Thursday, March 31, 2011


Do you remember Pretty Woman?  In the beginning, Angel is interviewing roommates and she says "You gotta have a goal.  Do you have a goal?"  That's true about everything isn't it?  Yesterday my boss emailed me and tells me that I have to do my annual goal setting worksheet for work.  Every year, we have to fill out a little sheet that lists our goals - what we hope to accomplish in our jobs by the end of the year.  When we wake up in the morning, whether we realize it or not, we have goals.  A list of tasks we hope to get accomplished by the end of the day.  It may be getting the house clean, getting the grocery shopping done, doing a load of laundry, or simply making it through the day without having a nervous breakdown.  Regardless, we all have our goals.

Well, our characters, and our stories have to have goals to.  Something that we hope to accomplish by the end of the book.  If those goals are left undone, the reader is let down.  Worse, if the story doesn't have a set of clear cut goals, we probably lose our reader before they get to the end of the story simply because they don't care.  This is something I've been struggling with in my writing lately.  What are my characters' goals, and more importantly, what is my story's goal?

First and foremost - to entertain your reader is definitely not a story goal.  LOL.  A story goal is something that your characters are trying to accomplish.  To save the world for instance, might be a nice story goal.   To fall in love is also not a really good story goal if you write romance.  In fact, I've found that in most romance books, the characters don't set out to fall in love, it just sort of happens.  Then, if you find a goal for your characters, it a) can't be something mundane - i.e. doing the laundry, it has to be something that your reader wonders whether they will be able to accomplish b) it has to be believable - i.e. it has to be within their character and c) it has to be clearly communicated to the reader on some level.

I've actually been through several iterations of my story goals for my sequel and finally think I hit upon something that works.  It gives all of my characters goals that fit with the story, their characters, and also provides the conflict that is so desparately needed to keep the story moving.

Now...I'm on to the three act thingee.  I started out with my first act BAM - wanted to get the reader's attention, so now....huh.  Gotta put my thinking cap back on for a while, but the story is slowly coming together, I think...maybe...I don't

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I am OZ...the great and powerful...

So I read something really interesting in Dummies last night.  I was reading about POV.  You know, whether you write in the 1st person, 3rd person, or that ever elusive 2nd person POV (I know, right?  Who's ever read anything in the second person POV...except maybe cookbooks or instruction manuals - apparently, there are one or two authors out there who do it quite successfully <grin>) then there's this omnipotent POV that you are *never* supposed to use but...yup; you guessed it, most of us newbies use constantly. 

So, what you might ask, is this all powerful, all knowing, omnipotent POV that is so bad, and do I do it (you ask yourself) - see how I used 2nd person there? <poke poke>  Well, I definitely do it.  It's that thing you do where you are trying to add sufficient detail to your writing - when you are trying to give your reader a look inside your characters' heads, so after every line you add some little phrase like

As he thumbed through the records on the rack he looked at the woman standing behind the register and wondered if she was available for lunch the next day.  Grabbing a record without looking at the title, he wandered to the counter.  As he watched her delicate fingers tap the keys he asked in his sexiest voice "Would you like to go to lunch with me tomorrow?"

Point here being that - we didn't need to know that he was wondering about asking the cashier to lunch the next day *when he was going to ask her in the next breath!*  Geez y'all!  Leave some mystery.  Let him leaf through the records (for any of you  young'uns out there - those would be these big giant vinyl CD like thingies that plop on a stick and spin round and round(like a record baby right, round round round <cough> excuse me) and play music with kind of an odd scratchy sound using a needle made of diamond - sounds romantic doesn't it?) ummm....what was I talking about?  Oh yeah, let him leaf through the records and stare at the cashier, but you don't have to let the reader know his every thought.  Just because you are omnipotent doesn't mean the reader has to be.  Let the reader wonder at what he might be thinking, then BAM!  Have him grab a record and check (her) out.  Isn't that what reading is all about? It's about filling in the blanks.  I mean seriously, that's one of the reasons I hate movies is because they fill in the blanks all wrong.

Of course, there are some writers that do the whole inner dialogue fabulously.  Look at Stephen King.  His inner dialogue *makes* the book.  I've often commented that his books don't translate well to movies because you lose so much of that inner dialogue, but hey - he still leaves so much unsaid....

Just sayin'!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Blog Hop For Japan

The Blog Hop for Japan Giveaway
April 1st through April 15th
Hosted by The Bawdy Book Blog and My Shelf Confessions
As most of you know, Japan was recently struck with an 8.9M earthquake off its coast, which resulted in a devastating tsunami that wiped out tens of thousands of homes, cut off water supply and electricity and ended the lives of many (the death toll is still rising).  It's heartbreaking that mother nature can be so cruel.  But the human spirit, in all its glory, can rebound and move forward.  Every bit of help means something.

(For "before" and "after" pictures, click here.) 
Funds will be donated to Shelterbox.  More information will be provided as I obtain it.
I will be giving away an autographed copy of my book Love Immortal by Linnea Hall. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The wheels never stop....

So, I realize now what it means to be a writer.  The wheels never stop turning. Even when you're not're working.  Forever thinking about that next step, that next moment in your book.  My daughter laughs at me because I carry around this notebook that I picked up at Books-A-Million one day when we were shopping.  I thought, I'll keep it with me, just in case.  She tells her friends that I carry it with me everywhere (guilty) and when I forget, I scribble notes on whatever I have handy (you should see the back of my checkbook). 

But let's face it, when an idea strikes, you don't want to forget it, because it just may be the most important idea in your book.  What I'd really like to do is figure out how to use the record button on my phone - (Note to self: ask daughter how to use record feature on phone).  Why do I say this?  As I'm driving down the road on my way to pick up my daughter from a birthday party, I got an idea.  An awful idea.  A wonderful, *awful* idea.

Anyway - I pulled into the McDonald's parking lot, whipped out my notebook, and wrote it down.  Then I continued on my way to pick up my daughter.  When she was in the car, I sprang it on her.  She's my sounding board after all, being in my target age group - I run all my ideas past her.  Her eyes got wide, her face drew down in a pout, and she said..."But, I thought he was a good guy." (Now I've got you thinking, don't I?)  And I nodded, and she thought about it, and finally decided that she liked my idea.

So what's my point?  Well, I guess my point is, that a writer never stops.  Sometimes, in the middle of the night, an idea will hit and you jump out of bed, open the computer and start typing furiously - even though you should be sleeping.  Because that's what writers do.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The value of outlining

So...I've never been an outlining type of person.  In all my years of writing I've always been a seat of the pants kind of writer.  I mean, even when I wrote reports in grade school I would just kind of write from my heart and do the research as I went along.  If there was something that I needed to know based on where my train of thought took me, I'd look it up and keep writing.

I guess I should have picked up on the fact that just winging it wasn't the way to go when my dad, a teacher, would take to my papers with a red pen, and my papers would end up looking like a writer's murder scene.  They would be slashed to bloody ribbons by the point of his red pen; the evidence of terror my heart felt words suffered dripping from the end of his felt tipped instrument of torture.  But, oblivious to the error of my ways, I would simply make the corrections he suggested, get an A on my paper, and make the same mistakes the next time.

Apparently, my ability to write short pieces in this manner improved over the years, but long fiction seems to take a little more finesse. Now, for my book, I believe firmly in write what you know.  Or at least write what you can ask people about.  That requires less research.  I'm not good at research.  Well, that's not exactly right.  I'm very good at research, but I do too much.  I get sidetracked, move in new directions, find exciting things, and before I know it, a whole day is gone.

Anywho...that leaves the characters.  There seem to be three main parts to the book.  The storyworld, the plot, and the characters.  The characters so far seem to be giving me fits.  It seems, to me anyway, that the characters drive the plot.  Now, if you properly build your characters, give them a real life, give them depth, then your plot should follow to some extent.

That's where outlines come in.  You've got to give your character a reason for living, and something to fight against.  Now, I honestly believe that there are some writers that can do this by the seat of their pants.  But as I delve deeper into the world of writing, structure and character development, I'm finding that in order to truly build a believable situation I might need a bit more.

I think that I'll still be a seat of the pants kind of writer.  I can't work from a hard outline.  I'm not a planner. (Unlike my husband who has spreadsheets outlining every minute of our trips to Disneyworld)  But I think that maybe a rough outline might be a good idea.  Something that gives me a little direction, give me an idea about where my characters are going and what they are fighting against.  I think that may give my book the structure it needs to really work.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why? going back to Black Magic Sanction by Kim Harrison.  Remember that chapter with the sprawling narrative that annoyed me so much?  Well, there's another thing that annoyed me about that scene.

So after Pierce is done explaining the whole theory behind ley line physics, he proceeds to demonstrate the theory with Rachel.  All of a sudden in pops Al because he 'felt' Rachel in the lines and wanted to make sure she wasn't being kidnapped again. Then Nick inconveniently shows up, Al snags Nick, Rachel talks him down with idle threats, and Al disappears.  Well, then Rachel really is kidnapped. 

So....I have two problems, well actually three, with that whole scene.  First - there's the narrative which I've already discussed with y'all.  The second problem I have is why the whole exchange between Nick and Al?  Who cares?  What is the purpose?  Is it to prove that Al is still a mean old demon?  To prove that he hasn't gone soft?  Or is it to prove that Rachel is really still tough as beans and holds sway over Al's decisions?  I mean, what's really going on here?  It's not moving the story forward, there's nothing going on here, and it's just really not adding anything to the story.  Who knows, maybe it becomes important later.  So then there's the third thing, when Rachel really does get kidnapped - where's Al?  I mean, first of all, he's peeved that Pierce is teaching her stuff, so if he thinks he's still doing that, he's going to pop in to give Pierce what for. If he wants to see if Rachel has been kidnapped, he'd pop in for that.  But he doesn't actually show up until Rachel calls him and then, when she does, he acts all surprised that she's calling. 

So that brings me to the question...why?  Why is that scene even there?

Is love enough?

So I'm still stuck on this GMC thing and I'm love ever really enough?  I mean, I have all these ideas running around in my head about Jewell and Collin and this sequel of mine and well, with my initial idea for the book, Jewell would have to leave her nice safe life in New Orleans, and throw herself into incredible danger, risking life and her career in the process.  And of course, in my preconceived idea for the book, her ever present sidekick Ashley would be with her every step of the way.

But now I'm starting to wonder...why?  Why would she do this?  Collin has his people, doesn't he?  Where are they?  Why don't *they* go to his rescue?  Isn't that what they are there for?  Don't *they* protect each other?  I mean, isn't that what that whole scene in the first book was about, where they sat her and Collin down in the living room and told Jewell to take a hike because we protect our own?  So where are *they* when Collin needs help?  And I see my story line unravel - a series of slip knots pooling in a pile of string on the floor.

The point is, she wouldn't. And Ashley definitely wouldn't. And even if she would, Percy wouldn't let her.  Neither would Gladys for that matter.  So now I'm back to square one.  Love isn't always enough.  Even if she loves Collin enough to fight through the pits of Hell to save him, he has his people, and they will keep him safe.  And  no amount of love could ever make Jewell do something so idiotic as to risk everything to save him.

And so I'm left wondering, when is love enough?  And idea strikes.  When would love be enough?  Well, it was enough when Jewell was in trouble...and it just might be enough if she was in trouble again.....

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

All the world's a stage....

So a light bulb went on in my head...yes, another one.  I was a theater major in college.  I remember Jean Scharfenberg barking at me "What is your character's motivation?  Why is your character doing this?  I don't believe you!"  And suddenly it clicked.  Writing is just like acting.  In order to make your characters believable, your audience must understand the motivation.  The whys and hows of your character's conscience. 

Okay - this wasn't my idea, someone else came up with the whole motivation idea, but now I see.  Just like in theater, if your reader doesn't see the character's motivation....they won't believe you (or the character).  So this motivation thing is important.  I didn't really get it when I was back in college, I'll be honest with you...but now, I think something is beginning to make sense.  The wheels are turning.  The character must eat to live - well, I guess that's motivation, but so what?  WHY is that character eating that bowl of cereal?  Mel Gibson's character in Road Warrior where he was eating the dog food.  WHY is he eating dog food?  And then the camera pans out and WOW!  Now there's some motivation to eat dog food.  That's eating to survive...but it's not just a bowl of cereal, now is it?


Okay - so I learned something last night.  First - maybe I should read only one book at a time instead of five.  That way I might remember where I read something so that when I want to refer to it later, I might be able to just flip back to it.  Unfortunately, so many years in school has put me in a position where I am used to reading five or six books at a time and I often find myself flipping through numerous books saying to myself "now where did I read that?"

Anyway, I read that narrative summary is often boring.  While it might be a quick and efficient way of explaining something particularly complex to your reader about something in your story world that may (or may not) be important, it may simply end up being a lecture to your reader that quickly loses their interest. 

So where am I going with this?  Well, (I'm sorry Ms. Harrison - I love your books) yesterday I was reading my book, Black Magic Sanction by Kim Harrison.  Well, far be it to me to criticize Ms. Harrison's books - she's a published author (I mean, an agent, a publisher, the whole shebang), but as I was reading last night, there was a narrative.  

In this portion of the story she was explaining ley line jumping and the magical or maybe physical (as in physics) theory behind it.  And this explanation, while woven into the story, went on for pages, and pages.  And I found myself thinking about this commentary I read about narration.  And then I found myself thinking about the actual narration and thinking who cares?  Why do I need this much detail about ley line jumping?  Am I going to do it?  If some demon comes from another dimension and snags me, will this knowledge allow me to jump back to my dimension?  Probably not.  So why this in depth explanation?  A short summary of the basics would have been enough.  And then, later on, should I need a bit more information, give it to me then.  I'm not going to remember this stuff later on in the story.  This is B-O-R-I-N-G!  As in Monday morning, haven't had enough sleep, partied too hard on Friday, Saturday *and* Sunday, and ended up in a Calculus IV lecture with an 85 year old tenured prof who should have retired 30 years ago BORING!  Why was it there?

Okay - so least with regards to narration...NOW, I get it.  The question is, can I edit my own work and remember to keep this type of worthless narration to a minimum?  I need to remember, it belongs on the cutting room floor.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Ignorance is bliss....

Ignorance truly is bliss.  When I sat down to write my last book I just wrote, and brilliance spewed forth.  Well, I thought it was brilliant anyway.  And I was thrilled with what I saw.  And before I knew it, there was a book.  And it beamed at me.  It radiated beauty.  But then...I started to learn about writing and how to create a truly brilliant novel.

Well, I can't say that I'm well informed...yet.  But one thing that I've learned in the few steps I've taken upon my path is that you need something called GMC.  What is GMC?  Well, ummm...I don't really know.  But I do know that in order to have a truly brilliant novel with truly brilliant characters, you have got to have GMC.  Do my characters have it?  Well, as I sat in the grass this afternoon watching my daughter's softball practice, I thought about it.  Dorothy Gale had it.  Luke Skywalker had it. Richard Kimball had it.  Rick Blaine had it.  But does Collin Sykes have it?  Does Jewell McKean have it?  Does Percy Knighton have it?  Does Doc Babineaux have it?

Honestly - I'd have to say that in the Dollar Store sense, I think they do.  But then, I started thinking about my sequel.  And I started thinking about that GMC.  And I thought, they don't even have the Dollar Store version of GMC and I thought, by golly, they need it!  And not the Dollar Store version of it, I want the Saks Fifth Avenue version of GMC!  So I started thinking about it.  What is their goal?  What do they want in second book.  And that's when I realized...Ignorance.Is.Bliss. 

Lesson One....

So what makes a novel great?  I mean truly great?  Why do you stay up until the wee hours of the morning reading some novels, knowing that you need to get up and go to work in the morning, while other novels simply put you to sleep?  Why do you ignore your family, your job, your very life to find out what happens next in one book, while another is simply a snooze fest?

Well, obviously part of it is simply what interests you.  For instance, Tom Clancy is considered a brilliant author but I just can't make it through a single chapter of one of his books, and Stephanie Meyers is - well, personally, I don't think she's a great author, but I really enjoyed her books.  Why don't I think she's a great author?  Because I enjoyed her books once.  But when I went back to read them again, they were torture.  I just could not bring myself to read them.  They were awful (IMHO). 

So what was it that made them unreadable, compared to other books that I can read over and over again?  Patricia Briggs, Adrian Phoenix, CE Murphy, Faith Hunter, Eileen Wilkes... And of course the greats: Ayn Rand, Gabriel García Márquez,  Fyodor Dostoevsky, Robert Heinlein....these authors can be read over and over again.  It's that ability to pull the reader into the book.  Each time the reader finds something new, feels the same excitement for the characters, and for me, at times, I find myself pushing even harder to get to that next scene, not to find out what happens but because I know what happens and I can't wait for the character to reach that next point in the book. 

*This* is what makes a great author.  This ability to pull the reader into the book and make them a part of the scene.  For me, with the Twilight books, that second time, I just didn't care.  And I don't know why.  So that's what I think I'm going to do over the next couple of weeks.  Figure out why I care about some characters, and not so much about others.

I'm also going to look at Kim Harrison's book Black Magic Sanction.  As I break the book down, there will be spoilers so I'll give you spoiler alerts.  I'm going to try to figure out how to make another page so that you can ignore those pages as you wish.  Right now - as I understand it, books are made up of "scenes" not chapters.  And every "scene"  must have a purpose.  So as I'm reading I'm trying to figure out why each scene belongs.  In the last chapter I read, I just don't understand why it was there but maybe that will reveal itself later.  But more on that maybe tomorrow....

The art of perfection....

“Perfection is attained by slow degrees; it requires the hand of time” ~Voltaire

So Why did I start this blog?  My idea is that I have realized that I am not good at everything that I do.'s true.  For those of you who believe that I excel at everything I try, I have found something at which I do not excel.  However, I hope that with practice, this will change.  Some things require hard work and  writing is one of them. Perhaps writing one's thoughts day to day or week to week, or writing an article for an academic journal may be something with which I am familiar, but this does not translate well to writing novels.

Many of my fans (and I thank each and every one of you) may be saying to yourself "but I really enjoyed your book."  Well, that may be true, but as with anything, there is always room for improvement.  Why do I say this?  I've been panned.  Yes, it's true.  Someone gave me what for.  Someone who, over the past weeks, I have come to respect quite highly.  Now, this person (and you know who you are) has been generous and honest, and offered to help me improve upon the skills that I already possess.  And dare I say, I do possess some.  It was a pretty good novel - or so my readers tell me.  But it could have been so much more.

Let's face it, Rome wasn't built in a day.  Heck, it took The Good Lord a full seven days to Create His masterpiece.  And yet, here I am, brazen enough to think that because I've read a few good books, I can call myself an author.  Well, actually...I am going to call myself an author anyway (just a novice author).

And so...with the tutelage of this wonderful person who smacked me upside the head and said "Yo - you are NOT on the PATH!  It's over here...." and any fine people I meet upon the way, I will learn to become a brilliant author who will turn out great books that people will *love* to read.  (I'm so humble). 

This blog will share with you my experiences as I travel along this path, learn and grow.  And along the way, I will be sharing my critiques of the books I read from my new *author* point of view as I learn the tools of the trade.

I invite you to join me on my quest and read a few good books along the way.

©2009 Red Velvet Reads | by TNB