Category Archives: Writing

Point of View on Romance Novels

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Point of View on Romance Novels

Point of view (POV). When you get a bunch of writers together, those three letters can start a good, old-fashioned donnybrook. These days it seems everyone’s got an opinion on the subject. I’ve even seen readers mention it in book reviews. It’s a topic I find fascinating since the trend lately is to have a very rigid, controlled POV, even if there are multiple POVs in the story itself. I, personally, love a good head hop if it’s done well and with some finesse. Changing POVs within a sentence or paragraph = no. Changing POVs in a chapter or scene (without the obligatory scene break!) = I’m on board.

Here’s the thing. I’m a fan of some old school romance novels. Ms. Judith McNaught, whom I consider incomparable, can head hop like nobody’s business and I think it’s done so well, I don’t mind one bit. In fact, when I first began to study writing and was told OVER AND OVER again by everyone how I MUST restrict my POVs, I went back and read several McNaught books to see how she did it, if it bothered me (now that I “knew better”), and if not, why not.

I recently wrote a blog post for H&H on angsty scenes where I mentioned a specific scene in Whitney, My Love and how wonderful and rich it was because of the multiple POVs. I repeat, because of the multiple POVs, not in spite of the multiple POVs. In the scene I examined, we have the heroine’s POV, the brother’s POV, and the mother’s POV all in the same SCENE. Not book, scene! And I shamelessly adore it. I don’t have a bit o’ trouble following it and I find that it adds a level of complexity that would otherwise be lacking in the scene.

Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught
Now, I know that there is an entire camp (a big camp! more like a commune actually) of writers and reading purists who will tell you that a skilled writer can achieve that same level of complexity using only one POV. They’ll tell you that multiple POVs are simply out of vogue, no longer done, ’80’s-tastic. “It’s not deep enough,” they say. “You’ll jar the reader out of the story,” they cry. Well, I’ve read Whitney, My Love probably 50 times (er, not an exaggeration) and I’m positive I have never once been jarred. Never. Once.

And no discussion of on POV in romance novels would be complete if I didn’t mention that Nora Roberts herself is an aficionada of the POV switch. Hasn’t hurt her sales a bit, has it?

So, what gives? Am I just retro? Am I the only one who likes a little head hopping upon occasion? First of all, as a reader, do you even notice some head hopping and if so, convince me. Why is head hopping so wrong? Do you have any beloved head-hopping authors?

*Find the original post athttp://www.heroesandheartbreakers.com/blogs/2012/09/many-different-points-of-view-on-point-of-view-in-romance. Thanks to Valerie Bowman for permission to repost. http://www.valeriebowmanbooks.com

***Want to know what Judith McNaught herself says on the matter? Read what she says here: http://www.duchessproductions.com/inherwordspe11.cgi.htm

Novel Translation

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Authors want to reach as many people as possible with their books. Naturally, that includes those who speak other languages. To accomplish that we have to have our books translated. Where can we go for said translation and how much will it cost?

In doing research I discovered there are many translation companies out there we can hire to translate. They have experienced, talented translators. Many testimonials from satisfied customers, and exorbitant fees to ‘prove’ they are good. I’m not saying that translators don’t work hard, because they do. But for most struggling authors who are not New York Times Bestsellers, paying thousands for the translation of one book is not feasible. Does that mean we can never have our books translated? Never reach the millions of people who speak other languages?

I decided I don’t want to miss out on that opportunity. So, I set out to translate one of my books. Being a native speaker of two languages, I decided to put my own skills to use and translate it myself. How hard can it be? Turns out, much harder than I thought. Even though I grew up speaking two languages simultaneously, there were a lot of words I did not know, which I had to look up. That takes time… lots of time. I discovered a good Spanish-English dictionary and thesaurus are invaluable. It also helped to read other books in my genre that had been translated to see how they are formatted.

In the end, after several weeks of challenging work, I have completed the translation of Tender Triumph. Next step, I will send it to a professional editor/proofreader to be polished. Once that is done I can send it to the publishing company.

I was fortunate to have the skill needed to translate my book and not have to pay thousands of dollars to a professional translator. I certainly don’t have the $.09-$.14 cents per word they normally charge. At that rate, the work I did would have cost me roughly $1500.

That is my translation story. Tell me yours. Have any of you had a book translated or read a translated book?

To write or to market….That is the question

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To write or to market….That is the question

Being a published author is a dream come true, a dream that began 24 years ago.

I began writing as a teenager and because of various circumstances stopped and did not start writing again until seven years ago. It began as a hobby, but then I thought why can’t my work be published? I think it’s pretty good, or at least I hope so, there must be someone out there who would enjoy it. So began my journey to publication.

I started out by joining a critique group. I needed to find someone who could be objective and tell me if my writing was terrible. The members of the group offered me some advice, but many of them were as amateurish as I was so I didn’t feel I could take their advice or opinions seriously. I then found two excellent critique partners, both were published authors. They took my work and tore it to shreds, and I love them for that. Because of their honest critique of my work I was able to grow as a writer. I tried hard to apply their suggestions and learn from them. Eventually, I took an online writing class which helped me develop my craft of writing, my voice.

During all this time I was writing feverishly. Then one day I found what I had been waiting for….a publisher had open submissions. But, there was a catch, the book had to follow a specific story line. It had to be a sports romance. And, there was a deadline. When I am creating I don’t do well with deadlines. I decided to give it a try anyway. Well, I missed the deadline, but I wrote a great sports romance novella and called it Homerun. My critique partners critiqued the heck out of it, and when they were done I had a very nice manuscript, but no where to send it. After much searching I found a publishing company accepting unagented submissions. So, I took a leap and sent it to them. A few months later I got the email.

I had to read it several times to make sure I was understanding it correctly. I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing. I took it to my husband to make sure. And, sure enough, they had offered me a contract for Homerun. I was over-the-moon excited.

The contract was signed and now I waited to get my edits back. When my editor sent it back, my beautiful manuscript was in shreds again. She used red as if it were going out of style. After four rounds of edits it was finally ready. My book was going to be published.

The day it released was momentous. I didn’t think My dream of being a published author would ever come true. Yet, there it was, my book was available for all the world to buy and read. That is when I discovered just putting it out there does not mean people will find it. There are hundreds of thousands of romance novels in the Kindle store, so how do I make mine visible? The publishing company helped with that some, but I found that I had to be responsible for marketing my work.

So began my next journey, marketing. That one word makes me cringe. I had no idea how or where to market. I did research and paid for a few ads, but none really gave my book the exposure I’d hoped for. While I was doing all this marketing I had no time left for writing. That was terrible because I love to write. It is truly my passion….(as you can see from the length of this post which started out as a short facebook post)

Here I am, almost three years later and four books published, I still don’t have the whole marketing thing down. So far my books have sold about 2,000 copies. That is not many at all. What is an author to do? Keep marketing or keep writing? There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do both.

My question for all my author friends is….what has worked for you? How and where do you market your book? Do you have someone who can deal with the marketing while you keep writing? If so, can I borrow them? 🙂

Did I Say That Out Loud? Tips for Writing Dialogue

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Did I Say That Out Loud? Tips for Writing Dialogue

Ernest Hemmingway has been called the master of dialogue. So who better to go to for advice than a master? On writing great dialogue he said: When people talk, listen completely. Don’t be thinking what you’re going to say. Most people never listen.

So how can we take that advice and put it into practice? I’m going to cover five things we can do so that our books have great dialogue.

1. Listening is the beginning of great dialogue. We are around people everyday, whether it’s at work or at school, while we are shopping, when we take our kids to the park. People are everywhere. Most of the time we tune them out. Now it’s time to tune back in. Develop the skill of eavesdropping. What are their speech patterns? What’s the content of their conversation? Our goal as writers is to make conversation between two characters seem realistic. However, we can’t make it too real. Huh? Try to transcribe an actual conversation. Chances are it will be tedious and wordy.

“Hey, what’s up?”
“Not much. What’s up with you?”
“Nothing. Just trying to figure out what to make for dinner.”
“Me too. I get so tired of making the same thing.”
“I know what you mean. It’s time for a new cookbook.”

How extremely boring is that? Yet we have all had similar conversations. Therefore, when we listen we do it with an ear for content. How do people speak? When we write it we do it in a way that will read well. Remember, people read dialogue with theie eyes, they do not hear it with the ear.

Assignment: Take a notepad and a pen to your local coffee shop, mall or park. Somewhere you can sit close enough to people to hear them speak without crowding them. Now proceed to write what they say, every word. You will be amazed at what you learn about dialogue from this little exercise.

2. Tags or Attributions. I once read a book by a well known and liked author who did not use dialogue tags. It was so frustrating because I’d have to go back and count the lines of dialogue to figure out who was talking. I eventually gave up. The whole point of dialogue tags is to know who is talking. Read the following passage from a short story, Here We Are by Dorothy Parker. I’m going to take all the dialogue tags out to see how it reads.

She had been staring raptly out of the window, drinking in the big weathered signboards that extolled the phenomena of codfish without bones and screens no rust could corrupt. As the young man sat down, she turned politely from the pane, met his eyes, started a smile and got it about half done, and rested her gaze just above his right shoulder.
“Well!”
“Well!”
“Well, here we are.”
“Here we are, aren’t we?”
“I should say we were Eeyop. Here we are.”
“Well!”
“Well! Well. How does it feel to be an old married lady?”

Without dialogue tags we have no way of knowing who is talking until the final line when we know it is the young man asking her the question. Now read it with the dialogue tags.

She had been staring raptly out of the window, drinking in the big weathered signboards that extolled the phenomena of codfish without bones and screens no rust could corrupt. As the young man sat down, she turned politely from the pane, met his eyes, started a smile and got it about half done, and rested her gaze just above his right shoulder.
“Well!” the young man said.
“Well!” she said.
“Well, here we are,” he said.
“Here we are,” she said. “Aren’t we?”
“I should say we were,” he said. “Eeyop. Here we are.”
“Well!” she said.
“Well!” he said. “Well. How does it feel to be an old married lady?”

Isn’t that so much better? When using dialogue tags, ‘said’ is normally sufficient. Avoid ‘ly’ tags such as ‘she said loudly,’ ‘he said laughingly.’ He proclaimed and she exclaimed are also ones to avoid. Let the characters words speak for themselves. If dialogue is written properly the reader will know if the character is yelling, if there is tension in their voice, if the character laughed immediately after uttering those words.

3. Don’t use dialogue as a way to dump information on your reader. Some writers make the mistake of using dialogue to reveal facts that the other character should already know but the reader does not. For example, “As you know, I just graduated from nursing school and am working in the ER at the hospital in town,” Jane said to her brother.

That was an information dump. Since her brother already knew that, there was no reason for the line. The best thing would have been to give that information in the narrative and keep the dialogue clean.

4. Slang and dialect. Again we go to the master, Ernest Hemmingway.

Never use slang except in dialogue and then only when unavoidable. Because all slang goes sour in a short time.

To much slang can distract the reader and pull them out of the story, it’s best to use it sparingly. The same is true if your character has an accent, whether it be British, a southern drawl, or is from Boston. Giving a character an accent can be a way to distinguish them from other characters. However, it is possible to overdo it. A little goes a long way. Making it clear to the reader that the character has an accent and stressing that fact in a few words here and there is enough. Anything more risks offending or alienating the reader.

5. Break up dialogue with beats. A beat is a characters physical action interspersed in the dialogue. It sets the scene as readers can see the character moving as they speak. This adds realism to the story because a person very rarely sits perfectly still when they are talking. Some people talk with their hands. Others work while they carry on a conversation. Beats brings all that into the story. Read the following passage from Judith McNaughts Until You and see if you can pick out the beats.

Sheridan bit back a teary smile at his quip, afraid to believe him, afraid to trust him, and unable to stop herself because she loved him. “Look at me,” Stephen said, tipping her chin up again, and this time her glorious eyes looked into his. “I have several reasons for asking you to walk into that chapel, where there is a vicar waiting for us, but guilt is not among them. I also have several things to ask of you before you agree to go in there with me.”

“What sort of things?”

“I would like you to give me daughters with your hair and your spirit,” he said, beginning to enumerate his reasons and requests. “I would like my sons to have your eyes and your courage. Now, if that’s not what you want, then give me any combination you like, and I will humbly thank you for giving me any child we make.”

Happiness began to spread through Sheridan until it was so intense she ached from it. “I want to change your name,” he said with a tender smile, “so there’s no doubt who you are ever again, or who you belong to.” He slid his hands up and down her arms, looking directly into her eyes. “I want the right to share your bed tonight and every night from this day onward. I want to make you moan in my arms again, and I want to wake up wrapped in yours.”

He shifted his hands and cradled her cheeks, his thumbs brushing away two tears at the edges of her shimmering eyes. “Last of all, I want to hear you say ‘I love you’ every day of my life. If you aren’t ready to agree to that last request right now, I would be willing to wait until tonight, when I believe you will. In return for all those concessions, I will grant you every wish that is within my power to grant you.”
― Judith McNaught, Until You

Assignment: Read a scene containing dialogue in one of your favorite books. Look for the beats interspersed in the dialogue. Now take your WIP and write or rewrite a scene of dialogue including beats.

It’s all about Perspective – A Point Of View Lesson

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Why is point of view so important and what is it? Point of view is all about who is telling the story. It’s important because if it isn’t done properly we can confuse the reader, and we don’t want them to put down our book. It is vital to choose the right narrative point of view for our story. Let’s review some of our options and how best to carry them out.

First Person – This is the most intimate POV because it gets the reader directly into the characters head, they are telling the story in their own words. They are in the ‘I’ and ‘me’ perspective. The following is an example from Walking into the Wind by John O’Farrell.

I think that day was the first time they understood why I’d refused to follow them into the slavery of a normal job. Now that they’d glimpsed this world of fringe festivals and beer tents and circus arts, they couldn’t believe that this was my everyday life.

When using first person POV it’s important that the narration fit the characters personality. Their background and education play important roles in this. A wealthy socialite would not notice ornate furnishings when they walk into a room. Yet, the handyman coming in to fix a light fixture would. A lawyer or doctor’s diction would be different from that of a teenager or child. You also cannot reveal anything the character doesn’t know. While it does create a quick intimacy with the reader, the writer risks being stuck in that one characters thoughts and perspective. First person POV does present some challenges but the writer can be successful.

Second Person – This is told in the voice of a narrator, not a character, who is addressing ‘you’ the reader. Most self-help books are written in this POV, but when used in a novel it’s purpose is to make the reader feel as though they were experiencing the action themselves. There are not many novels written in this POV, but don’t let that stop you. If you can find a fun, new way of using it then go for it. Here is an example from Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInery:

You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy. You are at a nightclub talking to a girl with a shaved head. The club is either Heartbreak or The Lizard Lounge.

Third Person – This is by far the most commonly used POV for novels. A narrator is telling the story about what he or she did. There are many different ways of using third person POV. One is third person limited, or single vision where the narrator tells the story from one characters perspective. This POV pulls the reader into the characters head, creating an intimacy between them almost as close as first person POV. It’s possible to use multiple third person points of view by switching characters. Some writers will switch characters with each chapter, others will make the switch within the same scene. If scene swapping is done its best to only switch once per scene. Any more runs the risk of confusing the reader. The following is an example of third person limited from my novella Homerun.

“Here.” She shoved the schedule at him. “Let’s get this done so we can go to bed.”
His grin widened and she realized what she’d said. She could feel the blush creeping up her face. “Not together of course. You go to your bed and I’ll stay here.”

***

He found her blush and her eagerness to clarify her words alluringly cute. He leaned in closer and let his fingers trail down her cheek and neck. The iron-clad control he maintained when he was near her was slipping fast.
“Are you really going to make me drive all the way home when I’m in danger of falling asleep at the wheel, Princesa?” Her lips were a breath away. How had they gotten that close?

In this example we get into both the hero and heroines POV, each separated by the symbols. Some authors won’t use any type of dividing line but rather switch within the same scene using a different paragraph. This can be done but use caution because many publishers don’t like this type of head hopping. If you choose to do this type of POV change start with the characters name and an action. Jessica ran her fingers through her hair. This could not be happening. “What do you mean you lost her? How does one lose a two hundred pound gorilla?”

Third person omniscient POV has a narrator who knows it all, the characters, the setting, any past or future events of the story. The omniscient narrator can reveal things to the reader that the characters don’t even know. The only drawback with this POV is that it removes some of the intimacy between the reader and character and creates distance. And for that reason omniscient is very rarely used now. It calls attention to the fact that there is a writer, which is exactly what most writers want to avoid. We’d rather draw readers into our fictional worlds instead of having them on the outside watching the events take place. Here’s an example from Home Sweet Home by Hannah Tinti:

A month before Pat and Clyde were murdered, Mrs. Mitchell was fixing the toilet. Her husband passed by on his way to the kitchen, paused at the door, shook his head, and told her that she was too good for him. The heavy porcelain top was off, her arms elbow deep in rusty water. The man she had married was standing at the entrance to the bathroom and speaking, but Mrs. Mitchell was concentrating on the particular tone in the pipes she was trying to clear, and so she did not respond.

Assignment: Write a paragraph or two in any POV you feel comfortable writing in. Now write it again using the other two POV’s so you have the same content written in first, second and third person POV. Which do you like better?

My Writing Process – Blog Tour

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My Writing Process – Blog Tour

Today is Blog Tour Day. This blog tour is where writers and authors answer questions about their writing process. My friend Sarah Belle posted hers last week. You can check out her writing process here.

What Am I Working On?

I have a couple of projects going on right now (what writer doesn’t). The one that has priority is my novel, Diamond Heiress. This will be my first full length novel, my first two books were novella’s. It’s contracted with Prism Book Group and we are in the editing phase, so hopefully it will be out soon. Editing leaves very little time for writing, so it is my least favorite part of the writing process. However, it is the most necessary on the road to publication because it’s the editing that gets the polished product out for readers.

In my spare time I am working on a series based in a small town in Connecticut. What do a lawyer, veterinarian, super model and two precocious five year olds have in common? That’s what I’m trying to figure out, they are still letting me know. I’ve also been dabbling in Historical Romance for the first time, I’m not sure yet if I’m cut out to write Historical but I’m giving it a try.

How Does My Work Differ From Others of its Genre?

I love romance..in books, movies and real life…watching two people meet and fall in love evokes the best feelings. However, I prefer to keep it clean, while I like the falling in love part, I don’t need to see or read their most intimate moments, even if they are fictional characters. That is how my work differs, my characters adhere to the same high moral standards I keep in my life, without losing any of the sigh making, heart melting moments of falling in love. While clean romance is definitely not mainstream, I was surprised at how many authors there are out there who write and read clean. It was refreshing to discover.

Why Do I Write What I Do?

I was introduced to the wonderful world of romance novels at the age of fourteen when I discovered Victoria Holt. Since then, I’ve been hooked. I’ve tried reading other genres and while they are entertaining its romance novels that hold my interest and my heart. I started writing because I could no longer find clean romance novels and I’d read Victoria Holt’s books so many times I practically have them memorized, so I decided to write my own. What started as a hobby resulted in my first book being published six years later. It’s been an exciting road.

How Does Your Writing Process Work?

I put pen to paper and write. I do not plan, I do not outline. I start with an idea, come up with character names and then start writing. As I write I fill out character worksheets with traits as they develop. I tried outlining a couple times but that seems to stem the flow of my creativity, boxes me in. I envy those who can outline, it seems much easier. Unfortunately, my characters have minds of their own and choose to reveal themselves to me slowly, instead of being told who they are.

The Pains and Joys of Editing

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I Used Grammarly’s proofreading Software Because My Characters Demanded It.

As a writer of romance novels I create people, characters, that I hope jump off the page for my readers. That can only happen if I make them believable and lovable. How do you think a reader, or yourself would feel if a thirty year old educated businessman spoke like a nineteen year old surfer using poor grammar? I’m not saying surfers have bad grammar, so no offense anyone. Or if a teacher didn’t know where to put a comma or misspelled a word? My characters would get annoying really fast and the last thing I want is for my readers to get annoyed and put down my book before finishing it.

So, how can a writer avoid all these costly grammar and punctuation errors? Edit, edit, edit. How many writers out there enjoy editing? I sure don’t. That is the one part of publishing my work that I absolutely despise. But to become a published author it is a necessary evil.

One day, while I was procrastinating – I was supposed to be editing my current novel, because it won’t get published until all edits are done – I checked my email, because hey, something important may have come in during the last two minutes, I saw an email about a company called Grammarly. I’d never heard of it so I decided to do some research, isn’t that what all good writers do? Lots of research. After reading a bunch of reviews I decided to give it a try, but I didn’t want to try my own novel on it first so I told my writer husband all about, he’ll try anything. Just as I thought, the very next day he told me he had tried it. He sent me some of his work to run through the program and I was pretty amazed.

It caught quite a few grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. Also phrases and sentences that didn’t make sense. As well as a few other things I didn’t quite understand, something about modifiers, articles and faulty parallelisms. Obviously, I’m not a grammar girl. The only thing I wasn’t entirely fond of was the plagiarism checker. How many books do you think have the same phrases? Well, Grammarly picks up on it so well, I got a bit annoyed and turned it off. That is the beauty of the program, you can check what you want. After running a piece of his manuscript through and making the corrections suggested, I read through it again. There were still a few stray errors but nothing I couldn’t handle.

To all the writers out there, while this is a great program that I will use again, we will still have to edit our manuscripts. However, Grammerly takes some of the pain out of editing.

p.s. I ran this post through Grammarly and it found 15 errors. Can you find all 15?