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!