Writing a Series~ By Mary E. Thompson
Series has been a buzz word in romance for years. So much so that now, it’s just how things are done. Writing a book? Turn it into a series. Have an idea? Make sure you can expand it. It’s standard operating procedure.
But why? Why do we write series?
The better question is why do readers love them?
How many TV shows do you watch? My DVR has twenty-one shows we record. It’s a lot, I know, but that’s not the point. Why do we record shows? Or watch them online? Or on Netflix? Is it because the shows are unique and different and interesting? Or is it because you enjoyed it when it started and got invested? You liked something about it at the beginning. But every episode follows a formula. You knew Lorelai and Rory would both learn something at the end of Gilmore Girls. You knew the bad guy was going to get caught on Hawaii 5-0. You knew someone would get eliminated at the end of The Voice.
So why do you keep watching?
We always want the bad guy to lose and the good guy to get the girl. We want characters to grow and change. We want to believe the same is possible for us. The overweight woman can end up with the SEAL. The dorky guy can get the model. The invisible girl can catch the attention of the jock.
It’s not the main story that captures our attention. I loved Gilmore Girls. I loved it so much I have the DVD’s of every episode so I can watch them whenever I want. With each episode, we knew that Lorelai was going to do something crazy. Emily and Lorelai would argue. Rory would try to keep the peace. And Richard would barely pay attention.
But that wasn’t what kept me returning week after week to watch what was going to happen. It wasn’t what made almost 6 million people tune in the weekend Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life premiered.https://youtu.be/Hjqrr7nss3s
I wanted to know what crazy thing Lorelai would do, yes. But I also wanted to see Rory go to Harvard and then Yale. I wanted to know if Lorelai would marry Max. Or Christopher. Or Luke. If Rory would end up with Dean. Or Jess. Or Logan. If she’d go back to school. If Rory and Lorelai would make up. If Rory and Paris would ever truly be friends. If Lane and Zach would get together. If Richard and Emily would ever take it easy on Lorelai.
The individual episodes didn’t keep me going back. The characters did.
That’s what readers want from us. They want that familiarity. That sense of knowing what to expect. They want to see their favorite characters again and again. They want to know the one character they relate to the best is going to end up with her happily ever after.
That’s why a series works. Grab their attention at the beginning and they’ll be begging you for more. A reader knows what the series stands for. What each book will be like based on the ones before. All their favorite characters are there. They know the backstory. They know who’s going to have a snarky remark and who’s going to keep the peace. They know who the introvert is and who’s going to bring the party. It’s like sitting down for a few hours with their best friends, if we’re lucky.
Because hearing a story from your best friend is the best kind of story.
Mary E. Thompson writes scintillating stories with a side of hope. Her series, Big & Beautiful, is eleven stories long… and counting, because her readers asked for more. When Mary isn’t writing, she cheers on her daughter at gymnastics and her son at every other sport. Mary is lucky to have her own romance novel worthy husband to tag-team if things get too crazy. Visit her website at http://MaryEThompson.com to learn more.
It’s the last Sunday of the month, which means that it’s time for one of our chapter PAN members (PAN stands for Published Authors Network, a professional designation within RWA open to members who reach a certain level of sales) to visit the blog to share some of their wisdom and expertise.This month, Mary E. Thompson is here to inspire us with some thoughts on why we write. Which for those of you who are striving to write 50,000 words this month, may feel like an extremely timely question. Take it away, Mary!
~ By Mary E. Thompson
Eight months ago a friend of mine released her first book. Leading up to the release, she did a countdown to release day on social media, shared it with everyone she knew, and was crazy excited. Three months later, sales were dismal. Recognition wasn’t there. She was discouraged.
Another friend took on a second job because her writing income wasn’t what she hoped for.
Yet another friend waited months to hear back from a submission only to get rejected.
None are new stories. Most authors start out the same way. No one knows who you are. No one is interested in your books. You pour yourself into a book and get a horrible review that rips the book, and your heart, to shreds.
So why do we do it? Why do we keep writing, keep pushing through in a career that may never be much more than a hobby? Why don’t we walk away and do something with more stability? A higher chance of success?
I think there are two reasons we keep going. Maybe only one of them drives you. Maybe it’s both. I’m guessing it’s both.
You know, without a doubt, that you have a book inside you that is going to make it all worthwhile.
We all want that elusive mega-success that seems to come so easily to some. We all want our book to be the next breakout story. The one that has movie producers and readers knocking down our door. We want the bestseller list and the raving fans that make every book bigger than our wildest dreams.
And we’re creative people. We have some crazy dreams.
If you don’t have faith in your own storytelling abilities, you’re going to give up. You know you’re good. You keep writing and learning and writing some more. Your books get better. Writing gets easier. You gain more recognition. You know it’s all going to pay off.
You have faith.
You truly have no choice. You’ve tried something else. Maybe you had a different career before. Or you have a second one now. Maybe writing was something you’ve always wanted to do.
No matter what, you’ve thought about walking away. Giving it all up and doing something else.
But you just can’t.
There are stories inside you. Stories that are demanding you tell them. Stories that you have to get out. It doesn’t matter if you have a million fans or one, you have to tell your stories.
How could we not do it?
Readers flock to romance. Everyone wants love. Romance novels make us believe anything can happen when love gets involved. Your best friend’s cute older brother will want you. The hot guy from your favorite coffee shop asks you out. Your sexy boss is pining for you. Anything is possible.
Is it any wonder we simply can’t stop writing our stories? Helping people fall in love? Pushing them to their limits only to shove them a little further to help them find that one person we all want to find? We can’t stop writing any more than our fans can stop reading. And that is a beautiful love story!
Mary E. Thompson writes scintillating stories with a side of hope. She’s been indie published from the beginning. Her 26th release comes out November 29. She spends her days hoping she’s raising her daughter and son to be good people and her nights snuggling with her own romance novel worthy husband. Visit her website at http://MaryEThompson.com to learn more.
Time Savers for Writers In the Age of Social Media~ By Veronica Forand Writing a book? Stay off social media to keep your sanity. No matter what pace you write at, someone will always be writing double your daily count. And someone with the same idea as your now completed novel just posted on Facebook about their eight figure book deal with Chris Evans starring in the movie. Then there are the quizzes. No one needs to know the true color of their cat’s soul, but we all waste five minutes finding out anyway even those of us without a cat. Although ignoring the Internet seems like a great solution, chances are you’ll need to spend at least some time on the Internet. Blog tours, twitter pitches, following the industry, and sharing time with other writers could take up hours of every day. I’ve found a few things to help manage the overwhelming.
- When writing a lot of blogs- use lists. They are quicker to write than a longer blog, but can really grab a reader’s attention.
- Write only one or two short posts on Facebook each day, but make them meaningful. Also, take a few minutes and see what others are posting. If one touches you, add a comment.
- I only tweet one day a week. Wednesdays. The rest of the week, I respond to mentions.
- For my own blog, I neglect it. Not a good thing. Instead of feeling like you need to write a 600 word post, do a quick photo article. A picture and one or two sentences can draw tons of interest with your readers.
- Add other social media only if you have an interest in them. I have a Pinterest page, but I’m so bad at using it, I have hired my 13-year-old to update the photos. I’m not sure photos need updating, so hopefully she knows what she’s doing.
Taking the Leap~ By PJ Sharon I can hardly believe that it was ten years ago that I completed my first manuscript. I remember the day—Valentine’s Day 2006—and recall the excitement and sense of accomplishment I felt. It was a moment I’ll never forget—the moment I knew I could be a writer. Of course, the manuscript was awful, but I knew with perseverance and hard work that I could learn the craft of writing. After seeking out a trusted mentor, joining RWA, and eventually finding a group of helpful critique partners, I was hooked on the idea that being a published author would be worth any challenge that came my way. With that in mind, I set myself the goal of becoming published within five years. I figured if I treated my writing as if it were a college education, it would take about that long to “graduate” and join the big leagues. Five full-length manuscripts and five years later, I could see the writing on the wall. As a self-employed entrepreneur who was determined to steer my own ship, the long and uncertain path to traditional publishing didn’t work for me—or my time line. I had received positive feedback from contest judges and was getting those lovely rejection letters stating “we like your voice and your story but don’t know how we would market this,” or “if you would just change this, take out this subplot, rewrite this character,” etc, etc. I knew that three of my novels were publish worthy, and despite being told by more than one NYT Bestselling author that “I deserved to be traditionally published,” I took a leap of faith. In keeping with my independent nature and entrepreneurial spirit, I hired an editor and indie published my first two Contemporary YA novels in 2011, just as self-publishing was hitting its stride. I followed up with a third Contemporary YA in early 2012 and began to grow a readership. Sales were slowly creeping up and I began to think that I really could make a go of this writing thing. Using my five-year plan model, I determined as with any new business, it might take three to five years to turn a good profit. I was in it for the long haul and willing to invest the time and money to make it happen. Then I had a brilliant idea for a dystopian trilogy. It was around the time that Hunger Games had hit the shelves and I thought what great timing! Apparently, every writer on the planet had the same idea. Being a prolific writer, but a very slow typist, the series took me three years to complete, by which time the “dystopian” market was on the decline. At the same time, Amazon’s change to their algorithms and the flood of indie titles to the market sent sales spiraling downward. It became apparent that readers of Contemporary YA were not readers of dystopian fiction, and with the deluge of cheap/free e-books, my sales dwindled to a trickle. No matter how much promotion I did, it didn’t seem to make a dent (except in my wallet, my ego, and my self-confidence). Upon the advice of a well-respected, bestselling indie author, I took a break from finishing the second book in the trilogy and wrote another contemporary YA, but even that didn’t do much for my sales. So, to recap, I indie published two novels in 2011, two in 2012, two in 2013, and then completed the trilogy in 2014, adding an additional Contemporary YA novella and a box set to my cyber-shelf. The results…nada. Sales flagged, I didn’t recoup my costs of the last three releases, and I was exhausted, frustrated, and ready to quit. My day job as owner of a holistic health care practice—which had been supporting my writing—also took a downturn with the economy and neither business was doing well. Dividing my time between running two businesses was taking its toll financially, emotionally, and physically. That’s when I had a “come to Jesus” moment. I would either have to quit writing, try pounding on traditional publisher’s doors again hoping for some takers and an advance (with no guarantees of making any more money than I had with self-publishing), or find a way to combine my two businesses. Aha! This last idea sparked some fresh enthusiasm and I decided to give it one more go. For several years, my clients had been asking me to write a book on healthy living. With over twenty-five years in the health and fitness business, I apparently had a few things to say on the topic and I no longer had the excuse that I didn’t know how to write a book. Thus was born OVERCOME YOUR SEDENTARY LIFESTYLE (A Practical Guide to Improving Health, Fitness, and Well-being for Desk Dwellers and Couch Potatoes). Writing non-fiction was way off my beaten path and out of my comfort zone, but I trusted that voice inside me that I’d heard after finishing that first manuscript. It said, “You can do this!” It took me a full year to complete the project, but once it was done, I had that same wonderful sense of accomplishment and I knew that I was fulfilling a purpose. Whether the book sells a million copies or only a few hundred, every sale of this book gives me hope that I’m making a difference in someone’s life—which after all—is the greatest measure of success for any writer. I have no regrets in having taken that initial leap of faith in believing I could be a writer. Nor do I regret any of the leaps I’ve taken since. I may have gone off the beaten path, out of my comfort zone, and even into a bit of debt, but I truly believe that every leap of faith teaches us what we’re made of and shows us what we can become. And if we can make a positive difference in the world around us, all the better. Have you taken a leap of faith with your writing? Did it pay off? What did you learn about yourself in the process? PJ Sharon owns the holistic health care practice, ABSolute Fitness and Therapeutic Bodywork in Granby, CT. With over twenty-five years in the health and fitness industry, Ms. Sharon finally wrote the book all her clients have been asking for. Overcome your Sedentary Lifestyle is a holistic living, self-help book, written to get people motivated and moving toward a more balanced and active lifestyle. When she’s not writing, or spreading the love through her practice, she can be found kayaking in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, and renovating an old farmhouse with the love of her life.
Goal, Motivation & Conflict~ By Samanthya Wyatt I must admit, when I started writing I had no idea what GMC meant. So I took a workshop and learned that if you want to write a story and you want to be published, your story must have GMC or you’re sunk. GMC brings your characters to life, makes them real, and moves the story forward. The more you know your characters, the more memorable they become. My goal has always been to bring the reader into the story and get them involved with the characters. GMC is the key. Each major character has their own goal, their own motivation, and usually resolving a conflict is what brings the hero and heroine to a satisfying conclusion. What are these three things?
- Goal is your character’s call to adventure. What the character wants. What most characters will do anything to get. Did you know there are internal and external goals?
- Motivation will drive the hero or heroine to achieve their goal. Why are they so desperate? Why do they want what they cannot have? The more you know about your character’s motivation, the deeper you can relate that into your story.
- Conflict will make the goal seem impossible. What keeps the characters from obtaining their goal.
Fear of Failure...and Success~ By Mellanie Szereto Fear of Failure...and Success goes hand in hand with writer’s block. Writers tend to be artistically minded, and lack of—or overblown—confidence often comes with the territory. Not only can self-doubt be a problem, concern over becoming successful may contribute to a stalled career. Overconfidence has its own issues and can be just as detrimental, but that’s another story for another day... Finishing a manuscript is one of the hardest feats of being a writer. Throughout that arduous journey, many authors vacillate between loving and hating their stories/writing. Is the plot good enough? Am I showing instead of telling? Are the characters likeable? Do I suck??? Critique partners and/or beta readers provide valuable feedback, but having honest and thorough yet constructive comments is vital. The worst part? No matter how well written, not everyone will like every book. Focus on education in weak areas of writing to gain confidence. Push through the low spots and try not to edit during those times. After the editing and polishing process, submission is the next step. Will the editor/my editor/an agent/my agent like the story? What if it’s rejected? Was the first book sale a fluke? The majority of published authors still suffer from a case of butterflies from hitting the send button. Rather than worrying about that submission, begin work on the next book. Practice is a far better way to improve writing craft than procrastinating for days, weeks, or months while waiting for a response. Nervousness is normal, but agonizing over a submission can be crippling. Writers write as an escape. Use it to your advantage! The manuscript has sold or gotten a thumbs-up from the editor/agent/freelance editor/critique partners. Now, authors get to fixate on whether or not the book will sell to readers. Will it get good reviews? Will it make a bestsellers list? Will I make enough money to quit the day job? Do I need to market more? What kind of marketing should I be doing? Again, rather than focusing on all those questions and possible scenarios, writers need to work on the next book—the best marketing tool available. Yes, this is a never-ending cycle. This is what makes writing a career. It sounds difficult, doesn’t it? It is. Fear of success can also cause an author to subconsciously derail her career before it starts. But...what if my book sells 10,000 copies the first week? Can I write another book that’s just as good? Will I be a one-hit wonder? I have to interact with readers? I don’t know how to do that! Interviews??? I’m an introvert! I can’t go out and meet people! Public appearances? Every day is a bad hair day! Take a few deep breaths. Put that active imagination to work on a book. Write for the joy of writing. On to the most important questions... Why am I writing? Am I writing to satisfy an inner need or simply to make money? Do I need to write to make myself happy? The answers help define the fear. Someone who’s in it only for the money doesn’t usually put her heart and soul into every story. She doesn’t have as much to lose by submitting, publishing, and waiting for sales numbers. Produce, produce, produce is the object of the game for her. However, the love of writing doesn’t have to mean suffering through the “Am I good enough?” complex. Keep things in perspective. A great book may not produce great sales and great reviews. Bestseller doesn’t necessarily equate best-written story. That’s reality, not a judgment of any person’s ability to write. Telling a heartfelt story is the top priority. Authors should please themselves first and spend less time consumed by the need for approval and acceptance. Make your own confidence. Repeat after me. “I am a writer. I’ll learn what I need to learn to become a better writer.” Did you notice the lack of adjectives in the first sentence? Awful, good, great... What do they matter? A writer IS a writer. Craft and industry knowledge can be learned, and even great writers never stop seeking that knowledge in this ever-changing publishing world. I am a writer. I’ll learn what I need to learn to become a better writer. When her fingers aren’t attached to her keyboard, Mellanie Szereto enjoys hiking, Pilates, cooking, gardening, and researching for her stories. Many times, the research partners with her other hobbies, taking her from the Hocking Hills region in Ohio to the Colorado Rockies or the Adirondacks of New York. Sometimes, the trip is no farther than her garden for ingredients and her kitchen to test recipes for her latest steamy tale. She is multi-published with Siren-Bookstrand and is self-publishing her foodie contemporary series, Love on the Menu, in addition to her nonfiction Writing Tip Wednesday handbooks based on her informational blog series. Mellanie makes her home in rural Indiana with her husband of twenty-eight years and their son. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Indiana Romance Writers of America, Contemporary Romance Writers, and FF&P Romance Writers. Visit her website at http://www.mellanieszereto.com for information on book signings and her upcoming release, Iced Latté. Sugar and spice and everything…naughty! Social Media Links:
Write Fast, Write Better~ By Maria Geraci There’s no right way to write a novel. There’s only your way. But what I can tell you, is that the faster I write a novel, the better it seems to be. By better, I mean less edits, less revisions, and a story that seems to come together a lot more organically. In the past year I’ve written and edited 3 full length novels. Kind of a big feat for me, because my previous books all took much longer to write and edit. So what changed things up? It’s simple. I went from traditional publishing to Indie publishing and it’s a whole different world. A world made for authors who can produce more quality books in less time. In other words, I had to get with the program. And Fast. I’d taken Candace Havens’ Fast Draft class and it made a lot of sense. Write every day, don’t edit, and the story will take off. Kind of like how running and exercise gives you endorphins, daily writing will give you the same kind of high. Only this one is a writing high. The goal is to write about 2000 words a pop, twice a day, and at the end of two weeks, you’ll have enough for a quick and dirty draft that will allow you to edit more in. The problem is, I can’t write every day (besides writing, I also work as a labor and delivery nurse). And I love to edit. I simply have to. So while there were some great tips I picked up from the class, a lot of it didn’t work for me. But it got me thinking. I could take the principles I’d learned and make my own version of fast draft. My goal was to write my first draft in six weeks. This is what I did: First, let me tell you that I’m not a plotter. I’m a total pantser. But in order to make this thing work I HAD to plot. Just a little. Before I begin any novel, I always have a basic idea of who my main characters are. Sometimes, I’ve been thinking about those characters for a long time, so they’ve been in my head and I believe that my subconscious has a good idea where the book is going. But I’ve got to get my conscious self into the game. So I write down a little bit about my characters. Not too much. But just enough to get started. I need to know their story goals, and just as importantly, I need to know what makes them tick. This is where I turn to the brilliant Michael Hauge and his Identity vs Essence theory. He’s taught this at RWA Nationals many times now and if you have a chance to hear him speak, do it! He’s awesome. So, I put all this information together into a really rough one page synopsis (that no one but me will ever see). This takes me about a day to do. The next thing I do is divide my story into four equal parts (or acts). Each act ends in some kind of turning point (or big scene) with the end of Act 3 culminating in the Big Black Moment. This is the hardest part of the plotting process, but it’s critical. You need to know what the BBM is before you begin writing or else you’re going to waste a lot of time. This might take me another whole day to figure out. While I’m figuring this out, I’m also making a Pinterest board for my book. I like to have an image of my hero and heroine and any other major characters in the book. I also like to Pin locations, objects, that sort of thing. I’m a highly visual person and all this helps me “see” the book as I’m writing it. Now that I have my four acts down, I begin to write. I write one act per week (usually at a pace of about 20,000 words a week). Some days I might write five thousand words and other days I might write five hundred. It just depends. At the end of the week (or the first act) I stop and read everything I’ve done and edit. This usually takes me about three or four days. I fix everything that I don’t like about the story and make sure that the turning point is strong. Then I do it again with the next act, and so on. If at any point in the writing, I need to go back and fix something, I do it. I’m a linear writer and if something doesn’t work, I need to fix it right then. When I get to the end, I’m exhausted (but happy!) and put the novel away for at least a few days. Then I read it again from start to finish and make more edits. And then it’s on to someone else to read, because at this point, only fresh eyes will see what I can’t. Sources: Candace Havens http://www.candacehavens.com/index.php/workshops/ Michael Hauge http://www.storymastery.com/ Maria Geraci writes contemporary romance and women’s fiction with a happy ending. The Portland Book Review called her novel, The Boyfriend of the Month Club, “immensely sexy, immensely satisfying and humorous.” Her fourth novel, A Girl Like You, was nominated for Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA ® award. Her current addictions include watching the STARZ adaption of OUTLANDER to drool over Sam Heughan, hitting the beach on the weekends, and searching for the perfect key lime pie recipe (but not the kind they served on Dexter). You can visit her website at www.mariageraci.com
The Things Authors Say~ By Nancy Fraser As authors, we often look to other writers for inspiration. I thought I’d share some of my favorite writing-related quotes. Which ones speak to you? Do you have any favorite quotes? Leave a comment and share!
* * *Writers on Writing:
I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. - Douglas Adams I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork. - Peter de Vries If you start with a bang, you won't end with a whimper. - T.S. Eliot There are three rules for writing. Unfortunately, no one can agree what they are. - Somerset Maugham The first chapter sells the book; the last chapter sells the next book. - Mickey Spillane If the sex scene doesn't make you want to do it - whatever it is they're doing - it hasn't been written right. - Sloan WilsonWriters on Editing:
Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it's the only way you can do anything really good. - William Faulkner It is perfectly okay to write garbage--as long as you edit brilliantly. - C. J. Cherryh Never throw up on an editor. - Ellen DatlowWriters on Critics/Reviews:
Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs. - Christopher Hampton It's none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way. - Ernest Hemingway It is advantageous to an author that his book should be attacked as well as praised. Fame is a shuttlecock. If it be struck at one end of the room, it will soon fall to the ground. To keep it up, it must be struck at both ends. - Samuel JohnsonWriting Self-Deprecation:
It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous. - Robert Benchle I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within. - Gustave Flaubert Having been unpopular in high school is not just cause for book publication. - Fran LebowitzA Writer’s Obsession:
We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to. - Somerset Maugham When writing a novel, that’s pretty much entirely what life turns into: 'House burned down. Car stolen. Cat exploded. Did 1500 easy words, so all in all it was a pretty good day.' - Neil Gaiman A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing. - Eugene IonescoJust for Fun:
He was such a bad writer, they revoked his poetic license. - Milton BerleNancy Fraser began writing at an early age, usually on the walls and with crayons or, heaven forbid, permanent markers. Her love of writing often made her the English teacher’s pet, which, of course, resulted in a whole lot of teasing. Still, it was worth it. When not writing (which is almost never), Nancy dotes on her five beautiful grandchildren and looks forward to traveling and reading when time permits. Nancy lives in Atlantic Canada where she enjoys the relaxed pace and colorful people.