November 29, 2010
If you are a writer, have you ever bumbled through your words when someone asked you what your book was about? Yeah, me too. This is where having an elevator pitch can come in handy.
An elevator pitch is a brief description of your story.
Why is it good to have one? Your ability to accurately and succinctly describe your book demonstrates that you actually know what your core story is. It also shows your professionalism and understanding of the industry.
Get an elevator pitch down for your book, and you’ll never again have to worry that you’re making someone’s eyes glaze over when you try to sum up your 90k book in as few words as possible. This is very helpful if you plan on attending a conference or mini-conference, where the next person to ask about your book might happen to be an agent or editor (hey, you never know).
So what should your elevator pitch contain? Well, I got this great tip from the “The Tiny Art of Elevator Pitches: How to Craft Them and How to Use Them” Workshop presented by speaker Carrie Lofty during RWA’s 2010 Conference. (This was a great workshop that covered a lot of points, so I highly recommend it to anyone considering purchasing it from RWA.)
When writing romance, you will want to cover the main parts of the story, being:
- Hero’s arch – descriptors for your hero and what kind of person he is
- Heroine’s arch – descriptors for your heroine and what kind of person she is
- Romantic arch – what sort of romantic conflict is there?
- External Conflict – what is it?
Since you want to make your pitch succinct, don’t use names for your characters. Instead use descriptors as well as their purpose in the story.
Using the above guideline, I’ll share my elevator pitch for my most recent manuscript, Demon Born:
A half-demon, inter-dimensional bounty hunter is charged with saving Earth from a zombie apocalypse, but to do so he might have to destroy the key to the apocalypse, the one woman he can’t seem to resist.
So rather than name my hero and heroine, I use their biggest defining qualities (he is a half-demon, Inter-dimensional bounty hunter, she the key to the apocalypse), and I tie the external conflict (apocalypse) to the romantic one (he is falling for a woman he may have to kill).
So what do you think, is this helpful for creating an elevator pitch? Anyone care to share one of theirs?
November 24, 2010
Ever been wandering through the grocery store when a book caught your eye? You picked it up, glanced at the back cover blurb, looked at the cover again, and suddenly you had to have it. You simply couldn’t leave the store without it.
I used to do this all the time. It was how I bought most of my books. Once I started writing with an eye toward publication (thereby having far less time to read), I began to carefully research each book before I purchased it. My days of impulse buying were over.
I did stick to my guns for a while. I swear I did. But then…I was walking through the grocery store last week, and this caught my eye.
Sure enough, within minutes I was the proud owner of a shiny new book.
So what was it about this particular book that drew me? The open-shirted guy didn’t hurt (heh), but let’s face it, a lot of romances have those on the cover. In this case, I think it was a combination of several things that really caught my eye: the swirly background, the antique scrolling on the lower right-hand side, and the catchy title. Ok, the guy is worth mentioning again.
What makes a cover stand out for you? What makes it so alluring that you simply must pick the book up? Can you remember the last book that hooked you by its cover alone?
I’ll be taking a break from blogging on Friday to spend time with family, but I’ll be back next Monday. I wish you all a safe and happy Thanksgiving!
November 22, 2010
Posted by Rosalie Lario under RWA 2010  Comments
Today I’m blogging about the “World-building for Your Werewolf, Duke, or Small-Town Doctor” Workshop presented by speaker Tanya Michaels during RWA’s 2010 Convention.
Writers hear a lot about the importance of world-building. But what is it that makes it so important? Well, it’s what draws readers into your story. It also what makes your book unique. Even if the core story is one that others have heard before, your world should be new.
Every story—whether it is a paranormal, historical or contemporary—has a world. A writer focuses on developing this world in order to have a compelling story.
Some tips for effective world-building:
- Determine the scope of your world and what its rules or constraints are, and then stick with them.
- Use language to your advantage. If you write medical novels, you’ll need to have some knowledge of medical lingo. If you’re writing romance, use endearments to emotionally connect your characters.
- Infuse your story with real world characteristics: politics, legends, etc. If you are writing romance between two coworkers, you’ll want to establish the office politics. If it’s a paranormal romance with a vampire and a werewolf, a completely different set of politics will apply.
- Establish your world’s values. Not just what the characters physically value (gold, or food if it’s a dystopian fantasy), but also moral values. Maybe in your vampire society murder isn’t looked down on, or it’s a historical where forward-thinking females are ostracized.
Do you have any tips for effective world-building? A favorite author who excels at it?
November 19, 2010
Today I thought I’d share my revision checklist. Once I’ve finished my first draft of my novel, I’ll pull out this revision sheet, which I’ve compiled based on a few editing courses and books I’ve read, as well as from my own trial and error (my first failed novels ). I’ve broken my revision down into two stages. Stage 1 is the deep revisions: adding more emotion and depth to my story. Stage 2 is more about construction and grammar.
l Stage 1
□Build awareness into every time hero and heroine are on page together (there should be at least one moment of notice between them on each page).
□If characters are not together, they should think of each other at least once on every page.
□Build emotion in ‘black moment’ and love scenes (Important!)
□Add sexual tension.
□Fill any plot holes.
l Stage 2
□Do universal check for -ly and -ing words. Replace as many as you can.
□Do verb check. Replace weak verbs with stronger ones (look, walk, stare).
□Check dialogue tags. Get rid of all unnecessary ones.
□Check dialogue for each character to make sure it’s believable for them.
□Change all unnecessary passive tense (was, were, being, been) to active
□Get rid of felt, knew, thought, realized words.
□Check for “as” prepositions. Make sure to put cause before the effect.
□Check to make sure characters don’t use each others’ names too much.
□Watch for excessive or unnecessary use of the following words or phrases: of, own, my God
So what do you think? Anything in particular you’d add to this checklist? Anything that seems crazy to you?
November 17, 2010
Today I’m blogging about “The Inside Scoop: Analyzing Openings as an Agent, Bookseller, and Reader, Then Solving the Problems as a Writer” Workshop presented during RWA’s 2010 Conference by author Robin Perini and author/freelance editor Claire Cavanaugh.
The speakers started with a survey of agents, booksellers and readers. Most agents knew by the end of page 1 if they didn’t want to read on, though they might read up to 10 pages. (Such a scary thought!) They want to be given enough of a hook within the first two or three paragraphs that they are interested in reading on.
What sorts of things do agents and/or readers want to see on the first few pages?
- Characters in conflict
- High concept
- Who to root for
- Setting up of reader expectations such as tone and genre
Some tips for creating compelling openings that will make people read on:
You generally need to make clear by the end of the first page what the setting for your story is.
Set your tone and maintain it. If you are writing drama, don’t start out with humor.
State your theme early and sprinkle in references to it throughout.
Create one or more questions for the reader.
Make it short. Only include what the reader really needs to know right now.
You need a character your reader will fall in love with or want to be like.
Answer what, where, when and how as soon as you can. It’s the why that will keep readers reading on.
Make sure you are showing vs. telling. Bring your reader as far into the character’s viewpoint as possible.
Do you have a favorite opening for a book? What is it that makes this opening so compelling for you?
For me, it’s the opening to Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost. We know by page 2 that the heroine is not a typical woman. Far from it. She’s got a dead body in the back of her truck. Who wouldn’t be compelled to read on and find out why?
November 15, 2010
Today I’m blogging about the “Authors Online: More Than Writing About Writing” Workshop, given by Teresa Medeiros, Jill Shalvis, and Sarah Wendell. The workshop instructors discussed…you guessed it: social media!
What sort of social networking should an author or aspiring author do?
Well, the number one thing the instructors discussed is that you need to do what feels right or natural for you. There are so many social networking tools (blogging, Twitter, Facebook), there should be something you can find that you like doing.
What are some tips for effective social networking?
- It should ultimately be about connecting with others. Yes, it’s about promotion too, but don’t constantly push your materials on others, or they will get bored (or *gasp* pissed off) rather quickly. Never forget that your goal (not only as a blogger, but also as an author) is ultimately to find a connection with others.
- Get to know peoples’ names. We are all egocentric at our core; we want to know that others actually connect with us, and don’t just see us as a potential payday. This is important to remember as an author.
- Ask questions at the end of your blog or Facebook post in order to engage your readers.
- If you do Facebook, plan for the future. Get a fan page rather than a friend page (which limits you to 5,000 followers).
- If you use Twitter, try a host client which can provide an array of options (I can recommend Tweetdeck (which I started with) or Hootsuite (which I use now and love)
- Be consistent in your use of social media. Whatever media you use, try to do it at least once a week.
- Go onto other people’s blogs, or read their tweets or Facebook posts, and respond to them.
- If you hate doing it, this will be obvious to others. So if you really hate social networking, maybe your time is better spent focusing on writing the best book you can. Some of the most famous authors (JK Rowling comes to mind) do little to no social networking.
- If you are looking to grow your followers, run a contest. Who doesn’t love to win books? But if you want to attract quality followers (i.e. readers who are potential purchasers of your book) make sure your prize is book-related (books or bookstore giftcards).
What are some don’ts?
- Don’t talk only about writing. Not a big deal at first, when you are basically interacting only with other writers. But once you start to get fans, they won’t get blogs about writing. They want to know about you, especially anything that effects your writing or inspires you to write the stories they love.
- Don’t talk trash about others in the industry or complain about your publisher or cover.
- Stay away from polarizing subjects: religion, politics, negative talk on other authors or books.
- Don’t get frustrated. Whether your are blogging, on Facebook or Twitter, or using any other form of social media, it takes time to build up a following. So don’t give up if you don’t have the sort of following you want right away.
So what sort of social media is your favorite? Any addictions? I don’t tweet a lot, but I must admit I’m totally addicted to reading others’ tweets! It’s such a great way to get up to the minute information on what’s going on in the industry.
November 12, 2010
I love reading stories with deep POV. Nothing is more effective at pulling me into a story. So what is deep POV and how can you recognize if someone is using it? More importantly, how, when and why should you employ deep POV?
Deep POV is a technique of drawing your reader further into your story. You eliminate author intrusion (i.e. telling) by putting yourself (and the reader) in the character’s skin. The reason this is so effective is that the longer a reader spends in a character’s skin, the more they come to care for him. It’s the reason why the hero is generally introduced right away in a romance; we tend to become attached to the characters we know the best.
So what are some tips for employing deep POV?
- Stay in one character’s POV for as long as possible. This goes back to getting your reader to care for your character. If they care for him, they will have a personal stake in what happens, and those fight/love scenes will be all the more effective.
- Reveal things slowly, little by little. Doing an info dump in the beginning of your story is not effective because it involves a lot of telling, vs. showing the reader who your character is. Reveal crucial bits of information only as needed, and uncover your character’s background in snippets.
- Effective deep POV is created by word choice, dialogue and action scenes. Specifically, describe sensory scenes the way your character would. Pretend you’re stuck inside your character’s body, seeing things the way she would see them, describing them in the words she (not you the author) would use.
- Use the senses,especially sense of smell, which has been found to be one of the most powerful senses (that’s why phrases like “grandma’s apple pie” are so effective; they can instantly invoke a feeling).
- The words you use to describe a setting should mirror the character’s feelings. If she’s depressed or happy, her description of the scene should reflect that.
- Don’t use telling words: felt, thought, wondered.
- Don’t use deep POV throughout the entire book. Because deep POV includes such heavy use of sensory images, trying to write an entire book in it would not only make the book run long, but it would keep the tension at the same level throughout. Even high tension becomes monotonous if it doesn’t increase or decrease. So the best time to employ deep POV is during the most emotional scenes: fights, loves scenes, chase scenes, moments of great conflict between the characters.
For those of you who haven’t read Linnea Sinclair, she’s a master in deep POV technique. She also teaches online and in-person courses on it, and that’s where I got some of the tips I went over today. If you haven’t taken this course and happen to see her teaching it, do yourself a favor and take it!
Do you have an author you love who’s particularly good at employing deep POV? Do you use it in your own writing?
November 10, 2010
I attended an RWA mini-conference this past weekend, and the subject of character development came up. Some attendees used character sheets; others didn’t, stating that they preferred to learn more about their characters through the process of exploration (i.e. writing a few chapters). Today I’m going to talk about the reasons why a character sheet might come in handy.
Here’s a list of the information my character sheet contains:
· Full Legal Name
· Age/Date of Birth
· Eye Color/Hair Color
· Paranormal/Special Abilities
· Place of Birth
· Place of Current Residence
· Influential People in Character’s Life
· Car Driven
· His/Her greatest pride
· His/Her greatest fear
· His/Her deepest longing
· His/Her pet peeve(s)
· My character will absolutely blow his stack if:
· My character would be totally shocked to learn that:
Many of the items on this list are simple physical things or characteristics that help me get a better sense of my character. But some of these are especially helpful when I’m in the plotting stages.
When first plotting a novel, I usually start out with a general story line but a good idea of one of my main characters, generally the hero. Using some of the items on this list, I can come up with the perfect heroine. How? I give her the qualities most likely to set my hero on edge. If I already know what will make my hero blow his stack, well then I can make sure my heroine does it. I either make her his deepest longing or give her the ability to grant him that (say for example he subconsciously wants a family). But to get the heroine, he’ll have to conquer his greatest fear.
It’s my humble opinion that a character sheet is a great plotting tool. I usually fill out the character sheet before doing most of my story plotting. So if you’re looking for a way to better connect with your characters, or need some plotting help, I suggest trying a character sheet. Maybe it’ll work for you too.
So what’s your process for getting to know your characters better? Do you use character sheets? Why or why not?
November 8, 2010
I was lucky enough this past weekend to attend a Super Saturday RWA event in which agent Kristin Nelson was a featured speaker. While discussing the course of her duties as an agent, she provided some rough statistics on what she sees every year: 100-150 queries a day, 700 partial submissions a year, 85 fulls. She noted that out of these she may offer representation to 1 or 2 authors. While these numbers are certainly daunting, Ms. Nelson did provide some good tips for snagging an agent:
- Use Critique Partners or Beta Readers
You need to have a strong beginning to your manuscript. A strong manuscript, period. Agents will generally only read the first page or two before stopping if the first pages are riddled with errors, contain too much backstory, or use inappropriate words or metaphors.
As excited as you might be about your work, take the time to learn more about the craft before blindly querying. Because agents make their decisions so quickly, a good storyline might get passed up due to poor execution.
- Don’t Underestimate the Value of Contests or Conferences
While meeting an agent at a conference won’t guarantee you representation, it never hurts to be friendly. An agent who remembers a friendly author may read the submission a bit quicker, though it won’t color the agent’s decision on whether or not the manuscript is publishable. Similarly, finaling in a contest won’t guarantee you an agent, but if the final contest judges are agents and/or editors, it does get your work in front of them. Sometimes that makes all the difference.
- If You Are Unpubbed, Consider Newer Agents
Ms. Nelson did note she has an extremely full plate right now, and that it would take a lot to wow her (though her associate agent Sara Megibow is actively recruiting new clients). She suggests that those of us starting out might consider querying newer agents who are looking to take on more clients and may be willing to put in a bit more work. However, the downside to this is the possibility that those newer agents might not stick around for the long haul.
Ms. Nelson also discussed what’s hot right now in publishing, though she cautioned that by the time you write to a trend, it’s usually over:
We all know there’s a glut in the market right now with paranormals. Even though they are still selling, agents are getting tired of seeing these kinds of submissions. For that reason, if your characters are traditional paranormal creatures (i.e. vampires, angels, demons, werewolves), there needs to be some special hook to catch an agent’s eye.
Stories are trending hotter right now, and urban fantasy is a response to the glut in paranormals. No HEA required.
Particularly dystopian (like Hunger Games) and paranormal (Paranormalcy anyone?).
Publishers across the board state they want fresh contemporary romance, but apparently they aren’t buying much of it so far.
So what do you think? Were these tips for getting an agent useful? What about the market trends: are they encouraging or discouraging?
November 5, 2010
Today I’m blogging about the “Surviving, Overcoming, and Learning the Truth About Rejection” Workshop presented by Christie Craig, Rose Hilliard, Faye Hughes, and Kim Lionetti.
Rejection. Whether a form response to a query, a personalized rejection, or criticism from critique partners or contest judges, we’ve all been there. And it’s never fun! But in an industry filled with rejection, getting personalized rejections or criticism can invaluable to an author. So how can you use the rejection to improve your writing?
- Look for key words that suggest you should be writing in a different genre. Maybe you’re writing historicals but your voice is more suited to contemporary. Don’t forget to take a step back and really listen to feedback.
- Evaluate all your rejections for common themes. If everyone says the market you’re targeting is not selling right now, maybe you shouldn’t write another book just like it. If 3 out of 5 agents tell you to work on your characterizations, you know what you need to do.
- If you’re told your book isn’t different enough, you need to concentrate on your hook/high concept.
- If you are getting a lot of positive feedback but the agents or editors state that they just don’t love it enough, this can mean you need to ramp up your tension or characters’ emotions, or that your story isn’t high concept enough.
Editor Rose Hilliard says her biggest reasons for rejecting a book are that it’s not high concept enough or that execution is not up to par.
Do you have any personal tips for overcoming rejection? For me, I generally curse up a storm while rummaging the kitchen for chocolate, let the rejection (or bad critique) sit for a day or two, then sit down and review it in depth. I can typically find at least one good piece of information in there that will help me become a better writer.
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