Jilly: Play to Your Strengths

Think about your favorite authors. What are the hallmarks of their writing? Jenny Crusie writes fabulous, snappy, snarky dialogue. Loretta Chase is the goddess of subtext—she’s brilliant at creating powerful emotional bonds between her heroes and heroines, who hide their feelings behind carefully constructed facades that fracture at the perfect, critical, moment.

What about you? In your writing, or any other aspect of your creativity, or your life in general, do you know what your strengths are? If you’re anything like me, I bet you’d find it far easier to list what you’re not good at, where you need to improve, where others have a skill that far surpasses yours.

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Jilly: The Mistress Problem

I’d really, really like to find a different form of address for the gentlewomen in my WIP, especially my heroine.

Lately I’ve been working on a sequence of set piece scenes toward the end of the book. The setting is a fantasy world, historical, before the invention of guns. Horses ‘n swords. Vaguely Tudor-ish, with a few creative liberties taken. The action takes place at the most important event in the city’s calendar. Everyone who’s anyone is present: royalty, aristocracy, military, and a lucky few gentlefolk. All the guests are addressed formally, even (especially!) when they’re hurling deadly insults at one another.

The problem is my heroine, Alexis Doe. She’s 25. Unmarried, but old enough to be a wife and mother. Of no acknowledged family (her name indicates she’s illegitimate), but invited as a guest of the Princess Dowager, scary and powerful grandmother of the Crown Prince. Alexis has no title, but her connections would carry a certain level of cachet and she would be addressed with respect. As far as I can see, she would be called Mistress Doe.

I did a fair amount of reading around, looking for possibilities, and I found a fascinating article describing research done by Dr Amy Erickson at the University of Cambridge (click here to read more about Mistress, Miss, Mrs or Ms: untangling the shifting history of titles).

Apparently both Mrs and Miss are abbreviations of Mistress. Continue reading

Jilly: I’d Love to Read His Story

In her post last Saturday, Michaeline talked about subplots and secondary characters. We chatted in the comments about the movie version of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride, and Michaeline said she wished the whole story could have been about the master swordsman sidekick, Inigo Montoya.

Which got me wondering: which secondary character(s) would you like to see in a starring role?

In this era of series, especially in romance, many (most?) significant secondary characters are written and signaled as sequel bait. Usually I’m excited about that. I love the promise of more stories in a world I’m enjoying, and if I’m already invested in the characters, there’s a delicious frisson of anticipation whenever they do something that could come back to bite them later.

Sometimes the author dangles the treat but keeps the reader waiting through multiple books. Maybe even through an entire series, like Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green books, where it was always clear that the resolution of Lyon and Olivia’s romance arc would wrap up the series. That’s OK. I’m comfortable with deferred gratification. I know the story will come, eventually. If I care enough, all I have to do is stick with the author and series until it arrives.

Here, I’m thinking more about the cast of supporting players who people a fictional world but who are not set up to step into the limelight in due course. Take Christopher and Barabas, two characters from Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels urban fantasy series. Ilona put up a blog post a few days ago in response to a reader’s question about whether she would ever write their romance. Click here to read the post in full. In short, Ilona said the decision would not be a question of popularity, but one of inspiration.

If I had my way, I’d beg the story gods to Continue reading

Jilly: Educated and Entertained

Anyone interested in hearing Eloisa James, Ilona and Gordon Andrews, Alisha Rai, and Sarah MacLean discuss various aspects of romance writing?

I just spent almost three hours online watching a recording of a fascinating, funny and insightful seminar held last week at Duke University. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it. My plan was to skim it for the good bits and listen to the rest later, but it turned out to be all killer, no filler. The only bits I skipped were the rest breaks 😉 .

The event was called Gender, Sexuality, Feminism and the Romance Novel, and indeed all those subjects are covered in an intelligent and engaging way, but there was so much more.

Each author talked about their home environment and what led them to become a romance writer. After that, the Q&A session included: Continue reading

Michille: Write Your Novel In A Year – Week 52

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Mark Gottlieb, Trident Media Group

One of my favorite blogs did an ongoing bit last year called “Write Your Novel In A Year.” It ended with Week 52: Keep the Momentum Going. The goal for the last week is to work on ideas and strategies for your next book. And then the blogger says, take a break, immerse yourself in someone else’s stories, and do imagination exercises. The last ‘pin it, quote it, belief it’ of the year was “I oscillate between thinking I’m crazy and thinking I’m not crazy enough” (Joyce Carol Oates). Yep, been there. Continue reading

Jilly: A Very Important Kiss

A Very Important KissDo you agree that in the right circumstances a single kiss could be an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending to the first book of a fantasy paranormal romance series?

No prizes for guessing which particular fantasy paranormal romance series I’m talking about 😉 .

This week, in between birthday and Christmas partying, I’ve been tweaking the first 50 pages of my WIP for entry into the RWA’s Golden Heart contest.

This story is very different from anything I’ve written before, and I want to make sure I don’t trip myself up on the GH deal-breakers.

In addition to assigning an overall score, first-round GH judges are asked to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the following questions:

  • Does the entry contain a central love story?
  • Is the resolution of the romance emotionally satisfying and optimistic?

If three judges answer ‘no’ to either question, the entry is disqualified. Which would be hugely disappointing, to say the least. Continue reading

Jilly: Christmas and Community

christmas-and-communityJust three weeks of 2016 left!

The first few days of December are always the calm before the storm. I’ve been inching forward with my WIP; wrestling with my synopsis, which needs to be totally rewritten; working on the edit of my first 50 pages; and thinking some more about how to keep my story alive when the holidays are in full swing.

Last Sunday I put together a list of ways to stay in touch your story on a daily basis – quick tricks that could be squeezed into the most packed schedule. Then, on Thursday, Kay tracked down some productivity insights offered by the prolific film and TV writer-producer-director, Joss Whedon. I’m especially grateful for the tip about the importance of rewarding oneself early and often. 🙂

Yesterday, to my surprise, I added another strand to my holiday week WIP survival plan. Continue reading