Whenever I’ve asked a writing instructor or workshop facilitator about prologues, I’ve encountered a variety of negative facial expressions—everything from a wince to a frown to a quick shake of the head. And the following responses:
Agents hate prologues.
Readers will skip to the first chapter.
Prologues = Information Dumps.
One instructor offered a ray of hope: Use only if the prologue adds an interesting and integral layer to the narrative.
Interesting and Integral…Definitely a challenge and one I decided to tackle in Too Many Women in the Room, Book 2 of the Gilda Greco Mystery Series.
But first, I needed to get more information about the Uses and Misuses of Prologues. Here’s what I discovered:
Use a Prologue to…
• Provide information that is crucial to understanding the rest of the story. In Too Many Women in the Room, I needed to introduce the victim’s voice. Having written the rest of the novel in the first-person POV, I wanted the reader to be privy to the thoughts and feelings of the victim in his final hour.
• Provide clues. Red herrings are an important component of cozy mysteries. In Too Many Women in the Room, the initial crime scene contains vital details that form the basis for these red herrings.
• Hook the reader. If the actual crime doesn’t occur for several chapters, it is a good idea to whet the reader’s appetite with a prologue. But—and a big but—the interim chapters also need hooks to keep the reader engaged.
Don’t Use a Prologue to…
• Introduce a voice or tone that is not as engaging as the rest of the novel.
• Dispose of the entire back story. Much better to incorporate bits and pieces throughout the novel.
• Introduce an overly-dramatic voice and then switch to a much quieter voice.
From Too Many Women in the Room…
He couldn’t believe he was following his wife’s advice. After twelve years of paying lip service to deep yoga breaths, mindfulness, and all the other New Age crap she espoused, he had finally found a use for it. His midnight run usually sorted out all the stress, but tonight was different. He still couldn’t shake the venom that had been directed his way.
To make matters worse, it had come from eight women, eight very different and very annoying women. He had bedded four, but right now he couldn’t imagine having sex with any of them. As for the untouched four, well, only one interested him, and it had nothing to do with her feminine wiles and everything to do with her healthy bank account.
He would have to take something to get through the night, something a lot stronger than his wife’s herbal teas. The remnants of an old Percocet prescription came to mind. Two capsules might do the trick. The thought of a panacea, albeit a chemical one, calmed his racing thoughts.
A good night’s sleep would make a world of difference. And tomorrow, he would sort it out.
The light patter of feet distracted him. Definitely a woman’s gait. Her breath was even, neither shallow nor panting. Younger, maybe in her thirties. His pulse quickened, and a smile spread over his features. A welcome distraction. Just what he needed to erase the built-up stress. To hell with deep breathing, affirmations, and Percocet.
When I shared an early draft of A Season for Killing Blondes, a beta reader complimented me on my use of red herrings and suggested the title could also be considered a red herring.
Puzzled, I asked for clarification.
She explained, “A red herring is a literary device that leads readers toward a false conclusion. Glancing at the title, I expected to read a thriller about a serial killer who had designated a specific time period for the Rampage.” She winked. “That’s definitely not the case here.”
A bit worried, I wondered if I was misleading my readers. Would they expect a thriller and be disappointed when my novel turned out to be a cozy?
She assured me that the title was well-suited to a cozy mystery that featured a brunette lottery winner as the primary suspect and four dead blondes killed during a two-week period. And she doubted that anyone would be disappointed at the end.
After our conversation, I decided to do more research into red herrings.
Several theories exist regarding the origin of the expression. Some believe that it refers to the use of a kipper (strong-smelling smoked fish) to train hounds to follow a scent. Another theory points to escaping convicts who used red herrings to throw off hounds in pursuit.
Many of the plots in Agatha Christie’s novels contain red herrings. In And Then There Were None, we assume a character who goes missing is the killer. Later, when his body is washed up onshore, we realize that his absence was a red herring that misled the other characters and the readers.
In The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown expertly uses the character of Bishop Aringarosa as a red herring throughout the novel. While reading, we can easily imagine him as the mastermind of the church conspiracy and are surprised when the real culprit is revealed. Intrigued by the bishop’s unusual surname, I probed further and learned that “Aringarosa” translates into English as “red herring.”
Another famous red herring example appears in The Final Problem by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. While walking through the Swiss mountains with Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson receives a message that an Englishwoman at their hotel is in urgent need of health care. He rushes back to the hotel and discovers there is no Englishwoman. The message was a red herring sent by the villain Professor James Moriarty as a ruse to isolate Sherlock Holmes at the edge of a cliff.
To keep my readers guessing while reading A Season for Killing Blondes, I introduced a gaggle of suspects, among them a yoga teacher with anger management issues, a lecherous photographer, two “50something” mean girls, and fourteen ex-boyfriends.
From the reviews, I gathered that I had succeeded in maintaining the readers’ interest until the final chapters. My favorite comes from The Romance Reviews: “A well-written, character-driven murder mystery that genuinely had me scratching my head until the very end wondering who dun’ it!?”
During my cancer journey, I read Louise Hay’s book, You Can Heal Your Life, and developed an interest in affirmations.
What is an affirmation?
An affirmation states an outcome or truth you wish to impress upon your mind. While the affirmation doesn’t actually make things happen, it can raise your vibration so that you are more receptive to the desired outcome.
At first wary, I slowly warmed up to the topic and adopted several of Louise’s suggestions:
Every cell of my body radiates health.
I relax and let my body heal itself.
I lovingly do everything I can to assist my body in maintaining physical health.
I also liked using the following mantra-like affirmation from French psychologist Émile Coué de la Châtaigneraie:
Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.
Having experienced success with these health-based affirmations, I decided to use this technique to help achieve my writing goals. And I wanted to create my own personal affirmations rather than piggy-backing on someone else’s success.
Here are the affirmations I’ve used during the past eleven years of my writing journey:
My words flow easily.
Each day, I write with confidence and enthusiasm.
I submit a manuscript that is well received by a publishing house.
Joyful and creative, I delight in inspiring and motivating others with my written work.
Tips for Writing and Using Affirmations
1. Use the first person and the present tense.
2. Keep the affirmations brief and limited. Focus on one or two until you’ve incorporated them into your psyche.
3. Don’t sabotage yourself with an unrealistic goal. For example, “My book achieves best-seller status” is too much of a jump for an unpublished writer who is struggling with the first draft of her book.
4. Practice your affirmations each day. You can say them first thing in the morning, while looking in the mirror, or while exercising.
5. Write down your affirmations. You can stick them on your mirror or bulletin board, post them on your computer, or carry them in your purse or wallet.
“Everybody allows that the talent of writing agreeable letters is peculiarly female. Nature may have done something, but I am sure it must be essentially assisted by the practice of keeping a journal.” ~ Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey.
Despite Miss Jane’s quotation above, what do Marcus Aurelius, Louisa May Alcott, Thomas Edison, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Epictetus the Roman Slave have in common? They all kept extensive journals, recording their wistful desires, their secret needs, and the history going on around them. Journals that historians have found, read, and preserved for future generations.
While it’s fun to read other people’s words, especially those written during epic historical times, the beauty of these scribblings is that they were never meant to be public. They were private conversations between the writer, his head, and his heart. I’m sure if Epictetus knew one day, over two thousand years after his death, that his journal would be one of the most important primary historical sources regarding Ancient Rome, he probably wouldn’t have bothered searching for ink and papyrus.
But if people didn’t journal for posterity, why did they bother?
To heal the mind.
A 2011 study in Science found that students who journaled about their upcoming math exams had less anxiety about their tests and received higher grades. Why? The researchers believe that “…by acknowledging their fears, students were able to tame distracting emotions.”
Perhaps because writing slows down the mind, it’s a perfect way to examine your day, your worries, your joys, and all of the things going on around you. Journaling offers the writer a chance to lay out the disparate points of her life and make sense of it all. Often, when journaling, I realized I was happy/mad/annoyed/etc about a certain situation that on the surface seemed trivial. Writing things out by hand can be the best form of therapy, it helps you find patterns in your life that are both helpful and hurtful. Journaling releases unresolved or repressed emotions and fears.
Whether you’re new to journaling, or an expert, here are a few tips to up your diary game:
It may take practice to figure this out, but finding your optimum journaling time is key to making this a successful habit. In Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way, she suggests morning pages. The writer writes first thing in the morning and fills three journal pages without stopping. The sentences can be non-stop, there can be off-color words and thoughts, it can even be a grocery or to-do list. On the other hand, the Roman philosopher Seneca wrote every night after his wife went to bed. Supposedly, Seneca once confided, “I examine my entire day and go back over what I’ve done and said, hiding nothing from myself, passing nothing by.”
Since this is a notebook where you’re going to bare your soul on a daily basis, it’s important you love what you’re writing in. That doesn’t mean it has to be fancy or expensive. It could be a legal pad or a college-ruled notebook. What it looks like doesn’t matter. What matters is it fits who you are and your writing style. The same goes for pens. Use what you love, not what’s in style.
What this really means is as soon as you start writing, write as fast as you can to kill your inner editor. If your inner critic can’t keep up as you skim along the pages, he’ll go away. The same advice works on your handwriting. If it’s messy, let it go. This is for your eyes only. Some writers I know say they never reread what they’ve written in their journals. They write their souls onto the page and move on. Neatness doesn’t matter.
…to yourself. Your journal is your friend. If all you have to say one day is “I’m tired”, be kind to yourself and say “that’s okay.” Keeping a journal isn’t a race or a competition. It’s a private collection of thoughts that help you make sense of all the good and bad things you’ve experienced in the last twenty-four hours. The great thing about friends? They don’t expect you to be perfect. So let the perfection go.
You can journal morning pages, or night-time reflections. Or you can keep a gratitude or prayer journal. I know others who keep vision journals where the write about the things they hope for in their lives. Then there are those who track their mood and health. What that Science journal found was that it didn’t matter so much what you were writing about. It was the act of writing that subdued a person’s anxiety.
It was the act of writing that brought peace.
And who doesn’t need more of that in their lives?
Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets meet their match in smart, sexy heroines who teach these alpha males that Grace always defeats Reckoning.
Her acclaimed debut book EVERY DEEP DESIRE, a sexy, action-packed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, is about an ex-Green Beretdetermined to regain his honor, his freedom, and his wife.
Well, it’s not exactly writer’s block … sort of. In 2015, my cousin and I took a trip to Scotland to follow some family ancestry as well as for me to do some research for the fifth book in my series, “Partners, Heart of the Phoenix”. For my main character, AJ Donovan, it took years to find the Scots-Irish father he thought had abandoned him. Now a father himself for the first time, he and his wife, Quin, chose to take a trip to Scotland where Ethan Donovan and his family currently lived. AJ was excited to meet his many half siblings and introduce his son, Reilly to his grandparents.
Ethan’s landscaping business had made him quite wealthy and that wealth bought him enemies. Unfortunately, some of his enemies were within his own family. He had to determine which of his children were embezzling funds from the family business. AJ’s siblings welcomed him warmly … except one. This brother perceived AJ as a threat to his inheritance – to the point he was willing to eliminate him.
At the RWA conference last year I roomed with a friend who was retired military and had spent much of her life in Scotland and Ireland. She pointed out several flaws in Irish-Scottish relationships that made the background for my story somewhat implausible. Changing those details would require changing background facts going back to Book I. So, I pushed the book aside and went on to other things. Not a good way to enhance a successful writing career.
So, one of the annual writing conferences I attend is “20 Books to 50K”, the focus of which is indie authors supporting indie authors. They are in Vegas every year but have also been doing conferences in Europe. This year, in July, it will be in Scotland. I was immediately interested. It’s time to go back and seek my muse. I need to work through the story issues and come back with the ideas I need to fix them. Not to mention that Edinburgh, Scotland is one of my favorite places in the world.
I’m curious if other writers find new energy when doing research in countries where your story takes place. Do exposure and new facts make you more zealous to get back to your story?
Last summer, I read several books with unsatisfying endings. In one case, I wondered if the novel had been worth my time and attention. The author had started with a compelling opening, the characters were well-developed, and each chapter ended on a suspenseful note.
Where did she go wrong?
Two-thirds of the way through the book, she introduced a character who had no connection to any of the other characters. In fact, I would suggest she literally pulled him out of thin air so she could pin the murder on him.
Afterward, I started to wonder about the conclusions to my own books. Had I made an impact on the reader and encouraged her to buy the next book in the series? Or had I disappointed her with a contrived or unsatisfactory ending?
I reread my editor’s comments and checked with several beta readers who reassured me that I had ended on the right note. I also reread notes from workshops and seminars. Here are five tips to consider when writing that final chapter:
1. Decide on an ending that is appropriate for your genre. If you are writing a thriller or murder mystery, a strong build-up with plausible suspects and fast-paced action should lead to the resolution of major plot points. Romance readers expect an HEA (Happily ever after) or HFN (Happily for now) ending. If you are not comfortable with that expectation, write the novel as women’s fiction. With fantasy and science fiction, endings that leave room for the imagination can be very satisfying. Literary fiction tends to have endings featuring all degrees of resolution.
2. Refrain from moralizing or delivering a hard-hitting lesson to make a point or teach a lesson. Instead, let your characters reveal what they have learned through their actions and situations.
3. Avoid improbable endings. Some authors get tangled up in plot lines and introduce a fantastical or outlandish event such as the sudden appearance of a ghost with homicidal tendencies or a dream sequence that negates the entire storyline. These endings work only if groundwork has appropriately been established throughout the book. For example, missing items and unexplained events could justify the introduction of a ghost or other supernatural being.
4. Structure books in series such that your reader will want to continue reading. Decide which subplots you intend to wrap up and which you will leave dangling to create anticipation for the next book in the series. You may also wish to introduce a complication (appearance of an old flame, job offer or firing, marriage proposal) that needs to be further developed.
5. Pay particular attention to the final sentence, image, or line of dialogue. A vague closing line can cast a shadow over the entire novel while a powerful one will linger in memory.
Here are my favorite closing lines:
“After all, tomorrow is another day.” Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
“He loved Big Brother.” 1984 by George Orwell
“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
“We sat there for a long time, till the crowd around us thinned, till the sun shifted and the light changed. Till we felt our eyes could meet again, without the tears.” Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
“Very few castaways can claim to have survived so long at seas as Mr. Patel, and none in the company of an adult Bengal tiger.” Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Five years ago, I decided to quit feeling sorry for myself and do something about it. You see, I’d recently moved away from home and was lost and lonely.
But, I had a dream.
One I’d carried in the back of my mind for years. I wanted to write a book. Deciding the genre was the easy part. Romance. I was an avid reader of romance novels. They took me to faraway places, fed my spirit and thrilled my heart.
Yep, romance it was.
Okay, now what?
I had a computer that I used for my bookkeeping, but had no idea how to use it as a writing tool. I needed to learn though, my lefty handwriting was atrocious- that wouldn’t work.
I searched online and found RWA® Romance Writers of America, a group of thousands geared toward helping authors better their craft. I also managed to find a local writing group and gathered up the courage to go to one of their meetings where I immediately felt at home. I joined both and began to take classes to learn the art.
It took time (I’m still a work-in-progress) but finally, FINALLY I published my first book in September of 2014.
I could barely contain the excitement blooming in my chest to see a book with MY name on it for sale. But then came the realization. People were going to read it. My heart and soul on those pages and they were all out there– I felt sick.
The reviews trickled in, some good, some not so much, but the addiction was born. I loved to write!
This week I’m celebrating that momentous moment by sharing my first book with you- free!
Nick jogged through the early morning streets, Jake trotting by his side, enjoying the peace and quiet before the town woke for the day. Little songbirds greeted him as he passed a cedar hedge on his way to the park. The air was fresh and cool at this hour. He was glad his strength had returned, his breathing even and stride long. It’d been an uphill battle. For a while after the ambush he’d shut down. Closed everyone out. He wished now he’d made it his business to keep in touch with all his old teammates. The faint sounds of a dog’s bark had Nick looking down at Jake, loping alongside. He’d healed up well, and only flinched at sudden loud noises these days. His hip had taken the brunt of the damage. When the explosion had thrown them, Nick worried he’d need to put him down, but he’d pulled through. Tough mutt.
After his run, he would head over to Sara’s and have a look at those files, see what they were looking at here. Nick had a bad feeling that Tommy boy was into some heavy shit. They needed to solve that first, before there could be a chance for him and Sara.
A sudden sharp pain stabbed him behind the eyes, causing him to falter. Jake whined, sensing his distress. Squinting through slit eyes he spotted a nearby bench, and slumped onto the seat. He pushed a shaky hand through his hair, and then using his thumb and middle finger squeezed in towards his nose, relieving the pressure. “It’s okay, boy. I’m fine. Let’s just take a little break, hmm.” The doctor had explained in excruciating detail while he lay in that hospital in Germany, how lucky he was. The explosion had hit him and sent him flying right up against the stone wall of a nearby house. Shrapnel had gouged a deep line on his forehead, right above his old bullet wound. A centimeter farther to the left and it would have been lights out, of the forever kind. Unfortunately, it’d taken his short-term memory away from him. He’d been told it would come back in dribbles, or one big slam––or maybe not ever. Nice. It angered him that he couldn’t break through the fog to discover the truth of what happened to him and his team. There was something there he could feel it.
He supposed he should be grateful he could remember his childhood, though those memories he could have lived without. Years of mental and physical abuse at the hands of his old man had sent him down nothing but a path of trouble during his high school years. Alcohol, substance abuse, vagrancy, you name it he tried it. His motto had been if you’re not living on the edge, you’re just taking up space.
Then he’d met Kendra in one of the few classes he’d decided to show up for and they’d fallen in love. She’d been the only child of lawyer parents, sweet and innocent. The odds had gone against him when they’d had unprotected sex on a hot summer’s night. She’d gotten pregnant. At least he’d done the right thing and proposed. And though her parents of course hated him, they agreed the marriage should take place. Maybe if they’d stopped it, or if he’d just walked away, Kendra and his son would still be alive today.
They’d been too young, and in the end, it tore them apart. He couldn’t even recall what the fight had been about––no doubt his lack of a ‘respectable’ job. He’d been working at a local garage at the time––all he did remember was getting up to answer the door, only to see two uniforms on the other side. Devastated, blaming himself, he spent the next couple of months shit-faced drunk. Coming out of an alcohol-induced daze one day he saw a poster for enlisting in the marines. Not caring much whether he lived or died at that point, he’d signed up. They sent him to Lackland Airforce Base in San Antonio, where he met Jake. They’d been inseparable ever since.
The searing pressure eased enough for him to open his eyes. Jake sat with his head cocked to the side, his ears laid back in commiseration. Nick nudged him with his knee and gave his sides a good hard rub, Jake groaning his thanks. “Okay, big guy, what do you say to finishing our run?” He’d learned a long time ago that pushing through the pain was often the best medicine.
He had that in common with Sara. She’d gone through both a physical and a mental trauma that would have crushed most. She was doing great, but he bet a violation like that was something from which no woman ever fully recovered.
It humbled him that she had trusted him enough to allow him to make love to her last night. Nick would never hurt a hair on her head, but there was no real way for her to be sure of that. He hoped and prayed no one would ever crush her again, and swore to do everything in his power to make sure of that, starting with Sheridan. If those files contained half of what Sara had intimated they did, he’d need some help. Checking to make sure no one was around, he pulled his cell out of his sweats and made the call.
“Hey, Chief, how are you? It’s Nick, Nickolaus Kelley. Long time, sir, too long. Shit, I’ve missed the team. How’s the whizz kid?” A big grin split his face as he listened to Frank describing Jared’s latest and greatest.
“No kidding, trust Martin to take the term, Land of opportunity, to a whole new level, right?” He laughed. Man, it was good to talk to the chief again. Why did people always let the important ones in their lives fall to the wayside, while they went about the business of life?
He could well believe Jared had almost shut down the strip; the man was scary good with electronics. “I understand that you’re out of the loop these days, sir, but I was hoping I could ask you, and Jared if he’s still with you, for a helping hand. I have a situation here and could really use your input.”
Relief coursed through his veins at the quick response to his plea. “I’ll tell you all about it when you arrive. Tomorrow then, and thanks—Frank.”
If you’re an indie author, like me, you know there’s a lot more to creating a successful marketing plan than writing the book. While an engrossing story is important, it doesn’t do you any good if no one knows about it.
Editing, beta reading and critique groups are a good start and a necessary set of steps in order to make your book baby look the best it can (on the inside.)
But what do you do after that?
GET A PROFESSIONAL COVER ARTIST!
I can’t say how many times I’ve been turned off of what could have been an award-winning story because of a weak cover.
One of the first things any potential buyer is drawn to, whether online, a library, or in a brick and mortar store is a standout cover. It is critically important that YOU, as a hard-working writer, DO NOT skip this important marketing step.
Okay, you have your masterpiece and the perfect frame for it, now what?
I recommend creating 5-6 memes that you can switch out in your social media posts. Try Canva or Covers Sell Books, both are great. Yes, you need to play nice on Facebook and Twitter 🙂
Seriously though, having a strong social media presence is crucial if you want to get the word out about your books.
Next, set up a newsletter–you’ve been building up subscribers at the same time you’re building SM contacts, right? :)–and send it out with the big news. It’s recommended not to push your sales, so take the time to be personable. Your followers want to know you, share a piece of you and they will respond, trust me!
We’re doing great!
Books are selling, reviews are trickling in, but then as time goes by the initial excitement wanes, now what?
Placing your book on sale is a good marketing strategy. Not only do you regenerate interest in the product you’re promoting, but it often gains you readers for the rest of your backlist, as well.
Again, this is where your growing social media connections can count. Rather than shoving the sale in their faces though, use those pretty memes you made and share them on Twitter and Facebook group pages in your chosen genre.
I also like to book professional sites to share my sale, such as ereader News Today, Book Gorilla, and ebook Discovery, to name a few. Just make sure to decide on a budget beforehand, and stick to it. Keep in mind that while on the dace of it, your sale book may not pay out the cost of the fees, subsequent sales on all your books will continue for days or weeks after as your name moves up in Amazon (or other retailers) algorithms.
Another choice you can make is upgrading to a new cover. Maybe, for whatever reason, the old cover isn’t doing its job of catching the attention of new readers. This is a guessing game, of course, but sometimes a cover with brighter colors, or a stronger image can make all the difference.
I’ve decided to take that course of action with my 1950’s murder mystery, Missing: The Lady Said No. The title was clunky, so I dropped the Missing and added An Augustus Grant Mystery subtitle to define the series.
The original cover was dark and moody, and didn’t explain the era as well as I wanted it to.
The new cover is flashy, using a bright, bold color palette and an eye-catching image that does a much better job of hinting at the genre and storyline.
JACQUIE BIGGAR is a USA Today bestselling author of Romantic Suspense who loves to write about tough, alpha males and strong, contemporary women willing to show their men that true power comes from love.
Free reads, excerpts, author news, and contests can be found on her web site:
After spending over three decades dreaming about the novels I would write during my retirement years, I was totally unprepared for the tyranny of the blank page. Thankfully, that first bout of writer’s block didn’t last too long. Inspiration came a month later at a creative writing workshop.
Several other bouts followed, some longer than others. Workshops and seminars definitely helped and so did the following strategies:
1. Change it up. Use pen and paper instead of a computer. If you’ve always written in the morning, switch to evening writing. Find a new writing café or create a new workplace in your home.
2. Improve your writing circumstances. Change the lighting, keep a coffee or tea pot nearby, declutter your desk, or hang up an inspirational poster.
3. Write something that comes easily–a letter, a recipe, a poem–and then return to your original project.
4. Move your body. Dance, run, practice yoga or Tai Chi, revisit a sport or fitness activity. Get your body into flow and your mind will follow.
5. Take up a new creative pursuit: painting, scrapbooking, decoupage, woodworking, quilting, weaving…If you’re stuck, buy an adult coloring book stock up on colored pencils, and start coloring.
6. Journal or free-write for 15 to 20 minutes each morning. You can write about random subjects or personal issues. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or punctuation.
7. Sign up for a Continuing Education course that is out of your comfort zone. You could learn a new language, practice karate, or take a Japanese cooking class.
8. Make a list of all possible directions in which your manuscript could go. Don’t exclude any ideas, even silly or unworkable ones. Try out one or more of these directions until something clicks.
9. Set a reasonable deadline and offer yourself a substantial reward for finishing the manuscript. Share with a friend who will keep you accountable.
10. Participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). During the month of November, writers worldwide commit to writing 50K words in one month. I participated for the first time in 2016 and wrote 51K of a cozy mystery, A Different Kind of Reunion (released by the The Wild Rose Press in April 2018). In 2017, I wrote 55K of a stand-alone novel. I connected with a local group and met regularly throughout the month. It was a great experience!
I am a woman, and therefore, as enlightened as I like to think I am, I still have a female point of view…which can sometimes be annoyingly skewed.
As a writer, I am often writing in a male point of view and like to think I do a damned good job of it because throughout my life I have worked side by side with many men, and have a decent understanding of how the male mind operates. Or so I thought.
But here’s the thing.
Readers constantly say they love how real, how authentic my male characters are. But are they? Or do I follow the myth of what women generally believe? Perhaps the men I create are the kind we would like to have in our lives.
The question then becomes, does it matter? Fiction is fiction after all, and creating characters a reader can love and relate to is what matters, right? Right!
But every once in a while I feel a need to validate my hero’s thoughts and actions and that’s when I do the scary thing. I ask a man. A real live, breathing male what he would have done in the same situation. What his thoughts might have been.
Sometimes I get the answer I want. Sometimes I don’t. But I always get something I can add to my understanding of the male mind, and often I get an answer that makes me laugh.
My hubby is my go-to guy for these questions because he’s one of those men who is totally stumped by a female perspective, which means I never get an answer tempered to fit the question.
Just now I did a test, for the fun of the blog. I asked him what color these scarves were. He said one was blue and the other was red. I see turquoise, and a reddish orange pattern on apricot which creates and overall burnt orange, but his male mind sees only the straightforward, none of the nuance.
Last week I had an important question for him. I came out of my writing cave and leaned on the door jamb. “Question,” I said, and he instantly gave me his attention because although he doesn’t read my books, he’s right into my writing and loves to help.
Me: “The hero has spent months trying to track down the woman he loves and finally finds her far from home, down and out, bone thin, and living on the streets. When he gets her to the safety of a hotel room, will he jump her bones?” (I asked this because it happened sort of like a celebration in the first draft of the story, but when I was editing it seemed insensitive.)
Hubby: “Is she asking for it or is he?”
Geeze, I hadn’t thought of that. Okay, I roll with it.
Me: “She wants it, but she’s skinny and looking pretty rough. Not attractive at all.”
Hubby: “He won’t say no.”
Me: “If she doesn’t want/ask/push for sex?”
Hubby: “He’ll look after her first. Wait until she does.”
And that, my friends, changed an entire scene in the book, and made it better. Much, much better! I realised that the heroine was going to want sex for validation of their relationship, to feel connected again, and that was yet another flaw in her I could explore.
It also added another facet to Jason’s personality. He was already a nurturing kind of man, but now he became aware of Kate’s need to use sex as… LOL… I’ll stop here and just say the title of the book is DIAMONDS TO DIE FOR, and it will be out at the end of September.
Meantime, MISSING—Broughton and Alexandra’s story is coming out in less than a month and is available for pre-order now.
Caleb Broughton is a man’s man, and the last thing he needs is a greener-than-grass new partner—especially a woman he’s been avoiding for months. But when a plane suddenly vanishes, nothing else matters.