Sunday, June 30, 2013

Common Grammatical Errors

Common Grammatical Errors by Roseann Armstrong

When my daughter decided to take freshman Latin, I cleared my throat and smiled. Latin, huh? Not the ever-popular Spanish. Nor the romantic French. No. My daughter wanted to study the language of the ancient Romans.

Latin may be as dead as a Coliseum gladiator, but English is alive and flourishing. In fact, sometimes our mother tongue can be a bit too peppy. During the next several weeks, we’ll cover many of those trickier grammatical questions, starting with the comma splice and the lay/lie confusion.

Comma Splice

A comma splice occurs when two complete sentences (independent clauses) are joined by a comma alone. The comma’s pause is too brief to provide the strong separation needed between two independent clauses.

Incorrect: Her heel caught on the rug, she stumbled forward.

How do you fix a comma splice? You can:

1. Insert a coordinating conjunction after the comma: Her heel caught on the rug, and she stumbled forward.  2. Replace the comma with a semi-colon: Her heel caught on the rug; she stumbled forward.
3. Change one of the sentences to a dependent clause by using a subordinating conjunction (when, in this case): When her heel caught on the rug, she stumbled forward.
4. Substitute a period for the comma: Her heel caught on the rug. She stumbled forward.
Note: Some comma splices are intentional, but we’ll save that for another time.

Lay or Lie 

For many writers, the lay/lie choice is a real dilemma. And it’s no wonder. Lay is the present tense of one verb, and the past tense of the other (lie). Here are a few tips that may help you the next time you’re confronted with the lay/lie decision.

If your heroine is putting or setting something down, use lay or one of its forms (lay, laid, laid, laying).

Remember: Lay is a transitive verb. The action of a transitive verb is transferred to the direct object. In other words, lay requires a direct object to express a complete thought.

For example:

She laid a manuscript on the editor’s desk.

The transitive verb laid (past tense of lay) tells us what the subject (she) did to the object (manuscript). Hint: You can find the direct object by asking what or whom after the verb. She laid what? She laid manuscript.
Lie, on the other hand, is an intransitive verb. The action of an intransitive verb isn’t being transferred to something or someone. In other words, the intransitive verb never takes a direct object. The sentence is complete without one.

For example:

The dog lay on the grass.

The intransitive verb lay is the past tense of the verb lie (lie, lay, lain, lying), meaning to rest or recline. Dog is the subject, and nothing receives the action of the verb. By the way, the on the grass is an adverbial modifier telling where (but not whom or what) the dog lay.

I lie under a tree on summer days. Again, the action of the verb ends with lie. (I can’t lie what or whom.) Under a tree and on summer days are modifiers telling where and when.

Finally, don’t confuse either of the verbs above with the second lie, also an intransitive verb. Against the advice of her attorney, she lied on the witness stand. Here, lied is the past tense of lie (lie, lied, lied, lying), meaning to make an untrue statement.

Challenge Yourself  

Answers will appear in the next installment.

1. Yesterday she (lay, laid) in bed all day.
2. He likes to (lay, lie) in the hammock.
3. Before they arrived, she had (lain, laid) the dishes on the table.
4. “(Lie, lay) down,” she said to the toddler.
5. You can (lay, lie) the hamburgers on the grill.

Roseann Armstrong is the Senior Editor for the Champagne Rose line.

Friday, June 28, 2013

What’s “Write” for Me By Megan Kerans

Before writing a book, you need to know what kind of story you want to create. This is true for beginning, experienced, and published authors. Whether this is the year you start your pursuit of publication, or want to branch out into a new genre or publishing house, you need to decide what you want to write.

It's a Keeper

Start your quest by examining the books on your keeper shelf. Do you notice any patterns in genre, setting, publishers, or the type of characters such as alpha heroes?

List common elements from those stories and then examine what you've written down.

Size Matters

There is more to a package than a fancy box under your tree or in the hero's trous--…well…never mind. But you do need to consider the length of book you want to write and realistically believe you can achieve.
Look at your previous fiction writing. For the medium, whether poetry or short stories, how did yours compare in length? Does the idea of 90,000 words make you panic with the thought of filling endless pages, or are you wondering how you can squeeze a whole story into such a limited space? This is a key factor in determining what markets are available and "right" for your story.

Come on-a my House

While you're picking up those gifts, hit the bookstore and check out what types of books are being bought by publishers and heavily promoted with displays and which are selling well.

If you can't bear hordes of holiday shoppers, hop on the internet super highway. Start with RWA's list of recognized publishers and start checking out their websites. What type of books have been released in the past three months and what's on deck for the coming year? Do any have elements in common with what you want to write? Make a note of any editors or publishers you think might like your work.

Don't forget to check out smaller houses and e-publishers. Even if your ultimate goal is to hit number one on the NYT list, everyone has to start somewhere. For some, this maybe the perfect place to begin building a readership.

Tell My Why

Whatever sub-genre you choose, really examine what specifically appeals to you. This is not easy, and most times not at all obvious. In fact, it may take you a while to discover the answer.
For example, I like to write paranormals and vampires. The process of constructing a workshop proposal made me realize why I like vampires. Unlike humans, when a vampire makes a commitment it's for "unlife". There's no out clause for them with "till death do us part". It really is forever, and ever when they fall in love.

The second factor drawing me to paranormal is knowing I can be as creative as I want to be. As long as I set it up right, and give good reasons clouds aren't limited to vaporous moisture. The white puffs could be the breath of giant, sleeping dragons. And those socks that disappear from the laundry are actually kidnapped by small gremlins with a fetish for textiles and a need to collect one of every shade of every color.

Don't forget to have fun while you're conducting your research by strolling down memory lane with favorite characters from your keeper shelf, and the exciting search for new ones at bookstores and publishing houses.

Megan Kerans

Monday, June 24, 2013

Tips to take your manuscript from ‘Finished’ to ‘Ready to Submit’

When submitting a manuscript to a publisher, it is imperative that your book be as 'ready' as you can make it. Yes, I am an editor, but that does not mean it is my job to correct an error-riddled manuscript. Years ago, an author could submit work that wasn’t necessarily in tip-top shape, and if an editor liked it, the publishing house had a staff that would clean it up and make it shine until you could see your reflection in it. But those days are long gone. Competition is fierce, editors are super busy, and we are now more in an ‘acquisition’ capacity rather than a proofreading, hand-holding capacity. Although we like it when you use proper punctuation, most of us are not terribly concerned that each comma is perfectly placed. But if your book contains a lot of spelling errors, if the story doesn’t grab us, if the pacing is off, if there is a lot of telling, inconsistencies, etc, we will generally not take the time to help you edit those out.

I have a few suggestions on how to self-edit that will help you to catch some of these issues. I’ve found them very helpful, and hopefully, you will too.

1) Read aloud. I know we hear this over and over again, but few of us take time to actually do it. It is amazing how many errors and issues with pacing, repeated words, and useless or unnatural dialogue you will catch when you read your manuscript aloud, preferably into a tape recorder for playback. Or you can convert it to PDF and have it read aloud to you that way. The voice is a bit robotic, but it is still quite enlightening.
2) Read backward. I suggest this to my authors all the time. By ‘backward,’ I mean last page to first. Oftentimes, when we read our work from the beginning, we become engrossed in the story itself and don’t always ‘see’ what is really on the page. We read things as we think they are rather than how they actually are, which often causes us to overlook common, simple errors.
3) Read your story in a different color/style/size font. This gives you a fresh perspective, believe it or not.
4) Put it aside for a few weeks. Do not read even a word of it. When you pick it back up, you will find you’re somewhat removed from the story and can be a bit more objective.
5) Make sure each scene counts. If nothing happens in a scene, delete it. An example would be two friends meeting for coffee where they have a discussion but nothing happens to progress the story. If there is a piece of pertinent information revealed in the scene, move it into another scene.
6) Make sure your story starts in the right place. Hook your editor in the first scene. (This might not seem to go with a ‘polish your manuscript’ post, but it is extremely important if you want to get an editor’s attention). Once you’ve finished your story, ask yourself this question before submitting: Did I start my story in the right place? Why would an editor (or reader) want to continue reading? Did I start the story at, or just before, the Inciting Incident…the ‘thing’ that catapults my main character into danger/action/conflict/change?

If you want your manuscript to stand out, if you want an editor to like your work, then you want it to be as clean and polished as possible before you submit. The number one important factor is whether or not you have a good story with relatable characters, but even if you do, and you present them to an editor in a mess of errors and confusion, it is unlikely the editor will want your story. Yes, The Wild Rose Press has a copy editing department, but if you want your submission to make it that far, then please, please take pride in your work and spit-shine that manuscript. (Uhm, but PLEASE do not use actual saliva. That would be another way to turn an editor off)

Most editors read submitted work with the desire and intent to offer a contract. Take some extra precautions and don’t give them a reason to change their minds. 

Ally Robertson
Crimson Rose - Suspense and Intrigue

The Wild Rose Press, Inc.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Beginning Writers:The Mystery of Writing

(reprinted from the Greenhouse on The Wild Rose Press website)

Beginning Writers:The Mystery of Writing
by Bev Oz

Getting Past the Fear

When I announced my reading selection for this month to the rest of the Roses, I immediately received words of caution. "This book is long and technical, much like a college text book," they said, then added, "Don't be surprised if you don't finish it." With this warning hovering over me like a dark cloud, I approached Techniques of the Selling Writer, by Dwight Swain, with a high degree of trepidation. As luck would have it, I first cracked the book open while vacationing in France. My mind was as mellow as the good wine I drank there, and my anxiousness about the book's technical aspects diminished as I read. This book is very much like a college textbook in terms of its excellent information. However, it is written in such a user-friendly way I immediately forgot my fears and started to plow through, highlighting sentences and paragraphs like any good student. I confess, I didn't finish the book. Expect to read about the remaining portions next month. What I did read and learn I'll share with all of you.

Getting to Feelings

What is the number one job of a selling writer? Arousing heart-felt feelings within the readers. How does this happen? A writer must find a feeling and really feel it. Feel it enough to write about it. At the very least, get excited about the subject so the excitement is carried through to the reader. Enough said about feelings.

Getting Technical

Much of the rest of what I read concentrated on technical aspects of writing. One of the first comments Swain writes is also one of the most prolific pieces of advice I've ever read. "You have to be willing to be very, very bad before you're ever to be good." How true. Getting on the path to good writing starts with finding the right words to use in your story. According to Swain, selection, arrangement, and description are important elements to consider when putting words to paper.

With selection, the author should consider the point of view of the character through which the story is being told. The character's POV should reflect the character's personality and what's important to the character. The arrangement of the words will also indicate what's important. Is there a cause to an effect, or an effect that lead to a cause? The vividness of the words (description) helps the reader capture through his senses the character's experience, making the story come alive.

Nouns and Verbs

Swain goes into great detail about how to pick just the right words for any given situation. He explains that nouns should be as specific, concrete, and definite as possible to be as vivid as possible. To demonstrate he gives the example of the nouns creature, animal, rhinoceros. Here we see nouns that go from vague to specific - a fuzzy concept to one which is perfectly clear. Verbs, on the other hand, should be active - should show something happening. Swain warns against using the verb 'to be', as this is a static state of being. Nothing is happening. An example of this is, "Sam was in the chair." (static and non-active), "Sam sat in the chair." (better), and "Sam slumped in the chair." (very active.) The worst 'to be' verb is 'had', which is past perfect tense. According to Swain, using the verb 'had' jars readers from the present action into past history. And, as we all know, jarring the reader at any time is a baaaad thing.

Patterns to Emotion

One very interesting piece I learned from my reading is what Swain calls "pattern of emotion". With pattern of emotion, writers move their story along by introducing motivating stimulus to their characters, then get the character's reaction. The character's reaction is written in three steps - feeling (the character's state of mind), action (the character's physical movement), and speech (what the character says as a result of all the above.) Using this technique makes for a smooth, logical flow for any story.

More to Go

As I mentioned before, I'm not quite finished with this book yet. Chances are I'll only get through another third of it before my next article is due. But, if the rest of the book teaches continues to teach me the way the first third has, I'll be a selling writer in no time at all.  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Beginning Writers: Too Much Of One Thing

(reprinted from the Greenhouse on The Wild Rose Press website)

Too much of a good thing….Isn’t
By Tiffany Roan, Editor The Wild Rose Press

We all know the saying: “You CAN have too much of a good thing.” It holds true in everyday life – a slice of chocolate cake is delicious, but the whole thing will leave you with a tummy ache (not to mention a few extra pounds). It’s even more true in the world of writing. Just last week I pulled out one of my old manuscripts with intentions of polishing it up for submission. As I began to read, I cringed inside. It was riddled with “-ing” words, and on the first page alone my heroine had gasped, clucked, beseeched, huffed, and pouted in her dialogue tags. We each have our own personal demons – the words (or word types) that we overuse – but today I’m going to discuss some of the most common ones.

“-Ing” words: Words that end with “-ing” are acceptable when used in moderation, but too many of them can make a manuscript sound weak. It’s often easy to replace “-ing” words with an action verb. Here’s an example based on a passage I recently read in one of my student’s papers:

Running for the door and shoving me out of the way, Sarah was screaming at the fleeing figure to bring back her purse.

Here’s a much more direct way to convey the same information:

Sarah ran for the door and shoved me out of the way. “Come back with my purse!” she screamed at the fleeing figure.

“-Ly” words: Adverbs as a whole are often unnecessary in a manuscript. The easiest way to spot them is to look for words that end in “-ly.” This includes words like quickly, steadily, hotly, pleasantly, quizzically, etc. Other common overused adverbs include often, very, and while.

“That”: Most of the time “that” is unnecessary in a sentence and just bogs it down. For example:
She couldn’t believe that she was the first place winner.

should be written:

She couldn’t believe she won first place.

Dialogue tags: Dialogue tags are tricky. On one hand, it gets boring to constantly read, “he said, she said, they said, we said…” On the other hand, interesting dialogue tags can be a distraction when they are overused. There are only so many times in one conversation that your characters need to huff, screech, snort, laugh, and plead. Some writers consider “said” to be an invisible tag. This means the reader’s eyes go right over it, and it doesn’t break up the continuity of the dialogue. So, though you may need to throw in the interesting dialogue tag now and then, try not to overuse them! One great trick is to remove dialogue tags completely from some of your sentences. Instead of saying:

“I give up!” she cried as she stormed out of the room.


“I give up!” She stormed out of the room.

These are just a few of the most common overused writing conventions. You may do all of these, or you may have your own “pet word” that shows up again and again in your writing. It’s time to put your manuscript on a diet. Get out a pack of highlighters and carefully read over your manuscript. Every time you come upon one of these errors, highlight it. I like to use a different color for each type of error (-ing words in one color, dialogue tags in another, etc.). Then go back and see if there’s something else you could use to spice up your writing. You don’t have to get rid of all of them, but you should be able to eliminate the majority. Then sit back and admire your skinny new manuscript! 

Beginning Writers: So you want to write a romance....

(reprinted from the Greenhouse on the Wild Rose Press website)

Beginning Writers: So you want to write a romance....

The Formula Revealed
By: Nicola Martinez

In my article, Three C’s to Better Romance Writing, I made the passing comment that a romance is only a romance if the formula is present. (the three C’s to keep in mind when creating great romantic novels—for those of you who are wondering—are CONCENTRATE ON CONFLICT, CREATE COMPELLING CHARACTERS, and CARESS YOUR READER’S IMAGINATION) Many have asked me since, “How can a story be fresh and exciting and formulaic at the same time?” It does seem a little oxymoronic, but not only can it be done, it must be done.

No one wants to repeatedly read the same story, so our plots must be fresh and exciting, and no one wants to read a romance where the romance isn’t included. So, while we are weaving those compelling characters that are kept apart by a realistic conflict which caresses readers’ imaginations, we must always keep in mind the basic romance formula: Boy meets Girl, Boy loses Girl, Boy gets Girl back. If that formula isn’t in all our novels, then our novels aren’t romances. To evaluate how this formula can be used repeatedly, and still remain fresh and necessary, let’s look at different movies from the last decade:

Twister (1996) Jo Harding and Bill Harding

We’ll start here because I can hear many saying, “wait a minute, this movie isn’t a romance.” But, ah, it is. The romance is surrounded by chaos and destruction, but the main storyline is the relationship of Jo Harding and Bill Harding.

Jo and Bill Harding are in the process of a divorce. Bill approaches Jo (new fiancée en-tow) because she has yet to sign the final divorce papers. In this tale, Boy has already lost Girl in the back story, but because Boy has lost Girl, we must conclude that Boy had Girl to lose! Thus, the movie begins at the “Boy gets girl back” stage of the plot.

Throughout the movie, we discover the conflict that broke up the marriage—caused Boy to lose Girl. Jo is obsessed with developing an early-warning system to help save people from a destructive tornado. This obsession is spurred by a childhood trauma in which her family was trapped by a severe tornado, which makes the obsession—and therefore, the conflict—realistic. This drive consumed her so much that her marriage suffered. Of course, by the end of the film, Boy has Girl back.

In this romance, both the hero and heroine still love each other. Even though Bill has moved on, there is a spot in his heart that belongs to Jo. This is evident from the beginning of the story. We also know immediately, that Jo still loves Bill because she didn’t sign the divorce papers. The conflicts that keep them apart are both internal and external: Internally, they both know they couldn’t make it work the “first time” (hence the divorce) so what makes them think giving it another shot would work, since the same issues that tore them apart are still unresolved? Externally, Bill has moved on, and is planning a second marriage. By the time “boy gets girl back,” Jo has come to terms with her obsession (emotionally, and physically, by finding success in her invention), and Bill’s fiancée has left of her own free will. And so, we have our happily ever-after ending.

Fools Rush In (1997) Alex Whitman and Isabel Fuentes Whitman

Alex Whitman and Isabel Fuentes meet by chance, hit it off, have a one night fling, and then don’t see each other again for a few months, when Isabel shows up at Alex’s house to tell him that she’s pregnant. Here we already have Boy gets Girl and Boy loses Girl. It’s not long before Alex decides to marry Isabel, so in the first third of the movie the -- romance formula has come full circle—to a degree.

The formula can neither be used that easily, nor that quickly, else we have a shallow and uninteresting plot, and that is why this movie is a perfect example of how you can layer the formula. Alex and Isabel by are married now, but their lives do not come together easily. They want completely different things out of life. Isabel cherishes family; Alex couldn’t care less about that. Isabel wants to stay in Las Vegas; Alex wants to move out of state. Here we have our developing conflict, until finally, it all comes to a head and Isabel leaves Alex, telling him that the baby has miscarried; therefore there is no reason for them to be married. (Boy loses Girl. . .again).

But, Alex loves Isabel by this point in the film, and thus, travels to Mexico, where Isabel has gone to seek solace. However, he just misses Isabel, who has traveled back to the U.S. for their baby to be born (Isabel had lied about the miscarriage because, guess, what, she loves Alex and doesn’t want to keep him from his life-dreams). They meet at the Hoover Dam, Isabel goes into labour on the Arizona-Nevada border, they profess their love for each other, so now they are not just married for convenience’s sake, and they all live happily ever after (Boy gets Girl Back).

Two Weeks Notice (2002) George Wade and Lucy Kelson

George Wade, millionaire playboy and architect extraordinaire, is pitted against Lucy Kelson, activist and Ivy-league educated lawyer. Any time the conflict revolves around absolute opposites, both in economic status and morality we have the ingredients for a great story.
This movie is a great example of how Boy doesn’t always get Girl in an overt way.George and Lucy never date. She is hired as his legal counsel, and not once do they go out with each other in any casual way. It’s all business. However, as time progresses, George becomes dependent on Lucy. Their lives become so interwoven, that one cannot function without the other. We see great scenes that illustrate this to us, even though George and Lucy don’t openly acknowledge this need they have for one another. In one scene, for example, George and Lucy are eating lunch, and without a word, George takes food from Lucy’s plate because she doesn’t like that type of food, and Lucy does the same with George’s lunch. Even before the characters have realized they love each other (Boy gets Girl), we know they do.
Alas and alack, however, George has promised something to Lucy—that he would save an historical building—and when he reneges on his promise, Boy loses Girl completely. Even though Lucy secretly loves George by now, she cannot stay with him if he’s going to lie to her.
Of course, when George loses Lucy, he finally realizes he truly cannot live without her. He makes good on his promise. Vows never to hurt her again and Boy gets Girl back.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann

What this movie is doing on the list, many are asking, since it isn’t a romance. Well, I decided that any movie that starred both Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp, had to be included! Seriously, this one is included as an example of how the romance formula is always present, even when the romance is the secondary plot.

Will Turner meets Elizabeth Swann when they are both pre-teens. She immediately likes him (because she thinks he’s a pirate, and she’s enamoured with pirates). We see this meeting in the beginning of the movie, and then we have a fast-forward to when they are both young adults. In their first meeting after this fast-forward, we are enlightened to the fact that both Will and Elizabeth have secretly liked each other for years. (Boy gets Girl). However, they are kept apart by their economic stations, and neither Will nor Elizabeth can profess their love. (This conflict is what keeps them apart, but it is also Boy losing Girl to a degree).

Before too long, Elizabeth must agree to marry Norrington (Boy loses Girl), but by the end of the movie, Will has saved the day, saved the pirate (Captain Jack Sparrow) and has professed his love to Elizabeth, who returns the affection (Boy gets Girl back).
So we see that even in a story where there are other plots and subplots in abundance, the romance that is interjected, still follows the romance formula.
Just Like Heaven (2005) Elizabeth Masterson and David Abbott
This movie has a unique plot. In order for Boy to get Girl back, he must help bring her back to life—she’s a ghost, or so he thinks. David Abbott gets a great deal on an apartment sub-let. What he doesn’t know immediately is why: Elizabeth Masterson, former resident, is lying in a coma on the verge of death. Her spirit, however, has decided not to leave her apartment. In fact, it is David who must convince Elizabeth that she is dead, and therefore, should leave him to his apartment. Sound like great conflict? It is.
David decides to help Elizabeth “cross over,” and in the process, they fall in love (Boy gets Girl). Of course, in this storyline, just as in Two Weeks Notice, they don’t date, either. But, we know they are falling in love because Elizabeth becomes jealous of other women. We know David starts to fall for Elizabeth, because he becomes desperate to help her “cross over,” and even more desperate to help her come out of the coma, once he discovers she is not really dead.

As the plot progresses, we find out that the reason for this spiritual anomaly is Elizabeth is on the verge of death. David tried everything he can think of to help save her, and he does. Sadly, there is a dreadful side-effect: The woken Elizabeth doesn’t have a clue whom he is! (Boy loses Girl.)
This wouldn’t be a romance if it ended there, however. David, who has now moved out of Elizabeth’s apartment, has left her a gift: a garden on the roof. This gift spurs her to remember him (Boy gets Girl back), and they live happily ever after.
Failure to Launch (2006) Tripp and Paula

In this movie, we know from the beginning just exactly how Boy is going to lose Girl. Tripp still lives at home with his parents, has no intention of ever moving out, and his parents want to give him the boot. Enter Paula, a relationship therapist who guarantees that she can have Tripp out of his parents’ house (by the end of the film). The way in which Paula intends to do this is to date Tripp—without him knowing, of course, that she has an ulterior motive.

Anytime we have the hero or heroine assuming a false identity in order to force the other’s hand, we know immediately that the break-up is going to happen when the truth comes to light. This makes for great suspense. Just exactly when is the discovery going to be made? How is the secret going to be kept? It’s the making of great conflict.
In this example, we have two layers of Boy gets Girl: the initial layer, which is superficial and easy; the one where Paula begins to date Tripp. And the other—the one in the middle of the film when she actually falls for him.

Then comes the discovery of Paula’s true reason for dating Tripp—which, of course, comes after she loves him and doesn’t want him to find out—and Boy loses Girl. By the time we get to the end of the film, Tripp realizes he needs more than just life with his parents; he needs Paula, and Paula has realized that she doesn’t want to spend her life “tricking” people; she wants Tripp. And guess what? They all live happily ever after.

So, as we can see from our film analysis, the Boy meets Girl, Boy loses Girl, Boy gets Girl back formula can be used in many ways: It can be layered, as in Fools Rush In. It can be woven around and action adventure, as in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. It can be used in a way where part of the formula is found only in the back-story, as in Twister. But, the formula, in all three of its parts, must be present.

We also need to understand that Girl gets Boy, Girl loses Boy, Girl gets Boy back is also the formula, and that both variations might be utilized in the same novel. You see, we can get creative with a known formula, and as I said in the beginning, we must in order to keep our stories from being stale.

In those plots where the hero and the heroine are married, the Boy loses Girl section of our formula is sometimes only emotional. This is fine, as long as that severance seems complete. If the heroine has emotionally distanced herself from the hero so much that the hero believes there is no way he can salvage the marriage, then an emotional separation is plausible, and the Boy must work through the conflict in order to get his Girl back.

It is also imperative that the Boy losing Girl doesn’t happen until after that crucial “point of no return”. If Boy loses Girl before he loves her, then the break-up will be both unemotional and unbelievable. We want our readers crying for our hero, not thinking he’s irrational or insane. This is why we must weave our conflicts well. Just as in Failure to Launch, Paula has fallen completely for Tripp, before Tripp finds out she was a hired date. If he had found out before Paula loved him, then Paula would have had nothing invested, nothing to lose. As it is, she loses everything by Tripp’s discovery, because by that time in the storyline, she is no longer just a hired girlfriend; she’s there because she wants to be.

So, when analyzing our plots, we must look for the absence of any part of the formula. If we can’t find one of the three slices of the pie in our story, then our story is not a classic romance. If the formula exists, well, we can congratulate ourselves because, we’ve written a romance.

Here’s an exercise that will help strengthen the ability to formulate a great romance plot:

Analyze the following movies. Try to decipher the main conflict. Once the conflict is obvious, figure out why it is such a strong conflict. Why does it work in keeping the hero and heroine apart? Next, discover the point at which Boy gets Girl, and after she is gotten, note the point of no return—that point in the story where Boy losing Girl will be devastating to Boy. Then see the point where Boy loses Girl (it will always come after the point of no return.) Finally, note the conflict resolution which facilitates Boy getting Girl back:

You’ve Got Mail (1998): Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly

Never Been Kissed (1999) Josie Geller and Sam Coulson

The Wedding Planner (2001) Mary Fiore and Steve Edison

13 Going on 30 (2004) Jenna Rink and Matt Flamhaff
Nicola Marinez is an award-winning author who has been writing and studying romance for decades. She was founder and publisher of the women’s fiction magazine, Bridges, before selling it in 2001; she is co-author of The Lightning-fast Lexicon of Period Lingo. 

Monday, June 10, 2013


Queries are unique.  Well, at least to me some of them are.  I received one recently declaring I would be reading the greatest love story if I requested the manuscript.  Hmmm….  I didn’t know that Jane Austen was still writing.  Or maybe it was Shakespeare who had signed the query.  Or James Cameron had made Titanic into a novel?   But alas, it was none of those.  The author promised love, intrigue, romance, and everything I always wanted in a story. 

I was interested, but wary of what I would receive.  So I requested a partial of the story.  Guess what I got…the full manuscript written in play form with spaces for pictures.  Pictures???  Oh my.  My heart broke for this author.  She really believed she was correct in her submission.

The query is the first impression you will make on the editor.  And it needs to be a good one.  Here are a few general guidelines when it comes to writing your query.

1.   Keep your blurb simple and make sure you have a hook that makes me want to read more.  Include only the main characters and a theme-driven statement. 

2.  Format the query in readable type.  No fancy fonts, colors, or pictures.

3.  Avoid giving too much information (TMI).  Be personable, professional and interesting, but don’t tell too much that doesn’t involve your writing career.

4.   Check spelling, grammar, and punctuation.  I’ve received so many queries with grammatical errors.  That really sets a bad impression.

5.  Include your word count. 

6.  For a historical, include the setting.  I don’t want to guess when or when the story takes place.

This may all seen very particular.  But we see a lot of queries every week.   Make yours stand out.  Maybe I will find that next great love story.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Beginning Writers: So you think you want to write?

(reprinted from the Greenhouse on The Wild Rose Press website)

Beginning Writers: So you think you want to write?
by Delilah Devlin

Do you empty your pockets and purse in front of the computer at night because you have bits of stories stashed everywhere? Do you daydream constantly about other places, other times…other men? When you're trying to fall asleep at night, do you suddenly jolt from the bed because your hero's voice utters the perfect retort to something your heroine said?

If you answered yes, you may have the writing bug. It's a sickness that strikes the romance writer when she's looked around at what life has had to offer, and decides she wants something more-something besides Lithium and Prozac to get the voices out her head!

But do you really have what it takes to BE a writer? That's a tough question, and one I didn't ask myself at the outset of this adventure. I'm a leap before you look kind of gal.

If I'd looked first, I might have known I'd lose the few friends I'd made along the way, because they didn't "get" what I was doing and wanted to pull me away from my computer to do things like shop . I might have seen that my family would wonder whether I was entering a new, exotic form of dementia, which included the impulse to rush from my office saying things like, "Do you think Navarro should turn Sidney into a vampire?" or "Do you think werewolves see in color?"

Looking back there were so many things about this life I wish I'd known. But becoming a writer doesn't come with a college course and a certification exam. It's what you do.

What I did was make a lot of mistakes along the way-one's I'll use in my stand-up routine someday when I'm talking to a room full of fledgling writers. Wouldn't you like to know what some of those missteps were?

All right, I didn't do everything wrong, obviously, so there are many positive lessons to learn from my experience-and from the collective experience of everyone at Rose's Colored Glasses.

What the writers here want to do is demystify some of the process of becoming a published writer, and give you step-by-guidance and tools to help you as you progress along this career path. Some of the things we espouse will strike you as just right for you and some will make you shudder. We're all taking different routes to the same destination, so there really isn't one path to publication.

If you're up for the journey, or are just plain curious about what we have to say, stick around and become part of Rose's extended network of writing friends. We're a support group to help you learn to live with your obsession, and maybe new friends to replace the ones that abandoned you to the madness! ~Delilah

(reprinted with permission from