Tag 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

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.

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?

I thought I knew Point of View

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I’m a writer, I should know everything there is to know about Point of View, right? We all know the difference between first person and third person POV, third person omniscient vs third person limited. I figured with that knowledge under my belt I could write a bestseller. Boy was I wrong!

One day, after critiquing a piece of my work, one of my critique partners, Nancy LaPonzina, recommended a little book to me. Little did I know that small book would change the way I view POV and in the process improve my writing skills. The book is Rivet Your Readers With Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson. She started the introduction with these powerful words: “Have you ever read a book that melded your mind with the main character’s psyche? No vague sensation of an invisible narrator inserted itself between you and the point-of-view character. Line by line, scene by scene, you lived in that central character’s head. Even if the story was not written in first person, the hero or heroine’s every experience became yours, and your reading pleasure intensified. Why? How did this happen? What did the writer do to gain this effect? The technique is called Deep Point of View.”

Wow! What writer doesn’t want to inspire those types of feelings in people who read our books? One paragraph and I was hooked, I had to read the entire book before I wrote another word. Apparently, it worked because I was offered a publishing contract from Prism Book Group for the novella I wrote right after reading that little book. It changed everything I thought I knew about Point of View….