The “What Makes a Best Seller” #SmutChat

Thanks for participating in #smutchat tonight! Also, thank you for putting up with erratic scheduling this week. I have a friend coming in from out of town next week, and rather than try to work around it, I gambled and changed the dates.

I’ve been busy this week trying to do some editing things for a friend and for myself so I can enjoy next week without worrying about unfinished business.

Anyway, thanks again for dropping by #smutchat! I’ll see you in two weeks!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway


Read to Me, Baby!

Many have you may have realized I’ve disappeared off social media for a bit. If you haven’t, uh. Anyway, so I’ve been editing the first book in my Tower City Romance Trilogy. I’ve been working on this for a while now, and I’m so close to publishing, I can taste it.


But editing is a bitch, and it seems like no matter how much I do, it will never be enough. It doesn’t help that I’m taking an online editing class, and every time I complete lesson, I find a million more things wrong with my manuscript.

One class was extremely helpful though and we were told to either make Word read our work to us aloud or to read it ourselves. I can’t stand the sound of my own voice, and it’s a fact that you know what it says so your brain may fill in the blanks and you won’t catch what’s wrong, anyway. I didn’t know Word could read to you so I looked up the directions. You can find them here.

Quite simply, I fell in love with it. I can’t stop listening to my own work. I delight in hearing a perfect sentence or laugh when a piece dialogue sounds as good spoken as it did in my head. Of course, it’s not perfect. He doesn’t say some of my characters’ names right, and he skips over ellipses and em dashes. What does he get right? Well, he reads everything just as it’s written: the double words, the typos, the skipped words. I’m not sure a human could even do this level of proofreading. It’s not fail-proof, he doesn’t know I typed except when I meant accept, but that’s the beauty of him speaking it aloud, you can read along and correct as he goes.

The voice sounds more like this than that, but that’s okay.

This makes it tedious–it takes a long time to listen, correct, listen, correct, listen. Sometimes to the same paragraph over and over again. But I see more advantages of this than not. Audio is getting bigger and bigger, and there are a couple avenues indies can take to make audiobooks of their books.

ACX stands for Amazon Creative Exchange. Through ACX, for a fee, an indie can turn their book into audio and sell it alongside their books on Amazon.

Findaway Voices
Draft2Digital has partnered with Findaway Voices to give indies another choice than to go with Amazon to turn their books into audio. You can read about it here.

How cool is it that you already have an idea of how your book is going to sound if you decide to turn it into audio?  You won’t have to worry how that two-page paragraph, where, oops, you have six comma splices and five semicolons, will sound. You won’t have to worry if it sounds odd every time your characters speak to each other and they say each other’s names a million times.

Not to mention, that since you have already heard everything in your book spoken aloud, you really won’t have to do anything with your proof but make sure the inside and cover turned out.

So, this is what I’ve been doing for the past few days. I have a publishing date set for November, and I’ve been trying to get through this book. It’s slow going because as I said, he’s finding things I want to fix, so I do, then I listen and have to fix it if it doesn’t sound right, or if I made a mistake while I was fixing my mistake. Yeah, that happens. A lot. But I know that after all this is done, my book will sound the best I can make it.

Have you tried this? Tell me what you think!

Vania Blog Signature


#smutchat All the Lawyerly Writing

{This is the giveaway for the Smutchat of the evening of Sept. 21st. I’m posting a bit early, but if you see this and want to get a head start on the giveaway, knock yourself out! Have a great day!}

A special thank you to Nadia (@nadiadiament) and Ari (@Ari_Ross) for guest co-hosting #smutchat today! It was a great chat, and I hope you learned a little something about how to write believable law into your books.

We deal with the law every day, and sometimes those pesky details can trip you up. To help with that, remember to enter the drawing.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

There are two different books for the winner this week due to a little miscommunication between Nadia and me. I thought Ari was going to answer legal questions about self-publishing, so I bought Helen Sedwick’s book for the giveaway. When Nadia and I discussed the chat further, I realized my mistake and bought  Books, Crooks and Counselors, too! So, it’s your lucky week! Enjoy!


And as always, the giveaway is open internationally, so don’t be afraid to give it a try!

Thanks for playing!

The next #smutchat will be next week due to scheduling conflicts I have the first week of October, and the official date is September 28th at
7 Central. See you there! 

Do You Have a Publishing Plan?

Sometimes it’s difficult to plan what you’re going to cook for dinner much less where you want your writing career to be in five years. But whether you are writing for fun and only plan to write one book a year, if that, or you are planning to write and publish maybe as many as ten books a year, (It can be done. But should it? That’s a different blog post.) a publishing plan can help.


Setting deadlines is a wonderful way, and sometimes a necessary way, to force yourself to write regularly. Talking about writing is easy. “If I write 1,000 words a day, I can write a book in three months.” That sounds like a piece of cake, but if it were, everyone would do it. When you are a writer, you are your own boss. No one is going to make you get to work. You need the willpower to do that yourself. So when you say you want to write 1,000 words a day, stick with it. But don’t set impossible goals for yourself—you’ll just feel rejected and depressed when you can’t meet them.

A publishing plan can help you with a marketing plan. Are you writing a series? How are you going to publish them? All at once? Three months in between? What websites will you use to promote your books? How will you find reviews? A deadline can help so you can plan to give ARCs to readers who will hopefully review it. Will you contact bloggers to organize a blog tour? All these choices will be made more easily if you have a publishing plan.


Do you want to add more to your writing resume? Maybe start some freelance work? Or maybe you would like to start an editing service? Maybe that requires taking some editing courses and taking on some pro bono work to gather testimonials of what a great job you would do. If you want to branch out and not sacrifice time for your own work, fitting in extras like these would be easier if you had a plan.

For me, I know what books I want to write for the next little while. I have a lot of ideas for plots that should keep me going for the next couple of years. I beta/edit for people and I’m always researching something about the publishing industry. Right now I’m waiting for a book I want to read about how to effectively use Facebook ads, and I just finished a book about using Amazon ads.

I build time into my schedule to blog, and every day I work a little on my writer’s platform.


I stumbled upon Kindle Scout, and I’m trying to work into my publishing schedule when I would want to enter the contest and what book I would write to try that with. I also haven’t completely ruled out querying.

I do know that now that I am a better writer (goodbye head hopping and garbage filler) I can write faster. I aim to publish about three books a year.

I like having a plan in place. It keeps me on track and accountable. It’s much too easy to waste time online and be waylaid by low productivity.

Maybe you feel you don’t need a publishing plan. That’s okay. Always write to have fun. I love writing, and a publishing plan isn’t to force me to write and make me feel guilty if I don’t, but it does allow me to look ahead to where my writing will bring me. Because I eventually want to quit my day job.

Where do you want your writing to bring you?


Where will you be in five years?

Let me know!

Vania Blog Signature

Point of View vs. Head Hopping

When I hosted my editing #smutchat on Twitter a few weeks ago, I was surprised to learn people were confused between POV and head hopping. I thought I would write a quick refresher on the topic. This will just be an overview because complete books have been written on the subject, and I’ll list my favorite resources at the end of the post.

point of view

When you look up the definition of POV, this is what you’ll find. Essentially, when you talk about characters and writing, point of view is the character’s view and thoughts of the story. When you write in 1st person, you only have one point of view—that of the person who is “I.” Many writers like to write in this way because it’s easier to keep track of characters and plot. You don’t have to worry about who is doing what when because there are the thoughts and actions of only one character. The worry about head hopping is nonexistent because you only have the thoughts of the “I” character.


Writing in 3rd person is different. That is when you can write in the POV of several characters if you want. A popular example of this is Game of Thrones. Each chapter is written in the POV of a different character, and Game of Thrones has a lot of characters. Some writers do this with their 1st person characters—each “I” has their own chapter, and in this way, the author is allowed to move among characters. I think this is lazy, and be mad at me if you want, but ultimately, if you want the POV of more than one character, you might as well just write in 3rd person. It’s cleaner and reads better.

Anyway, I write romances. Most romances are written in 3rd person, and the point of view alternates between the hero and the heroine. (Some longer romance sub-genres like Chick Lit and Romantic Mysteries will add other POVs, say that of the best friend, or the villain.) Switching between the hero and heroine is fun because we like to know if the characters have different thoughts and feelings about a situation they are both involved in. Like a kiss: He’s swept away by the moment, but she’s grossed out because of his breath.

But switching points of view in this way also means changing scenes or chapters and making sure each character and their thoughts are confined to their specific scene or chapter.

Head hopping occurs when an author starts a scene or chapter with the POV of one character, but then the author slips in thoughts of different characters who are not the owner of the point of view.


Let’s take a look at a clean POV scene:

Amy pushed her food around her plate. She didn’t understand why her boyfriend’s mother hated her so much. She could feel the woman glaring at her across the table. Her boyfriend, Zach, rubbed her back. She appreciated his support, but sometimes she wished he would just tell his mother to chill out. If the woman didn’t stop being so mean to her, Amy would stop eating Sunday dinner at their house. It wouldn’t make Zach very happy, but he would deserve it if he didn’t start sticking up for her.

This is a quick paragraph in Amy’s point of view. We only know her thoughts. She’s uncomfortable with the situation, she’s resentful Zach doesn’t defend her against his mother. There isn’t any head hopping because we don’t know what the other characters are thinking. If this is a romance between Zach and Amy, and we want to know Zach’s thoughts about dinner, we would need to make a scene or chapter break and begin the new scene or chapter in Zach’s point of view.

Zach wished Amy would be nicer to his mother. He was going to have to break up with her if things continued this way. He’d always thought Amy was a sweet girl, and he’d been happy when he asked her out and she said yes. But things went downhill the day he introduced her to his mother. They hadn’t clicked from day one, and it was Amy’s fault. She caused so many problems acting so pretentious. Disgusted with how dinner was going, he guzzled his beer hoping to take the edge off. Breaking up with her was the last thing he wanted to do, but he couldn’t marry a woman who didn’t get along with his mother.

This is why I like 3rd person POV so much. You can surprise your readers with character reveals. Were you surprised Zach was taking his mother’s side? Maybe you were because in Amy’s POV Zach patted Amy’s back and she took that for support when in actuality, Zach was thinking thoughts that were anything but.

This is a classic staple of romances—misunderstandings and conclusions being assumed up the tension and create conflict.

Let’s take a look at head hopping. Head hopping is when the author tries to cram thoughts of more than one character into a scene. You can still start the scene or chapter in the POV of one character, but then you start slipping in thoughts of your other characters. You aren’t necessarily changing POV, but you are revealing thoughts from characters who aren’t having their “turn.”

Amy pushed her food around her plate. She didn’t understand why her boyfriend’s mother hated her so much. She could feel the woman glaring at her across the table. Why is she so mousey? Lydia thought, stabbing at the pork roast she’d made for dinnerHer boyfriend, Zach, rubbed her back. You need to be nicer to my mother, Zach fumed to himself. If the woman didn’t stop being so mean to her, Amy would stop eating Sunday dinner at their house. It wouldn’t make Zach very happy, but he would deserve it if he didn’t start sticking up for her.

This is a short example of having three people’s thoughts in one paragraph. We still have Amy’s point of view—she can think to herself without the italics because the scene is hers, and we’re in her head. But then I added in the thoughts of Zach and his mother. I put those in italics because the scene does not belong to them but we are given a glimpse at what they are thinking.

The question during #smutchat was: how important is avoiding head hopping when you can still find it in today’s books?

There is still head hopping in today’s traditionally published books, even though us indies are told over and over again not to do it. Nora Roberts head hops, and I just abandoned a book that head hopped between the male and female main characters.

So is it important not to head hop?

Agents and editors will tell you not to do it. Readers will tell you they don’t like to read it because it’s jarring and takes them out of the moment.

In my opinion, head hopping is lazy and an author can learn to write well and avoid it.

As a reader what do you like?

As a writer?

Tell me what you think!

Other links:

A great post by Bryn Donovan can be found here.

Fight head hopping by learning how to write in deep POV. Take a look at Marcy Kennedy’s book here.

Also another book by Rayne Hall: here.

Vania Blog Signature

Anchoring Your Characters in Their Scene

I’ve shared some of my work lately, and I’ve received a lot of feedback in return (don’t worry, it was all good). But the best compliment I received was that I knew how to effectively set a scene.


After I thought about it, I realized that is probably the number one thing I comment on when I edit or beta read for someone (besides making notes on grammar and punctuation). I like knowing where the scene is taking place. I think describing the scene, letting the reader know where your characters are, is important. If your characters are in a restaurant, but you don’t write that they are, your characters could be eating their dinner anywhere: on a bridge, at the park, on the moon. This might not seem like a big deal until all of a sudden where they are is part of the plot. Maybe your male main character moves in for a kiss, and your female main character balks. Why would she do that? Because they are in the middle of a grocery store and she doesn’t want a foot of tongue down her throat in the meat department. This makes him angry (why is she such a prude) so they fight. You’ve written that they are grocery shopping. Everyone can picture a grocery store, so problem solved.


What happens though is, if you don’t write where the scene is taking place close to the beginning of the scene, your readers have already guessed where your characters are, and if they can’t, your reader is going to feel disorientated because she can’t picture the scene in her head. You haven’t given her anything to work with.

This is why when you read editing how-to books, they recommend describing a character right off the bat—this way your reader doesn’t have a chance to make up her own mind as to what a character looks like. If you allow your reader to do that but then go on to describe how your characters actually look and it differs from what your reader thinks, your reader feels cheated. You don’t want to give a reader an excuse to put your book down. Ever.

But you don’t have to anchor every single scene. If your scenes take place one after the next, say you’re just flipping POV to another character, or you’re starting a new chapter and your character hasn’t moved, repeating where your character is–standing by the fireplace or sitting at the kitchen table or peering out the window, is redundant. Your readers will remember where your characters are fighting, eating, making love, whatever they’re doing. But if in one scene they’re having sex, then in the next you fast forward and they’re having date night at the movies, ah, yeah, you want to tell your readers they’re at the movies now because your readers don’t want to read about your characters having sex during “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.” (Well, maybe they do, who am I to judge?)

I’m going to also assume that unless your characters are traveling across the country, or across the world, or into space, that you won’t have many settings in your novel/novella/story. And that’s fine. You don’t need to set your story in all of America to make it interesting. The story I’m writing now, for example, has three or four settings at best, and I’m half way through it.


Here’s a quick list of when you should set a scene:

  1. When your characters are moving. If they are in the car, describe the car (the owner is a slob and has tons of fast food garbage in the back seat and the car stinks like grease). Describe what she sees out the window. How does the engine sound? Maybe the radio is on. The window is rolled down, and the character’s hair is flying in her face. If they’re taking a walk, describe the trees, are they changing colors because it’s fall? Describe the sidewalk. Cracks? Garbage along the path? You can work these details into the dialogue and narrative.
  2. When your characters are in a place they’ve never been before. This seems like a crazy thing to mention, but it’s true. If your characters are visiting a place they haven’t been to three-quarters of the way through your book, you may forget to mention where they are. Especially if the dialogue is more important than where the scene is taking place.
  3. When your characters are in a place they have been before, but things have changed. A teenage girl is mad because her mom cleaned her room. A room feels different because someone has been there when they shouldn’t have been and things are slightly out of place.
  4. When your characters are flashing back. It is really important that you describe where they are so your readers know that this is a flashback. I did this in book one of my trilogy. My characters were on a plane flying home, but I used a flashback while they thought about their vacation. I had to set the scene for each of them as they were daydreaming about different memories. I wanted to let my readers know they were thinking about their vacation while they were on the plane.
  5. When it’s important to the plot. It might not be so easy to forget to describe where your characters are if you depend on it for part of the plot. (The sun is shining in your character’s eyes while she’s driving so she hits a kid jaywalking.) But it’s best to pace your descriptions so they are already in place when you need them. (Having the sun conveniently show up to blind your character is a cop out. Have your character admire the sunny day before she climbs into her car.)


I can explain more on how to set a scene next time. For now, my 1,000-word limit is almost up. Did I miss a time when you should set a scene? Let me know!

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#SmutChat Dialogue Giveaway

Seems like Thursdays come and go pretty fast, right? Thanks for taking the time to participate in chat tonight. I hope you had a good time. The giveaways are Dialogue for Writers: Create Powerful Dialogue in Fiction and Nonfiction by Sammie Justesen and The Cougarette by Eliza David.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



The next time on #smutchat we’re going to mix it up a little bit. We’ll have guest hosts Nadia Diament (@nadiadiament ) and Avi Ross answer your questions about writing believable law in your books.  The giveaways for that chat are super-amazing, so you’ll want to tune in on Sept 21st.  Happy fall!

hello sept