Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

As Romance writers, we often think of love in romantic terms first. Then we might think of parental love, or the love for a pet, or our friends. Every now and again, though, like today, it's good to remember that love has a Source.
Love doesn't exist in a vacuum. Love can't exist in a vacuum. It has to have a reason to exist.
Love is always plural, even when it isn't reciprocated.
Love is risky. Loving someone doesn't always mean they will love you back.
God knew that. Despite everything, and knowing all the risks, He sent His Son to try to love us to Him. Love gave everything, so that we might find Him.

"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sin, and not for ours only, but for the sin of the whole world."

This Resurrection Sunday, may you find the Love who gave all on Good Friday.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tense Agreement

No, I'm not talking about international peace accords, I'm talking sentences. Prose. Fiction or nonfiction.
I don't know about you, but when I'm reading a story and the author changes tenses in the middle of a sentence, I find it confusing. Does he or she mean the action is happening in the present tense, the past tense, or the future tense? Here are some examples I made up to illustrate what I mean.

  • Jason thought if he went sailing in the Argo, he may find the Golden Fleece. Okay, is Jason thinking about something he has done, something he's doing now, or something he wants to do in the future? This sentence is inherently confusing, because the first clause is in the past tense, and the second clause is in the present. To avoid ambiguity and confusion, either change the sentence to Jason thinks if he goes sailing in the Argo, he may find the Golden Fleece or Jason thought if he went sailing in the Argo, he might find the Golden Fleece.

  • Miss Eliza Bennett danced with Mr. Darcy, and later bid him goodnight.
    What's wrong with this sentence? Well, bid is present tense. The past tense is the rapidly disappearing bade (pronounced bad). The sentence should read: Miss Eliza Bennett danced with Mr. Darcy, and later bade him goodnight.

  • If I would have known that in advance, I may not have made that mistake. This sentence has two glaring errors: the may in the second clause, and the If I would have known in the first clause. This is an error I see and hear more all the time. The use of the conditional conjunction If precludes the necessity of writing would have. It should say If I had known that in advance, I might not have made that mistake.

Check in your own writing and see how many sentences you find that don't agree with themselves. It's an easy thing to fix, and your readers will thank you!

Friday, March 14, 2008

And Now: Back to Topic. Comparatives

Comparatives in English have taken a beating over the last few decades. You probably remember comparatives from school: big, bigger, biggest; small, smaller, smallest. Nowadays, however, even in print, it seems as though anything goes.
We've seen in print lately:

  • ...more angry...

  • ...littler...

  • ...less small...

In honor of all our beloved English teachers, who have had a lot to bear from the entropy of English in the last few decades, here's a list of some common comparatives.

  • good, better, best (not "more good" or "gooder"; exception: "Put that money where it will do the most good." This isn't really a comparison at all, but could be confused for one.)

  • angry, angrier, angriest

  • little, smaller, smallest (or tinier, tiniest; never "littler, littlest;" exception: when the person speaking in dialogue is either uneducated or a child; and you won't want to use it in prose or narrative.

  • tired, tireder, tiredest

  • fast, faster, fastest

  • slow, slower, slowest

  • nitpicking, more nitpicking, most nitpicking (yep, applies to me and grammar, and, see, there are times when "more" and "most" are used with an adjective! More examples include "monumental," "phenomenal," "fabulous," etc.)

  • able, abler, ablest (yes, really; the antonyms are "less able" and "least able")

If you have any questions about a particular comparative not listed here, please feel free to inquire!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A few hours left to bid

The R2D2 glue stick and some of the lace will sell, but you still have a few hours left to bid! Check the links below!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Rewriting the Synopsis

Did you ever hear the one about "the best-laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley?" (Robert Burns, and you'll notice the famous title lifted from the line of his poem.)
Version Two of the synopsis was better received by my critique partner than Version One, but she still had plenty of suggestions to make it, and the novel, better. So, it's off to rewrite land to start over.
First things first. My cp advised me to start with a character sketch of the heroine, leaving out nothing important. I had left vital information about her until later in the synopsis, which affected the flow of timing and pacing. By putting everything pertinent about her into the first paragraph, I eliminate the need to mention things later, and the reader (editor) will know that the story is character-driven.
After the heroine, describe the Hero. (Unless you're writing something other than romance...male oriented action/adventure may not even have a heroine.) Everything that makes him who he is should be put on paper right at the beginning.
Then get into the story. Make sure the pacing is right. I had the Hero & Heroine admitting they loved each other on page three of the synopsis, which looks like it's halfway through the book, even though it doesn't happen until the last chapter! My cp's advice was to make it clear that it happens near the end, so that the editor won't think things are going too smoothly for the protagonists.
In addition, my cp had some wonderful suggestions for the story itself. We brainstormed a bit, and now I need to do some rewriting on the novel as well. All in all, it shouldn't take too long to fix, and it will improve the book. That, hopefully, will also improve its chances of selling!
In conclusion: if you're working on a synopsis, make sure you get all the important character information in first, and then leap into the storyline. Make sure you really care about your characters. If you don't care about them, no one else will!
Happy writing!

R2D2 and some black tatted lace...

No, there's really no connection between the two, except that I have two pieces of lace and a really cute R2D2 glue stick up for sale on eBay. There are only two days left on the auction, and the starting prices are super low (I used to list the lace starting at around $8, but the smaller piece has an opening price of just $1.99; plus, if you order both pieces, the shipping for the second is only 50 cents extra.)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Hitting Your Target Market: Taking Aim

Do you have a target market for your novel? If so, you're ahead of the game. If you're scratching your head and saying, "What's a target market?", read on.

Writing a novel isn't easy, as you may know from experience. However, selling that novel once it's written can be even harder. Getting a book published can be compared to archery. If you just shoot a lot of arrows into the air without aiming at anything, you may hit something, but will it be what you really want to hit?

Just like archery, if you have a target, something at which to aim, you'll come closer to hitting it and getting where you want to be, i.e., published. Market research isn't always easy, though. Where do you begin? How do you find out who is publishing what?

A good start is Writer's Market. They have a new edition every year, and have even started issuing specialty editions dedicated to Novel & Short Story Writing, Children's Writing and Illustrating, and Poetry, among others. In addition, you can join their online website. For as little as $3.99 a month, you will have access to all the latest marketing information, including changes of personnel at publishing houses.

Another good place, if you're looking for a cheaper alternative, is to check into the individual sites of publishing houses. Many of them have guidelines for writers that will tell you how to submit (or whether you can submit without an agent). Browsing their catalogs and reading what they publish is the best way to get a feel for what each house handles. You wouldn't submit a tender inspirational romance to a publisher called Hot & Heavy, Inc., or a western to Future Worlds, Ltd. (Not unless you enjoy wasting postage, time and energy, that is!)

Once you've found your target market, the place where you aim to get published, start reading. If you (like many of us!) can't afford to buy everything they have out, go get a library card (if, by some unlikely chance you don't already have one). If the publisher has more than one line, especially in genre fiction, read at least one book in each line, preferably more. Find the line that reaches out and touches your heart. That should be your target line. Read the dedications by the authors, and the "thank you" pages. If they mention their editor by name, take note. You are seeing what an editor likes by what is published.

If a particular publishing house says they accept only agented works, don't waste their time and yours by sending them anything. You'll only be branding yourself as a novice who hasn't done your homework.

In conclusion, finding your target market may be hard, but it is definitely worthwhile. If your manuscript doesn't quite fit, you may want to consider putting it aside for a while (I know, I can hear you screaming how long it took you to write it---been there) and writing something that is perfect for the line. Once you are published, dig out that manuscript, reread it, polish it, even rewrite it if necessary and ask your editor (who by now should be your friend) to have a look at it. If you're willing to do the work, getting published should become inevitable!

Happy hunting!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Writing a Synopsis

This morning the Lord gave me the ideas I needed for the synopsis for my novel, Desert Dreamer. I had already written a synopsis for it earlier, when I was using it for Harlequin's American Romance Editor Pitch Challenge. The earlier synopsis was all right, but Margaret Daley, who was kind enough to read it for me, didn't think the "black moment" was black enough. She also thought it depended too much on a third party (the Hero's daughter), rather than the actions and emotions of the Hero and Heroine. She was right!
So, I started over from the beginning. Margaret has an excellent article on synopis writing on her website.
This time, instead of bringing in too many references to peripheral characters, I concentrated on the Heroine and the Hero (in that order), their hopes and dreams, and the conflicts that arise from their differing goals.
Conflict is the meat of any novel. Without it, you just have a "feel good" essay, not a story. The conflict in my story came about because the Hero and Heroine want different things.
I haven't sent my synopsis off to my critique partner yet, but I look forward to hearing her opinion of this one compared to the previous one.