Monday, October 20, 2014

Don’t Be Stingy With Setting Details

One problem I see in many submissions to the Sweetheart line is the scant amount of details used to describe setting. Often, I’ve read several pages into chapter one and haven’t seen the name of a city mentioned (even if the city is invented) or a geographic region, or worse—any clues as to the time of day or the weather conditions.

Not only do the details help the reader get a sense of where these people are, but the details allow the author to create the backdrop for the action. If the author doesn’t describe the place where the characters are interacting, then the reader will do it by whatever is available. They might look for clues in how the characters talk or if the heroine orders a diet pop (Midwest) or the hero grabs a chili dog from a street vendor (big city) or they walk a couple blocks downtown to a corner where several food trucks are parked (seen this in California).

But that’s not the readers’ job—that’s the responsibility of the author. Look at the following two paragraphs and see what a difference the inclusion of a few details makes in the creation of mental images.

Example 1: Sue Branford adjusted the strap of her messenger bag, crossed the street, and turned down the block. She had to get to the newspaper office and get her story submitted within the hour. The air was hot and she squinted at the sky.

Example 2: The seconds ticked down on the traffic light, and Sue Branford adjusted the strap of her messenger bag while balancing on the edge of the curb. As soon as she spotted the ‘walk’ sign flashing, she dodged around the cab straddling the crosswalk, slammed a hand on the trunk, and then ignored the cabbie’s long blasted honk and taunt as she dashed for the corner. The offices of The Riverdale Gazette were only two blocks away but felt like ten in this 90 degree heat, and her deadline was less than an hour away. Meeting that would be tight.

Obviously, the second paragraph is longer and provides more details, specific ones, which allow the reader to start building the scene in his or her head. Look at the items included and what can be derived from them:

Traffic light (modern type)
Balancing on curb, dodging around cab (shows impatience in character)
Cab (not a small town)
Big enough city that cabbies honk & yell taunts (sorry to decent cab drivers)
Name of newspaper (hints at fictional town)
High heat (probably summer time)
Tight deadline (either her story is long, or maybe controversial and will need fact-checking)

As an editor, I’m looking for stories that get me right into the action but also give me a feel for where the story occurs. I don’t want to be on the fifth or sixth page, following along as the heroine and hero have a cute meet with witty banter only to learn the story takes place on Boston Commons in June and they should have had all sorts of pedestrians, bicyclists, skaters, etc. around them and birds chittering in and out of the nearby gardens and ponds, but none of that is included. Such a lost opportunity, and more than likely, a rejection.

NOTE: the examples are not from a submitted query or manuscript, but of my own creation. And the details on Boston Commons were collected from a Google search in less than 15 seconds.

I love to see comments of your preference for setting details.

Leanne Morgena
Senior Editor, Sweetheart Rose line

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Wild Rose Press Makes a Splash at Moonlight & Magnolias

For the first time, The Wild Rose Press had a presence at Georgia Romance Writers’ Moonlight &

Magnolias annual conference. And they made quite an impression.

Rhonda and RJ came down and took the conference by storm. Rhonda had two days of back-to-back meetings with authors at the Editor & Agent appointments. She also conducted a workshop called, “Ten Ways to Lose an Editor,” and was featured on two Editor and/Agent Q&A panels. RJ was on hand to answer the many technical questions that inevitably come up about publication.

In addition, The Wild Rose Press sponsored our conference bags and they were amazing. Of course, Rhonda lamented that they weren’t pink, but they were green (my favorite color). The bags were very sturdy and I will definitely be hanging on to mine.    

The first thing Rhonda did Friday morning at breakfast on Day 1 of the conference, was to go around to each table and introduce herself. Sounds simple, but no one has ever done that in the history of our chapter conferences as long as I have been attending. That gesture endeared her to the conferees right away and everyone commented on how personable and approachable she was and the fact that they loved the conference bags.

I think their participation did a lot to enhance The Wild Rose Press brand. I know a lot of people were excited about submitting to The Wild Rose Press.  

Personally, I had only communicated by email to Rhonda and RJ, and I finally got a chance to meet them in person. That makes all the difference, putting a name to a face and cementing relationships.
Rhonda and RJ and their authors went to dinner the night before the conference. Authors attending included Melissa Klein, Robin Weaver and Suzanne Rossi. We had an opportunity to meet each other and sit with Rhonda and RJ at different meals and events.

Perhaps the highlight of the weekend for me was the 2014 Maggie Awards for Excellence. I was nominated in the Published Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category for my TWRP humorous women’s fiction, Significant Others. Although I didn’t win, being a Maggie finalist was an honor. And Rhonda and RJ were on hand to share it. Thanks also to my wonderful editor, Nan Swanson.

We had great speakers throughout the weekend, ranging from Marie Force, Wendy Wax and Roni Loren and three days of craft workshops on a variety of topics. We also had an author signing for Literacy and I got to sign my new TWRP humorous women’s fiction, Stones.

Moonlight & Magnolias is always a great conference, but this year, because of the participation of Rhonda and RJ, it was even more memorable. If Rhonda or RJ are ever in your town, take the opportunity to meet with them. Better still, invite them to your local chapter conference or to present at a chapter meeting. They will make you proud to be a Wild Rose Press author.

By Marilyn Baron

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