How Not to Write: Romance

Edmund Blair LeightonIf you want me to abandon your book mid-read, please have nothing happen.

Have you ever read a book that would have made a good short story or novella, but instead was fluffed out to make it “book length”? I have (of course I have, I’m the one ranting about it, right?) It was a sweet 50 page love story that had been stretched to 150 pages. The author only gave us two or three conversations between the main characters, but she told us what they ate for EVERY meal. They met, they liked each other, got to know each other a little, there was a conflict about him staying in town, and it was resolved. Nice neat story. The extra fluff ruined it for me.
Romance novels need just as much plot as other novels. SOMETHING has to happen. The characters need to do something, say something, go somewhere, earn something, lose something…I don’t really care what they do, but they need to do more than like each other, do nothing, and end up together at the end. If I’m on page 100 of a 200 page novel, and there’s no reason for your couple not to be together, you either need to add 100 more pages of plot to keep them apart (for real reasons, not dumb ones, please) or end it and make it a novella.

What do you do when you’re 50 pages from the end of a book and you realize the plot is exhausted?

Painting by Edmund Blair Leighton


A Proposal For The Rest of Us

ProposalRejection_004-wAny first time authors out there have a proposal that led to publication  they’d be wiling to share? I’m proposing the creation of a How To Write A Proposal book for the rest of us.

What do I mean?
I’m working on a proposal for a non-fiction book right now so I’m reading a book on How To Write A Book Proposal. Very good book, good tips and information, but I find myself discouraged by the sample proposals provided. This is not the first How To book (or blog) to make me feel this way.

Sample proposals tend to fall into two categories: the Do and Don’t. Category Don’t reads something like this:

I have written the best book in the history of the world. It will be a bets sellar, so jump on teh bandwagon now! I’m looking for a huge advance and my uncle works for UPS, so don’t worry about shipping. If I don’t hear from you in a few weeks, don’t worry; I’ll find you!

It’s so bad that I feel really good about my chances: I know how to use Spell Check and that I should hint at stalking the editor. Then I move on to Category Do which reads something like this:

Author speaks in 50 major cities around the country every year and has thirty years of experience in the field related to her book. She has 490,000 followers on her blog and her first two books received rave reviews and had to be reprinted because demand was so high. 

How am I supposed to compete with that? I can’t. Not yet. (Keep the hope alive, right folks!)

So I think someone should make a How To book of samples for The Rest of Us: those of us who have not yet been published, who cannot travel the country at this stage of our lives, whose platform is small but growing, and who fall somewhere between the Do and Don’t samples.  What should a proposal look like for someone like ME?

Any tips from those of you who have gone before?


Writing Tips From A Gardener

P1020974The more comparisons I draw between writing and gardening, the more appreciative I become of the creative process.  Here are a few of the ways growing plants and growing ideas are similar and what I’ve learned about both.

1. Waiting is essential and if you’re patient, you’ll enjoy the experience.  In the garden you plant, you weed, you water…and then you have to wait.  You can’t speed up the growing process.  You can’t speed up the writing process either.  (I’ve tried begging, pep talks, persuasion – on both plants and keyboards – and it does’t work.)  You get a good idea, develop it, put words on paper…and then you wait.  You wait a few weeks before you edit so you have fresh eyes, you wait while a few trusted friends read your work and give you feedback, and after you finally submit, you wait forever and a day.  Thankfully, it’s worth the wait.

P10101172. The weather is not always pleasant, but the diligent worker reaps a harvest.  Some writing days feel like it’s 60 degrees and sunny: the words flow, the muses are singing your song, and you could go on forever.  But to reap a harvest worth sharing, you also need to weed and water when it’s 100 degrees and humid; when it feels like work.

3. You must weed.  If it doesn’t belong in the story, pull it out.  This applies to poor wording, cheesy similes, beloved but useless characters,and  stagnant plot points, but it can apply to great writing as well. A rose can be a weed if your garden’s focus is vegetables. Plant the rose elsewhere.

P10103704. Harvest time is magic.  It’s a special joy to see the fruit of your hard work. Blogging is like planting radishes: you put it out there and get almost instantaneous feedback.  A book is more like a fruit tree: it can take years to harvest that produce.  I greatly enjoy my radishes, but I’m taking good care of my trees as well: here’s hoping that my fruit harvest comes in soon.

What’s worse for you: the weeding or the waiting?