The In Between

I finished writing my book and sent it to my editor. In the meantime I finished reading the book I’d been waiting two years to read (Ken Follett’s Winter of the World–950+ pages). Now I’m in the In Between.

That place where I’m not yet ready to start writing the next book and I’m still involved in the lives of the people in the book I was reading and am not ready to give them up.

I’m not sure what to do with myself in the In Between. I”m a little lost because I always either have a book to read or a book to write and I’m usually torn between the two.

So I’m doing strange things, like dusting, and painting my nails, and cleaning the kitchen.

This In Between thing needs to end soon before my family gets used to a clean house.

What do you do when you find yourself with some spare time?

Fall Colors

This is my backyard and what I look at when I write. Does it give me inspiration? Sometimes. If I’m stuck I stare out the door at those trees. In the summer they’re lush and green and it seems like the backyard is much closer than it really is. In the spring I love watching the smaller trees bud before the bigger ones and in the winter with snow on the ground it looks like a winter wonderland. But this is when I like to look at it the most. It’s like liquid gold when the sun shines through the trees. Right now the back door is open and a warm, fall-ish breeze is floating in, the smell of autumn circling through the room.

This time of year never lasts long enough for me. Just a few short weeks and the spectacle of color gives way to harsh, bare branches. But I always have next fall to look forward to.

What do you love most about fall?

Middle of the book panic

<– This is me. I’m in a bit of a panic right now. And really, there should be no reason for this panic but it suddenly came upon me.

I’m writing my second contracted book for Random House’s Loveswept line and I’m about halfway through with it. At least on word count I’m about halfway through. The problem is the story is completely outlined and according to my plot I’m over halfway there. So my word count is behind.

Ack!

But that’s not all. I’m also in the middle-of-the-book slump. That part where I’ve been writing this book for so long I’m beginning to second-guess myself.

“It’s boring!”

“No one will like it!”

Ugh!

The problem is, I do this with every book I write. I go through this entire script of telling myself everyone will hate the book, that I’ll never make my word count, yada yada yada.

In the end, everything always turns out all right. The middle isn’t boring like I’d convinced myself and I always go over my word count. I can’t think of one time when I came in under my word count.

Yet, I feel this is part of the writing process–this insecurity.

You’d think I’d learn, wouldn’t you?

Unruly Characters

My heroine isn’t cooperating. I pictured her a bit timid at the beginning of the story only to rediscover her feisty side as she progresses through the book, but yesterday she told me something different. “No way am I going to be timid. Not anymore.” Right now she’s irreverent, spontaneous, funny. Nothing at all like I’d planned.

My hero, who I’ve struggled with from the beginning, is showing me a tender side that I hadn’t expected to see until later in the story.

Before I started writing fiction I assumed writers came up with their characters then shaped and molded them to fit the story. Not so much. I’ve been writing for almost a dozen years and my characters still amaze me. Instead of shaping and molding them, they demand that the story line is shaped and molded around them.

Yes, they talk to me. And, yes, I’ve learned to listen to them. More often than not they’re right and I’m wrong.

Does it sound like I’m delusional? Sometimes I think so too.

This writing thing, it’s weird. People talk to you, talk to each other, argue with you, argue with each other. All before one word is written.

To struggle with them, to try to wrestle them into doing something that goes against their personality, is like trying to tell my new dog not to dig holes in the yard.

Even though it’s frustrating, even though I want to pull my hair out and scream, this is exactly what I love about writing–discovering new people and how they interact with the world around them.

So what do you do when your characters won’t cooperate?

 

 

Writing Yourself Into a Corner

There is a house by my husband’s childhood home that is completely round. It intrigues me, this house does. What does it look like inside? Is it broken up into rooms? And do the rooms have corners? We often joke that if you lived in that house you couldn’t put your children in the corner for being naughty.

I wish my stories lived in round houses because then I couldn’t write myself into a corner. Right now I’m stuck on my current work-in-progess. Stuck, stuck, stuck. Like those remote control cars that ram into a corner and keep backing up only to ram into it again. That’s me, banging my head against the corner over and over again, too stupid to realize the corner isn’t going to move, rather I’m going to have to move.

This happens to me, oh, at least half a dozen times while writing a book. Usually I can figure out right away where I went wrong, back up, hit the delete key and try again. But sometimes, like now, I can’t figure it out and it’s darn frustrating. Because I feel like I’m wasting valuable writing time. Yet I’m not really wasting valuable writing time because I’m constantly thinking of where I went wrong and what I need to do to fix it. I have to remind myself to take a step back and just think. Thinking is writing and it’s much better than throwing words on paper hoping something will stick. Now that’s wasting time.

So for the past few days I haven’t written one word on my story. I’m letting it sit, letting the characters talk to me and simply thinking.

What do you do when you write yourself into a corner?

What I Learned This Week

I’m a firm believer that you can always learn something from every situation. This is what I learned this week:

- That rice will dry out electronic devices. In some cases. But not mine :-(. I accidentally washed my son’s iPod. My fault. Not his. I grabbed his clothes off his bedroom floor without warning him and didn’t check his pockets. Then the next day he dropped his cell phone in a puddle. It doesn’t work right either anymore :-(

- That I should peek outside the door before I run out to grab something from my car. In my jammies. Sporting a major case of bed head (sorry, neighbor!)

- Nine days without running water in your kitchen has surpassed “fun” and “adventurous” and has entered into “inconvenient” and “a pain in the posterior”

- I hate packing lunches. Hate it. Hate it. Hate it. Okay, that’s not something I learned this week. I’ve known that for years, but just felt the need to share because as soon as I write this post I have to pack lunches for tomorrow :-(

- The term “bereaved” comes from Scotland during the border wars. I learned this from Margery Scott, a fellow writer and Scotsman herself (or would that be Scotswoman), from this blog post.

- That Paris during the 18th century was a filthy place to live. That 96% of its population was pretty much destitute and that most of its population were immigrants from other French cities or Switzerland. (All this was discovered while researching my next historical).

What did you learn this week?

Writing Love Scenes – Beyond the Mechanics

On Tuesday I blogged about writing sex scenes using Linda Howard’s 12 Steps to Intimacy. A side topic popped up in the comments about moving beyond the mechanics of sex. What makes each love scene different? How can we make sure they’re not the same scenes recycled? After all, sex is sex. Tab A goes in Slot B.

Not quite.

Without going into the Kama Sutra, there are all kinds of ways to make love but that’s not what this post is about. This post is about going beyond the mechanics.

It’s about the emotion.

Like I said in my last post, love scenes in a romance are about the journey of the characters. For me, when I write them, I’m always thinking about action/reaction. What is the internal reaction of the character caused by the action of making love? These characters weren’t born on page one. They had a life before their story started and all of that backstory, all of that living, will have an effect on the emotional aspect of their lovemaking.

Why is it important that your hero and heroine make love? Other than the fact that you’re writing a romance and it’s expected. Put that aside. Look at your characters. Why should your hero make love to your heroine? What will it do to him when he does? What foundation of his is shaken due to this act? What fundamental part of him will change because of this act?

Ask the same questions of your heroine. How will her life irrevocably change because she made love to the hero? What inhibitions (both internal and external) must she overcome in order to make love? What inhibitions (internal and external) did she not overcome by making love?

And most importantly, how did this scene change the story? How did it move the story forward? Because we all know that every scene, every sentence, every word MUST move the story forward. If you’re inserting a sex scene because it’s expected, then you’re not doing your job right. The love scenes should flow with the story just like every other scene. If it’s just plopped in there because you’re on page 100 and your characters haven’t made love yet, you will pull the reader out of the story and that’s the last thing you want to do.

So tell me, how do you make sure your love scenes are different?

 

Hi, My Name Is Sharon and I Write Romance

What do you think about my new blog design? I loved the other design because it was so whimsical but, let’s face it, whimsical isn’t what I write. I write emotionally charged romance and the other blog design just didn’t speak to that.

Today I’m blogging over at Inkslingers about being a romance writer. Inkslingers started out as a group of romantic suspense writers coming together to critique each others works. We quickly became friends and have branched out into other romance genres. One day we were talking about blogging and how hard it is to come up with interesting blog topics when someone threw out the idea of creating our own group blog. The idea took off and less than two weeks later we launched.

So stop by and get to know us. We’re really, really fun. I promise…

Inkslingers Authors Blog

9 Questions Every Author Should Ask

I’m a panster. For all of you non-writers that means I write by the seat of my pants. The story unfolds with each new letter on the page. I don’t know where its going to go until it gets there. Is it the best way to write? No. But it was the only way that worked for me. I found that I didn’t like knowing the entire store before I wrote it because it lost some of the magic. That’s not to say I wrote completely in the dark. I always knew what the next two scenes were going to be. But it does mean I wrote myself into quite a lot of corners that took a bit of rewriting to get out of.

Recently I found myself in the position of having to write a synopsis before the story was written–on deadline no less! Can we say pure, unadulterated panic? Luckily I have wonderful CPs (critique partners) who remained very calm and talked me off the ledge.

After I stopped hyperventilating, I sat down and thought really hard about what I needed to know about my characters that would drive the story forward. If you’ve been in the writing community for any length of time you’ve heard of Debra Dixon’s GMC. Each character must have a goal, a motivation to reach that goal, and a conflict that arises that they have to overcome to achieve the goal.

Being a panster, I never really paid attention to GMC. Oh, I had it in the back of my mind but it wasn’t something I wrote down on paper and referred back to occasionally. So, when it came time to write my synopsis, I had to find something that worked for me that would focus the story.

I came up with nine simple questions that ended up being my lifesaver. After answering each of these questions I had my character arcs down pat and half my synopsis written:

What happened to the hero in his past that makes him the way he is now?

What happens to the heroine in her past that makes her the way she is now?

How does what happened to the hero affect his relationship with the heroine?

How does what happened to the heroine affect her relationship with the hero?

What is it about the hero that helps the heroine grow?

What is it about the heroine that helps the hero grow?

What does the hero learn in the end that facilitates his HEA?

What does the heroine learn in the end that facilitates her HEA?

I’m not saying this is the perfect-one-size-fits-all way to write a synopsis, but it helped me so I’m hoping it will help someone out there.

 

What makes a hero sexy?

So what makes a hero sexy to you? I’m not talking physical attributes (although those do help). I’m talking personality traits–something he does that just curls your toes.

For instance, in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, I think Ranger is all kinds of sexy when he merely says, “Babe”, to Stephanie. Oh, it just makes my blood pound a little faster.

Maybe its the way he looks at the heroine. Or the way he interacts with babies and kittens. Or the way he helps little old ladies across the street. Maybe its something altogether unexpected.

You know what it is for me? Its when a guy cooks. If I’m reading a book and the guy cooks up a meal for the heroine, I’m lost. For me its the sexiest thing in the world if a guy knows his way around a kitchen. He doesn’t have to be a gourmet chef or anything–he can make something simple, as long as he cooks. Ay yi yi. Now that curls my toes.

What does it for you? What does a hero have to do to make you melt?