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Showing posts from February, 2008

Revision is not a dirty word

By Julie Lessman

When I finished my first novel A Passion Most Pure over six years ago, revision was a dirty word. I mean, my keyboard was still warm from giving birth to this epic dream of mine, and the brunt of the labor was basically done, right? Uh, no.

As author Michael Lee so aptly states, “The first draft reveals the art, revision reveals the artist.” So once I got off the birthing table and learned THAT lesson, the process of revision became what author Bernard Malamud calls “one of the exquisite pleasures of writing.” And for me, it truly is!

So what are my favorite revision rules of thumb? I’m glad you asked.

Five Top Writing Tips I Could NOT Do Without:

1.) The writer classic: Show rather than tell! EXAMPLE: Mitch leaned forward, furious with her. BETTER: Mitch jerked forward, the muscles in his jaw tensing.

2.) Ditch the “ly” adverbs and go for powerful verbs to convey your emotions. My writer’s Bible is The Synonym Finder by J.A. Rodale—wonderful tool! EXAMPLE: She glanced at h…

Character conflicts, part three

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by Mary Connealy

Click here for part two

Once you have the internal conflict the characters begin to take shape. Because the internal conflict is often rooted in their past, their internal conflict is part of developing three dimensional characters. As you do that, you start to know how the h/h will react, what drives them, how will they speak and move. What sets them off, and what gets past their defenses?You know you’ve written a really good book when you dig a chasm between them so deep that it’s almost (did I say almost? I meant absolutely) impossible to breach it. I wrote a novel once where I thought I’d have to bag the story. I just couldn't solve their problem—they were both right—neither of them had any reason to give, each of them would actually be wrong to give in, and it didn't even make sense for them to give.You know you're on to something when the conflict is this juicy, this much of a stumbling block, the only thing that will get them past this co…

Character conflicts, part two

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by Mary Connealy

Click here for part one

It's easy to muddle internal and external conflict. The external conflict bleeds into the internal conflict and before you know it, it's hard to say which is which.Here are some examples of external conflict from my own books.External ConflictSophie’s no-account husband taught her the hard way to do everything herself before he was hanged as a horse thief. Clay grew up in the Rocky Mountains with his fur trapping father and no women anywhere. Idyllic. Now he’s injured and at the mercy of a woman and her four daughters and not a one of them will mind him.In Petticoat Ranch I've created one of my favorite external conflicts. She’s been surviving with her own strength for years, starting long before her husband died. He’s barely spoken to a woman. All he knows is: The men are supposed to be in charge. She’s heard that too, but what if the orders he gives are stupid?For the perfect external conflict just remember, whatever h…

Building a fiction platform

Literary agent Rachelle Gardner asked a few fiction authors what they did/do to build their marketing platforms. I was one of them! Go check it out:

Fiction Platform

There's a lot of good information from all the authors she interviewed.

Character conflicts, part one

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by Mary Connealy

What would Gone with the Wind be like if Scarlett and Rhett had gotten along beautifully from the very beginning?

What if Romeo and Juliet had been fixed up by their parents who were close friends?

What if Ariel hadn't been a mermaid wearing a girl suit?

Would we even remember them, would we have kept turning the pages?

Conflict is what hooks a reader and makes the story interesting. If everyone gets along fine, there's no book.

A romance novel needs each character to have two conflicts, an external conflict and an internal conflict. Yes, you can have an "it's us against the world" theme. Yes, you can write a book where the h/h are compatible and work for a common goal, but that's not a romance novel—that’s the Peace Corp. If you want to write within the romance formula, get yourself an external and internal conflict.

External conflict is the easy one for me. External really is only one because it's the story—the plot—the mess you make that you …

Afraid of Rejection? Who Isn't?

Afraid of Rejection?
Who Isn’t?

By Ruth Logan Herne

From the time of our first play date, (definitely not called that when I was in knickers!) when some pompous three-year-old turned her back, snubbing our toys, leaving us out of the inner circle of the sandbox, rejection has been a part of our life.

At age three, most of us don’t have the savvy to shrug our shoulders and walk away, unperturbed.

Unfortunately the same is true at thirty.

I think it gets better around forty.

Fifty? Piece of cake….

But, here’s the deal. Rejection is a part of life. Not one of our favorite parts, but nothing we can’t move beyond, either.

The trick is, don’t take it personal. I know, I know, that’s easier said than done. When we hear ‘no’ in response to our work, our queries, proposals, manuscripts, agent pleas, etc., we visualize “I don’t want you.” Or, “I don’t like your stuff.” Or, worse yet, “I don’t like your stuff, I don’t want you, why on earth did you bother me, don’t quit your day job….”

Top salespeople a…

Critique Partners and Groups, part two

Critique Partners and Groups:
Viable Help, Coffee Clutch, or Cheerleading Section?

by Ruth Logan Herne

Click here for part one

Examine your group, its principles, goals and desires. If they don’t match yours, be brave enough to change. Move on or seek an outside critiquer in addition to your present group. This can be done without hurt as long as you’re discreet. After all, your present partners may work fine with someone else. The mixed dynamics of your group could be skewed and you might be the “skewer”.

In any case, make the changes necessary to be the best you can be. Don’t settle, don’t simper, don’t pause on the way out the door if that’s what you need to do. Set your goal and work toward that aspiration with focus and strength. If you’ve got what it takes, it will happen. I firmly believe that. So get off the wall, dust off your butt, do what has to be done. There isn’t a facet of this industry that allows wallowing, even to the greats. Generally speaking, those who wallow have grea…

Critique Partners and Groups, part one

Critique Partners and Groups:
Viable Help, Coffee Clutch, or Cheerleading Section?

by Ruth Logan Herne


The title says it all. Is your critique partner or group an asset? Are you the best you can be to them? Are they a boon to your writing? Do they point out problems while encouraging you to make necessary changes for possible publication?

Or is your group a social club? Long minutes of fun, casual conversation, a glass of tea, some writing talk, a bit of gossip, lamenting, followed by an abbreviated critique time?

Maybe they love your work so much they can’t find a thing wrong with it, it’s just so good, oh, my goodness, why on earth aren’t you published, you know you should be!!!!!

Ahem.

Critiquing is an art and discipline like any other part of writing. It’s a lot like raising children. The whys and wherefores of other people’s flawed children are obvious to us. We have an outside view and can understand why ‘Johnny’ does what he does because his parents:
1. Never got up with him
2. Always …

Churchill Said It Best, part two

by Ruth Logan Herne

Click here for part one

First, we’re close to our work. It swims in our heads, dances in our brains, invades our spirits. We lose the objectivity because we’re involved in the account. (Okay, sometimes too involved.) That’s where the ‘book of your heart’ comes in, through that very process. But the heart and the head are quite different, and a good tale needs the best of both.

Sure, Denise loved Goofus. Or thought she did. He was, after all, daring, inventive, aggressive, cocky and intelligent. But he got caught, and now he’s doing six-to-ten in Attica. Poor baby.

And our little Denise, caught in her fog of distrust and betrayal? How will she ever cope?

My heart might say that she’d think and pray, contemplate her bad choices, vow to give up men forever as simply not worth the bother, and consider a convent. Right up until she meets Gallant and realizes that all men are not created equal!

My head says she should have a ceremonial cleansing party, burn everything the lous…

Trends in the Christian fiction market

Literary agent Rachelle Gardner posted this awesome update on the current trends in CBA.

Just to let you know: This update is referring to what publishers are BUYING NOW, not necessarily what they'll be buying in a few months, so don't start that new historical unless you can finish it in three months or so.

Churchill Said It Best, part one

by Ruth Logan Herne

“Gentlemen,” offered the esteemed head of state of the entire United Kingdom, “Nevah, nevah, nevah give up.”

That was the extent of Winston Churchill’s commencement address to the graduating class of his alma mater. A school where, by the way, the headmaster had scolded that the young Churchill would never amount to anything.

Ah, yes.

Churchill said more in those seven words than many of us say in a lifetime. He was clear and succinct. It made an impression.

Still does.

When we write, we use words. Big, small, short, long: They’re all words. Our power is in the usage. Not the overusage.

As we write, we feel the need to explain. How many times have you read an otherwise good book, well-written, great POV, strong plot, delightful characters to either love or hate, where the conflict is presented to you first through dialogue, then thought, then shared confidence with a friend/sister/priest/minister/mother/father… Then again in reflection or conscience.

We get it, already. On…

Dare to be Different, part 2

by Ruth Logan Herne

Click here for part one

We, as writers, are actually at a remarkable time in the romance industry. At this very moment, we are at a juncture as evidenced by the ongoing controversy of “Women’s Fiction” vs. “Romance”. Chick lit, Mommy lit, even Lad lit (okay, that’s just scary), are all taking their place in the publishing industry because the reading public buys them.

Readers clamor for good stories. Great writing. And while I understand that certain imprints work well within specific demographics, I am very pleased to see the market opening up to various types of romantic literature that isn’t simply qualified as ‘Romance’. The tag has acquired industrial built-in restraints that don’t work well with all authors, and that’s okay.

I’m a firm believer in stretching your options. Trying your wings. Testing the water. Grandma used to hold my babies and say, “When they stretch, they grow.”

Physiologically, I’m not sure that’s fact, but then the whole chicken soup theory pr…

Dare to be Different, part 1

by Ruth Logan Herne

“Dare to be different,
Life is so full
Of people who follow
The same push and pull…”

Helen Lowrie Marshall, A Gift So Rare


Like any group of artists, writers tend to be ‘different’. A little ‘out there’. Introspective, fanciful, imaginative. Sometimes downright analytical and chilling. (Joseph Wambaugh, Stephen King.)

We don’t necessarily wear it on our sleeves like the art community. No aprons dotted with splotches of paint, no palette to clean, brushes to soak, the scent of turpentine a daily perfume. We don’t have to care about northern vs. southern exposure, or brightness against shadow. Most of us don’t wear long, flowy gowns and flowers in our hair, with clinking baubles like you see along the sidewalks of the Cape in summertime.

As entertainers of the print industry, we don’t need to produce a show or concert. We have no need to hire a band or create special effects. We live a more cloistered existence at our computer desks or dining room tables, pounding out …

Evoking emotional memory

The charm he exuded almost overwhelmed her.

Anger surged through him, burning behind his eyes.

Nervousness settled in her knees, making them wobble.


I read these sentences, but I don't feel what the characters felt. The sentences distance me from the characters.

One thing the first page has to do is grab your reader and rivet them to the story. One way is to pull the reader into the character's skin.

The reader becomes the character, feeling and thinking as if they are that person. They feel what the character feels.

This calls for more subtlety and vivid word choices.

Describe physical sensations so that your reader will feel it too. There are certain words, turns of phrase, cadences that trigger a similar physical reaction in your reader so they actually almost physically feel what the character feels.

I popped the lemon slice in my mouth, biting down hard on the soft fruit flesh, feeling the liquid squirt throughout my mouth, zapping my tongue.

Now confess, didn't your mouth puc…

Not for the faint of heart

Mary Connealy and I did a tag-team set of blog posts over at the Seekerville blog about book reviews being like contest judging:

It never ends

Okay Students, Let's REVIEW

This isn't a pep talk, just to warn you. It's more like a reality check. We're not complaining about reviews, but we are trying to get writers to understand that it's not all 5-star fun and games once you're published, and that your weirdo contest judge comments might actually be useful one day when your book is on a bookstore shelf.