Tag Archives: craft advice

The Accidental Series by Frankie Robertson

Happy Friday everyone! Casey here. I’m thrilled to have Frankie Robertson return as our guest today. Take it away Frankie!~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thank you, Casey, for inviting me to post here today!

I didn’t set out to write three series at the same time. I didn’t even set out to write one. At present, I’ve just published FORBIDDEN TALENTS, the 2nd book of the Vinlanders’ Saga; LIGHTBRINGER, book one of the Celestial Affairs series is out; and BETRAYED BY TRUST, the first of the two TRUST books is waiting to be revised. Scattering your efforts like this is not the best way to build a following!

When I wrote DANGEROUS TALENTS I was stretching my wings. I’d written a partial novel before and several short stories. With DANGEROUS TALENTS I was giving the long form another try. It took me a year to finish Celia and Dahleven’s story, and another six months to revise it. And while I was submitting and collecting very polite rejections, my critique partners were nudging me, “Tell us a story about Ragni, Dahleven’s brother.”

That’s the problem with creating complex worlds and interesting secondary characters. People want to know more about them.

At the time, writing a sequel to an unsold book was not considered a smart move, but I didn’t have anything else in mind, so I did as they asked and began writing FORBIDDEN TALENTS. I didn’t want to ignore the main characters from the first book, though, so I decided to weave Celia and Dahleven’s continuing story into Ragni and Saeun’s romance. Now I had four POV characters and two main plot lines.

That’s where I ran into trouble. I got almost halfway into the book and ground to a halt. Writing stopped feeling good, but I was too inexperienced to understand what was wrong. I was also too stubborn to work on something else. I just kept banging my head against that wall trying to make it work, and the story kept saying, NO. Finally, somebody, somewhere said something that made the light go on. I wasn’t thrilled with what I saw. I had taken a serious wrong turn in chapter two and I needed to rewrite the first 200 pages, completely excising a really neat character in the process.

You’ve heard the saying, “Kill your darlings”? That’s what I had to do. But after I committed charactercide, the story fell into place. Writing became a joy again, and in the fullness of time FORBIDDEN TALENTS was complete and revised.

DANGEROUS TALENTS and FORBIDDEN TALENTS are long books, as you might expect romantic fantasies set in another world to be. How did I keep everything straight? I kept a folder of loose notes of character names and descriptions (later a computer file), and a calendar to keep track of what was happening to which character, when. And I had really good critique partners. Even so, my fabulous editor Rochelle French at Edits that Rock still caught a few discrepancies.

I stumbled into writing the Celestial Affairs series in a similarly accidental way, by writing a secondary character into LIGHTBRINGER that folks wanted to know more about. And when I started writing BETRAYED BY TRUST,  I thought it was a standalone book, too. Wrong.

It turns out these were fortuitous mistakes.

Writing a series, especially as an indie author, is good for business. The readers who love your characters will come back for more, and the folks who discover you through the 2nd  or 5th or 32nd  book in the series will go back to look for the first.

If you decide to commit series, I have a few suggestions:

  • Keep a “bible” of characters including their backgrounds, appearance, and relationships to other characters, and their involvement in major events.
  • Use a calendar to keep your timeline straight.
  • If you’re writing a closed end series (not just connected novels), create an arc from the outset instead of figuring it out in the middle — the way I am.
  • If you have control over your covers, make sure they reflect the tone and genre of your book, and that they look connected to each other through fonts and composition.
  • It’s also important to make each book stand on its own so your readers aren’t frustrated by a cliff-hanger while you finish the next book.
  • And unless you write really fast, it’s probably better to write just one series at a time. Do as I say, not as I do.

Bio:

Frankie Robertson can’t seem to stop herself from writing paranormal romance and romantic fantasy series. She lives with her husband in the desert southwest where her backyard is visited by bunnies, quail, hawks, and bobcats. If you want to know more about what Frankie is up to, please visit her website: http://FrankieRobertson.com.

Buy Links:

http://www.amazon.com/DANGEROUS-TALENTS-ebook/dp/B007QQ1CDK
http://www.amazon.com/FORBIDDEN-TALENTS-ebook/dp/B009B56INS
http://www.amazon.com/LIGHTBRINGER-Celestial-Affairs-Novel-ebook/dp/B005VIE9FI

Thanks so much for being our guest today Frankie! If anyone has any questions or wants to share their method for creating a series, please jump in!

Decisions, Decisions . . .

Hello everyone Casey Wyatt here. Another Friday has arrived! Last week I shared my worksheet for goal, motivation, and conflict (GMC).This week, I’d like to talk about turning points.

But first – ****Alert**** Adult language is used in this post. Consider yourself warned! 

Turning points are decisions/situations that change the course of your character’s life. Just like in the real world, your characters should face circumstance that will force them to take action or make choices they never would have otherwise.

Part of crafting turning points is knowing your characters GMC and fitting it into the overall plot. If your heroine’s is coasting through life with as little drama as possible, you know what you have to do to her, right?

Shake her world up.

For example, in The Undead Space Initiative, when the story starts, Cherry is comfortable in her current life. Sure, she’s a vampire bound to her sire and family, but other than complain about freedom, she is not really doing anything to achieve that goal.

She will stay in her comfort zone, until the moment she’s walking to her car and comes across this situation in a nearby alleyway:

I whistled a tune. The song died on my lips. A sweet, musty odor, like grave dirt mixed with lilies stopped my feet. I scanned the area. Suddenly, I wasn’t the biggest, baddest thing on the block.

Revenants.

They always traveled in packs. Enough of them could take me down. Revenants were cousins to vampires, undead beings with too much spirit. Essentially ghosts with physical reality.

I picked up the pace, steering toward the middle of the street and well away from dark corners. If I had a heart rate, it would have been pounding. My blood was rare and prized. One sip and the revenants would keep me alive to serve as a drink dispenser.

I fished through my bag. Where was my cell? Jonathan would come. Provided I could find the damn phone.

Meaty thwacks rang out in the alley as I passed by.

 Do not look.

A soft oomph, followed by a clipped English accent, “Try that again, bastards.”

I looked.

A lone and gorgeous male vampire had been captured. Three revenants had him pinned against the wall. Two held his arms and one pinned his legs. Three more surrounded him like a pack of knife-wielding hyenas.

The vampire snarled. Long fangs bared, presumably pissed off at his capture. With his sculptured physique, he could handle the situation. Right?

None of the baddies had noticed me yet. I could leave.

So, let me break in here. Cherry could have walked the other way at this point. A normal person probably would have (or at the very least called 911). But you know that’s not what’s going to happen right?

If she walked away and drove home:

1. The reader wouldn’t like her too much (and rightly so).

2. The story would pretty much be over or at the very least totally boring. Both offenses that rate tossing the book across the room.

Let’s go back to the alley.

Another punch landed, connecting with the vamp’s mouth. The crack echoed in the alley. Liquid splattered, followed by cruel laughter.

The vampire hottie spat, his lip broken. Blood trickled down his jaw, seeping into the stark white collar of his button down shirt. “Think twice before you cut me, mate. I’ll smash all of your fucking heads in.”

“Shut up, meat.”

One added, “I’m so scared,” before swinging his knife and tearing a gash in the vampire’s chest. The pack laughed. A revenant approached the vampire with IV bags.

Crap-a-roni, now I had to get involved. They planned to bleed him out. That’s what revenants did. They took a vampire’s blood and drained him or her dry. The blood was then sold to the highest revenant bidder. They believed our blood could remove the excess spirit from their bodies, returning them to their true vampire form.

Problem is—it’s a myth. There’s no way for a revenant to become a vampire, any more than I could become a zebra if I wanted to. These guys were zealots. Deranged lunatics.

“This is your last warning, blokes,” Mr. Sexy English accent said. I tried not to shiver at the sound of his rich voice. Heady whiffs of his sweet scented blood drifted my way. Like a fine wine, the smell promised a delicious and satisfying taste. Saliva pooled in my mouth. My fangs dug into my bottom lip.

“Well lookee here!”

Once again, Cherry thinks about leaving but doesn’t. Why? Because she can’t walk away and leave someone in danger. It’s not in her nature. And later, this personality trait plays heavily in the events to come. Right now, it’s too late for her to do anything else but fight.

Perfect!! An unhappy, off balance heroine is what you and your readers want.

In this brief excerpt you should have learned a few things:

  • Cherry cares about others beside herself and even though she was scared, she didn’t walk away.
  • Her life will never be the same.
  • And she just met her hero.

In addition, she has faced the first turning point in the story. This is often refered to as “The call to action”. Events have been set in motion that will change her life and Ian’s.

Like last week, there’s homework. Go to your WIP in progress and document the following:

  • The “call to action” – major turning point number 1.
  • Any additional turning points (where the situation forces a change in behavior or direction of the plot). At least once, the plot should move one step forward and two steps back.
  • And lastly, “the black moment” – when you yank the rug out from under them and leave them (and your reader) believing there is no way they can overcome the obstacle you just chucked in their path.

Gold star time! How did you do? Did you notice anything missing? And remember, an offbalance heroine/hero = a page turning reader.

For additional information check out Michael Hauge’s site and his Six Stage Plot Structure. And hang onto your results. If you have clear turning points, you can use them in your synopsis!

If you have time, stop by my blog – Gone Fishin’ – where I share a few photos of favorite places.

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Happy Friday! Casey Wyatt here!

Quick! Romance writers – how would you finish this sentence:

My hero or heroine’s goal is to_____________ ?

Anyone?

If you said, “To fall in love”. <buzz>. No gold star! At least not yet.

I’m not a big fan of saying you should do this or that, but I’m going to make an exception. Your hero/heroine’s goal should not be to fall in love. No worries, I’ll explain.

A goal, by its nature, is selfish. It’s something the protagonist wants more than anything else. It’s their hearts deepest desire, the thing they want more than anything in the world.

But it’s a romance novel. Isn’t that what the reader wants? For them to fall in love?

Absolutely. But falling in love is the outcome of other events – a by-product.

The hero or heroine should have their own unique inner life – their own, goal, motivation and conflict. And to add to that, they should have an inner and external version of each!

The inner goal is that selfish heart’s desire I mentioned earlier. The external goal is the more tangible, save the world type stuff.

Before I begin each book, I determine the GMC for my heroine, hero, and depending on the story, the antagonist.

I ask myself the following questions:

  • What does she/he want? (Goal)
  • What’s driving her/him to achieve said goal? (Motivation)
  • What’s holding her/him back? (Conflict)

For example, my worksheet from The Undead Space Initiative:

Character: Cherry Cordial

External Goal: stay alive while proving she didn’t kill the Queen and establishing a Martian colony.

External Motivation: being framed for a murder she didn’t commit and survival

External Conflict: every vampire on earth is out to get her/Martian environment

Internal Goal: Do something right for a change/figure out what she really wants in her life.

Internal Motivation: Wants to prove to herself that she’s more than a stripper

Internal Conflict: past failures/mistakes are holding her back – fear she’s not good enough.

I did the same thing for Ian, (the hero) and Thalia (the antagonist). Notice, there is no mention of falling in love anywhere in here. Does this mean there will be no romance? That Cherry and Ian won’t fall in love?

Of course it doesn’t mean that. But what it does mean is that you must use the GMC to guide their thoughts, actions, and desires throughout the story. How they handle a given situation depends on their personality and what they want out of life (GMC). The obstacles you throw their way should, in the end ,ultimately grow them as a person so they can finally get that brass ring.

 And non-romance writers – a clear GMC is a must for you too!

If you find you’ve hit a wall with your story, it could be because you don’t have a handle on what their true desires are. If you aren’t clear, then the reader won’t be either.

What’s love got to do with a romance novel? Everything. Just remember, to know your goal, be clear, and help your character’s achieve them through thoughtful plotting.

Scribes fans – here’s my challenge to you – go back to your story and see if you can answer the questions above. Share your results with us, then give yourself a gold star!

And if you have time, stop by my blog where I discuss When Good Cookies Go Bad

Pitch Perfect

Happy Friday everyone! Casey here.

On May 12, 2012, CTRWA (Connecticut Romance Writers) will host their annual Fiction Fest event (for those of you in the area – there’s still time to join us). After much dithering on my part, I decided I would pitch again. This is mostly so my skills won’t get rusty and to motivate me to stay on top of my writing goals for the year.

Here are my tips for pitching to an agent or editor. Full disclosure – this is what has worked for me. Give them a try. It’s better than pulling out your hair or giving yourself an ulcer.

1. I know this is obvious – plan out what you are going to say. I don’t memorize my pitch. Last year I read from my query letters. This doesn’t mean I stared at the paper and barely made eye contact. The trick is to know what is on the paper and loosely follow it along. The editors I pitched to didn’t mind at all (I pitched 4 times and got full/partial requests from every editor).

2. Practice what you are saying. I know I just told you not to memorize a speech. But reading always works better if the words are familiar in your mouth. Say them aloud so you sound convincing when you speak. This is to build your confidence in what you are saying and it will make the pitch easier when the time comes. I have heard repeatedly from A/E’s that they don’t like it anymore than you do if you approach them as a blathering ball of nerves.

3. Do not ramble – see #1. (Please, please, please, do not pepper your pitch with “umms” and “I knows”). Last year, I used my query letter format because a query contains important information like word count, genre and the premise of the novel.

4. Listen to editor or agents questions, then pause before answering. Think, then speak. If you don’t understand the question, ask for clarification.

5. Slow it down and take your time when speaking. When you’re nervous or stressed, it’s natural to speed up your speech so make an effort to slow down.

6. Ask questions. This means you should research, ahead of time, the agency or publisher before you sit down in front of them. Do not waste their time pitching a genre or story they are not interested in.

7. If they make a request (congratulations), write down what they want. Repeat back what they have asked for. Better to be clear now, them send the wrong information later.

8. Smile. Relax. They put their pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us. They want to find the next great story as much as you want to sell it to them.

9.Thank them for their time. Again, obvious, but you’ll probably be elated/nervous and it’s easy to forget. And please, practice a firm handshake. No wet noodle, limp hands.

One final note, because this bears repeating. Jamie did an awesome post about appropriate dress for pitching. Please read it.

At all the conferences I’ve pitched at, the agents and editors have all dressed professionally. So I say take your cue from them. Publishing is a billion dollar industry. Show them you are serious and dress accordingly.

Many times when I write, I am in my pajamas or sweatpants. I would never go to an outside business meeting dressed that way. Or a job interview. I work from home full time, yet I do have an outfit or two I can wear to the office (or funerals or writer’s conferences). Invest in your image. Even if you are indie published, I hope you wouldn’t go to a book signing dressed in pajamas. Respect your industry. Just saying.

Okay. Had to get that off my chest. I’ll stop beating the dead horse now.

Remember – Believe in your book. Believe in yourself. Because if you don’t, no one else will either. Good luck. You can do it.

Who wants to share pitching stories? Successes? Disasters? What words of wisdom can you share for anyone apprehensive about doing it?

I’m the Author Goddess…

Happy Friday everyone! Casey here.

I am the Author Goddess, therefore, I rule the universes that I’ve created. The characters are my minions. They exist to do my bidding.

I tell myself this all the time. And it’s true.  Sort of. I am the creator of their world. Sometimes benevolent, sometimes a dictator.

Writers all do this. We fabricate new worlds with new rules. Even if it’s the “here and now” world, we still add our own spin to it. We make the facts fit the story as we need to tell it.  We ask our characters to do things normal people often can’t or won’t do. And most of the time, the characters go along for the happy (or miserable) journey.

Occasionally, they resist or flat-out refuse. They stamp their feet and demand to go in a different direction.

A rebellion in my carefully crafted plans. How dare they? I’m the Author Goddess. They must do my bidding.

Right?

Not really.

Sure, you can ignore your characters and force them to follow your “master plan”. But, just like in real life, it’s not right to make someone do something they don’t want to (making the kids clean up after themselves doesn’t count). When in this situation, instead of indignation, try going along for the ride.

Let the character take you on the journey they want to go on.  Travel their path and see it to the end. They could surprise you and even open the story up in ways you never imagined.

What kind of world builder are you? Benevolent? Mean? How do your characters rule your world?