Tag Archives: writing tips

Welcome Author Gerri Brousseau

Please welcome, Gerri Brousseau, a friend and fellow member of the CTRWA, author of A PIRATE’S RANSOM and the newly released ACCORDING TO LEGEND. Take it away, Gerri!

Gerri Bio picThank you, Paula, for inviting me to the Scribes today. I’m thrilled to be here and to meet your readers.

PJ: Please tell us about your current release.

Gerri: ACCORDING TO LEGEND is a time-travel story with a prophecy, a quest, a love triangle and a quirky wolf. The premise of the story is according to legend, when the spirit of the tribal princess is born again and she holds the enchanted stone in her hands, the lovers will be reunited … even through time.

PJ: It sounds like a great read! What inspired you to write this book?

Gerri: ACCORDING TO LEGEND came to me one night in a very vivid dream. When I woke up I started to write madly so as not to forget a single detail. The more I wrote, the more the story seemed to pour out of me. Don’t you love it when that happens?

PJ: I do! I had the same experience with HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES. What kind of research did you have to do for LEGEND?

Gerri: ACCORDING TO LEGEND takes place up at Kent Falls. Of course, I changed the name of the area and falls in the book. I researched the local tribe and actually spent a lovely afternoon whittling at the central fire pit at the reservation talking to the real Tribal Princess. It was quite a journey and I’m glad I took the time to make it.

PJ: That sounds awesome. I love the research part of being a writer. How do you combat the doubt monster?

Gerri: I must confess that I have had my fair share of bouts with that evil fellow, but I find the best thing to do is to keep writing. I wonder if he will ever leave me alone. Somehow I doubt it, but much to his credit, all his constant complaining causes me to edit and in the long run he makes me a better writer. Still, he’s not my favorite individual.

PJ: Mine either! What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Gerri: I don’t know if it’s all that interesting or that much of a quirk, but I like to read my work aloud. You would be surprised at how quickly you hear your errors when you do this.

PJ: That is so true! I sometimes forget to do that during the revision stage. Thanks for the reminder. If you had to be something other than a writer, what would you be?

Gerri: A chef. Cooking is my second passion in life and I really enjoy creating a meal that gets rave reviews from my family.

PJ: You sound like my husband. He would definitely be a chef in another life. Is there anything you’d like to share with readers that they might not know about you?

Gerri: Let’s see … they already know I’m a retired skydiver, that I’m a new grandmother, and that I have two pugs. But, I wonder if they know that I have played piano since I was 7 years old. It’s been a while now, but they say it’s like riding a bike … you never forget.

PJ: I had no idea! That is so cool. I bet you’d pick it right back up! Thanks so much for being here and sharing your time with us. If anyone has any questions for Gerri, or comments about her books, her writing tips or her pugs, please feel free to do so.

Gerri AccordingtoLegend_850 Full CoverHere’s a short excerpt from ACCORDING TO LEGEND:
“According to the legend, the enchantment of the stone was originally activated by the depth of their love. It is said that their love created a very powerful magic. According to legend, the power of the stone would be set in motion once more when the spirit of the Indian Princess was born again and she held the stone in her hand. Then, the spirit of the lovers would awaken and they would be reunited, even through time.” She sighed. “It is believed that only the true Tribal Princess would have the ability to seek out and find the other half of this stone and access its full enchantment.”

For more information on Gerri and her writing, please visit her website at www.gerribrousseau.com and if you would like to read ACCORDING TO LEGEND, it’s available at Amazon for Kindle.

Just Say It, Already!

Welcome to the 7 Scribes and a happy Friday to you! Casey here.

IMG_2221One of my favorite parts of writing is dialogue. Well written dialogue between characters can inform, entertain, anger, laugh or even make you cry. For me, when I begin a story and even while writing it, I can hear the characters talking in my head. They always begin as a voice, long before I have any idea what they look like!

As a reader, I am drawn to dialogue. If I see pages and pages of words with no one speaking to anyone else, chances are the book is getting tossed in the corner.That doesn’t mean I want to read pages of endless conversations. Like everything in life, there must be balance.

So I am offering my tips for writing dialogue.

Do:

~ Use humor! But only if you’re funny (and it’s appropriate for the scene). Not sure what I mean? Pick up a book by an author who makes you laugh and study how they do it. Authors who do this well: Kristan Higgins, Julia Quinn and Jim Butcher.

~ Be clear about which character is speaking. And take the opportunity to show action when appropriate.

~ Let your character’s personality shine through their speech patterns. If all your characters sound like the same person, you have a problem.

~ Remember that men and women see the world differently. And that women do tend IMG_2223to be more verbal!

~ Use dialogue instead of long descriptive passages. During editing, I always ask myself if a scene would work better as dialogue between my characters rather than relying on deep point of view.

~ Keep in mind that dialogue is an opportunity to allow characters to interact, to show conflict, to be sexy, act dastardly or to showcase a myriad of other emotions and behaviors.

~ Be crisp and concise. Like all writing, omit needless words.

Don’t:

~ Don’t use dialogue to info dump on your reader! They know it and will skip over it. In my house, we call this shameless exposition. Television shows do this all the time. Some do it better than others. If you watch anime (Japanese animation), the characters break out into long-winded monologues at the weirdest times. Like in the middle of a battle, characters recap the plot line from the episode before. Or in police procedurals where two cops will exchange “information” through dialogue. This can work in television but on the printed page, not so much. Remember, this is where showing comes into play. Using dialogue to tell is still telling!

IMG_2231~ Don’t waste dialogue in banal exchanges. For example, the play by play:

“How was your day? Could you hand me the salt?”

“Good, until I had to spend two hours sitting in traffic. How was yours?”

“Awful. My boss hates me. Everyone is getting a raise except for me. Please pass the potatoes.”

This is about as much fun as watching paint dry. Nothing is happening here. Sure, it’s like a real life dinner conversation but when you’re writing fiction, you need to use conversations to move the plot along, not lull your reader into a verbal coma.

~ Don’t leave off dialogue tags. Establish who is speaking right up front. Then you can drop the “he said, she said.” But not for too long, otherwise the reader will lose track of who is speaking and you will take them out of the story!

Let’s hear from you. Do you love or hate dialogue? And who do you think does it well?

Attack of the Back Cover Blob

Another Friday is upon us! Yay! Casey here. Just a reminder, it’s still not too late to enter my Goodreads Giveaway for a paperback copy of The Undead Space Initiative (don’t wait, it ends midnight on 2/28).

IMG_1581 I don’t know about anyone else, but I find writing back cover copy to be more daunting and frustrating then writing an entire novel.

After I completed Mystic Storm and submitted it to my editor, I realized I’d never written a short blurb about the story. Normally, I write a rough draft blurb before I start a book to save time later with the query process.

But since I didn’t have to query this time – Oops – @#%#  – totally forgot. What was I thinking?

In any case, I found myself scrambling to come up with those precious few sentences that would capture a reader’s attention and make them want to read more.

My first attempt. Pathetic. And this is only a part of it. There’s more and its utter crap!

It’s not easy being the God of the West Wind, especially after the Fates administer their own unique brand of punishment. Now, Zephyr must live a dual existence until he figures out how to break the curse. As if his life isn’t complicated enough, a Muse, Kalliope Parthenos arrives on his doorstep searching for her missing brother Niko. Inquisitive and damn sexy, she is one temptation he can’t afford to indulge. Not while he’s under a curse and forced to lie every step of the way.

Kalli’s been watching out for her irresponsible brother for as long as she can remember. Used to rescuing him various scrapes, this time he’s angered a witch and been transformed into a pig. If they fail to save him, he’s destined for the dinner plate and Zephyr may end up cursed for eternity.  

Bleck. I don’t like it. It doesn’t really scream romance and seems to be all about Niko. Plus it gives away a major plot point that doesn’t need to be stated yet (shh, don’tIMG_1594 tell anyone).

So I went back to the drawing board and asked myself the following questions.

1. Who is the hero? And who is the heroine?

2. What do they want when the story begins? Or what is their problem? Notice, not what they ultimately achieve or end up wanting later in the story.

3. What are their initial barriers? Or what do they have to lose?

I focused on what is happening in the first chapter or two because the idea is to entice the reader to want to read more. Not to give away the whole story. Kind of like a query letter. In fact, most of the time, I use the query letter as the back cover copy (minus all the “business” bits).

So what did I end up with?

The Fates haven’t been kind to Zephyr, God of the West Wind. After interfering in a Hero’s Journey, they’ve cursed him. Yeah, he probably deserved it. But come on, did he really have to spend his daylight hours trapped in the body of a woman? And did they have to take away his power over the West Wind too?

As if his life isn’t complicated enough, a Muse, the supernatural equivalent of a tabloid journalist, appears on his doorstep. So what if she’s irresistible, whip smart and probably the only female on the planet who doesn’t find him charming, he has dangerous secrets that he will do anything to protect.

Kalliope is a Muse on a mission: Find her wayward brother, Niko, and bring him home before the other Muses discover her mission. By leaving their island sanctuary, she’s broken the “rules”, but she’ll risk banishment to save him from yet another ill-fated scheme. She’ll even accept help from Zephyr, the immortal world’s most undeniably gorgeous and notorious rake.

Granted, this still needs streamlining and the approval of my editor, but it’s better than what I had before – nothing!

How do you write your back cover blurbs? And what tips or tricks do you have to share about your process?IMG_1622

Stop Thief!! Beating the Time Bandits

Happy Black Friday! Casey here.

Everyone knows there are only 24 hours in a day. And we all pretty much wish we had more time to get everything done.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t change the laws of physics. So unless you want to move to Venus (where a single day lasts 243 earth days not to mention it’s totally inhospitable), you have to use the limited time you have wisely.

You have to identify and eliminate Time Bandits. In order to do that, you have to be brutally honest about how you are spending your time.

Just like dieting, where everything you put in your mouth can land on your hips, every moment you spend playing on-line internet games, is one more moment where you aren’t writing.

Identifying Time Bandits can be tricky because it’s not alway immediately obvious that you are about to robbed of your precious writing time.

Here’s a real life example. This happens to me frequently on the weekends. It starts with an innocent question from my hubby – “Honey, what are we doing for lunch today?”

I look up from my laptop, where I am clearly at work, yet it is not perceived as work by anyone but me, and say, “I don’t know. Can’t you make a sandwhich?”

This response is met with a derisive snort. “How about _____ (insert, Chinese, Pizza, hamburgers, whatever)?”

Soon, the sons have emerged from their mini-man caves and start to chime in. Next thing, I know, I’m in the car on the way somewhere to eat. I have just lost, if I’m lucky, an hour of writing time.

Hold on. I know what you’re going to say – “just say NO.” And sometimes, I do. But, I also want to eat (hey, I’m human!) and I do like spending time with my sons (before they completely grow up and move away).

Clearly, for me, this is an area where I can combat the Time Bandit. In order to make up for lost time, I have to give up watching television (love that DVR) or not read before bed that day.

So how do you know if you are about to be hi-jacked by a Time Bandit? Please note, I am not adovocating that you must ignore all responsibilities or become a hermit.

1. Mundane chores are appealing. If you find yourself thinking that cleaning the tub (and you normally loathe it) then you have a Time Bandit. If you have teenagers, make them do it (bribes work better than threats) or learn to live with some dirt.

2. Social Media – I know this is obvious. But we’ve all experienced “the promise” where you swear to only spend a half hour and the next thing you know two hours have elapsed. Get a timer. Or in my case, I had to go nearly cold turkey to get back on track.

3. The Boob Tube – yes, I love it too. I have plenty of shows that will gladly rob me of my “precious” (writing, for anyone who doesn’t know who Gollum is). In the last two years, I have gone on a severe television diet. I avoid most shows that may tempt me and only allow a few favorites to DVR (any Haven fans out there?). I’m sorry to say, if you have hours and hours of DVR’d programs or are spending hours watching TV, then you have a Time Bandit.

4. Your family – see my example above. We all love our families BUT in order to be successful as a writer, you have to actually write. Sometimes, your significiant others don’t realize they are Time Bandits. You need to politely call them on it. Of course, there has to be compromise. Perhaps you can agree to have a nice dinner together instead of going out for lunch.

5. You – Yes, you are your own worst enemy. If you peel the mask off the Time Bandit, you might see your own face there (kind of like in Empire Strikes Back, when Luke sees his own face in Darth Vader’s mask). One thing I’ve learned is that if you are waiting around for the Muse to strike you, you’ll be waiting a long time. Treat writing like a job and write something, anything, until you get your brain in the place it needs to be to work on your latest WIP.

If you can write an entire book, then you can come up with creative ways to conquer those Time Bandits.

How about everyone else? Remember, the first step to solving a problem is to admit you have one. Please share your Time Bandits or your suggestions for managing your writing time.

Back at the Beginning Again!

PJ Sharon, here. Actually, I’m at the beach today celebrating the completion of my first draft of WANING MOON with a few of my very best young friends (my twin nieces and my godson).

 After many months of clawing my way through that manuscript, I needed to take a day off and have some fun before diving totally into revisions. Admittedly, I’ve already begun the process, and have moved through the first ten chapters with relative ease. I was excited to get started, but felt I also needed to take a day and acknowledge my accomplishment—something that I often have trouble doing.

 Once I started back at the beginning, it wasn’t hard to see where the story went off track and needed to be trimmed–sections where delving deeper is necessary. I can clearly see some missed opportunities to address the lack of multidimensional depth of character. But the most important revision I will make will be with my opening.

 I believe it is Orson Scott Card, in his book THE FIRST FIVE PAGES, who says that how you open your story can make or break your chances at publication. If you don’t grab a reader/agent/editor in the first five pages—or dare I say, even the first paragraph—they may never get to page six waiting to find out what the story is about. One of the most common comments I’ve heard from being on both sides of the contest fence (both judge and entrant) is that the story often doesn’t begin until page seven or eight. That is a sure sign there is too much backstory. Of course, you have to ground your reader in a setting, but you can push them over the cliff with those first few paragraphs and they will enjoy the ride down as they figure out what’s happening along the way. It requires a delicate balance and some hard earned skill, I think.

My goals with those first five pages are to:

 1) Pull the reader in by connecting them emotionally to the main characters.

2) Introduce at least one or all of these: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.

3) Set the scene by “showing” the environment in relation to the story and how it goes to show either the central conflict of the story, or what motivates the character to take action.

These are lofty goals for sure, but I’m willing to write and re-write until I meet those goals and create the strongest opening I can. Take my other works for instance. In HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES, the story begins with Jordie attending the funeral of her brother, the point where her world changes forever. There, she sees her childhood crush wounded and blaming himself for her brother’s death and we show the underlying conflict that Jordie has with feeling so responsible for her mother as well as her brother. Lots of emotion/empathy for both Jordie and Alex, and the story question is posed at the end of the first chapter.

ON THIN ICE began a bit differently. I wanted to show Penny in her world, which included figure skating lessons at the rink, and how she viewed her life and her peers. I was able to quickly show why skating was so essential to who she was throughout the story. It set the scene for her goal, (to live up to her mother’s dreams for her), her motivation (intro to her mother’s cancer), and her conflict (knowing that her heart really wasn’t into competing). It might have been a bit slower opening, but I would argue that it gave the character more depth to do it that way.

In SAVAGE CINDERELLA, I chose to use a prologue. I don’t like or dislike prologues per se. If one is needed to show the passage of time or to set up a pertinent scene that sets the tone for the story, I say, go for it. My three page prologue in SC did several things. It gave us a compelling and creepy snapshot into the mind of our psycho villain. Since he was off page until almost halfway through the story, I needed to make him real, frightening, and believable right off the bat. It also gave an indication of the passage of time when chapter one begins eight years later and we see the world through Brinn’s eyes after overcoming and surviving. If I didn’t have that prologue, I don’t think we would connect or identify with Brinn as quickly.

Today’s unlocked secret: I think as long as you keep in mind those few goals I mentioned above, start your story with a compelling scene that quickly leads to the character’s call to action, and write the most powerfully engaging first five pages you can, your reader will gladly read on to page six.

 Good luck with polishing those pages! I’ll look forward to seeing how some of you did when we go to our CTRWA writers retreat in September. Until then, happy revising!