred and fifty-three pages later, I was finished.  Whenever I finished a book, my best friend and her mother would read it, begging for the next one.  I was hooked.  I had an audience.  But I wasn't sold.  So, I used it to get a scholarship to college.  While attending Washington College, I would go to Creative Writing classes and get laughed at by the published writer who ran the class.  He was a macho male who wrote westerns.  He said my work wasn't serious and I would never get published.  I would read my chapters out loud during class and all the jocks would laugh at it.  I still kept writing.

My junior year, I met my husband.  We were blind dates - well, someone else's blind dates, but we met and I found my Prince Charming.  The first kiss we shared was magnetic - tingle to the toes type of magic!  To say the least, right after graduation we married and within three months - we were expecting the first of 5 children.  Wow - life moves fast when you're having fun.

To say he's my hero is speaking lightly.  Pregnant and without a job, he bought my first word processing typewriter - you all remember the ones I'm talking about.  All so I could write while I stayed home with the kids.  So I wrote.  A contemporary loosely based in the personnel industry - my first real job after college.  I loved it because my characters got to travel to Paris - the one place I always wanted to travel.

So I kept having children and I kept writing.  Between child #1 and #2, my husband bought me a Tandy 1000 - who remembers those?  I taught myself how to use a computer so I could write my novels on it.  And I began writing.  But I wrote everything in notebooks first, then typed it because I had children running around.  Some days I wrote 10 pages, some days 50 pages.  876 pages later, I had my first historical.  To say the least I was hooked.

More on my journey as a writer, later.

Writing is like Dieting

I'm sure you're all wondering how this is possible.  How is writing like dieting?

Years ago, while my children were small I became a personal trainer to help pay the bills.  I loved it!  One of the things I took away from it was - you will never truly lose weight if you don't keep track of what you eat.  The most successful clients, and I had many, achieved success by writing down everything they ate in a diary.  So, I was thinking - couldn't the same be true with writing?  If I kept track of my writing every day in a journal, then I could track what I wrote and, hopefully finish my novels on schedule.

Of course, you're probably asking yourself - what schedule am I keeping?  Do I have a deadline to meet?  I have found that the best way to be ready for an editor's deadline is to have deadlines of my own and to keep them.  It's worked for me.  If I wrote each day - whether it was new pages or editing, then I was being successful in my quest toward being published.

So, I challenge each of you to keep a journal.  Keep track of how many pages you write or work on each day.  Write them down.  Share them with your writing partner if you have one.  If you don't have one, share them with me.  Every day, click on my post and write down how many pages you've written.  I'll do the same.  I guarantee, if you write down your pages each day, in no time you'll have a finished novel.

Who's ready to face my challenge?

Time to work on the addition

Yesterday, I worked on the first sex scene between the hero and heroine.  When I say I worked on it, I have to admit it was already written - at least the skeleton of it was done.  Time to fine tune it.  Fine tuning is my specialty.  Going in and adding the nuances.  It's like decorating your house.  You paint the walls first, choose the right carpet or flooring, then you move in the furniture.  The finishing touches include pictures and knickknacks.  The nice thing about decorating a room is that you can change it up when you get bored, just like when you write a sex scene.  You can start off sweet, but then you can change it to steamy if you want.

I know what you're thinking - we all like it hot and steamy.  Right?  But admit it, sometimes you like it slow with all the bells and whistles.

So, when I edit, sometimes I have to change it.  Sometimes it needs just a bit of tweaking and sometimes it needs a lot of work, because as we write, our characters get more fully developed and we realize when we reread that maybe, just maybe, our sweet heroine is really a tigress in disguise and just needed the right man to bring it out.

What do you think?

Book Under Construction

This is my first post.  As a writer, we go through many stages.  Right now, I am currently taking a book I wrote about five years ago, and fixing it.  What am I saying?  Fixing it, is not the correct phrase.  Okay, so here's the story.  I asked a friend to read and critique my book.  I gave them the entire printed version - yes this was before emailing it was possible.  Plus, many of us writers were still resorting to editing hard copies instead of just using a computer all the time.

So, I waited and waited and never got it back.  Finally when I asked for it, I was told it got thrown out.  She didn't think it would be a big deal because I had saved it.  In most instances this would not have been a problem.  I did save it.  Unfortunately my disc (a 3.5 at the time) became corrupted and I could not open it to retrieve all my work.  Oh, I had bits and pieces of it, but not all of it.  So, finally, after years of procrastinating, I decided to get serious and work on this lost book.

I should be honest here - I wrote five books in between, but I just always had this book in the back of my mind and longed to find the lost pages.

Then one day while reorganizing all my novel notes, I discovered a hard written copy of the first fifteen chapters.  I felt saved.  So, here I am piecing it all together and trying to fill in a missing 100 pages.  That's correct, I have 100 pages I need to rewrite, hoping my memory will be able to pull out the plot.  I do have the synopsis, but you and I both know that a synopsis, while a good road map, cannot give you all the nuances you need.

Over the past week, I have written 30 pages and am working on the rest.

My question - has this ever happened to you?