Tag Archives: writing tips

5 Tips for Getting Past Writer’s Block #WriteWed

Another two hour commute into work today thanks to the derailment in Penn Station on Monday. Two derailments in just over two weeks. Gotta wonder what’s going on.

If there’s one silver lining in that ominous transit cloud, it’s that it’s given me a chance to work through a block I was having in Book #2 in the At the Shore series.

It’s actually funny considering that I’m giving a workshop this weekend at the Liberty States Fiction Writers monthly meeting on plotting using the Hero’s Journey. I should heed my own advice on what’s essential in the story when the heroes reach that first black moment.

In my story, it actually starts with a black moment, but I won’t spill on what that is and spoil it for you. What I will do is offer up some tips on what to do when you’ve hit a block in your writing and how to work past it.

1. Watch a fav movie or read a fav book. There’s a reason why they’re a favorite. Maybe it’s the characters. Maybe it’s a surprise you didn’t expect or that warm feeling you had that stayed with you long after the story was over. Tap into that magic to find out what’s missing in your story.

2. Read a new book not in your genre. Sometimes you’re too caught up in what you think is expected in your genre and you need something different to blast you past the expected.

3. Read a book in your genre. Whether the book turns out to be bad or good, what was it you liked or disliked? As a reader of that genre, did it meet your expectations and if not, why? If it did, how does what you’re writing work in comparison? For me, I always turn to a master in contemporary romance: Nora Roberts. No matter what I get a good read and her stories make me take a step back and wonder about how I can touch readers with the same kind of magic she brings to the stories.

4. Take a long walk or a shower. I don’t know why, but both of these somehow make me focus on the problem at hand and how to work through it. Maybe it’s the ions in the water or those at the beach, my favorite place to stroll.

5. Visualize the scene before you try to write it. People often ask how I can write so fast and part of it is that I often visualize the scene in my head before I even sit down to write. It prevents just staring at a blank screen for way too long. When I do have a block about that scene, I will often see it in my head multiple times and from different perspectives. Oftentimes I will have to rewind it and play it again, altering the direction of what’s happening. Erasing what doesn’t work and starting again until there are enough good bones that I can finally sit down and flesh out the scene when I’m writing.

I hope these tips help you work past any writer’s block. If you’d like to know more about the Hero’s Journey, visit my Resources for Writers Page with lots of good tips or if you’re in the area, come by the Liberty States monthly meeting. If you’re not in the area, think about joining and listening to one of the many recorded workshops we have for members. My workshop this weekend is being recorded!

Writer's Block

#TuesdayTip Letting the Characters Lead the Way

Sorry to miss Man Candy, but I had some family things to handle. In the meantime, I’ve been furiously working on #2 in the At the Shore Contemporary Romance Series which more and more is feeling like “A Goodbye Summer.” Or least that’s the title for now. LOL!

For a long time I was a pantser and never wrote an outline. That ended for me years ago when I started writing series and needed to have an outline of not only the first book, but the connected books in the series. But for me, even an outline has a lot of give because of the characters and what I want to get across in the story.

For example, I’ve just gotten to a pivotal point where the hero and heroine are about to take that leap and I could have approached it in various ways. In fact, I wrote a good chunk of the scene but decided that it just wasn’t the feeling I wanted to convey for two people who were once lovers, but haven’t been together in nearly a decade. Sure there’s physical attraction there and I found myself fighting it as much as the characters were fighting it.

Which led me to a different scene because the characters were telling me there needed to be more to have them make that leap to lovers once again. There needed to be a deep emotional connection to bring them together at that particular moment.

Sometimes the characters will lead the way and as a writer, you need to give them the space and experiment with what they’re telling you to do. If it doesn’t work, there’s always the delete key and a chance to let them lead you down a different path. You’ll know in your gut when you’re on the right road with them.

Caridad's Writing Outline

Making It All Fit by Wendy Ely #Writetip #AmWriting

Today we’re offering up some tips on writing. Wendy is here sharing her thoughts on “Making It All Fit” while I’m visiting Wendy’s blog and chatting about why I put my characters on the couch before I write!

So without further ado, here’s Wendy!

*****

I was scanning through the cable channels Saturday morning looking for a something good to watch. After reading the description of The Crush, I decided to give the movie a shot. The movie was described as a suspense (my kind of genre!) about a college student who had sex with a woman. The woman then became obsessive. I started watching the movie and things that didn’t make sense started jumping out at me.

If you are an author you know what I’m about to talk about. If you are a reader only, you might find it interesting to know about this part of the writing process. When we are writing a book we have to make sure that the actions fit well with the plot. Everything has to run smoothly together or we get our edits back with comments like “Why is she doing this? It makes no sense at all,” or that the details don’t fit with the plot, or that something similar. Our books are like puzzles, every single piece must fit perfectly or the picture is not complete.

So back to the movie. One of the key points is that the college student is house-sitting for a rich stranger. As the owner of the house leaves, he mentions his niece stopping by occasionally for a swim. I had an issue with this. Why would the owner have a stranger live in the house while his niece (an adult) lives close by and can do it? Did not make sense to me. I kept watching. So the college student met the “niece” who happens to be there all the time! He has sex with the niece even though he has a girlfriend and the niece becomes obsessive over the college student. At one point she wraps her hands around his neck and makes him tell her that he loves her. The college student becomes so scared of this chick that he can’t sleep at night. It affects his schooling and the sport he plays. So why doesn’t he leave? I don’t know and that fact alone bothered me. The owner calls the college student who mentions that he had met the owner’s niece. Guess what? The owner told him that meeting his niece wasn’t possible since his niece had taken a trip out of town. Did the college student leave yet? Heck no. I would have packed up my crap and hit the road. He later finds out that she is a ghost and is in love with the college student.

There wasn’t any ghost stuff through 3/4 of the movie. There wasn’t any hint of the movie turning paranormal or even close. I kept watching though just to see how it ended. The ghost woman transformed from being a beautiful woman to an evil entity which the sudden change scared the crap out of me. I couldn’t look at her half the time. Even after the change, the actions didn’t make sense. She told the college student (now locked in the house so he couldn’t leave) that she was the one who would end all of this stuff but then she went into the water with slit wrists. Made no sense. Then she was back in the bedroom telling him he needed to die so he could be with her forever. She did manage to kill him as his girlfriend (who had been ignoring him all through the movie) suddenly appears to save him.

I love watching movies that reminds me of the “right way” to write a story. By showing me everything wrong, reinforced the desire to make everything fit smoothly together. I don’t want a single reader to ask why the heck I threw another puzzle’s piece in the center of the one the reader is enjoying. Thanks, crappy movie writers, for reminding me of this!

A little something about the author

Wendy Ely is a contemporary romance author. She writes some romantic suspense, really hot stories, and the wonderful happily-ever-after. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her own real-life hero and her two teenagers. Wendy loves to hear from readers and you can e-mail her at authorwendyely at gmail dot com.

A tasty tidbit from Wendy’s book: CONFESSIONS

Can Chelsea and Jordan find their child, and rediscover each other?

When Chelsea Montgomery vanished eleven years ago, her hometown thought she’d been abducted. In truth, she’d given up the daughter she’d secretly had with Jordan Case.

Now he confronts her to help find the child. With a little girl’s fate hanging in the balance, will the uneasy partnership — stained by the past — transform into something else?

To purchase CONFESSIONS, please visit http://amzn.com/B00A3FVT84

Sharing My Weekend Writing Retreat

I wish that Google+ photos actually allowed you to do a slideshow. For the life of me, the little create slideshow link just isn’t showing up! So, you can go to visit the album here, but in the meantime…

I headed out on Saturday with my friends Melinda Leigh and Rayna Vause for a writing retreat weekend! Our destination: The Inn at Boonesboro and the Turn the Page Bookstore where we got to meet Nora Roberts as well as a number of authors.

I got up at 5, was on the road by six and picked up my friends shortly after 7. We hit the road and got to Boonesboro just before 11. It was the open house day at the Inn so we got to visit all the rooms, but first we met my friend Lora and then headed to the book store to pick up our books and get ready for the signing. Here’s a picture of my buds in front of the Inn.

Rayna Vause and Melinda Leigh

At the bookstore, we got our purchases and since Vesta’s pizza was packed, headed to Crawford’s Guns, Ammo and Restaurant for a bite before the signing. Where else can you pick up ammo, check out the rifles and get some delicious sweet potato fries?

Crawford's Guns, Ammo & Restaurant

Then it was time for the signing!! I had my books for research (nothing better than Eve and Roarke to get me inspired!). I also had a J.D. Robb “book lamp” that I had made and Nora was so nice and signed it as well. Here’s me and Nora!

Nora Roberts & Caridad Pineiro

Then we were back to the Inn for the open house. Such gorgeous rooms and bathrooms. I loved the Galahad pillow on the chair in the Eve and Roarke room! The rooms were totally romantic and did any of you guess which room I would choose for Rey and Paola from AMAZON AWAKENING?

If you guess that it was the Westley and Buttercup room you were right. I could so imagine a big bed like this made of a sustainable rainforest wood like Ipe.

Westley & Buttercup Room

After that we headed for a walk through Boonesboro and then to dinner. We returned to the site of the Inn with all its lovely Christmas trimmings.

Inn at Boonesboro

Ducking inside the inn to take off the chill, we had some wine and cheese and also celebrated my friend Melinda’s debut book (more on that on Thursday!).

In the morning, we headed to the Antietam battlefield for a bit of history and research. Since Ryder from THE CALLING/REBORN Vampire Series was a physician during the Civil War, I’m toying with the idea of bringing back someone else from that era. You may remember that Samantha Turner from TEMPTATION CALLS knew Ryder back then (and was the one who turned him). Not sure whether this someone is a hero or villain, but walking/driving the fields of Antietam certainly gave some ideas for a new character.

I even managed to climb the Observation Tower! The trip up was quite a hike, but the trip down was interesting as my fear of heights kicked in. Luckily Rayna lent me her shoulder to hold so I could keep my face to the wall and not see the big open scary hole in the middle of the stairs!

Antietam Observation Tower

I hope you enjoyed this little travel journal!

Also, if you need some tips on writing short fiction, come and play with me today at my friend Catherine Bybee’s blog where I am talking about how to move from writing long fiction to short!

Advice for Writers by Paranormal Romance Author India Drummond

We’re very lucky to have with us today India Drummond who is going to offer up some advice for writers.

India is the author of paranormal romance and urban fantasy. She knew from age nine that writing would be her passion. Since then she’s discovered many more, but none quite so fulfilling as creating a world, a character, or a moment and watching them evolve into something complex and compelling. She has lived in three countries and four American states, is a dual British and American citizen, and currently lives at the base of the Scottish Highlands in a village so small its main attraction is a red phone box. In other words: paradise.

The supernatural and paranormal have always fascinated India. In addition to being an avid sci-fi and fantasy reader, she also enjoys mysteries, thrillers, and romance. This probably explains why her novels have elements of adventure, ghosts (or elves, fairies, angels, aliens, and whatever else she can dream up), and spicy love stories.

So without further ado! Here’s India’s Advice for Writers!

My advice? Oh, don’t ask me that! Why not? See, I’m perfectly happy to share. I have learned so much from authors I’ve met online, from classes, workshops, and the good, old school of experience. Ask me anything specific, and I’m happy to give freely of whatever knowledge I have, but I rarely offer advice.

I’ve learned that what works for one author often doesn’t work for another. For example, I used to write by the seat of my pants. Then I heard all these authors saying, “You have to learn to plot. It’s the only way.” And I tried it… and failed. I was so frustrated! I felt there was a right way to do things, but I couldn’t do it. Of course, I also assumed this was why I was languishing on the query-go-round.

Then, as I began to write more books, I saw the patterns in my various novel projects, how I created turning points in around 1/3 and 2/3 of the way through a book, how I wove multiple storylines into one. I was developing my own style, and from that, I created an outline template that works for me and makes life easier. Would it work for anyone else? Probably not.

There’s so much advice out there on the internet. Some of it’s good, some… not so much. And as an unpublished writer, I gobbled up every morsel of it, hoping to find the magic nugget of gold that would transport me beyond the forbidden gates and into the world of the published.

Now that I have achieved my dream of publication, I have more perspective. And looking back, I see that I used to spend hours socialising with other writers on the various networks out there. I wish now I had spent at least 50% of that time writing more books.

So here’s my one piece of advice to aspiring authors. It might annoy some to hear it. But if you can get this, it will make you a better writer: Write more books. Quit agonising over your query letter. Quit worrying that one project to death. Quit spending more time blogging than you do writing fiction. Quit spending more time critiquing for others than you do writing fiction.

Write. More. Books.

Why “more books” instead of just making the current project better?

Because the average published author has written six books by the time they get a contract. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, will improve your writing like experience. And you can’t get all your experience in one book.

I think part of that is that with each successive story, we experiment. Those experiments lead us into new places, and we begin to see what works and what doesn’t. I promise those unpublished projects won’t be a waste of time. What you learn by the third or fourth book, you can go back and apply to your first book, once you have some perspective on it.

So, yes, there’s some good advice out there. Do learn to write a professional query letter. Do learn how to write a blurb, how to write effective dialogue, how to use just enough description, but not too much… But don’t obsessive over the mountains of advice you can find on the net these days, hoping to learn “the secret”.

The real secret, in my experience, is experience. And you get it by writing. Nothing more, and nothing less.

So go forth and WRITE!

Never give up. Never let yourself get down. Never give in to the voices in your head that tell you it’s too hard or it can’t be done, or maybe getting published is too big a dream. You CAN do it… if you’ll only WRITE… and write… and write.

THAT is what I wish I’d known two years ago.

* * * * *

I second India’s advice! I always tell writers that the only wrong thing to do is to not write. There is no wrong or right way to write. Each person has their own creative ways of doing things. So don’t be stymied by well meaning advice about “the right way” to write. And NEVER GIVE UP!

For more information on India, please check out these sources:

India’s website and blog: http://www.indiadrummond.com/
Facebook Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/india.drummond.author
Twitter: http://twitter.com/IndiaDrummond

To arrange an interview or contact the author, please email: author@indiadrummond.com

Amy Corwin Dishes on Writing Paranormal Romance

We’ve got a very special guest with us today! Please welcome Amy Corwin who is going to offer up some tips on writing my favorites – Paranormals!

Plotting the Paranormal
My name is Amy Corwin and I write paranormals. Actually, I write mysteries—both contemporary and historical—as well, but today I wanted to explore writing paranormals. They really aren’t much different than writing other kinds of novels, except perhaps the focus of the plot. When you’re sitting down to write other kinds of fiction, you generally fall into plot-driven or character-driven categories, regardless of whether you’ve never plotted out a book in advance in your life (a “pantster” writer) or do a complete plot outline before you place fingers on the keyboard to write.

Plot-driven writers create a plot and their characters weave their way through it. Character-driven writers let a character’s strengths, weakness, and goals drive the plot. For example, in a character-driven plot, the main character may be a kleptomaniac and that trait causes the character to get into a series of escalating problems. In a plot-driven novel, the plot may be that someone wakes up to find a dead body in bed next to him and has to figure out what happened before he is arrested for murder.

Ideally, you want the characters to drive the plot, while keeping them in line so that the plot doesn’t just drift off randomly like a blind man lost in a swamp. For example, if the guy does wake up in bed to find a dead body, it may be that his character led him to that place to begin with (he’s a party guy and notoriously drunk and someone used that to decide to frame him) and his character may drive the rest of the plot as he tries to prove his innocence. Most books aren’t purely one or the other.

A paranormal novel adds an additional dimension to the plot: the paranormal. What is interesting, however, is how this changes the basic plotting. In a way, you could think of a paranormal as being paranormal-driven. Whatever element makes the story a paranormal, be it a supernatural creature or some super-psychic ability, is what needs to drive the plot. If your story is about a woman who can see dead people, then the plot needs to revolve around her ability to see the dead. Perhaps she sees her dead son and learns he didn’t really commit suicide, but was murdered. She’s then driven to resolve the case, but runs into other difficulties due to her psychic abilities. That ability is the “character” trait that must drive the plot. Kay Hooper does this very, very effectively in her Noah Bishop, Special Crimes Unit novels. Each character in that series has a different psychic trait and that trait forces the character into the story and propels him or her forward.

Haunted house stories are another familiar breed and in contrast to Kay Hooper’s Special Crimes Unit, haunted house stories tend to be more plot-driven, but the plot is in essence the paranormal element: the haunted house. But since it’s rare to have successful books solely plot or character driven, and a classic example is Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. While it is a haunted house story and driven by that paranormal element, the haunting works on the main character’s weaknesses. It was Eleanor’s personality and sad history that intensified the paranormal elements and created a compelling story. Without Eleanor’s specific emotional makeup, the story would have been just another blah-blah ghost story. Instead, it became a classic that few other books have ever matched.

It’s never easy to blend all the elements and it’s perhaps a wee bit more difficult when you add the paranormal. It’s like a juggler picking up that third axe: two axes seem dangerous enough, the third just seems crazy. But it’s thrilling to be crazy.

Vampire Protector
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Memories may help her survive, but will they help her resist her vampire protector?

Exploring Gwen’s long abandoned childhood home in the company of her attractive neighbor, John, sounds like an intriguing evening. However, she soon realizes her mistake. John is a vampire and her house is not exactly empty. Secrets—and the dead—don’t always stay buried, and John’s extraordinary strength and determination may be all that can withstand what awaits them in the darkness.

In the following excerpt, Gwen has asked her neighbor, John Wright, to accompany her to her abandoned family home. She knows he’s a vampire, but despite this, she’s attracted to him and wants his company on this adventure.

But when the two of them get to the house, she’s not so sure it’s a good idea to enter…

Excerpt from Vampire Protector

John stopped and waited on the stoop. He glanced over his shoulder. When she didn’t move, he held out his hand in a peremptory gesture. She stared at it, thinking how human his hand looked with a sprinkling of dark hairs on the back of his wrists and strong, blunt-tipped fingers.

He must have been working outdoors the day he died, for there was still a tinge of sunburned red deepening the tan. The sun-kissed color reinforced the false sensation of heat radiating from him. He felt warm and alive to all her senses, despite the knowledge that he was not.

Her heart twisted with loneliness. It had been so long since she had felt arms around her. But she hadn’t met a man she felt she could trust, and a vampire was out of the question.

She had lost her way and did not know how to find the path back to a real life.

“Hold my hand if you’re afraid of ghosts,” he offered with a twisted smile. A flicker of sympathy grew in the depths of his eyes, revealing a sad recognition of the gulf between them: vampire and human.

With a sense of surprise, she felt his warm gaze tug her even closer to him. As if his awareness of the differences between them meant they shared similar core beliefs and that she could trust him because of that.

She shivered and thrust her thoughts away.

“Hanging onto your cold, dead fingers is not going to make me feel any better.”

“I’ll warm them for you.” His dark eyes flickered. The corners crinkled with silent laughter.

“You can make me think they’re warm. But they’ll still be cold, dead fingers.” The hairs rose along her neck and arms. She glanced over her shoulder toward the graveyard across the street.

“The remnants of the dead—those tatters—have probably drifted over from the graveyard. They’ll collect here. It’s not that I’m afraid of them. It’s not like they’d consciously attack me or anything, but they’ll be attracted to the body heat of anything living. Like me.”

She gestured toward one of the drifts of leaves in the farthest corner of the porch.

A few pitiful gray, black, and white feathers lay amidst the debris. At some point in the past, a mockingbird had tried to nest in the shelter of the porch. The bird had been sucked dry of energy and warmth before it realized what was happening and flew away. All that remained was a dry handful of feathers and bones.

The sight did not bode well for anything alive that entered the house.

About Amy: Amy Corwin is a charter member of the Romance Writers of America and has been writing for the last ten years and managing a career as an enterprise systems administrator in the computer industry. She writes Regencies/historicals, mysteries, and contemporary paranormals. To be truthful, most of her books include a bit of murder and mayhem since she discovered that killing off at least one character is a highly effective way to make the remaining ones toe the plot line.

Amy’s books include the two Regency romances, SMUGGLED ROSE, and LOVE, THE CRITIC; three Regency romantic mysteries, I BID ONE AMERICAN, THE BRICKLAYER’S HELPER, and THE NECKLACE; and her first paranormal, VAMPIRE PROTECTOR.

Join her and discover that every good romance has a touch of mystery.

Website: http://www.amycorwin.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/amycorwin
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AmyCorwinAuthor
Blog: http://amycorwin.blogspot.com

Thank you for having me here today, I enjoyed it and hope you’ll leave comments about the kinds of paranormal stories you love the best!

Kiss Me, Kill Me Tuesday – Revisions

It seems somehow appropriate on this dreary and rainy Tuesday to discuss something about which all writers worry. No, not the Dreaded Synopsis.

Revisions.

It’s especially appropriate since I just turned in a manuscript which required revisions and since at my Saturday workshop someone asked, “What do you do when someone asks you to change your work?”

The answer was simple: You do the revisions.

It’s one of those things that I often warn aspiring authors about – being a diva. I’ve heard more than one writer say that they won’t make any changes to their work and I often wonder whether they’ll ever get published or if they do, will they be able to sustain a career.

Although some believe that editors are like carpenters with a hammer and nail, give them paper and a pen and they want to make changes, the reality of it is that editors know the market and what’s selling. They understand voice and pacing and conflict. They oftentimes will see past what’s on the page to what the writer wants to accomplish because many times the writer has become so involved in their work and knows it so intimately that they fail to get what’s up in their heads down on paper.

It’s the editor’s job to make sure that gets done and a good editor will accomplish just that.

What if what the editor wants you to do is totally different than what you want to do?

That’s a tough situation for sure and the answer is not so simple. The first thing to do is divest your ego from the work. Look at it as an outsider would. Are the editor’s comments justified? Do you think that they might possibly make the work better or more marketable? If the answer is “yes”, then take a moment and try rewriting the first ten or so pages with the editor’s suggestions.

Now step back and look at it again. Is it better? More marketable? Then dig in and start rewriting.

You may have noticed that I’ve used that “marketable” word multiple times already because the reality is that if you’re writing commercial fiction (as in selling to the mass market), what you’re writing needs to sell. That means it needs to meet certain reader and bookseller expectations.

Your editor is the one who can best tell you whether or not you’ve managed to do that.

If you’re still not convinced about all the changes, then try a conciliatory approach rather than a confrontational one. For example, when I first wrote DARKNESS CALLS one of the revision requests was that I have the heroine, Diana Reyes, become a vampire at the end of the novel. In my heart I felt that the story was much too complicated and rich for that kind of ending. I also felt that there would be greater emotion and impact for the readers if the characters had that conflict hanging over their heads – Love me even though I will die before you do. It spoke of a much greater love and commitment if Ryder and Diana chose to get together despite that fact.

I discussed it with my editors and we agreed I would write the ending as I envisioned it and that if it did not work, I would revise it. Bottom line was, the ending worked and we left it as is. Everyone was happy with the compromise we reached initially and the end result.

So the bottom line is, be open to change. Be willing to compromise. Your editors know what’s best and what’s selling. Trust them to help you craft a better book.