This is our new bundle of joy … Indiana Jones, Indie for short. It took us a couple of days to name this little guy, but after watching him bounce around the house and fly (yes, that’s the right word) off the furniture we figured his name fit his adventuresome nature.
This little guy was the runt of the litter, but what he didn’t get in size he more than makes up for in spirit. He has learned to scale a human (back or front) in 2 seconds flat (a bad habit that we can’t stop at the moment because it’s too darn cute). He can jump at least three feet both vertically and horizontally to reach sleeping spots. And has no problem taking on our older cat (who is easily five times his size) in knock-down-drag-out wrestling matches that make me wonder if he has all his marbles. And he has most definitely wiggled his way into our hearts.
And just watching him has made me think about how I approach life and more specifically, my writing. There are so many new things Indie encounters every day, yet I haven’t seen him shy away from any of them. He fearlessly goes through his day with a cocky arrogance that makes me laugh … and I totally admire. Which made me think that I should approach my writing that way.
When I first began this adventure I didn’t know enough to stop my muse from playing gleefully. We romped around wherever the spirit led us. But then I learned some “rules” and well … started to worry more about whether the story I was writing would be good enough. And the more I write and learn, the more cautious I become. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve floundered because I was overthinking a particular scene, too worried about how the readers (and reviewers) might not like a particular approach.
I want to boldly write my book and shut off my internal editor. I’d love to jump into scenes with both feet, eyes closed and land where I may. I keep working on it. Perhaps some day I’ll be able to achieve that goal and get back to when writing was a joyfully journey into new settings and characters.
How about you? How do you approach life? Do you feel (like me) that more experiences seem to make you more cautious … in everything.
Every author knows how important it is not only to set the stage of their scene, but to describe the characters in their story. The fact is, there’s a way to do this that works and there’s the method of blending the description into your story where the reader is barely aware you’ve thrown it in there.
One of the things I love about self-publishing is the freedom to design my own book covers. Making the decision of how to present my books to the public is HUGE! Though my publishers have been good, there have been several of my covers over the years that have disappointed me. Those are the covers where I felt the publisher wasn’t considering the marketing of my book when they sent me the final draft. And unfortunately, after the initial paperwork, there is no changing a cover once the design department has finished with it. 🙁
So now, I’d like to share with you how I go about creating a book cover … or more accurately … how I share my vision with my cover artist.
As a writer all I have is my words. Words to bring the reader into the setting. Words to convey danger or passion. Words to make the reader fall in love with the characters even as they fall in love with each other. It’s not like a movie where a well orchestrated soundtrack strokes the viewer’s emotions, carrying them … biting their nails into the epic battle … or sighing with satisfaction into the first kiss.
Each word and phrase should create a visceral reaction in the reader. A reader whose emotions are involved in your story is a reader who continues to turn the page. No needy pet, ringing phone or burning dinner will pull a readers who’s emersed in your story from finishing the chapter. Hell, if you’ve done it really well … finishing the book. (Oh, come on, it’s happened to all of us. Raise your hand if you stayed up all night just to finish a book … yeah, I see you out there.)
As authors we have all kinds of tools in our writing kits to create our story and bring our characters to life. Dialogue, both spoken and internal is an immediate way to portray a character. The words they choose and how they’re spoken take a two dimensional character and give them depth. Are the words strong and bold or nervous and tentative? Are they quick to respond or thoughtful and use few words? We must think about all of that. A CIA agent might see the sun setting and think only of the convenience of night’s arrival and how that will help them hide their actions. An artist type would take time to notice the colors, how they mix with the clouds and take a moment to enjoy the scene.
What the characters are saying and what they’re thinking is important. But you can add another layer by including how your characters act and what their body language communicates. Especially if what they’re saying isn’t really how they’re feeling. Let’s look at some body parts and actions and the emotions it conveys.
A smile quirked to the left = lying
Tight-lipped smile = keeping a secret
Licking lips = nervousness or attraction
Biting lip = shyness, insecurity
Trembling lip = sadness
Long, hard stare = anger
Furrowed brows = confusion
Slow blinks = hiding, avoiding scrutiny
Rubbing finger over eyelids = working to deceive
Wide eyes = surprise
ARMS AND HANDS
Clenched fist = anger
White knuckles = strong negative emotion (nerves, anger)
Steepled fingers = confidence
LEGS AND FEET
Dragging toes = reluctant
Tightly crossed legs = in a woman it’s protection
Crossed ankles = won’t compromise in an argument
Shifting weight from foot to foot = lying
Everything your characters do, every thought you share with the readers creates memorable characters. From the dating dance to the first kiss to the ultimate night of passion we offer our readers cues to the emotions of our characters. Skip the body details and you miss the opportunity to make your characters jump off the page and into the hearts of your readers.
So are there any body language moves I’ve missed that you really enjoy in a story? Any that are overused? And tell me some of your most memorable characters and why you just can’t get them out of your head and heart.
Okay, for those of you tripping on this hoping the erotic romance writer is talking about some sexually fun topic … forget about it. Just get your minds out of the gutter. I’m just rambling today about writing. Because what I’m discovering about this writing gig is the longer I’m doing it, the harder it’s getting. (Seriously, quit giggling and get your mind out of the bedroom.)
Now stay with me here.
When I first started writing I could sit at the computer for hours typing pages and pages. I didn’t worry so much where the plot was taking me or how the characters were behaving … I just wrote. Blissfully. Stupidly. My stories meandered here and there until I reached an end. It was so easy. Then I got published. Not once, but several times.
Okay, now I had an editor and a series going and wait … there are readers out there looking for my next book. Yay! What a thrill. It is, it really is, but now when I sit down to write I have this niggling anti-muse looking over my shoulder saying things like “the reader’s going to see that twist, don’t bother” “oh, he would say that?” “that’s not a good plot it’s been overused” “they’re not going to like this as much as the last book” “they’re going to slaughter you on Goodreads for that”.
Yeah, you get the idea. The whole nasty negativity stealing away my creative juices. So here are a couple ways I’ve learned to combat it.
1. Turn the music up louder. That’s right drown out the negativity.
2. Keep typing, everything can be fixed in edits
3. Type without looking back. Don’t allow yourself to turn around and second guess the day’s writing.
4. Even if you’re a pantser, take 5 minutes before you write and jot down the important points of the scene/chapter you’re working on. You’ll be surprised how much that will increase your productivity.
5. And if all that fails … gag the bitch and tell her to shut the f%*&@# up!
Whew I feel better. I hope those tips help. As for me, it’s time to find that gag and write out a couple of scene points and finish up the book I’m working on. I know readers are waiting on this one.
Oh, and just so you have something to discuss … what’s for dinner? (I’m always looking for ideas.)
When I was in high school I was very active in drama. (I know … such a surprise right? LOL!) When I was on stage I got to become anyone. A fat Russian spy. A traveling dancer entertaining a MASH unit. A woman married to a murderer. I loved it!
Being an author is a lot like acting on stage. When I write a scene I crawl into the skin of that character. Burrow into their heads and think like them. And I really enjoy writing from the man’s point of view (POV). Many female authors I read are very good at creating flawed male characters who rise above their pain and backgrounds to save the world and fall in love.
And I started thinking about this. Why are women so good at this? I think it’s because we’ve spent so much of our lives studying the opposite sex. It starts at a young age with our dads. When I wanted something–to borrow the car or stay out past curfew–I knew when to ask my dad and when not to broach the subject. I also grew up with three brothers. There’s a lot you learn with three male siblings as they go about their days just doing guy things.
I realize not every writer grew up with their dad or male siblings. But it doesn’t matter your home life, every day we interact with others. From the playground to the classroom to the office, we connect with both sexes. And since most women are intuitive, we pick up on little nuances of behavior that most men don’t see or recognize. Writers simply learn how to extrapolate that information and turn it into a believable hero readers fall in love with.
Men are Visual
– They have better light detection and depth perception
– Conversations often stem from visual cues
– Sexual attraction starts with what he’s seeing
Men are Problem Solvers
– They are “doers” not “thinkers”
– They like being in charge (or think they are)
– They rarely admit being wrong (and it’s even more rare they apologize)
– They aren’t detail oriented. They prefer the big picture
– They rarely ask for opinions
Men are conservative in communication
– They speak around 7,000 words per day (Women are more around 20,000)
– Connect to the physical rather than the emotional
– Don’t use euphemisms
– They rarely listen without giving advice
– Don’t use adjectives
– Don’t enjoy small talk
– Rarely use agreeing noises (uh huh, oh yeah)
(Any major characteristics I missed?) So what about you? Do you think female writers create believable heroes who act like real men OR do they create men who act and talk the way a romance reader would want a man to act? What do you think? I’m always curious about stuff like that.
I’ve been bouncing around the internet checking on writer blogs, publishing blogs and just general frivolity blogs. I’ve been reading posts on everything from the digital age writer to writer integrity to the pressures writers are feeling in this new age of publishing. *sigh* It’s so much to take in.
There is just so much to do. I like blogging. I like hanging out on twitter and facebook. Heck, I’ve even become enanmored with pinterest. But man, do they become a time suck. And you know, half the time when I’m visiting those sites I feel like I’m marketing even when I’m trying not to. I’ve lost the ability to just hang out, have a margarita and talk about nothing. Nothing. I don’t mean in real life, I mean on the internet.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve become one of those writers who walk into a social media room and no one makes virtual eye contact because even an innocuous conversation about soda consumption in the US evolves into eating sweets which of course I can segue right into a pitch about the kinky sex scene involving whipped cream and ginger root (yeah, google that one) in my newest release. Okay, no, I’m not that bad, but you get the idea.
It’s all so overwhelming. And oh yeah, I actually have readers (bless all three of you) clamoring for another new book which means I need to sit down and write. A scene. A chapter. A new story. But there’s so much to do! So many places to be and so much to do when I get there. (I won’t even tell you what fun I’ve been having with Amazon this week which has sapped all my energy–you’ll get that story next week when it’s resolved.)
I don’t like it. I want to sit down at the computer and not feel like I have ADD … Author Data Deluge
I had the pleasure of meeting a woman this week who has become a major player in the world of publishing. And you know how she did it? By not marketing. Not always trying to sell something. She did it just by being her sweet, quirky, effervescent self. Now big name authors, large review sites and heck yeah, television personalities are clamoring to meet her. (And small time authors want to be her.) In this case it wasn’t luck that skyrocketed her, but just a sincerity that showed through even the flat screen of the internet.
I think she’s got something there. It made me sit back and think. I just need to let the books out there percolate and move forward with something new. Stop worrying about selling and take time, focus on one of the stories sitting partially done and just write. Something. Anything. I’ve got to stop feeling so panicked about sales of already published books and find the joy of creating something new.
How about you? How goes it? How are you defining your success these days?
One of the things I love about being an author is the power I have to construct a setting, create a hero or twist a plot. And just a choice word here or there can make things dark and dangerous or sexy and passionate.
Let me use a scene from my erotic romance, Invitation to Ecstasy to show how I give a scene life and depth.
Sara had paddled the kayak for nearly thirty minutes to get to the private beach on the backside of the island. She wasn’t sure she really wanted to do this.
The above paragraph is adequate. But it doesn’t paint much of a picture. An author’s job is to put the reader in the scene. What’s the weather like? What kind of beach? Sandy? Rocky? And what the heck didn’t she want to do?
How about if I give the reader some of that information?
Sara pulled the red kayak up the sandy beach and out of the gentle wash of the surf. Though it was only a thirty-minute paddle around the backside of the island to the private lagoon, it had taken her well over an hour to get here.
Trepidation and fear had battled her determination to face her past. She’d turned back nearly as many times as she’d pushed forward. But stubbornness to finish what had begun had gotten her this far. And now that she was here, her bare feet shifting nervously in the warm sand, Sara wasn’t sure why she thought she could take this final step alone.
Ah, now we’re getting an idea of what’s going on. She’s forced herself here to face her past … and she’s doing it alone. Now what?
Sara could see the bungalow from where she stood. It was filled with some very bad memories that had taken her two years of therapy to get over. She only needed to go in and face the terrible things her late husband had done to her in that space and she could move forward with her life.
Oh, so we find out she’s come here to confront the horrible things her husband … who’s dead … did to her in the cabin. But the reader has no idea how this makes her feel. Is she afraid or happy to finally be making this journey down memory lane? And what did her husband do to her? Add those details and you have this …
The secluded bungalow, barely visible through the lush tropical foliage, had been both her paradise and her hell. It was the purgatory of memories that Sara had intended to purge when she’d left the main lodge. All she had to do was go in, slay the dragons causing her nightmares and close the book on one ugly-ass chapter of her life.
But two years. Two years of intense therapy. Two years simply putting one foot in front of the other. Two years battling to survive the ghost of her late husband had taken its toll.
The manacles Marc had put around her soul imprisoned her as completely as any physical bindings that had held her captive. If she could manage this one last task, this one last look at the ugliness Marc had made of their marriage, then she could banish him once and for all into the dark corner of her heart where life’s other hard lessons had left their scars.
Ah, now that tells the reader soooo much more. Using strong emotional words like trepidation, fear, stubborness, battling to survive certainly brings the reader into her frame of mind. Purgatory of memories and slaying dragons continue the feeling that this is not a happy place for her. Also, notice I used repetition to drive home “two years”. Repeating a word or phrase three times in that second paragraph makes a point with the readers. But use this writing device judiciously. Too many times and it will pull the reader from the story.
So now what?
But she wasn’t ready to go inside the bungalow. She wanted to go for a swim instead. Sara stripped naked, grabbed her snorkeling equipment from the kayak and jumped into the ocean. As she was swimming the cool water stroked her body turning the swim into an erotic experience.
That paragraph “tells” the reader everything they need to know, it doesn’t show the reader anything about Sara’s actions. But there’s nothing there to connect the reader to our heroine and make them care what’s happening. How about if I add some of those details?
But the little excursion down memory lane seemed impossible to face at the moment. She needed to work off a little nervous energy before braving the bungalow, and a swim in the warm Atlantic seemed to fit the bill.
Feeling the need for a little adventure, she slipped off her red tankini bathing suit and dropped it on the sand. Though she knew from experience this secluded cove was usually deserted, Sara felt delightfully naughty as she grabbed the mask, snorkel and fins from the storage compartment in the back of the kayak.
The salty breeze danced with her hair and slid wantonly over her skin like a lover’s caress as she walked into the ocean. When she dropped into the surf on her back, the normally serene water rolled into gentle waves that cradled and rocked her. Comfortable in the water, Sara easily slipped on her swim fins and mask, putting the snorkel in her mouth before rolling onto her stomach.
With practiced kicks of the fins, her thighs rubbed pleasantly together and water drifted over her breasts, belly and mons as she headed out into the lagoon. Cool water stroked heated flesh, steepling her nipples. Despite the heartache that had driven her here, the simple swim to clear her head and shore up her courage had turned into an titillating experience that had her libido humming. Her laugh echoed strangely through the snorkel at how proud Ethan would be that his paradise caused such salacious thoughts.
The awful trip down memory lane could definitely wait until she’d experienced a little pleasure.
So there you have it. Intermingling emotion, internal dialogue and backstory into your action keeps the story moving forward and your reader turning pages. What makes a great read for you? Anything in particular that will keep you turning pages?
Buy INVITATION TO ECSTASY from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
I’m in the process of rewriting a book I’ve always loved, but it really just isn’t ready for public consumption. It’s hard. I LOVE this story, but finding the gold in the pile of crud is really a daunting task. Mostly because I love writing narrative. Long, flowing descriptions of people and places. Paragraphs of personal introspection. But guess what? Readers don’t want to wade through all of that, regardless of imagery. They want action. Things to happen. This means stories need to clip along. No meandering chapters. Every word carefully chosen. Nothing wasted.
So how do you find those words and phrases that can be cut without changing your story?
* Search your manuscripts for words ending in “ly”.
It’s unnecessary to say:
– She whispered quietly.
– He banged the table loudly.
“Whisper” is inherently quiet. A “bang” is loud. Those adverbs don’t help you draw the picture for you readers. You’ve already done that.
* Remove unnecessary descriptive words.
– The baby kitten purred.
– The giant tank rolled through the streets.
Kittens are babies and have you ever seen a small tank? There is no reason to include these words. The nouns themselves already give the description.
* Trust that your description explains without stating it again.
Stomping around the room, she couldn’t meet his gaze. “Because I don’t want to!” she yelled. Damn she was angry.
The last sentence isn’t needed. By using strong verbs like “stomp” and “yelled” you’ve already painted the picture of her anger. You don’t need to restate it.
Luke studied her face. Her unfocused eyes were heavy lidded, the long lashes brushing her flushed cheeks. Little puffs of breath feathered through her full lips. Sarah was so turned on.
Again, the reader knows she’s turned on. The author has done a wonderful job painting that picture. Don’t waste words stating the obvious.
* Make your verbs work for you. This also goes to writing action vs. passive.
Incorrect: The ball was bouncing across the driveway.
Correct: The ball bounced across the driveway.
It’s amazing the number of words you can cut from your manuscript by searching for “was”, “were”, and “been” and choosing a stronger verb to get your point across.
These are just a few of the easy steps to streamline your manuscript. Don’t let the word count limitations limit your story.
I know I’m very late getting back to my blog after the holidays. It just seems I’m having a hard time rolling into 2012. I don’t have any more
excuses reasons than any other woman who has a family and holiday responsibilities. Yep, Mr. Nina and I managed to have a wonderful Christmas morning with our kids. They are adults, but we still keep up all the *Santa* traditions we’ve held on to since they were children. It was fun.
We drank a lot of wine. Ate too much food. And laughed continuously.
Now it’s time to settle into 2012. So here I am, sitting before my computer and a blank calendar. As 2011 came to a close I realized I needed to reassess and really look at what I hoped 2012 would bring. One of the things I’m already doing is cutting back on the number of RWA Chapters I belong to. Though each one was wonderful, I found there were more emails than helpful information coming through. Out they go.
As I always do, I’m looking at my blogging time. With the explosion of social media, I think fewer and fewer people are finding time to stop by blogs. But it seems I go ’round and ’round this ride and keep coming back to the fact that I enjoy it for the most part. I think more than anything it’s my opportunity to spew about my life. Whether it’s good or bad, I can kick sand or jump for joy with people who understand the publishing journey. So for now, I’m sticking to my Mon-Wed-Fri schedule. I hope to fill the year with some fun and humor, introductions to new authors, and keeping up on the latest in the publishing world.
But the biggest decision I’ve come to is about my writing. I’m an analytical person. I couldn’t stop myself from looking at the market and studying other successful authors. I’ve tried to emulate them, not in their writing style or voice or anything, but how they handled their career. And after six years I’ve come to realize in the end it’s done nothing but frustrate me. This BLOG POST really opened my eyes. Especially numbers 17, 18, and 19. There is just too much I can’t control. And many times something one author does that skyrockets their books to the bestseller list, rarely translates over to another author’s success. Trust me on this one. I know it from experience.
So my goal this year is to slow down. Stop chasing the money and just write what works for me. I’m convinced the money will follow. Does this mean I’m rolling over and not being logical about my marketing? No. It just means I’m going to stop trying to recreate other people’s success.
Oh, and I’ve also decided I’m going to figure out this weight situation that has gotten out of control. Not sure how it’s going to work since I’m spending more time in the electric wheelchair, but I’m thinking there’s got to be a balance between feeding my body and expanding my waistline when exercise isn’t an option. Hmmm, wish me luck on that one.
So what about you? Do you have goals for 2012?