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.