Just One More Time

We’ve got an important post here on the GWN blog. Author Terry Shames talks about a great way to edit your novels.

Here’s Terry!

The last time I went through my most recent manuscript, I reported to my editor that I had found 25 last, tiny errors. There was a moment of silence on the other end of the phone, and then, “You mean before you sent it to the copyeditor?” No, after.

“But…” He wanted to know how the copyeditor had missed 25 errors that included missing quotation marks, misspellings, missing words and one quotation mark at the end of a sentence that wasn’t a quote. I hadn’t meant to get the copyeditor in trouble. What I meant was to tell him about a technique I discovered for ferreting out those last, pesky errors.

An experienced writer with many novels under his belt once told me that when my first novel came out, I’d open it and the first page I looked at would contain an error. I couldn’t argue with him because too often these days within a few pages of beginning a novel I run across errors, usually small ones; but sometimes glaring, impossibly bumbling errors that make me want to have a stern talk with whomever was given the task of ridding the manuscript of those glitches.

That’s the problem, though. Even the biggest publishers, and the most meticulous small ones have systematically ditched their editing staffs out of economic necessity. Content editors barely have time to help an author shape the manuscript, and it’s up to a harried copy editor and/ or proofreader to file off the rough edges and make the final product look professional.

Pulling hair out

That’s why an author is well advised to turn in the most pristine copy she can manage. Easier said than done. By the time you’ve read your 300-page manuscript what seems like 100 times for action or dialogue that doesn’t make sense, timeline errors, name switches; and then gone through it to correct what seems like endless typos, dropped or added punctuation, to have one more go at that paragraph that has never rung true, one more attempt to tweak that imperfect description, you’re sick to death of it. You’ve even read it aloud, and hated the sound of your voice by the time you reach the last chapter.

The mere thought of having to read through it one more time makes you have fantasies of calling the whole publication thing off and running off to join the circus. At that point you are ready to clean out your bank account to pay any amount of money for a professional to hunt down those last errors rather than having to do it yourself.

EV005170

That’s when you need to read it backwards. Yep. Backwards. I thought I had heard of every trick and then somewhere (I wish I knew where, so I could thank this unsung hero), I read that reading the manuscript backward is like a miracle. You read the last page, and then the page before that, etc., through the whole shebang. Oh, yeah, and you do it out loud.

The first time I did it, I felt like an idiot. I was sure I had caught Every Single Error the last time I went through the manuscript. There couldn’t be anymore. But the article about reading backwards said that I’d be surprised how many errors I caught. So I decided I had nothing to lose. At least I wouldn’t have to read it forwards again. And who knew? I might even catch a couple of things. 100 errors later I was a convert. Not only did I catch a lot of errors, but I caught a couple of places where I used a word too many times in one paragraph, and could take care of that before the public had to see it, too!

Happy editing, everyone!

Book Description:

Killing at Cotton Hill-3In A KILLING AT COTTON HILL the chief of police of Jarrett Creek, Texas, doubles as the town drunk. So when Dora Lee Parjeter is murdered, her old friend and former police chief Samuel Craddock steps in to investigate. He discovers that a lot of people may have wanted Dora Lee dead—the conniving rascals on a neighboring farm, her estranged daughter and her surly live-in grandson. And then there’s the stranger Dora Lee claimed was spying on her. During the course of the investigation the human foibles of the small-town residents—their pettiness and generosity, their secret vices and true virtues—are revealed.

 

 

Bio:

Larger readingTerry Shames grew up in Texas. She has abiding affection for the small town where here grandparents lived, the model for the fictional town of Jarrett Creek. A resident of Berkeley, California, Terry lives with her husband, two rowdy terriers and a semi-tolerant cat. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Her second Samuel Craddock novel, THE LAST DEATH OF JACK HARBIN will be out in January 2014. Find out more about Terry and her books at www.Terryshames.com.

Cindy here again!

Great post, Terry! It’s a great idea to read it backwards! I’ll try that next time I’m revising my story.

Happy writing!

 

Cindy

Let’s talk about sex

Welcome to Wednesday on the GWN blog! We have a scintillating topic today. Mimi DiFrancesca talking about writing sex scenes.

Here’s Mimi!

Let’s talk about sex, baby… You’re writing a story and you know that your characters will eventually be getting physical together. Out of nowhere that makes any sense, you’ve begun feeling nervous about how to write this scene. It feels like the same kind of nervous you felt the first time you…ya know. (Insert covered mouth giggle here).

The weird part about anxiety over writing a sex scene is that we dive right in with enthusiasm when we kill off a character in a bloody and fantastically violent way. Chatting with another writer recently about what our search histories on our computers look like, we wondered if the NSA really is monitoring us, just what the heck they think we are actually up to. Maybe there should be a cyber-tag we can use identifying us as writers and not lunatics.  I’ve researched some very weird things for my dark urban fiction novel. I can now hold a plausible debate over who would win a battle between a samurai or a ninja. It’s a ninja, by the way. I have also researched some extra steamy things for an erotica book and the research trail on my laptop even makes me blush, occasionally.

When we write about sex, we may fall into a few categories. We may choose to distance ourselves from the action by making it too technical and reducing a beautiful and sensual experience down to what reads like a medical report on a standard root canal. We may tell the truth and (maybe) expose some of our own personal preferences in the privacy of our bedrooms.  Or we may embody our characters more completely as we write and allow some amalgam of the technical aspect and use of a poetic hand while fashioning the language of description.

Sex is a tactile experience like food preparation and consumption. We see it, we smell it, we hear it, we taste it and we touch it. Lips can touch in a kiss but who wouldn’t want a lover to desperately hunger for a taste of us? The scent of someone attractive to you registers even before your conscious mind has done all the calculating of their qualities. A cologne can override a logic switch and we forgive the one we haven’t spoken to all day because they smell…delicious. We hear sex words that drop like safety deposit keys into our ears and unlock a yes that we’ve been holding down inside of us like a protected heirloom. The silky texture of skin under our fingers makes us want keep touching until we have explored every curve, every surface and angle and every hidden cave of wonder. Our smooth instep as it grazes the hair of his calf when we run our bare foot up his leg can ignite a fire in us that can only be doused one way. Reading about sex should be a multisensory experience, with your character adding that elusive 6th sense of knowing what comes next and showing it to us through their actions.

The words we use to describe body parts can be a stumbling point for some writers. Unless all your characters are Victorian era virgins, you are going to want to write a character one day that sounds more like the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and less like Jane Austen. And I’d venture a guess that in the throes of hot, steamy passion, even Jane probably let a few colorful words fly in her starched linen world.

Ironically, I am restraining myself in the use of “colorful” language as I write this blog post as I’m not sure what the reader’s reception is here for back room banter. In my own life, I could probably make a pirate blush and I do not refrain from using any word that my character might use just so I don’t shock readers. Those who know my work have come to expect the unexpected.

I’ll offer an exercise for any writer who is having a challenge at letting their keyboard create other words for penis, vagina, breast or any other body part; what can be done with them or to them. Get out a piece of paper and write down every single word that would have gotten you thrown out of school as a kid, grounded by your parents or had your mouth washed out with soap by your severely proper, Aunt Marge. (I write from experience. Newsflash: Gold Dial Soap is not a food option) Go for it. Think of subway walls and highway overpasses. Quote from rap music and movies that you had to turn off when your kids entered the room. I’m talking Saturday night and three tequila bottles later at the Jersey Shore set. Write them all down and then read them out loud, preferably to a few people like girlfriends who you shared that tequila with. Ask them to add to your list.

We’re trying to make all these descriptive words, dirty words, profanities and blue language a part of the costume and character of the people in your stories. The only way you can allow your characters to be real and three dimensional is by giving them permission to be themselves.  After you’ve written them all down, read them out loud and have a really good laugh. Then, you need to get over it. They are just words and they are not “your” words. They are your characters words.

Herein lies the heart of writing a sex scene; it is not you having sex, it is your character. You, in this instance, are the accidental voyeur who is documenting the moment like an anthropologist/poet finding surprise and sensual wonder in the fierce beauty of sexual encounter. You will stand there in awe and tell us what you saw. And if you still shy away from using graphic language, there is poetry to be written in the thrusting gasps of lovers who take each other over the edge so many times that there is nothing left unknown between them.

By now, you have probably read some sex scenes in books that were gratuitous, silly and physically impossible or written like a marginally functional teenager’s MTV fantasy. You may also have read scenes that left you flushed and dreaming of deserted islands and all the time in the world. I hope that when you come to the moment when the clothing comes off and your characters get down to doing what brought seven billion people on to the planet in the first place, that you will take the writing on as a sacred challenge.

Someone out there in Reader World has never had it as good as your characters are giving it to each other. Someone out there is stopping their life for five minutes and living vicariously through your pages.

You have a choice to either button them up to their chins and or you can let him weigh her breast with his hand while the cool breeze from the open window sends a wash of goose bumps over their naked skin. Every time you write a sex scene, it’s the first time for those characters. Make it memorable even if your own first time was more like a Saturday Night Live skit, write the first time you wish you’d had.

Sex is real and honest in its urgency. Be exactly that through your pen or keyboard and you’re reader will be right there with you needing a cold shower or a hot encounter when they finish your story. Now get out there and write some smut. Make me proud.

About Mimi: Writer, Former Columnist, Poet, Blogger, Artist, Jewelry Designer, Event Planner, Ridiculously Good Cook, Animal lover, Traveler, Photographer, Metaphysics Guide and Connoisseur of Hilarity and a Certified Hypnotherapist. She is a published author, lives in Mid Michigan with her Great Dane and family and is currently working on a fantasy romance, an urban fiction novel, a sci-fi romance and erotica, under a pseudonym. Member of the RWA, MMRWA and CCWA.

Visit Mimi’s website: http://www.WordNinjaGirl.com 

Cindy here again!

Great, informative post, Mimi. I don’t write many sex scenes but I will have to keep these tips in mind for when I do.

Happy writing!

Cindy

The Happy Hooker

It’s not what you think! Today on the GWN blog we’ve got agent and author Lois Winston talking about the importance of the first page of your manuscript.

Here’s Lois!

lois-winston-low-res-fileNo, this is not about the world’s oldest profession. It’s about the first page of your manuscript. Do you know how few seconds an author has to hook an agent, an editor, or a reader? Precious few. Attention spans just aren’t what they used to be. If you don’t hook a reader (and by readers, I mean agents, editors, and the reading public) with the first page of your book, chances are, she won’t read the second page.

Too many writers make the mistake of opening their books with long passages of description and back-story. So not a good idea! Especially when you open with a description of the weather. There’s a reason Snoopy kept getting all those rejection letters whenever he submitted his novel that opened with, “It was a dark and stormy night…”

It’s also the reason that a well known annual writing contest for the worst opening lines is named for Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, the actual author of that famous line. It appeared in his 1830 novel Paul Clifford. Ever read the complete opening sentence? Most people haven’t. Here it is:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents–except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

Pretty bad, right? The sad truth is that too many authors open their books in a similar manner. That’s why I’m a firm believer in hooking a reader with the very first line of my books. I want my readers to be intrigued enough by that first line to continue reading.

A book’s hook doesn’t have to be defined by the first sentence, but that first sentence should make the reader want to read the next. And the next. Those first sentences should form a paragraph that makes the reader want to read the next paragraph. And the next. And the next—until the reader has read a complete page that makes her want to turn the page and read the next page. And finally, those first pages should create a first scene that has sufficiently hooked the reader so she can’t put down the book. She has to keep reading to find out what happens next.

The opening of a book should suck the reader into the world the author has created. Back-story can come later, trickling in to tease the reader to continue reading more, not as information dumps that pull the reader from the story. A good opening will include only the barest minimum of back-story that is essential for that moment.

 

As for description, it should be woven into the narrative and dialogue. Nothing bores more than long paragraphs describing everything from the length of the protagonist’s hair to the color of her toenail polish. It, too, pulls the reader from the story. And pulling the reader from the story is a bad idea. It adversely affects the pacing of the book, and good pacing is something that is important to a well-written novel.

 

“If that damn woman doesn’t shut up, I’m going to strangle her.”

rejected_v002_x1000That’s the first line of Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, the third book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. Reading that sentence, the reader knows something is about to happen. Hopefully, she’ll keep reading to find out just what that something is, why it happens, what sort of impact it has on my protagonist, and how it drives the plot of the book.

 

Do you open your books with dialogue and/or active narrative that hooks the reader right from that first sentence and makes her want to keep reading? If you don’t, you’re most likely committing one of the top ten reasons your novel will be rejected by agents and editors. If you’d like to find out what the other nine reasons are and how you can avoid committing them, check out Top Ten Reasons Your Novel is Rejected http://www.loiswinston.com/bookstop10.html, available as an ebook from all the usual sources.

I wrote this book after too many years of having to write rejection letters to authors. I hate writing rejection letters. All agents do. Many authors think agents and editors take perverse pleasure in rejecting them. Nothing could be further from the truth. We don’t make money rejecting novels; we make money by discovering and selling them. Every time we begin reading a manuscript, we’re hoping to find something fabulous. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen often enough.


BIO
: Lois Winston is both an agent with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency and the author of the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Other books in the series include Death By Killer Mop Doll, Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, and the ebook novelette Crewel Intentions. Lois is also published in romance, romantic suspense, women’s fiction, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Visit Lois at http://www.loiswinston.com, visit Emma at http://www.emmacarlyle.com, and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: http://www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. You can also follow Lois on Twitter @anasleuth.

Cindy here again!

Excellent post, Lois. I also try to make that first sentence a great hook.

Happy writing!

 

Cindy

Creating subplots that work

Hi everyone! Welcome back to the GWN blog. Today we have Lyncee Shillard talking about subplots!

Here’s Lyncee!

Most writers don’t have a problem coming up with the ‘bare’ bones of a plot – something happens, it’s resolved. Nice and neat but will only result in about 100 words.  The hard part is developing valid subplots. Not just really cool subplots that don’t move your bare bones plot or contribute to your main character’s growth (those have to go into the ‘cool subplot’ file).

What makes a ‘good’ subplot?  A subplot must fit into two slots to stay. Some authors live by the rule if a subplot can be taken out and your bare bones plot doesn’t fall apart it should be cut.  I believe a good subplot can involve your main character’s growth and not the bare bones plot and it would still benefit your story.

For example, you’re writing a romanctic suspense.

Bare Bones Plot ~ Jane finds a dead body in her apartment elevator. She falls in love with the victim’s brother.  They catch the killer.

Examples of possible sub-plots ~

Jane’s brother is arrested for a throwing rocks through a local gay bar. This adds tension between the hero and heroine because the victim was gay. So when Jane goes and bails her brother out, the hero views it as supporting her brother’s views. Then the hero learns Jane and her brother grew up in foster care. Now the plot would chug along fine without this thread but it adds conflict between the hero and heroine and reveals a piece of Jane’s character – while she is appalled at her brother’s actions she can’t abandon him like their mother did.

The victim is a relapsed gambler. Was he killed for his gambling debt? No but this makes a valid subplot (the investigation) as a red herring.

Examples of non-useable sub-plots~

The building is being bought out and will be torn down. Unless the victim’s murder is directly related to this it won’t add to your plot. Yes Jane will be stressed about having to find a new place to live but it doesn’t add to her character like the brother’s arrest.

Remember subplots can’t just add pages and characters. They need to reveal something about the main character or add a piece to the bare bones plot.

Thanks for stopping by!

Kick Start is my lastest release ~

HotRodsHotBodsJada Anderson had known from the beginning it would only be a three week hook-up. Nothing more than twenty-one days of great dirt bike riding, nights spent drinking bat bites, and making awesome love. So she left without a word on the twenty-first morning.

Dezmond Blance has the chance to take his career as a motocross rider to the next level. He’s been invited to compete for a spot on one of the national top ranked teams. After a great ride, he’s ready to celebrate but he’s missing one thing – the woman who stole his heart weeks earlier.  To his surprise Jada is there to congratulate him.

When he wakes the next morning to find her gone, he thinks she’s done another vanishing act until his mechanic’s wife comes up missing to.  Now both men must race to find the women they love before the next try-outs.

 

Available at…http://jupitergardenspress.com/shop/hot-rods-hot-bods/

Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here, Lyncee! Great post on subplots. I will keep these points in mind when I’m writing.

Happy writing.

 

Cindy

It’s a puzzle

Welcome to the start of another week on the GWN blog. Today we have Agatha nominated author Kaye George talking about the differences between writing short stories and novels.

Here’s Kaye!

What’s the difference between writing a mystery short story and writing a mystery novel? A mystery is a puzzle, right? They both contain a puzzle to be solved, so they’re basically similar.

However, you can’t put as much into a short story as you can a novel, obviously. There’s not enough room!  I know some writers do only shorts and some do only novels, but a good number of us want to do both.

Here’s what I do. I have to switch my mindset when I change forms. Short story writing comes more easily to me. I’ve written short stories most of my life and only came to novel writing about ten years ago. Maybe it’s because I’ve done a lot more of them that I find short stories simpler to write. Not simple, just simpler!

I can hold an entire short story in my head. I can plot the whole thing, think up the characters, picture the setting, and get it from my brain to my computer without intermediate notes and scribbles. I’ll tweak it, of course, sometimes for quite a while after I’ve set it down, but I still have the whole thing in my mind at once. I liken it to fitting together a game of Tetris, or solving a Sudoku puzzle.

When I write a novel, however, I have to do a bunch of planning. It’s more like a chess game. I will note here that I don’t play chess well. The characters usually come easily and I can remember them. Likewise the basics of the plot. But the subplots and secondary characters have to be written down and kept track of. I can’t remember who is tall and who is short. Who is bald and who has flowing locks. I’ll forget what some of the settings look like. Then there’s the problem of what everyone is doing.

I’m somewhat of an outliner. Okay, I am an outliner, in that I make an outline before I begin writing a novel. That’s essential for me, even if the outline bears little resemblance to my finished book. I like to note, on a spreadsheet, the description of each character, their age, what vehicle they drive, and if they have any peculiarities. I also keep the plot on a spreadsheet, but more after the fact, to keep track of what I’ve written and what happens on which day and at what time–and to whom.

If I didn’t keep track of everything on a spreadsheet, a character might fall down a well in the afternoon, spend the night at home in bed, then discover the well the next morning. I could easily have a character drive up in a red pickup and go home in a beige Honda.

So, when I switch from one to the other, it’s a matter of resetting my thinking from small to large, from cinematic to TV episodic, from Tetris to chess.

About Kaye: Kaye George is a short story writer and novelist who has been nominated for Agatha awards twice. She is the author of four mystery series: the Imogene Duckworthy humorous Texas series, the Cressa Carraway musical mystery series, the FAT CAT cozy series, and The People of the Wind Neanderthal series.

Her short stories can be found in her collection, A PATCHWORK OF
STORIES, as well as in several anthologies, various online and print
magazines. She reviews for “Suspense Magazine”, writes for several
newsletters and blogs, and gives workshops on short story writing and
promotion. Kaye lives in Knoxville, TN.

Visit Kaye’s website: http://kayegeorge.com/

About Eine Kleine Murder – When aspiring conductor Cressa Carraway arrives at her grandmother’s resort home, she finds Gram dead. When Gram’s best friend drowns in the same place, Cressa knows something sinister is at work in this idyllic setting.

Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here, Kaye. I find it difficult switching back and forth myself but I need to get used to it. I like the way you look at them.

Happy writing!

 

Cindy

Dancing, Ducks and Hit Lists: Polishing Your Words

It’s finally Friday! Welcome to the end of the week on the GWN blog. Today we have Alissa Callen talking about polishing your prose.

Here’s Alissa!

Your muse is happy dancing, your plot ducks all in a neat row and now you need to polish your words to crystal-brilliance before your trigger finger presses submit.

For some this book buff-and-shine is more rewarding than chocolate while for others it is as gratifying as ironing handkerchiefs. But whatever your polishing-mindset a list of ‘seek and destroy’ words can hasten and streamline the process. For every author this hit-list will differ but no matter how vigilant you may be a hard core group of words may shoulder their way onto your page.

The key code Ctrl + F is a perfect tool to not only identify your ‘crutch’ words (words you use all the time) but also to eliminate any general hit-list words. Below is a list collated from my own work as well as others. Be sure to cross out the words that don’t frequently appear in your work and add in any extra ones that do.

Happy polishing and all the very best when you hit submit.

PolishProse

 

Alissa Callen x

When Alissa Callen isn’t writing she plays traffic controller to four children, three dogs, two horses and one renegade cow who really does believe the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. After a childhood spent chasing sheep on the family farm, Alissa has always been drawn to remote areas and small towns, even when residing overseas. Once a teacher and a counsellor, she remains interested in the life journeys that people take and her books are characteristically heart-warming, emotional and character driven. She currently lives on a small slice of rural Australia in central western New South Wales.

Beneath Outback Skies

Book/buy link: http://www.randomhouse.com.au/books/alissa-callen/beneath-outback-skies-9780857980397.aspx

What Love Sounds Like

Book/buy link: http://www.escapepublishing.com.au/product/9780857990129

Face book page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Alissa-Callen-Author/355366704552838

Vist Alissa’s Website:  www.alissacallen.com
Cindy here again!

So true, Alissa. I have my favourite words and I have to do a search and destroy before I send my stories anywhere.

Happy writing!

Cindy

The importance of critique partners

Welcome back! Today we have Alexa Bourne talking about how important it is for improving your craft to have good critique partners.

Here’s Alexa!

I signed my first writing contract back in December 2011 and I can honestly say I NEVER would have gotten there without my critique partner. Yes, having people tell you how great your story is and how awesome you are is very important, but a true writer needs the person (or people) who will tell her what’s wrong with a story.

My road to my perfect critique partner (CP, for short) wasn’t always easy. In fact, more often than not I had a BAD experience. I had a woman who told me what was wrong and how she would fix it (basically rewriting my story). I had good critiquers who stayed with me through one book but then realized they didn’t want to be writers anymore. I had another critique partner who worked with me during one book and then she and her family moved away and she didn’t want to keep critiquing by email. I had critique partners who didn’t really know how to write (and we didn’t stay partners for long). But I knew I needed someone to help me so I kept looking until I found my perfect critique partner.

Now some people could say they don’t need a critique partner. I’m here to tell you a CP can be crucial to success. Is it possible to get published without a critique partner? Of course, but I honestly believe a good CP is worth her weight in gold. A writer might not be able to step back far enough to view her work professionally or objectively. She could be submitting manuscript pages to friends to read and, while the friends may be willing to help, they may not understand the details included in becoming a professional writer. A good critique partner can be those eyes and that professional guidance.

Silent Surrender CoverWhat is a perfect critique partner? A perfect critique partner is the writer who is right for you at that specific time. It is a person who can give you guidance, who can point out what does and doesn’t work. It is someone you trust to be honest with you and someone you know who wants what is best for you and your work. It may seem simple, but we’re asking people to tell us what is wrong with our babies. We’re asking them to rip apart something we feel great pride and joy in. Hearing your baby is ugly isn’t easy, right? So we need to totally believe in the person giving us that difficult news.

It’s also important that you and your critique partner talk about what you both want in the relationship. The key, as is with most relationships, is communication. If you can’t ask for what you need then you won’t grow as a writer. Some partners only brainstorm with each other and read sections of manuscripts that aren’t making sense. Other partners want to meet or exchange work each week. It’s good to find a partner whose strengths as a writer are different than yours that way you can help each other even more. For example, pace is a main issue for me in my drafts. My CP is excellent at pinpointing where the story begins to drag and when I repeat myself too much. At the same time, I’m really great at catching grammar issues for her, and when the story just doesn’t gel I can usually help her figure out why.

Sometimes a CP can be helpful in another way. When I’ve had a rough writing day, a rejection or a bad review, I’ve sent her some work and asked her to just tell me everything that’s awesome about it. J Do I really believe there’s nothing wrong with that piece? Of course not, but sometimes we just need an ego boost. My relationship with my critique partner is solid enough that she’ll tell me all that’s right on that day and then save all that’s wrong for another round of critiquing.

The right critique partner is invaluable. You can help each other, grow together, and back each other up. It may take quite a while before you find the perfect critique partner for you, but keep looking. Remember how many toads I had to dance with before I found my perfect partner? I guarantee when you do find that perfect partner (or partners), your writing and your future readers will thank you for taking a chance on the partnership!

Be sure to visit Alexa:

Website: www.alexabourne.com

Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here, Alexa. So true about finding a critique partner. I don’t know what I would do without mine.

Happy writing!

 

Cindy

What sells scripts?

Thanks for stopping by the GWN blog. For something a little different, Ann Kimbrough is here to talk about scripts!

Here’s Ann!

It probably comes up wherever screenwriters gather, be it a coffee house or a top-secret bunker for testing high concepts. It’s the perennial screenwriting question – What Sells Scripts?

First, there’s the answer that we all hate: Good Writing. It’s right up there with “we know it when we see it.” I like an answer that actually tells you something you can take and use – even if it hurts. So, here are a few painful words that I’ve heard from producers. Some of these are more about what doesn’t sell scripts, but play along and see which will help you write a script that producers love.

 

NAGGING SCRIPTS. Don’t send out your screenplay if you have a nagging feeling about any part of the script. One Hollywood producer said, “If you know there’s a weakness in your script, you’ve gotta fix that weakness.” According to him, most writers don’t.

I know what he’s talking about. I’ve had that nagging feeling about a scene. And it’s never gonna be one of those easy to fix problems. No… it’ll be a page-one rewrite. Sigh. Why is good advice so hard to take? I hate good advice, but I run with it.

DERIVATIVE SCRIPTS. I believe this trend came about after everyone said to write screenplays that are like something successful, but with a twist. “You should rip out everything in your script that you’ve seen before,” said one producer. Everything? Hold onto your laptops, he wasn’t the only one. A veteran screenwriter/producer said, “Only the originals are successful. The copies – no. You gotta get there first.”

Holy McKee! Forget the page-one rewrite, now I’m reworking my concept. Of course, there’s a fine line in there somewhere. If you’re breaking into the world of working screenwriter, you will need to write scripts that honor produced films. The trick is being aware of how you are making it different, better. Derivative means same, boring. If you can answer how your script is interesting, you’re on the right track.

GO WITH THE FLOW. This is the advice from top Hollywood screenwriters and one drilled into my head by Hal Croasmun of ScreenwritingU. He believes that half of screenwriting is the writer’s ability to write a good script, and half — maybe more than half — is the ability to take notes, play the game and deal with human issues.

Wow. Doesn’t the industry know that I spend my days with a laptop, a copy of “Save the Cat” and a zillion mochachinos? I could be lacking a few social skills. But I have learned that if producers like you, they will want to work with you.

DEAL KILLERS. One producing team spelled it out very clearly. “Several things are real deal killers,” they said. “Poor story structure, poor characterization or a writer that is tone deaf to budget.”

That’s good news, even though slightly offensive to the hearing impaired. We can do this one. (We can do all of them, frankly.) Think fewer locations, fewer actors, fewer explosions.

Quick reference for budgets: $60mil and above is the stuff of tent poles and A-list screenwriters. $40mil to $60mil is a lonely area for most films, as it requires financing help. That means your script will need the go-ahead from a village of decision makers. $40mil down to micro-budget is a thriving market. Entry-level work can be found at the $5mil and below range, with the majority of scripts going directly to Netflix or similar. Some do earn a theatrical release. It’s a great area to find work, as the producers are accessible with multiple projects and they pay. At the very least, this is where you can get your first screen credit.

Some other semi-deal killers are scripts that start slow, backstory, voice-over, long third acts and cookie-cutter characters. “I invest in good parts,” one producer said. I’m sure good parts help him attract good actors.

GOOD TITLES SELL. In a world where everything is moving fast and no one has time to listen, this makes a lot of sense. Come up with a title like “Legally Blonde” and you’ll have instant impact. Give them something that is easy to remember, plus shows the story and it’s a pitch in a title. Hard to do? Definitely, but it is worth your time. No matter the budget level, it takes more than one person to make the decision to option your script. If the person you pitch can turn around and pitch a title that interests another decision maker, you’ve made their life easier. Easy makes you look good.

FIRST TEN PAGES. We’ve all heard that very few scripts are read from page one to the end. Sometimes they’ll give you 30 pages, but in reality you only have around ten. It seems rather harsh, but it’s a time issue thing. It’s like a scene from “The Godfather”: It’s not personal, it’s business. Don’t fight it, just embrace it. Your first ten pages need to deliver on your concept. Period. If a producer is reading your script based on a pitch, it’s because they like the concept. If they are reading your script because your mother dated their uncle, you might want to deliver on the concept in five pages or less.

Is your head spinning yet? I recommend a mochachino, and taking the time to filter all the above through your own creative process and elevate your screenplay. A market is out there waiting for you!

Visit Ann’s website: www.annkimbrough.com
Visit Ann’s Screenwriting blog: http://writeforthescreen.wordpress.com/
Follow Ann on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ScriptLife

Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here Ann.  Great advice. At least I know have the good title part down. For some of my scripts anyway. 🙂

Happy writing!

 

Cindy

Lunch break treat: Writing Short Ficiton

Welcome to a new week! Glad you could join us here at GWN. Today we have Vicki Batman talking about why she likes short reads.

Here’s Vicki!

Ick! I’ve heard people say. Short Fiction? I’d rather read a book.

Well, I would too if the pieces I’m talking about were like the ones I read in high school. My brain still shudders over memories about the one with the killer ants in South America. I don’t mean those kinds of stories.

I confess, I write short romantic comedy. I like to write funny. I like witty banter between the hero and heroine. I like to entertain and give readers something to laugh about. It just comes out of me. And I find it to be just as satisfying as a long book.

I don’t leave out the setting, I describe the characters. The hero and heroine have a problem and 5,000 to 13,000 words later, overcome it.

Frankly, some books should be this short.  🙂

Recently, short fiction has become popular with smart phones. People are reading on the bus, at lunch break, wherever. It’s nice and sweet and gratifying, all in one quick read.

I’ve written as short as 800 words for Woman’s World magazine. Those stories usually are called sweet meets. I’ve sold fourteen stories to the Trues–Love, Romance, and Confession–which are sometimes labeled the sin and repent stories. Only mine aren’t. And I’ve sold to other e-publishers.

So what about you? Are you thinking short fiction isn’t for me? Or maybe you might want to delve a little. Coffeetime Romance has a small piece of mine entitled “Bug Stuff.” Check it out here: http://www.coffeetimeromance.com/FreeReads/bugstuffbyvickibatman.html#.UbJX5-Io7cs

 

SANDIEGOorBUST200x300And if you like “Bug Stuff,” maybe you’ll like “San Diego or Bust,” available at: http://museituppublishing.com

Let’s hear what you think: Short? Long? Anything?

Find Vicki at:

Website: http://vickibatman.blogspot.com
Plotting Princesses: http://plottingprincesses.blogspot.com

Find San Diego or Bust at:

MuseItUp Publishing: http://museituppublishing.com/bookstore2/
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/San-Diego-or-Bust-ebook/dp/B00BXNNO2Y/
And B&N and Smashwords

Cindy here again!

I love writing shorts but I haven’t read many shorts. I will remedy that!

Happy writing.

 

Cindy

Think you have no time to write? You’re right.

Welcome to Friday on the GWN blog! Today we have Lynn Cahoon talking about finding the time to write.

Here’s Lynn!

The problem isn’t in your schedule. The problem is with your thinking. Now before I break into the story about The Little Engine That Could and your eyes glaze over, let’s start over.

You have time to write. You just have to take it.

I can hear the defensive walls being built already and we’re only three paragraphs in to the blog. But truly, the first thing you have to do if you want to find the time to write, is write.

I was one of those people.  You know the ones who come up to authors at signings and smugly say I’m going to write a book. Then they add the next word, and you know as the person walks away, it’s not going to happen. What’s the word? Someday.

Well, sometimes, someday never comes. I got slapped upside the head by fate in 2007. I had just moved across the country (to a flyover state as my son likes to call my new home). When I started a new job and became eligible for insurance, I scheduled my checkups. New dentist. New family doc. Mammogram. All checked off. I was feeling pretty healthy and pleased with myself. Then I was called back to do another mammogram and diagnosed with breast cancer.  And my someday became a question.

So now I write. And I train people in drilling their days down to the basics so they can find time to write as well.  Here’s a few of the tricks I use to get words on the page.

Set a consistent schedule. It doesn’t have to be every day. Except Stephen King writes every day. Just saying. Writing consistently keeps your story in your head, mulling, brewing. And 350 words a day is 10,000 words a month — 120,000 words a year or a full length novel in twelve months. Writing is a job. You need to train yourself to be able to create even when your muse has left the building. The magic comes in the work. Not before.

Just open the document. Sometimes I don’t want to write. I don’t know where the story is going.  Those days, I tell myself all I have to do is open the document. As I read over the last few pages, I’ll see an error or a sentence that needs massaging.  Before you know it, I’ve reached my daily word goal.

Set a weekly word count goal.  Give yourself a goal that’s a stretch, but doable in the time you have.  I like working a week at a time.  Why? If I miss a day, I have six other days to make word count.   Once you know what you can do in a week, you can plan out a schedule, so if you want to pitch a ‘complete’ manuscript at a conference, you’ll know when you have to start to have it finished in plenty of time to be confident in your pitch appointment.

Set an appointment with yourself. Look at your week, and figure out slots of time where you have time. It doesn’t have to be a two hours slot. Maybe it’s only thirty minutes. Or fifteen.  Now that I’ve been writing a while, I can draft 1000 words in an hour.  If you have no time now, you have to give up something else to make the time. Give up an hour of television a day for your dream. Get up thirty minute early to write.  Write on your lunch hour instead of going out with your friends.  What, you thought this would be easy?  Sorry, you have to sacrifice something if you really want to write.

Finally, be honest with yourself about what you want. It’s okay to dream about writing a book someday. But if you don’t prioritize that dream into a goal that’s specific, measurable, achievable, reasonable, and time based (SMART goal), it will always stay a dream.  How bad do you want it?

So what’s your plan to carve out time to work on your dreams?

BIO – Lynn Cahoon is a contemporary romance author with a love of hot, sexy men, real and imagined. Her alpha heroes range from rogue witch hunters, modern cowboys, or hot doctors, sexy in scrubs. And her heroines all have one thing in common, their strong need for independence. Or at least that’s what they think they want.  She blogs at her website www.lynncahoon.wordpress.com

Cindy here again.

Thanks so much for being here, Lynn. I needed this kick in the pants pep talk!

Happy writing.

 

Cindy

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