Monday, November 26, 2012

I'm Going to the Romance Novel Convention

Golden Nugget Hotel, Las Vegas
I'm all signed up to go to the RNC convention at the Golden Nugget, Las Vegas in August. I know it seems a little early to be booking things for the summer, but this is going to be HUGE! The list of authors attending is already enormous, and it will be a lot like a writer's conference...though this one invites and encourages readers to attend as well. Oh, and I can't forget to mention that there will be a cover model "Mr. Casanova" cover shoot on Sunday. Holy moly! Check it out at

Monday, November 19, 2012

Notes From Literary Agent, Laura Bradford's Workshop

November: Literary Agent Laura Bradford  

I had the opportunity to attend the Las Vegas RWA (Romance Writers of America) workshop where Laura Bradford spoke candidly about what agents and editors are looking for. I was really impressed with Laura's easy-going style and  her willingness to answer all questions. Here are some of my notes:

Editors are looking for stuff that will sell (I'll get to what's hot and what's not later):

  • They want a fresh voice that leaps off the page--The same enough, but different enough...but not too different (this is a very fine line).
  • They want authors with long, robust careers.
  • Due to the economy, editors are presently risk averse.
  • Editors must comply with publisher mandates.
For a Pitch, she recommends:
  • Give the agent/editor what they want - work to BE what they're looking for.
  • Be aware of how you're pitching (what you sound like)...Though it is OK to be nervous.
  • Do some general research about the market, the editor and/or the agent. You can google their names and find their websites and interviews. Follow them on twitter. Sometimes editors will make a comment about something they'd like to see on Twitter.
  • Another good place to get information is writer blogs and Publisher's Marketplace (you can get the free Publisher's Lunch to avoid the $20 per month membership). Take note of deal postings--these will show you what agents are selling and what editors are buying.
Avoid themes/settings that "seem" like they would do well, but are too much of a risk in this economy. Note, editors may like something they can't buy:
  • Beta heroes
  • Italian set historical romances (she recommends sticking with the United Kingdom).
  • Romantic comedy
What's hot and what's not in Romance?
  • Contemporary romance is coming back.
  • Historical romance is doing well
  • Erotic romance is having a resurgence thanks to 50 Shades, and readers are finding skilled writing.
  • Romantic suspense is out
  • Women's fiction is saturated
  • Paranormal Romance is in glut
  • New Adult is coming back.
One thing that she noted with romance is that romance readers read a lot, and they are looking for books in the $5-$9.00 range. Romance readers are not going to buy a book for $15 to $18 because it eats up too much of their book budget.

What did Laura say about queries?
  • Firstly, she receives 800-1000 queries per month, so she needs you to get to the meat of the story as quickly as possible.
  • It needs to be about the material.
  • Be brief about yourself, and DO NOT talk about your husband and kids or family.
  • Brevity and pithiness & "sound bite quality" are important.
  • Red flags are "it took me 3 years to write this MS," or an outlying word count (either + or -)
  • She asks for the first chapter to accompany queries, and the most important part is your writing.
  • If you want to know what she represents, look at the AGENCY BOOKSHELF tab on her web site:
  • One good piece of advice she had: "Go with the idea that someone else has sent the agent a query for the same thing. You have to make yours stand out."
  • Always check out the submission guidelines on an agent's website because they change. Query Tracker or any other agent listing could be out of date.
There were a lot of questions about royalties. She said that romance is not the highest paying in royalties ($6-$8000 is good), but it's not unusual for a book to make $40,000 +.  She mentioned that Brenda Hiatt's web site has a section called SHOW ME THE MONEY where Brenda has collated statistics from anonymous authors: - An interesting fact for me is that New York publishers have migrated to a 25% of net for e-books. She said that's pretty standard.

All in all, I give an A+ to Laura Bradford for taking a Saturday and flying to Las Vegas to speak to a relatively small group. She just climbed up the ladder of awesomeness! 

Write on friends!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Writing the Dreaded Synopsis

You've finished your novel, and now it's time to write a synopsis. Have you ever asked exactly why is it necessary to take a full novel's worth of prose and summarize it into a few short pages, and keep the feel and voice of the book in tact? Impossible you say? Well, synopsis writing is not my favorite, but they are necessary for the fast-paced publishing industry. Here are some of my tricks:

  1. First, let's get the mechanics out of the way. A synopsis is written in present tense, third person, should include the setting, the time period, the word count and the author's CONTACT INFORMATION! Some people suggest single spaced. I might use single spacing for a 1-2 page synopsis, but otherwise I use double spacing (always 12 pt. Times New Roman).
  2. I start by summarizing each chapter in a few paragraphs, specifically pointing out the most important incidents in each scene. This always leaves me with a document far too long, but it forms the framework upon which to build the synopsis.
  3. I then mold this into an exciting summary, only leaving in the scenes that are this stage it is important to remember that a good synopsis makes the reader want to see the actual story.
  4. To be concise, surprisingly, a synopsis has more telling than showing.
  5. A synopsis tells the reader about the conflicts within your story.
  6. Never tease the reader and always reveal the ending.
  7. Once you've written the synopsis, let it sit and then read it aloud--Have others read it. Are they asking for the manuscript?
  8. I always end up with a document that's about five pages long. But, some agents/editors want an abbreviated version of that.
  • Start with an opening setting or concept that sets the stage for the story to come.
  • Introduce what the protagonist wants.
  • Describe the inciting incident.
  • What is the first turning point of the plot? What is the action that the main character takes that changes the direction of this book?
  • What are the conflicts, and character encounters. How does the antagonist interact with the MC?
  • What is the middle turning point?
  • What is the black moment?
  • What is the climax, the final blowout between good and evil (perhaps)?
  • What happens to tie up loose ends?
  • What is the final image that you want to leave the reader with?
Though synopsis writing is not easy, I think formulas can help us to narrow down what is truly important, and what will draw in your readers. Do you have any ideas to share?

Good luck, and Write On friends!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Building a Novel: My Writing Process

Yesterday I completed *drum roll* my eighth manuscript. I've had a lot of people ask me how to write a book and the picture above shows some of my tools. But this is a summary of how I do it:

  1. Start with a premise statement--what's the story about.
  2. Write a 2-3 page general outline of what I want to happen in the book and the sequence of major events.
  3. Research, research, research. Ask questions and research some more.
  4. Develop my characters. This is a long process. I developed a character profile table from the concepts in Marc McCutcheon's Building Believable Characters. My profile sheets are really quite extensive, but all major characters in your book need a backstory--where did they come from, what are their beliefs, what sort of social/economic situation did they come from, what were they teased about as children...the list goes on for pages. Then, I'll pull out Are You My Type, Am I Yours? by Renee Baron & Elizabeth Wagele and determine my main character's personality type--Is my protagonist a Perfectionist or a Peacemaker? There are nine personality types in this book, which also discusses how they interact with each other.
  5. At this point, I still haven't written a word of my novel. I open up my spreadsheet outlining template (in the center of my picture above--actually I keep a notebook for ever novel). This template lists every scene, and is a living document, in that it changes as my story unfolds. But the conflict and outcome of every scene is carefully planned before the scene is written.
  6. Now I roll up my sleeves and write the first couple of chapters, print them out and pick them apart. Is the setting vivid? Are the characters plausible? Is there too much backstory (a common mistake)? Are the characters acting the way they should according to their profiles? Does the first page grab the reader? What about subsequent pages? Is the story heading in the right direction? Is there enough conflict? How's the pacing...and a hundred other questions.
  7. Then I write the next 10,000 words and ask all the questions in #5. One thing to note here is that I really get to know my characters by 10K words. This gives me the opportunity to go back and polish their thoughts and actions in the beginning.
  8. I review again at about 150 pages, and again before writing the ending.
  9. After my final "draft" review, I plot the ending and then write it. 
  10. Have a glass of champagne. The first DRAFT is done. I stress draft, because that's what it is. In no way is it ready to go out.
  11. Next, I go though it about 8-10 times. Things to edit for: Setting, Characterization, Voice & Deep Point of View...edit out "she felt", "she thought", "it seemed", Syllabic, Story Completeness, Plot & Plausibility, Repeating Words, Chapter breaks, also for a romance I edit for sexual tension... FINALLY edit for Grammar/Spelling. 
  12. Get as many people to read it as possible and apply their feedback.
Then I have a completed manuscript that is ready to send out to the industry. TWO GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE! 

A couple other books that I rely on: The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi and Rivet Your Readers With Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson.

What are some of your tricks to building a novel?

Write on Friends!