Where I’m at with my Wedding Party Series

jaredandleah

My first try at creating an aesthetic. All pictures taken from Pexels/Pixabay/Unsplash


 

I said since there is going to be such a long time between releases, I would try to update my fabulous readers better on my writing process while I write my Wedding Party Series. It used to be called my Bridesmaid Quartet, but as I was planning out my characters, I realized I was writing about only three bridesmaids and a groomsman. The Wedding Party series is a little more accurate, and more than likely that’s what I’ll call it when I publish it.

So where am I at?

Okay, well, first of all, I had carpal and cubital tunnel surgery on January tenth. I was able to write 35,000 words (about half of my book) before that, and I was pleased the book sounded as well as it did as a first draft. Had I not had to take time to recuperate, I more than likely could have had the first book done by now.

But I did something I don’t like doing.

I left a previous book undone. The Years Between Us was technically done when I opened the file for Jared and Leah (I always name the file by my characters’ names because it takes a while for me to think up a title), but it wasn’t edited. That’s what I had planned to do while I was in recovery.

Recovery took a little longer than I had expected, and I slept a lot. I watched a lot of Netflix. Luckily, I had thought ahead and planned out a few blog posts, so my website didn’t go neglected. I tried to tweet when I could. But mostly I gave myself a pass and took two weeks of a needed break from a very hectic publishing schedule so far.

The Years Between Us

The unofficial cover for The Years Between Us. Made with Canva.com and photo from canstockphoto.com

I have been able to give The Years Between Us two on screen editing sweeps. I usually print it out and edit it on paper, but I’m thinking this time I’ll skip that step and go straight to the listening part of it. Thinking about this after writing this section of my post, I realized I can’t skip this step. When I edit on paper, that is when I break up my book into chapters. I don’t write my book with chapters in mind, only breaking up my POV changes with scene breaks, and when I print out my book, it’s easier to “chunk it up” while in paper form.  

I’ll be working on two books simultaneously, and I don’t particularly care for it, but I like writing Jared and Leah and there’s no rush to put out The Years Between Us. When I DO get it done, it will be going on a long preorder, just so I don’t have so long between books, though by romance indie publishing standards, since I published All of Nothing in October, I should have another book out now.

Anyway, I did realize not long ago while I was reading my friend Aila’s blog, I’ll need to change a few things, and the sooner the better. Most of the time I don’t care what I name my characters as long as I haven’t used the name before, and it matches what I think the character looks like. Towns are the same. Sometimes I look up names, sometimes I steal them from work. (I work in a call center and see names of cities and towns all day long.) Sometimes I use a name generator. I didn’t think anything of using Blue Ridge, Minnesota for my small town’s name. Until I was reading a blog post of Aila’s. Color me surprised when I saw this:

Harlot of Blue Ridge

Beautiful! (And used with permission. Thanks, Aila!)

All I can think is that the name of her book kind of got stuck in my mind. I mentioned it to her, and she was very gracious, saying I didn’t need to change it. But she thought of it first, she’s further into her WIP than I am, and seriously, there are so many other names to choose from, I don’t need to steal borrow anyone else’s. I can’t tell you how excited I am to read her book though, and if you want to follow along with her writing journey, you should follow her blog and give her a follow on Twitter. I can’t tell you enough how impressed I am with what she gives to the indie writing community.

I am not going to lie: it’s been hard to get back into the swing of things. I’m not 100% healed, meaning, I’m not 100% pain free. My doctor said it could take my body up to 12 months to repair itself. On the bright side, I don’t feel any worse than when I did before my surgery, and if I could type through the pain then, I can type through it now.

I went back to work last week, so I’m hoping that returning to a schedule will help me make better use of my time.

In my next blog post, I’ll break down what I’m doing with Jared and Leah, and maybe share an excerpt or two of what’s been going on!

Until next time!

jared and leah for end of blog posts

 

My Writing Plans & Goals for 2019

hello 2019

Lots of people feel like 2018 sucker punched them right in the gut. But to be honest, I think a lot of people felt like that about 2017, too. Each year may be better in some ways, worse in others, but it’s fair to say that each year brings about new challenges. Sometimes we can rise to the occasion and kick ass, and sometimes we can’t.

I got a lot done in 2018. I released two books I’m proud of–Wherever He Goes and All of Nothing. Each book brings me closer to improving my craft and realizing my goals of being a career writer.

I went through a divorce and came out, for the post part, unscathed, due to my kids, the support of my sister, and the love and a support of a special man in my life. We’ve had our ups and downs, too, and I hope in 2019 we have more ups than we do downs, but time will tell.

As far as my writing goals for 2019, it’s something that I talk a lot about on this blog. Write what you want, but don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t sell. So I’m going to follow my own advice. While my stand alones are doing okay (for the lack of marketing I do for them) there’s lots of evidence out there that series sell. I’ve seen this myself in read-through for my trilogy (at least when I boost up the first book with a promo).

That being said, it’s time to write another series. I’m going to set aside 2019 and write four books in my Bridesmaid Quartet. That subtitle may change–I may change it to The Wedding Party, or something else entirely as the wedding that brings this group of friends together will remain in the background and is only a catalyst for the things that happen. I’m even tinkering with making the Bride a matchmaker of sorts. These four books are in the planning stages, as you can tell, while I edit The Years Between Us. I’m going to edit my May/December romance, send it out to betas (if you want to read it, send me an email or DM on Twitter!) and more than likely put it on an extended preorder. I released All of Nothing on October 16, and I need to sit on The Years Between Us while I write my series. I won’t wait for a long time–I’m thinking maybe an April release–but I don’t want to publish it as soon as it’s done because then I won’t have anything for quite a while.

To make up for that time where I’m not publishing anything, I’m going to be doing a lot more blogging and maybe some Instagram posts in regards to my series’ progress.  I’ll be doing aesthetics, sharing more snippets than I have in the past. I’ll be releasing my character sheets for my characters. In short, I’ll be blogging about what goes into writing a four book series, and all the headaches that go into tackling 200,000-280,000 words.

Right from the start this presented a challenge because I already wrote about a group of friends with my novellas, Summer Secrets. Those were erotica, but still. It’s easy for a writer to write the same thing over and over again, so I need to be careful to make these different. Comparing my sexy novellas to this series will always be in the back of my mind.

plans and goals for the new year

Other things that will be happening in 2019:

I’ll be getting carpal and cubital tunnel surgery done on my left arm in January. The 10th to be exact. Progress on my series will only go as quickly as I can recuperate. I’ve heard from several people that it’s a piece of cake, and even my doctor said I’ll be back to everyday activities after two weeks. I’ll then be scheduling my surgery for my right arm.

If surgeries and recovery go according to plan, I’ll be attending the Sell More Books Show Summit in Chicago in May. I cannot wait to take a short vacation, meet some other authors, and learn how to sell more books!

I’ll be moving my list wide and paperbacks to Ingram Spark extended distribution. I blogged about that already, but since my books don’t drop entirely from Select until February, dispersing them wide and doing the covers to meet IS guidelines will be a project that will take a few months. I think I’ll be doing a lot of that during recovery as I’m hoping that tweaking my covers to fit the IngramSpark cover templates won’t be too complicated.

Learning a screen-recording software so I can record some barebones tutorials on how to make book covers in Canva. I scouted around YouTube a few months ago to see if making a full cover (back, spine, and front) for a paperback was even possible using that particular software. I didn’t find anything that had all the steps a newbie writer would need to successfully make a cover, and for it to actually come out looking nice.

Unfortunately, this isn’t going to be one of those things that is on the top of my list. First off, because I’m not sure how deep I really want to go into the non-fiction sector. There are some full-time writers who split their time between fiction and non-fiction, like Joanna Penn. I still have a day job, and if I have a few hours, I’d rather write my fiction books. But because I didn’t find anything about this topic, I think it would be a real help to the indie community if I could record a couple how-to videos. Especially since I’ve done it twice now and have the paperbacks to prove it can work. But I would need to find/buy software and learn how to use it. Then I would need to take the time to map out the videos and record them. I don’t know how to edit anything, either. So. Plus I’ve been tinkering around with writing an self-publishing self-editing book, and I don’t want to put my fingers into too many pies.

Mostly though,  I abide by the old, “Should you be writing, instead of . . . ?” question when thinking about doing other things, and the answer is almost usually “Yes.” It’s what I enjoy the most and what I hope to build my career on–my fiction books.

Because, after all, who doesn’t love a happy ending?

Happy New Year, everyone, and I hope 2019 goes very well for you!

the end

Writing a May/December romance and what it means to me in the #metoo era.

I have to admit, that even though this book is my 6th, it was still bittersweet to write the last scene, save it, email it to myself, and close the file. Besides editing, I can say goodbye to Matthew and Zia and start to plot a massive project I have decided to take on in 2019.

blog post maydecember romanceThe Years Between Us is a May/December romance. Writing it involved some tricky scenes, as she’s twenty-five and he’s fifty, and while I tried, tried so hard, to make that the most romantic thing in the whole world, the fact is, it can be a bit creepy, too. Especially since at the beginning of the novel, she’s eighteen and he’s forty-three, and in an intimate scene I’m going to try very hard to edit just right, he takes her virginity. Don’t get me wrong, their ages get them into trouble, but fast-forward seven years, it still ends happily-ever after.

May/December romances used to be sweet. The innocent ingenue taken under the wing of a mature, wise gentleman willing to take care of her, guide her into womanhood. My mother read them, and I grew up reading the books she finished and set aside for the next trip to the library. These were more of the gothic romance variety: a young woman, for whatever reason, finding herself in a dark castle, falling in love with the older-than-her-by-a-lot gentleman who has been turned bitter by the ways of the world. She turns his heart with her purity. Their ages are rarely mentioned, but the covers of these books told it all. Silver fox, strawberry-haired girl.

Matthew and Zia are my take on these favorites.

But my mom read those books a long time ago. Before Harvey Weinstein, before a hashtag was created specifically for women to band together against men who use their power and position as a way to force women into sexual activities they don’t want or ask for. We live in time now where the fairy tales are looked down upon because a prince kissed a sleeping princess without her consent. We live in an era where cheeky christmas carols are called upon as sexual harassment, and not seen for the fun and flirtation that they were intended to be.

dark romance

So, what is it like to write a May/December romance now? How will it be received? I don’t know. I don’t make their ages an in-your-face issue. Sure it causes problems, but despite their ages, they are only people who love each other. How wrong can that be? I guess it depends on how they feel while they’re in their relationship, and after it’s over.

Joyce Maynard. You may not know who she is. I didn’t. Not until I recently read an article about her in Vanity Fair.  She evokes both sympathy and scorn. People sympathize with her because at 18, she had an affair with JD Salinger, who at the time, was 53. She dropped out of college to live with him, put up with his abuse, and ultimately, he kicked her out. Scorned because, well, forty-six years later, she’s still talking about. She’s accused of stretching her fifteen minutes just a little too long. Does she have a right to do so? People accuse her of using his fame to catapult hers. She says she keeps talking about it because he used and abused her and she wants the world to know. They say he has a right to privacy. She says because of what he did, he doesn’t deserve any.

Would their story had turned out differently had true love been involved? If they had gotten married? I don’t know the details, but maybe, I’m going to go out on a limb and say, he used his reputation to get her into bed, she, as a wannabe writer was dazzled, and that’s that. Only, she can’t let it go. She places full blame on him. He used her. He made her drop out of school to live with him.

Can’t 18 year old girls think for themselves?

Are we giving teenage girls any credit if we say no?

It’s something I touch on in my novel.  Matthew sends Zia away, and she goes to college where she nurtures her talent to become a famous artist. At one point, he’s asked if he regretted doing that to her, for her. And he says,

“. . . She was fresh out of high school; she needed to explore, find her talent. She never would have become what she had without me sending her away. There were nicer ways to make her go, but it still would have broken her heart.”

He took it upon himself to make sure she had a full life, and that meant without him (for a while). Do we give men any credit if we say they aren’t capable of that in real life?

wedding rings with leaves

I have a couple men friends who are “older” (age is subjective, isn’t it?) and I asked them about this. One, a gentlemen I work with at my job, said there’s a rule men follow: “half your age plus seven.”  I didn’t understand it, so I asked him to explain. He said, men have a rule when deciding how young is too young. You take your age, halve it, then add seven. He said it keeps men from dating anyone who could be young enough to be their daughter.

Applying this logic to my book, Matthew’s age for most of the book is 50. Half that, you get 25, then add 7, making the youngest he could go 32. Zia is 25 for most of the book, so my main male character fails miserably at this. I hadn’t heard of this rule before, but it intrigued me and in a weird way, kind of made sense. I don’t know of any women who follow a rule like this. My sister is 27, and she said the oldest she’d date is 60. I wonder how people would look at them in public if she were to be involved with a man that much older than she.

I wanted to write a novel about love, and that’s what I did. Of course I’m going to offend someone. Probably lots of someones. But I get offended too, reading books about rape, about violence against women at the hands of men. I just move on because these books should still be written. Real life is full of harsh realities, and books reflect that.

You can call Zia stupid for falling in love with an older man. You can call Matthew a pervert for wanting an eighteen year old girl. But the fact is, they loved each other. Call them right or wrong, but they both made sacrifices for each other, and no one can say that her sacrifices meant any less because she’s younger that he is.

It will be interesting to see how people like this book. I’m excited for the feedback that will surely come my way.

Tell me what you think. Do you like May/December romances?

Let me know!

What to read about other May/December real-life romances? Check out this link.

More articles about Joyce Maynard:

Revisiting the legacy of Joyce Maynard, the teenager Salinger had an affair with

The Queen of Oversharing
The personal essay may be over—but Joyce Maynard isn’t.

You can find Joyce’s memoir here.

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Weak writers, strong characters?

I am a part of a DM group on Twitter. We were talking about the weather where we live, and I live in Minnesota. I mentioned blizzards and the potential hazards. I said now that my husband has moved out, this winter may be a little nerve-racking as I’ll need to shovel and get my daughter to school by myself. I have to deal with maybe my car not starting or getting into an accident because some moron doesn’t know how to drive on the snow and ice.

I said, “I’m sorry. I know I sound weak. It’s just nice to have a man around sometimes.”

What exactly was I apologizing for? All the women in my group are married to men. They know it’s nice to have a partner, someone around to help.

In our society today, we encourage strong women. We have #GirlPower. Women are encouraged to raise their daughters to be strong and independent. We fight for equal pay. We fight the glass ceiling. We fight for our reproductive rights. We pay our own bills we make our own way.

glass ceiling

Women don’t need men.

I write romance. I make sure my heroines can take care of themselves. They have jobs; they pay their bills. Sometimes they’re searching for love, sometimes love finds them. My heroines don’t need a man.

But they want one.

Does that make them weak?

powerful woman 2

Even in the comics, Diana Prince was paired with various men over the years. The epitome of a kick-ass woman, she still likes to snuggle at night.

I’ve been told, “Don’t make the man rescue the woman.” But isn’t that what a romance is? I mean, rescuing a woman because he has to. It’s part of a mission. She’s been kidnapped because her father is a billionaire. She needs a bodyguard. She’s cured cancer, and people want to kill her. She’s a rock star, and someone is out to get her. There are a million plots to go with that trope. The hero rescues the heroine, they fall in love. The end.

There’s a reason why that trope is popular.

Women take care of themselves (and their children) alone all the freaking time. Reading is an escape. We want our man to step in and say, “Let me take care of this because I’m falling in love with you.” My favorites, and hopefully the kind of books I write, is when they rescue each other. Maybe he can get her to the hospital for her life-saving surgery, but when she opens her eyes, he knows she really saved him, by repairing his broken heart and giving him his life back.

Most times after the “big fight” I have my man go to his woman first. Not because I want to put my woman in a position of power. Not because my heroine wants a man groveling at her feet. But because it’s romantic. It feeds into what women fantasize about. Men saying, “I was wrong. I can’t live without you. I’m sorry. Marry me.”

What I didn’t realize though, is that it takes a strong woman to give a man the space he needs to figure it out and admit that. For him to have time to see his mistakes and go to her.

It takes a lot of bravery for a woman to face heartbreak if the man she loves doesn’t come for her. For her to say, “If he can’t admit he was wrong and apologize and admit that he loves me, I can’t have the kind of relationship I need with him to be happy.”

Women in romance can be kick-ass and still want a man. I’ll never write a sniveling idiot as a female main character.  Men, characters or otherwise, don’t want a woman who acts like that. Women who act like that in real life never find true happiness or true love. 

So in my DM, what was I apologizing for? Because in my group, we are all writers and we all pride ourselves on writing kick-ass women characters. How can I write a strong woman character when I, myself, I am not a strong woman in real life?

kick ass woman

Maybe not this kind of kick-ass. 

I’ve been on my own now for two months, since my husband moved out. I pay my bills with my own money (and a little help from alimony and child support). I work full-time. I’ve always paid our bills so balancing a checkbook was nothing new, I just don’t have as much money to work with. I drive a dumpy car, and it’s not lost on me I’ll have to work a car payment into my budget at some point.

But guess what? I have written characters who have also live paycheck to paycheck. That’s real life.

I have good friends. My sister lives in the same town as me. Even my soon to be ex-husband would help me out if I ever find myself in serious trouble. I’m not alone, and I don’t feel like I am. Our split was amicable, and I haven’t been this happy in a long time.

I am a strong woman even if at times I don’t feel like it. We all need love, security. We all want love, someone to protect us, have our backs. That doesn’t make us weak.

I write romance.

My characters fall in love.

They aren’t weak, either.

They’re human.

The Scary World of Amazon Marketing Services

Writers need to get their books out there. Twitter doesn’t sell books. Neither does Facebook–at least not on your personal profile. There are only so many copies Aunt Edna wants. And she’s not going to pay your bills. (If she is, that’s no one’s business but yours.)

So what is an author to do? Well, you can write more books. You should be anyway. What else? Instagram the shit out of your life hoping to draw some attention to your fabulous #writerslife.

What else?

Pay for promos, maybe. I’m assuming I’m still getting some KU page reads from a Freebooksy promo I did a few months ago. (To read about that, click here.)

I’ve come to the conclusion after a few years on Twitter, the only way to find readers is to write books and tell people (who aren’t on Twitter) about them (you know, actual readers). I’ve decided to dip my toes into the world of Amazon ads.

amazon adsNow, lots of people have told me that they don’t work. I bought Brian Meeks’ book, and he tells me they do. But you gotta be smart, and you gotta be patient, and you gotta test. Test and Test. And Test.

Oh, by the way, you have to have a decent book, good cover, good blurb. Because if you don’t have a quality book, no amount of advertising will sell your POS. (Sometimes people forget about that part.)

So, I’ve been running ads for a couple of weeks. Brian says this isn’t hardly any time at all, and I agree. Buying and running ads on Amazon isn’t the magic trick to selling books and getting famous. You need to have patience, and you need to know what you’re doing.

At first, I bid low (like Brian advised–he walks you through the entire process), and piecing together information from other sources, I realized this was way too low. I write contemporary romance, and it’s a highly competitive market.

The thing with Amazon ads is you need to bid high enough that Amazon will show your ads, but not so high that if someone clicks on your ad but doesn’t buy, you don’t go broke paying for clicks that don’t turn into sales.

It’s called a sweet spot, and from what I can tell, few people have the patience to get there. Or they are too scared they are going to waste a lot of money trying.

I’ve been running ads for 13 days, and this is what I have so far:

ams ads so far june 18

Remember, 13 days isn’t hardly any time at all. But for anyone scared to run ads, take a look: I have 12 ads running right now, and I’ve spent 35 cents. Not dollars, cents. None of the ads are doing particularly well, and I assume it’s because I’ve bid too low. The ad for Don’t Run Away that has over 3,000 impressions, hasn’t cost me anything. But those impressions could have given me a few page reads in KU if someone saw the ad, but didn’t click and just decided to try the book in KU anyway. Where and when someone decides to read your book if it’s enrolled in KU will always be a mystery.

Here are my KU page reads for DRA. I took this screenshot on June 18th. The same day I took the screenshot of my ad dashboard.

sales and ku reads for dra

Nope, I don’t have any sales yet. But I haven’t gone broke trying, either.

So anyone who is wanting to try this but is afraid of losing money can err on the side of caution, figure a few things out, and go from there.

I’m surprised that DRA is getting impressions, as the second set of ads I did for Wherever He Goes is a higher cost per click (which you would think would buy me more exposure), and I think the cover for WHG is better than DRA. But maybe the blurb is better written, or the characters resonate better with readers.

So where do I go from here? I plan to bid a bit more for WHG, and see if I can’t get some impressions, at least. Maybe I could even do another set of ads for DRA at a higher bid, and see if that doesn’t ramp up my impressions even more and hope those turn into clicks. Or I could do nothing, and wait to see what happens, because 13 days of ads is hardly any time at all.

But I’ll keep an eye on it. I just wanted to let you know a high daily limit doesn’t have to scare you.

And if you take anything away from this it’s this: if your ads are successful, and you are getting a ton of clicks but they aren’t turning into sales–you need to look at your book. You need to look at your cover. Your Look Inside pages. Your blurb. Don’t pay for ads for a crappy book. Make it better.

I’ll keep you posted!

The Wedding Date–A crabby book review

the wedding dateWhen I saw The Wedding Date at Target, I picked it up. The premise was a trope I have always enjoyed–a fake date that turns into a real relationship.

When Alexa meets Drew, it’s in a hotel elevator that has stalled. Drew is there to be a groomsman at his ex’s wedding. Alexa is at the hotel visiting her sister. They get to talking; sparks fly.  That she is black and he is white does nothing to the story. In fact, because the author does not use the character’s skin color as neither a negative or positive plot device, I forgot by the middle of the book they are even different in that way. I didn’t care, anyway.

Drew and Alexa are from different California cities, and throughout most of the book, they are flying back and forth to see each other on the weekends.

Drew is a pediatric doctor, and Alexa is the chief of staff for her city’s mayor. Their occupations are thrown into the plot as little side bits in an attempt to deepen their character arcs, and it doesn’t work that well. (More on that later!)

As most long-distance relationships go, there are disagreements and misunderstandings, and I have to admit by the middle of the book I started to skim.

The book ended how I would assume a romance would–happily ever after. And no, she didn’t relocate–he did. As a romance writer, I can appreciate the author made her male main character give a little, as a lot of times in books it is the woman who makes the compromises to keep the relationship going.

But also, as an indie writer and self-published author, I have to ask, “How the F did this get published?”

This is probably one of the most annoying things about traditional publishing. Traditional publishers can publish crap, while good indie writers can’t get an agent to save their lives.

I’m not saying this book is crap or didn’t deserve to be published–but I am saying this book could have used a lot more editing.

One thing that turned me off almost from the start was the use of repetitive words and phrases. As an indie, we’re taught word needs space–but this also includes phrasing. Can your female main character look up at your male main character 10 times a page?

Yes.

Does it read well?

No.

I would have loved to get ahold of her Word document and do a search for a list of “naughty” words.

Someone needed to because Drew kept putting his arm around Alexa’s waist, and every time I read it, it made me itch.

The story itself began to grow repetitive and mundane, and like I said, about the middle of the book I began to skim. There were only so many times I could read about them flying back and forth, having sex (that mostly faded to black, so I didn’t even have the sex scenes to look forward to) and taking the texts they sent each other when they weren’t together in the wrong way.

The ending came out the way I expected, but Alexa’s job, her sister’s backstory, and a kid with cancer made the plot some kind of soupy mess.

I want to be clear here. I am not blaming the author. She had a good premise, and she put forth a good effort.

Who I am blaming is her publishing house and the editing they failed to give her.

There are a few reasons for this:.

  1. They wanted to push the book out for marketing reasons or to catch a trend.
  2. Maybe the editor who acquired the book left the publishing house and little attention was paid to the book after that. (After listening to podcasts about the publishing industry I am surprised at how often this happens, and how much this hurts the author and the book.)
  3. The editor the author was stuck with was new or had too much on his or her plate.

No matter what the reason, however, it is frustrating for an indie author to buy a traditionally published book full of mistakes we are told to stop doing in our own work.

And it’s frustrating to know an author can get a book deal when indies who have stellar books in their possession can’t find agents.

There are probably reasons for this, too. She knew someone in the industry and she used her connections. She may have won a contest. Or simply, she just got lucky.

But that won’t give me my $13 back plus tax.

And I suppose the one thing that makes me the most upset is that the midlist is shrinking. Big publishers go for the big books, the books that will bring in millions like James Patterson’s and Bill Clinton’s The President is Missing.

Few midlist books are printed every year. In fact, there are imprints who publish digital only books like Carina Press. This is disappointing to an author who hopes to see their book on a shelf. Any shelf.  Even Target. Maybe especially Target. It’s not an accident the book section is across the aisle from Toys.

What can a writer hoping to query and publish a book take from all this?

That the publishing industry is broken?

We knew that already.

It says to me I may never want to be a part of a traditional publishing industry.

Because I expect that if Roxane Gay, who is a New York Times bestselling author, would be willing to blurb a book, and that book is a Target Club Pick, it’s going to be good and worth my money.

And again, this isn’t a blast on the debut novelist. It’s a blast on the publishing industry that would publish a book that needed so much more work.

I know books aren’t for everyone and this particular book, or perhaps even author because I’ll never read her again, just wasn’t my cup of tea. (I drink coffee anyway.)

But a scan of reviews on Amazon told me it wasn’t a cup of tea for others as well. (Who also may only drink coffee.)

Even someone reading The Wedding Date as a reader and not a writer can still say a book grated on their nerves even if they can’t pinpoint why.

I don’t expect to like every book I read–that’s a given. But with the resources of a large publishing house–this book was published by Jove, an imprint of Penguin–I shouldn’t dislike a book because of the editing or lack thereof.

jasmine guilloryI wish the best to Jasmine Guillory.  I hope she can come into her own as a writer without help or she seeks it out on her own (if she happens to read reviews) because her publishing house certainly isn’t going to give her any assistance.

What do you think of the plight of a first-time querying author? Do we have a chance, or should we just give up?

Let me know!

How Do You Create Well-Rounded Characters?

From time to time I’ll read a book written by an indie author. I like to see what’s going on in the world of self-publishing and what my competition friends are writing. But I’ve happened upon a common theme–new authors don’t understand the concept of three-dimensional characters. Or if they do, they can’t correctly express it on the page.

What do we mean when we say readers want a well-rounded character?

When you read editing books, (and shame on you if you aren’t!) you’ll read a section on show, not tell. Show me your Female Main Character is tough, don’t just tell me she is.

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This is so much harder than it sounds because you need to begin your character-building from page one and continue the building through the entire book.

Say your FMC is moving, and she drops a box on her foot. Or she’s hanging a picture and she slams her thumb with a hammer. She doesn’t cry. She’s tough. You’ve shown us she can hurt and not give in to tears.

So what?

That means nothing to the reader. We want to know why. Why is she tough?

Did her father beat her mother whenever she cried, so your FMC has trained herself not to cry? Maybe her father beat your FMC for being weak. (Gotta love some horrific backstory, right?)

This makes your character tough. Now we have a reason. How does that tie in with the story? Because it always has to tie in. Your characters’ traits need to blend into the internal conflict and external conflict.

Your characters’ traits are involved in your characters’ emotional growth. And your characters’ emotional growth is propelled forward by the plot.

Readers need the emotional arc to care and invest in your characters, their lives, and their problems.

Let’s have a quick example:

Felicity is starting a new life. She’s tough–life has made her that way. She grew up watching her father beat her mother. Her new apartment in a new city is a fresh start.

She clicks with a mover who delivers her new furniture. He has a temper, and after dating she realizes he has anger management issues. He reminds Felicity of her father. She gets scared of him, though he would never hurt her, or anyone, for that matter.

We have some fabulous internal conflict now:

  1. Felicity is tough on the outside, but as you write her backstory and weave it into the plot, we’ll see she’s actually vulnerable on the inside.
  2. The man she falls in love with brings her back to fearful and unhappy times.
  3. He loves her, but can’t control his rage enough to make her feel safe around him.
  4. She needs to learn that not every man she meets is like her father.
  5. He needs to learn he has to calm down and get help or they have no future.

This isn’t enough for a full plot, of course. Maybe someone is after her (she’s running from something/someone) and she has to trust him despite being scared of him.

Maybe he already knows who she is, and he was assigned to protect her–but he knows if he can’t control his temper, she won’t trust him and he won’t be able to do his job.

At any rate, we have reasons and backstory. (I focused on Felicity, but we see that our MMC has issues as well, and you could make up a fabulous backstory for him, too.) We have an explanation as to why they behave the way they do.

Your characters are people who have traits that have been cultivated by events in their lives.

For your reader, it’s not enough to make your FMC a bitch, or moody, or pissy. Readers need reasons tied to backstory and internal conflict, or all they have is an unlikeable main character.

Even your villains need reasons for being evil. Some of the best villains are characters readers feel sorry for, even relate to.

Jaime Lannister is a good example. Everyone despised him for pushing Bran out the window in A Song of Fire and Ice. But when his hand was cut off in A Storm of Swords, we almost feel sorry for him. And, possibly, everyone wanted a romantic relationship to develop between him and Brienne. Even though there wasn’t a character less deserving. (Oh, that was only me? Sorry. Must be my romantic coming out in me, again.)

Make your character a bitch, and all she is is a bitch. Make your character a bitch with reasons, feelings, and a desire to change, or she’ll lose what matters most, and you have internal conflict and a character growth arc.

The best books are both plot-driven and character-driven.

Readers want change–to go on a journey with your characters. They need internal/emotional growth while going with your characters from point A to point B.

Some of the writers I’ve read have the plot down, but haven’t yet perfected revealing backstory, explaining why the characters behave the way they do.

Sometimes this can be easily solved by getting to know your characters better. Spend time with them. What are their hopes, fears, ambitions, and flaws?

An author will have a difficult time introducing their characters if they don’t know who their own characters are. And if the writer doesn’t know, the reader sure as hell won’t.

Traits, negative or otherwise, does not a well-rounded character make.

For more tips on writing a well-rounded character check out WRITERS HELPING WRITERS®. The assortment of books for traits and emotions can go a long way to helping you figure out who your characters are and how to write them in a way readers can understand and empathize with.

 

Creating Character Arcs is another good book written by KM Weiland. Check out her blog here. She dishes out fantastic tips on writing, and I own all of her nonfiction books.  Happy writing!
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