Posts Tagged ‘novel’

The Soul of the Matter: Capturing the Inspiration…

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Road trips clear your mind, so why not take your  mind on a trip whenever you need that hit of inspiration, whenever your work needs that fuel? We all are in the weeds at some point, in every creative endeavor–writing, editing, parenting, not killing our children or spouses when they’re jumping up and down on our last nerve. That’s when we need a trip the most: a mini-fix, capturing you back to a past getaway, through the pictures that refuse to let your forget. Like these I took on my beach walk last night. Now, they can be every night for me. And your night, too, if you’ll let them…

Misty surf becoming clouds.

misty doc

Violet consuming light.

stormy dock back

The sun, a valiant, final stand.

clouds sun breaking

An ethereal show. (more…)

How We Write: The Soul of the Matter…

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

If you want to write, write. If you want to publish, prepare to work your ass off getting very, very good at your writing. This business is all about soul. And I’m not just talking about your unique, creative voice–though that’s incredibly important, too. Today, I’m talking about grit. Stick it out, find your own way, stop waiting for everyone else to make this crazy business sensible and welcoming and easy, G-R-I-T.


I write my books; I edit for other authors. I’m close to offering my first two book contracts for Entangled Publishing. After publishing 16 novels of my own and reading countless propsals others have written over the years, all I know for sure is, this is all about soul.

  • Have you been rejected (like me)? Figure out if you have what it takes to get up the next morning and start over from nothing–because every published author must do that each and every time they meet a deadline.
  • Do you have a day job (like me)? Buckle down and accept that your personal life off the clock belongs first to the book you need to finish, not your hobbies and social (media) life–because the majority of published authors don’t make enough off their writing to support their families, so we’re all hoofing it to make ends meet while trying to stay creative in the dark hours of early morning.
  • Do you have a busy family (like me)? Love them and care for them, the tell them your entire life doesn’t revolve around them and they’re going to have to take care of themselves the 1,2,3 hours a day that you devote to your writing. Otherwise, they’ll consume you (and maybe that’s what you want, if family is the excuse you’re making daily for not creating new words).
  • Have you been dealing with an illness (like me)? Deal with it, by all means, your health is everything. But for Dog’s sake, knock off saying your illness is responsible for you not moving forward in your writing. I don’t mean to be insensitive or unkind, but whatever your condition is, I assure you I can find others who’ve managed to succeed battling far worse circumstances–because they refused to quit.

Soul is the thing that lives and breathes inside us, regardless of the piles of s**t raining down on our worst days. (more…)

How We Write Wednesdays: James Scott Bell’s Doorway of No Return

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

 James Scott Bell Writer’s Page is a wonderful resource to explore, and Jenni and I are thrilled to have him at How We Write to discuss what he sees as the core of every successful novel. Ever wonder why one story sings and another falls flat? Check out this week’s inspiring guest blog!


Come back next weekto hear #weWrite regular PW Creighton’s take on Setting Moods!  


I believe a successful novel is the record of a character dealing with death. There are three kinds of death: physical, professional, psychological. One of these needs to be in play, at least as far as the lead character is concerned. Physical death is the hallmark of thrillers, and obviously means high stakes.

But there’s also psychological death. In a romance, for example, if the two soul mates don’t end up together, it will be a kind of death—their lives won’t be complete, ever (we sometimes say someone “died on the inside”). Professional death: An FBI agent on a case might have her entire career on the line, as Clarice Starling does in The Silence of the Lambs.

Death should be hovering even in comedic writing. Think about it: the characters in a comedy think they’re in a tragedy (psychological death) over something trivial. Oscar’s life as a happy slob is threatened by neat-freak Felix. Every Seinfeld episode is about some minor pursuit blown out of all proportion (e.g., the soup in “The Soup Nazi” episode).

This is fundamental to understanding the 3 Act structure and what I call the Doorways of No Return.  (more…)

How We Write Wednesday: Kara Lennox asks, Is Your Black Moment Enough?

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Kara Lennox has published over sixty novels for Harlequin Books and Bantam Books, plus ten screenplays (three of which have been optioned). She’s a lot of fun and super talented and here to talk about raising the stakes at the darkest moment in your story. I’ve know here and her husband for years, and I’m thrilled to have Kara join us for this week’s HoWW guest blog.

Come back to HoWWnext Wednesday for James Scott Bell’s “1st Doorway of No Return”! 


Is Your Black Moment Black Enough?

There must be a point in your book when all seems lost. The hero is about to fail in his quest; the heroine is about to be thrown off a building; the villain has gotten hold of the secret weapon. Your hero and heroine are breaking up and there appears to be no way to work out their differences.

One common flaw in books that fail (my own stack of rejected manuscripts included) is that the stakes aren’t high enough. So from the beginning of your book, ask yourself what is at stake. If your hero/heroine fails to reach his goal, what will happen, and is it really, really bad? Is someone going to die?

There are other high stakes besides loss of life. Loss of love, of course, is always a risk in a romance novel. But to make it work, you have to convince your reader that this is a once-in-a-lifetime love, that it’s special, epic love, and if the characters can’t make it work their futures will be meaningless. Other high stakes include loss of identity (your character can no longer be the person he/she wants to be), loss of family, loss of home (but only if it’s a special home, like a ranch that’s been in the family for generations) loss of sanity. This is just a partial list.

 Bright Black Moment

If your stakes are high, the black moment (roughly three-quarters of the way through the book) is the time to play that up. (more…)

How We Write: Joanne Rock Shouts Out About Voice…

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

HoWW is an amazing place today, thanks to Jenni’s and my guest blogger, Joanne Rock. Joanne’s skill as an author is equalled only by her excellence as a teacher, a friend, a mother, and an amazing human being… Yeah, she’s a really good friend. And my “date” to publisher parties. And a beautiful person. But check out her bio below. She’s published fifty novels. 5-0. When this woman talks about voice, listen. Soak in every word. Try the exercises she suggests. Do it. You’ll be amazed what you’ll learn.


Voice is every writer’s bread and butter, and Joanne has nailed how to encourage and challenge and inspire the very heart of what you do. I’m so excited to have her join the How We Write guest blog family!

Check back with HoWW next Wednesday, for Kara Lennox’s take on
your novel’s Black Moment!


In your writing journey, you may have come across books that say there are thirty-two basic storylines throughout fiction.  Or twelve master plots.  Or five core stories that we retell over and over.  One of those storylines is always “Boy Meets Girl.”  It’s the story that I tell along with a thousand other authors every year.  What makes one thousand different versions of “Boy Meets Girl” interesting?  The same thing that has made it interesting for centuries.  Voice.

A writer’s voice is her single most powerful tool.  Without it, your story is flat and lifeless, destined for the rejection pile.  With it, your work comes alive.  Voice makes your story sing or weep.  It is the indelible stamp of the author on each and every page.  You can remove some characters and story threads from your book and still sell your manuscript.  Remove voice and you’ve committed the cardinal sin of writing.  You haven’t been true to yourself.

Knowing voice is such a valuable tool, how do you find yours?  I recommend a few simple writing exercises to aid in the search. (more…)

How We Write Wednesdays: Candace Havens Motivates!

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Jenni and I have created an encouraging HoWW writing home to share craft and writing journey experiences, both our blogs and our #weWRITE Twitter hashtag. Candace Havens is a writing coach, among many other things, too. We’re thrilled to have her with us this week, talking about how she does all that she does and how you can create the same momentum in your life.

Candace Harlequincover

So settle in for a great HoWW guest blog, then come back next week, when Joanne Rock (author of over 50 novels) teaches us about voice!


I’m busy. I’m a full-time television critic (3 columns a week) and film critic (radio). I write three books a year for Harlequin and short stories/essays for various publishers. I’m the president of the Television Critics Association and I’m finishing graduate school this fall. I’m also married with children. There are days when I’m so tired the idea of writing one more word makes me want to cry.

But I do it.

People ask me all the time how I do all that I do. My standard answer is that I do it better some days than others, and I take it day-by-day. That’s true. Every day brings new challenges for me, and I often have to wear many hats in an hour. That’s why I have to make the most of my minutes.

There are days when I’m so busy that I have to really take advantage of the minutes I do have. While I’m at my desk waiting to interview some celebrity, I’ll take 20 minutes to see how much I can write on a chapter. (Most celebrities call late. It’s a power thing, so I can usually get 30 mins in.) When I’m at the doctor’s office, I always take a notebook so I can write. Even though we are press, if you don’t get to a movie preview early you get crappy seats. I go early and take that notebook with me to write. If I can’t sleep (I’m an insomniac), I make myself get up and write.

What you see in the above paragraph are choices. I choose to write. If you want to be successful and productive, that is what you must do. You must choose to write. That means turning the television off, getting away from those awful Farmville, Mafia and Jewel games and generally keeping yourself free from all the time sucks of the world.

The first thing you need to do is make a list of priorities. What do you have to absolutely get done in the real world? How long is that going to take? Do you have 30 minutes to spare in a day? You would be amazed what you can do in 20 to 30 minutes a day if you are focused and prepared. (more…)

How We Write Wednesdays: Susan Meier Shares Plotting Secrets!

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Susan Meier talking plotting is like Christmas in August for writers. She’s the author of over 45 novels and is in high demand across the country as a workshop speaker and columnist for publications like Writer’s Digest and Short Story Markets. Susan knows plot. She writes it brilliantly and teaches it well. Everyone, plug in because Susan’s in the HoWW house!

Susan Meier


And next Wednesday, come back to learn “How to Write When You Don’t Want To” with Candace Havens.


A thousand words about plotting…well, maybe fifteen hundred.

I love to plot. Seriously. Some of us are just born with analytical minds. I love the details. I love being tricky. I love knowing that when someone reads a certain scene they’re going to gasp. Maybe I’m analytical AND devious? LOL!

I have to admit I was born with the ability to analyze, but even people who aren’t born wondering about every darned step in life, or born wondering how everything works or why people do things, can learn to plot. And easily. Because there is a magic formula.

But before we get to that, let’s make some distinctions.

First, it takes three very different abilities to be able to write a book. You must be able to COME UP WITH A STORY. You must be able to CREATE SCENES that manifest that story. You must be able to use WORDS to create those scenes.

Pause for a second and think that through. Lots of you probably began writing because a teacher told you, “You have a way with words.” But when you tried to write a book you might not have been able to think of a “story” for which to use those pretty words. Or maybe you could think of a story but didn’t know how to come up with scenes. Or maybe you’re one of those people who can create scenes but isn’t quite sure how to line them up into a story.

When you accept that you need three distinct skills, you can separate them out, go to workshops designed to teach you each skill and then practice putting them together.

Okay…so in Susan Meier World…plotting isn’t coming up with a story. A story is more like a sentence or a paragraph. i.e. A hero and heroine must catch a killer but she’s already been arrested for the murder and he’s the DA prosecuting her.

That’s your story. Plotting is figuring out how you’re going to tell that story. And how do you tell a story? With scenes. (more…)

How We Write Wednesdays: Summer Guest Blog Schedule!

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Summer, when writers scatter to indulge in their favorite, sunny pastimes, is the perfect setting for gathering weekly, to chat about craft with a team of fabulous guest bloggers. Through September, each Wednesday, turn to HoWW for inspiring topics and discussions from some of our most hard-working friends!

August 10th         Susan Meier           Plotting

August 17th         Candace Havens   Writing When You Don’t Want T

August 23rd         Joanne Rock         Voice

August 31st          Kara Lennox         Black Moment

September 7th     James Scott Bell   The 1st Doorway of No Return

September 14th   PW Creighton       Setting Moods

Jenni and I are as busy as you are, but let’s not forget to work on our craft, and to inspire one another, and to keep our eye on getting better at what we do, every chance we get.


For now, the guest blogs will find their homes here at my place, so get your comments and questions ready and join our amazing guests each week. Jenni will be helping me in lead discussions every Wednesday on our Twitter hashtag #weWRITE, while she chases her kids around (my teen’s, thankfully, heading back to school Monday!).

And…we’ll be looking for HoWW blog and Twitter friends to keep the blog conversation going through the end of September and beyond. That’s been our goal all along. For this to be your Wednesday craft destination. We want to know how you’re writing. How you’re getting it done. What’s causing you the most difficulty and what’s working and what you want to talk about as you write your next story.

This is your space, your craft. It’s always been about you. You’ve taught us so much, while you’ve hopefully learned a little about your process. Now it’s your turn to make HoWW work even better–for you.

Come visit our guest teachers each Wednesday. Let us know what you’d like to talk about next. And don’t be surprised if you get tapped to do your own guest blog one day soon… ;o)

See you on the 10th!

How We Write Wednesdays: High Octane Heroes–Applying protagonist archetypes

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Everyone shout out a HoWW welcome to USA Today bestselling author Catherine Mann as she adapts one of her most popular workshops for our How We Write edification–High Octane Heroes–and kicks off our Wednesday guest blog series. 

CatherineMann2 006

Jenni and I will continue to alternate posts through August and September, but for the next two months we’re bringing you an exciting schedule of guest authors to keep us all focused on craft through the steamiest part of the summer! Keep an eye out for a schedule any day now ;o)

This week, Catherine’s talking about how she hones appealing facets of the military archetype to power up her heroes.  And whether you write romance, other genres of novel-length fiction, or even short stories, we can always learn new and innovative ways to hook readers with our protagonists. So, sit back and enjoy as a master of the craft puts us through our paces ;o)

Catherine, take it away!


Cops, Firefighters, Secret Agents, Spies and yes – dreamy sigh – a military man in uniform!  These kinds of heroes have me on the edge of my seat.  They set my heart racing. 

But what about stories that feature the man next door, the lawyer, the accountant, the preacher, the businessman?  Can they be edge-of-the-seat, heart pounding heroes too? 

Of course they can! 

I started out writing military suspense – then began writing for Harlequin Desires as well.  As I branched out, I decided to watch a ka-zillion military movies and analyze what it is about the military archetype that so intrigues viewers and readers.  By pinpointing those qualities, I would instill them into any hero I penned, whether he’s an Alpha, Beta, Gamma.  A Swashbuckler or a Professor.  A chief or the best friend.  

Here are the elements I found traditionally included in the most memorable military heroes, spanning multiple genres and time periods.  The more of these qualities the military protagonist possessed, the more multidimensional – and memorable – he (or she) became.  


I. PROWESS: Daring, Bravery, Charisma

I watched movies like Sgt. York, To Hell and Back, Flying Tigers and the machismo can’t be missed in these classics.  That warrior spirit, however, transcends time in a personal favorite movie of mine, Braveheart.  William Wallace’s shout of “Freedom” still sends chills up my spine. 

II. FOCUS: Determination, Drive, Pride (more…)

How We Write Wednesdays: Love Your Backstory, Make it Shine

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

How We Write’s focus turns to backstory this Wednesday. Jenn and I have talked planning and plotting and revising and characters and story structure. But what about working what happens BEFORE, into your story’s now? That can sometimes be as much work as all the rest–combined.


You may have noticed my blog’s slowed down the last few weeks. Why? I’m heads down into the most complicated proposal I’ve written yet (and that’s saying something considering I just finished Sara and Maddie Temple’s story), and I’m trying to sort through everything I’ve been researching and planning for the next three books in the Legacy series and start the story, set the story, yet propel the characters through the first three chapters of the story without dampening the kick-ass pacing of the psychic thriller/magical realism my readers have come to crave.

I teach “free writing” to my students. To write to the end before you go back and revise. But I always qualify that I first get through the proposal stage. The initial 50 – 75 pages. The three chapters my agent needs (along with the BEST synopsis of the full story or series I can write) to sell my books to my publishers. Those first three chapters are an art form, a story, all to themselves. They need to establish your story not just for a reader, but for the editor you want to buy your manuscript.

You’ve heard me say it before–how you handle the inciting incident has plot and character ripples that flow through the middle and most importantly the dark moment and climax of your story. But it’s not just that. Weaving in the backstory of your story, intriguing the reader without revealing too much, all while you’re being sure to tell them enough at the exact moments they need to know… The finesse and delicacy in which you do this is part of your voice. And it has to change in subtle ways with each story. You can never be too careful or creative about how you handle it. You can’t just dump in the “goodies,” then get back to the creative work of telling your story. Some of the most creative writing you do comes when you craft the past into your on-the-page world.

Theres’ no quick and easy way to describe how to handle the “no dumpage” mandate for backstory, or how to work around the “show don’t tell” rule we’ve all had beaten into us. What a surprise!

type keys

There are no simple rules for backstory, any more than there are for anything else. If you don’t give enough in the right places, you frustrate and lose your reader. If you throw to much at the story when it’s not needed in ways that don’t fit your characters and world, your pacing crawls to a painful halt. (more…)