Elizabeth: The Dominant Narrative

A few Wednesdays ago I posted that I was planning to attend a virtual writing convention.  It was a plan that, sadly, went awry, due in large part to my writing the reminder about the class down on my calendar in the wrong month.  I realized my mistake today, one day after the conference had concluded.

Quel dommage!

Thank goodness I had forgotten to register as well!  On the whole, I wasn’t too terribly devastated. A four-day virtual conference was always going to be a bit of a stretch for my attention span.  Though I was sorry to miss the Prizes! Prizes! Prizes!

Lucky for me, that wasn’t the only virtual learning event on my calendar.  I happily spent a portion of this past Friday and Saturday at another, shorter virtual conference and came away with more than I expected for my $25 fee (though, sadly, without prizes).

The event got off to a bit of a slow start, with the kind of Zoom-technical-difficulties that have become commonplace in our Age of Coronavirus, but once everything was straightened out we were up and running.  First up was a talk by LaQuette entitled “An Intimate Conversation about Representation and Authenticity in Fiction”  I wish I had taken notes, since I’ve already forgotten almost all that I heard (fortunately, I can listen to a replay of the session later), but she was definitely interesting, engaging, and someone I’d like to hear (and read) more from.  Coincidentally, she’s teaching a short course that I’ve enrolled in, which starts in . . . just a few hours. Continue reading

Jeanne: Finding Your Beginning in Your Ending

jen-malone-425423679Last week I attended an online workshop presented by Middle Grade and YA author Jen Malone on the topic of Show Don’t Tell.

The class focused on opening scenes, and how to write them in a way that provides enough information for your readers to understand what’s going on without drowning them in backstory. Following are a couple of gems I gleaned from the class.

First, a handy little rule of thumb for gauging the balance between showing and telling in your first scene. If you’re not sure if it’s too heavy on the telling, try visualizing it as a movie opening. If you need a voice-over to get through the scene, you’re telling too much.

The other thing she said that really struck me was to envision your main character the way you want them to be at the end of the story and then create a first scene that portrays the character as the opposite of that.

That was fairly easy to do for Lilith, my protagonist, because she’s a familiar character from my previous two books. The character I’ve been struggling with is Samael, Lilith’s ex-husband and the head of Hell’s legal department (i.e. the devil’s advocate).

I knew some of his character traits: ambitious, competitive (every lawyer I’ve ever met is over-the-top competitive) and a mind like a steel trap. But I couldn’t figure out what this would look like in my opening scene.

So, I tried out her method. At the end of the story, I want him to be:

  • Willing to give up being a power in Hell
  • Willing to lose if it will give him the life he wants
  • In touch with his emotions and able to recognize that not all choices can be made strictly via logic
  • Family-focused

Which means at the beginning I want to portray him as:

  • Ambitious
  • Competitive
  • Ruthlessly logical
  • Career-driven

This may not sound like much, but now that I know how to portray him in that opening scene, I feel like I have a much better handle on it.

What tricks do you use to help you get started?

Elizabeth: Always Something to Learn

My daily news feed is full of all kinds of random information and, if it’s a Tuesday, more than a few #BadJokes.  One of the items that caught my attention today was a post about the upcoming 2020 RSJ Virtual Romance Book Con.  Normally I would have just skipped past the link, but I must have had training on the mind, thanks to Jeanne’s post yesterday about her takeaways from a recent deep POV class.

For those who are unfamiliar with RSJ, it stands for “Romance Slam Jam.”  According to their website,

“Our book lover events celebrate diversity in publishing with a focus on romance and women’s fiction and the readers who love them.”

The upcoming virtual event takes place June 24-28th (from the comfort of your own living room) and unlike other book related events, this one includes both readers and writers. There seem to be a number of interesting workshops planned including: Continue reading

Jilly: Level Up

Are you a writing craft nerd? Or simply interested in taking your writing to the next level?

If you enjoyed Michille’s post last Thursday about the beauty of the comma, then you might also be interested in a free ten-day self-paced class that offers a self-editing toolbox to help make your manuscript shine.

The class is called Learn to Polish Your Manuscript in Ten Days. I know about it because it’s offered by Anne Victory, the line editor I chose to help me burnish The Seeds of Power. Anne has an impressive client list—check out her website and you’ll find famous names like Courtney Milan, Ilona Andrews, Nalini Singh, Gena Showalter, Jeaniene Frost.

Working with Anne was an eye-opener for me. I thought the draft manuscript I sent her was pretty clean. Wrong. I was shocked at how many technical errors I made, from capitalization and punctuation to sentence construction. Luckily for me, Anne is an excellent teacher as well as a fabulous editor. She’s kind and funny, and she explains exactly why she’s recommended a correction. I learned a lot and I’m determined to do better next time.

Full disclosure: I haven’t tried Learn to Polish Your Manuscript in Ten Days. After I edited and published The Seeds of Power I invested in Victory Academy’s in-depth, paid masterclass version of the course (Self-Editing Masterclass, $145, if you’re curious). I’d say I already got my money’s worth.

According to Anne’s website, the free course is structured as follows:

  • Day 1: Avoiding infodumps
  • Day 2: Dialogue mechanics
  • Day 3: Show vs. tell in dialogue
  • Day 4: Carrying show vs. tell forward to your narrative
  • Day 5: Deepening your point of view and strengthening your protagonist’s voice
  • Day 6: Overwriting and how to avoid it
  • Day 7: Saying it once—trust your reader!
  • Day 8: Tense issues
  • Day 9: The dreaded play-by-play
  • Day 10: Making your life easier by using styles in Word
  • Day 11: A bonus resource list!

Sounds good, no? If you’re interested, you can meet Anne and find out more about Learn to Polish Your Manuscript in Ten Days by clicking here.

I should add that I have no vested interest in this recommendation. No kickbacks, no affiliate links, no discount off my next edit. It just looked too good not to share 🙂

If you decide to give it a try, I’d love to know how you get on.

Justine: Being Judicious When Reviewing Editor Comments

At the beginning of November, I received comments back from my developmental editor. This was the first time in six years of writing that I’d gotten far enough to 1) finish a book, and 2) submit it to an editor. When I got her comments–which included a letter with general recommendations as well as detailed line edits throughout the MS, plus a 1.5 hour Skype call–I sat back and processed everything she threw at me before making changes, and I’m glad I did.

But once I was done digesting, how did I figure out what to use and what to keep? I listened to my gut.

Just because an editor (or anyone) makes a suggestion, doesn’t mean you make the change. It doesn’t mean you ignore them, either. The rule of thumb I follow is this:

  • If one person makes a suggested change, I think about it, weigh the merits, and listen to my gut.
  • If one person + my gut makes a suggestion, I usually change it.
  • If 2+ people make the same suggestion, my gut is usually quick to follow suit, and I usually change it.

I say “usually” because sometimes (really…rarely) there’s a compelling reason for me not to. If that’s the case, I’ll brainstorm with my critique partners to see if there’s a way to make a different change that remedies the problem or issue they pointed out. In general, though, if more than one person (or my gut and someone else) suggest something or point out a problem, I try to fix it. Continue reading

Justine: WHEN Do the Kids Go Back To School?

overwhelmed momI’m not sure what sort of writer you are, but I’m definitely a big chunk writer. I need time to GET into my writing world and time to STAY in my writing world (preferably without interruptions).

With the kids home this summer (they’re 11 and 10), that just isn’t happening. So I’ve pretty much written off getting any substantive work done on my MS. Fortunately, their return-to-school date is August 1st (believe me, I’m counting down the days).

Instead of writing, I have been focusing on other things that are still career-centered, but make it a bit easier for me to handle interruptions switch gears.

Mark Dawson’s Self-Publishing Formula (SPF) Course

For those of you unfamiliar, Mark Dawson is a British writer who has put together some very thorough and detailed web courses on the ins and outs of self-publishing. It’s pricey and there are limited times during the year when you can sign up, but I think it’s well worth it. In addition to the typical nuts-and-bolts of self-publishing, he gives you some good tactical and strategic advice, such as about maximizing newsletter sign-up (both from your ebooks and your website), pros and cons of going narrow or wide, and launch strategies. All of his courses are one-cost-for-life, so you’re eligible for all course updates in the future. Continue reading

Jeanne: Enneagrams

On Sunday, Jilly talked about the class we’re taking, Inside Out: Crafting Your Character’s Emotional Conflict, with award-winning author Linnea Sinclair.*

LinneaSinclair13

Linnea Sinclair

One of the things that makes me such a slow writer is because it generally takes me 100 or more painfully typed pages to know my characters well enough to understand what they’ll do in any given situation. Up to that point (and sometimes, as with my current WIP, even longer) I head off in wrong directions and follow blind alleys and generally wander in the wilderness while I get to know them.

It’s not an efficient process.

Now Ms. Sinclair has given me a tool to (I really hope) shortcut that painful process–the Enneagram (pronounced any-a-gram). According to the Integrative 9 website, the Enneagram is an archetypal framework that offers in-depth insight to individuals, groups and collectives.  Put more simply, it’s a psychological test that categorizes people into 9 different groups based on personality/character factors. Continue reading

Michille: The Comma

Oxford CommaThe comma is my friend. Too friendly. I use too many of them when I write. We all learned in elementary school when to use a comma in the basic sense: in lists, to separate clauses, to enclose parenthetical words/phrases, between adjectives, before quotations, in dates, etc. One of my favorite writer websites if Writers Write and they have a series they call Punctuation for Beginners which goes up on Tuesdays. In general, I like to noodle around on grammar sites for refreshers as it’s been a while since I learned grammar. Yesterday, the post was All About Commas. I learned a little about writing, but mostly I found the humor.

I think my biggest problem is the parenthetical word/phrase use. I put a lot of parenthetical information in my writing for clarification and that requires a comma. Until I looked over that post and then dug a little deeper, I realized that I could use the comma as a flag to edit (well, as another way to edit). If I examine the use of commas in a sentence, and I’ve stuck in clarifying information that could be written another way with even more clarity – Voila! – better writing.

A woman that I work with refuses to use The Oxford Comma. We have good-natured arguments on a fairly regular basis (she is also a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and I’m a Baltimore Ravens fan so we argue about more than the comma). The Oxford Comma is defined, in the Oxford Dictionary, as “an optional comma before the word ‘and’ at the end of a list.” I send her any memes I come across that make the Oxford Comma critical to the meaning of the sentence in a funny way, like (pics not included):

After beating the Steelers, Tim Tebow thanked his parents, God, and Ms. Trunchbull.
After beating the Steelers, Tim Tebow thanked his parents, God and Ms. Trunchbull.

We invited the strippers, JFK, and Stalin.
We invited the strippers, JFK and Stalin.

Of course, there is the standard comma humor, too:
Let’s eat, Grandma versus Let’s eat Grandma.
And “Stop clubbing, baby seals.”

I could go on and on with the funny stuff, but you get the idea and I’m sure you’ve seen these all over the ‘net. Do you have favorite grammar humor? Or a problem with being too free with your punctuation?

 

Jilly: Gollanczfest

Are you doing anything special this weekend?

While some of the other Ladies are NaNo-ing, I’ll be spending a chunk of November in writing craft workshops, and I’m kicking off the fun this weekend by attending the Gollancz Festival—a celebration of all things science fiction and fantasy hosted by the publisher and supported by a galaxy of their authors.

I’m writing this post early, because I plan to spend Saturday in London at the Gollancz Writers’ Day—a day of workshops and talks focused on the mechanics and skills needed by the modern writer.

Continue reading

Jeanne: October Progress Report

My overarching goal is to release three books next fall (September/October/November, and  then a boxed set of the three in December), but there are numerous milestones along the way to let me know if I have a prayer of hitting that target.

I accomplished the following in October:

1) Spark Creative Partners completed my website.

Okay, so that sounds like I’m taking credit for their work, but I’m the one that kept testing the site and prodding them to fix/make changes until we got it the way I wanted it. I also chose the font and the starting point for most of the graphics.

It’s live now, if you want to take a look: www.jeanneestridge.com.

I really love what they came up with. I hope you do, too.

2) I booked my editor, Karen Dale Harris, for three more engagements:

Continue reading