Let the Bidding War Begin!

writing-at-snowy-window

Let the Bidding War Begin!

Shaaa! I hope.

I finished my next contemporary romance novella last week and spent Easter weekend submitting it to a half-dozen lucky publishers. You may remember from an earlier blog post just how taxing book submissions can be (ha ha, since I sent them April 15/16).

I’ve posted a few extras and excerpts from Counting on Him for your enjoyment.

Here are 5 reasons to love this book: 

  1. The hero, Sean, isn’t a massive, successful, tough, Vin Diesel Alpha male. He’s more of a laid back, charming, Matthew McConaughey screw-up. He lives life on his own terms, doesn’t bother anyone, doesn’t rely on anyone, has gorgeous green eyes and is happily cruising through life.
  2. I wanted to add a little diversity to my book, but I’m about as diverse as a box of tissues. What do I know about the complexities of life experienced by people of color, gender fluidity, refugees of war-torn nations and the like. Nothing! Not. A. Thing. But I did grow up in North Jersey. And 30 years later, the nasally twang of my friends’ Jewish mothers still infects my brain. Not necessarily in a bad way…but it’s there nonetheless. So, I decided my heroine, Gabby, would not only struggle dealing with her life choices, but the anticipated reactions of her Jewish mother.
  3. Stephen King’s On Writing book encourages authors to weave symbolism into their writing. I embraced that sentiment and added a few elements into Counting on Him.
    To mirror the book’s title, numbers are prevalent. Sean counts the floors in the slowly ascending elevator. Gabby counts the weeks before she has to make a decision.
    To build tension through the book, the summer temperatures grow more and more oppressive–until the story culminates in a massive cathartic thunderstorm.
  4. I loved the Gilmore Girls and desperately wanted to live in Stars Hollow, so I gave Roselle a similar small town vibe. The coffee shop has a bell over the door and a big bay window. The town hosts a Community Service Fair in the park. It’s quaint and charming and I can’t wait to revisit it in my next book.

Number 5–The book’s ending is to die for! Sean finds his motivation, Gabby gets her perfect man and they live happily ever after. Isn’t that all any of us want?

SO, now I just have to sit back and wait to hear the accolades from my potential publishers. FYI – I give points for quick responses.

Tick tock, people. There’s a whole world out there, eager to read my book. 🙂

Is your manuscript award-worthy?

Starting March 5, the Valley Forge Romance Writers is accepting submissions to their The Sheila Contest.vfrw Finalist Badge

Participation is open to all romance writers (unpublished, self-published and published) interesting in submitting an unpublished manuscript in the following categories: historical, erotic, romantic suspense, single title or paranormal/fantasy/futuristic.

Entrants enjoy two benefits. During the scoring process, judges provide beneficial feedback regarding 20 writing elements (dialogue, descriptions, grammar, etc.). Many past applicants have used these insights to improve–and subsequently find a publisher for–their story.

Top scoring manuscripts are judged by a professional agent or editor, and the winners receive a certificate and have their names published in RWR magazine

It’s a great deal, so get moving! The deadline is April 8, 2017.


Contest Name: The Sheila Contest
Sponsor: Valley Forge Romance Writers (Chapter of RWA)
Website: www.vfrw.com
Fee: $25 for VFRW members, $30 for non-members

Opens for Entries: March 5, 2017
Deadline: April 8, 2017

Eligibility: Participation is open to all romance writers who are unpublished, self-published, and published. Entry must be the author’s original unpublished work and not under contract.

Entry: First 20 pages of manuscript and up to 5 page unjudged synopsis.
First Round Judges: Three (3) qualified, trained judges, including General, PRO and PAN members. Judges are strongly encouraged to comment directly on the entry as well as overall comments on the scoresheets.

Categories and Final Judges:

  • Single Title: Patricia Nelson, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency
  • Historical: Keren Reed, Loose ID
  • Erotic: Tera Cuskaden, Cuskaden Editorial and Publishing Services
  • Romantic Suspense: Deb Werksman, Sourcebooks
  • Fantasy/Futuristic/Paranormal: Nicole Resciniti, The Seymour Agency.

Best of the Best – 1st place winners from the final round will move on to the Best of the Best round, judged by Best Selling Authors and Booksellers:

  • Kate Welsh – New York Times & USA Today Best Selling Author
  • Mariah Stewart – New York Times & USA Today Best Selling Author
  • Terri Brisbin – USA Today Best Selling Author
  • Joan Silvestro – Indie Bookseller – Book Trader

Grand Prize for Best of the Best: $100

Top Prizes: Certificates, and the 1st through 4th place winners will be printed in RWR Magazine.

For more information please visit our website: www.vfrw.com

Email questions to The Sheila Chairperson, Miranda Montrose at thesheila.2017chairperson@gmail.com

Should You Self-Publish or Traditionally Publish?

I am struggling to decide whether or not to keep torturing myself finding a publisher.

My current manuscript is 40,000 words, which doesn’t fit in with most submission guidelines. Plus, it’s a romance novella that doesn’t bash you over the head with conflict in the first five pages. I have been repeatedly reminded this violates the ironclad GMC model of romance writing.

But maybe there is a market out there for readers who don’t want to be force-fed drama. They’d rather see a relationship build at a realistic pace, before plummeting into heartbreak and despair. Just because it doesn’t match the standard publisher’s formula, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t see the light of day.

A.G. Young’s blog raises some other valid points as to why I might want to go the self-pub route.

A Writer's Path

Doors

by A.G. Young

So today we’re talking about if you should Self Publish or Traditionally Publish that baby you have been working on for months or years. This of course is no easy question to answer, and also very highly personal to each writer. So I am going to discuss my opinion on the matter. And a little forewarning, because of the topic of this post, this is going to be a long one.

Before you can answer this main question, you must answer a few others first. Let’s see what those are.

View original post 1,156 more words

Respect The Reviewer 2: How to Find, Contact and Stay on the Good Side of Reviewers

I’m new to publishing and didn’t realize there was a whole strategy and network to obtaining book reviews. This blogpost, written by a reviewer, outlines the how to’s and how-not to’s for authors, helping them find, submit and communicate with this key audience.

Happymeerkatreviews

Here’s the second Respect the Reviewer article I’ve written (the first can be read here).  This is for all authors out there.  While some tips might be obvious others you may not have thought of, either way I hope some of these tips will help you find a reviewer and go about contacting them the right way.  🙂

respect cat

All authors know the importance of getting book reviews. Not only can a good book review encourage others to buy your book but if you get enough of them your book will be listed higher on amazon (or so the rumour goes). But how can authors go about contacting reviewers? And what’s the right or wrong thing to say and do when asking and waiting for a review?

I’ve been reviewing books for some time now and take this ‘job’ very seriously. I recognise the need to give an informative and honest…

View original post 3,216 more words

editing a document

3 Writing Tips for Novice Authors

editing a documentThe complexities of novel writing

I recently participated as a judge for a romance writers contest. Entrants provided the first 20 pages of their unpublished novel. To evaluate the submissions, judges were provided a scoring sheet with twenty characteristics to evaluate.

That really drives home the challenge of writing a good novel. For novices out there…or even experienced writers who may need a refresher, I thought I’d summarize a few of the characteristics that seem to trip us up.

1. Showing, not telling

You’ll hear this a lot, and it takes some time to master this concept. Good writers work details about their characters’ backstories into their scenes seamlessly, without a “data dump” of narrative text.

Learn to weave the description of the location, characters, and time period into the  story like you’re seasoning food. Sprinkle a little here, a little there, and let the reader discover what they need at a natural pace.

Example from my WIP Counting on Him:

First draft using narrative text

Gabby couldn’t believe David wanted to talk to her. She’d broken up with him because he’d been so controlling. Sure he seemed like the perfect guy, handsome, smart, confident, and Jewish, which was something her mother insisted upon. But he always thought he was right, disregarding her opinions. It drove her crazy.

He’d been surprised when she ended it. And now he was telling her he wanted to get back together. That he was sorry. She didn’t know how she felt about that.

Revised using dialogue:

“I’ve been thinking about you.” David reached for her hand and rubbed his thumb over her knuckles. “I hate the way we ended.”

He locked eyes with hers. They were the color of the Mediterranean Sea, warm and blue. It was what first drew her to him. Her chest tightened. She wasn’t ready for this conversation.

But he was. Flashing her an apologetic smile, he said, “I know it was my fault. I always think I’m right.” He shrugged. “But I’m the only son of a Jewish mother. I can do no wrong.”

Gabby couldn’t hold back a smile. She’d met his mom. It was totally true.

“Why didn’t you tell me you found me controlling?”

She pulled her hand away and wrapped her arms around her stomach. “I didn’t realize it myself. Then, once I noticed, it drove me crazy. I couldn’t let you control my life.”

2. Settings set the mood

Use the setting as another character in your book. Include descriptions of the sounds, scents, lighting, etc. to convey a mood–the ominous hum of computers in a deserted office, a salty ocean breeze reinvigorating a tired soul, or the soft inky blue of twilight bringing the end to a perfect day.

Weather can be a very effective tool, adding emotion to a scene – rain pounding against the window when depressed or the searing heat of the summer sun making an anxious situation even hotter.

The only sound Gabby heard was her sneakers pounding along the trail, echoing the refrain in her head, “Now what? Now what?” As sweat dripped into her eyes, she swiped at her forehead, dragging her a hand through her unruly hair. Stupid humidity. Stupid sweat. Stupid Sean.  

Be strategic when developing your characters as well. Convey their personality through your descriptions of their clothes, car, home, job and accessories. Instead of writing  “David was determined to be successful and  always dressed to impress.” convey that through his description.

David pulled up in his Audi. Naturally, he angled it to take up two parking spots. Climbing out of his car, he pulled off his Montblanc sunglasses and tucked them into the pocket of his crisp lime-green Hugo polo. Everything David owned had a logo.

 

3. Writing natural-sounding dialogue

There are three things to remember when writing dialogue. People talk in short bursts, they frequently interrupt the speaker, and they usually stick to one subject in each statement. I’ll explain.

Uninterrupted speaking 

“Joe, I know you said you’d pick up my car for me, but the repair shop called and said you didn’t show up. So now I have to catch a ride with Sally tomorrow. What happened? And why didn’t you clean up your breakfast dishes? You know I hate when you leave them in the sink.”

Add action tags and Joe’s reaction to make conversation more natural

“Joe, I know you said you’d pick up my car for me, but the repair shop called and said you didn’t show up.” Gabby threw her purse on the counter and glared at him. “Now I have to catch a ride with Sally tomorrow. What happened?”

Joe didn’t look up from his laptop. “I forgot,” he mumbled.

That made Gabby even more angry. Didn’t he care at all? Obviously not, she fumed, noticing the sink was still filled with dirty dishes. Storming over to him, she flicked the laptop closed. “And why didn’t you clean up your breakfast dishes? You know I hate when you leave them in the sink.”

Editing quote by Don RoffI hope these tips help.

It’s amazing how easy it is to spot these unwieldy examples in someone else’s writing, while being totally oblivious of them in your own work.

Don’t be afraid to let others read your work. Tell them what to look for, so they know the type of critique you are asking from them.

Good luck!

 

 

 

Getting published is HARD work

I’m a romance writer. Most people seem to think that’s a fun and frivolous habit.

Sure, writing a “real” book is hard, but romance novels are written by flighty, slightly perverted women who live in silly dream worlds. We sit down, pick out a pair of ridiculous names for our wildly attractive couple and tap out a fantasy.

And because romance novels “are all the same”, we can submit our work to any publisher we choose, and bam, two months later, have a racy cover sitting on our coffee table.

HA!

This is a crazy cut-throat business. And it is a business. Each publisher has very specific requirements, requiring an author to carefully identify the imprints that most closely align with their story. (I found this trope list with over 50 variations! So much for all being alike.)

Once we’ve picked our publishers, we have to twist our writing into very specific pretzels to meet their submission guidelines. This requires an amazing amount of organization, making sure each publisher gets the three or four uniquely crafted pieces they’ve requested.  For example, when I submitted Catching a Pixie this weekend, I had to develop a:

  • crazed writer4-sentence blurb
  • 200-word summary of book
  • 2-page synopsis
  • full synopsis, including ending
  • query letter listing the trope the book will satisfy
  • first 3 chapters
  • 1000 words capturing the best scene
  • full manuscript
  • marketing plan
  • social media experience
  • publishing history
  • summary of future books in the series

Imagine trying to condense 37,000 words down to 200. Or picking one scene that conveys the heart of the book, the emotion, the humor, the creativity, while still making sense when it is read completely out of context. Gah!

Hopefully, I got all the right pieces to all the right places. And it dazzles the publishers so much that they start a bidding war and I wind up making millions!

But I’ll settle for one email, saying “Hey, we’d like to work with you. Give us a call.” Then I can jump into the rest of the 397 steps to getting published.

Frivolous habit? Definitely not. But fun? ABSOLUTELY!

Romance Writers -Contest Opening

vfrw Finalist BadgeNow Open!

The Valley Forge Romance Writers (VFRW) 2016 The Sheila Contest opened for entries March 13, 2016. VFRW is a local chapter of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) and they and their internationally-recognized The Shelia Contest abide by the regulations and philosophy set forth at the national level.

Participation is open to all romance writers who are unpublished, self-published, and published. Entries must be the author’s original unpublished work and not under contract. Submissions will be accepted in the following categories: Single Title, Historical, Erotic, Romantic Suspense and Fantasy/Futuristic/Paranormal.

Fee 
$25 for VFRW members, $30 for non-members

Important Dates

  • Opens for Entries: March 13, 2016
  • Deadline: April 16, 2016
  • Notification of category winners: June 18

Entry 
You will be asked to submit the first 20 pages of manuscript and an up-to-5-page synopsis, for a total of 25 pages.

Initial entries will be judged by three (3) qualified, trained judges, including: General, PRO* and PAN* members. The top five (5) entries in their categories will be forwarded for a final round of judging by the following publishing professionals:

Categories and Final Judges: 

  • Single Title: Junessa Viloria, Penguin Random House
  • Historical: Stephany Evans, Fine Print Literary Management
  • Erotic: Sara Megibow, KT Literary
  • Romantic Suspense: Alicia Condon, Kensington Publishing
  • Fantasy/Futuristic/Paranormal: Nicole Resciniti, The Seymour Agency

Top Prizes: The 1st through 4th place winners will receive certificates and have their names printed in Romance Writers Report (RWR) Magazine.

Best of the Best – 1st place winners from the final round will move on to the Best of the Best round, judged by Best Selling Authors and Booksellers:

  • Madeline Hunter – New York Times & USA Today Best Selling Author
  • Mariah Stewart – New York Times & USA Today Best Selling Author
  • Terri Brisbin – USA Today Best Selling Author
  • Joan Silvestro – Indie Bookseller – Hamilton Book Trader
  • Heather Soligo – Traditional Bookseller – Barnes & Nobles, Christiana Mall

Grand Prize for Best of the Best: $100
(*RWA designations)

For more details and submission guidelines, visit the VFRW The Shelia Contest page. 

Tips from a romance writer’s conference

We’re here to help

Dog says You're AwesomeI attended Put Your Heart in a Book, the New Jersey Romance Writer’s conference last weekend. It’s probably my fifth time, and it felt like I was coming home. If anyone out there is looking for quality writing advice in a manageable sized setting, be sure to check it out.

Let me share some of the important lessons I learned.

  1. Romance writers are one of the most supportive group of people you’ll ever meet

It’s truly remarkable how willing all the attendees–from novice writers to multi-published authors–are to offer tips to each other, compare publisher stories, discuss social media opinions and share self publishing success and failures.

This doesn’t even cover the emotional support you’ll receive. Most every romance author has survived some sort of trauma–physical abuse, loss of a loved one, loss of jobs, serious injury, you name it. Yet they’ve kept writing, kept swinging for the fences and eventually, they have found success.

If you are struggling, and it’s affecting your work or your self worth, just say so. Someone will come over, put their arm around you, share words of inspiration or a comforting piece of chocolate (there is always plenty of chocolate) and you’ll leave with the most important tool for writing. Hope.

 

2. Ways to spark imaginative writing

Kathleen Long (USA Today best selling author) held a session, “Fire up your process with creative storytelling techniques.” She advocates getting outside of your writing to help your story bubble up from within. Focusing too hard, can cause blockages. Channel ideas through these techniques:

Collages – Take a stack of magazines and cut out pictures, words, colors and any other elements that speak to you. Create a collage. Use it to help define your characters or settings. Your subconscious will frequently pinpoint details, conflicts or quirks that you may not have identified. One author shared that she had used taro cards with similar results.

Speech bubbles – draw your character and ask it a question. Then write their answer as a speech bubble. What are they feeling? How do they view the world? What do they want us to know?

Writing prompts– Sometimes your creativity gets stuck. Words won’t flow. Everything you write sounds stupid. You may need to think about something totally unrelated to your current project. Pick a writing prompt and just let loose (like write 500 words about your pet, but include the words clock, pencil and burgundy)

Then there’s non-writing strategies to clear your head:

Color in a coloring book– embrace your inner child and lower your stress through the simple, act of coloring. Use a fancy adult book or a dollar store kid version. Whatever floats your boat.

Take a walk– Get up from your desk and move. Walk, run, yoga, whatever helps clear your mind and silence the demons.

Listen – I mentioned my zen-listening  idea, and the attendees agreed that sitting quietly and experiencing sounds around us could be inspirational.

 

3. Look at the world through a different lens

Young adult author Nisha Sharma had us participate in an interesting exercise. We watched clips from Bollywood movies with strong romantic elements. Because the couples are not allowed to overtly display intimacy (no kissing, and certainly no sex!), and they are speaking another language, the clips emphasized the physical characteristics that built tension.

This helped illustrate how to tap into the essence of your characters to bring their romance, and your writing, to life. I now have a wonderfully rich library of action tags to choose from:

Eyes: sidelong glance to mask interest, lower lashes when caught staring, flicker of a glance to coyly remind them of your interest, and outright staring when you know they aren’t looking.

Hands: gentle touches on the arm, shoulder or hip, reach towards someone and quickly pull away, tuck hair behind ear, put hands behind your back to prevent touching or to enticingly stick out your chest, help them put on their coat or smooth down a lapel and let fingers linger.

Mouth: lick, purse or bite your lips, a sharp inhale when they get too close, a slow exhale after a very satisfying exchange, grit teeth when jealous, mouth drops when first spotting your love.

Behaviors: Talk to a friend/relative and get distracted when the object of your affection walks by. Tilt head or hip when talking, lean in, smother a giggle, offer to pass something then hold onto it or mess with someone else and share a secret laugh/smile about it with lover.

 

There were dozens of other sessions sharing equally valuable tips…but these were the most poignant for me. I hope they help you find some inspiration.

Happy writing!

 

 

 

 

Dog says You're Awesome

You are good enough

Dog says You're AwesomeFocus on your own talent

I was perusing my bookcase this week and stumbled across an old motivational booklet, Attitude, Your Internal Compass. It’s one of those hokey “how to realize your potential” books from the ’90s. But one of the essays really struck a chord with me.
Borrowing heavily from Dorothy’s lament in The Wizard of Oz, it chastised people for spending too much time coveting the talent and success of others, without realizing how good they have it right in their own backyard. By feeling as though we aren’t as skilled as someone in a certain area, we get discouraged. Depressed.

What we don’t realize is, we each have our own particular skill set.

You may not be as creative a writer as EL James (Fifty Shades of Grey), but maybe you have a better command of grammar and punctuation. You may be jealous of how prolific Nora Roberts is, but Harper Lee only published one book (To Kill a Mockingbird) and managed to have a fairly successful career.

220px-Steve_Buscemi_2009_portraitCan you even imagine what was going through Steve Buscemi’s head when he decided to become a movie star? I mean, seriously, folks. Look at that face. But he had talent and enthusiasm, and he found his niche.

So, when you’re shooting for your dreams, don’t worry if someone is better than you. Find what you enjoy, work at it, polish it, and become the best you can be.

Don’t try to fit into someone else’s box. Find success that matches your skills and experiences.

Why different is better

I had a boss who hated me. I was too outspoken, too concerned about putting a positive spin on things, and not focused on the nuts and bolts of the organization. She wanted me to be just like her–quiet, restrained and precise.

But I was the marketing manager. And she was an engineer. She didn’t enjoy talking to people and couldn’t care less about making reader-friendly documents. Whereas I loved that stuff. And for our business to succeed, she needed me to do that…to be the yin to her yang. She needed a team of people with different skill sets than hers’. Not better or worse, just different.

This is important for authors to remember. There are so many pieces in the publishing puzzle, no one can go it alone. Plot development, snappy dialogue, accurate grammar (my downfall, as I’m sure you can tell), pitching, synopsis writing, marketing, web design, contract negotiations, accounting, the list is endless.

My advice? Focus on what you’re best at, gain a basic knowledge on the subjects where you’re shaky and then build a team who can fill in your holes. Get a good critique partner, editor, agent, accountant, web designer, etc. Just remember to look for people who are not like you…but who are trying to be the best they can be.

Becoming an Author

It’s funny. Being a writer is easy. You get an idea, you write it down, you edit it a few times and voila! You’re a writer. If you’re lucky, and mildly talented, you can get someone to pay you to write–newsletters, brochures, websites, etc. I’ve had that good fortune for over 15 years.

But being an author? That’s a LOT of work.

First you get an idea for a book–that’s the easy part.

Then you start to write, realize you don’t know what you’re doing, talk to other writers, and maybe join a club or go to a conference. Over time, you manage to craft a pretty good story and you’re ready to “Become an Author.” Da da da dum.

That’s when things get tricky. Here are steps 1 through 397 (or so it seems):

  1. Write a synopsis of your novel (it’s very tricky to squeeze a 300 page novel into a 3 page summary: Boy meets Girl, Boy likes Girl, Girl gets mad at Boy, Girl wallows, Boy gets angry, Boy admits he’s wrong and they live happily ever after)
  2. Find someone to pitch to. This can be done by searching online for publishers, making contacts at conferences, entering contests–winning–and being referred to a publisher, or just dumb luck (a friend of a friend? Score!)

Here were the rest of my steps–your reality may vary:

  • Get rejected
  • Re-write pitch, summary and first 3 chapters about five times
  • Give the right pitch to the right publisher and submit your manuscript
  • Get accepted! And get a contract
  • Find someone who knows what they’re doing to review your contract.
  • Develop a bio, get a professional photo, submit cover art outline, write your book blurb, get your manuscript copyrighted and all the other boring administrative stuff.
  • Start the editing process. YIKES! You thought you had a book good enough to get published and then all your appallingly bad writing flaws are brought to your attention–page after page of corrections, comments, notes, insertions and deletions.
  • THEN you have to start thinking about marketing. Set up a website, twitter account, facebook, pinterest, whatever you think you can keep up with, whatever you have time to learn.

That’s where I am now. I’ve finished my edits, created a website and started a twitter feed(@alleighburrows). I look forward to the next 43 steps I’m sure are coming. That should be the inspiration for my next blog.