First Draft of His Convenient Wife is Done! (And A Lot of Rambling about Sprinting)

His Convenient Wife ebook cover

His Convenient Wife was done last weekend, but I was exhausted so I didn’t make the post.  I’ve been on a writing vacation since last Sunday and plan to stay on it for another week or two.

I sprinted Patty’s Gamble, The Earl’s Secret Bargain, and Just Good Friends.  I didn’t really sprint A Royal Engagement because it was a rewrite of a previously published book.  I could not, however, sprint His Convenient Wife, no matter how hard I tried.

What I’ve learned is the sprinting method is great for writing books faster, but it also wore me out.   I was unable to manage more than 2000 words a day by the time I got to His Convenient Wife, and this was starting at 10am and going to midnight.  I needed a lot more breaks during the day.  I had to keep going back and rewriting multiple scenes.  I had to swap scenes around from one place to another and then modify those scenes so they made sense in their new location.

 

I don’t know if other authors who do sprinting need breaks between books.  Maybe if they outline when they aren’t sprinting, they can keep going.  But no amount of outlining works for me.  I’m not a plotter.   I’m a panster.  I am beginning to believe that teaching someone like me to plot is impossible because no matter how many ways I tried to do it, it just didn’t work.  I was making a new outline every day because nothing went the way I thought it would while I was writing the day before.

So my takeaway advice (for what it’s worth) is to write the way that’s comfortable for you.  And that includes the sprinting method.  Sprinting isn’t for everyone.  I was able to do it, and for two months, it worked great.  I did an average of 5,000 words a day, which meant, I was able to finish a full-length novel in three weeks or less.   If I hadn’t done it, Patty’s Gamble and The Earl’s Secret Bargain wouldn’t have been out this summer.  And I’m happy with the way they turned out.  Then I had the time to get to A Royal Engagement.  Again, something that wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for finishing the other two books.

But…

It took a lot out of me to do it.  By the time I got to Just Good Friends, I noticed my word count was getting to be more about the 3,000 to 4,000 range, and I took a vacation in the middle of the book, which helped me recharge my creative energy.

When I got to His Convenient Wife, I was pretty much running on fumes, but the book is already set for release on November 16, and I need to get it ready for my editing team in early September.  October 1 is when I plan to have it uploaded to Smashwords so there will be enough time to get the book ready on Barnes & Noble and Kobo.  Apple is quick.  But the other two places take longer, so that is why I pushed myself to finish it.

His Convenient Wife turned out to be 77,000 words in the first draft.  A couple thousand words will get trimmed off during the first round of edits, which I’m currently doing.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m really happy with this book.  It’s one of my favorites.   I went two weeks over my estimated time to finish it because I wanted to make sure I got it done right.

But what I took away from this whole experience is that sprinting (for me) isn’t something I can do all the time.   So when I go back to writing, I’m going to work on a couple books at a time and slow things down.

Next on the list is Love Lessons With The Duke, my part of the novella for A Groom’s Promise, and another book (haven’t decided yet).  I can see sprinting again, but it’s going to be a while before I do it again.

Posted in His Convenient Wife | 5 Comments

A Post For New Writers: The Proper Use of Backstory

A Post For New Writers

A Post For New Writers

In my opinion, backstory is one of the hardest things to figure out when you’re starting out.  There’s a temptation to mention everything to the reader right away.  Part of this stems from figuring out who the characters are as we are writing.  I’m not the kind of person who outlines a story when I start it.  I’ve tried and failed.  Writers who do outlines first probably have an easier time learning the delicate balance of when and how to use backstory.  (I’m guessing they do since they take time to figure out the backstory before they begin writing.)

But for the sake of this post, I will have to assume those reading this are like me in that they learn about the characters as they go along.

So, what is backstory?  

Backstory is revealing the past of your character.   The past is everything that happened before the story officially begins.

I hadn’t heard the term “backstory” until I’d already published six romances.   Basically, it’s where you’re trying to tell the reader all this stuff that makes up who the character is today.  (For example, you’re telling the reader why the hero bitter.  Usually, there’s some traumatic event in his life that made him who he is today.  Or maybe you want to explain why the heroine is afraid of candles, and you really want to explain this right away because candles are a big part of the story.)

Backstory works best 1/3 -3/4 of the way into the book.

The prologue or chapter 1 is not a good time to dump all this information on your reader.  Why?  Because the reader doesn’t care about the character yet.  So this is going to be boring to them, and chances are, they’ll skip it.  Wait until later in the story when the hero or heroine is at a crucial part in the story where the tragic event in their past is going to possibly hinder them from reaching their goal.

For example, let’s say the hero is bitter.  When he has a chance to mend a situation with his dad, he refuses.  We’re 1/3 or 1/2 into the story, so now that reader is going to care about why he refused to talk to his dad.  Now, you can show the time when his dad walked out on him and his mom.

Another example, let’s say the heroine is afraid of candles.  About 1/3 or 1/2 into the book, she needs to go into a house during a storm and all the power is out.  But she needs to use candles.  Now, you can show why she’s afraid of candles.  Let’s say she almost burned to death in a fire started by a candle.  So show that backstory then show how she is going to overcome that while she’s in this house.

Don’t bog the reader down with backstory at the beginning of the book

Backstory in the very beginning of a book is a very common and easy mistake to make.  I did it when I started writing, too.  Hey, we’re all human.  It’s okay to goof up.  The important thing is to learn from the past and do better next time.  So don’t worry if you’ve already done this in a previously published book.  Just move on and do better in your next one.  You learn best by writing more stories, not going over and over your old ones.

So what do you want to do instead of backstory as you’re writing your first couple chapters?

Focus on the character.

Whichever character you introduce, you need to establish an emotional connection between that character and the person reading the book.  This is not done with giving their past, even if they did suffer some traumatic event.  The connection needs to be something that is happening to this character at this very moment in the story.

The character is central to the story because you’re going to tell some of the story from this character’s point of view.

So when you start the story, put the reader in the moment.  

What is happening to the character.  What is the character thinking and feeling?  What is the character saying?  What is the character seeing and hearing?  Are there any other things important to the scene that the character is experiencing?

Here’s an example from the idea I had about the father going to pick up his daughter:

Pete Grant wiped the fog from the windshield and jerked when he saw the curb coming up straight ahead.  Tapping the brake, he turned the wheel and cursed himself for being so careless.  The car slowed to a more manageable speed and he released his breath.

The rain was relentless tonight.  The wipers did little to compensate for the downpour.  He hated summers in Florida.  Sudden bursts of rain and humidity.  Wiping the sweat from his forehead, he cranked up the air conditioner.

“You should take the job,” his estranged wife had said.  “Florida’s a paradise.”

“Some paradise,” he muttered as he took a more cautious turn down the next bend on the lonely, dark road.  “It’s been nothing but problems.”

And now he had one more problem.  He was late–yet again–in picking his daughter up.  But this time, it wasn’t his fault the meeting ran late.  But would his wife believe it?  Probably not.

“I can’t do anything right.” He shook his head.  “Forget about it.”

Right now, he had to focus on making it through this storm without crashing his car.  He also needed to watch for the addresses as he passed the occasional house.

In that scene, I did hint at a couple backstories.  The character has a past, but I didn’t go into it.  I only skimmed the surface.  The point of hinting at backstories are to intrigue the reader and to make them wonder what is going on.  In this case, the father is late.  But why did the meeting run late?  I noted he had an “estranged” wife.  What is the marital conflict?  And did the move to Florida have something to do with it?

Also, I established the character’s thoughts and emotions at that very moment in the scene.  He’s anxious.  He’s in a hurry but struggling to drive safely.  He’s unhappy about the state of marriage.  He has a sense of doom that his wife will blame him even though him being late is not his fault.  There are a couple things going on, which the reader will hopefully connect with and sympathize with when they read the first chapter.

The beginning of the book not only sets the stage for it, but it also builds a relationship between the main character and the reader.

***

In the next post, I’ll discuss point of view, which can be another hard thing to work with when you’re starting out.

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Characters Who Have Appeared in the Nebraska Series

Once in a while, I get questions about the characters who are in the Nebraska series who haven’t had their own books yet.  I originally intended for the series to span 30 or so books, but the trouble with that is I’m not writing these books in chronological order.  I have not have this problem with other series I’ve done.  But the Nebraska series is unique. While other series easily come to a close, this one seemed to keep expanding.

eye of the beholder

This was supposed to be the only historical western I’d ever write.

For example, I wrote this book first.  In fact, it was Dave and Mary Larson that got me hooked on historical westerns.  I’d read them, of course, but at the time, I was thinking once I finished this book, I would return to writing fantasy.  Obviously, this didn’t happen.

Instead I wrote this book because I wanted to give Neil Craftsman his second chance:

his redeeming bride new ebook cover

Originally, I was going to only write Isaac’s Decision after this book and make the Nebraska Series a trilogy. But…Jenny Larson wanted her own book. Then there was Tom Larson. The series evolved on its own from there.

Chronologically, these books have other books that happen before, after, and between them.  I have Eye of the Beholder at #4 and His Redeeming Bride and #8.  Those other books didn’t come right away.  It took time to get to them.

This series has no limits.  And I can’t place it into a neat little box.  That’s what makes this series so complicated.

After people kept trying to order the books in reviews and on Goodreads, I finally had to give the books numbers.  At the time, I finished Sally Larson’s story, which was the 9th book I wrote for this series.  Chronologically, it’s #2.

her heart's desire

Sally Larson’s book got to be first in the series after a lot of debate.

But I haven’t written Richard Larson’s story yet, and since people wanted me to number the series right away, I had to start with her book.

This leaves many questions up in the air, of course.  Mainly, what about the other characters?  Like Richard Larson, Sep (who was in Shotgun Groom), and Vivian and Hugh (from Her Heart’s Desire).

Since I have now numbered the series and that numbering system is in reviews I can’t change (and they’re all over the internet), I have to be creative.

So this is what I’m going to do.

I’m either going to write the other characters’ books as standalones or create spin-off series from them.  I already did that with Eliza (a minor character in His Redeeming Bride).

loving elize

The first spin-off from the Nebraska Series. This story led to the South Dakota Series.

So I’m thinking with Richard Larson’s story, I would lessen the focus on the Larson family (as a whole) and focus more on the other people going along the wagon trail with them.  I’ll have to write the book and see how things go.

I'll have Stephannie Beman work on the cover to fit it in a series if a series does evolve from this book.

I’ll have Stephannie Beman work on the cover to fit it in a series if a series does evolve from this book.

Other Potential Spin-Offs

1.  I am hoping to make Sep’s story a 3 or 4-book series.  I’m thinking of something like a bride lottery, but we’ll see.

2.  Vivian and Hugh will have a story, but it might be a standalone, depending on how things go.  I’m thinking their story takes place in California since her sister moved out there in Her Heart’s Desire.

A Note About Other Characters

After Isaac’s Decision, I did write Rachel Larson’s story, but it’s embedded in with Eva Connealy’s romance, which is Boaz’s Wager.  This is book 2 in the Montana Collection.

boaz's wager with award

This time two Nebraska characters got placed into another series instead of starting a new series.

Isaac has two other sisters, Rose and Harriett Larson.  I already wrote Catching Kent, which is Rose’s story.

catching kent ebook

I wrote this to give Kent Ashton his second chance after the way things played out in Falling In Love With Her Husband.

At the moment, I am working on His Convenient Wife, which is due for release on November 16.

His Convenient Wife ebook cover

I should finish the first draft of this book either today or tomorrow.

From Rose and Harriett’s stories, I know there’s a potential for their brothers’ romances.  Adam’s story is already in my head.  Jacob’s and Eli’s have to be developed.  At this time, whether or not I write about them will depend on how well His Convenient Wife resonates with people.  Catching Kent just didn’t appeal to most people.  There are several reasons for this, but I won’t go into it here since this post is long enough as it is.

If His Convenient Wife also fails to accumulate enough interest, I am going to focus on other books for the time being.  My “To Write” List is huge.  I have to be careful when I pick out which books I’ll write because (unfortunately) I can only write so many books in a year.  When choosing which books to work on, I need to consider if the book interests me, will the book interest others, and is it a good time to write it.

So depending on how things go, I will tackle these other books when I can and when I’m able to.  I learned to never set deadlines unless I know I can make good on them.

All I can say right now with certainty is that His Convenient Wife will be out November 16. I’m not sure when the others featuring the Nebraska series characters will be written.

Posted in Boaz's Wager, Catching Kent, Eye of the Beholder, His Convenient Wife, His Redeeming Bride, Loving Eliza, Wagon Trail Bride | Tagged | 8 Comments

A Post For New Writers: Picking Your Genre

A Post For New Writers

A Post For New Writers

Last time I discussed starting with an idea.  One of the things I suggested was writing out the your first scene (or at least part of it).  Now, after you got a good feel for your first scene, this is where you go…

1.  Question your main story idea.

What thoughts popped up while you developed your first scene?  What new ideas came to you?  Did your original idea start to take on a life of its own?  What questions popped up?  What tangents do you see the story possibly going in?

While you don’t have to write these down, you certainly can, especially if you want to tuck these notes away and refer to them later.

I’ll use my example from the last post to give you an idea of what I mean by questioning your main idea:

I want the husband and wife to reconcile.  But this is not a romance.  I could go with romantic suspense, but I don’t want to do romantic suspense because that genre never interested me.  The beginning is dark and eerie.  It’s creepy.  Also, I don’t want to focus on the romance between the man and woman.  I want to focus on this creepy house and what’s in it.  I also want to develop what is going on with the daughter.  Who did she stay with?  Where’s the wife?  Is the man where he thinks he’s supposed to be or somewhere else?

That’s what I mean by questioning your idea.  You’re getting a better feel for your story and exploring all your possibilities.  It’s a big brainstorming session.

2.  Taking all the things you came up with in #1 into account, you should be able to come up with your genre.

If your focus is on the couple, their romance, and their happy ending, then you’re doing romance.

If a crime’s been committed and the father is called in to deal with it, you might be dealing with a thriller or mystery.

If his daughter was abducted by aliens or in a genetic experiment or he’s going into a parallel universe, you’re dealing with science fiction.

If he finds himself going to another world with magic, you’re dealing with fantasy.  If the magic is on this world, it’s urban fantasy.

If he finds himself having to entering a very weird or bizarre situation where he’s the prey (perhaps that man who’d wanted to sleep with his wife is coming after him but we don’t know it until the end) so the husband is going to be terrified somehow, then we can say it’s horror.  (Thriller could be a close one on this, so it depends on the level of terror in the book.  High terror and possible gore would make me say horror.)

3.  Read the genre you are thinking of writing for (unless you’re already familiar with the genre and know your story will make a good fit).

My advice is to pick a genre you want to read.  Why do I suggest that?  Because if you want to read it, you’ll have an easier time wanting to write it.  The best stories are those the author was passionate about writing.  I can tell if an author enjoyed writing the book when I’m reading it, and I’ve heard other people say they can tell that, too.

But this is your idea and it’s your story.  Do what you want to do.  Maybe you want to try something new.  If so, then I suggest you read some top name authors and study what they did.  Making a list of all common themes in the books you read can help you remember them later when you work on your story.

4.  Write with your audience in mind.

If you are writing for yourself (and only yourself), then this doesn’t apply to you.  By the way, I fully support writers who want to write and publish books they want to write for the sole purpose of reading those books themselves.   You do not have to want to make money in order to publish a book.  It’s okay to write and publish for the simple enjoyment of seeing your book on your ereader or in paperback.  Some people will tell you you must want to make money and promote, but we’re all different.  You write for the reasons you want to write.

If, however, you do want to write in hopes of making money, then it’s important to write for your audience.  You should be in tune with what they want and deliver it to them.  This is why writers who write a romance with a sad ending get slammed in reviews.  Romance readers want a happy ending.  If you go against this very important rule, you won’t make it as a romance writer.  What you have is a love story.  But you don’t have a romance.  Likewise, if you categorize your book as horror but write about a little bunny hopping down a meadow, people who read horror will be very upset with you.

Genres are wonderful because they give writers a blueprint to go by.  They also promise the reader an experience they will enjoy.  I read a wide variety of books, and when I’m in the mood for a dark and spooky house, I pick up horror.  If I’d rather fall in love all over again, I go to romance.  If I want to leave this world and seek adventure elsewhere, I go to fantasy.  If I want a parallel universe or genetic tampering or a viral outbreak, I go to science fiction.  When a reader picks up a book, they are looking for a certain experience.  If you can give them that experience, they will love your book.

***

Next week, I’ll talk about backstory and why you shouldn’t do it too early in your story.

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A Royal Engagement Lesson #2: A Queen Should Be In Top Physical Shape

© Antonio Guillem | Dreamstime.com

© Antonio Guillem | Dreamstime.com

From the diary of Ann Kerwin (heroine in A Royal Engagement):

Okay, so I’m not at all excited about this prospect of being the queen.  Queens can face danger at every turn.  You might think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not.  I was minding my own business, going to college and all, when Hathor came to get me.  I didn’t ask to be the queen of Raz.  He just told me I was going to be one and whisked me away from Earth.  And what has it been ever since?  Dodging one life threatening situation after another.  There was the crazy cave on planet Red then the dragon on planet Forestaria.  But I have to say dodging bullets on planet Pale took the cake.  That’s been the worst by far, and as you can see, I’m not in any shape for this kind of thing.  (By the way, the Zeus mentioned below is the god from Greek mythology.)

***

“Follow me,” Zeus said.

He didn’t need to tell her twice! She bolted with him across the open field, if white sand could be considered a field. Behind them, the guards were shooting at her, and for reasons she couldn’t explain, she managed to dodge each bullet. Either they were lousy shots or she was incredibly lucky. Whatever the case, she wasn’t going to complain.

By the time they reached the nearest building, she thought she was going to pass out. No wonder she didn’t do so hot in gym class. She wasn’t cut out for this kind of thing. When they got into the building, Zeus locked the door and she collapsed against it.

She glanced at Zeus and saw that he was breathing normally. No one would guess he’d just been in the same perilous race that she had been in. He hadn’t even broken into a sweat! She told herself it was because he was immortal, but that did little to make her feel better. She was supposed to be the queen of Raz. Surely, the queen should be able to manage a run across a vacant field while nearly being shot without feeling like she was going to pass out.

***

In case anyone missed it last time, here’s where you can get A Royal Engagement on preorder:

a royal engagement ebook cover

iBooks

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

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