I Have No Idea 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.

Okay, so I sat down two weeks ago to try to figure out what was “off” about the part of this book I’ve done so far.  My mind was blank.  I sat down a couple days ago.  Same thing happened.  Then I sat down with it again today.  My mind is still blank.

I’m starting to think I need a different plot.  My original idea was that Richard Larson had to marry Amanda to protect her.  And the bulk of the plot hinged on him loving another woman, and Amanda had been pining for him for years.  But guess what?

I just did a story where the hero had wanted to marry someone else but got the heroine instead.  This is His Convenient Wife.  Granted, the plot isn’t exactly the same. There is nothing that happened to Harriett that prompted Stan to protect her.  But the bulk of the plot for Wagon Trail Bride is similar enough to His Convenient Wife where it is pointless to write it out a second time.  And honestly, I am so happy with the way His Convenient Wife turned out, I don’t see how I can top it in another book.

So yeah, I need another direction to go.  But I don’t know what that direction is going to be.

Usually, I have the idea before I fit the characters to the book.  This was one situation where I had the characters in mind first.  I just can’t come up with a reason why Richard and Amanda leave New York to go with his family to Omaha.  I know it happens.  I just don’t know why.

What I’m going to do over the next month or two is sit down and write out a list of all possible plots I haven’t done yet but would like to try.  I might start with a list of things I don’t want first.  Maybe doing something that is the opposite will spur an idea.

The last thing I want to do is write a book for the sake of writing the book.  I need to be excited about it.  If I can’t get excited about it, then it’s going to suck, and there’s no point in writing a ho-hum book.  I realize not all of my books are my absolute favorites, but I enjoyed writing every single one of them.  I never want to compromise and write something I secretly think is mediocre.  I want to give every book I write the best I have.  I need to be passionate about it.

Sometimes no matter how hard an author tries, a character might not have a story worth writing.  I’ll see if I can work something with Richard Larson and Amanda, but if I keep running into brick walls, I’m going to have to put it in the “maybe someday in the future” file.  I don’t like to ever close myself off completely from a character, so I always leave the option open.  But the reality is, I have some characters whose stories I will never write.

Sometimes part of writing is learning when to say, “You know what?  This isn’t going to work, and I need to do something else.” Quitting doesn’t always mean failure.  Sometimes it means there’s something else better to do.

So I’ll give it another try, but I can’t promise anything.

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A Post for New Writers: Characters are the Heart of the Story

A Post For New Writers

A Post For New Writers

At the heart of every story is the main character (or main characters).  Without the characters, the story falls apart because the story is all about the character’s journey (or characters’ journeys).  The journey can be emotional, physical, or spiritual.  Whatever the case, the most important thing a writer does is bring forth characters who seem so real, the  reader forgets they are reading a book and slips into the world with the characters, specifically the main one.  You want your main character’s journey to become your reader’s journey.

But how do you write an emotionally engaging character?

An emotionally engaging character is one the reader empathizes with.  Whatever your character feels, you want the reader to feel.  But in order to get there, you (as the writer) must first feel it.  You have to be emotionally linked to the character.  If you aren’t, the character will come across as two-dimensional.  Ideally, you’ll experience everything all of your characters do, whether they are the good guys or bad guys.  But the main character(s) must be connected directly to you.

1.  Be in tune with the wide range of emotions we all experience as humans.

Writers are sensitive by nature because they have to be.  They feel everything deeply, and they aren’t afraid of emotions.  If you need to cry, you cry.  If you need to laugh, you laugh. When you are aware of how different experiences make you feel in your day to day life, you can start thinking of how these emotions will play into whatever situation you put your characters in.

2.  Let the character lead the journey.

Do not tell the character what to do.  Let the character lead.  If you want the story to go one way, but the character wants to go in another direction, let the story unfold as the character wants.

This is a hard concept to explain to people who don’t write, but the idea is to free your mind while writing so the story naturally develops as you’re going.  Don’t force the story.  You might be leading things when you start a scene, especially if you’re having a rough writing day, but there should be a point where the flow starts to come in and you are writing what you’re seeing and hearing in your mind.  That’s the moment where you are fully engaged in the character and letting him/her lead.

3.  Be aware of your body’s cues.

Once the character is leading, be open to what is happening to your body.  Often, your body will give you cues that can help you write down what the character is experiencing.

For example, while you’re writing a scene where the character is rejected, you might notice you’re tearing up.  Okay, this is a great time to write down that your character also has tears filling his/her eyes.  At this point, the character has three options: let the tears flow, fight to hold them in, or fight them but fail and cry anyway.  Depending on the character’s personality, you will pick the one that best fits them.

Another example: the character is talking to another character.  This other character says something that makes you laugh.  At this point, you should write down that your main character laughs.

Having an emotionally engaging character requires the writer to be open to going through the journey with character while letting the character take the lead.  I think the more in tune you are with your emotions on a daily basis, the easier this will be.

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Been Busy and Am Struggling to Catch Up

Behind in Emails, Facebook Messages, and Blog Comments

I notice my inbox is full.   I have been out of the house most of the day from Monday through today.  I’ll be out all day tomorrow and possibly Sunday, Monday, and definitely Wednesday.  So my whole calendar has been booked, and it’s been pretty much back-to-back doing everything but sitting on the computer to take care of emails or write.

I explain all that above to let those of you who’ve contacted me know I’m not ignoring you. At the moment, I’m overwhelmed, and when I get overwhelmed, I can’t work fast.  I need to step back, take a deep breath, and write.  Writing helps settle me down.   So if I can sit down and do some writing, I’ll be better able to focus on emails, Facebook messages, and blog comments.

I will get to your email, message, or comment.  It’s just going to take me some time to get there.  I’m sorry it’s taking so long.

Editing His Convenient Wife

In the meantime, I have been editing His Convenient Wife, so it’s not like I’m not being productive at all, which is good.  I want to get that book uploaded and ready for preorder by October 1.  I want to give enough time for Barnes & Noble and Kobo to have the files on hand when the release date is set, which is November 16.  I figure the sooner I get it out, the better.

Nervous About Next Sunday When A Royal Engagement is Due Out

To be honest, I’m getting nervous about next weekend (September 28, specifically) because that’s when A Royal Engagement is due out.  I don’t know if preorders on Barnes & Noble and Kobo usually have samples or not, but I don’t see samples of that book.  Smashwords sent this book to both places on August 29.  I figured a month out should be enough time to get things set up.  On iBooks, I see the sample there, so I know iBooks will let people preview the sample.

My big fear is that September 28 will come, and I’ll find out Barnes & Noble and Kobo don’t have the book available.  Meaning, what they’ll get is a blank book.  I’m trying not to think about it because when I do, I start to worry, and worrying accomplishes nothing.  All it does is robs me of my ability to focus on what I need to get done.

****

I wanted to make this blog post shorter than what I usually do.  Next time, I will have the blog post I wrote last month on writing and working with characters.  It’s been so long ago, I don’t even remember the exact angle I went with.  But I’ll tweak it before I post it, so hopefully, it’ll be polished.

I hope everyone else is have a less hectic month than I am. :D

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A Post For New Writers: There is No Perfect Time To Write So Write Today

A Post For New Writers

A Post For New Writers

One of the most common struggles writers face is the “I don’t feel like writing today” syndrome.

 (Ironically, this is how I’m feeling today, so this post is also to help me get going. ;) )

The reasons for this are many, but here’s a short list of possible ones:

  • Real life creeps up (such as car accidents, illnesses, house repairs).
  • Someone says your story sucks.
  • You lose interest in the story and want to work on something else.
  • Sales aren’t what you hoped they’d be.
  • You don’t know where to go next in the story.
  • You’re burned out/tired.

When this pops up, don’t despair.  These (and more) are all valid reasons for not wanting to write.

But…it’s important you keep writing anyway.  Take a short break if you must.

For example, I took the last two weeks off of writing because I had just finished five books ever since May and was so exhausted, I couldn’t even speak/think straight.  I was going over my grocery list with my family and was writing muffins and waffles but said “Does anyone want muffles?”  The thing is, I was doing a lot of this.  I was even reading things wrong.  So yes, it was time to take a break.

We all need to recharge our batteries at some point.  But the story will only getting written if you sit down and write.

So today, I’m going to share some strategies I use that help me when I don’t feel like writing.

1.  Make writing a priority.

If you don’t make writing a priority, it won’t get done.  Make a list of things you want to do for the day or week.  Then divide the things between needs and wants.  Needs go to the top.  Wants at the bottom.  Writing must be a need if you are going to finish the story in a less than a year.  The more books you want to write, the higher this need must be.

So when real life creeps in, you can buffer against it by making sure you make time to write.  Even if all you manage to get in is a couple hundred words that day, it’s a couple hundred that wouldn’t have been written otherwise.

2.  Pace Yourself.

If you’re squeamish about setting the high goal of 5000 words a day, there’s no need to aim that high.  On average, I do 2000-3000 words 5-6 days a week.   Sometimes I only get a couple hundred words in during a day.  Sometimes I am able to hit 4000 or 5000 words (though I have to be super psyched and ready to write to get that kind of word count in).

Since November 2007, I have written 45 romances (1 of which is in the editing stage).  I am just starting my 46th romance.  That’s averaging 7 novels a year.  And I’ll reach 50 romances in 2015, which is really exciting for me.  (My goal is 100.)

How do I do it?

I pace myself.  I do a little at a time.  I don’t sit down for a couple hours and do nonstop typing.  I go in smaller chunks of time, usually 15 minute bursts.  Sometimes I am able to go 30 minutes to an hour.  But mostly, it’s 15 minutes because I have four kids and a husband, and someone is usually coming up to me during the day.  My husband, who now works, will be working on weekends when the kids are home, so the thought of having no one in the house and having total silence is not going to happen.  I have to work around distractions.

It helps immensely that I have a laptop so I can carry it from room to room, which comes in handy when the kids need something upstairs.  Or when I do a little cleaning, write for a few minutes, clean some more, etc.  I also take it to the park or other places where I can sit so the kids can play.  (And don’t think just because they’re playing, they leave me alone because they don’t.  Even at the pool this summer, at least one would come up to me every 15-30 minutes.)

There is no secret formula.  You just have to sit down and write whenever you can.  If you can do a schedule and make it work, that’s awesome.  I’m not able to do it, but I would if I could.  My point is, it’s possible to write in small chunks of time and even when real life distractions creep in.

3.  Set aside periods of rest.

If you’re in this for the long haul, you need to pace yourself to avoid burn out.  Some say serious writers write every single day.  But I’m going to give you a freedom from that type of thinking by assuring you it’s okay to take breaks.  Periods of rest are vital to our health.  If we don’t get enough sleep at night, our bodies will physically, emotionally, and spiritually suffer for it.

I don’t write 365 days a year.  There are days when I take the day off to spend time with the family and rest.  I don’t dwell on what I’ll write next, though if ideas come, I let them.  I let my mind take a break.

Whatever word count you want to aim for is up to you.  You don’t have to write a book in a month.  Your goal can be to write a book in 3-6 months.  Maybe it’s a book a year.  Maybe it’s a book every two years.  Nothing is wrong with that.  The longer your book, the longer it’ll take to write.  The more research involved, the longer it’ll take, too.  But if you take time to rest (like 1-2 days a week), it really does a world of good for maintaining your creative flow.

4.  Push through the rough patches.

Writing is not easy.  It is hard.  It is work.  But it can be work you love and are passionate about.  However, you don’t always love it or feel passionate about it.  Sometimes it feels like you’re pulling teeth.

It’s important to write anyway.  Why?  Because the longer you put off writing, the harder it’ll be to get back into the swing of things.

As mentioned above, breaks are good, but breaks are short periods of time (a couple days each week or a week each month) you choose not to write.  Breaks are intentional and done by choice.

The rough patches are not the same thing.  These are obstacles standing in the way of you and your dream of a finished book.  You can’t let these things paralyze you.  Even if all you manage is a couple hundred words every day for a week, do it.  It will get easier.  You just need to make yourself do it.  This is where the blood, sweat, and tears of writing comes in.

Next time, I’ll look at characters.  (Today I wanted to put up an inspirational post instead of an instructional one.)

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A Post For New Writers: Point of View

A Post For New Writers

A Post For New Writers

The point of view concept is another hard one when you’re starting out.  There’s an urge to give multiple character points of view in the same scene because you’re afraid that there’s something important the reader might miss.  But this isn’t true if you give actions to hint at what other characters are thinking.  Nonverbal cues are very important in conveying emotions and thoughts in a scene.

The use of multiple character points of view in one scene is called head hopping, and this technique will confuse your reader.

The reader might have to stop reading, go back and reread a passage to figure out who is thinking what, and that will disrupt the flow of your story.

Let me give you an example to show you what I mean.  Remember the idea I’ve been using with the father who is separated from his wife and was picking up his daughter?  Let’s say the house he went to was completely empty, so he couldn’t find the girl.  Now he has to tell his estranged wife.

“What do you mean the house was empty?” Clara asked, not believing her ears.  “Didn’t you go to the right address?”

“Of course, I did.” He pulled out his smartphone and dug up the email she’d sent him.  He showed her the screen.  “That’s the address I went to, but I’m telling you, no one was there.  No one’s lived there for years.”

She shook her head.  Just typical.  He was running late from another meeting.  He probably turned down the wrong street without realizing it.

Once again, she refused to believe him.  She was assuming the worst.  And he didn’t know how he could rectify it.  “Let’s call their number and see if the address is wrong.”

With a sigh, she went to the kitchen to retrieve the number her daughter’s friend had given her.  He was going to feel foolish when the girl’s mother verified she had the correct address.  She never made mistakes.  Ever.

When the phone picked up on the other end, she said, “This is Clara.  I’m sorry my husband is late in picking our daughter up, Mandy, but my husband had trouble finding your place.  May I verify your address?”

He listened as she talked into the phone, and though she didn’t sound irritated, he knew that was exactly how she felt.  It seemed like he couldn’t do anything right lately.  But he had made sure the address was the one she’d given him.  He was more sure of it than anything else.

She waited for a response on the other end of the line, but she only heard dead air.  “Hello?  Mandy?”

Still, no answer.

He turned when Clara returned.  Clara stared at the phone in her hand, a creepy sensation coming over her.  Something was wrong.  Terribly wrong.

Did any of that confuse you?  I hope so because it was given with lots of head hopping.  Now, let’s switch this example to using only one character’s point of view.

A good rule of thumb is to use the character who has the most to gain or lose in the scene.  

In this case, it’s the father because he is losing his wife’s trust, something he’s desperately trying to keep because he’s the one who wants to save the marriage.

“What do you mean the house was empty?” Clara asked.  “Didn’t you go to the right address?”

“Of course, I did.” He pulled out his smartphone and dug up the email she’d sent him.  He showed her the screen.  “That’s the address I went to, but I’m telling you, no one was there.  No one’s lived there for years.”

With a shake of her head, she narrowed her eyes at him.  His gut tightened in dread.  She was assuming the worst.  And he didn’t know how he could rectify it.

“Let’s call their number and see if the address is wrong,” he suggested.

He wasn’t sure if she’d do it.  She had gotten used to ignoring any of his suggestions, but after a long sigh, she went to the kitchen.

A long, tense moment passed before he heard her say, “This is Clara. I’m sorry my husband is late in picking our daughter up, Mandy, but my husband had trouble finding your place. May I verify your address?”

Though Clara didn’t sound irritated, he knew that was exactly how she felt. It seemed like he couldn’t do anything right lately. But he had made sure the address was the one she’d given him. He was more sure of it than anything else.

“Hello? Mandy?”

Eyebrows furrowed, he turned toward the kitchen, ready to head in there to find out what was going on, but he refrained.  This was no longer his house.  He forced himself to look back out the window, hoping their daughter would be showing up, that the friend’s mother had taken it upon herself to take her home.

Footsteps brought his attention back toward the kitchen, and he turned in time to see Clara entering the room, staring at the phone in her hand, her face white. Something was wrong. Terribly wrong.

In the second scene, I did add more to his point of view because not head hopping freed me up to be more in tune with his thoughts and feelings.

The key to good writing is to make reading as easy as possible for the reader.

When you stay in one character’s point of view during the entire scene, you are helping to keep the flow of your story steady.

To best understand point of view, it’s important to practice by writing it.  So, take one scene from your work in progress.  If you head hopped, then convert that scene to only one character’s point of view like I did above.  Then, to better understand the concept even better, take the same scene and now switch it to the other character’s point of view to see how things changed.

Another way to best understand point of view is to write first person point of view.  This is the “I” point of view.

Remember, when you’re in one point of view (be it first or third person), you can only give the thoughts and feelings of the character whose point of view you’re in.  All you can do is report what other characters are saying and doing.

This can be tricky, and only writing can help you get this one down.  To be honest, I didn’t truly understand this until last year when I wrote a novella from the point of view of a villain in a book I’d written back in 2007.  So don’t get discouraged if this takes a while to learn.

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