Romance Writing

My Life Collapsed on December 29, 2013

In a nutshell—

My husband died unexpectedly that morning. My husband’s death left me responsible for managing all elements of our severely disabled adult son who lived with us and required 24-7 care. While my husband and I performed well as a team, his tasks were ones I never wanted to handle. He spent hours doing gobbledygook paperwork, which I absolutely detested.

“Too bad, MJ. Suck it up and start learning,” my husband whispered in my ear from his eternal rest, like he often did when I questioned my talents and stubbornness to succeed. So, I dug in and assumed his chores. A bit of grumbling, working in tandem with my stubbornness, pushed me forward.

Three months later, I had an accident and re-injured my knee which I’d been babying in an effort to put off a knee replacement. That option no longer appeared possible. In the process of getting all the pre-op work done for my knee surgery, my doctors discovered three, far more serious health issues. I was devastated. 

I never thought I would have to deal with chronic, potentially life-threatening, health issues. This meant major adjustments. I had to find methods to curtail the stress and drama in my daily life—no easy task as a caregiver for my son. Plus, find time for new medical regimens: doctor visits, regularly scheduled lab work, and more daily medications than I’d ever taken. I was exhausted all the time. And angry—for not charging ahead full steam and subduing this new lifestyle.

Not happy, lonely, I often felt I was living the life of a fictional character in a future book—a book I’d probably never write, or if it did get written, it would be boring. I had barely enough energy to do the minimum for my son and myself. Amid this maelstrom of emotions and daily routines, my writing life plummeted from my priority list. Six to eight hours a day writing in my office fell into the black hole of…What once was.

That broke my already fractured heart. I was a total mess and not liking what I saw or felt. Somehow, I garnered enough energy to fight off despair and serious depression. I focused each day on what had to be done—then added one more task, phone call, or completed report. After three years of exhaustion and medical issues, I finally had several months when my body started to respond to all those medications and new routines. I even began to think about what it might be like to slowly step back into my writing life.

Talk About Baby Steps…

So much had changed within the writing world. I needed a new computer. The operating system had morphed into a devilish monster that sometimes brought me to swear at the machine which ignored my emotion. The software I’d been so comfortable using in the past now had a steep and frustrating learning curve. By the time I finished figuring out how to do what I wanted to do—my writing time was exhausted for the day. I fought feelings of hopeless stupidity regarding new technology.

Doggedly, I slowly inched my way back with writing projects…

Fast Forward to 2019

My new lifestyle is routine. I’ve learned to cope and manage all the new responsibilities I inherited and settled into a relatively stable health pattern.

What does that mean? I see myself as a writer once again!

I’ve put myself back into my writing space. I still have to finish those last four chapters of the book I had been working on when my husband died. I’ve thought a lot about the themes in that book. I realize I’ve gained greater knowledge regarding life changes. I will use this to enhance those themes as I revise the book.

Just a few weeks ago, I was able to get away for a few days. I flew to California to celebrate my brother and his wife’s 50th wedding anniversary. My brother and I drove down to Big Sur and walked a few paths I’ve been to in the past:

  • First time as a newly-divorced, single mother with the ink barely dry on my graduate degree and an even newer teaching contract in hand.
  • Second time, with the man who became my second husband, the love of my love, who believed and supported me in all my professional ventures. That second time the ocean was wild with emotions and hints of undercurrents and trials. A bit of foreshadowing which together we resolved.
  • Many additional visits with my husband. Always we were swayed, challenged and inspired by the water, the waves, the rocks, the birds, the changing shoreline. Just like our lives.
  • And this last time. Alone once more, but as I sat and watched the waves spread over the shoreline, I felt my muse spirit nudge me, saying “Get going, MJ. It’s time. And next book, use what you’ve learned, what you’ve seen in this new life you lead.”

So, this Reminds Us—Writers Write

We are Compelled to Do So

We find inspiration, plot ideas, characters, scenes, within the scope of our daily lives, our dreams, our dramas, our sorrows, watching the world around ourselves, observing the lives of others.

Writers don’t just write. We watch. We think about what we’ve seen, experienced, read about, listened to a story that jumpstarts a story of our own. Writers are thinkers and need time to think, to create a new world, a new character.  I’ve been doing this in the past several months. It’s made me feel whole again. Like my writerly self is re-emerging.

  • A trip to California and the Big Sur area did that for me.
  • Because I was ready.
  • Because I’ll always be a writer.
  • Because I’m happiest when I am writing.
  • Because I still have books to get written and maybe, just maybe, these last years have given me the new life experiences and situations I can draw from to make my upcoming books the best they can be.

We writers must keep our minds open to all that happens in the world around us. If we do, we will always grow as writers. What we write will be fresh. Don’t we all strive toward those objectives?

That’s a resounding YES.”

by: Mary Jo Schiebl

A short summary of Mary Jo’s, a.k.a Casey Clifford, life might be as follows: She’s been there, done that, and is still trying…”

She’s not perfect and wouldn’t want to be.  She was determined to finish college and graduate school to teach college level classes. She accomplished this while working and single-parenting 3 sons. She taught for 27 years and retired to pursue what she dreamed of doing since she was a child—write the stories that had been tumbling about in her head.

Today she writes women’s fiction and romantic suspense as Casey Clifford. Her first novel received the Holt Medallion for Literary Achievement for Best First Book of 2009. She also won the Write Touch Readers’ Award for the same book in the romantic suspense category. She blogs every Sunday and dabbles in photography. Her other published books have also finaled/won additional awards.

She strives daily to be a wise woman and believes all her heroines have already gotten there. Her Dessert Dames and Soul String series reflect that as do her romantic suspense and single titles.

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New Release Tuesday: October 2019

Congratulations to the following WisRWA members on their new releases this month.

New Release Tuesday - March 2019

Lioness: Mahlah’s Journey by Barb M. Britton

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Writing Dialogue That Delights Readers

Best-selling author Stephen King once said, “Good dialogue is a delight to read. Bad dialogue is deadly” (181). As readers, we can readily agree, but if you’re like me, an author intent on improving her craft, you want to know how to write dialogue that is a delight. You’re seeking guided practice—some rules. Here are seven insights I’ve gleaned from Janet Burroway, the author of Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft.  

Photo by Jessica Da Rosa on Unsplash

*Develop an ear for how people talk. Listen to conversations everywhere you go. Take mental notes. “The trick to writing good dialogue is hearing voice. The question is, what would this particular person say? The answer is entirely in language. The choice of language reveals content, character, and conflict, as well as type” (49). But as you are composing your characters’ interactions, remember that dialogue isn’t not the same as idle chat or small talk.

*Cut the slack. Just tell the important bits. When my kids were small and I was a working mom, I used to watch soap operas to relax, but I didn’t have a lot of free time. From observation I theorized only one big event happens in each episode. Between big events, the characters simply react to the smash-up event that occurred. I’d fast forward though scenes searching for the pivotal scene–until the characters looked stressed, a gun went off or a car crashed, you get the idea. Then I’d slow the recording and watch. We as writers want to focus our dialogue on the big or important moments in our character’s interactions while skipping the rehash and small talk. Burroway points out that dialogue isn’t merely transcribed speech. It’s distilled speech, the interesting bits that inspire listeners to lean in closer. Edit out the boring bits and focus on what isn’t being said as much as what is. In other words, work the conversation so that it become more than merely the words the characters are saying (47).

*Write double or triple duty dialogue. When composing characters’ interactions follow Sloane’s Law–compelling dialogue should always do more than one thing at a time. If it doesn’t, it’s too sluggish or passive to work in fiction (47). What is meant by doing more than one thing? Well, Burroway says, “Because direct dialogue has a dual nature—emotion within a logical structure—it’s purpose in fiction is never merely to convey information… it needs simultaneously to characterize, provide exposition, set the scene, advance the action, foreshadow or remind” (47).

*Be careful when you use summary or indirect speech. Know why you’re switching the narrative to quick summary or retelling. Although you can employ summary or indirect speech to explain events readers already know, don’t skip over the heart of the scene or the important event. Make sure that’s in direct speech, so that readers feel immersed in your characters’ significant drama (47).

Photo by Ryan Franco on Unsplash

*Don’t use dialogue to info-dump. Don’t allow characters to talk about they both know merely to pass along information to the reader (52). At best, it’ll read false. At worst, it will sound like you’ve crammed words into your characters’ mouths. As you already guess, this pulls readers out of your story.

*Know what your characters want and pitch them against each other. As toddlers we learn to talk and use communication to get what we want. As adults, we’re practiced at using speech to persuade or argue for the things we seek. “David Mamet suggests that people may or may not say what they mean, but always say something designed to get what they want” (54), and fortunately, in fiction, characters don’t always want the same things. Conflict piques readers’ interest and advances story.

Photo by Icons8 team on Unsplash

I’ve saved my favorite suggestion for last.

When writing dialogue, make change your mantra. Your dialogue becomes action if it inspires change (53). When there’s the possibility that characters’ conversation will lead to something happening, or a shift in the character’s thoughts or circumstances, readers feel involved.

Writing dialogue that delights readers isn’t an easy, but it’s essential to selling stories and something we can and should strive for. I hope

Photo by Mia Jo Celeste

I’ve helped you on your writing journey. For more awesome insights on writing, consider checking out On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King and Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway.

Works Cited

Burroway, Janet, et al. Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft.  University of Chicago Press, 2019.

King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Hodder, 2012.

Brenda Nelson-Davis

by: Mia Jo Celeste

Mia Jo Celeste comes from a family of writers and English Teachers, so it’s no surprise she’s both a writer and a teacher. Currently, she’s pursuing a Master of English at Mount Mary University.

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New Release Tuesday May 2019

Congratulations to the following WisRWA members on their new releases this month.

New Release Tuesday - March 2019

The Innocent Wife by Cici Cordelia

Saved Between the Sheets (Mutiny’s Rebellion) by Lina Jubilee

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How Attending the WisRWA Write Touch Conference was like Writing a Romance Novel

Everywhere I looked, a potential story scene loomed. Who was she meeting in that corner room? Why is she rocking out in front of everyone with her happy dance? That’s what attending the Write Touch Conference did to me. It inspired me to be creative and share my tales through the power of the written word. To paraphrase conference speaker and author Lisa Cron, we are wired to share stories.

I attended the Write Touch Conference to become a better writer. Like a sponge, I soaked in as much information as I could. I learned about story beats and crafting a scene. Marketing tips flowed freely from the speakers. Personal stories from beginning and accomplished authors on their path to publication uplifted me.

Being a novice, I’m still learning the basic elements of writing a novel. So, I’m plunging headfirst into romance novel plot points, using the #writetouchconference as my guide. With the plot structure adapted from Priscilla Oliveras‘s Gale Online Course, I’ve developed a story outline that incorporates some of the conference highlights.

The Characters

Conrad Hastings. He graduated from college a few decades ago, never took a creative writing course, and fell asleep numerous times reading Wuthering Heights. An unlikely romance novel writer.

Ms. Write Touch Conference. Teacher extraordinaire, romance professor, and connoisseur of fine wines. Heroine of all heroines. Motto: Dare to be Decadent.

Tara Fischer. Nicer than the girl next door, she wouldn’t hurt anyone’s feelings. The logical love interest for Conrad, she won’t get in the way between a writer and his muse.

The Hook

Reaching his mid-life crisis at full throttle, Conrad must write an entertaining novel to impress Tara or risk losing her to the sexy Scottish Highlander literary heroes (once she’s gone kilt, she’ll never come back).

Romance Plot Outline

Opening/Inciting Incident

“It’s not you, it’s me.”

Conrad has heard that phrase before, but it especially stung when it came from his friend Tara. A voracious reader, she could not look into his eyes. He’s asked her for an honest review of his novel, but he sensed her hesitation to tell the plain truth. He knew. He’s known all along. His writing sucked and he needed help.

Tara slid her smart phone across the restaurant table, opened to the WisRWA conference web page. No words were needed. He realized he has to attend.

The Meeting

Conrad cautiously stepped through the Hyatt vestibule, his senses overwhelmed with the busy lobby. But there she was – she could not be missed. Plastered on placards and a large wall, Ms. Write Touch Conference welcomed all writers.

Conrad nearly jumped out of his shoes from the slight tap on his shoulder. He turned around to gawk at the most beautiful woman he has ever seen.

“Welcome,” Ms. Write declared with a large grin, “I’m so happy you could attend.”

More enduring than advertised, she promised to guide him throughout the day. She suggested attending both writing and publishing/marketing events. Conrad was already smitten before the conference sessions even began.

Development (Intimacy Grows)

Day One lived up to the hype. Literary agents Courtney Miller-Callihan, Kimberly Brower, and Laura Zats talked about the current state of publishing and offered insights into new trends and possibilities. Editors Jennie Conway and Madeleine Colavita and Author Becca Puglisi offered constructive criticism to authors wanting a fresh and resplendent start to their novels.  Authors Angela Ackerman, Mel Jolly, and Angie Stanton provided ideas to find his audience and connect with them. The indelible and genuine Lisa Cron taught an all-day, intensive writing course on crafting the irresistible novel. Conrad felt his confidence grow, knowing even published writers had obstacles to conquer on their journey to success.

Conflict

Yet, he did not have Ms. Write’s full attention. She guided other aspiring and veteran writers through the smorgasbord of conference offerings. Night One’s special: An Evening with Daring and Decadent Girls. He wished he could be there to share in the fun, but family commitments came first. Will missing the evening adventure derail his novel?

Happy Times

Day Two was just as dazzling as the first day. Authors Angela Ackerman, Becca Puglisi, Valerie Biel, Mel Jolly, Amy Reichert, Lisa Cron, Angie Stanton, and Bobbi Dumas discussed novel writing, editing, publishing, and marketing. Keynote Speaker Maya Rodale spoke about writing the right story. He was given the tools to be successful. It was up to him to apply them, but fortunately inspiration was as close as the titillating glass elevator. He now had the perfect setting for writing a sex scene.

Conflict Crescendos

Guilt washed over Conrad’s face, stuck on the outside, looking in. There Ms. Write was again, center stage in the best restaurant with the best view, basking in glory as the sun set upon downtown Milwaukee. He had to go home early, while she regaled the writers with Daring Dialogue and Decadent Prose. Does she even miss him?

Misery or Big Black Moment

Why did he even want to write a novel? A great friend, Tara will always like him, even if his head-hopping scenes and verb conjugation made her dizzy. Ms. Write was there to provide the tools for a successful career and to provide guidance, support, and encouragement for his writing journey. He’s got the support, but he searched for motivation.

It’s simple – he wanted to share his stories and donate any proceeds to his favorite charities.

Resolution

At breakfast, in-between sharing bites of bacon with his dog, he realized he does not have to be jealous of Ms. Write. She favored no one, but supported everyone. She wanted all authors to succeed.

He made a promise. In two years’ time, he will reconnect with Ms. Write Touch Conference. She will be impressed. So will Tara.

By T. Ganfield

Tom Ganfield is working on his first novel, Chasing Chestnut, with younger versions of Conrad and Tara. As a dog lover, he is trying to position Chestnut (the dog) to steal scenes and the hearts of his characters (and maybe the readers?).

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Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?

Imagine this scenario. A young woman has been asked out, repeatedly, by the same young man. Whenever she bumps into him in their small town, he asks her out again. She keeps saying no. He’s pressed her for a reason, and she’s told him that she just isn’t interested in dating him. She doesn’t want to hurt his feelings, but she isn’t attracted to him and his continued advances make her uncomfortable. He keeps bothering her, again and again. One night, she is crossing a bridge on her way home and meets the guy again. Is it really a coincidence? Has he been following her? He asks her out again; again she says no. So he climbs over the railing of the bridge and leans over the edge. The water beneath him is shallow and rocky. He tells the girl that if she doesn’t agree to go out with him, he’ll let go. He even releases one hand to show her how serious he is. Scared and with no other choice (other than to let him fall off the edge), she says yes.

Stories like this are becoming disturbingly common, especially among young people. On social media, we see stories of “crazy” guys pressuring girls into agreeing to go out with them, sometimes with wild ultimatums. Say yes, and he’ll stop harassing and threatening you. Say yes, or he’ll bring a gun to school. Say yes, or he’ll kill himself. We all know that there is nothing romantic about forced consent. Consider the story above. It’s not romantic. It’s creepy. This isn’t what love looks like.

Or is it?

The Notebook is arguably one of the most popular romance movies of our time. Reconsider that opening scene, and keep The Notebook in mind. This is oddly similar to the hero of The Notebook, who refused to take no for an answer and even went so far as to hang off a Ferris wheel to convince the heroine to date him. Of course, it was all okay because he was the hero and we knew he had good intentions. He wasn’t a creeper and they were soul mates.  We find this story sweet and endearing… or is that what we’ve been taught to think?

We’ve all heard that young boys pick on girls because they like them, teaching us that if a boy is mean to you, it’s because he likes you, not because he’s a jerk. (He’s Just Not That Into You, anyone?) In romance novels, we love a persistent hero who won’t give up. Young girls are taught that guys should chase them and that girls should play hard to get. If he doesn’t give up, he must really love you, and then you fall in love and live happily ever after. But in writing stories like these, are we part of the problem? Are we teaching young ladies that it’s okay for their “hero” to treat them badly because once they fall in love, everything will be okay? Are we teaching young men to do whatever it takes to get a girl to say yes, even if she doesn’t want to? Are we teaching young people that “no” doesn’t really mean no—it means “keep pushing until I give in?”

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but as we sit down to pen our next romance, hopefully these are things we’ll all take into consideration. Are you writing a story where your hero acts like a jerk, but it’s excused because he’s the hero of the story? Are you writing a story where the heroine is helpless and trapped, pressured by the guy who says he loves her? Or are you writing a story that models a good relationship for young people?

Food for thought.

Kayla Bain-Vrba

by: Kayla Bain-Vrba

Kayla has been living in daydreams ever since she was a little girl and writing about them for as long as she can remember. It was her discovery of m/m romance that jump-started her adventure as a published author in 2010. When she’s not writing—or is procrastinating writing—Kayla enjoys spending time with her other half, crafting, and planning things to a tee.

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2019 Write Touch Finalists

Write Touch Readers Award Contest

Wisconsin Romance Writers of America is pleased to announce the finalists of the 2019 Write Touch Readers’ Award Contest!. Winners will be announced at the Write Touch Conference in Milwaukee, April 4-7. Congratulations to all our finalists, and a big thank you to all our participants, judges and volunteers!

**denotes WisRWA member

Contemporary – Short

  • Desperate Strangers by Carla Cassidy
  • The Hashtag Hunt by Kristina Seek
  • Three Day Fiancée by Marissa Clarke

Contemporary – Mid-Length (tie for third place)

  • A Cowboy’s Christmas Proposal by Cathy McDavid
  • Headlights, Dipsticks, & My Ex’s Brother by Heather Novak
  • Marrying the Rebel Prince by Janet Gover
  • Mischief & Mayhem by L. E. Rico

Contemporary – Long

  • Deep Blue by Kristy McCaffrey
  • To My Future Number 1 Fan by L. A. Witt
  • Within Six Months by Cleo Scornavacca

Erotic

  • Indecent Proposal by Sarah McGregor
  • Fading to Black by V. H. Luis
  • Waking to Black by V. H. Luis

Historical

  • A Wolfe Among Dragons by Kathryn Le Veque
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Duke by Janna MacGregor
  • The Missing Marquess of Althorn by Chasity Bowlin

Paranormal

  • Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon by Kerrelyn Sparks
  • Hellfire and Handbaskets by Kathryn Hills
  • Winds of Time by Lilly Gayle

Inspirational

  • For the Love of Laura Beth by Aubrey Wynne
  • From Shards to Sea Glass by Michele Wilder
  • Primary Suspect by Laura Scott **

Romantic Suspense (tie for third place)

  • Buried Lies by Kaylea Cross
  • Her Darkest Fear by Ava Bradley
  • Love With a Side of Crazy by Tina Susedik **
  • Missing Out on Life by Val Clarizio **

Mainstream Fiction

  • Race for the Sun by Minette Lauren
  • Storm Crossed by Dani Harper
  • Town Hall by Gini Athey **

Young Adult (tie for third place)

  • Between Silk and Sand by Marissa Doyle
  • Friended by Kilby Blades
  • The Dating Debate by Chris Cannon
  • This Heart of Mine by C. C. Hunter

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New Release Tuesday – January 2019

Congratulations to the following WisRWA members on their new releases this month.

Succubus Heart (Succubus Sirens Book Two) by Lina Jubilee

Beneath the Assassin’s Touch by Katherine Hastings

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Book Review Etiquette

It’s happened to every reader. You have the weekend off. Rain is pouring down. The coffee pot is sputtering, and those tantalizing smells seduce you to crawl under a blanket and pick out your next great read. So, you hop online, go to your favorite bookstore and start scanning those covers. One calls out to you, so you click, excited to see what it’s about. The blurb looks exciting, you’re ready to buy, but you decide to glance at all those reviews just a short scroll away. Five stars. Not bad! You read a few sentences in and… gasp! They just revealed the plot twist! Ruined the ending! Stole the joy you would have gotten from uncovering it yourself. The horror! Now that the plot is revealed before you even opened the first page, you back out and buy another book.

As a reader, I’m infuriated when someone’s spoiler review appears without warning. As a writer, I’m sad for the author who will no longer get the sale of that book from me, and perhaps more books if I enjoyed it and sought out the rest. All because a reviewer didn’t realize they had broken proper book reviewing etiquette.

Last night I was on a message forum where a well-known author came on and she was devastated a reviewer put the who-dun-it in the first review of her new release. Ouch. Not only is that devastating for an author who worked hard to craft a story and unveil information to you piece by piece, it’s sad for the readers who will no longer get to enjoy the surprise that one reviewer got to experience. On that post, author after author, and reader after reader came forward with similar sob stories. And as a reader who won’t read a book that’s been spoiled, I felt awful knowing authors will inevitably lose sales because of it. And the saddest part? Most of these were five-star, raving reviews. Reviewers who enjoyed the book and wanted to support the author by taking the time to write a review had accidentally cost them sales and caused them heartache as well as ruined the experience for those who would read it after them. It was then I realized, maybe people just don’t understand book review etiquette. Maybe we just need to spread the word! So, after polling authors and readers, we have compiled the list of things you should and shouldn’t do when you review your next read.

1) Review that book

This is a post about etiquette, yes. But it’s important to remind people just how much your reviews help support authors. The good, the bad, and the ugly. We want your opinion and your feedback. Your reviews boost book sales and help rank. If you enjoyed a book, give the author the biggest gift you can… your review. But when you do, just be mindful of other eager readers who want to enjoy the surprises.

2) A Book Review is not A Book Report

No one is quite sure how this came to be, but when writing a review, people don’t want a play-by-play of the book. They want to know your overall thoughts on story, craft, and characters. Let them learn the play-by-play as it’s intended… by reading it. A review that reads like Cliff’s Notes is most definitely laced with spoilers and the bottom line is no reader wants to know that stuff before they read a book. Do you?

I’m going to put two reviews below as an example.

EXAMPLE BLURB:
When a handsome swordsman comes to Camelot, he discovers the one thing he can’t battle away… his feelings for the beautiful Guinevere. Their growing passion for one another could destroy them both, and they must each choose between their loyalty to their King or loyalty to their hearts.  But when Arthur’s old enemy returns with a vengeance, it’s up to Lancelot to put aside his feelings and fight beside his king to defend not only Queen Guinevere, but all of Camelot.

Proper Review:

Wow! This book has all the feels. It’s a gripping historical romance novel filled with action, adventure, and romance. The writing is beautiful. I practically felt like I was back in Camelot. The characters were wonderfully crafted, and I rooted for them every step of the way. The pacing was perfect, and I had trouble putting it down. I loved this book and highly recommend it for anyone who wants to get on an emotional roller coaster and never get off!

Improper Review:

This book starts in Camelot and Guinevere is betrothed to the King. She really seems to love him, but then she meets Lancelot, his newest knight. After she’s kidnapped by King Arthur’s enemy, Arthur sends Lancelot to find her and they end up succumbing to their love. She cheats on her husband with Lancelot and when he finds out he’s devastated. Eventually she chooses her husband over Lancelot and he’s banished, but when Arthur dies at the end she gets to be with Lancelot after all. It was a great story and I highly recommend it.

Can you see the difference? One reads like a book report while the other tells us nothing to spoil the story but tells us how the reader FELT about the book. And that’s the most important part! Did you like the story? Too fast? Too slow? Could you identify with the characters? These are all very safe things to address, and they are actually helpful to potential readers. But let’s leave those book reports back in High School.

3) If it’s not in the blurb, don’t put it in the review

This is the safest way to make sure you don’t ruin a book for anyone else. Blurbs are carefully crafted to give away just enough info to make a book enticing, but not too much to take away the fun of discovery a reader gets to enjoy when they read a new book. When writing a review, I’m careful to never disclose anything specific the blurb hasn’t already told us. I don’t add in plot twists, endings, who-dun-it’s, or anything you wouldn’t have gotten from the blurb.

In the two reviews above, you’ll see in the first one no spoilers were leaked but you still got an idea of my feelings on the book, as well as an idea of what it’s about. It’s action, adventure and romance. Emotional. Hard to put down. In the second one, I told you exactly what happens! As a new reader, when you open that book you already know many of the major conflicts AND you even know how it ends. As a reader, if I read that first review, I would put that book in my cart. If I read the second review, I would shout curses at that reviewer for ruining a book it sounds like I would have loved. I would back out without buying it and go find another book. So, when you review, if it’s not in the blurb, find a way to get your point across without revealing any additional information.

4) Write the review you would want to read

Having a hard time coming up with a review that isn’t a book report? Try to think about what you wish you would have known before you started it. Without giving away too much, try to help the next readers decide if this is the right book for them. Do you hate cliffhangers, and it ended in one? Tell us that! Don’t tell us what the cliffhanger was but tell us you were disappointed it requires you to purchase book two in order to get the ending. Do you love sex scenes and this writer did a fantastic job? That’s a great thing to add and can help readers decide if they want a book with steamy sex scenes or not. Was it too violent for you? Say that. Readers who like violence in books will purchase it, and it will steer away those who don’t have a taste for it. These are all things that can help you write a book review that actually helps guide buyers and doesn’t ruin the book for the people who read it.

5) Use Spoiler Alerts

If you decide you absolutely must write a review that includes info not already in the blurb, please PLEASE write in all caps at the very top of your review *SPOILER ALERT!* This gives any readers who like to be surprised plenty of warning to flip past your review and not have a book experience ruined.

That’s it! Those are the five simple rules to writing a review that will have both authors and readers singing your praises instead of cursing your screen name. Your reviews are SO IMPORTANT and we want to encourage you to come forward with how you felt about our books. But just be mindful when doing so and let the readers who come after you share in all the joy of discovering a story the way an author intended. Let them share in your surprise.

by: Katherine Hastings

Katherine Hastings loves love. It’s why she writes romance novels. Getting lost writing a romantic adventure is one of her favorite pastimes. When she’s not on an adventure with her characters, she can be found at her home in Wisconsin snuggling her husband, two Boston Terriers, and the world’s naughtiest cat. Two things make Katherine want to leave her happy home these days… going for rides on her dressage pony or floating at the beach in her big inflatable raft. Writing her novels while floating in the lake is one of her ultimate pleasures… that and Fried Wisconsin Cheese Curds, of course.

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The Discipline of Writing and the Fear of Failure

As the new year begins, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. One of the toughest things about becoming a writer is discipline. We all know a book doesn’t write itself and no matter how much praying we do, the words don’t always come. I have been writing a long time…well, sort of. I spent the first five years of my writing career talking about writing, researching, taking classes, attending conferences, perfecting my first three chapters and a synopsis, but I never finished a book. 

I used to blame my lack of productivity on my day job, my family, my dog, the neighbor’s dog, anyone and anything, instead of myself. Slowly, but surely all the writers in my critique group became published authors, while I kept on pretending that someday I would write a great book.  Even after publishing seven books and having others manuscripts looking for a publisher, I still struggle with sitting down to write.

Don't wish for it, work for it

Often what keeps me back from writing is fear of failure. I’m a sensitive sort and every time someone gives me a bad review or a rejection letter lands in my inbox, I crawl in my closet (literally) with my favorite candy (right now it’s peanut M & M’s), but the key is: I always crawl back out. And that’s the answer.

God says in the Bible we should not fear anything. (I write Christian fiction, so yeah, you’re going to get some God from me.) Not everybody is going to love me or embrace what I write, but that’s okay. If you put yourself out there you will be rewarded. Maybe it’s becoming a contest finalist, an email from a fan, a publishing contract or a hug from your hubby or the kids. Whatever it is, remember your talent is a gift. So use it!

Tips on how to finish a book:

  1. Keep a log of how many words or pages you write each day.
  2. Set a goal and tell someone who can hold you to it. (i.e. I will finish this book or these many pages by…)
  3. Carve out a writing time each day and stick to it. (Start with a half hour and work from there.)
  4. Exercise (Yes, taking a walk or doing a few sit ups gets the blood flowing and the brain working.)
  5. Remember, writing time is not plotting, research or marketing time. You can plot a new book when you have finished this one.

So stop reading this post and go write!

P.S. I’d love to hear your favorite writing strategy, email me at Oliviarae.books@gmail.com

Olivia Rae headshot

Olivia Rae is an award-winning author of historical and contemporary inspirational romance. She spent her school days dreaming of knights, princesses and far away kingdoms; it made those long, boring days in the classroom go by much faster. Nobody was more shocked than her when she decided to become a teacher. Besides getting her Master’s degree, marrying her own prince, and raising a couple of kids, Olivia decided to breathe a little more life into her childhood stories by adding in what she’s learned as an adult living in a small town on the edge of a big city. When not writing, she loves to travel, dragging her family to old castles and forts all across the world.

Olivia is the winner of the New England Readers’ Choice Award, the Golden Quill Award, and the American Fiction Awards. She has also been a finalist in many other writing contests, including the National Readers’ Choice Awards and the National Excellence in Romance.

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