Jilly: Too Many Dogs

Do your favorite authors have signature metaphors? Do you?

I’ve just finished working through my developmental edit on The Seeds of Power (yay!). Among many other smart observations and suggestions from my editor, Karen Dale Harris, I was surprised to find this comment: You use metaphors with dogs a lot. Do a search for “dog” and try to vary this.

My reaction: I do? Dogs? I don’t even have a dog. And no dog plays a significant part in this book. Really?

A search revealed the following:

  • The man was like a fighting dog. Once he sank his teeth into a problem, he never let go.
  • Her whole body came to attention, like a hunting dog on point.
  • Captain Randsen’s hackles rose like a well-trained fighting dog.
  • The prince was dressed and waiting. Soft boots, loose overshirt and trousers, and the ill-contained impatience of a dog who’d been promised a walk, despite the fact that the lad probably hadn’t gone to bed until the small hours.
  • Daire said nothing, but if he’d been a dog, his ears would have pricked up.
  • He put his enforced inactivity to good use, worrying at his mission like a dog with a sore paw.
  • Oriel had described her as a strong ruler, politically astute, fiercely protective of her family and their domain. Again, nothing to set the dogs howling.
  • She had the Hollin deep blue eyes and challenging stare, and she looked at him as though he’d thrown her pet lapdog to the hounds for a snack.

Yikes! Dogs, dogs, everywhere, and I hadn’t even noticed.

I’ve fixed it, but I wonder what else I write without realizing. And I’m even more convinced that quality editing is money well spent.

Do you, or your favorite authors, have a go-to metaphor? Or is it just me?

Nancy: Is That a Book on Your Wall?

There comes a time in every story’s life when, in order to grow up into a book, it will undergo revisions. And just as my writing process has evolved over the years and tends to require variations based on the needs of each book, so too has my revision approach changed over time. One constant, though, is at some point, I need to look at the story differently by literally changing its appearance.

I’ve used the standard tricks over the years. Change the entire manuscript to a different font. Color code each POV or type of scene/action occurring. Print out the document in hard copy. For my current revision  fiasco project, I needed a new trick. Cue the music of worlds colliding as I realized I might have just the right tool sitting in the toolbox I used for my “day job” career.  In that career, I managed projects creating business proposals made up of multiple volumes of information, sometimes with hundreds of pages in each volume. These proposals had strict margin, font, and formatting requirements; included graphics, tables, and charts; and usually had page limitations per volume as well.

Teams would write, revise, and review the documents online, but by the time we got to our first round of document reviews and revisions, it was time to hang that puppy…er, proposal…on the wall. It’s such an industry-standard practice that companies with enough capital (and interest in investing in the department that brings in the business) install rails on the wall that are sized to slide 8.5×11-inch pages in and out of them. And it’s such an important step to get the big-picture visual of the proposal’s progress that if the CEO walks into a war room (the affectionate name for conference rooms where teams work on these projects) and does not see the proposal on the wall, someone in my position could get fired over it.

In other words, multi-billion dollar companies take this tool seriously.

I’m not suggesting there’s a lot of cross-over between what works for such companies and what works for novelists. I’m just willing to look far and wide for ways to get through the #E(*@+%! revision process. It’s that kind of thinking that gets you a wall full of a book manuscript and a spouse sleeping with one open in case you’ve really snapped this time. Continue reading

Kay: Quiz for Y’all: Must I Show the Wedding?

Dear readers, I need your help again. I have finished book three of my interminable trilogy about Phoebe and her steadfast beau. Brimming with triumph, I showed the final two chapters to my critique group last night, and…they didn’t like it.

Here’s their problem. After three books of Phoebe’s not being ready to get married, now finally at the end of book three, she’s ready. Our hero has a Plan, and she says, surprise me.

The surprise is taking all the book’s characters back to Las Vegas, the city where they met, where they will be married in the wedding chapel by the people who first employed Phoebe when she arrived in Vegas at the start of book one. (Now they live in Washington, D.C.) The final scene of book three is everybody just boarded the plane, ready to rest up from the vigorous trials of the day before and me tying up loose ends. Continue reading

Nancy: Back to Basics: Conflict Lock, With Extras

conflict-lockSometimes basic is best. Getting back to basics. Basic black. Basic humanity.

And so it is with writing. Every now and then, often in one of the revision stages of a story, it’s time to get back to the basics – the point, the goal, and the conflict of a story. That means it’s time to reach into the writer’s basic toolbox and pull out some old favorites to identify festering plot holes, shore up weak conflicts, and fix leaky sinks. Okay, maybe not that last one.

This lesson presented itself to me when I recently found my Harrow’s Finest Five book 1 revision slowly circling the drain (what is it with me and sinks today?). I was dissatisfied with the story stakes. As I read the manuscript, they didn’t seem to be escalating, further complicating heroine Emme’s life, and leading her to an inevitable clash with consequences of her own making.

An author has options at such times. Crying. Chocolate. Booze. Cyring into chocolate and booze. But I’ve heard it can actually be more empowering to use TOOLS. Powerful, writerly tools. In this case, I opted for the tools and pulled the conflict box out of my toolbox to see why my revision had gotten stuck and my story felt flat. Continue reading

Kay: Finishing the Book

Woman_at_workcropIn this year of My Big Slump, I’ve been thinking that for the last several months, when writing could have helped me, I didn’t write very much. And what I did write, I didn’t much like.

Usually I find that any writing is better than no writing. I like to edit, so I’m fine to rework something until I’m happy with it. Nora Roberts has famously said that the key to her success is putting her butt in the chair. And she’s right—if you don’t sit down and write your book, it won’t get written. There’s no substitute for hard work. You have to get in front of your screen and focus—on your scene, your characters, the plot, and what you want to get done in the time you have today, right now. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Self-Publishing 101 – Author Interview

publish_buttonWe’ve been talking about self-publishing for the past several Wednesdays.  Today, we’re going to take a break from the nuts & bolts of the process and talk with someone who has some actual self-publishing experience.

Let’s give a big Eight Ladies Writing welcome to Molly Jameson.

                                    * * *

8LW:  You’ve currently got three books out in your Royal Romances series, what made you chose to self-publish them?

MJ:  Easy answer (though not a short answer because, as my university professors can attest, I can’t say “yes” or “no” in 100 words), agents kept refusing my first novel.  Harlequin kindly considered the entire manuscript, but said I would need to add “an explosive climactic sex scene” to make it saleable.  I took that to mean that my characters would go for coffee, the building would spontaneously explode, and they would somehow be inspired to hook up in the debris. No thanks.

Fortunately, a clever friend of mine had some success in self-publishing and convinced me that all the cool kids were doing it.

8LW:  How great that you had a friend with some experience.  So what was the best part of the whole self-publishing process, besides actually getting that first book out there? Continue reading

Kay: A Novelist’s Job

A novelist's work can be very frustrating.

A novelist’s work can be very frustrating.

I’m an editor by trade, and recently a small publishing company hired me to do what we’d call in the business “a development edit” of a paranormal romance. (Not one of the Ladies’ books, I rush to add.) A development edit points out flaws in the characterization, plotting, pacing, or other essential elements of the story, without getting into grammar and typos.

Everything in this book was off—pacing, character development, conflict—and telling an author that she’s missed the boat is a hard and sorrowful task. I know that keeping all those ponies in harness and working together is complicated and difficult. It’s the same problem I’m having right now with my own WIP. But this is the novelist’s job.

Continue reading

Elizabeth: Back to Basics – First Draft, Now What?

Stories Yet To Be WrittenAt some point, if you are serious about writing and persistent, you will finish the first draft of a story. It may have plot holes you could drive a truck through, or be littered with notes like “something needs to happen here,” but the draft will be done. Whether you’ve ended up with a polished first draft (color me envious if you have) or a hot-mess (that would be me), you’ve taken a story from an idea in your head to actual words on the page. You’ve gone from staring at that blank page in a brand new empty document to typing “The End.”

That is something to celebrate.

*Cue the confetti and balloons*

The world is filled with people who think they will write a book “one day.” With a finished draft, you’ve moved from the “I might” group to the “I have.” That’s a great feeling. Once the “I’ve finished it” happy dance is done and you’ve basked in the glow of “The End” for a while, it’s time to think about what to do next. Continue reading

Nancy: The End Is Near…Or Maybe Not

NaNoIt’s Monday and my brain hurts.

Some of you might have the same malady today. Those of you who’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo 2015 are staring down the finish line, some from up close and others (like yours truly) from far, far away. To those of you who have made or will make it to 50k words by midnight tonight, congratulations! To my fellow stragglers, also-rans, and just-couldn’t-quite-do-it writers like myself, I share your pain and disappointment. This wasn’t our year. And as I know you know by now, that’s okay. Sometimes it really is the journey that matters. We’ll get to the destination of a completed first draft eventually.

I’ve already documented some of my own roadblocks to NaNo success. I finished my novella (woot!), then had a hell of a time switching gears to jump into the next novel-length story. My time was much more limited than I’d hoped, and like other American participants, I had the distractions of the Thanksgiving holiday. And just when I thought I was ready for an all-out sprint that might have at least gotten another 10k words on the page, I received an in-depth critique on a different novel, which sent me tripping and stumbling off the track.

That’s right. I broke one of the cardinal rules of NaNoWriMo: Thou shalt not think about revisions during the month of November. Continue reading

Justine: Second-Half Shipwreck

shipwreckThe first half of my book was a train wreck. It took me quite awhile to get it in decent working order, but I can say that for the most part, aside from some much-needed editing, it’s pretty good. Not perfect, but definitely a train chugging along the story railways.

Not so the second half.

After spending several weeks trying to salvage what has turned into a rusty, crack-filled, shipwrecked mess, I’ve decided to go back and reinvent the last half of my book. This isn’t something I approached lightly, or with any enthusiasm whatsoever (if my husband finds out, he’ll kill me. He’s done with this book as much as I am). I was hoping I was at the point where I could just Margie-EDIT the thing and slap a “Ready to Submit” sticker on it.

There are several reasons why that won’t work. Continue reading