Author Archives: melinda

Sometimes Things don’t go as Planned

Angry, Frustrated WomanI’m at the end of a book. I  think. I  hope.

This story has been a pain in my butt since day one. I’ve already rewritten the entire first 40,o00 words. Today, 76,000 words into the manuscript, I have an epiphany about my hero’s character arc.

Seriously?

I’m almost done.  Now my muse is telling me I have it all wrong?

I hate my muse. She’s a moody bitch.

OK, so she’s also right (which makes me hate her even more).

I plotted this book before I started writing it, just like I do every time. But as the writing progressed, something wasn’t right. The story didn’t flow. Half-way through, I decided to let my muse have her way. I replotted the ENTIRE book and rewrote nearly 175 pages.

Sometimes things just don’t go the way they’re planned. Sometimes characters have other ideas, or the story takes on its own life and MUST have its way.

Anyway, you won’t be hearing from me again until this WIP is done.  I’m not going to make my muse’s demanding changes yet. I’ll push through and finish the draft, but my list of project notes is PAGES and PAGES long. The editing stage will be lengthy and painful with  this book.

Going back into the cave. Wish me luck,

Melinda

Audio Books

I have very little time to read these days. So I’ve taken to listening to audio book while driving and while I’m at the gym. The cons? It takes forever to finish a book. I read very quickly, about a hundred pages an hour, so listening to someone read a book aloud often makes the pace of a book feel slower. However, audio books also force me slow down and appreciate the prose–or not–depending on the book.

Two of my favorite listens so far have been Crazy Little Thing by Tracy Brogan and Pines by Blake Crouch. Both had great stories, but also terrific voice actors that brought the story to life and let me forget I was climbing an endless set of imaginary steps at the gym.

Cons to audio books? Enjoyment is affected by the narrator.  There have been a few instances when I’ve switched back to reading because I hated a narrator’s voice or the way he or she depicted a certain character.  (Amazon has a feature on some kindle books called Whispersync for Voice that allows you to buy the audio book at a reduced price if you already own the kindle version. You can then switch back and forth between the two versions. The Kindle and Audible apps sync automatically.  I can’t say how much I love this feature.)

What do you think about audio books?  Love them? Hate them?  I’m always looking for a good story to listen to at the gym. Does anyone have a recommendation for a great audio book?

Melinda

What Are You Reading?

I’m in crazy writer’s mode this week, but I also need some downtime every night before I go to sleep. Reading something another person wrote is the best way to clear my head.  This week I’m lucky enough to be reading an advanced copy of Alone by Kendra Elliot (romantic suspense).  I’m only a quarter of the way thru, and I tell you, I’m dying to know who did it and why already!

Alone releases in January 2014.

Because I hate to waste time, I’m also listening to book on audio in the car and at the gym. This month’s choice is Shadow’s Edge by J. T. Geissinger (paranormal romance).  The gorgeous cover has tempted me  for a long time. I’m happy to say that the prose is simply beautiful, and the story is making me actually want to climb on the elliptical trainer – quite an accomplishment.

Now, tell me what you’re reading this weekend. Anything good?

 

Writer’s Block, an Adventure in Randomness

MP910216414I’m about 1/4 of the way through writing my seventh book.  (I know! The total is freaking me out too) .  Anyway, today was an excellent writing day. I spent the morning at a local coffee shop.  The past few weeks have been brutal, words limping out onto the page, scenes forming with in pathetic randomness. So, instead of sitting in my office, I opted for a change of scenery and a very large cup of coffee.

I’ve determined that I should write 10,000 words per week to get this book finished. Unfortunately, the only way to make writing easier is to write. It sucks but it’s true. If I write 2,000 words every weekday, I can use the weekend for editing, administrative tasks, or heaven forbid, cleaning.  Three nights this week I sat up until midnight to get the words in. One day I still fell short. Today started out much the same. Four hours at Panera netted me my daily minimum.  I set out to run errands. In the car, scenes and dialogue started flashing into my head. I had to turn off the radio. The music was competing with my characters.

I hurried home, panicked that I’d forget half of what was in my head.  I grabbed my laptop and vomited out another 2K in under 2 hours. I didn’t think I could type that fast. I happily wrote myself into a nasty headache.

Why does this happen? Why does the story hate me one day and love me the next?   Why does it seem so random?  I’ll never figure it out, but I’m surely going to enjoy the days when the job really seems as easy as friends and family think it is.

Now back to writing. Maybe I can make it 5,000. Wishing you all a writing day as successful as mine.

- Melinda

How a Broadway Production Changed my Opinion on Reviews

I used to get annoyed when I read book reviews, especially bad ones, that downgraded a book because of an issue with the seller or formatting. A recent experience changed my attitude.

My family and I went to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. Phantom is one of my favorite productions. I love the music, the costuming, the setting. We arrived a half hour early and stood outside the theater for twenty or so minutes before the doors opened just ten minutes before the official start time. We’d been driving for an hour and a half, so the women in the party headed for  the rest room. In old theaters, the accommodations can be less than adequate. This was no exception. The line went out the door.  We rushed to find our seats only to find a line of people waiting for usher assistance.

When our turn came, the usher led us to an aisle and pointed in the vague directions. We started up the stairs to the balcony.

The lights went out.

The production had started with dozens of people still rushing to find their seats. Let me tell you, that place was DARK. The only light was a tiny little illumination on the stage. We were in the balcony, so that didn’t help. There was no way we could see our seats. We couldn’t even see our feet. The little ankle high emergency lights weren’t adequate for a staircase that steep. So we stood there, hoping for some assistance or a light or something.

Nothing came. The people in the seats next to the aisle complained we were in their way. So we carefully picked our way back down to the theater wings where the ushers were located, where a crowd of people were bunched in the little entryway. The ushers offered no help to anyone. We all stood there through the entire opening scene. Scene two was bright enough, and our eye had adjusted to the dim. We raced to the appropriate row and disturbed everyone in it. In fact, there were dozens of people all over the theater in the same situation. This was a tight old theater with about half of the room between rows as a modern airplane. A half-dozen people had to stand up so we could sidle our way to our seats.

Finally seated, I turned my attention to the stage. The production was well into the second scene. The kids had missed the opening and had no idea what was happening. I was irritated. Broadway tickets aren’t cheap. We’d all been anticipating the day only to feel let-down at the very  beginning.

Even though the music was lovely, the costuming gorgeous, and the set impressive, I didn’t enjoy much of the first half. It took a while to relax and focus on the stage.

This particular theater seats over 1600 people and was packed. Ten or fifteen minutes was not enough time to get that many people seated. The venue was built in the 1920s. I would like to think the theater management would know that. Or that they would care, but the overall attitude of the staff was very we sellout every show, so whatever. Phantom is magical, but the production lost some of its shine for me that day.

Anyway, the whole point of this post is that I discovered that things other than the story or the production CAN have a huge impact on enjoyment.  If a reader has a formatting or seller issue with my book, their irritation will bleed over into their overall impression like my issues with the poorly  managed theater affected my experience.

Dear Copyeditor

I’m truly sorry. Even though I know comma rules well, I am unable to apply them consistently throughout my manuscript. Compound words boggle my mind. I’ve used snow bank, snowbank, and snow-bank all in the same manuscript. Hell, I think I typed all three variations in one scene. I cannot for the life of me remember when to use a hyphen or where it goes. How can I line edit the same manuscript over and over yet still have so many typos?

You are so tactful and gentle when you point out totally lame errors like the misspelling of my own characters’ names. Or that time I changed a character’s name for just one chapter. Then there are the occasions that I forgot what my character was wearing or what he was doing in the middle of a scene. We won’t talk about the two characters in one book with the same name. <head desk>

I appreciate the fact that you take the time to reference grammatical rules in Chicago Manual of Style. You probably live in hope that someday, these rules will sink into the long term memory area of my brain and leave an imprint.

I hate to tell you, but that isn’t likely to happen.

By the time I meet my deadline, I’m well and truly fried. My eyes cross at the thought of  making one more pass through my book. In fact, please take you time with my edits. The time span between meeting my  deadline and receiving copyedits can’t be long enough.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for preventing me from looking like a complete dumbass. You are appreciated more than you will ever know.

Sincerely,

One Grateful Author

RWA “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing, July 17

Since 1990 Romance Writers  of America have raised over $775,000 to fight literacy by hosting a huge book signing/sale. Over 400 authors (including me!), will gather in Atlanta this week for the 2013 “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing to raise that number even higher.  If you are going to be in the Atlanta area, please join us, chat with your favorite authors, and support a great cause. The event is open to the public.

2013 “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing

Wednesday, July 17
5:30–7:30 p.m.
Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Atrium Ballroom A–C (Atrium level)

Here I am last year with the fabulous Leanne Banks at the signing in Anaheim. You can check out the entire list of authors participating here.

Special Guest Post: New Writer Mistakes by Chris Redding

Most new writers make the same mistakes. Here are some examples and how to avoid them.

Lack of specifics: This can be caused by laziness or insecurity on the part of the writer. By using significant details- works, friends, what does the character want-you can flesh out the character’s emotional life.

I’m terrible at emotions. Really. It’s sad that I write romance or at least include it in my suspense stories. This was the last part of the workshop I researched. But I learned so much doing the research. You need the specifics to make your character three –dimensional.

Ambiguity: A writer has to trust his own experience. This is one of my flaws. I could go into a long complicated explanation but none of you are my therapist. Suffice it to say it has been a hard fought lesson on my part to trust my experience. We are all more similar than we are different.

A writer needs to bleed onto the page. That requires the writer to tap into and explore their own emotions. I know many writers who say if they didn’t write they’d be in a straight jacket. You could probably include me in that. I get to work things out on the page.

Lack of Trust in Characters: A writer can write the character with too many inconsistencies. The reader needs to see the emotional journey of the character for the range of emotions to be believable. A writer can also make a character too consistent. We all have a range of emotions. Also, we all can react differently to the same situation on a different day. Our characters should too.

“Giving your characters authentic, believable emotions is the best way I know to breathe life into them and off the page.” Ann Hood.

Your characters should have emotional depth and breadth. How does a character get from emotion A to emotion B?

There’s a timeline.

Do you have one? No need to share here, but you all have resolved on emotional conflict. How did you get from A to B? Your character must go through a similar timeline, but it should be different from yours since your character is different from you.

Your emotional life and your character’s emotions life only needs to overlap enough to make the reader believe.

WEA WEB smallChris Redding lives in New Jersey with her family. When she isn’t writing or giving workshops, she works part time for her local hospital. Her latest book out is a novella titled Which Exit Angel. 

Blurb: She’s an angel who hasn’t earned her wings. He’s a preacher questioning his faith. How are these two supposed to stop the impending apocalypse?

Thanks for having me today.

Revising: A Scene by Scene Checklist

Pad of Paper & PenWith my draft 98% complete, I’ll soon be entering the sacred revision zone with my latest work-in-process.  (Hallelujah!)  My first read through will be to take out the sucky parts. The second pass will be to address stuff that’s missing. I’ll make  notes on open threads and check them off as I address them.  Step #3 is the final scene checklist.  I’m sure other authors have different lists, and my checklist differs depending on the particular difficulties I experienced during the writing process. I usually start with general concepts and progress to the more nitpicky stuff.

Scene Checklist SHE CAN HIDE:

  • Can I identify the scene goals? Have I met them? If no to either of these questions, do I really need this scene?
  • Is the tension working the way it should?
  • Is the POV (character point-of-view) clear and consistent? (I added the definition here because when I received notes back on my first ever contest submission, POV was noted all over it. I had no idea what POV meant.)
  • Who is in the scene? Have I lost anyone? Where is the dog?
  • Emotion, there should be some.
  • Are the beginning and ending hooks strong enough?
  • Eliminate repetitive and/or boring prose.
  • Are my characters repeating the same physical movements. Seriously, I read a progression of scenes recently in which my characters just stood in doorways through the whole thing.
  • Is the scene rooted in place, time, weather, etc.

Does anyone else have any items I missed?

On Self-Doubt and Goldfish

Goldfish in fishbowlI’m finishing up a draft this week, a particularly rough book for me. (I know I say that all the time). I was about 1/3 of the way through my manuscript and completely on schedule when tragedy struck our family. I ended up spending 3 weeks out of town with no opportunity or desire to write. When I finally returned home, there was another week of getting back into the household routine. My kids had missed a full week of school. Their load of makeup work wasn’t pretty.

By the time I was able to get back to my book, nearly a month had passed since I’d last worked on it. Who were these characters and what on earth were they doing? I struggled for the next couple of weeks, my deadline looming on the calendar.  Frankly, I didn’t care much about the story, the characters, or the plot. The whole family was still grieving and  struggling to catch up. Teachers were the usual mix of helpful and horrible. Stress was spelled with a capital S.

So, what did I do?

Friends suggested I ask for an extension, but the very thought of missing a deadline gave me a case of hives. I still had some time. I was just going to have to hustle. But every day, my lack of progress dug me deeper and deeper into a hole. I was beginning to think I would have to call my editor after all, despite the fact that contemplating it made me hyperventilate.  My editor is a sweet, sweet person. She was aware of the situation and would have understood. But time  wasn’t the entire point or the heart of the problem.

I was Austin Powers. I’d lost my Mojo.

My answer? I wrote.  Every day. A net gain of 2,000 words at minimum. No excuses. No matter how much I wanted to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head, I dragged my sorry ass into my office each morning. The first week I was up until midnight nearly every night. But I refused to leave my desk unless I had made my progress. 2,000 words a day shouldn’t be that hard. But when you aren’t in tune with your story or characters, it sure seems like a lot. I was doing a lot of deleting, some days logging over like 4,000 words or more just to keep my minimum net daily gain. The first thing I’d do when I opened my document was delete half the crap I wrote the day before. I couldn’t keep the plot lines and character arcs in my head from day to day. I was a goldfish in a bowl, swimming all day and not going anywhere. I sucked.

But another 2 weeks went by and I was deleting less and adding more. I started keeping a list of notes. I added two additional subplots that hadn’t been in my plan. Then one day I woke up excited to write. YEAH!!!!

Hello, Mojo! Where have you been?

I’m not quite finished yet. I have maybe 10,000 words to go to finish my first draft. Does it still need work? Yes. Do parts of the book still suck. Yes again. Am  I super-enthusiastic to work on it every morning? Not really. But as long as I finish this freaking draft, I can fix it. It’s not like I chiseled the words into a slab of granite. All I have to do is type over them. It’s not that hard. Why couldn’t I look at it this way a month ago?

So, when self-doubt strikes, I recommend planting your butt in the chair and write if you have to duct tape your ass to the seat.  Yes, the goldfish feeling sucks, but I haven’t found a shortcut to getting back into the groove. Has anyone else?