Updates

My power cord betrayed me again and I have been unable to log on until now.

In that time you have posted 250 comments. Do you even need me here? Yes, to put up posts. Here, have another one.

In other news, Bob and I have reached 48000 words on Rest in Pink, which I just gave back to him, even though he turns into a pumpkin about eight which is further exacerbated by muscle relaxants because he hurt his back. That’s what he gets for doing things other than writing.

I am now going to read comments and cut the hell out of the beginning of Lavender’s Blue because Rest in Pink starts fast and is very good. You all talk amongst yourselves in the comments (like you need me to tell you that).

Oh, and here’s the beginning of Rest in Pink. I know you haven’t read Lavender’s Blue yet, but Pink is supposed to stand alone. The X’s are the parts where I took out spoilers. I do not count the fact that Vince and Liz are lovers as a spoiler. You all knew that was coming after you read the first scene in Lavender.

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Expectation and First Scenes

We talked about expectation last week, but I didn’t mention the most important place to set up expectation: the first scene.

The problem with expectation is that while you can manipulate it to some extent, you can’t control it. If your reader thinks she’s getting a romance and she gets a ghost story, she’s going to be upset. She wants to be surprised, she doesn’t want to be disappointed. That means the first scene sets up the expectation for the rest of the story by using

PoV Character & Internal Monologue
Setting
Conflict & Dialogue
Scene Ending.

The voice of the PoV character and her internal monologue will set up the tone of the story, the setting will tell the reader what kind of people the protagonist is apt to encounter and what kind of environment she’s in (urban, rural, cold, hot, safe, dangerous, etc.), the conflict and dialogue with other characters will set expectation for future events, and the ending that propels the protagonist into the next scene pulls the reader into the story. At least, I always hope it will.

So here’s the first scene of Lavender’s Blue. If you want to play along, tell me what expectations you have for the story based on just this scene (I know you know a lot more about the story, you probably know more about the story than I do at this point, but pretend, please.)

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This is a Good Book Thursday, April 21, 2022

I keep going outside and thinking, “Wow, it’s really warm now, spring came early.” Then I realize it’s April and spring is right on time. Yes, we’re a third of the way through 2022. Remember when we thought nothing could be as bad as 2021? Good thing there are good books to read. I’ve just started David Chang’s Cooking at Home Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Recipes (And Love My Microwave) and I love it. It’s a non-recipe cookbook and very laidback and free and non-judgmental and I need all of that right now.

What are you reading that you need right now?

The Jennifer Crusie Method for Story Writing

RWA has a new writing series for new romance writers called from Pen to Paper, and I just did a phone interview for it with the wonderful Erin Novotny. She wanted to know my process (stop laughing, you loons, have some respect) so I wrote up a quick outline which I’m including below. I think the interview is mostly us laughing, so the outline is probably more coherent.

The Jennifer Crusie Method for Story Writing
(Not Efficient, Fast, or Logical; Not Really Recommended)
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So Nita Act One

Writing is hard.

Now that my whine is out of the way, I really thought when I sent the severely rewritten Act One to Krissie and Bob that I was done. I knew it was kind of slow, but you know, it’s Act One, so there’s some set-up there . . . .

Nope, it’s slow. I have analyzed this sucker, charted it, looked at conflict boxes, I’m ready to scream. And the horrible thing is, I can hear the wrongness of my rationalization even as I make it: But I need that information.

Readers don’t need information, they need story. Must tattoo that on the inside of my eyelids.

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HWSWAnswers: Expressions and Questions

So I have this thing about “smirk.” Perfectly good word, but I think it’s misused a lot. In my world, good people do not smirk, it’s an asshole kind of expression, condescending, arrogant, superior, and jerkface. It’s being used A LOT in romance fiction right now as a kind of general grin. So a couple of people have weighed in on my distaste for that and an another expression, and I realize I had no idea of how Bob used expressions in his work. (Yes, in spite of writing three books with him. It was awhile ago.)

Jinx said:
I think this would be a good topic for a complete post. There are a lot of facial expressions that are hard to describe without going into a whole lot of detail — a slight smile, a pursed-lip crinkly smile, a sneering look sometimes mixed with smile, a doubtful smile, a “glad you see I was right” smile, a raised eyebrow “oh really?” smile, etc. etc. Smirk and smile both have the same Old English-y root, and I think various authors use the terms sort of differently. The “heroes never smirk” test doesn’t quite do it for me.

Gary said:
If smirks and smirking are reserved for bad guys, or usable by good guys only if immediately followed by an apology, what about The Rolling of One’s Eyes. In Huston’s Uptime Pride and Downtime Prejudice, Our Heroine (Mary) rolls her eyes six or eight times in twenty or so chapters. Then in chapter 21, I noticed in Whiskey Rebellion. Liliana Hart, that Addison Holmes plays craps with her eyeballs as well, rolling her eyes at least twice per chapter. Is there some emotion or attitude for which eye rolling is the only suitable expression? How should it be used, and how often.
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HWSWAnswers: Ideas and Writing

You all were good enough to ask a lot of questions, and we answered them in Slack, and then I tried to group the answers together so they were at least somewhat related. The plan is to put the answer posts up here tonight, tomorrow (Saturday) and Monday. If there are any more questions, put them in the comments on any of the answer posts and we’ll hit Slack again on Tuesday. This first bunch is all writing questions.

DeniseTwin asked:
I read on Reddit a sub where it has writing prompts – I love some of them, they are such clever ideas! So how do you decide what is a great book idea, one that will last all the way to a finished story and what is destined to be nothing but a series of fun rabbit warrens? Do you jot down the rabbit ideas just to get them out of your head so you can focus on the “real” stories or ??? Continue reading

And Anna Staggers On

I spent an hour yesterday on Spark with Bob trying to sort through my non-plot for Arresting Anna (chat goes up tomorrow on HWSWA), then woke up today to two e-mails from him that solved most of my back story problem. The man is a genius. He also read and made notes on the first five chapters, so he’s a hardworking genius.

Below are some of his notes on the latest iteration of Anna: Continue reading