Nov 24, 2011

Surviving Thanksgiving

I should probably have titled this something else, since this year Thanksgiving was a relative breeze unlike the ghosts of turkeydoomsdays-past. We did dinner in the evening, rather than at lunch, so there was all kinds of prep time for the eleven-million courses. It's 10:35pm, and the last guest just walked to the car.

Highlight of the evening: my nephew(who will be 4 in 3 months) stopped in front of Grandma #2.
     Grandma #2: You look awfully nice today. That shirt is sharp!

He can't grasp the concept of what it means that I am his aunt(he also thinks I'm his sister because I'm his Daddy's sister), but at 3 he's already got a firm understanding of sarcasm. That's my boy!

Nov 16, 2011

Plottin like a fool...

I love plotting. I love brainstorming, asking what if, finding links between the GMC of the H/H. But, the more I do it, the more frustrated I become by my tendency to be vague about some parts of the story. Vague as in, I have an undefined idea(like 'Pull wacky hijinx') which I never really put into many words because I feel that part of the story is golden and doesn't need plumbed in order to continue on with the plot. I guess this is the pantser part of my process.

Except, sometimes these undefined ideas I'm sure will work, just don't work.

With current WIP, there's been something bugging me about the setup and I couldn't figure out what it was. Last night, before bed, I focused on that bit of the storyline and tried to put into words what bothered me about it. I had no answers, just a feeling that something was off. After writing down what bugged me, I went to sleep. During the night, my brain apparently wrestled that bear to the ground, and when I woke up this morning the solution was my first thought after "I'm awake." I promptly wrote it down.

Later, after some errands and Real Life stuff, I went to put my new solution into my plot, and ... my whole plot FELL APART. It's all farked up now. On one hand, I'm glad that I've spent time dragging my feet instead of writing much more of it. To feel like I wasn't just being lazy or unmotivated, I'm telling myself that my subconscious knew I'd have to rework the entire darned plot to make it work, and that it hates discovery drafts--that's why it kept saying things like... YOU SHOULD READ THIS BEFORE WE WRITE MORE...

As much as I love plotting, I hate when my plots fall apart and I have to start over. New Voices entry rewind: starting tonight on plotjitsu V. 2.0.

Oct 29, 2011

Recommending Reads

So, at the suggestion of a friend here, I picked up a book by Zoe Archer. I thought it would have paranormal elements. It didn't, so it was basically a Historical... but I still totally loved it. (Thanks Annabeth!)

I light of this lovely exchange, I'm looking for other recommendations! What's your favorite book? Who's your favorite author? Heck, even favorite fictional character? What do you like about them? They needn't be romances, or have romantic elements, though I do like romance I do read outside the genre :) (Total Michael Crichton fan...)

Disclaimer: I really don't like 1st person. It usually makes me want to kick puppies. Thus, though I am a True Blood fan, I dislike the Sookie books or Twilight.

Oct 19, 2011

Dreaming Stories

I dream stories. Always. The stories might be glimpses at my own special brand of insanity, but there's always a plot. There's always a goal, this relates to that(action and consequence), and there are themes. Themes that seem to have nothing to do with my daily life. For years, it's been a running thing with my family and friends, me telling my dreams. Frequently they are answered with: I would watch that or I would read that. A decade ago, when the idea that I could ever write was just a dyslexic fantasy, I ignored it every time someone suggested I write the dream-story down.

My husband, during pre-husband days, harangued me into making a character on the roleplaying game where he played. I didn't want to. I was terrified. Everyone would know I was a bad writer. No one would want to play with me. I made him make the character, and every now and then I would stumble onto the grid, run into someone, type a ridiculously bad sentence, and then flee. I did this until some storyline happened I couldn't bear not being part of, and that one story-arc got me addicted to the whole thing. That's what got me started writing.

Over the next several years, I worked on my writing chops on online text-based RPGs, and didn't consider that I could be a writer. Not until the past 3-4 years did I give it serious thought. Then, my dreams became a way for me to try and build some platform of confidence that I was pursuing an entirely reachable goal. God, the Universe, my subconscious... whatever your moral compass is directed by... wanted me to be a storyteller. It had been giving me stories for years, so I could do this.

The natural progression was to begin writing romance -- that's what I read, after all. But I don't dream romance stories. I dream science fiction, almost entirely. Aliens? Yup. Psychic phenomena? Yep. But I also dream anthropological, alternate-universe, society-based science fiction. If my whateveryoubelieve-spiritual-divining-rod gives me stories, and I use that fact as some kind of guidepost to assure myself I'm finally doing what I am supposed to be doing, shouldn't I be writing that kind of story?

Do you dream stories? Do you ever incorporate real dreams into your plots?

Oct 11, 2011

JUDGMENT DAY... DUN Dun dunnnn

So, the first round at New Voices has ended, and I am relieved(the list in a couple posts below is out of control!). About mid-week last week, I thought the number of entries was going to roughly match last year's, but the entries started pouring in the last three days. It took 3 weeks to get to 466 entries, and the last five days of the contest added a couple more than that total(some uploaded and were taken down just after closing bell).

  • 1090 first chapters uploaded, the rough equivalent of about 109 of the shorter length category romances

Currently, the judges/editors at Harlequin Mills&Boon are trying to cull 20 from the herd, and advance them to round two. The math on this is not pretty.
  • 1.8% of all entries will advance to round 2 -- or --
  • 1 in 55 chapters make round 2 (slightly less scary for some reason)

Those are not good odds. It's better than the lottery or being hit by lightning, but if you had a 1.8% chance of surviving an operation, you wouldn't sign up, yea?

Thankfully, there are other wins to take from the competition:
  • The comments. 
  • The chance to see the competition so you can decide if you're bringing your A-Game when you submit. 
  • The chance to learn from the mistakes of others. 
These are the 'thanks for playing' prizes(which is part of why I've been managing that list -- some folks have gotten a wealth of comments, and some have not gotten any. Granted, most of those without are from the last 3 days of uploads, but still... everyone deserves feedback regardless of when they bellied up to the bar.)

The suspense is killing me. I didn't call any of the semi-finalists last year, and when I read them some of them were actually quite surprising to me... so I'm curious to see if my eye has been honed at all, and also to see what currently is catching the editor's attention.

The list goes live Thursday, and then I will return to this WIP on a more normal schedule, and hopefully to posting regularly. It's about time for the Spiderpocalypse report--the warmer weather has kept them mostly out of sight so far, I think. but around Halloween when it always gets quite cold, they'll be inside. A flipping beetle got into my room the other night and about drove the cat crazy(which was totally fun), so: flipping beetles seek warmer accommodations before spiders do -- bless their little clumsy hearts.

Oct 3, 2011

Genre Mashups

So, I've been gone(ish) for a week or two, constantly updating one post with New Voices information, but doing very little else here.

Today, I'm back(ish). And I have absolutely no insights to give or share, instead I have some big crunchy questions:

Aside from the whole, 'we don't know what to catalog this manuscript as because it crosses genres...' thing(which seems to be more bookstore related and maybe not such a big deal now that there's so much self-pub/epub), is there any reason NOT to storm ahead and from the outset determined to write across a couple-three genres?

Are there any rules for crossing genres? Any you feel are done to death? I know that when they go poorly, they REALLY go poorly... but are there guidelines to doing it well?

I asked Amazon, and they had no craft books to offer me on the subject. Instead they were all... hey look at THAT book over there, isn't it shiny? So I'm askin' you fine people!

Sep 19, 2011

Writing Lingo for New Writers

Some of my fellow NV peeps have been confused by the terminology often used in the comments on their stories. This is not a comprehensive list of the terms/shorthand writers use in critique, but should give a quick and dirty explanation for the more common ones that have been causing confusion.

Backstory: Backstory is anything that has happened to a character that informs their way of thinking/emotions regarding what is going on in the present action.
  • Example: Your heroine was once bitten by a dog, or witnessed someone getting mauled by a Rottweiler. She developed a healthy and very understandable fear of dogs. Only now, twenty years later, she's losing her vision and needs the aid of a seeing-eye dog to keep her independence. That fear of dogs is going to inform how she reacts to the new seeing-eye dog. Those things that happened in the past and caused this fear are her backstory.
If it happened in the past, but it's very important to understanding what is going on with the character's current emotional/mental state(must be directly linked to the scene at hand), it needs mentioning.(See also: Info-dump)

Cliché: Generally these are common(and loved) conventions(or tropes) to any particular genre. But with repetition, they can get old--familiarity breeding contempt and all that. A stamp of originality or an unexpected twist can breathe new life into old conventions. Cinderella with her wicked step-sisters and step mother could be called a cliche, but if you put a twist on it(like a CinderFella) it breaks from expectation and becomes something new. Heroine in danger, hero lawman comes to protect her is a common trope in certain subgenres--you could make it new by making the Heroine coming to protect the hero. Unexpected twists derail a trope from becoming a cliche.

Conflict: There's oodles of stuff online and in books about conflict, so just a word: There are two kinds: internal and external. External is physical, Internal is emotional. Both the heroine and hero need internal conflict, ideally their conflicts should interact so that they propel the story. External conflict is usually what forces them to continue interacting, and ideally will be something that futzes with their internal conflicts. 

Cute-meet: Okay, this is one I'm not entirely certain about! It refers to the way the H/H meet at the start of the book, but I think negative sentiment gets attached to cute meetings when the meeting is coincidental as well. I'm not entirely sure about that, but that's what my gut says. But my gut also says pickles and pizza are AWESOME together, and people flail a bit when I say this usually so your cute-meet mileage may vary. 

Erotic romance vs Erotica: Erotic-anything is explicit, no metaphors, writing. Naughty stories that could set an eReader on fire. Erotica does this without emotion/connection/romance. Erotic romance does it within the confines of a romantic story/situation, with or without the implication of an HEA.

HEA: Happily Ever After, the long walk off into the sunset expected at the end of most romance. Used to mean marriage, but it can just be a committed relationship now, with or without the bouquet-tossing. 

Head-hopping: This refers to switching from the POV of one character to another throughout a scene. There are different arguments regarding how frequently you can change POV without it becoming jarring to the reader. To some, one POV per scene, that's it. To others, it's okay to switch off while in the same scene. It's all in the execution, but it's probably not something you want to overuse. When you change POV from one character to another, make sure that the change gets onto the page in an obvious way, so the reader doesn't get confused as to who is speaking/thinking at any time. 

Info-dump: Info-dump is shorthand for a big blob of text relating to the past that interrupts the current scene. In order to keep the current scene from becoming a flashback, or--referring the example above--from becoming the story of the genesis of her fear, those backstory references need to be very small. A sentence here, a sentence there, enough to clue the reader into something going on, but not so much that it overshadows current action. Besides, if your character knows all about something that happened to her in the past, when she thinks about it, she's not going to go through the whole memory, blow-by-blow. She's going to mentally reference it in a handful of words, a long phrase, a sentence... and then get right back to what she has to actively deal with in the current scene. 

POV: Stands for Point of View. This is used in two ways. One can simply mean which character something is being viewed from: Who's POV is this, Jack's or Jills? The second way deals with narrative style. Since those explanations are very long, I'm doing only a brief explanation and a link to Wikipedia for more information.
  • 1st person POV: The main character is the narrator, and instead of all he/she pronouns, I/me is used. Traditionally, this type of narrative is limited to one character throughout the novel, however there is another type that alternates between different characters.
  • 2nd person POV: This method is infrequently used. It is the equivalent of the narrator telling the reader her own story. So instead of I/me used in first person, You is the primary pronoun(unless speaking of other characters--they'll still be he/she). I can only think of one example of 2nd person--the Choose Your Own Adventure books for children rely on 2nd person. So, I suppose any adult interactive fiction would probably also do so, but I haven't actually read any.
  • 3rd person POV: There are a few kinds of 3rd person POV, but the basic tenant is some narrator is telling a story about others. The pronouns are He/She, not I/me(1st), not You(2nd). Most romance is written 3rd person limited, which allows you to experience a scene, or a sequence of action, through the eyes of one character at a time. That character can only feel/think her own emotions/thoughts. Other characters actions/expressions are passed through the filter of your POV character. The POV usually swaps back and forth between the hero and heroine in contemporary romance(see also: head-hopping)
WIP: Work In Progress - Unfinished manuscript you're working on.

That's all I got right now, hope it helps! If you are confused by a term, there are dozens of sites out there you should be able to find at least a definition, but if you have further questions, I'm happy to explain(if I know!) or have anyone answer in comments.

Sep 17, 2011

New Voices entries needin love(Final update)

I am a total nerd, so I searched the entries for those that haven't any comments left on them, a handy-dandy reference for those who want to spread the love. Due to the length of the list, I did go ahead and drop it down to just those who don't have any comments.

After the jump at the end,  I'm leaving up a list of those who would like folks to stop by and comment on their chapters! If you want added to the list, drop in the comments and I'll toss it up there in clickable link format.
List(those with NO comments), current as of about 7pm EST 10-15-11

  1. Haunted Love
  2. Blown to Smithereens
  3. Held Ransom in Revenge
  4. Star Attraction
  5. Her Brother's Fiancee
  6. Housekeeper to Wife
  7. Operation Sunset
  8. Bittersweet Revenge
  9. The Petal of a Hibiscus Flower
  10. The Cowboy's Second Chance
  11. Distractions
  12. Mixed Messages
  13. Destiny's Deadline
  14. Trust your Dreams
  15. Seduced by the Enemy
  16. Hidden emotions
  17. Meg
  18. The White Sandals
  19. Reversed Lovers
  20. The Last Thing They Were Looking For
  21. It's my Baby
  22. Sea Breeze
  23. The Bighearted Bigfoot
  24. Secret Diary of a Westminster Intern
  25. The Untimely Decision
  26. The close call
  27. The Whole Truth
  28. Safe Harbour
  29. No More Deception
  30. Once More Down the Garden Path
  31. The Cornish Spell
  32. West Coast Bride
  33. Gambling on Your Love
  34. Hollywood Hoax
  35. Testing Times
  36. A Dangerous Liaison
  37. An Ionian Amore
  38. Out on a Limb
  39. Striking a Chord
  40. Trishul Jeena
  41. Trails of Love
  42. Cruising towards forever
  43. Brighton Charade
  44. Ave Maria - The Tenor's Secret Daughter
  45. Falling for Sky
  46. Perfect Strangers
  47. Legally Undercover
  48. Pursuit of Radmilla
  49. Lessons in Matrimony
  50. Keeper of the Dragon Sword
  51. Trading in Love
  52. The Journey Home
  53. The Prize
  54. Surrogate Mother
  55. Her Own Worst Enemy
  56. Whipping Up a Storm in the Kitchen
  57. The Hesitant Bride
  58. Storm Warning
  59. The Italian's Tutor
  60. Urban Nights
  61. Symphony
  62. Cupcake Crisis
  63. Meg's Secret
  64. The Restless Tycoon
  65. A lesson in love
  66. A Smashing Affair
  67. Her best friend's wedding
  68. Diamond in a Pile of Stones
  69. Open Your Heart
  70. Unbridled love at Rowntree
  71. The De Marco Revenge
  72. Journey's End
  73. Verity
  74. Winter Storm
  75. Love on the Road
  76. Voyage to Remember
  77. Changing the Rules
  78. Restoring Relationships
  79. Beginnings
  80. The Way It Was Meant To Be
  81. Past.Present.Future.
  82. Desires of Her Heart
  83. Time to Heal
  84. The New Start
  85. Money can't buy you Love
  86. Strains of Doubt
  87. Cruise With Destiny
  88. Brianna's Dream
  89. The Ride of Their Lives
  90. Caria Mia
  91. The Apparition of Love
  92. All Roads Lead to Romance
  93. Crime of Passion
  94. FIFTY fifty
  95. The pain of loving
  96. Tall, Dark and Stormy
  97. Tragedy in Love
  98. Divine Seduction
  99. Mediterranean Maid of Honour
  100. The Portrait
  101. Where Wild Roses Grow
  102. Dark Heart
  103. Secret of Sunshine
  104. The Mysterious Boy
  105. Life in the Country
  106. Interior Accident
  107. After all this time
  108. The Matchmaker
  109. Broken Promises
  110. Her Boss's Playboy Son
  111. Upon a White Horse
  112. The Heiress's Arranged Marriage
  113. Meeting the Boys
  114. Outback Inheritance
  115. Something in your eyes
  116. Running away from love
  117. Weddings, Wealth and Tears
  118. That's Amore
  119. One Night in November
  120. The Unexpected Arrival
  121. To the Billionaire, a Bedmate
  122. Gentlemen, Place Your Bets
  123. The CEO's Proposal
  124. Sight Unseen
  125. The Owner of Wrathby Hall
  126. Throw me a lifeline
  127. Love in a Major Key
  128. The Painter's Masterpiece
  129. Mercy and Mercenary
  130. Jane
  131. Friends Love Benefits
  132. Taming the Wolf
  133. A Healthy Attraction
  134. A Passionate Proposal
  135. The Reluctant Santa
  136. November Snow
  137. The Bridesmaid's Midsummer Dream
  138. Outstanding: Finding Paradise
  139. The Payback Bride
    If I list anyone and they don't want to be on the list(some folks don't like comments, I've come to understand), email me and I will yank it off the list (amalieberlin at gmail dot com).

    Best of luck to everyone entering! And please remember to be constructive, tactful and kind when leaving comments. 

    Sep 14, 2011

    Writing Contests

    Officially going to pimp it out here: Mills&Boon is holding an X-Factor-style contest for New Voices in romance to join their ranks. If you are, or know an unpublished romance writer, send them to Top prize is an editor for a year, an IPAD2, and a publishing contract with M&B. And the finalists and semifinalists prizes are not shabby either.

    I've entered two contests now, NV2011 and ... er... the same contest last year, NV2010(and got no where with it). Last year there were a number of internet trolls who'd pop up and bomb your votes if your rating got too high, seems that they have either not found the site this year or something prevents them doing it. I've got a pretty good rating(at least compared to last year), and I've got some positive 'feel-good' comments, but it's day two and Obsessive Girl here keeps hitting refresh. WHAT'S THE RATING, ZOMG.

    Not entirely sure I should have entered first day(it's open for entering until 10-10-2011). I keep second-guessing myself, could I have made it better? Should I have done this, that, blah blah blah. And reading some of these chapters... good grief, blow me away. I'm all, Okay, this one's hook is fantastic, this one is amazing at portraying emotion or sensuality, and my entry is full of lines like 'if this were a brothel there'd be more stain-resistant fabric!' I think I actually hear polka music playing when I read it. *grumblemumble*

    Where was that insecure writer's support group again? :)

    Really though, do you/have you entered writing contests? Do you find the results helpful? Do you enter and then ignore until you hear back? What's the proper mindset for this? How do you *not* psyche yourself out during?

    Sep 11, 2011

    New Voices/Accountability Take II

    Saturday night, the wee hours, and I am somewhat pleased with my first chapter content. I still like the story. But, as usual, I think my writing skills rival those of a deranged chipmunk. Sane chipmunks obviously write *much* better, duh.

    My critique partner has been swallowed up by real life  So, going to go over it again, lament, possibly play a death dirge, and then send to a lovely romance-loving peer who has kindly offered to read it.

    Promised to have a version of it to her Sunday morning to read, and will keep to that schedule.

    Though I must confess, the confidence gremlins are running AMOK right now, the nasty little buggers.

    Current life goal: Do stuff to assure my next incarnation is a sane chipmunk. I'm not sure what stuff yet. Eating more nuts? Sing in high squeaky voice... climb trees. Omg, wikipedia just informed me that chipmunks are omnivores. Those suckers HUNT prey. If that's not just a Disney nightmare in the making, I don't know what is.

    Back to work. Don't want to waste these *awesome* insights on my blog when they could obviously make my WIP the BEST. STORY. EVER. *ahem*

    Sep 9, 2011

    Baby's first award

    Many thanks to the lovely Julie at What Else Is Possible?, who gave me a happy little welcome-newbie award.

    If you don't already follow, she's like a literary Batman(Sorry, had to say Batman, Batgirl is too lame) -- by day she's a mild-mannered librarian, and at night she morphs into a book-writing, animal-rights-supporting superstar. :)

    Sep 8, 2011


    The first couple chapters in a new project are extremely slow and un-fun for me. There are many reasons, which I will probably write about at a later date! This post is solely to give myself a public deadline so I stop doing silly, unproductive yet highly amusing procrastinationalatory(like make up words) stuff.

    Present Status:
    Word Count: 2500 (possibly extremely lame words)
    Plotjitsu: Lots of scene cards already written up so I *should* know
                  where to go if I can stop questioning and dithering.

    Goal 1: Rough draft of Chapter 1(approx 4K words) completed by the weekend
    Goal 2: Polished and uploaded by midnight EST Sept 15.

    BTW: If you are an unpublished romance writer and you want to give the competition a go, it's free, and information can be found at -- there is also a Facebook group page located here

    Sep 2, 2011

    Karen's BBQ Intro

    Welcome guests of Karen's BBQ.

    There's not a lot to see here yet. I started the blog about a year ago at the urging of my critique partner, but I didn't really  have anything to say at the time. So, it's sat, mostly unused, while I try to get my writing ducks in a row.

    About me: I'm trained as a graphic artist, which naturally means I neglect to work on design for my own web presence. I've been writing, nearly everyday, for over a decade. However, the 10 years or so, my writing was confined to the world of online roleplay--MUSHes, which I like to explain as interactive storytelling or RPG's with an entirely text-based interface. MUSHing helped me develop a love for writing, as well as my voice and style, but learning the whole storytelling process on your own aspect has occupied me most of the past year. My most loved genre is paranormal romance, but my voice is more irreverent than dark, so until they come out with paranormal romantic comedy, I am focusing my attention on contemporary romance.

    What you'll find here: Updates on WIPs, discussions about different aspects of writing(what works for me, attempts to find out what works for others), storytelling/writing as a severe dyslexic, documentaries(I'm such a  nerd), Ideas, questions about organization, Possibly some ranting about this or that, Idiotic things when the mood strikes, Books, Design.

    I've brought homemade blackberry marshmallows to the BBQ, and if you're interested in trying your hand at making them, my recipe is after the jump!

    Aug 31, 2011

    The Art of Critique

    After speaking with a friend tonight, I was left wondering just how many new writers know how to give and receive a critique. Since I've been told I have a different outlook on critiques, I'm gonna share! Starting with the assumption you've obtained a CP and are looking for a way to proceed. As always, your mileage may vary, but these are the basic concepts used in my art classes and writing exchanges.

    For the Critiqued:
    1. Prioritize what you want your CP to focus on. When you're first starting writing, hearing all the things you have yet to master is a fast route to overwhelmed quitting. Focus on a couple things for one critique. If you want your CP read for the story, not grammar or mechanics, say this at the outset. "My priorities for this critique are: conflict and characterization." This will focus your combined abilities to help you improve. If you don't know what needs improvement, ask her to focus on the biggest one or two things she thinks most need addressing.
    2. It's going to sting a little. Not as bad as you probably think, but we're all invested in our writing. It smarts a little to even consider there could possibly be something even slightly wrong with your masterpiece. Try to take a step back from that feeling and just listen. It's probably better if you have to ruminate on the information for a while before you want to talk about it. Take a day, take a few, and try to remember that you're part of a team invested in honing your mad skills. Team effort.
    3. Do not argue with your CP. Your first instinct will be to explain. Resist this urge. You wouldn't have that chance with a reader. You can ask her to clarify, but don't debate it. If she notes something amiss, get all the information you can about it, and then go read that bit again and decide for yourself if there is anything you can do to improve whatever it is she highlighted. Ex: If she's confused by something, could you/should you clarify it?
    4. If you simply want to be told how awesome your story is, critique is not for you. Expect to hear something you don't want to hear, but remember: when you have techniques directly applied to your writing, they become a lot easier to understand. You can tell me terms and definitions until I go deaf, if you don't show me those terms in action, I won't be able to implement them. If you want praise without direction, ask your mom, your best friend, or your southern-belle cousin April May June to read for you.
    5. Thank your critiquer. Critiquing takes time and effort, thanking them and returning the favor(if possible) is the right thing to do.
    6. Watch this. No, really. Ira Glass on Storytelling.

    For the Critiquer:
    1. Start with the good. There are always good things to say about a story. Your CP needs to know what is working well. It's not even an ego thing, although it does soften the inevitable sting. You can be great at something and not know it. If you let her know she's fantastic portraying emotion, she can start worrying about info dump issues instead.
    2. Don't take the smorgasbord approach unless asked to do so. Read for what your partner asks. If you both know she has issues with plot structure, but right now she's trying to work out the kinks in her characterization, you focus on the characters. The structure will eventually get its time in the spotlight when she's ready. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. Start with the big picture stuff. Later, you can(and should) break it down to the gritty details. Save the show-down over semi-colons for later.
    3. Use tact. Phrase suggestions in a positive way and direct them to the words, not the one writing them.  Don't say a sentence sucks or that it's wrong. Say you're getting lost in the wording and did she think it could be better to ... Make it about the words and your confusion. It might be semantics, but it helps maintain good, productive conversations while the sting is still throbbing a bit.
    4. Your CP has her own voice, don't try to replace it with yours. If there isn't something technically wrong with something, resist the urge to point out how you'd have done it differently. It's her story and her voice is as much a part of the story as the characters.

     For Both:
    1. The first time working together, exchange stories at the same time. Later on, you'll probably have different writing schedules and be ready to have something read at different times. But to start off you should both be equally vested in giving and receiving critique. This way, you'll know exactly how worried you are that you'll upset her, and that she is equally worried about your feelings. Remember that feeling every time you exchange pages, it will keep you kind and build trust.
    2. This is not a race. Everyone starts with a different skill set. Everyone starts with different goals. Everyone has a different road to travel. Ideally, no matter who sells first, you should both get your names published in the same book: the cover and the dedication page. Team effort, team reward.

    Aug 26, 2011

    Proactive Characters

    I've decided I have a problem making sure my characters lead the charge. I tend to come up with interesting scenarios, interesting characters, and then just expect that whatever is needed to make the story happen will naturally be there. And then when I try to think of scenes required to tell the story, nothing happens. I get no scenes.

    This happened with versions 1 and 2 of my submitted Medical, working title: Inconvenient Virtues. It wasn't until I realized I needed the heroine to have an immediate, tangible goal(not just an overarching goal) that the scenes started to materialize for me. Taking her from reactive to proactive gave me all my major scenes inside of three minutes. Once that first domino to fall, the others fell accordingly. Easily.

    I knew this going into the current WIP. It was at the foremost of my mind when I was trying to pre-measure all my needed ingredients(character motivations, inciting incident, etc), and I thought I had it. I wrote the first scene and it was catchy enough, but it didn't lead me to any other scenes. Yesterday, while not thinking about it, had a lightbulb moment -- she still was not leading the charge. That realization knocked over that first domino and 20 more scenes materialized in the space of a handful of minutes. So, today I feel really excited about the writing. I have my roadmap(cards) prepped, and it's just a matter of building and writing the scenes. The fun part.

    The advice to make your characters proactive has been given to me numerous times before. I even have read it in a few craft books. But I'm having trouble recognizing I when I haven't done that(before banging my head on the wall about why it's not working). I guess I should be happy that the realization took 3 days this time instead of 8 months. That's gotta be improvement, but I'm still dismayed that although making her proactive was at the top of my list of things to do before I started writing, I somehow managed to mistake her long-term goals for short-term goals again.

    Does anyone else have this problem?

    Aug 25, 2011

    Being different and damning the consequences.

     "Oh I may be going down, but I'll take in flames over burning out." -- Uncharted -- Sara Bareilles

    Hats off to Serenity Woods for helping me overcome my bout of too-off-the-wall-itis. Her notes from Romance Writers of New Zealand conference shored up my decision to barge ahead with the story idea. Specifically the bit where in her notes on Lucy Gilmour's chat (paraphrasing her notes) 'Be unique! Take on controversial topics. Twist themes!'

    Soothes the worry about the decision I'd already made to steamroll ahead. 

    Aug 19, 2011

    New Voices -- 2011

    It's that time of year again, and I'm both excited and terrified. The closer it comes to story upload date, the more I dread it.

    Last year at this time, I was just starting out in my effort to give writing a serious shot. I'd had one tiny victory, so I was feeling confident as only a newbie can. I was 100% stoked to upload my chapter. Everyone would love it, right? Naturally, it was going to be awesome. I had an awesome story. I had awesome characters(still last year's thoughts). I was totally going to make the first cut.

    Except I didn't. Okay, regroup. This is okay. I'm going to make that callback list for sure! Wrong again. Hmm, maybe I'm doing this wrong...

    I know, I'll get a couple craft books. That will square me right up. More questions emerged. I'll take an official, pay-lots-of-money, several-month writing class. This will teach me(and it did) lots of things I'm doing wrong. I'll write, and rewrite, and rewrite. Read more craft books.

    One year later, I've probably read 30 craft books, of which 20-or-so I own. I've joined RWA, national and local chapter. I've got a writing group. I've been to a couple writing conferences/seminars. I've got an awesome Critique Partner. I have written approximately 120K words (on one story), and submitted it. I've learned a lot, and I've invested a lot of time and money in doing so.

    Which brings me back around to my terror. I desperately want to enter, and I will do so, but this year I've lost my newbie-confidence. Instead of being certain my idea is great, I oscillate between certainty that the idea is golden, and even sharper certainty that it will be universally reviled. How's that for being a walking contradiction?

    The other thing that scares me is that somehow I've started to think of this single contest as some kind of validation. If I make one list, or get X-amount of positive feedback, or whatever... that it will prove this year and the associated $$ will have been a wise investment. And, of course, when it doesn't, will that mean I've wasted my time?

    There are writers who have been doing this for years and are in the same boat, and a year in I'm already asking these questions. No idea what that means, but I do feel a bit like a whiner even expressing these feelings.

    I'll definitely enter, come hell or high water(though if both come, I make no promises). And I am excited to do so. Despite my terror. I am trying to manage my reasons for entering.
    • I find participation in these large-scale events invigorating. They remind me why I love to write when I'm struggling with self-doubt.
    • Someone has to win, and sticking with the contest through the whole process will allow me to learn, first hand, what it is about different entries that garners attention. What did they do right? How can I implement this?
    • It is genuinely fun to read all the different entries, especially when I may not otherwise approach a particular subgenre.
    • May possibly gain some insight as to whether my story hooks are too off-the-wall(which I am actually very worried about).

    Going to have to stop worrying about all this and actually write the damned book soon! Like... now.