Thursday, September 13, 2012

Road to Getting Published

I'm behind on posts for a couple really good reasons.  I made a move of choice from PA to NC this month and have been immersed in getting settled in a new home.  Equally important and possibly even more exciting is that I've been offered two publishing contracts for my first romantic mystery.  Three publishers expressed interest in the manuscript and provided specific suggestions for revisions.  One publisher sent a review by an editor who liked my book and another by a reviewer who didn't like it.  After reading them, I couldn't tell which was which - they were harsh but they were right.  Once I got over feeling offended, I went to work implementing their ideas and resubmitted.  I received a contract from one within a month and the second a few weeks later.  I knew all along I wanted to be accepted by the traditional publisher who will put out the book in both print and e-form.

The publisher complimented me for submitting the original manuscript and revised versions that were well-edited. I like to edit my own work so I'm certain I read it at least a hundred times and it paid off.  All these advice articles about submitting clean manuscripts are true. The last thing you want to do is turn off an editor or publisher because of misspellings, funky punctuation, missing words, sentences that don't make sense, and so on.   Don't shortchange editing.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Writing a Hobby?

Recently, in answer to a question, I explained I was a writer.  The woman asked what I wrote and was quite interested in in the writing/publishing process.  At the conclusion of our brief conversation, she remarked it was nice I had a hobby.

I didn't react but I was slightly offended at her perception of writing as a hobby.  In my world, a hobby is something I'd do for relaxation.  I love writing and enjoy it but it's work and I schedule time for it nearly every day.  I don't wait until I have nothing else to do - that would never happen and I'd never write anything!

Have you dealt with people who think writing is a hobby?  How did you feel about it?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Character Descriptions

Somewhere along the way, I was taught or think I was taught to give complete descriptions of characters - physical stats like hair and eye color, body build, and so on.  But for some time now, I've paid close attention to descriptions in books and good television scripts which seem to slip in as snippets here and there and don't follow the old patterns of including every detail.

I just finished reading a novel in a popular mystery series in which the main character is a successful writer and thief.  During the story, he mentions that his passport photo looks nothing like him.  After I finished the book, I realized that was the only description of him in the entire book.  Nothing about age or the typical tall/short, blue/brown eyes, blond/brown hair, fat/skinny, etc.  And yet, I formed my own mental picture of him and could see him clearly.

I remember a description from the TV series, Frasier.  His father commented on a brief affair his wife had and he summed up her paramour in these few words - a urologist with a bad comb-over.  I think it's one of the best descriptions ever.

I tend to make descriptions fairly brief because I don't like them.  So, I skip long-winded descriptions when I read and go for less is more when I write. 

What kind of descriptions do you like to write or read?  Brief?  Detailed?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Abused and Misused Pronouns

We've become speakers of colloquial English and I'm okay with it.  I enjoy using it in my novels since my characters live in the present and reflect their age and time.  I have fun adding -ish and -ism to words or hyphenating words to make up new words.  To me, it's part of the magic of playing with words.

Having said that, I can't believe the number of times in a single day that I hear knowledgeable people, especially television newscasters and commentators who should've mastered basic grammar in college or elementary school, screw up their pronouns. 

*Simply put, a nominative pronoun is the subject of the sentence:  I, you, he, she, it, we, they, who, and whoever.
Ex:  She and Mark like ice cream.  Not - Her and Mark like ice cream.  
Ex:  He and I went to the party.  Not - Him and me went to the party. 
Ex: Who is going?  Not - Whom is going? 

Two subjects can make it a little tricky so take out one of the subjects and listen to the sentence.  If you use the wrong pronoun, it sounds weird and you'll know it.
Not - Her like ice cream.  Not - Me went to the party.

*Objective pronouns are used with direct objects, indirect objects, and as objects of prepositions:  me, you, him, her, it, us, them, whom, and whomever. 
Ex:  The ball hit him and me. (Direct Object)  Not - The ball hit he and I.
Ex:  I told him my secret . (Indirect Object)  Not - I told he my secret.
Ex:  The plane flew above him and her (Object of Prep.)  Not - The plane flew above he and she.
Ex:  To whom does this belong? (Object of Prep.)  Not - To who does this belong?

The use of pronouns extends far beyond these examples but, in my opinion these are the most abused.  I expect my readers have a good grasp of pronoun rules so perhaps they can pass the info to someone who needs it.  At least, I've done my bit for these little words whose incorrect form ends up in sentences more often than the correct form!


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Influenced By Reading Same Genre?

Is it a good idea to read books similar to the one you're writing?  I've heard this argued from both sides.  The obvious reason to abstain is the possibility, either conscious or unconscious, of being influenced by the book already in print.

The current mystery I'm writing is set in Amsterdam and although I've lived in Holland, I've forgotten a lot of details about the city.  So, in addition to ordering a couple travel DVD's about the city, I, also, ordered a mystery set in Amsterdam.  The plot and characters were totally different from mine but I found it quite motivational.  Well-written and fast-paced, it made me eager to move on with my own story and get it finished.

What experiences have you had with reading the same genre you're writing?  Does it influence your writing?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Titling Your Novel

I just finished re-titling a romantic mystery at a publisher's request as well as coming up with a title for the romantic suspense I'm writing now.  Having gone through the titling process several times before this, I'm sharing some ideas I've discovered to make it simpler and fun. 

My romantic suspense novel is set in Amsterdam and I wanted Amsterdam in the title to attract agents, editors, and readers who look for international settings.  The first titles that came to my mind were Murder in Amsterdam and Death in Amsterdam.  Way too generic and probably already taken but a starting place.

Although my purpose wasn't to steal a title from another writer, I went to and typed in Amsterdam and mystery. Screens of books came up and I jotted down a number of titles I liked and found interesting.  Most of the mysteries involved experienced male police investigators, nothing like my young female amateur sleuth.  It didn't matter that the characters and plots were totally different from mine.  Reading the variety of titles was stimulating and inspirational, plus I wanted to steer clear of any titles that were currently on the market.  As I guessed, Murder in Amsterdam and Death in Amsterdam were already out there!

I wanted a title that was original, catchy, and unique to my plot.  To my list of words to include in the title besides Amsterdam, I added other words as they came to me.  I looked at the list from time to time, deleting words and adding new ones.

Pretty soon I put some of those words together and came up with the perfect title that fits my romantic suspense set in Amsterdam.



Monday, February 27, 2012


I've heard from several small publishers who're interested in my romantic murder mystery - with revisions that range from minimal to extensive.  One publisher provided detailed line edits of the first three chapters from two readers, pointing out some descriptions that weren't clear and and ideas for rearranging material to improve flow.  Of course, the suggestions are to be applied to the entire manuscript.  These people know what they like and don't like!  This is a traditional publisher with a lot of books out there, including B&N stores.

Another publisher was less specific, suggesting more tension and more dialog by the main character and those ideas can be worked into the above revisions as I go.  This publisher has only been in business for a few months.  I don't know how to evaluate a business with only a couple books out.  Has anybody worked with a new publisher?

The third publisher wants a title change.  The book is set during a Christmas festival which appears in the title.  The publisher said the title limits sales to a short period during the holiday season.  That makes sense so I suggested, also, changing the festival to a more generic winter carnival.  A perfect title popped in my head last week - it focuses on the murders, not the season.  This is something to keep in mind when choosing a season and a title for your book.

I'm starting the editing process today and plan to see it through although I'd rather be writing on my new romantic suspense.  I'm sure I'll sneak back and work on it though!


Monday, January 9, 2012

Catching Up

After an absence from the blog while I planned and celebrated Christmas with my six children, two daughters-in-law, and three grandchildren, I'm back in the writing and blogging mode. I'm working on my first thriller and having fun with it. I didn't know if I could sustain suspense throughout a novel but I've made it to Chapter Five.

I've had several interesting responses from small publishers, several of whom have requested the full manuscript of my mystery. Also, I still hear from some of the agents I contacted months ago. I guess agents and publishers really do slog their way through all those submissions. I remain hopeful - a new year means a new start - this could be the year!

When I was in North Carolina in the Fall, I went to a writers' meeting with my writer friend, Nancy Sales Cash. One member of the group brought a publication called Flip Dictionary to share with us. It's something of a thesaurus but instead of just synonyms for words, you can find a single word synonym for a phrase. Think about the times when it takes several words to say what's in your head but you want to use just one perfect word. I ordered mine through Amazon for $6.89. Although I have my trusty Writer's Thesaurus, I use the new Flip Dictionary more often. Take a look at it - you may like it.

Happy New Year to everyone. I feel so optimistic about this year, especially the writing opportunities and possibilities!