Tuesday, January 31, 2012

F.A.Q. How do you write?

My writing process changes over time. The only consistent element is that I write 6 days a week. Here's a basic idea of how I write.

I start with an idea. I flush it out and outline the main components, like the hero and heroine's inner conflicts, the external conflict, twists in the plot and the general sequence of events. I usually get a strong sense of the beginning and the ending.

I write the first draft. That takes 6-8 weeks working at least an hour a day, more often 2-3 hours. While I write, I re-read in blocks and ship chapters off to my critique partner. She sends those back and I review her comments in case the book has gone off the rails completely. I make some changes, leaving most of the comments as items to review later.

I don't write with the TV on, the radio playing, or with an internet browser opened. It's just me and my characters. When I need to multitask or when I know I'll have distractions, that's when answer emails and work on promotional stuff.

I start writing the query letter, usually just key phrases I think might work and jot down a skeleton synopsis.

Occasionally (more often then I'd like), I realize a major problem and do a massive rewrite. But those situations I try to avoid. *smile*

I periodically email myself copies of the manuscript for back up purposes.

When I've finished the draft and have had all the chapters critiqued, I read through the entire manuscript with the remaining comments. Sometimes, they are suggestions I wasn't sure I liked or changes I wasn't sure worked. I make revisions taking into account revelations I've had while writing.

I revise. I make more comments and changes. Layer in details. Repeat this step some number of times.

I re-read the entire book and smooth out problems. I resolve all comments and suggestions. At this point, the book is almost finished.

Then I re-read the entire revised manuscript. If I can read it without needing too many changes (typos: fine, major flaws: not fine), then I feel like it's ready to be sent out.

I revise the query and synopsis. I read it every day for a week, tuning and changing, editing and tweaking. When I can read it for 3-5 days without thinking parts need to work, I consider it ready to mail off to Harlequin.

What's your writing process? Have a time saving process?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

F.A.Q. Where do you get your ideas?

When someone learns I'm a soon-to-be published author with Harlequin Romantic Suspense, the most frequent question I'm asked is, "Where do you get your ideas?"

The answer is simple. Lots of places! I can normally pinpoint exactly what set off a story idea or who inspired a character's traits.

Real life is a great source of inspiration.

I have a friend from another country who came to America, fell in love with an American man, and they wanted to marry. The American man and America was okay with it. The woman's family - who were royalty in her country - were not happy with the marriage. Her parents wanted their daughter to marry someone of her social and economic stature - and from her native country.

I have another friend in the opposite situation. She went to another country, met a man, fell in love. She wanted to marry him and bring him home to America. They married and then learned that America was not okay with allowing this man inside the border. He had committed a crime in his youth, and despite petitions and the amount of time that had passed since the crime, this couple had to jump through fire hoops to be together in America.

I was even-exchanging a shirt I received as a gift for a different size and due to the difference in tax rates, the balance was $0.05. I didn't have cash on me and was getting ready to charge the $0.05. The man behind me, a complete stranger, hands over the nickel. I turn to thank him and I find myself looking up at a tall, handsome paramedic with a 1000 watt smile. Hero material for sure.

I also get ideas from the news, music (especially country music), television, conversations I overhear, and nonfiction books (plenty of, "but what if such-and-such had happened instead?").

Everything goes into my mind, gets twisted together with my imagination, and out pops a book idea. Sometimes the idea is not complex enough to form an entire book and it gets jotted into a notepad text file and saved for later. Other times, it spawns a complete novel.

Where do you get your book ideas?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Harlequin Pitch Contests

I received an email from one of the winners of the Harlequin Romantic Suspense Pitch Contest asking me about my online pitching experiences.

Harlequin holds online pitch contests quarterly, possibly more often, for various imprints. It's a chance to enter a contest (a FREE contest) and win time with an editor to sell them on your book idea. Worst case, it's pitching practice. Best case, you get a request and can send your materials as REQUESTED MATERIALS.

I thought I would share what I told her in case anyone else finds this helpful:

- If you can, have a one line blurb ready to answer the question, "What is you book about?" When I did the pitch contest, I was given 10 minutes with an editor in an online chat room. The time flies and you don't want to waste time thinking over how to succinctly discuss your book. For ideas, read the back cover blurbs on HRS books (they are on the Harlequin website)

- Prepare a few statements about what makes your book unique from other HRS books. Maybe you have a hero with an interesting job or a setting that hasn't been used often. Bringing this to the editor's attention will show how your book is "the same, but different", which is a phrase I've heard several times from Harlequin editors.

- HRS is more romance than suspense (as opposed to Intrigue, which focuses more on the suspense), so I'd have in mind a few ideas about how to discuss the romantic conflict, and the internal conflicts for both the hero and heroine.

- If you haven't already listened to them, the HRS podcasts are useful.

In my experience, the editors are really nice and understand we're nervous. So if you have typos or fumble a bit, that's fine. Just keep going!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


My book is soon-to-be published and therefore I have not been reviewed on any websites, magazines, or newspapers. I have begun to think about (and prepare) for when my book is reviewed. Not everyone is going to like it. Some of those people may be book reviewers.

This is a great post on what to do about a negative review: what to do

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My First Book Title

My first book with Harlequin Romantic Suspense has an official title:

Hiding His Witness

I love it. So excited. Thrilled, in fact.

Most of the Harlequin books I've read have titles that clearly spell out what the book is about and mine is no exception. I had some other title suggestions, including one that my editor also had thought of and liked, but the title can't be too similar to other books due out around the time mine is released.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Art Fact Sheet and Book Title

If you've been following my progress since receiving a contract offer from Harlequin Romantic Suspense, I've been doing my best to track my writing activity on this blog. I hope it is helpful to get details from a soon-to-be published author about what happens after The Call.

Yesterday, I was introduced to the system Harlequin uses for creating cover art and back cover copy. The artists and editors ask for author input, such as suggested scenes, descriptions of characters, and plot synopsis. The hardest part for me is explaining the book briefly to someone who has never read it. I sink into the thick of my plot and my characters and it's hard to take a step back and type a few sentences explaining clearly what the book is about.

My editor (every time I type those words, I feel like a rock star...) also asked for a few suggestions for titles. My working title is Double Witness, which is lacking on the romance side. I'm doing some brainstorming at the moment and have a list of possible words to use. I'm trying some mixing and matching to see what I can come up with for a good book title. I have a few pet peeves about books titles, and while I don't have final say on the title, I'd like to steer mine away from those.

In other news, my first draft of my next book is complete. I'm starting revisions today.

Thanks for reading!