Monday, November 28, 2011

Characters Who Inspire, Tuna Fish Sandwiches, and Not Giving Up by Lori Lebonde

How many times have you considered tossing in the towel on a manuscript you know is good but you’re sick of working on it? Or maybe it’s close but just not coming together like it should, so you shove it away, hoping it will age well, like fine wine?

Or do you shudder at the idea of revising, editing, and proofreading your manuscript as many as seventy-two times? (Yes, that’s the latest statistic I’ve heard from successful, multi-pubbed authors.) Perfecting your craft and fine-tuning your manuscript is tough work and not for the faint of heart.

So what should you do?

Take a leaf out of your own book and do what your characters do: they persevere. They don’t give up.

When your characters confront external obstacles, do they shrug and walk away? No. When their goals are too distant to grasp, do your characters decide those goals aren’t really worth the effort after all? Unlikely. When your characters’ motivations evolve and reshape their thoughts and actions in scary or unfamiliar ways, do they race back to their comfort zones—and stay there? No—not if your plot and character arcs progress properly.

Or what about the young men on my local high school football team, which was undefeated…until yesterday? Those boys worked hard seven days a week, often in the cold and pouring rain, to finish their season only one game away from the state championship—a new record for our town. The student fans, parents, and community members who attended every game (sometimes driving hours each way and usually filling the visitors’ stands more than the home team stands were) were so supportive of those boys that newspaper articles mentioned the team’s “twelfth man on the field” and its impact on the team’s success and morale. One fan’s story sticks in my mind: She didn’t have a son on the team, yet she made a protein-packed tuna fish sandwich every week for the team’s running back—despite being at her mother’s side nearly 24/7 for weeks following the mother’s October heart attack and subsequent bypass surgery. Some weeks the woman used high-end tuna, or more expensive bread, or fat-free mayonnaise, all in an effort to keep the sandwich interesting and to give the player even a tiny edge—or so she said. In reality, she demonstrated and reciprocated the boys’ inspiring commitment to their goals, and overcame roadblocks and challenges and turmoil.

So where do these football players and fans—and your own book’s characters—draw their strength to trudge onward, despite the obstacles, the big goals, and the unknown path to the end zone—or the happily ever after?

I don’t know, actually, where the real-life characters draw their strength from. It’s different for each of us, I bet. But your fictional characters get their determination from you. You created them and festooned them with their traits—good and bad—and imbued them with appropriate goals, motivations, and conflicts. You’ve given birth to them. They’re yours. And, once born, they will always exist.

You can use them to help inspire yourself—to persevere, to not give up, to forge ahead, and to tackle the obstacles, including the internal ones. You’ve created those characters and guided them to a happily ever after, so you have it in you to do the same for yourself and finish your manuscript. Right?

And along the way, eat a tuna fish sandwich or two.

By Lori LeBonde
Scarlet Rose Editor

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Nano Ending Coming Soon!

To all of you hard at work on a project for Nano - please keep going.  You can do it.  To keep you motivated here's a couple quotes from Mark Twain on writing:

My works are like water. The works of great masters are like wine; but everyone drinks water.

Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out th wqrong words.

We write frankly and fearlessly but then we "modify" before we print.

Experience is an author's most valuable asset; experience is the thing that puts the muscle and the breath and the warm blood into the book he writes.

Now stop reading blogs and go finish your project.  November 30 is only a week away!


Monday, November 21, 2011

What are you looking for as a Publisher

What are you looking for?
That’s a question I hear a great deal in my role as managing editor of the historical division.  Well the truth is pretty simple.  We’re looking for a well written romance set against an historical back drop with historically accurate details, a compelling conflict, and a satisfying happily ever after ending.
Usually that answer causes some glazing over of eyes.  Well of course we’re looking for all that, and the historical details aside, that’s pretty much what TWRP is looking for overall.  So allow me to answer a slightly different version of that question.
What aren’t you looking for?
I’m so glad you asked! J
While we never like to say never, there are some plots that are always popular (marriage of convenience, best friends falling in love) and others that have been “done” so much that readers (and, admittedly, editors) tire of them.
Heroine in  disguise.  It’s been said that more than 100 women donned uniforms and marched off to fight during the Civil War…  we’ve seen submissions for each and every one of them L . It’s not that we haven’t published some of these stories with great success and it’s not that we don’t enjoy or appreciate them, but they’re difficult to make work no matter the genre.  Yes some big name authors have used this plot device many times over  but I’d advise anyone interested in submitting such a story to one of our historical lines to please, please make sure you’ve found a fresh, unique approach to telling it.  We’re pretty tired of the same twists that particular plot entails.
The female doctor.  Again, we’ve published a lot of these.  And again, history tells us there were not a lot of female doctors until the mid 20th century.  In the US, nursing as a profession wasn’t even thought of until mid-Civil War, so it’s understandable that authors are drawn to this plot device to show caring, nurturing  heroines.   But we see queries almost daily where the heroine wants to buck the constraints of society by becoming a physician.  I’d like to challenge our authors to find another way to show how strong  and brave your heroine’s are.  She can still be a healer and she can still help others... but unless you’ve come up with something truly unique and new….this one has been done to death.
Weak conflict.  We say this all the time, but it really is what makes the difference between a great read and a mediocre one.  If your hero and heroine’s conflict can be resolved with a simple conversation “by the way, I gave birth to your child five years ago” or “I didn’t really sleep with Peggy Sue” then you have weak conflict.  Give me external reasons to keep these two apart as well as internal.  Maybe she can never love a gunfighter, maybe he’s got a death sentence hanging over his head.  Keep me turning those pages to find out how they’re going to work things out and stay together.
It’s a miracle!  Speaking of conflict resolution…If your heroine can’t have children and refuses to marry the hero because he wants a large family, don’t have her miraculously turn up pregnant on page 351.  If the hero is dead set against marriage and children because his last wife died in childbirth and he blames himself , don’t have him change his mind out of the blue on the second to last page without some life altering event to explain the change of heart. We all love happy endings but please make them satisfying. And if you have kept the reader guessing for 350 pages, don’t insult her intelligence by eliminating the conflict just because you’re closing in on 90k words and want to wrap things up.
The first draft.   If your writing is full of passive voice, telling rather than showing,  abrupt PV shifts and talking heads (dialogue with no layers of detail, emotion and/or setting),  brush up on your mechanics before submitting.  We know how excited you are to have finished your baby, but the time to polish is before submitting .  Don’t make the mistake of thinking the editors will tell you what you need to work on; that’s what critique partners are for.  We see such a high volume of submissions and can only publish the cream of the crop.  You’ll drastically increase your chances if you submit a highly polished MS.  Remember, there is no such thing as good writing…. only good rewriting!
And last but not least….
I have no clue, I just submitted my story to a bunch of places.    It is a waste of both author and editor time when we receive a submission that doesn’t fall within our guidelines.  If you don’t know whether or not your story fits the romance mold, find out before submitting.  And if you aren’t sure what the word count limit is for the line you’re targeting, please double check.  If you’re over word count, the time to trim is before you submit.  I can assure you that the editor will not read your entire 150k MS and tell you what scenes to cut.  Instead you will receive a friendly note suggesting you trim and resubmit.
So let me reiterate that we’re looking for well written, historically accurate romance… but there are a few plot twists  we’ve seen a little too much of lately.  Short stories are a hot with readers right now (have you heard about our new Love Letters series? See below for the guidelines) and holiday themed stories rae always a treat since we see so few.
Wishing you all an enjoyable holiday season and lots of writing time in the new year!
News of an arranged marriage
Dear John letters
Unexpected inheritance
Mail order bride
Death of a loved one
We regret to inform you
Sometimes… a letter changes everything.
In the historical series Love Letters a character’s life is forever changed by the receipt of a letter, Let your imagination run wild as you consider what life-altering news would be in your hero or heroine’s envelope and how it would lead to the love of a lifetime.
Stories must be historically accurate and suited to one of the following lines: American Rose, Cactus Rose, English Tea Rose, Vintage Rose. Story length should range between 20,000-25,000 words. The letter must occur within the first three pages of the story.

Please follow the general submission guidelines on the website for formatting and submit through the “Love Letters Series” should appear in the subject line, as well as your title.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving and writing Romance

Lara Parker
BLack Rose Editor

This being my first blog post I couldn’t come up with anything to write about, even started to fret since my date was fast approaching. Then it dawned on me early one morning while I sat on the couch with my two dogs and a fire roaring in the fireplace (yes, even us Floridians build fires when it’s chilly outside)…November, the month of giving thanks.
Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday you see a lot of stories centered around but maybe that should change, at least perhaps I should consider it since I have so much to be thankful for.  In these times of commercialism (Christmas decorations were out at Target one day after Halloween decoration displays were revealed in late September) I wonder if folks, including myself, really appreciate what Thanksgiving is all about. Giving thanks for the good things in life, being thankful that the Mayflower and her sisters traveled long tedious miles to bring settlers to this great country, even if it is in a shambles at the moment.
So while I know this post is really short, I am thankful I could write it and I am anxious to see if I have any Thanksgiving themed stories come across my desk next year (even though I edit for Black Rose, it’s possible to have a shapeshifting settler with a zombie turkey sidekick, right?). I hope you count your blessings each day and are thankful for your family or friends, that great job or just for the air in your lungs. 
Until next time,

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Veterans Day

Two of these handsome Marines (the ones on either end) are from Adams Basin and I've known both of them since they were literally born.  Thankfully they are all home this year safe and sound having served in Afghanistan all last year.

Happy Veterans Day to all of you who have served our country and our gratitude to the families who stayed behind and worried and loved you.  All of you deserve this day of thanks and I sincerely hope you feel the love of those of us who you so bravely protected.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The First Five Pages

I love this time of year. The days are getting shorter, leaves are falling, and the holidays are just around the corner. Thanksgiving and Christmas are my favorite celebrations. I began working at The Wild Rose Press around this time several years ago. My name is Anne Seymour, and I currently work as an editor on the Crimson Rose line. I always love a good mystery, especially when the hero is as hot as the suspense.

The one aspect, in my opinion, that marks the difference between just a manuscript and a GREAT MANUSCRIPT is THE FIRST FIVE PAGES. During this critical point in a story, the author must pull the reader in and hook their interest, or the reader will become apathetic toward the characters—and probably not finish reading the book.

Sounds shocking, right? How can an author open a grand story, introduce sympathetic characters and evil villains, begin the action and conflict, but yet confine all above mentioned aspects to a mere FIVE PAGES? An insurmountable task one might say, right? But maybe not; let’s discuss the basics now.

First, we must unlearn all that we have learned previously about writing. I studied all the great works in Literature during college. James Fennimore Cooper, Herman Melville, Henry James, etc. wrote stories in omniscient point of view employing the writing method of “telling” the action instead of “showing” it. This technique removes the reader from the action of the story instead of insisting the reader to take part with the characters in the act. A reader must be immersed in the action and emotionally involved with the characters by the end of the fifth page of a story. Make the reader unable to do anything but participate with your characters.

Next, find an opening line that will grab attention. For example, “Take it easy. It’s not like I’m going anywhere.” Sunny jerked her arms back hoping to slow the pace of the large-framed detective who continued to drag her from the bar with unwavering force. “Calm down, Wildcat. You’re only making it harder on yourself.” He didn’t slow his stride, or ease the firm grasp he had on her arm as he walked beside her.” In this example, (Some Like It In Handcuffs by Christine Warner—coming soon from The Wild Rose Press) the author introduces the hero and heroine within the first four sentences while adding humor and sexual tension. The reader is hooked now, determined to learn more and join the story.

Finally, make sure to include ONLY necessary information at this time. The first five pages are not for any of the following:

n Back-story: while back-story will be needed in any novel, it should never appear in the first five pages! Use back-story sparingly and only when needed throughout the novel, but never allow it to be longer than a few paragraphs at a time.

n Secondary Characters: Introduce these characters later in the story. Reserve the main characters (hero, heroine, & villain (if there is one)) for the beginning.

n Descriptive or Non-Action Scenes: Describe the setting later. The first five pages should not be filled with paragraphs of how beautiful the sky, trees and meadows are. Also, no Non-Action scenes! Start with a fight scene, a murder, etc. Grab attention.

While this is a brief overview, I hope I’ve mentioned good points to consider. If any are interested in another more in-depth discussion, please comment and let me know. I would be happy to offer another blog discussing this further. Until then, enjoy the season and keep writing!

Anne Seymour