Category Archives: writing your book
Historical Romance author Patricia Grasso has a BA and MA in English and taught high school for thirty years. So when it comes to writing, she knows her stuff. School’s in session. Listen up students!
Remember your junior high school English class? The subject of the sentence is the most important word because it is what or whom you are talking about. The verb is secondary in importance because it says something about the subject. The same rule applies to storytelling. Characterization is the most important element. Plot is the engine that sends your characters on their journey through the story.
You should start from the general and go to the specific. THE COMPLETE WRITER’S GUIDE TO HEROES AND HEROINES (Cowden, LaFever, Viders) gives an overview of sixteen archetypes. Once you have a general idea of the type of character you want, the next step is getting specific. Two excellent books are CREATING UNFORGETTABLE CHARACTERS (Linda Seger) and GOAL, MOTIVATION, CONFLICT (Debra Dixon). Seger’s book deals with defining your character, consistencies and paradoxes, creating back story, understanding character psychology, creating character relationships, writing dialogue. Dixon’s book deals with your character’s goal, motivation (the reasons why he/she must reach that goal), and conflict (both internal and external). Obstacles preventing your character reaching his/her goal creates conflict.
Plot is the skeleton of the story. Dixon’s book can be used here because characters drive plot. The most helpful book I’ve found on structuring a book is THE SCREENWRITER’S WORKBOOK (Syd Field). Field discusses the story set up, plot points, pinches, climax, and resolution. He uses examples from famous movies.
Lesson #3: Free Advice
- Make yourself a master of the technical—grammar, spelling, punctuation. Editors love clean manuscripts, less work for them. Do NOT rely on grammar or spell check. The best computer is your brain. Do not rely on copyeditors. Chances are you know as much or more than they do. YOUR name is on the book, not theirs.
- Getting published requires talent, luck, and persistence. You know the old saying: Winners never quit and quitters never win.
- Never stop learning your craft.
- You will feel professional jealousy at one time or another. That’s a normal human emotion. Feel it. Let it go. Forget about it. Finish writing your damn book.
- Don’t pay too much attention to reviews. You’re never as good as your best review or as bad as your worst review.
- Expect setbacks and rejections. Develop a thick skin (easier said than done) because everyone is a critic.
- NEVER, NEVER, NEVER google your own name!!!
Patricia Grasso is the author of eighteen historical romances including the Douglas Series which follows the love stories of the amazing Douglas sisters (Angelica, Samantha and Victoria) in Regency London and the Lords of Stratford Series, Regency historical romances with a fairy-tale twist about the aristocratic families in Stratford-on-Avon.
Taking as my inspiration All I Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten here are 6 things I learned in school that still work today – especially for writers!
These are not in any particular order:
Do Your Homework: Oh, boy! Remember the times we didn’t do our homework and the teacher called on us and we had to come up with some excuse? Yikes! Luckily those were few and far between for me. I was an A-student after all. Heh. But this basic tenet applies today. If you’re a writer working on your book – do your research first, it’s as simple as that. No excuses.
Use the library: I don’t know a single writer who doesn’t love libraries! Don’t you love that library smell? It’s different than a book store. The library smell is rich with old books. Books that have been read and re-read over time and loved by many. It’s a communal experience and yet every single person has their own special connection. I love librarians too. My local library employs several Scottish and English lady librarians. I adore them. They always ask me how my work is going.
Hold your hand up if you have something to say: There are always going to be rude people out there. This especially applies to social media/networking etiquette, where some people love to hide behind anonymous online names. Most of us have by now learned the rules of “getting along” on social networking sites. Sometimes people can be rude to us and to others. The question is – what do you do when someone is being abusive? Well, you can ask them to stop. You can block them. You can also report them if they’re spewing racist or sexist garbage. To quote my favourite TV show of all time – Seinfeld – “You know we’re living in a society!” .
Sharing means caring: Share your knowledge. Share what you’ve learned. Share your humour and your good sense. Join a writing group. Attend conferences (even if they are just local ones). Set up a book club. Join online groups on facebook. Organize a group blog. You may not think that others will benefit or even care, but I guarantee you that there is at least one person who does. One aspiring writer or one reader who will appreciate what you have to offer. And where there is one, there are others.
Make time for recess: Ah, yes. This is something that as writers, we sometimes forget to do. Many writers have “day jobs” and/or small children at home or lots of other things that need getting done, so when we write, we usually get really engrossed in what we’re doing. But you have to remember to take a break. Go for a walk. Get a coffee or a cup of tea and relax and recharge. Yes, you need to get that draft done, but a 30-minute walk, or a short nap, or watching the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory doesn’t mean you’ll miss your deadline. Take a break and take a breath.
Have a good breakfast: Some people are not morning people. Some people don’t like to eat first thing in the morning. But it’s important to eat something within two hours of getting up. Remember when you were a kid and you skipped breakfast? You didn’t function very well in class did you? It’s always good to start the day with lots of protein and some good carbs. Guess what? Your brain needs power food to write. So think of your brain and feed it something good every morning.
And don’t forget to pack a lunch! 🙂
What are some things you learned in school that you still practice today?
I’m positive that Lachesis authors were all great students! Their books sure are wonderful. Until next time – happy writing.
Joanna D’Angelo is Editor in Chief at Lachesis Publishing Inc. She loves being helpful, Cinnamon Dolce Lattes, and a good story.
If you’re hankering to write that book you’ve always wanted to write, here are five tips before you start:
1. Know your genre: If you want to write a mystery series but you’ve never read a mystery then you might want to start reading mysteries. But you say that you want to write a different kind of mystery, unlike all the other ones on the market. Well, what I will say to you is this: you can’t break the rules until you understand the rules. When you know the ins and outs of a particular genre, then you can play with the form. But before you do that, read a few books!
2. Know your market: Ah, yes, you’re a writer, not a sales guru. That is up to the publisher. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. You need to think about who is going to buy your
book. Young adults? New adults? Older women a.k.a the Oprah crowd? You have to think about who your reader will be, otherwise finding an audience will be tough. Some writers will tell you, write from the heart, write for yourself. Yes and no. If you want to sell books, you need to think about who is going to buy them.
3. Know your characters: Some authors write character breakdowns with detailed back stories. Even if they don’t plan on using any of it in their books, they need to figure it all out ahead of time so that they get a strong sense of what a particular character’s motivations are. Other authors are a little more visual, and create elaborate collages or bulletin boards with all things related to their characters, including pics of hunky actors to “inspire” them. And some authors are a little more free-and-easy. They might draft a bare bones outline of their characters and then fill everything out as they go along. Whatever your approach is, you need to have a sense of your main characters especially, otherwise you might find yourself wondering why he or she isn’t coming alive on the page.
4. Know your research: This depends on the kind of genre you are writing. If you’re writing an historical romance, then you will most likely do quite a bit of research about the time period, fashions, foods, modes of transportation. Any number of things that figure into your story. Sometimes you’ll have to look something up as you go along. You can’t anticipate everything. In journalism 101 we were taught to have at least two sources for every fact. At least two different people or books or reports who could corroborate the information we were putting forth. Well, that seems to have flown out the wiki-window as journalists today often cite tweets and facebook posts in their stories. Eep! As for genre fiction writing – how about checking some reputable historical documents or books written by historians or experts in the field you are writing about.
5. Know your voice: This is a challenge. Every author has a voice. Some have a light-hearted writing style, while others are dark and brooding. Whichever way you write, it belongs to you, and you alone. This is where you can shine and stand out. So think about what kind of writer you are. Take writing workshops. Do some writing exercises. Analyze the books you love. Why do you love them? What is it about the style of the author that embraces you? I’m not saying, copy that style, but certainly be inspired by it. Your voice is your original imprint on the book. It is what will make readers squee when they tell you how much they love your hero or how well they identify with your heroine. That didn’t just come out of nowhere. Nope. That is your voice, working its magic on the reader.
I hope you’ve found this helpful. Our Lachesis authors can also share much of their wisdom when it comes to writing that first book. Until next time – happy writing.
Joanna D’Angelo is Editor in Chief at Lachesis Publishing Inc. She loves Cinnamon Dolce Lattes, smart tips, and a good story.