Jeanne: Why I Don’t Write Erotica

Neckties

This post is supposed to be my monthly progress update, but:

  • My web developer is on vacation, so my website is on hold.
  • I’m neck deep in revisions to my first demon book based on the feedback I got from my editor, Karen Dale Harris.
  • I’m also trying to rethink the plot of the second demon book and wrap my head around the premise for the third. So, lots of  in-progress, just nothing completed to crow about.

So, instead, I’ll share the problems I run into when I write too sexy for my style…. Continue reading

Jeanne: July Progress Report

Last month I started a series on my project to self-publish a trilogy of paranormal romances. I posted a very aggressive project plan that showed the first book releasing in May, 2018. You may recall that the early part of the plan looked something like this (previously completed tasks removed for simplicity):

Task Description Start Date End Date % Complete
One-Time Tasks      
General Marketing and Branding Tasks      
Get a website built 4/13/2017 6/12/2017 75%
Receive draft site 6/12/2017
Go live with site 8/1/2017
Send out first newsletter 9/1/2017
Plan blog tour
Book-specific tasks
Book 1—The Demon Always Wins
Submit manuscript to editor (milestone) 4/1/2017 Done
Developmental edit process 4/1/2017 6/19/2017 75%
Make revisions from editor feedback 6/20/2017 7/20/2017

I’m happy to report some solid progress on these tasks. Continue reading

Jeanne: Planning for Success

Sometime next spring, I plan to self-publish a trilogy of paranormal romances. The Eight Ladies have graciously agreed to let me do a monthly post about the self-publishing process and what I learn along the way.

There are a lot of things to learn:

  • How to build a brand
  • How to find and hire editors, proofreaders and formatters
  • How to find the right cover designer
  • How to promote and market my books
  • And just the nuts and bolts of how to physically get the book onto Amazon (and other distributors, if you choose to go wide).

With so much work to do, I’m going to need a project plan. Fortunately, in my past life I managed a lot of software development projects, so that’s something I already know how to do. Continue reading

Jeanne–WWJWD: What Would Joss Whedon Do?

Joss Whedon

One of my big discoveries while at McDaniel was Joss Whedon, The man is a god where plotting is concerned. He routinely puts his protagonists into situations where there seems to be no possible resolution–at least none that include continued existence and/or happiness. And he equally routinely manages to pull off crazy creative solutions that accomplish just that.

I dream of someday getting a review that says, “reminiscent of a Joss Whedon story.”

Told you that to tell you this:

Recently, I read a romance novel with a plot that was what Jenny Crusie calls a string of pearls–a series of tenuously connected events that are all roughly the same intensity.

The book started out strong. The protagonist was the widow of a famous musician. Her husband had died a year or so before and she was dead broke, living in her car and selling off her possessions on eBay to buy food until hubby’s will cleared probate. Only then it turned out hubby had invested everything in a company that failed. There was no money. Continue reading

Jeanne: The Power of Persistence

In the 1970’s, I wrote (on a typewriter) a historical romance set in 1870’s Wyoming called Wildfire Woman. It featured a rape of the heroine (romances were really rape-y back then) and no discernible plot.

Although the hallmark of the beginning writer is that we believe every word that dribbles from our pen (or platen) is a morsel of genius, even I knew it didn’t work. After playing around with it for a few months, I put it in a drawer and (all but) forgot about it.

Then, in the 1980’s, I tried again. Deciding I had maybe bitten off more than I could chew with a historical, I wrote a contemporary category romance. Because anyone can write a Harlequin romance, right?

This one I wrote on an early, early PC–a CPM-80 machine. This manuscript also lacked even that faintest vestige of a plot.

As far as I can tell, I never even gave it a name.

In 1994, while living in Minnesota, I became fascinated with the story of the Hinckley Fire of 1894, a forest fire that generated a mile high fireball that could be seen from Iowa, 90 miles south. I spent 8 years doing research. Determined to do a better job with this story, I signed up for a “Writing the Novel” class at my local community college. My amazing teacher, Tim Waggoner, told me that, in his opinion, my prose was at a professional level but my plot “meandered.”

Grrr. (Frustration at myself, not Tim.)

Note the “thud factor” on this one–first draft came in at 120,000 words. If your first million words are indeed just practice, this one should have put me over the top. I wrote twelve drafts. I submitted it twice, but when the second agent told me she didn’t think my writing was there yet, I agreed and went on to….

romantic suspense. Suspense novels are, almost by definition, plot-driven. By the time I completed it, I reasoned, I would have figured out this plotting thing.

Not so much. When I started shopping it, Jessica Faust from Bookends literary agency told me, “Your writing is strong and I love this idea, but your plot feels like you just threw in everything you could think of.”

The pile in the drawer grew deeper.

On to a work of women’s fiction. While writing August Lilies, I attended Robert McKee’s Story seminar, where I learned about the three-act structure and turning points.

I was getting closer, but I still wasn’t managing to create compelling stories. I knew lots of people who were submitting all the time, but I was less interested in selling than I was in writing well.

Kent Haruf, who wrote the National Book Award-winning Plainsong, said, in an interview on NPR: It doesn’t seem to me there’s a scarcity of talent among students who want to write. But what there is  a lack of is a talent for work…it’s so difficult to write and it takes so long to learn how to write well that most people give up on it before they get good enough.

 I was determined not to be one of those people.
In 2012, I was ready to give it another shot. After spending the winter obsessed with Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight series, I decided to write a paranormal romance based on the story of Job.

I laid out the framework for the book at a Plotting Weekend with Mary Buckham. Then I heard that McDaniel College in Baltimore was offering a Master’s certificate in “Writingthe Romance Novel.” It would be taught by none other than Jenny Crusie. I’d only ever read one of her novels (Faking It), but from that one book it was clear that she knew how to plot. And she’d been an English teacher, so she knew how to teach. Plus, Nora Roberts had partially fundedthe program, so it wasn’t insanely expensive.

And, glory hallelujah, Jenny finally managed to get theconcepts ofcharacter and story arc across to me.

The proof of this is that on July 25th, 2015, nearly 40 years after I wrote my first book, my novel, Demons Don’t (since re-titled Demon’s Wager) won the 2015 Golden Heart® award for paranormal romance. That win rated a mention in The USA Today on the next week and spawned an interview in my local paper with the headline “Riverside Writer Wins Coveted Golden Heart.” (Coveted!) I don’t know that this will lead to traditional publication, or even that I want it to, but I’m taking it as a vote of confidence that my writing is finally “there.”

Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything. If I add up all the time I’ve spent on writing, I’m probably at twice that. (And we won’t even talk about how much money all those conferences and workshops have cost.) But for the entire time I’ve been writing, in every class I’ve taken, I’ve been told, “The single most important trait a writer can have is persistence.”

That, I have.

Jeanne: The Writing Continuum

When I was in New York for the RWA national conference in July, I got a chance to see two of my writing idols: Jenny Crusie and Nora Roberts. It’s hard to imagine two writers whose philosophies are more different.

Jenny was the 8 Ladies’ instructor in the romance writing certificate program at McDaniel College. I give her 95% of the credit for my Golden Heart win. Jenny is a firm believer in Calliope, the Muse of Writing. Well, she actually refers to her muses as The Girls in the Attic. In Jenny’s view, the Girls are responsible for the inspiration that allows us to create story worlds. She says, “Whatever you do, don’t get in the way of the Girls.” Continue reading

Jeanne: Protecting Your Creative Process

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The other day I was describing to a friend a new novel I’m writing. The book will be women’s fiction–my other love.

It was inspired by a reality TV show I saw a few years ago. A woman underwent an extreme makeover–boob job, tummy tuck, fanny lift, chin and cheek implants, dental work. They took an inch–an inch!–off her nose. When they were done, she looked like a Hollywood starlet.

For the reveal, they showed her descending a spiral staircase. At the bottom stood her husband, in his brown polyester suit, with his comb-over. Beside him was their 12-year-old daughter, sporting the nose Mom just got rid of. And I thought: How in the world will she ever go back to her old life? Continue reading