Precious Prose: A New Year’s Resolution

It’s about that time that we all start loudly announcing new goals for the year, letting as many people know what we intend so that we feel guilty if we don’t follow through (at least for a little while). This year I’m not promising to eat less chocolate (who would do something so silly?!) or work out more or spend more time with my family (though both of these would be nice). I have enough of those things, thanks. Instead, this is the year I will write more! I’m saying this loudly so the people in the back can hear me… In the next 365 days I am going to try and write as much as I possibly can. I’m also going to try and publish as much as I can.

To say I have big plans for this year is underestimating it by a thousand. I have huge plans; ginormous, great big dinosaur-sized plans.

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And maybe I’ll discover that I only have tiny T-Rex arms to accomplish these monster-sized plans, but I will try anyway.

I am lucky this year because I have the luxury of taking some time off of “work” and devoting myself to writing. I put “work” in quotation marks because I think writing is just as much work as any other job. Yes, it looks different from the outside. I won’t be going to an office. I won’t be sitting down to grade papers or plan lessons. I won’t be meeting with students or other professors. But I will still be working. Just like with teaching, there will be times I procrastinate, times I phone it in, times I’m unsatisfied with my product or wish I had more time to spend on one thing or the other.

But the point of taking time off from my “day job” is to WRITE. And, like I said, I have big plans. I want to train myself to produce prose that is good as well as fast. I want to write drafts in a matter of days or weeks rather than months or years. I want to write a helluva lot of words this year and publish as many of them as I can.

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And this is all in an effort to make my prose less precious to me.

Let me ‘splain.

As writers, we get attached to our words. We often get caught up in word count (see my previous post) and in getting things just right. We can linger over one word for a long time, wondering if it truly expresses all that we mean to say, and terrified that there’s another word out there that might do the job better than the one we have. We can linger the same way over sentences, paragraphs, chapters, worrying them until they are unrecognizable.

But lately I have been thinking a lot about improv, and procrastination, and the idea of splashing words on a page and handing them in. (Can you tell I’ve just finished a semester where I graded many many papers written at the last minute?) I’ve been thinking of deadlines and just getting things done, no matter how good or bad I think they are. I have a notebook full of ideas to think and write about. All genres, all styles, all lengths, all formats. Nothing is off limits this year. This time around, it’s all about volume.

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It’s not going to be easy. And I’m sure you’ll hear more from me as I push myself to achieve these big goals. But for the moment I’m excited and ready to take on a new year and a lot of new words.

What are your New Year’s goals, writing or otherwise? What do you hope to accomplish in the next twelve months?

Chatting about Romantic Suspense

One of the questions I get asked the most when talking about the Rookery Rogues with readers is how I’m able to work in stories of suspense alongside the romance. I dabble in reading contemporary romantic suspense, but in truth my love for the grittier elements came from my intense love for Agatha Christie. Growing up, I read every one of Christie’s Poirot mysteries, often times more than once. Of course, my favorite is Murder on the Links, in which Captain Hastings falls in love. I love the way Christie was able to paint a picture of every secondary character, so insightfully that you knew who they were in just a few sentences.

Of course, as a romance writer, I’m more concerned nowadays with the relationships between characters than I am with the “whodunit.” I’m not a particularly clever person at solving mysteries, and I’ll admit I’m often along for the ride instead of actively detective solving. I never pursued a career in criminology because of this, despite my extreme affinity for crime shows. When I work on the suspense elements for The Rookery Rogues, what I want to create is a perilous situation—or a series of situations—that either furthers the bond between hero and heroine, or does something to estrange it. In A Dangerous Invitation, I use a combination of this. There’s a scene where Kate and Daniel are running from the villain and they’re trapped in a wool warehouse. A closeness grows between them, for they’re forced to depend on each other. This startles Kate, who isn’t willing to deal with her reemerging feelings for Daniel. So in a sense, not only has the chase brought in an element of action, but it has increased the conflict.

One of the books I read when drafting A Dangerous Invitation is Conflict and Suspense, which I’ve talked about before. I loved this book because not only does it give you exercises to work on, but it also examines different techniques. For me, I like to approach a book with both proverbial guns blaring. I don’t pull puns in the first draft—I’m going to throw everything I can at the book and see what sticks. Sometimes this means awesome scenes get cut, and sometimes it means I move things around so that I can include this new fight or mystery.

But what I really have to remember when I outline a book is that yes, this guns blasting approach is great, but you need to give your readers time to rest. There needs to be a break between the tense moments. I love emotional angst (no one is surprised) and that’s obviously one of my favorite things to write. Last Saturday at my chapter’s holiday party, I was talking to fellow author Kianna Alexander, and she mentioned that often the sex scenes in a book are the “rest period” for the reader. This is especially true in romantic suspense, when the stakes really are often life or death. The reader needs that time to breathe and recharge for the next crazy explosion.

Rookery_eBOOK_SmWhat I recommend to other romantic suspense authors is finding a critique partner who is as equally interested in all your action-centric elements as you are. I found that when I met Jennelle Holland through Teatime. As many of you know, Jennelle also writes romantic suspense and she’s a martial artist. I’m so fortunate to have Jennelle because not only does she correct the fight scenes I write but then she tests them out with her husband to make sure they’re feasible. Because I have no actual fighting training, this is so helpful to me. I run into a lot of problems visualizing just how a fight should go. I see the movements in my head, but I don’t always know the best punches or kicks to insert to get the right effect.

But mostly, I just love to write things that go boom.

 

A Dangerous Invitation is out in the wild! Get your e-copy today at the following vendors: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Smashwords |

Quick and Dirty Tips for Writing a Kick Butt Author Bio

One the most stressful parts about starting out as a writer was writing my author biography.  Making up worlds and characters somehow seemed much simpler than having to talk about ME.  I’m not all that interesting, that’s why I make interesting people up!  As someone who runs a review blog, I know the importance of a great author bio.  Here are a few tips that I’ve picked up along the way as both an author and blogger that I think help make for a kick butt author bio.

1.  Give yourself time. 

Seriously.  Don’t try to do this in a night.  Rough draft that thing and let it simmer. Continue reading

Dealing With Feedback and Critiques When All You Want To Do Is Duck And Hide

I recently had an experience that may be familiar to many of you. It is a moment we both look forward to  and dread.  When we get feedback and critiques back from contest judges, critique partners, beta readers, etc.  I have entered a few contests recently, and while I didn’t place, I did receive feedback and comments from the judges. I have also sent the first few chapters to two friends of mine, both of whom are published authors, and got comments and feedback from them as well. But surely I can’t be the only one who has such mixed feelings about getting feedback on your writing right? Continue reading

Lessons from my Students: PRO-crastinating!

The day that my students turn in their first paper of the semester I usually bring them some kind of treats and plan to watch a movie that class period. This is not just because I’m a fun teacher (that’s indisputable) but it’s because I realize a few things about how college students work. So when they roll into class bleary-eyed and clutching the biggest cups of coffee I have ever seen, I laugh and ask them a question: “How many of you wrote this essay within the last twelve hours?”

They laugh nervously, wondering if I seriously want to know the answer. But when I smile and say, “Come on,” then the hands go up. Occasionally, there is a student or two who has planned ahead and written the paper over the weekend. But mostly, my students look at me sheepishly as they admit that they’ve done the work the night before the due date. Continue reading

It’s Okay to Know Nothing

The  only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.
-Socrates

My name is Erica, and I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.

Question 3So if I say this to you, your first reaction might be to look concerned and go “Awh, honey, that’s not true. You totally got this.” Perhaps in time, that would be true. As I age and gain experience in this crazy world of publishing, maybe I’ll start to feel like I understand a little bit more.
Maybe each attempt at starting a new book won’t feel like I’ve forgotten every single thing I ever learned about writing and I’m again sitting in my Fiction I class during my freshman year of college, being told that I need to “write what I know.” (To read my thoughts on that, check out here). I’d like to think I’ll suddenly receive some sort of grail-like knowledge about writing that will convince me I’m not a hack, but I’m pretty sure that won’t happen. Continue reading

The Whys and What Ifs of Adaptations

It’s no secret that I love fairy tales, both in their “original” form and adaptations. Whether it’s a modern adaptation that takes place in a big city like Los Angeles, or a more traditional retelling, I love reading – and writing – them all.  One of the main reasons is that it’s both fun and challenging to really delve into a story and ask two super important and magical questions: Why? and What if?

Why?

The great thing about so many of the earliest versions of these tales is that there is hardly ever a character motivation stated for anything.  Every now and again a villain hates a heroine because of their great beauty, but usually the reader is just left wondering why in the heck someone did what they did.  That is, if the reader takes the time to wonder…we accept most of these stories at face value because we’ve heard them so often. Continue reading