A Post For New Writers: If The Scene Doesn’t Add To the Plot, Throw It Out

A Post For New Writers

A Post For New Writers

This is another hard one, but this will prevent your story from getting bogged down.  Your goal is to write a compelling story, and a compelling story is one in which the reader has a hard time putting the book down.  You want to make it hard for your reader to go to bed, get up to make dinner, go to work, etc.  You want your reader to be thinking about your book when they’re not reading it or to be so engrossed in the story that they finish it in one sitting.  This is hard to do if you add scenes to your story that don’t advance the plot.

The plot is your main idea.  Everything you write should support the main idea.  All your minor ideas must move the main idea along.

Ever hear people say they skimmed a book or there was a sagging middle?  The reason for this is the extra scenes that didn’t add to the plot.  They were fillers.

Some writers use unnecessary scenes for several reasons:

  • They find the scene cute, funny, or interesting in some way so they want it in the book.
  • They honestly don’t realize they’re rambling.
  • They want to boost word count.
  • They were told to add more by a publisher so they had to put something in there.
  • They heard that to maximize sales potential, they should write X number of words in a book.  And since they want to maximize sales potential, they will write whatever they need to in order to make that word count.
  • They don’t think the reader got the idea the first time so they repeat it over and over so it “sticks”.

In the end, less is often more.  

You might have your heart set on writing a 70,000-word book, but if the story ends at 60,000 words, then let it end.  Maybe you wanted to write a full-length novel (which is 50,000 words), but your story ended up being a novella at 30,000 words.  It’s okay to have a shorter story than what you planned.  You are much better off having a tight, solid story that engages your reader every step of the way than having a longer story that drags on.  Even if the book is part of a series and the other books in the series is 70,000 words, let this particular book be 60,000 words if that’s what it’s meant to be.

You would much rather hear, “I wish there was more” than “I never thought the book would end.”

Readers will forgive you if you miss a typo or don’t get something 100% correct, but they won’t forgive a boring book.  (Disclaimer: Strive to have a book that is error free, but remember that we’re all human and humans aren’t perfect.  Yes, editing is very important, but you should edit a compelling story, not a boring one.)

While you’re writing your first draft, by all means, add in all the scenes you want.  

You don’t know until the book ends if you will need the scene or not.  Books are fluid.  They often change as we’re writing them.  You might think your book is going in one direction, but something happens to a character that throws everything off course.  Then you have to change the rest of the story.  That’s okay.  In fact, it’s common.

But when you are done with the first draft, go through and remove all unnecessary scenes, dialogues, or actions.   

On average, I cut 2,000 to 5,000 words from every story I write because I’m removing all unnecessary elements from it.  If you write a tighter first draft than I do, then this won’t be the case for you.  I tend to do a lot of repetition on my first run through a story.

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Just Good Friends is Now Available!

It looks like everything is up where it should be. :D So I’m going to post the links today.

Just Good Friends new ebook

Tiffany Clark recently had her 35th birthday, and she isn’t married, something that worries her parents to no end. To make matters worse, her sister’s wedding is quickly approaching and Tiffany has no date. When her mom threatens to pair her up with someone she doesn’t want, Tiffany takes matters into her own hands and asks her best friend, Tyler Jackson, to pose as her boyfriend.

It’ll only be for the wedding. The lie won’t go any further than that. But in a moment of frustration, Tyler blurts out that he and Tiffany are married. That’s okay, though. Because as soon as they get back to Omaha, Tiffany will tell them the truth. Only, it’s a little hard to do that when her very excited parents are coming to visit “the happy newlyweds”.

iBooks

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Smashwords

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Updates on What I’m Doing

Working on the Paperback for A Royal Engagement

a royal engagement ebook cover

I caught some errors in the proof so will have to redo it.  Sometimes I get questions on when paperbacks will be out.  On this one, it’s looking like the end of October.

Meanwhile, the paperbacks for my other books are already available.

This Sunday is the release date for Just Good Friends

Just Good Friends new ebook

This one will be out soon.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s another problem somewhere.  We’ll see how things play out.  I’ll let you know if there are any problems.

I already uploaded His Convenient Wife to Smashwords for the pre-order and have the paperback proof ready to look at.

His Convenient Wife ebook cover

I’m also going to have a release party for this book, but it won’t be until December 1.  Yes, this book comes out on November 16, but I wanted to do a Facebook Party with a couple of my author friends and had to work around everyone’s schedule.  We’re all going to offer one paperback (some might offer ebooks) and wrap them up along with a surprise gift that we’ll mail off to the winner.  I’ve already scheduled it.  I’m letting someone else handle the party details this time.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to focus on getting Love Lessons With the Duke ready.

But the authors I’ve invited to join me are personal friends who also write books featuring romance.  They are Dorothy Paula Freda, Janet Syas Nitsick, Lauralynn Elliott, Rose Gordon and Jael Friese.  I’ll give more details when it’s closer to December 1.

Unfortunately, I am behind in Love Lessons With the Duke.

Love Lessons with the Duke

But…the good news is that I really love this story.  The hero is extremely sweet and naive when it comes to “the ways of the world” (including the bedroom).  These are the type of heroes I tend to love the most.  I still like His Convenient Wife more, but this is another favorite.

I wanted this to be done and in the editing stage at this point, but as it turns out, I am only halfway into the first draft.  The release date on this one is January 3.  I wanted to have it uploaded to Smashwords on November 1.  At this rate, I’ll be uploading on December 1.  Hopefully, that will be enough time for the document to get to Barnes & Noble and Kobo.  *fingers crossed*

But I should have no trouble getting the proof for the paperback done in plenty of time for it to be available on January 3.

Most of my attention has been going to Love Lessons With the Duke, but I have started “The Shy Groom”, my novella in A Groom’s Promise (the second anthology Janet Syas Nitsick and I are doing).

a groom's promise

This is the sequel to Bride by Arrangement.   In my novella, I am writing a hero who stutters (haven’t done that one yet but have been wanting to for years).  Because he stutters, he’s usually the butt of other people’s jokes.  Well, he and his brother (whose story Janet is writing) go to Nebraska for a new start.  They agree to be farmhands for an old farmer in exchange for some land.  This old farmer (who was introduced in Bride by Arrangement) happens to have a daughter he’s eager to marry off so she has someone to take care of her after he dies.  So our reluctant hero will somehow find himself marrying this daughter.  I just haven’t figured out how yet.

Books in the first part of 2015

1.  I’m hoping A Groom’s Promise will be out in the early part of 2015, but we’ll see what happens.  

2.  Royal Hearts is already put on pre-order for March.

royal hearts ebook cover

All I have to do is rewrite it, so at least I already have the whole story fleshed out.  It’s the second book in the Enchanted Galaxy Series.

3.  Ruined by the Earl is going to be Book 3 in the Marriage by Deceit Series

COVER COMING SOON

I am thinking of working on this one when I finish Love Lessons With the Duke, in addition to working on my novella in A Groom’s Promise and Royal Hearts.  I’ve decided after Love Lessons With the Duke, I’ll go back to writing more than one book at a time since I’ll be able to write at a slower pace again.

I was originally going to make The Earl’s Stolen Bride the third book, but as I was writing Love Lessons With the Duke, I got an idea for another book that will come before it.  I’ll mention more of this one in the future.

4.  I hope to start Shane’s Deal and have it out at least by the summer of next year.

shane's deal ebook cover

This will complete the Montana Collection, so it’s high on my priority of books to do.

I still don’t know what to do with Wagon Trail Bride.

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.

 I’m thinking I probably should keep some of the beginning to it, but maybe what I should do is change Richard and Amanda’s relationship before they marry.  I currently have them as being good friends with him being in love with someone else.  That part is not going to work.  But they have to know each other somehow, and I need a compelling romantic plot.

 I think I put in the Nebraska Series that they had known each other for years and her parents died so they decided to go to Nebraska with his family.  I need to go back and check.  I’m sure Sally is the one who explained it to Mary in Eye of the Beholder, but until I make sure I’m right, I’m not going to plan anything out.  So I need to go back and see what I did.  From there, I’ll see if I can get something going.

Posted in A Groom's Promise, His Convenient Wife, Just Good Friends, Love Lessons With The Duke

A Post For New Writers: When You Get Stuck

A Post For New Writers

A Post For New Writers

At some point while you’re writing a story, you might get stuck.  You might know what you want to do from point A to point C, but you don’t know what to put in for point B.

For example, let’s say you just finished a really awesome scene you’re excited about.  As an example, we’ll say this is where your hero and heroine have just decided they never want to see each other ever again.  What you know is that they will end up together because it’s a romance.  But how in the world are you going to get these two very unlikely people to fall in love?

As another example, you just put your hero on another planet which is full of cities with dead aliens.  You know the answer is that there was a virus set loose which wiped out the entire planet, and the aliens responsible for this are heading for Earth to do the exact same thing.  But you need to go from point A (where the hero finds all the dead bodies) to point C (where the hero finds out Earth is next on the list).  So you need to 1) establish how the hero finds out about the virus and 2) how the hero discovers Earth is next.

Another example, you started your book and everything is great.  It’s got the perfect creepy feel to it.  The woman is being stalked by a psycho who escaped from an asylum.   But you have no idea how the book ends, much less how to fill up the next 100 pages of the book.

When you get stuck, there are a couple strategies to try to get ideas.

1.  Brainstorm.

Sit down and write out all the possible scenarios.  These are brief snippets of ideas such as…

For the romance:

  • hero and heroine forced to work on a project together
  • hero and heroine forced to a remote cabin alone
  • heroine gets sick and hero has to care for her

For the science fiction novel:

  • hero finds blood from an alien and tests it in a medical kit
  • hero finds an alien who isn’t dead who tells him what happened
  • hero finds enemy alien and forced him to talk

For the thriller:

  • woman catches stalker watching her when she’s looking into her car rearview mirror
  • stalker makes a phone call
  • stalker pretends to be a nice guy and introduces himself

Those are ways to quickly brainstorm various ideas.  When you brainstorm, don’t discard any idea right away.  Even if you don’t use the exact idea, you might modify the idea so it works.

Let’s say I modify the idea that the stalker introduce himself to the woman.  I’ll have the stalker meet up with her mom and have the mother introduce them as the “kind man who helped me fix my car today”.

2.  Take one or two brainstormed ideas that sound the most promising and expand on them.

For example, if you liked two ideas for the romance (the hero and heroine must work on a project together and the hero and heroine are forced to a remote cabin), then take both of those ideas and write (or think through) a brief scenario of how each of those ideas will work in your story.

This process can take an hour to a week to sort through, but some of the best places to allow these ideas to work is when you’re not working on the story itself.  You can work on another story or work on the book cover or maybe even write a post about the book.

3.  It is okay to work on another story during this time.

Let’s say you are truly stumped.  A week didn’t do it, and you can just see that this is going to prevent you from getting anywhere.  Go ahead and work on another story.  When you keep writing, you’re staying creative.  You can work on more than one book at a time.  When you know what to do, return to the story or wait until the time is right to get back to it.

***

As writers, we’re bound to get stuck at some point in something we write, but it is possible to press through it and finish the book.  But…what if you can’t manage to finish anything you write?  I’ll discuss that in the post I plan to publish on Friday (October 10).

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Random Thoughts

After careful consideration, I decided to go back to my normal pacing for good. 

I don’t really know how to explain this, except to say that when I sprint, I’m go so fast, that it’s harder for me to connect with the characters.  After all the writing posts I’ve been doing, I remembered what it was like when I started to write romances.  I remembered how exciting it was to go on the journey with my characters.  One of my favorite emotions is the “falling in love” one, which is why I am drawn to romance.  Since I’ve been married for fourteen years, I’ve long since passed that initial stage.  I think love does get better over time because it gets deeper, but there’s no denying there’s a thrill in that initial phase.  And romance allows me to tap into that.

As I was writing the post about the character’s journey, I realized I don’t want to rush the journey.  I want to take time to savor it like I would a favorite piece of chocolate.  Looking back, I don’t think I was able to fully enjoy Patty’s Gamble, The Earl’s Secret Bargain, and Just Good Friends because I sprinted those in order to reach my deadlines.

It’s possible other people can sprint and fully get the enjoyment out of writing their books, but it’s not possible for me to do that.  We’re all different as writers, and we’re all meant to go at our own pace.  My pace is writing one full-length novel in 1.5 to 2 months.  I can do a novella in a shorter period of time, but I don’t write a lot of those.

What this means is that next year, I won’t be publishing as many books as I did this year.  I had a stellar publishing year.  With Just Good Friends due out October 12 and His Convenient Wife due out November 16, I will have published six full-length books.  Usually, I do six full-length books and possibly one novella.

 I’ll Be Putting My Posts for Beginning Writers Into an Ebook

This isn’t going to be coming out this year, but I expect it’ll be out around the beginning of next year.  I will edit and compile the posts I’ve been putting up on this blog and put them into an ebook.  This way it’ll be easy to go back and refer to it at your leisure.

Here is the list of posts I will put in the book:

Starting With An Idea (already posted)

Picking Your Genre (already posted)

The Proper Use of Backstory (already posted)

Point of View (already posted)

Characters Are the Heart of Your Story (already posted)

Your Setting (aka World) – The Character is Always Key (already posted)

There Is No Perfect Time to Write So Write Today (already posted)

If the Scene Doesn’t Add to the Plot, Throw It Out (to be posted)

What To Do When You Get Stuck (to be posted)

What If You Never Finish a Story? (to be posted)

Polishing Your Book For Publication (to be posted)

*I added the last one because someone asked me about doing a post on proofreading.  I don’t plan to go into the stuff on covers, formatting, how to publish, or marketing.  This ebook will be dedicated solely to the process of writing.

If there is a writing-related post I have not addressed in this list that you’d like me to write, please let me know.

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A Post For New Writers: Your Setting (aka World) — The Character is Always Key

A Post For New Writers

A Post For New Writers

As I mentioned in another post, your characters are the heart of your story.  It doesn’t matter what neat little plot twist pops up or how fabulous your setting (world) is if your characters aren’t emotionally engaging.

Yes, you want to aim to be authentic, but you don’t want to miss the point of the story, and the point is the character’s journey. 

The world your story takes place in is only wallpaper.  It is the backdrop to which your characters will go through their journey.

1.  Create your world.

Whether the story takes place on Earth in a setting we’re familiar with, in another time period, or on another planet, we do want to do our best to make the world real to the reader.   You should aim to stay true to the place your character will be in.  So research and get a feel for your character’s world.  Research can be done on the Internet, in books (I find children’s books work the best because they break things down so it’s easy to understand), going to visit physical locations, talking to people who specialize in the area you’re writing, and watching TV shows/movies.  The best approach is to take multiple resources instead of only one.

There are some rules you have to follow in being true to your world.  For example, you don’t want a cowboy in 1880 to pull up to his house in a truck talking on a cell phone.  You also can’t have your character go on a planet that has no oxygen without the proper equipment.

And if you don’t get it 100% perfect, learn from your mistakes and do better on your next book.   Unless there is a glaring error in the book, I advise against going back to change something.  You learn best by writing more books, not going back and revising old ones.

I’ll be the first to admit my books haven’t always been 100% historically accurate to the very nitty gritty detail, and I can assure you, if you miss something, it’s okay.  Earth will still keep spinning.  Life will go on.  Aim to be authentic, but don’t get so obsessed with it that you get paralyzed and can’t write your story.

2.  The characters can use elements in the world to enhance their journey.  These elements must either help or hinder the character’s journey.

If the element you want to use doesn’t advance the plot, you need to toss it out.

For example, let’s say your character needs to drive from one state to another, but there’s going to be a roadblock up ahead in the middle of a storm.  What you want to do is key in on the thunderstorm while the character is driving.  Instead of just describing the storm, show the reader what your character is doing, saying, and thinking during this storm.  Let’s say a tree falls right in front of the truck.  What did your character do with the truck?  Did he try to drive before it hit the road?  Did he slam on the brakes and nearly hit it?  Did he say anything?  What was his heart rate doing?  Can he keep going?  How will he overcome this obstacle to reach his destination?

You do not want to tell the reader all about the pretty fields along the way, the kind of barns the character passed, what music the character listened to, what the character ate along the way, etc.  That stuff had nothing to do with the obstacle (the storm which caused the tree to fall which stopped our hero from completing his journey).

3.  The character is always center stage and the world secondary.

This isn’t to say you can’t throw in details and show the reader what your work looks like, especially if it’s a world we don’t live in.  The more foreign your world, the more you have to show.  But the key is to show it.  Don’t dump all the information about this world on the reader right up front, which is a great temptation.  Instead, show the world through the character’s eyes.

In chapter one, don’t spend the chapter (or even half the chapter) talking about the entire world and all the cool little things about it.  You need to introduce your character.  Start building the emotional connection so that the world around the character starts to matter as the story progresses.

Which beginning grabs you more?

1.  The neighborhood was a typical suburban one.  All the houses were two-story homes, though some were split level.  Every house was well cared for, including the lawns.  The people were friendly enough, calling out greetings to others as they passed.  People drove their cars down the quiet streets.  It was the perfect place to live.  Except for one thing.  The neighbor who lived at the very end of Husker Street.

No one could ever recall seeing him.  All anyone knew was that he tended to the cemetery that was, coincidentally, right next to his house.  And worse, the house was in bad shape.  It had a sagging roof, a broken window in the attic, peeling paint, and vines creeping up the sides.  The lawn was in equally bad shape.  Weeds suffocated flowers that tried to grow in the abandoned garden, and the grass hadn’t seen a good mowing all summer.

2.  Alex McConner made his rounds through the quiet neighborhood as he tried to sell popcorn for the seventh grade field trip.  Though all he had to read the sheet with the sales pitch, he still had to take deep breaths so he wouldn’t panic.  No wonder he didn’t have any friends.  Just like Lucas Grover said, he was a loser.  A loser in the seventh grade.  Terrific.  He couldn’t wait for high school when the bullying would really kick in.

He turned down another street, glad this was the last one.  Then he could go home to the safety of his bedroom and his new WiiU game.  His steps slowed as he saw the last house on the block.  It wasn’t like any of the others.  The other houses were well cared for with freshly mowed lawns.  But this last house on–he checked the street sign–Husker Street looked as if it hadn’t seen an owner in ages.  Weeds everywhere.  A sagging roof.  Peeling paint.  Vines creeping up the sides.

Alex shivered.  His gaze went to the hole in the attic window.  His parents recently had a raccoon in the attic, and they didn’t even have a hole like that.  He’d hate to think what creatures were lurking in that house.  After a moment, he recalled the owner’s name.  Ted Wilkens.  Supposedly, Ted lived in the rundown house.  Rumor was, he took care of the cemetery right next to the house.  Ironically, the cemetery was in better shape than the house.

Alex swallowed and quickly turned away from it.  He’d avoid that creepy place at all costs.  He’d stick with the nice houses with the friendly people who lived in them instead.  Even if he hated speaking to strangers, he’d much rather try to sell them popcorn than walk up the broken concrete walkway to Ted Wilkens’ place.

Notice two things happened in the second example.  

One, the focus is on our character, Alex, and how he is thinking and feeling about the world around him.  This also incorporates introducing the reader to him, and hopefully, the reader cares about Alex and will want to know more about his journey.  If the reader cares, the reader will keep reading.

Two, we got a good look at the world through Alex’s eyes instead of the writer’s eyes.  This is key.  In order for the reader to escape into the story, they need to be connected to the character.  The writer’s voice should be nonexistent.

 

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