Wow, I uploaded it and it went live in about two hours! I am thrilled beyond words!
I will upload links to B&N, Apple, and Kobo as soon as it’s live. That can take a day or so.
Here’s the B&N link:
I don’t know how long it will take for it to go live, but as soon as it does I will post links. Thanks for your patience! I hope you all enjoy it!
As you are creating your hero and heroine, it’s important to also start planning out the characters for what many people call the “B” plot of your novel.
The hero and heroine have the “A” plot. However, they need a cast of sidekicks around, whether it’s friends, family, co-workers, or all of the aforementioned. The supporting characters have the “B” plot – there is some need that they have that must be fulfilled by the end of the story.
The way that you develop the hero and heroine’s character are by showing how they interact with others. This also goes for the villain. The hero and heroine will value the people around them and treat them well. They may joke with them, they may banter, they may have arguments, their may even be blowout fights in which they stomp off and it appears the relatonship is over, but the hero/heroine aren’t mean-spirited. They ultimately want the best for people – they don’t want to cause people harm.
The villain will tend to use most people for what he or she can get from them.
Throughout the novel, we’re following the hero/heroine’s journey, and it is important for their circumstances to have changed by the end of the story. They need to be braver, kinder, more tolerant, more trusting, they need to forgive wrongs that have been done to them, or avenge those wrongs and move on – whatever issue they had at the beginning of the book needs to have been resolved by the end.
The same goes for your supporting characters. They must have some problem or need at the beginning of the book, and they must have resolved it by the end, and it should be with the help of the hero or heroine. Their story obviously won’t be fleshed out in as much detail as the hero and heroine’s, but there has to be someone other than the hero or heroine who’s had some change in their life, by the end of the book.
As you start plotting your first book, you should watch some movies or read some books in your genre, or both, and pay attention to the supporting cast. How does the hero and heroine interact with them? What changes between the hero and/or heroine and the people around them? Are they finally able to form a relationship, quit the job with the abusive boss, stand up to a parent, leave the country to follow their dreams, etc.?
And this concludes today’s writing lecture. Back to work for me!
I got some very good advice on what to do before I published my first book, and I am passing it along to you.
We’re already assuming that you’ve got a publishable book with a well designed cover (which can be had for anywhere from $50 to a few hundred bucks).
The hope is that people like your books and want to come back for more. To encourage this, you should:
1.) Get a website. You can get a website for free at www.blogspot.com and www.wordpress.org. You can also hire someone to design a website for you, of course.
On this website, create pages that say “about me”, “contact me” with your author email address, a page with a list of your books (once you have one), and a page for “latest news”.
Put a few blog posts up, even if you literally have no visitors yet. Talk about the progress of your book, about your favorite writers, about how you came to write this particular book, etc.
2.) Start a mailing list. I use www.madmimi.com because they’re very simple, and it’s free until you have a certain number of subscribers.
Create a welcome letter for your mailing list. I offer a free novelette as incentive to joining my mailig list.
Put the mailing list form up on your website. Put a link to it in your book.
The reason that you do all of this up front is that if your book is a success, this will help you build your audience and establish yourself as an author much faster. When people like an author, they want to know who the author is, what they’re working on, and when the next books are coming out. If they go searching for you and find nothing, you’ve just lost an opportunity to keep in touch with someone who would likely be a loyal reader who’d come back and buy your books again and again.
I don’t know any writer out there who claims to get their story down perfectly in the first draft. That rare, magical creature may exist somewhere – and if so, I hate them. OK, hate’s a strong word. I am very jealous of them.
This post is for all the authors out there who are paralyzed by the fear of not creating the perfect story, so they don’t write at all. You’re afraid your first draft won’t be any good? Let me lay your worries to rest: you’re right. If you’re like 99.9 percent of us, you will not write a great first draft. However, if you don’t write that first draft, you will have nothing to work with, and you will never progress to the second draft, final draft, etc. As you go back over and edit what you have written, THAT is when the magic happens.
I mean, do you eat the raw bread dough, or the raw hamburger, or do you eat the finished product? Do you sell the empty canvas, or the canvas with the sketches on it, or do you sell the finished painting? My point is, nothing starts out pretty and perfect. You shape it and refine it until it is what it needs to be.
To paraphrase Nora Roberts: “I can fix a bad page. I can’t fix an empty page.”
If you’re worried about how terrible your first draft is going to be (and it will be), consider this – no one but you ever needs to see your first draft.
Here’s my process:
My first draft is mostly an expanded version of an outline.
When I go to write my first draft, I have already figured out the list of things which I described here:
Then, I figure out where I want to start the story, and I sit down and start writing.
In this first draft, I don’t put a lot of detail. I don’t put a lot of physical description, or emotion, or what the character thought or felt about something that just happened. I put in some, but I go back during the second draft and layer in a lot more of that information.
What I mainly do in the first draft is describe the action and dialogue. I just need to say what happened in this story, what the characters said and did.
To do that, I just think logically. Given the characters that I’ve created, and the “call to action” that they’ll be facing, how would things progress?
Let’s say it’s a Western romance and the heroine has been trying to save her ranch. Someone’s been vandalizing the ranch because they want her to sell. Her brother may or may not have burned down the home of the wealthy, connected people suspected of killing her father, the owner of the ranch; there’s a warrant out for his arrest. (By the way, the wealthy, connected people can’t be the major villains; it’s just too obvious. Whoever is the obvious suspect, can’t be guilty, at least not of the crime they’re suspected of.)
The hero is the sheriff. What’s a good way to get the sheriff and the heroine together right away, but show that there’s conflict? He can come out to her ranch and deliver some news. He’s heard that her brother is hiding out on the ranch, so he needs to search the ranch. She hears him riding up, she goes running out with a pitchfork, not knowing that it’s him.
What would come next?
He’s a decent guy – he should be concerned when she explains about the vandalism. He should offer to help protect her – he can keep an eye on the ranch, he can have his deputies patrol…
What would she do when he offers to help? She’s mad that he wants to search her property and arrest her brother, so she refuses.
What would he do? There’s no way he’s going to leave her in danger, so he’ll secretly stake out her ranch later on.
What would she do after he leaves? Continue her investigation into who killed her father.
How would the villain react to that? He’d try to kill her or frame her, or frame her brother.
After I write my first draft, I set it aside for a few days and then go back and polish it up and make it pretty, but the first draft is, like I said, nothing more than a fleshed-out outline.
So get out there, start plotting, and then write that terrible first draft!
The reason I keep emphasizing “genre” novel is that every genre comes with a specific set of rules and expectations. I write genre novels – for the most part, paranormal romance. A cozy mystery would have a different set of expectations – no graphic descriptions of sex, no graphic violence – and a thriller would also have different set of expectations – graphic violence is not just allowed, but at some point probably expected, and any depictions of sex could be explicit.
However, there’s a basic story structure for all “commercial genre” books.
A few excellent writing books about how to structure your story are:
I know that both of those books reference screenwriting, but they are both awesome resources for authors, and helped me get where I am today. If you’re thinking of launching a writing career, it’s worth the time to study how successful books and movies are plotted out.
Here is my own very basic version of story structure for a romance, broken down. (In Alexandra Sokoloff’s books and in the Save The Cat series, they break down popular movies and books and show where pivotal scenes take place)
The “parts” here aren’t chapters, they’re just a rough outline of what has to happen in a story:
Introduce the hero and heroine. They should meet each other early in the chapter, doesn’t have to be on the first page, but should be soon. Their should be an immediate attraction between them, but there also needs to be a clear reason why they can’t act on that attraction.
Introduce them in a way that immediately identifies what kind of person they are, and their current state of mind.
Orient your readers from the very beginning. Where is this story taking place? Is it in a paranormal world? If so, give some indication of this. What season is it? Where is the hero or heroine? This needs to be done skillfully, because you don’t want to bury your reader under a pile of description, but it must be done.
Part Two: Call To Action. This is the part where the hero or heroine is presented with some kind of problem or challenge that they need to address. It must be an urgent problem, and one that specifically requires the hero and/or heroine to solve it.
Part Three: Hero and/or heroine starts taking action. Runs into obstacles. Hero and heroine also are interacting. May have mild romantic encounter – flirting, a kiss – or even have a sexual encounter. Something comes up that reminds them they can’t possibly have a relationship.
Part Four: Hero or heroine tries something new to solve their problem. Runs into more obstacles, may make some progress, new problems then crop up. Their attraction deepens. They also are coming to like each other more as people. They’re still sparring on some level.
Part Five: Hero and heroine appear to have made some progress, both in their relationship and in dealing with their problem, but in the background, the villain of the story is coming up with new ways to thwart them, or his plans that he’s had in place all along will thwart the hero and heroine, at least for now. “Secondary villain” (see previous post on writing), or “enemy within”, may also be working to break them up.
Part Six: The “all is lost” section. The hero and heroine are broken up or fighting or have discovered something terrible about each other, and the villain appears to have triumphed.
Part Seven: Hero and /or heroine pull themselves together, possibly with the help of outside allies, and there is the “fight” sequence. The hero and heroine triumph, and the villain is defeated.
Part Eight: The wrapup. The villain is defeated. The new circumstances of the hero and heroine – they are married, will be married, or are in a committed relationship – is shown. If there are supporting characters – I will discuss these in a future post – then their problems may be resolved, or we may see them resolved in a future book.
I’ve been promising a series of posts on writing Genre fiction, and I’m between books right now, so hear ya go:
My goals when writing are: to create a book that is entertaining and fun and that makes my readers happy (or at least most of them; you can’t please everyone), and to write quickly. I need to write quickly because there are so many new books being published these days that Amazon pushes books down in visibility after a certain time period, and when that happens, sales die down. I’m also pretty compulsive about writing and publishing; I love writing, and that makes it easier for me to dedicate a lot of time to it every day.
Some people claim that you need to labor over books, that if you don’t spend many months or years writing and rewriting, your books must be awful. I disagree. I know a lot of talented authors who regularly write 100,000 words a month, and who publish very frequently. Every writer has their own process, and what works for other writers doesn’t necessarily work for me, and vice versa. I can only describe what works for me.
The writing advice that I give here is intended to help you write well, and also to write quickly.
The first rule of writing quickly: I write much faster when I have plotted out the book’s most important elements in advance.
Since I’m writing in a specific genre, I already know a lot of what elements are needed. The book still evolves and changes as I write, but knowing certain things helps me avoid writing myself into a corner.
Here’s a basic list of what I need to know before I start writing:
1.) I need the basic rules of my paranormal world. Do humans know that paranormals exist? How did paranormals come to exist? Where do they live? Who’s in charge of each paranormal group – werewolves, witches, etc.? What are the laws for each group? Do they elect leaders, are the leaders hereditary, do they have absolute power, who enforces their edicts and rules, etc. How do the groups get along with each other? I don’t have to know absolutely everything when I start – a lot of it evolves and comes to me as I write.
2.) In a paranormal romance, (or any romance) there’s a hero and a heroine. I need to know:
What is their profession? Who were their parents, and what kind of upbringing did they have? (Loving, abusive, smothering, neglectful, etc.) How did their upbringing effect them? Are their parents or any family members still living, and if so, what kind of relationship do they have with them? Where is the hero or heroine from?
3.) The hero and heroine always have a physical attraction on first meeting, but there is also always a reason, perhaps multiple reasons, why they can’t be together. Otherwise you’d have a pretty dull story. So, I need to know: what is the INTERIOR/psychological barrier to them getting together? Examples: he has a reputation as a player and she’s wary of him because of it, or he was burned when his wife cheated on him so he has a hard time trusting and is looking for her to betray him, she has low self esteem so she is wary of his apparent interest in her…
Then, what are the EXTERNAL reasons they can’t be together? As in: He’s trying to arrest a family member of hers. Or their packs are at war. Or she’s been promised to somebody else. Or he’s a bounty hunter sent to capture her. Or, she’s only in town for a short time, and they decide to have a brief fling but other obligations are calling her away. Or, he’s a prosecutor and she’s a defense attorney on opposite sides of a case (that’s more traditional romance rather than paranormal romance.) Or, he’s a wolf and she’s a bobcat so their packs/prides will be opposed.
4.) Who is the villain of the story? In a paranormal romance, there’s generally going to be a bad guy, or an evil pack, or a mad scientist, or someone who is posing some kind of challenge to the hero and heroine that must be overcome. What are the villain’s motivations? What do they want, and why do they want it? They want power, so they want to take over the heroine’s pack, or the villain is in love with the heroine so he wants to claim her for himself and doesn’t care what she wants, the villain wants revenge because his father, a criminal, was killed by the hero’s family…etc.
The villain of the story can also provide some of that external reason why the hero and heroine can’t be together.
5.) How does the villain attempt to accomplish what he or she wants? What is he or she doing to accomplish their goals?
6.) Is there an “enemy within” – someone who is in the hero or heroine’s pack, family, job, school, etc., who should be an ally but turns out to be a villain? What do they want, and why do they want it? Example – female is in love with the hero, so when he finally meets the love of his life, she tries to sabotage them. Having an enemy within helps add dimension and mystery to the story.
7.) What is the “all is lost” moment, or final battle, and how does the hero and heroine win this final fight? To figure this out, look to the villain and how they are trying to accomplish their goal. Example – the villain wants the heroine to marry him so he can have her dowry and her land, so in the all is lost moment, he kidnaps the heroine’s family and threatens to kill them if she won’t marry him. Also at this point, the hero and the heroine have gotten in some kind of fight and she thinks it’s over between them. Remember – ALL is lost here. She thinks no help is coming and she can’t let her family die. So, the heroine agrees to marry the villain to save her family. What could happen next? The hero could somehow find a way to break up the wedding and rescue her family.
7.) What changes internally and externally for the hero and/or heroine by the end of the story? Every story is both an internal and an external journey. Someone needs to grow, to finally have faith in themselves, or to learn to trust again, etc. The hero and heroine have to overcome their inner doubts/fears/obstacles.
So, that list is my starting point for plotting out my books.
Next post will be about writing that first draft.
And there was dancing in the streets, and much rejoicing across the land!
Hard As Steele is still not available in the US. Apparently there is some issue on Amazon where almost all books published or updated over the weekend are having problems. Many other authors are in the same boat that I am – books available in the UK, Australia and Canada but not the US. I wish I could tell you when it would be fixed! When I have news, I will definitely post right away! I appreciate everyone’s patience.