Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Same, Only Different

My best writing buddy spent this past week writing blurb copy, that all-important couple of paragraphs that you can read on Amazon about what to expect from the book. There are posts all over the internet on what needs to be included and in what order, and writing blurb copy has evolved into a very fine art form which can make or break a book. If you're published via the traditional route, you submit a version of your blurb and then the publisher changes it to make it better. If you're self-published, you're pretty much on your own.

My buddy asked for my help with writing her blurb. Rather than massage her work, I wrote another version of it, since I've read the book already. She sent both versions to her editor and didn't tell the woman which was hers and which was mine. This editor has proofed every book written by my buddy and had no problem deducing which version was hers. We had written essentially the same thing, only different. Each version had strengths and drawbacks, so the final version will probably be a mash-up of the two, but it brought home some points about writing that are usually lurking in the background.

One: You can give a room full of writers the same characters, the same plot points, the same set of circumstances, and you'll get as many different versions as there are people in the room. They're all writing the same thing, but the difference comes in the style, the voice, the backgrounds of the authors.

Two: Beginning authors often don't know what it means when an agent or editor says they like their voice. (Or don't like it, heaven forbid!) Debut authors who hit the big time right out of the gate know intrinsically what their voice is. The rest of us have to work at it. It's the way we write, if we have more dialogue than we do description, if we have a distinct pace, if a sense of humor is evident, if we've taken a usual situation and turned it on its ear. If we've written the same thing, only somehow made it different.

Three: There are only so many tropes in writing romance: friends to lovers, second chances, beauty and the beast, secret baby, etc. The difference between a mediocre work and one that truly shines is to take a trope and make it different.

While I'm waiting to see the final version of the blurb, I'm also working on my next manuscript–a mail-order brides book. There's a trope that's been done to death, but readers seem to love reading about them, so I thought I'd give it a go, since I like to write about American history and I have a ton of books about Covered Wagon Women. Now, my trick is to take a well-loved trope and write something that's the same, only different. Maybe I'll add a dog.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Making Every Word Count

You'd think if you're writing a book that's 70,000 to 85,000 words that not every single one would matter. You as an author can let some things slide. Just telling the story is hard enough without dissecting every sentence and every paragraph.

And you'd be wrong.

I took the first chapter of the first draft of my newest endeavor to a full-day workshop yesterday, taught by Margie Lawson. The workshop was divided into parts, the first being Power Openings. She offered twenty points to check out in your opening. Things like: Is the first line your POV character's line? Uh, no. The story's about one of three sisters who heads west as a mail-order bride, but my first sentence has all three in it. Had all three in it. The reader couldn't tell who the story will be about. I hauled out my red pen and sliced through the first paragraph.

Then, we moved on to Power words. This part of the workshop was fun, since we had to exchange our work with another at the table and circle the power words in their work. Power words heighten the emotion, the tension. The words circled in my first paragraph were as follows: graves, parents, graveyard, fresh mounds. Immediately, you, the reader, know what's going on. And how this situation would affect the POV character.

In the afternoon, we moved on to Rhetorical Devices. Rhetorical Devices are essentially playing with words for a greater impact. I just used one of Margie's Top 20 by using the two word description at the end of one sentence and then at the start of the very next one. There are 19 other ones as well, some of which give my current editor fits. Such is the life of an author.

The last segment was about character descriptions. I thought I had gotten pretty good at describing my characters by now. I no longer stop the action and provide a head-to-toe description. But I do tend to use and reuse the same types of descriptive words to signal hair color, lip color, dimples, freckles, etc.
I need to liven things up without resorting to purple prose. If you think that's a fine line, you're absolutely right. It's what moves a book from the mid-list to the New York Times list.

I'm about 20,000 words into this story and thought it was moving along at a good clip. But I think, rather than getting the story down in a flash format from start to finish, I need to go back over these 20,000 and examine every word, every sentence, every paragraph, and use what I learned in the workshop. If I can apply what I learned to this part, and make every word count, maybe it'll become second nature to me when I get back to the story line.

At least that's the plan.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Cover Reveal for Lady Charlotte's Christmas Vigil

Cover Reveal!

One of the most beautiful covers I've seen in the past few years belongs to my friend Caroline Warfield’s 2017 Christmas Novella and comes with the announcement that the book is available for pre-order from various retailers.

Love is the best medicine and the sweetest things in life are worth the wait, especially at Christmastime in Venice for a stranded English Lady and a dedicated doctor.

About the Book

 Lady Charlotte Tyree clings to one dream—to see the splendor of Rome before settling for life as the spinster sister of an earl. But now her feckless brother forces her to wait again, stranded in Venice when he falls ill, halfway to the place of her dreams. She finds the city damp, moldy, and riddled with disease.

As a physician, Salvatore Caresini well knows the danger of putrid fever. He lost his young wife to it, leaving him alone to care for their rambunctious children. He isn’t about to let the lovely English lady risk her life nursing her brother.

But Christmas is coming, that season of miracles, and with it, perhaps, lessons for two lonely people: that love heals the deepest wounds and sometimes the deepest dreams aren’t what we expect.

About the Author

Traveler, poet, librarian, technology manager—award winning and Amazon best-selling author Caroline Warfield has been many things (even a nun), but above all she is a romantic. Having retired to the urban wilds of eastern Pennsylvania, she reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows where she lets her characters lead her to adventures while she nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart. She is enamored of history, owls, and gardens (but not the actual act of gardening). She is also a regular contributor to History Imagined, a blog at the intersection of history and fiction, and (on a much lighter note) The TeatimeTattler, a blog in the shape of a fictional nineteenth century gossip rag.
Her current series, Children of Empire, set in the late Georgian/early Victorian period, focuses on three cousins, driven apart by lies and deceit, who must find their way back from the distant reaches of the empire.
Click here to find out more.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Ghostwriting As An Income Stream

For the past month or so, I've been involved in a ghostwriting project. I finished a 30,000 word Regency novella for them on Wednesday of this past week. Why, you may ask, did I want to do it?

There are several reasons, actually, other than the fact the pay isn't too bad.

First, writing for the Regency market is a fairly new experience for me, so anything I can write in that vein helps me in my own endeavors.

Second, I look at the work as if it were a foster child. I nurture and care for it while it's in my possession, but once it's ready, I pat it on the behind and let it go.

Third, my own work, anything I put my name on, goes through a very rigid set of edits and rewrites, which I don't need to do with these works.

Fourth, I don't have to promote the work, thereby saving me time and money. I don't obsess over sales numbers, try to figure out where to get the best bang for my advertising dollar, I don't need to chase down reviews, or any of the other things that come with promoting my own work. I don't know what happens to it after I let it go.

Last, I'm not obligated to give input on a cover, or to pay for it.

I can't say I do it with no regret, despite all these benefits. I get invested in the characters and the story lines and do wish I could keep them for myself. I hate working under a deadline, too, although I do it a lot.

But then, I don't have to wait six months for a royalty payment on books that were sold nine months to a year earlier. I get paid as I go, each time I turn in 10,000 words, and it shows up in my bank account within ten days. Will I do it again? Maybe not right away, but sure, I'll do it.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Making Headway

We authors know not every manuscript is created equal. Sometimes the big Aha moment hits you like a ton of bricks and your fingers itch for paper and pen before you forget your brilliance. Sometimes you create an outline and follow it in a linear fashion from start to finish, rarely getting sidetracked. And sometimes the great idea comes out all squishy.

The latter scenario is what happened to me with my most recent one. It took me five painful months to pound this squishy little idea into some kind of story line. I discussed the plot with friends and fellow authors, listened to their ideas for how to make it a better story, and pounded some more. I wrote 20,000 words before I realized it wouldn't work the way I had it laid out, so I ripped off the head and began a painful cut and paste. I revised, added, deleted, revised, added and revised some more. And what did I end up with?

I ended up with a logical story. I ended up with characters I could fall in love with and a plot full of surprises. My heroine is probably the strongest one I've ever written and my tortured hero has every right to turn his back on a relationship until he finds the one right woman for him.

So what came of the story? After torturing my every waking moment for the past five months, and taking the advice of my three loyal beta readers, I am pleased to say the manuscript was accepted for publication yesterday! It probably won't see daylight until early 2018, but that's okay. At least I know this one did its best to beat me down but I survived the mess and came out on the other end a better writer.

After being published for five years now, and having seventeen books to my credit, I still learn something new every single day about the craft of writing. To those who have been working on the same manuscript for years, trying for perfection, I can tell you it will never happen. The best thing to do is to send it out to agents and publishers to get their feedback, enter contest after contest and listen to the advice of the judges, continue to hone your craft, but let your work be seen. Every step is a milestone, every published book is a learning experience and every squishy little germ of an idea needs to be explored.

So what kind of headway will you make this week?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Some Down Time

I'm well aware that on one hand, I have the most fortunate of circumstances for being an author. I don't have a partner who pops his head into my office just when the words start flowing really well. Nor do I have children to chauffeur around to various activities. And I don't need to get up each morning and head out to a job where I spend my time and most of my mental faculties for the day.

But on the other hand, there is a down side to having this wide expanse of writing time. I never run out of ideas for stories, and usually have three or four projects in various stages of development going at all times. I can stay in my office for six hours at a stretch before coming out of the cave and blinking at the sunlight. I forget there is a world outside of what's in my head. Sometimes (gasp!) I even forget to eat.

Last week, I spoke about the projects I had going on simultaneously. The editing got done first and sent back. The ghostwriting job got shipped off yesterday and now I must wait for payment before starting the next part. And the manuscript I've been working on is in the hands of my beta readers, so I want to wait for their input before I get back to it. So now what?

How about some down time?

There are movies to see, road trips to take, long walks with Mary, books to read. It seems I can't do just one thing at a time. So I'll check the movie times, check the weather and check on what nearby attractions I can get to, what book I want to delve into and decide what to do first, second, third and fourth.

Then, I'll get back to work. How about you? What do you do when you get some free time?

Sunday, August 6, 2017

What Comes First

I constantly marvel at how authors who have day jobs, or children, manage to get any writing done. I've retired from the 9 to 5 scene, and now that Sis has moved out, I only have my dog depending on me, so it should be a piece of cake for me to get my work done, right?


I'm currently juggling three jobs at the same time–my current WIP, edits for the contemporary, and my ghostwriting job. So which do I tackle first? The one that's bothering me most? The one that's the most pleasant? The one that will pay me? Work on all three simultaneously? 

My method used to be quite simple. When I lay in bed at night, which project is it that I think about? If the project is keeping me from getting to sleep, that's the one that needs taken care of first. But, of course, that's not the case with my current situation. I'm constantly thinking about each of the projects, but from different perspectives. So the best approach for me right now is to work on them all at the same time. Since they are totally different in terms of era, genre and tone, I won't be mixing story lines, so I should be okay there. But I won't get a good night's sleep until at least one of these is off my plate and onto someone else's. 

So tell me–what's your method of dealing with multiple projects?