Saturday, May 18, 2019

Our May Round Robin Blog

Our May Round Robin challenge is: What would you like to tell your readers about your novels and their purpose?

I would love to be able to answer this with a noble, high-brow, reply. However, first and foremost, I wanted to write books like those I enjoyed reading. Now, how self-serving is that? Nothing noble or high-brow there. I wrote purely for my own pleasure and satisfaction.

That only lasted until I got the itch for publication, and then everything changed. I had to let my babies out of my sight while they were perused by critique partners and beta readers. Handing over my first ever novel to an editor was gut-wrenching but I was lucky enough to receive great feedback which empowered me and so I kept writing. 

My books are mostly historical romantic fiction. I say mostly as I have penned two Regency romances (my favourite historical era), an Edwardian trilogy, a more recent romance set in 1935 and one contemporary western romance. I may attempt more contemporary western romances. If my books have a purpose, it is to entertain my reader. Hopefully, they will enjoy the romance, find some intriguing historical fact that they might not have known before, and be satisfied when they get to the last line.

Reviews on all my titles are, for the main part, favourable. I have met people in libraries who have rushed off to see if any of my books are on the shelf and have later received messages on how much they have enjoyed whichever book they have read. I have talked to people at book-signings and recommended whichever of my titles fit with their reading tastes or what they might like to give as a gift. Sales remain steady and I like to think that I now have a happy and contented readership, which is all I ever really wanted from my books.

I’m going to be interested in what these authors have to say.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

April's Round Robin Blog

Our Round Robin topic for April asks: Does the season ever play a part in your setting? How do you think seasons affect setting and plot either physically or metaphorically?

Writers are always looking for ways to enhance the drama in their plots and the nuances of their characters. Just as we sometimes use the weather to create a mood or direct the way a scene goes so we can make use of the seasons in both our settings and in our characters’ moods.

I have certainly used the seasons in my books. In my first Regency romance my character, Emmaline, is abducted on a perfect September afternoon. By the time she is rescued and returns home, it is a whole month later and the trees in the estate park have already turned colour. In the second Regency, a lot of the book takes place at sea and in Jamaica, but Juliana calculates that she left England in January and it’s now September. In both books, the seasons are not plot lines, but more indicate the timeline.

Janet Evanovitch, in One for the Money, uses the season to describe Stephanie Plum’s New Jersey ‘hood: During summer months, the air sat still and gauzy, leaden with humidity, saturated with hydrocarbons. It shimmered over hot cement and melted road tar.

In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling writes of fall: Autumn seemed to arrive early that year. The morning of the first of September was crisp and golden as an apple.

Everyone seems to love spring, with its hopeful sense of the summer to come, but Charles Dickens writes: Spring is the time of year when it is summer in the sun and winter in the shade, which speaks to the duality in this more than any other season of the year.

In the movie The Winter Guest, set in northern Scotland, the husband of Emma Thompson’s character Frances, dies suddenly, leaving Frances distraught. Her mother (in real life as well as in the movie) played by Phyllida Law, comes to stay with her. The film opens with a shot of the mother walking across frozen fields and with the camera later panning across a frozen sea. I’m not sure that Frances’ grief would have seemed so soul-deep if this story had been set during any other season but winter. The bleakness of the setting seemed to represent the bleakness in her soul and vice versa.

Just as light and shade and the time of day can influence the moods we try to create in our story, so can the season. Let’s take a look at what opinions these authors might have.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Round Robin Blog on Self-editing

It’s officially springtime and our first spring Round Robin blog for March 23, is: How do you self-edit your books before submitting or publishing? Many people, and not only non-writers, think the work is done when you write THE END, but this is where work on your novel really begins.

Once I have completed the first draft, I'll put it aside for a few days to develop a flavor, a bit like yesterday's pizza or that wicked from-scratch chili. When I go back to it, I first do a search and find for my usual crutch words which are has, was, had and a few more besides. I’ll see what I can eliminate or if I can make my writing more active by rewriting.

Have I used strong nouns and verbs? I have a list I sometimes refer to improve them if I can. Are there passages where I am telling rather than showing? What about dialog tags? How many can I remove and show what my characters are doing instead? I’ll look for those tricky little homonyms, those words which have the same spelling and pronunciation, but different meanings such as bit – the past tense of bite, or a tiny amount. Then there are the homographs which have the same spelling but different pronunciations and definitions such as wind (it blows) or wind (as to wind a clock.) Last but not least we come to homophones like to, too, and two which sound the same but have different spelling and meaning and are all too often misused. 

I'll nearly always catch my misplaced modifiers in my first drafts, but these aren't always found in books. You'll often see some doozies in church notices and on gravestones such as this, ‘Erected in memory of John MacFarlane, Drowned in the Water of Leith by a few affectionate friends.' With friends like that, who needs enemies?

When I have checked for pace and balance, usually a highlighting exercise, I’ll then read my work aloud. I’m sure many authors would dispute this exercise, but I still make time to do it. It is one of the easiest ways I know to catch long-winded or wordy sentences. If you can’t comfortably read a sentence in one breath, then you know it either needs punctuation or can or should be broken into two, or perhaps three. In reading aloud I’ll also catch myself on continuity – does my heroine have black hair and blue eyes all the way through my story?

Once I have done all that, I’ll hand my work over to my beta readers. If they make suggestions, I’ll look at what they think is required, and then make revisions accordingly. Once that is done, I’ll run the manuscript through Grammarly and make any corrections necessary and only then will I send it to my publisher. At that point, I really do think I have come to THE END and indulge in a large glass of wine before starting the next book.

Visit these authors to discover their processes:

Skye Taylor
Diane Bator
Beverley Bateman
Connie Vines
Anne Stenhouse
A.J. Maguire
Dr. Bob Rich
Helena Fairfax
Judith Copek
Rhobin L Courtright