Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Value Of Feedback

So, the feedback from my beta-readers has been trickling in.

It's been mostly what I expected: I have the bones of a very good story, but it needs some tinkering and fleshing out yet.  What needs work?  The same things that usually do: the basics.

I think a lot of writers who have pulled off the feat of finishing a book sometimes forget: it's often the basics that will trip you up.  Grammar, punctuation, characterization, setting the scene.  The scary part?  Often we, the writers, are the last to see those mistakes.

Success in the indie world goes beyond just talent.  This is true whether you are an indie musician, filmmaker, or author.  Talent will get your foot in the door.  The thing that gets you a seat at the table is professionalism.  Producing professional-grade work is the difference between writing on your 10-minute break at WalMart, and writing for a living.

Cue the lecture on the importance- no, necessity- of beta readers.  There is no way you as the author will catch all the little mistakes/weird sentences/plot holes in your manuscript.  Trust me on this.  Need proof of how important outside feedback is?  Just read some of the indie published works out there.  I guarantee, you will be able to tell who went the extra mile and who didn't. 

So, for the love of god and all things literary, find some people you trust to give you an honest opinion, and give them your baby.  No conditions, no restraint.  Then, once they've read it, listen to what they have to say.  And remember: critiques are not a referendum on you personally.  They are the genuine attempts of people to help you reach your goal, which (I assume) is to be a successful, sought-after author.

When I sent off my revised first draft to my volunteer readers (whom I love and appreciate), I knew it wasn't Shakespeare, but I definitely didn't realize I had so much to fix.  It's okay, my ego can take it.

And I would much rather hear it now than in an Amazon review.   

That Time Of The Week...

Hey folks!  You didn't think I forgot about Burlesque Wednesday, did you?  Really?  Well, I did last week (I know, shame, shame).  So for your viewing pleasure, I'm making up for it with TWO awesome pictures this week.

Can you ever forgive me?

Even for GiGi LaFemme...?

GiGi La Femme

Monday, November 19, 2012

Editing Reading List For Romance Writers

There was quite a bit of research that went into my Editing Checklists.  In case you want to do your own research, here is the list of books I poured through (intensively).  Maybe you'll find other things in there that speak to you.  If so, let me know!

1) Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (2nd edition), by Renni Browne & Dave King- by far the most helpful book I went through.  Doesn't cover any genre in particular; the book is more about refining your writing style so that it both sounds professional and reflects your distinctive voice.  Highly recommend!

2) Writing Romance, by Leigh Michaels- excellent advice on creating realistic settings, and a very helpful "Characters" section, which includes advice on writing secondary characters that come off the page.

3) Writing A Romance Novel for Dummies, by Leslie Wainger- the first romance writing book I ever bought.  I still find useful information every time I read it.

4) The Everything Guide to Writing a Romance Novel, by Christie Craig & Faye Hughes- great starter manual for romance writers.  

5) The Romance Writer's Handbook, by Rebecca Vinyard- brilliant sections on dialogue and the different speech patterns of men and women.  Plenty of other good stuff, too, but those sections alone make the entire book worth it!

I have many other books that I refer to before and during the writing process, but that's another post.  Stay tuned!  I promise I'll share!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Editing Checklist, #15: The Final Touch

Ready for our final installment here?  Good.  Because this might just be the most important one.

The two most important lines in the book are the first line and the last line.  A wise author has pointed out: the first line sells your book.  The last line sells your next book.

Let's sell your next book.

- Does it end on Goldilocks Time (remember: not too early, not too late)?
- Does it match the tone of the rest of the book?
- Does it leave the reader feeling happy/satisfied/bummed the book is over?

Congrats!  You've finished with the Editing Checklists!  I hope they've helped you as much as they helped me.  My manuscript was total shit when I started this.  Now, I think I've got something I can be proud of.

Good luck!  See you on the shelves!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Some Domination With Your Tea?

"I will have you right here, on this desk, until you beg for mercy.  Twice." -Irene Adler (Sherlock, "A Scandal In Belgravia")

I couldn't help it: this was too fun.

# Irene Adler Motivational Poster
Dramatis-Echo will now have you right here, on this desk, until you beg for mercy twice.

Editing Checklist, #14: Endings, Part 5

I can already hear you: "Jeez, is the book freaking over yet?"

Almost, Clarice.

Ah, the Resolution.  So clean, so simple.  It is exactly what it sounds like it is. 

Or is it?  Check this list to make sure your Resolution actually, you know, resolves your book.

- Are all the important issues resolved fairly and satisfyingly?
- Do both the h/h sacrifice something/change something for the sake of their love?
- Does the ending come about because of the h/h's actions, not through outside interference?
- Are heroic secondary characters fittingly repaid?
- Are villains punished proportionate to their crimes?
- Do the h/h confront any remaining emotional tension?
- Is the reader left convinced the h/h will still love each other in 5, 10, 50 years?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Editing Checklist, #13: Endings, Part 4

Whew!  See how many parts there are to an ending?  And we're not even done yet! 

The following component is specific to romance novels, so if you're writing something else, it might not apply to you.

The Declaration of Love.  This is kind of like the mini-climax in romance novels (heheh, that sounds like a bad pun).  It is crucial for the success of the hero/heroine's relationship that they both confess their feelings to each other.

- Do they say it on "Goldilocks Time" (not too early,  not to late)?
- Has this moment been built up to throughout the course of the novel?
- Do both the h/h actually verbalize their feelings?
- Does how they verbalize their feelings fit their characters (aka: someone who's been rough and ready throughout the book isn't going to suddenly write a Shakespearean sonnet at the end- unless you've already shown they are really the type of person to write Shakespearean sonnets.  But that's another matter.)?
- Is this moment sufficiently acknowledged as a milestone (no, "I love you.  How 'bout those Knicks?")?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Editing Checklist, #12: Endings, Part 3

So you've written your Black Moment.  All is bleak in your storyworld, your characters are doomed, and you have (perhaps) realized you need therapy.

Now comes the Switch, alternately known as the Climax.

By this point, emotions should be at fever-pitch.  Everything comes to a head.  This is where the hero/heroine resolve the main conflicts and share how they've grown/changed.

- Does this come off as the emotional high point of the book?
- Is the sharing sufficiently honest (and painful) to convince the reader the h/h take the relationship seriously?

Happy Burlesque Wednesday!

I started this on Twitter because, come on, who doesn't need a little jolt to wake up that libido in the middle of the week?  Enjoy!

smoke break

See you next Wednesday! (Or, if you don't want to wait, check out my Pinterest page)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Editing Checklist, #11: Endings, Part 2

Okay, so you've got the Build-Up (see Endings, Part 1) covered.  What comes next?  

The Black Moment is the point in the story where it appears "all is lost".  The situation is hopeless.  The guy won't get the girl.  The virus will spread and turn the entire human race into zombies.  You get the point.

The checklist here is pretty basic:

- Does all genuinely appear lost?
- Has the hero or heroine turned to walk away?

Answer "yes" to both of these?  Congratulations!  Your Black Moment is sufficiently bleak (incidentally, you might also want to seek therapy. Just saying.).  Stay tuned!

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Writer's Desk

"If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what is the significance of a clean desk?" -Laurence J. Peter

I would describe my desk as "whimsically messy". With cheese. And port.

Editing Checklist, #10: Endings, Part 1

As anyone who's taken creative writing or literature classes already knows, books don't just end.  There are several components that make up the "ending" of a book, each a crucial element of bringing a story to a satisfying conclusion.

The first of those is the Build-Up.  This is the "beginning of the end"; it sets up the other components that come after it, and is an important part in making sure the ending makes sense and "feels" right.

- By now, do the readers believe in the characters?
- Do they identify with the heroine? (remember, I'm talking specifically about romances here; in other books, substitute the main protagonist)
- Is the two-step-forward, one-step-back process at a point where the hero/heroine are out of options?
- Does the pacing speed up?
   > short, inter-cut scenes
   > mini-cliffhangers
   > active prose (important throughout the book, especially important here)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Editing Checklist, #9: Love Scenes

So.  Sex.  There's a lot to cover here, so let's just dive right in, shall we?

- Does the sexual tension begin the moment the hero/heroine (h/h) meet?
- Is the scene foreshadowed?
- Does the scene occur at the right point in the story?
- Is there enough foreplay for the scene, the characters, and the story?
- Does the foreplay reveal as much about the h/h as the rest of the scene?

- Does the scene heighten tension/conflict?
- Are the characters (and readers) kept on edge?
- Do the h/h get too comfortable?
- Does the scene change the interaction between the h/h?
- Does that change show in the next scene?

- Do the h/h make love in character?
- Do the h/h make love with all five senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, sound)?
- Is there "deep POV"?
- Did you write the whole experience (sensory details, emotions, actions, thoughts)?
- Does the scene have rhythm?
- Do the words/sentences create the mood you want?

Possible Pitfalls To Avoid:
- Unintended repetition
- Anything about the writing (sentence structure, punctuation, vocabulary, etc.) that pulls you out of the scene
- The scene reads like an instruction manual
- The movements aren't physically plausible

Note: Love scenes= any expression of physical affection between the h/h

Make it hot!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Editing Checklist, #8: Conflict, Part 2

While emotional conflict is important, it needs to occur within a framework.  The external conflict- also known as "plot"- is that framework.  The plot moves the story along, while giving the emotional journey context.

- Is the timeline accurate and believable?
- Is the conflict introduced early in the book?
- Is it caused by forces outside the hero/heroine's control?
- Is it a single even that can be solved in one step (bad)?
- Do the hero/heroine have a good reason to stick around?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Editing Checklist, #7: Conflict, Part 1

The writing world used to give short shrift to emotional conflict, relying on plot to drive a story forward and keep readers interested.  That doesn't fly anymore.  Books that pay no attention to the emotional lives of its characters read as stilted and dry.  And in genres like romance (my soup du jour), the emotional conflict makes up the backbone of the story.

We'll get to external conflict later.  For now, here are some things to pay attention to when reviewing your story's internal conflict:

- Is it believable?
- Is it complicated enough to span the book, but not so complicated it can't be realistically solved?

- Does the characters' emotional journey follow a two-step-forward, one-step-back approach?l
- Does the tension increase with each emotional step?
- Does it get progressively harder for them to stay stuck?

- Is the turning point clear?
- Is the turning point realistic?
- Is the resolution realistic?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Editing Checklist, #6: Chapters & Scenes

This is more about structure, but structure is very, very important.  Are your chapters and scenes giving you the most bang for your ballpoint?


- Does it start with something interesting?
- Does it have a clear point?
- Does the action drag out too long?
- Does it end with something intriguing?


- Does it grab the reader's attention right away?
- Are there any long descriptive/introspective passages (that don't raise important questions)?
- Does it end with a cliffhanger?

First Chapter Specifics:
- Does it introduce the main characters?
- Are the h/h introduced in a humanizing way?
- Is there enough of the right kind of info for readers to form emotional attachments to the h/h (esp. the heroine)?
- Is there too much info (aka "info dump")?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Burlesque Wednesday

We all know what burlesque is, right?  Right.  If you're underage or offended by nudity, don't watch this.

Everyone else, enjoy.

Dita Von Teese- "Guy What Takes His Time"


Editing Checklist, #5: The Setting

No story occurs in a void.  Here are a few things to make sure your setting does your story proud!

- Does it provide context for the romance?
- Does it move the story forward?
- Does it convey emotion?
- Is it described sufficiently to give the reader a clear view of where they are?
- Is it described accurately?
- Do the descriptions enhance the story?
- Does it help reveal information about the characters?
   - demonstrate strengths
   - reveal weaknesses
   - allow them to grow
- Do the descriptions relate to the characters' experiences and POVs?
- Is it over-described?
- Is there "scenic overload"- is there too much emotional investment in the setting?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Editing Checklist, #4: The Beginning

Now that your characters are dealt with, it's time for mechanics.  Buckle up, people!

- Does the story have a hook?
- Does the opening line capture your style/tone and introduce the reader to your fictional world?
- Does your story start in the middle of the action?
- Does your story start with one of the two main characters?
- Do you give enough info about the main characters (especially the heroine) to make the reader care about them?
- Are a few positive traits introduced early on?
- Do the characters do something- ideally within the first chapter- that "characterizes" them?
- Do the hero/heroine (h/h) initially experience extra awareness, not overwhelming attraction?
- Does their first interaction effectively set the tone for the rest of the book?
- Is there info-dump (BADBADBADBAD- ahem. Sorry)?
- Can the reader empathize with the heroine?
- Does the beginning action showcase the characters and their situation?
Does the action start inside a character's point of view (to draw the reader in)?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Editing Checklist, #3: Secondary Characters

Because even if they're secondary, they're still important...

- Do they provide a sense of place and reality?
- Do they give context to the hero/heroine (h/h), and the story?
- Do they help move the plot forward?
- Do they provide crucial information?
- Do their physical descriptions paint a brief, accurate picture of who they are?
- Do they come across as real, individual people?
- Are there any secondary characters who steal too much attention away from the h/h?
- Are there any unnecessary secondary characters?
- If so, can they be combined with another character, or cut out entirely?

Editing Checklist, #2: The Hero

First let me apologize for not being as regular with this as I probably should be.  I'm trying to get better- really, I am!

That said, the first job of a writer is writing, or in my current case, editing.  So cut me a little slack.

Right!  I promised editing checklists, and I aim to deliver!  I compiled these from a wide variety of sources, and they've been hugely helpful for me as I ripped my novel to the bones, then rebuilt it into something (hopefully) respectable.  I hope someone else will find them equally useful.

I'm also curious: what does your editing process look like?  Do you ship your work out to a professional?  Do you do it yourself, and if so, are you as anal retentive about it as I am?  What has worked best for you?  What have you learned along the way?

Okay, enough stalling.

The Hero

- Does his name stand out?
- Are some of his strengths introduced before his weaknesses?
- Does he have quirks, contradictions, and layers?
- Does he have distinctive mannerisms?
- Does he make love in character?
- Does he talk like a real person?
- Does he talk like a man?
- Does he talk like an individual?
- Does he have internal issues that drive him?
- Is he strong- morally, intellectually, emotionally?
- Is he gorgeous?
- Is he driven to succeed in his work?

- Is his inner soft side visible to the heroine?
- Is he the heroine's equal?
- Do his strengths correspond to the heroine's weaknesses?
- Do his weaknesses correspond to her strengths?
- How vulnerable is he (can he cry)?
- Is he so sensitive he comes off as wimpy?
- Is he so strong he comes across as abusive?

- Does he have a complete background story?
- Does he react to current situations based on his experiences?
- Do his reactions stay consistent?
- Do his reactions make sense given his personality/ past?
- Does he grow throughout the story?
- Does he confront his issues/ beliefs at the end?
- Does he change enough to make a happy ending believable?

- What does the heroine see in him that makes her fall in love with him?
- Could you fall in love with him?