2016: a year in review

I’ve had this blog for five months now. Met some lovely people in the comments. Had visitors from North and South America, Europe, Asia and the Antipodes. On the down side, no curious people from Africa have checked out the blog. Greenland continues to snub me.

I’ve sold a book and turned in the manuscript. While waiting on feedback about my revisions, I worked on another Western romance. In terms of writing, I’d say this has been a good year. But I am ready for it to be 2017 already.

Next year, I am going to have enough time in my writing schedule to go back to my English Victorian novels.

Where do you see yourself in a year? And what plans to you have to make your goals become reality?

J.A. Konrath updates his blog every year with New Year’s Resolutions for Writers.

Quote: Writing & Passion

Skydiving 16 way Over Peterborough

I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. If you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it full speed. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it, and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. – Roald Dahl

Why write? Because I can spend hours working on a chapter and not notice the time has gone by. Because I can create a world on a blank page.
Because I love doing it.

What are you passionate about? Are you doing it?

If you’re putting it off… do you have a scheduled time for when you are going to do what you love to do? Life is too short not to include something you’re passionate about in your days.

Peace on Earth and Goodwill toward Men

Bernardo Daddi 001For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manager. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men. – Gospel of Luke, 2:11-14

Peace and Good Will to you all.

Rant: Things to do before becoming a writer

Old french fairy tales 0103

Why do people ask ‘How do you become a writer’? Does anybody ever come up to a musician and say ‘Tell me, tell me, how do I become a tuba player’? No! It’s too obvious.
Ursula K. LeGuin, On Writing

If you look at writing blogs, you’ve probably seen other articles like this one on things you need to do before you become a writer. They aren’t as well written as this one, but they all, every one, annoy me. The basic assumptions underlying the article are flat wrong.

Look, it’s really not that complicated.

There are innumerable things you could do before giving yourself permission to be a writer. But there are two things you need to do before becoming a writer.

  1. Obtain something to write upon, such as a piece of paper.
  2. Obtain something to write with, such as a pen.

That’s it.

Anything else might help you to become a better writer, and that’s great, but I hate the idea that you have to sit there with a checklist and tick off every box before starting to write the story that you need to tell.

Mary Jo Putney just published a blog post on the moment she became a writer.

Blurbs: Short but not sweet

Hänsel und Gretel2 It is a truth universally acknowledged that it is far easier to write a 70,000 word book than to write a 200 word blurb about it. Kind Haerin asked me to give a quick synopsis of the novel that I sold to Love Inspired Historical, so I tried to write one. I need to do this anyway; Harlequin requires authors to fill out an Art Fact Sheet so that their Art and Marketing departments have something to go on when designing the cover or promoting the book. I’ve just been putting it off.

When writing a book, you can get lost in the characters and the story. When I was writing the 70,000 words, it was easy to pat the inner editor on the head and throw it a chunk of verbosity to chew on while I wrote.

But with a blurb, you can’t get lost in a forest of words. There’s nowhere to hide. It’s just you and 200 words. And my inner editor has been having a field day chewing up every attempt at a blurb. You wouldn’t believe the names that my I.E. has called me. (Well, if you’re a writer, you probably would.) This attempt was puerile, that attempt was pathetic, anyone reading this would laugh but they would never want to buy. That sort of thing.

Eventually, I crumpled up the piece of paper I was using and threw it against the wall, picturing my inner editor as the target. (I’m telling you, writing on paper is never going to go out of fashion. It’s very satisfying to crumple up words that aren’t working.)

Currently, I’m combing through the Internet looking. Do you have any suggestions? Every writer has to go down this path during the course of their writing career. Surely some of them have left breadcrumbs.

Digital Book World broke down blurb writing into four parts.

Jane Friedman provided suggestions on what to say and what not to say on a back cover.

The Romance University shared five tips for writing a blurb.

What makes a good heroine?

Arthur Rackham 1909 Undine (11 of 15)

Not a rhetorical question. I really do want to know what makes a good heroine.

In theory, it’s simple. She has to have agency, not be a doormat.

In practice, my heroines tend to annoy the bejabbers out of me.

I love my heroes. Geoff, for instance, leaps into action the moment a crisis appears.

But my heroines? They whine. They pout. I haven’t had one stamp her foot yet thankfully. (I won’t be held responsible for my actions if one tries that.) They Are Annoying.

For the moment, the only thing I can think of is to go through the story, line by line. Every time my heroine sighs, or thinks “there’s nothing I can do” I am replacing her feeble words with strong ones. If she has to be stymied, she can at least be doing something while she’s stuck. And that does not include sighing.

Lia sighed. “I don’t know how to get another dress in that time. Or even if I had more time, I don’t have the money. I’ll have to find a place to stay where I can try to clean this dress somehow…”

Lia stood up. “I have to find a place to stay before I can clean this dress. Do you know where I can find Mrs. Whitlow’s laundry?”

Does that work better? I think perhaps it does.

Have you ever read a story where you just wanted to shake the heroine? Or a story where you loved the heroine? Maybe revising this story would be easier if I looked at how other writers handled their characters. But maybe that would send me down a rabbit hole of distraction. I’ll try finishing this revision first and then go read some good books while the draft “sets” a while.

If you have any books with great heroines to recommend, please let me know!


Quote: Writing & Life

Fritz Zuber-Bühler - Distant Thoughts, Oil on Canvas

Another unhappy truth that you might as well accept from the start is that life will never leave you alone. The demands of daily living will cut into your time, insist on your attention, shake you up badly, or sometimes even so delight you that you can’t concentrate on writing. Or so you think. But you’ll learn to use what comes, good and bad, and it will become part of whatever you are, and find its way under many disguises into your work. Some writers don’t feel they have really lived an experience, however joyful or sorrowful, until they have written about it. There are even times when it becomes our escape into an imaginary country where we can ease our minds from all that is troubling. When we come back to the “real” world, we feel renewed and better able to cope with whatever problem beset us.

-Phyllis Whitney, Guide to Fiction Writing

On the Fear of Finishing Things

I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged. -Erica Jong

I am so close to finishing the second draft of Geoff and Lia’s story. So, of course, I’m dragging my feet.

Why? Because that means it’s the end of the fun part of writing for me. No more making things up and writing them down. Now I have to send it out into the cold, uncaring world. Other people are going to look at. They might point. They might snicker. They might wonder what kind of sick, demented imagination could think up such a story.

They might even want to buy it.

Oh my.
That is scary.

So I am going to go public. Announce to all the world, or at least as much of the world might be reading these words, that I am going to give myself a deadline. I will finish the second draft by December 20, 2016, 8:06 pm PST.

Now the pressure’s on.


I am being watched.

I used to be afraid to finish a project. Because if I finished one, I’d have to submit it. And if I submitted it, I would have to suffer through the first of what would surely be fifty rejections, because that’s what EVERY writer has to go through, right? And I wasn’t ready for that.

So I didn’t write more than twenty pages of a book. Ever. Because it kept me safe from those rejections.

And what I didn’t realize was that I was rejecting myself. I was making the decision FOR all of those editors.

I finally got the courage to write a book. And I sent it in. And HOLY COW the publisher wanted to buy it.

Maisey Yates