Tag Archives: melinda leigh

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

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.

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?

Stumped for Story Ideas?

newspapers

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

This by far the most common question I’m asked by readers and other writers.  I’m going to share my little secret. Some of my plot ideas come from news headlines. Here’s my trick:  I don’t click through to the article. Instead, I let my imagination fill in all the details.

Obviously, not all headlines are created equal. Take the following:

First of all, we skim right through celebrity news.

  • “Surprise Proposals Shock Bachelorette”
  • “Octomom Dons Tacky Wedding Gown”
  • “Jennifer Hudson’s White-Hot Ensemble”

 Sorry, even I can’t do anything with these. Moving on to politics:

  • Senate Narrowly Passes First Budget in Four Years
  • Health Insurers Warn that Premiums could Spike

 Yawn. I got nothing.

 Next up:

  • Crude Joke Costs Two People their Jobs”
  • “Fighter Apparently Tried to Fake Own Death”
  • “Shootout in Texas may be Linked to Colo. Deaths”
  • “Manhunt Begins in Coney Island Shootings”
  • “Congolese Warlord Arrives at War Crimes Court Jail”

Jackpot! This is what I’m talking about. Reading any one of these headlines gets my imagination rolling. My brain is already making connections and naming characters.

In fact, there are many occasions when I have a plot hole and I need an event and I go perusing headlines to find just the right one.  Using headlines and actual events to spur my fiction gives my story lines realism. The only caveat: sometimes real events are truly stranger than fiction and critics will call your “real” event “unbelievable.”

Pitch Writing: An Important Career Skill

???????I’m doing a pitch workshop at the Liberty States Fiction Writers Create Something Magical conference next month.  Nothing makes a conference goer sweat like the prospect of pitching her book. But the process isn’t something to fear. A 10 minute speed date with an agent or editor is hardly a bear sniffing your camping tent.  You’ll be fine, and the whole pitch process is a good exercise for your future career.

I haven’t pitched to an editor or agent in a few years, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t written pitches. If you think you’re done with pitching once you’ve snagged an agent or editor, think again.  Authors have to write pitches, too, except now they’re called proposals or short blurbs. Every time a new contract comes up, my editor doesn’t say, “If you send us books, we will pay you money.” No, she needs a proposal to take to her acquisitions meeting. Guess what the first sentence of  my proposal is?  A pitch.

Pitch writing doesn’t stop after a book is acquired either.  After the book is finished, cover and promotional copy has to be written.  Promo copy is pitches of different lengths, this time aimed at potential readers/buyers.

There might be slight differences in the wording or focus of the pitch depending upon the intended audience. But just like an action scene, a pitch has to grab the attention of the editor, agent, or in the case of promo copy, potential buyer.

The reader of the pitch must be hooked. In one or two sentences, you have to make them want to acquire/read your book.

I have one more use for a good pitch.  I like to pin my proposal to the bottom of my storyboard while I’m writing the book. During the actual plotting and writing process, rereading that initial pitch helps me stay focused on the core of the story.

Now that I’ve expounded on the importance of being able to pull the hook for your book from the rubble of a manuscript, I’m looking for some successful pitches from well-known movies or books to use in my workshop.  I have a few, but in my opinion, nothing explains a good pitch better than fabulous examples, and what makes that light bulb shine for one person might not work for another.

Does anyone have a killer pitch for a well-known book or movie?

Keeping it Real

What I love about teaching the occasional karate class , particularly working with newbies, is explaining and instructing basics. Good basic form and technique are the keys to strong skills later on. They are the foundation to a house of cards or the stock to a good soup. Form and technique also enable a small student able to generate more power and hit harder than someone twice her size.  So, if you want your smaller heroine to land a strong blow to your big, bad villain, it’s possible. But writers have to keep it real. This isn’t TV.

Martial arts employs the use of physics. Here are three ways to generate more power when striking.  Good use of one of these natural forces allows a small person to hit very hard. (Bruce Lee was not a big man, but he could deliver incredibly fast and powerful blows!)

  1. Gravity – Your heroine can stomp on your villain’s instep, ankle, or knee. If she does it properly, gravity and body weight will add considerable force to the kick.
  2. Momentum – She can shift her body weight forward while striking, using her forward motion on the horizontal plane to increase her power.
  3. Torque – A roundhouse kick is  one example of using torque to increase power. The kicker uses the turning motion of the body like a golfer or baseball player.

There are forces karate students learn to maximize their strengths. Size, strength, and conditioning are factors as well. But every student can use correct form to increase his or her personal power.

I leave you with a clip of Bruce Lee. Yes, it’s a choreographed scene, but he is still amazing to watch. Notice the tight efficiency of his body. No wild swings. No unnecessary motions. Incredible speed, power, and grace. He is economy of motion in action. Enjoy!