Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Character Building part1

Breathing life into your characters is one of the most challenging, yet frustrating things we have to do as writers.  I love it when the character you create becomes like a real person to you.  I especially love it when they become real to the reader.  A woman actually threatened me once (she was joking, I think) after reading three-fourths of a book and getting to the part where the male lead gets shot.  She shook a finger at me and said, "Michael had better not die."  Lucky for me, he didn't. 

I remember the first time one of my characters came to life.  Nineteen at the time, I was working on my second novel, sitting on the couch with the typewriter on my lap.  Two brothers were fighting.  Matt had been possessed by an evil spirit, and Mason had a talisman that was supposed to help free him.  Mason did what he was supposed to do.  My fingers flew across the keys, moving faster than my mind.  Before I knew it, Matt had taken over the scene.  He only pretended to be free.  Once Mason dropped his guard, Matt attacked him.  I stopped writing and started laughing out loud because it was crazy.  I remember my mom asking me what was so funny.  When I told her, she gave me this look like she thought I'd lost my mind and said, "You're the one writing the book."

How do you create a character who springs off the page and becomes real to you and to the reader? 

You need to know them.  You need to live in their skin for a short period of time.  But how do you achieve this?  I've been asked that question dozens of times.  Hopefully I can answer it in the next few articles.  We'll start with goals.  Everyone has goals, both short and long-term.  In my next post I will talk about giving your characters realistic goals.  Happy writing!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Vampires Rule

Indie Writer

For years self-published authors have made a terrible name for themselves by putting out poorly written books with little or no editing.  They paid 'vanity presses' to make their dreams come true and usually ended up with a garage or warehouse full of books no one wanted.  I met one of these people while in college.  She handed me a thing that looked more like a cheap pamplet than a book and told me she had to give them away because no one wanted to buy them.  I swore right then and there that I would NEVER publish a book on my own.

Never say never.  Didn't James Bond say that?  Anyway, I'm in a unique position with the Vampires Rule series.  I had an agent who loved these books.  Stephanie worked for the Trident Media Group, one of the top agencies in New York.  When I landed her, I thought I'd had it made, but Stephanie couldn't find a publisher for these books.  She believed in them and kept trying for a year to find a home for them.  We came so close; it was ridiculous.  An editor at Thomas Nelson wanted to publish them, but her boss said no.  A couple other editors told us they would have published them if we'd sent them two years earlier.  A few didn't like the books, but most editors echoed each other, saying they were afraid to touch them.  The market is saturated with vampire novels and editors feel it is only a matter of time before readers say enough is enough. 

So what do I do?  I can let these books sit on a shelf in cyber-space, gathering dust.  Or I can (gulp) publish them myself, make a few bucks, and hopefully bring a little joy to some readers.  I've already gotten a few nasty comments and cyber-glares from people online, but I am going to hold my head high.  When people ask me if I'm a self-published author, I am going to stand tall, hands on hips and eyes set on the future.  In a voice filled with authority and a touch of awe, I'm going to say, "I am an Indie Writer."

Happy writing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Dreaded Query Letter

Before I began searching for an agent, I researched how to write an effective query letter.  Some of the complaints from agents amazed me.  There are people out there who call the agent 'honey,' spell their name wrong or don't bother to put a name at all.  They need to keep in mind that this is a business.  You wouldn't go on a job interview in torn jeans and drinking a beer.  You wouldn't call the person interviewing you 'sweetheart.'  Not if you wanted the job.  So here are a few things I've learned along the way.

1.  Address the agent by name and be sure to spell it right.

2.  Do not send bribes or beg.  This isn't American Idol.

3.  Don't tell the agent this is 'just something I threw together.'  Be confident in your writing.

4.  Make sure to tell the agent the genre, word count, and other specifics about your book including a summary.  Think of it as what you would see on the back cover.

5.  Don't tell them about your mother's herb garden (unless you've written a book on gardening), but do tell the agent about your publishing history if you have one.

6.  Make the letter brief, no more than a page.  I've heard several agents say they just skim query letters.

7.  Thank the agent for his or her time.

8.  Most of all, be professional.

And if you get a rejection, don't write a nasy note back to the agent.  They talk to each other.  Especially in this day with Twitter and emails, you can't get away with stuff like that and it isn't professional.  If the agent doesn't want to represent your work, you don't want them.  Believe me.  It's nice to have someone (an agent) in your corner, someone who loves your book and is enthusiastic about it.  Happy writing!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

PACING: How to Keep Things Moving Along

Pacing has never been a problem for me.  In fact, my books have been accused of going too fast.  One editor told me she felt like she'd been hit by a bus by the time she got to the end of the book, so I had to purposely slow things down.  Now that I write for young adults, my books are allowed to move faster than ones for the older crowd.  Since pacing has always come naturally for me, I wanted to share my tips with you.

1.  Short sentences make the reader's eyes move down the page faster.  You don't want to use this very often though.  One good place to use this style is during a fight scene.  Don't go overboard with the short sentences or your scene becomes choppy and too difficult to read. 

2.  Shorter chapters near the end of the book.  This is a little trick I picked up years ago.  I used it in my Romantic Suspense novels.  When you get close to the end of the book, say two or three chapters left, make them shorter.  For example: the bad guy kidnaps the girl and the hero has very little time to save her.  You could have short scenes here going back and forth between the girl's pov and the mc's pov. 

3.  Every scene is important.  Don't just throw a scene into your book because you need the word count to be higher.  Each scene should have importance.  Ask yourself what the scene is there for.  Does it give the reader information about someone or something?  Does it set up something that is about to happen or reveal a secret?  Would your story move along fine without this scene?

4.  Too much detail drags a scene down.  The reader has to have some detail, but you don't have to explain what color everything in a room is.  Readers like to use their imagaination.  If you write three paragraphs detailing where everything in the room is located, the reader might go to sleep on you.  We need details.  We like details.  But ask yourself what is the most important aspects of setting in this scene.  What does the reader have to know?

5.  Use quick and snappy dialouge.  Instead of long paragraphs filled with detail, add an interesting conversation.  Personally, I'd rather hear the characters speak than read huge endless paragraphs.

I delete all scenes that don't carry my story forward.  I like to have action in each scene, even if it's only a revealing conversation.  Anyway, those are my tips for creating a faster pace in your novel.  Happy writing.

Monday, March 7, 2011

My New Cover

I liked my old cover okay, but it lacked sparkle.  So here is my new cover.  Hopefully this is the one that will go on my ebook.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Naming Your Book

I've heard several people asking about naming their books.  How do they choose a name?  They ask family, friends, and co-workers if the title they picked is good enough.  Truth is, most publishers are going to change the title of your book anyway.  That's why some authors call their projects 'untitled.' 

When Harlequin published my first book, they did this to me.  I'd been living with the name Married To A Stranger for so long I couldn't imagine it being called anything else, but Harlequin already had a book with that name.  I didn't have a choice.  The senior editor told me she had a few titles in mind.  I wanted to figure something out for myself, but my editor insisted that we listen to the senior editor. 

The book was called Would-Be Wife, a title I still cringe at.

For my second book, I kept the title I chose for it: Borrowed Identity.  So sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose.  In my opinion, it is better to have a back-up plan going in.  Don't just choose one title for your work.  Pick two or three just in case the publisher doesn't like what you have.  Maybe you'll get lucky.  Happy writing.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Promoting an Ebook

I thought writing was hard--until I started to promote my book.  Wow.  This has been mind-boggling difficult, but I've learned a lot.  Promoting an ebook is very different than promoting a print book in a lot of ways.  For years I have studied how to market a regular book because that was where I was headed.  Now I have to totally rethink this whole thing.

I won't be having a book signing in a store or going on one of the local morning shows to talk about my book.  Instead, I'm trying to set up interviews on other blogs, guest posts, maybe even a blog tour.  Honestly, up until three days ago I didn't even know what a blog tour was.

Back when I got published with Harlequin Intrigue, I didn't bother to promote the book.  Harlequin is well known.  My book automatically went to several big name stores.  I got to concentrate on writing. 

This whole ebook thing has turned my life upside-down.  I haven't been able to write for weeks because I've been researching how to market my book, setting up this site, joining forums and answering questions for other people so I can develop a relationship with them.  I feel like I am going up to everyone in America a person at a time, tapping them on the shoulder and saying, "Hey, would you like to read my book?"