Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Write your heart...

Hello, my name is Christine Kuczmynda, and I'm an editor here at The Wild Rose Press. I work with Nicole in the Historical plot of the garden and with Diana in Scarlet.

As an editor and a reader before that, I've seen many, many different types of books come through our doors. Some manuscripts I just know the author's trying to push through because the topic is what's 'in' right now-or they're trying to do a twist on a popular theme. For example, if we still accepted YA novels, I'm sure there would be a million and one about high schoolers falling in love with vampires.

Now in theory there's nothing wrong with this. And if the story is well-written with dynamic characters, it definitely works.

However, if you aren't writing your heart, or your passion, it shows on paper. It's lifeless, or cardboard. Flat characters. Or crazy ideas. Things that may make even the most prolific romance reader cringe in horror.

As a writer, I'm aware that my first completed novel is not ready for prime time publishing. But I think about it frequently. I love the hero and heroine. I still love the story. And I'm sure at some point I'll take it out, dust it off, and give it a rewrite.

Getting published is important-a dream of most writers. We, here at TWRP love to help authors' dreams come true.

But don't forget to write your heart.

Something started you on this path. Don't lose sight of it.

Monday, August 22, 2011


The word pronoun is taken from the old French, “pronomine.” Literally translated, it means instead of a noun. He, she, it, they, you, this, that, which, who, are pronouns. So what?
So…repeating a pronoun is like repeating any other word—dog or husband or elephant.  Pronouns are my pet peeve, as many of my authors have learned. Thankfully, they’ve also learned why, and been open to eliminating the overuse of them from their stories.
How do I write in my character’s point of view if I can’t say her or she—you ask. Don’t get me wrong, you can use the pronouns, just hopefully not overuse them. I’ll give an example or two, so show how it can be done. Yes, it’s work but worth it, I think.
Example: Brenda drew in a long, deep breath and let it out in a slow hiss. Then, the memory of the day she received the job offer came to her mind and a hint of a smile crossed her face. She’d been in a terrible mood after engaging in verbal combat with her new publisher. 5 pronouns
To eliminate pronouns, it could say: Brenda drew in a long, deep breath and let it out in a slow hiss. The memory of the job offer brought a smile that widened at the thought of the new publisher’s face, handsome with a hint of a quirkiness that hadn’t been showing today. Her smile died at the thought of the verbal combat he’d initiated. 2 pronouns
Here, we’ve eliminated a few pronouns and some telling, but notice that we’ve also developed Brenda’s character as she relates her opinion of the new boss’s quirkiness, and the fact that he’d instigated the confrontation between them.
One more example: That was the question of the day, Lana thought, since he was out of town the day she interviewed with John Richards. Just then, the door flew open. She jumped so high she swore she floated above the sofa for a split second. A man in an expensive suit strode toward her and she heard her heart thumping. His eyes washed over her and his brows raised in recognition. 11 pronouns
This could say: That was the question of the day, since he was out of town during the interview with John Richards. Just then, the door flew open. Lana jumped so high she envisioned dangling over the sofa like a wind-chime. A gorgeous man wearing an expensive suit strode across the carpet and her heart jack-hammered in reaction. His glance showed appreciation. His brows raised in recognition. 5 pronouns
In this example, we’ve done away with some telling, cut the adverb count in half, eliminated 5 pronouns, replaced a too-common image (heart thumping) with jack-hammered, and added a simile (like a wind-chime).
As I said above, getting rid of pronouns is work, but after a while becomes second nature. Your final result is tighter and more detailed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Historical Department Announces a New Series

I read an email the other day that said students set to enter college this fall are the first who have never lived in a house where the  telephone have cords, and think of a pop star—not a princess—when they hear the name Fergie.  It went on to name several other things they’re missing out on, but it definitely got me thinking.  Then came the news that the daytime soap All My Children would be canceled this fall, prompting my 11 year old son to look at me in confusion and ask  “What’s a daytime soap?”
I’m forty something and when I think of my high school days, I remember running home to catch the soaps that came on at three o’clock—General Hospital, Guiding Light,  Another World (and in later years, my favorite of all time, Santa Barbara).  My friends and I would watch together over the phone --which, yes, was attached to the wall, but years of stretching made the cord juuuuust long enough to reach across the living room to the sofa.  There was nothing worse than Friday afternoon at 3:59 p.m. in the soap opera world—the doorbell would ring and our current heroine in distress would be handed a letter, sit down in her beautifully decorated home, slit the envelope open, read it …and clap a well manicured hand over her perfectly painted mouth.  Fade to black.  Cue the closing credits.
Is it really possible that kids my son’s age will never know the agony—the brutal anguish!!—of not knowing what will happen on your favorite soap until Monday?  The wait was interminable!  Was it bad news—was it about the husband who had been missing for five years (or at least since the last actor to play him asked for a raise…) Was he dead?  Or worse, now that she had found happiness with someone else, was she learning he was still alive and laying in a coma (covered in bandages, naturally, after some very convenient reconstructive surgery)?  We would have to wait three entire days (gasp! Practically an eternity!) to find out.
How did we ever survive it?
My son lost interest in my explanation long before I did but the trip down memory lane made me realize… kids his age (and even a decade older) don’t know the simple joy—or heartache—of receiving a letter in the mail (the relatively instant gratification of email just isn’t  the same, IMO).  Or even the act of gathering your special pen and paper, address book and stamps, actually sitting down and composing a letter, tucking it into the envelope, licking the flap to seal it and walking to the corner mailbox (when was the last time you saw one of those?) and dropping it in the box.  Then, depending on who you sent it to and where they lived, you waited anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to hear back.  And oh, what excitement when the mailman (I’m quite a ways down Memory Lane,  and at that time there were only mail men—I promise I’m not being sexist. *G*) brought you a letter. Sometimes those letters contained life-altering news: a proposal, news of an inheritance, the loss of a loved one, the birth of a new family member, the dreaded “Dear John” letter… the possibilities of what lie inside that innocent-looking white envelope were endless.
Today the historical department of TWRP debuts a new short story series called Love Letters.  In this series a character’s life is forever changed by the receipt of a letter.  Earlier this year invitations were sent out to a select number of authors to write stories to launch the series.  As of today, with the release of the first story in the series (Beth Trissel’s wonderful Into the Lion’s Heart) we’re opening this series to submissions.  The guidelines can be found below.
Whether you’re one of our current historical authors, or an author who has always thought about writing historical but has never taken the plunge, I hope you’ll read the guidelines and consider writing a story for this wonderful new series.  Let your imagination run wild and consider what life-altering news would be in your hero or heroine’s envelope.  Because sometimes… a letter changes everything.
For more information on the Love Letters series, or questions regarding the submission guidelines, please feel free to contact me (or any member of the historical team) at ndarienzo@thewildrosepress.com  We’d love to talk to you about Love Letters!
Love Letters stories can be:
News of an arranged marriage
Dear John letter
Unexpected inheritance
Mail order bride
Death of a loved one
...anything you can imagine that would alter someone's life!

Stories must be historical in nature and suited to one of the following lines: American Rose, Cactus Rose, English Tea Rose, Vintage Rose (for more information please visit the individual pages for each of these lines. Story length should range between 20,000-25,000 words.  The letter must be within the first three pages of the story.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Scare me to death...please!

Hi...I'm Ally Robertson, an editor for the Crimson Suspense line. 'Suspense' is the operative word here. I receive countless submissions that just aren't suspenseful enough. We need danger...threats...maybe a little violence...yes, even death. I want you to keep me on the edge of my seat. I want you to make me worry for your characters. I want your bad guy (or girl) to give me chills. Of course, there has to be romance--we're a romance publisher, after all. But, in the SUSPENSE line, I also need some danger and devastation. I need to see it soon, too. If your character hasn't experienced anything harrowing in the first chapter, you don't have a suspense.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly how soon the danger should come, but the first scene is an excellent place for it. I will, however, settle for the first chapter. I've received partials of the first three chapters where absolutely nothing frightening or the least bit worrisome happens. Sometimes, the writing is good and the romance is good. In that case, it's probably just in the wrong line.

If your heroine has a psycho ex she's running from, just having her mull over all the bad stuff he did to her in the past isn't enough. Something should happen early in the story to at least make her think he's caught up to her. A dead body is always good...not literally, not in real life, but in your story. If, for example, someone the heroine knows dies under suspicious circumstances, if it looks like psycho ex could be involved, you've probably got a suspense.

Some examples where you likely don't have a suspense are, first and foremost, if nothing threatening or mysterious happens in the first few chapters. Or, if nothing happens during your story, period. For example, if you have a story where the townspeople talk about killings that took place years ago, and no one is in danger now, you probably don't have a suspense.

So please, before you send us a suspense story, make sure you hurt or kill or maim someone (IN YOUR STORY, THAT IS), or at least severely threaten and/or terrorize them. And do it soon. Otherwise, you might have a stellar romance...but you just don't have a suspense.

Ally Robertson
Crimson Rose - Suspense and Intrigue

Monday, August 8, 2011

Let's Get Closer!

Distant Writing:

Hello, I’m Corinne MacGregor, and I’ve been an editor here at TWRP for about four years. It seems our editors have touched upon so many wonderful topics that I wondered what I could add this week. Then something came to mind, an issue I often encounter as an editor: distant writing.

Distant writing is something that stands out and is a problem because it interferes with the emotional enjoyment or connection with the characters in a story. Reporting something after the fact is not as exciting as letting the reader experience a scene as it unfolds for the characters.

It’s more fun to read a story if you’re involved and can almost hear, smell, see, touch, and taste what the point of view character does. Also, the inner happenings of the non-POV characters can be shown through expression, body language, tone, etc.

Here are some words that can be rephrased to take a story from distant writing to more in-depth, emotionally alluring writing:

Heard, saw, watched, thought, knew, and my favorite ;) “felt.”

When I see these in a manuscript, many times I’ll ask the writer to be more direct and “get under the character’s skin” so to speak.

While being more direct, the writer can involve the character’s emotions. Make it relevant to the character. For example, instead of “She heard footsteps coming up the stairs” this could be rephrased as “With each creak of the step, growing louder as he ascended, her excitement grew. She clasped her hands together and chuckled.”

Seeing words such as “saw” and “felt” draw a reader from the story by putting distance between the characters and them that shouldn’t be there to be engaging. Those words give it less of a feel of fiction and more like one of journalism/reporting.

Adverbs, especially those that end in –ly do the same thing. They water down writing and should be avoided where possible.  There you go! Happy writing. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hey! Why Did You Change That?

by Nancy Swanson, Editor and Production Coordinator

As we send edits back and forth, sometimes I’ll get a question from an author asking me about a change I’ve made in editing. What the author has written may be perfectly good in many respects but not be acceptable according to our particular style guidelines. If your hero is wearing a tee shirt, for instance, we will say no, he’s wearing a T-shirt. Your heroine’s dress may plunge in a vee neckline, but he has a T-shirt.
Every publishing house has its own set of rules for the formatting and style of its products. Here at The Wild Rose Press we have CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style) as our primary standard. Then we add a few idiosyncrasies of our own.

For instance, if you are a British author we let you keep your spelling but require the punctuation follow U.S. rules, including periods and commas inside quotation marks, generally, with those quotation marks double rather than single. We like commas in sentences using direct address, too: “Oh, John, are you leaving?”
Like all rules, they have their exceptions. The one British spelling we won’t let you keep, and won’t let anyone else use, either, is “alright.” “Alright” is simply not all right. We are positive-minded people and we love “all right.” Things may be already altogether lovely, but they’re not alright, even if you can find the word in the dictionary—they’re all right.

Would you rather say it’s OK? We sympathize, but we’ll ask you to make that “okay” despite the origin of the word.

For some word changes, you might check the dictionary for the correct or preferred spelling for the meaning you want. A mantle, for instance, is usually a cloak or covering, while what’s over a fireplace is usually a mantel, instead. Other spellings and usages are regionally influenced or might depend on the context. If your characters are in the Wild West and a grizzled, tobacco-spitting old codger is in the scene, he’s not going to talk like the dapper Easterner who just blew into town, for instance.

What you don’t have to worry about...
  • Too many spaces between words – we have an easy fix for that when we format the galley proof.
  • Whether dashes are the right size – as long as you have two hyphens, an n-dash, or an m-dash wherever you want a dash, we will take care of that, too.
  • Underlining vs. italics – we can accept either one, but with underlining the editor will have to change each to italics during editing.
  • What type font to use – or any other formatting details. We will make sure everything is in order for publication, and you will see it before it goes out.

One more thing to consider...
Your editor sends you a galley file to proof and you see large gaps between words in some lines. What’s this? Can we fix it?

It’s caused by the necessary formatting for production. You can fix it by rewriting those sentences to include more and/or smaller words in the affected lines. When the manuscript is justified, so you have straight margins on each side, the spaces between lines have to make the words stretch from one side to the other. Several long words together mean the spacing has to be more conspicuous. We applaud your excellent vocabulary skills, but “all things in moderation” is a good maxim.

To wrap up...
Never be afraid to ask questions – we welcome them; it’s how you learn – but sometimes the answer is going to be something as simple as “that’s how we do it here” and you’ll have to be ready to accept that. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Top Reasons for Rejections from TWRP

The following list was put together after a discussion on our editor loop about the top reasons why an editor here at TWRP rejects a manuscript.  We hope these will come in handy for everyone who writes for us or is attempting to get contracted.
Rejection reasons from TWRP Editors

My last dozen or so rejections have been for either 1) poor control of POV, which leads right to a shallow emotional layer, or 2) the story isn't enough of a romance but is women's fiction with some romance tossed in.

POV issues seem to crop up more and more in submissions.  I've also had several that fall far short of the romance we are looking for or have so many plot lines and characters that the romance is too deeply buried to really shine. 

Another reason that I see over and over again is passiveness.  There is just no vibrancy, tension or action to bring the story alive.

I get a lot of stories where the hero and heroine marry halfway through and she gets pregnant, then the rest of the book has only external conflict keeping them apart (villain or distance).

Since I'm in Faery, I get excellent scifi/fantasy stories that boil down to not being romance. No conflict between hero and heroine. Their goals align too early.   I really enjoy some of the stories and the artistry of the writers, but they won't work for TWRP.

Lack of originality. I can't tell you the number of stories that begin with someone ditching their wedding or returning to town after a long absence. Also, I turned down an awesome story, a sort of sequel to a story that's sold a ton of copies--because it wasn't a romance.

I'm with the pov issue and the stories that don’t fit our line. It is like they do not read the guidelines for what each line or what TWRP is looking for.

Telling, not showing, lack of focus (story is all over the place), passive writing, pacing problems, and lack of control over POV issues.  I do get a lot that are not a romance, as well.

Scarlet has the same issues everyone else has mentioned. Substandard writing, not within our guidelines, and not romance but flat out erotica.

POV is a big one for me followed very close by 2 dimensional characters with no deeper undertone--as in conversations that have people just standing there talking with no action or inflection and telling descriptions with no depth
POV, and lack of relationship depth. 
The conflict shouldn't feel contrived or made up just for tension. The elusive "voice" thing is also important for me.

Sometimes a story is well written but the voice is I guess you'd call it DULL.

Like everyone else I struggle with the telling writing, not romance and pov.  My problem with pov though is when they think it is okay to have ten of them. 

As  we get the initial queries in, it is really irritating when they obviously haven’t read our website and they haven’t included things like a synopsis

I see too many authors who don't understand why NOT to use a hundred points of view.

Keeping with Black is predominantly vamp and shifters, originality is a big contract breaker as well. 

My pet peeve is the lack active writing and use of the senses.  You know when you lose yourself in a story(you seem to be part of it) and you're still thinking about it days/weeks later? You are literally still 'feeling' it? I look for strong imagery and use of senses as well as a deep and true romance(emotion-I want to laugh and cry and literally share the characters emotions) and a unique storyline.  I have been fortunate of late to receive some really awesome and different story threads and I might add strongly written!

There you go writers - take these words and heed them.  Go over your latest manuscript and see if you fit any of these rejection flags and see how to change it.  As always, you will grow the more you write so never stop trying.