Welcome to The Writer's Challenge

I'm updating weekly-ish and whenever something exciting happens, so please come back often, browse the archived information,
and use the search feature to find information!
Learn more about my books at ShoshannaEvers.com

Monday, December 28, 2009

Inspiring Authors Speak

Hello Fellow Writers!

I am currently still working on my short (10K-15K) romantic erotica piece that I plan on submitting to Ellora's Cave before January 31st. I've got over 9K words, but it's looking like the story will end up over 10K because I need to wrap up the happily ever after. If my baby will let me, I'm going to work on that today.

I'm reading the book "Mistress and the Art of Death" by Ariana Franklin. I've only just started it, but so far I'm finding it very enjoyable.

Here is a video montage from YouTube of published authors giving their advice to aspiring writers. The main theme, it seems, is you need to both read and write a lot!

Today I'll continue working on my story, and if Maureen gets back to me with suggestions on the chapters I sent her from "Snowed in With a Millionaire", I'll take care of those as well.

Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
Yours Truly,
Shoshanna Evers

Friday, December 25, 2009

Common Grammar Mistakes

Hello Fellow Writers!

I've been working on revising my romance novel "Snowed in With a Millionaire" based on my critique partner's suggestions. Maureen catches a lot of little things that I would never have noticed - like using the word "insure" when I mean "ensure", and she helps point out passages that are confusing. The heroine looks at the hero's face but is noticing the boots? Oops.

Here are some common grammatical problems that people make, and how to fix them. Remember though - we are writing fiction, not school papers. Our characters won't speak in perfectly correct English any more than we will! That said, here's an excerpt from an article entitled "Common Grammer and Usage Mistakes", from EnglishChick.com.

Comma Splice

A comma splice is the incorrect use of a comma to connect two independent clauses. (Recall that an independent clause is a phrase that is grammatically and conceptually complete: that is, it can stand on its own as a sentence.) To correct the comma splice, you can:
  • replace the comma with a period, forming two sentences
  • replace the comma with a semicolon
  • join the two clauses with a conjunction such as "and," "because," "but," etc.
I like Xena, she is very sexy. 
I like Xena. She is very sexy. 
I like Xena; she is very sexy. 
I like Xena, because she is very sexy. 

Dangling Participles

A participle is a verb-form that ends in -ing. It is called "dangling" when it doesn't agree with its subject.
While walking down the road, a tree caught Xena's attention.
The subject of the sentence is "a tree," but it is not the tree that is doing the walking, therefore the participle "walking" is dangling. To correct the sentence, write:
While walking down the road, Xena noticed a tree
A tree caught Xena's attention as she walked down the road.
Remember that not all words that end in -ing are participles (e.g. thing) and some participles are gerunds depending on context. (A gerund is a participle that is functioning as a noun, e.g. "My favorite activity is sleeping.")

Ending a Sentence with a Preposition

Contrary to popular belief, there is no agreement on this one among English professionals. In general, especially if your audience is strict about rules, don't end a sentence with a preposition. Prepositions are little words that indicate position and such: with, at, by, from, etc. In general a preposition should come before ("pre"-position) the noun it modifies. So you should change
That's the warrior I must talk to
That's the warrior to whom I must talk.
However, if too many "to whom"s and "of which"s are making your writing unnecessarily clumsy, go ahead and end with the preposition, especially in informal writing. Remember the famous example (credited to Winston Churchill) that goes: "This is the kind of thing up with which I will not put!"

Read the rest of the article here, it's very helpful!

Today is Christmas - Merry Christmas, everyone! Since I am Jewish, I have my hubby home with me and nothing to do but work on my short story for Ellora's Cave.
Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!

Yours Truly,
Shoshanna Evers

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Do's and Don't's of Dialogue!

Hello Fellow Writers!

I have been busy working on a short story that I plan on submitting to Ellora's Cave for their "Alluring Arts" theme. The deadline is January 31st, which gives me plenty of time to write the 10K word story and have it critiqued by my writing group - although that will be a little weird, since Ellora's Cave publishes Romantica, aka romantic erotica.

So far I've written 6000 words of my story.

In any story, dialogue plays an important role. It can make or break your piece. Here is an excerpt from an article on DailyWritingTips.com. Read the whole article here.

Here are some things good dialogue should do:
  • It should follow some simple grammatical rules. Dialogue should be enclosed within quotation marks. Each new line of dialogue is indented, and a new paragraph should be started every time a new person is speaking.
  • It should be concise. Long, wordy passages of dialogue might seem like a good way to get information across, but they can be tedious for the reader.
  • It should communicate character information. Good dialogue lets the reader know something about the person speaking it.
  • It should be broken up with action. People don’t typically stop everything when they talk. They fidget. They keep washing the dishes. They pace. Don’t forget that your characters aren’t static.
And here are a few dialogue don’ts:
  • Don’t get too crazy with dialogue tags. Usually, a few well-placed “he saids” or “she replieds” will do the trick. If your dialogue is well-written, it should be clear who is speaking, even without the tags.
  • Don’t go overboard with backstory. You should never use dialogue to tell the readers things your characters already know.
  • Don’t use too much dialogue. Your readers don’t need to know everything your characters say, word-for-word. Dialogue should be chosen carefully.
  • Don’t try to be too realistic. Our actual speech wouldn’t make great dialogue. We say “um” and “uh” a lot. We trail off in the middle of sentences. We change subjects without warning. Good dialogue should approximate real speech, not mimic it.
This weekend I will be working, but I intend to get more writing done as well. I'm on a (self imposed) deadline, after all :)

Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
Yours Truly,
Shoshanna Evers

p.s. Remember this blog is transitioning from a daily blog to a weekly blog. Please use the search feature to find info on anything and everything having to do with writing, agents, and publishing!

Monday, December 14, 2009

What Literary Agents Want

Hello Fellow Writers!

My original plan was to get myself a literary agent. I am now realizing, however, that I probably don't need one at this stage in my career, especially if all of the places I want to submit to (specifically Harlequin) allow unagented submissions. But there are plenty of writers that do need or want an agent.

Here is a video from YouTube which shows a panel of agents discussing what they are looking for, what they do, and what they like in an author:

This blog is going to be transitioning from a daily blog to a weekly blog due to my time constraints (specifically, I'll have more time to write my fiction if I spend less time blogging)!

I invite you to browse through the archived posts, to use the search button on the site to find what you are looking for and to keep coming back and commenting on posts!

I am especially interested in hearing how your writing is going. Are you meeting The Writer's Challenge by hitting 1000 words a day?

Are you writing your novel?
Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!

Yours Truly,
Shoshanna Evers

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Erotic Romance

Hello Fellow Writers!

Today I had my first day at my new nursing job, and it went well! Last night I bought a few e-books from Ellora's Cave, which publishes "romantica", which is erotic romance. I wonder if I should try my hand at that.

Here is what Ellora's Cave says about submissions:

How to Submit

All submissions for Ellora’s Cave must be sent via email to Submissions@ellorascave.com. Send as a doc or rtf file:
~ brief professional cover email (genre and length of story; one or two paragraph blurb; previous publication credits; no personal information or anything unrelated to the story)
~ detailed synopsis (2 to 4 pages describing setting and main characters, conflict, full plot and resolution)
~ the first three chapters and the final chapter of your manuscript (If it is a short story of 10-15,000 words, send the full manuscript)
Include the following on the first page of the document and in the cover email:
Title Author pen and real names & email address Genre Word count of full manuscript Blurb (200 words max)
Note: We are an e-publisher and all our work is done electronically; we do not accept paper submissions or correspondence.
Please be sure your submission has been thoroughly self-edited (and we highly recommend having frank critique partners look at it!), and has been proofread by several skilled and experienced persons other than yourself. It must be basically free of typos and grammatical errors. We do not specify a required format and your manuscript will not be rejected due to formatting. We suggest using one-inch margins and a common, variable, serif font (such as Times Roman, Arial, Book Antiqua).
Notice for previously published authors: We will only consider your out-of-print books if you hold exclusive rights.
Please do not email to inquire about status of your submission. You will receive an initial response within eight weeks.

Ellora’s Cave Theme Series

Several times a year we do a month of special themed erotic romanceshort stories. Guidelines:
~ Word count: 10K to 30K
~ Any genre
~ The story must significantly include the theme
For 2010, our still-open themes are about the arts:
May: “Poetic Passion”: poetry/drama (no TV or movies) – submission deadline October 31, 2009
August: “Alluring Arts”: classical creative arts (painting, drawing, sculpting, etc.) – submission deadline January 31, 2010
November: “Musical Magic”: music/song – submission deadline April 30, 2010
When submitting, put “theme Submission: title” in the email message subject line. Attach a synopsis and the full story (since it is a short story).
Very interesting. I wonder what sort of story I could write for the "Alluring Arts"?
Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!

Yours Truly,
Shoshanna Evers

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hudson Valley Romance Writers of America

Hello Fellow Writers!

Yesterday I wrote just 500 words since my son wouldn't let me sit down to write until almost 10pm! I've been wondering if I should try making my short Regency romance targeted towards Ellora's Cave instead of Harlequin Historical Undone. Ellora's Cave e-publishes erotic romance, so I would be writing a very different story than what I would be writing for Undone!

Tomorrow I will be having my first day of work at my new job, but afterward I intend to blog a bit more about erotic romance and specifically Ellora's Cave.

Today I went to the monthly meeting of the Hudson Valley Romance Writers of America. It was so wonderful to meet and listen to all of the women there, many of whom are published authors. Multiple published author Janet Lane Walters was very informative and friendly. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Janet from the Hudson Valley RWA site. Read the whole article here.

Are you a plotter or pantster?

Would you believe a bit of both? I do plan my stories but the outline is broad and allows for changes in what I’m writing. As I begin the rough draft much changes and veers from the original plan. Two things remain constant, the beginning and the end. The middle is where I allow my imagination free reign. Take the story I’m working on now. During the rough draft, two of the characters changed places. The reason behind the change came while I was writing the chapter when one of the characters emerged for the first time. Suddenly the light bulb flashed and I knew the secondary character who was the hero’s sister should become his brother and the character I had thought would be the heir became the daughter. The change strengthened the story. So outlines have a purpose but so does flying free.
Tonight I'm going to think more about trying my hand at writing a short erotic romance. While I'm pretty sure I can write it, I'm having a hard time imagining myself being able to read it aloud to my writing group! *blushes*

Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
Yours Truly,
Shoshanna Evers

Friday, December 11, 2009

Keep on Writing

Hello Fellow Writers!

Yesterday was a very big day for me, but it unfortunately didn't involve getting any writing done. Sure, I wrote pages in my head, but those don't count. Today they will have to be put onto actual paper.

My non-writing life suddenly got very busy. I accepted a job as an RN Supervisor every other weekend for the day shift at a local nursing and rehab center. This will still leave me with all week and every other weekend to write, which is good. My husband and I celebrated our 3 year wedding anniversary last night as well, and he acted just like one of my romance heroes by surprising me with a gorgeous diamond ring ...*swoons and sighs*

I just finished reading "The Desert King's Housekeeper Bride" by Carol Marinelli. Her bio on eHarlequin.com tells how she received numerous rejection letters from Harlequin before finally being published. Now she's written 50 novels for both the Presents and the Medical lines (she's a nurse too, small world!).
Carol Marinelli was born in England to Scottish parents, then emigrated to Australia, where there are loads of Scottish and English people who did exactly the same, so she’s very at home there.
She lives in the outer suburbs of Melbourne—pretty much in her car, driving her three children to their various commitments.
Carol first tried to write for Harlequin Mills & Boon while doing her nursing training in London. It was merrily rejected and she was devastated. Rejection became a regular friend over the next few years and she amassed quite a collection. Still, as the years moved on the rejections became more detailed and instead of weeping over them and scorning them, she finally read them. Properly.
In 2000 her first romance was accepted for the Medical Romance line and she lived happily ever after. Well, that’s what she thought would happen but actually, no, it was then that the hard work really began!
Once published she discovered the Romance Writers of Australia—it would, she now knows, have been far easier on this journey to have discovered them earlier. Attending her first conference she realized that she wasn’t the only person who lived with a constant cinema happening in her head—in fact they were all THE SAME! Different but the same and many wonderful friendships were made.
Carol now writes for both the Medical Romance and Presents lines and loves them both.
One of her goals is to attend the Romance Writers of America conference with a few Romance Writers of Australia, which is a very nice goal to have.
Today I have errands to run but I will get a minimum of 1000 words written today. Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!

Yours Truly,
Shoshanna Evers

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Research for Your Novel

Hello Fellow Writers!

Yesterday I started writing a historical romance that I'm targeting towards Harlequin's Historical Undone line. As I write, I'm not letting myself get bogged down in details (like what exactly would her wedding dress look like in 1820?). Details involve research, and that's for later, after the main story is down on paper. Otherwise I have a feeling it will never get written!

So how do you do research for your novel? I found an article online here at EzineArticles.com by John T. Jones, PhD.

How do you start writing a novel?
The first thing I do is decide the genre and the setting.
I suppose you saw some version of Back to the Future. Here the setting is changing not because of location, but because of time period. Flashing back or forward changes the appearance of the same location. The setting is new, isn’t it?
Genre is the type of novel you are writing. That could be a western, action, romance, detective, mystery, gothic, or what ever you decide to dream up.
Science fiction would be another genre.
Did you notice a possible change in the genre in one version of Back to the Future? The kid on the skateboard changed to a gun-totting westerner. Well, it was still science fiction.
The setting is where the action takes place. If the action is in the present, you will not have a great deal of research to do on the time period of the action. However, if the action takes place in 1850 or 130 B.C., you must do research on that time period as was done in Back to the Future.
Once you have decided where the action is to take place and in what time period, you can define your characters. Here are some things to consider:
Does the name of each character fit into the location and time period?
Don’t call your Viking raider, Joe.
Try Eric the Mad or some such.
What would the language be of your character?
If he lived in 1750 in London, what phrases would he use?
What would he sound like?
That will depend on his class won’t it?
A London cobbler would not sound the same as the Captain of the King’s Guard would he?
What about the King himself?
How would he sound? What vocabulary would he use?
Here is a Warning:
Don’t write a period novel if you are not willing to obtain the education and knowledge you will need to write it.
The key to good writing is to write about things you know and understand.
Of course, if you are writing science fiction, you can do anything you darn please as long as it “rings true” to science fiction readers.
That’s why the advice often given to writers is to read heavily in the genre in which they intend to write.
That’s one way to get an education, isn’t it?
If you met a man in Walgreen wearing a silver body-tight jumpsuit and having antenna sticking out of a gold helmet, you would think: That guy isn’t from here!
If your character walks into a Wild West bar in 1850 wearing a green suit, you will have some explaining to do. My guess would be that he is Irish and will be asking for a Guinness. Note: Guinness started in 1759 but I doubt that you would find it in the Wild West in 1850.
Dress must be consistent just as language is important. You need to know the local dress, not some stereotype dress you saw in a “B” movie.
Dress is also characteristic of vocation and class. A banker, a blacksmith, a millwright, etc., would all be differently dressed in the same location during the same time period.
Early settlers from Texas in Arizona could be told by their hats.
Other Factors:
If your character is a nurse, you must know something about how a nurse performed at her location and during her time period.
Don’t have that soldier shoot someone with a Winchester during the War of 1812. Oliver Winchester was born in 1810.
Each character needs a history. A person’s history at least in part determines his or her actions. You may never mention such a history in your novel, but you must know it.
Each character needs characteristics. You may never mention most of them but you must know them. These are the things that in combination make your character distinct from all other characters in the world. Take Superman for instance or Henry the Eighth.
The bottom line is that all things must be consistent and logical if you want your novel to fly.
If something is strange, you have some explaining to do.
How to do Research
The easiest way to do your research is by reading in your genre.
I don’t like reading most novels. Therefore I do research on the time and place.
I like to start with a map of the area. Then I like to read the history of the area even before the time period determined. I read history books, old magazine articles, Internet articles, etc. I like to visit the area and visit museums and historical societies. I like to talk to the people, especially the old timers that have significant tales to tell.
Go into book stores, yard sales, book sales, junk shops, antiques shops, and other places you can pick up magazines and books for a song. Look at the stuff they are selling in antique shops and ask about the history of unusual items. The way you do that is to say this: What is that thing?
In a way, it is much like being a newspaper reporter. I like to search old newspapers for interesting stories to see what other “reporters” have done.
Look in old encyclopedias, catalogs, and almanacs. You will be surprised what you can learn.
When I was writing Revenge on the Mogollon Rim, I decided to read one of Zane Grey’s novels, the settings of which was in the areas near my home in Arizona.
I knew something about Zane Grey because I was a guide and worked on exhibits for the local museum.
I expected to help in the rebuilding of his cabin that was destroyed in the Dude Fire. However, I moved from the area (Payson, AZ) before that task was started.
Anyway, I was reading his novel and came up on a phrase that didn’t seem right to me. It was a view his character saw from the Mogollon Rim. I didn’t think he had it right. I drove to the Rim and parked very near the place he described. Then I saw that Zane Grey had described the view perfectly. Mountains don’t move that fast.
It’s a good idea to know your subject, your location (setting), and your characters before you start writing the novel. Well, don't let that stop you. You can fill in the blanks later.
Just don’t let some bold character take over your book.
Writing, how to write, setting, characters, language, characteristics, history, time period, research
John T. Jones, Ph.D. (tjbooks@hotmail.com), a retired college professor and business executive, Former editor of an international engineering magazine. To learn more about Wealthy Affiliate University go to his info site. If you desire a flagpole to Fly Old Glory, go to the business site.
More info: http://www.InternetBusinessToolCenter.com
Business web site: http://www.AAAFlagpoles.com
This is all wonderful advice, but one thing bothers me a bit. Did you notice how he said that he doesn't like to read most novels? I can't even imagine not liking books, especially for a writer! Reading is such a huge part of my life. I love novels.

Yesterday's writing group was canceled due to inclement weather, but my romance novel loving friend Maureen said she would go with me on Saturday to the Hudson Valley Romance Writers of America monthly meeting.

Today I have a big day. I'll be going to a job interview for a nursing position that's every other weekend, which would be perfect for me since I could still stay home with my baby and write! Also, tonight is my 3 year wedding anniversary with my darling husband Jeff.

Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
Yours Truly,
Shoshanna Evers

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Caitlin Crews, Harlequin Presents Author

Hello Fellow Writers!

Yesterday I emailed Harlequin Presents author Caitlin Crews, who was kind enough to write back! She also writes as Megan Crane. I asked her how she first got published, and what her advice to aspiring writers would be. Here is her email (with her permission):

Hi Shoshanna,

I'm thrilled that you enjoyed the book! Thanks so much for letting me know!

As you noted on your blog, I've written other books, but this is my first romance novel and I've been anxious to see how it would be received!

I'd be happy to answer your questions.

How did I get published?

I wish I could say there was a secret password or something, but if there is I don't know it. Both when I first got published back in 2004 and when I first got published with Harlequin this year, it was the same story: I wrote a book, sent it out, and hoped hoped hoped. Neither was my first book-- I spent a lot of time writing and revising and starting over and writing and revising and starting over. You don't know how to write books until you've written books. And the only way to get better at writing books? Is to write more books.

Advice for aspiring writers?

Keep writing. Finish the book and then start a new one. View rejections as a challenge, not commentary on your worthiness. And believe this, if nothing else: no one can tell your stories but you. No one can write your books but you. So really, you have no choice but to write!

Let me know if you need anything further!


There is so much truth in these words! And on that note, I am going to get some writing done today. Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!

Yours Truly,
Shoshanna Evers

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Writing a Short Story

Hello Fellow Writers!

I'm still in a bit of shock that I actually found the courage to send a query and synopsis to Harlequin for my romance "The Movie Star's Very Personal Assistant". My husband used to warn that I was going to spend all my time writing and never get published because I refused to put myself out there and risk rejection.

Then I realized that it doesn't matter if a manuscript gets rejected, because I can always write another one.

Since I recently finished writing the first draft of another novel length romance ("Snowed in With a Millionaire") I've been toying with the idea of writing a short story. Why toy, you ask? Why not just write the darn thing? Good question, and you're right. My plan for today, if my baby allows it, is to read a Harlequin Historical Undone online and then try my hand at it. I love historical romance but every time I try to write one I find myself getting caught up in all of the little details that need to be researched.

So I think what I need to do is write a first draft, details be damned, and then go back in and do the research during the editing process. Otherwise I get jammed up in the middle of trying to write by googling Regency era underwear.

Since Harlequin Historical Undone stories are 10K -15K words, here is an excerpt of an essay entitled "How to Write a Short Story" by Paul Saevig, from Author-Network.com. Read the whole article here.

1. Immerse yourself in language.
To be ready to write a story in English, your consciousness must be steeped in the best writing in English throughout history. Consider someone who wants to compose music. Before doing that, she probably performs in a band, and before that, she probably studies singing or an individual instrument. She learns how to read music, she studies harmony, she listens to all kinds of good music for years, and she may study at a conservatory. Wynton Marsalis didn't just decide to go into his first recording studio to play the trumpet one rainy day while he was recovering from the flu.
Author Dean Koontz is on record as opposing "literature writing", which is what he calls the classics. But he suggests no alternative for the best and most elegant writing of the ages. He is one of the rare few successful writers without much formal training. His critics insist they can tell the difference in his writing.
If you want to write stories, you should study the literary form. You should study the great masters of storytelling, starting with Homer and progressing to Stephen King and John Irving,, and specifically the great masters of the short story, starting with Turgenev and Chekhov. Read as many books as you can find. You must read classics, not just current popular books. Tolstoy will teach you more about writing than Dean Koontz. You are steeping yourself in language. Keep a journal. Write letters (not just Emails) to your friends. Take writing classes.
2. Think of an idea for a story.
To a trained writer, this idea usually comes in a flash, you have to know how to cultivate the flash. Usually one element of the idea is settled from the start: "I want to write a story about my Uncle Leo" or "The summer we lived in Honolulu" or "The day President Kennedy was shot".
What about that summer we lived in Honolulu, then? Concentrate on what makes that experience significant to you. What other idea would you like to attach to it? Suppose it were "the professional surfers".
That gives you "the professional surfers the summer we lived in Honolulu". What about them to you want to write a story about? Maybe it would be "the surfer who stole my sister's wallet".
"The professor surfer who stole my sister's wallet when we lived in Honolulu one summer". That's a start.
3. Figure your angle.
"Angle" is a journalistic term meaning significance. You need to decide the angle or significance about this larcenous surfer. Your story could be about the theft itself, or tracking him down afterwards, or deciding not to prosecute him and meeting up with him again, or dozens of other alternatives.
If you can't determine an angle, return to Number 1 and tinker with your idea. Maybe you need a new one.

I just finished reading a Harlequin Presents book by Caitlin Crews called "Pure Princess, Bartered Bride". Wow, what a fun read! I picked it up and was halfway through before I even realized what happened. I'll definitely be looking for her future books. She also writes chick lit under the name Megan Crane.

So today I'll be reading a Historical Undone, and hopefully getting started on a short story of my own. Tomorrow I'll be meeting with my writing group. I've sent them Chapter 2 of my WIP so we'll see what they say about that...

Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
Yours Truly,
Shoshanna Evers

Monday, December 7, 2009


Hello Fellow Writers!

Today is a big day for me. I finally got up the courage to put a query letter, synopsis, and SASE in the mail to Harlequin for my Silhouette Desire targeted romance "The Movie Star's Very Personal Assistant".

I went over and over that query and synopsis, I showed both to several writers that I trust, and the actual manuscript is ready to go should they decide they want to see it. There was no point in stalling any further. So out in the mail it went. I'm so terrified I feel like I could scream.

I know it's not that big of a deal. If they don't want to see the novel, then I can always try and submit it to some other places. By the time I get a response either way from Harlequin, I'll have another book ready to pitch to them ("Snowed in With a Millionaire"). So it's not going to be the end of the world. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Here is an excerpt from an article entitled "How to Submit a Manuscript" by L. Shepherd.

Read the whole article here.
Sending a manuscript to a publisher is an exacting task that must be done according to the specific manuscript submission guidelines of each publisher. Each publisher will have a number of requirements that you must follow or risk having the manuscript rejected upon arrival.
  1. Find out exactly what the publisher requires. Many publishers require a few preliminary steps before they will accept a full manuscript. Publisher's guidelines can be found in part in The Writer's Market. This is a book that is updated yearly, as well as a website that contains information about thousands of publishers.
  2. A query letter is a common first step to getting a publisher to read a manuscript. This is required of most book publishers and many magazine publishers as well. This letter is usually a simple one-page typed letter that details both the contents of the manuscript and the market available for the work. Publishers love to hear exactly who would be interested in buying the item, so any data on successful projects that were similar is helpful. This is also the time to detail your credentials, such as any education related to the material that you may have and anything that you have previously had published. Unless the writer's guidelines say differently, submit these with standard 12-point type in a plain, easy to read font.
Today I have a busy day, but I do have some things I want to tinker with on my WIP. Last night as I was laying in bed I found myself writing scenes in my head for a new piece. I may have to actually get those words on paper.

Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
Yours Truly,
Shoshanna Evers

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Jo Goodman, Historical Romance Author

Hello Fellow Writers!

Yesterday I went to the NaNoWriMo "TGIO" (that's Thank Goodness It's Over) party at Charlie Brown's Steakhouse in Fishkill, NY. It was a very fun time, although I have to say I am very sad that it's over! A few of us are going to continue meeting up on the weekends to get some writing done with good company.

They gave us our internal editors back, still encaged in envelopes, along with red pens.

I just finished reading "Never Love a Lawman", by Jo Goodman. I love a good story about an arranged marriage! This book is a historical romance set in the wild west.

From LikesBooks.com, here is an excerpt from an interview with Jo Goodman. Read the whole interview here.

Q: Do you consider yourself driven by plot or by characters and how do you develop your stories and characters?

A: Jeezey peezy, I don’t know. Can’t I just drive? It’s both, I suppose. Plot without rich characters is a pretty flat story. I mean, who do you root for? Good characters without a plot are just Waiting for Godot. I develop my stories with a “what if?” question and go from there. I work without a net (no outline). That is a personal preference, and it causes me headaches sometimes, but I know that I have a tendency toward rigidity and following rules, so that if I do an outline, I’ll get myself stuck in the box that I’ve created. (I know this because I did it once, and it was a horrible writing experience. I couldn’t save me from myself.) Developing the characters begins with naming them, doing a brief description, and then doing a family diagram (also called a genogram). That’s where I think out the familial relationships, the birth order, that things that happened in their family that might impact the way they behave. I don’t squeeze all of that background into a book, but it’s in my head as I’m working
Q: Do you have any advice that you would like to share with aspiring writers?
A: I’ll pass on the piece of advice that was given to me that I found the most helpful (and it wasn’t from a writer): Don’t talk about the story that’s in your head; write it.
Today I am going to go through the rest of my WIP, "Snowed In With a Millionaire", and get rid of as many dashes as I can. One of my writing buddies suggested that I might be overusing them. I said "If you think I might be overusing them, than I definitely am! Otherwise you wouldn't have noticed." So that's the plan for today.

I'm also going to get my query and synopsis for "The Movie Star's Very Personal Assistant" ready to go out tomorrow morning to Harlequin. The query and synopsis (and novel, of course) are already written, I just need to address the envelope and such. I'm terrified.

Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
Yours Truly,
Shoshanna Evers

Friday, December 4, 2009

Common Mistakes Writers Make

Hello Fell0w Writers!

Yesterday I met with my writing group at Barnes and Noble. They liked the first chapter of "Snowed in With a Millionaire", and I incorporated some of the little changes they suggested. My query and synopsis for "The Movie Star's Very Personal Assistant" is ready to go. Now I just have to get up the chutzpah to mail it off to Harlequin!

From eHarlequin.com, here is an excerpt from an article entitled "Presents: The Beginning" about writing for the Harlequin Presents line. I think you'll see that this advice applies to all writers, however! Read the whole article here.

Here are the most common writing personalities and their mistakes that our editors see when they’re reading unsolicited submissions while searching for new Presents talent:
  • The Free Spirit has no idea what her story is or where she’s going when she begins her book.
  • The Procrastinator “writes herself in.” She spends two to three chapters unfolding a long, rambling back-story and setting the scene, and there’s no romance or hero-heroine action in sight.
  • Ms. No-Man’s-Land doesn’t introduce the hero until chapter two…or even later!
  • She-who-saves-the-best-for-last, and who clings to the assumption that readers (and editors) will be understanding and hang in there until chapter four or five when her romance really gets going.
  • Me-Me-Me uses a lot of descriptive narrative, choosing to tell the story by inserting herself between the readers and the characters, rather than letting characters speak for themselves.
  • The Party Animal includes loads of minor characters—but who are the hero and heroine?
  • The Show-Stopper thinks of a great opening line or paragraph and then…her book goes downhill from there!
Let’s be clear about a couple of things. In terms of word length, these are short books (50,000 words total). So you haven’t got time to warm up or wait for the hero to arrive! And, despite the quickness of the read, every reader expects to have taken a ride on an emotional rollercoaster by the time she finishes your book.
Today I will email my writing group Chapter 2 of my WIP. My father-in-law is visiting this weekend so I'm not sure how much I'll get done!
Yours Truly,
Shoshanna Evers

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Peter Carey's Advice to Writers

Hello Fellow Writers!

Yesterday I incorporated (most of) the suggestions I got from my writing group on improving the first chapter of my WIP, "Snowed in With a Millionaire". There are always going to be some instances where I want to keep my original words, but I also know when to look at my work objectively and see that someone else is right!

Peter Carey is the author of numerous books. Even though NaNoWriMo is officially over, I did get another letter in my inbox from him. Here he shares his advice with writers.

Dear Writer,
Writing is the easiest thing in the world. Anyone can do it. It's like hitting a tennis ball against a wall. It's like swimming. Anyone can learn. You don't have to be the best. You don't need to compete in anything. On the other hand, you may aspire to be a celebrated star.
Like swimming, like playing tennis, there are people writing at all levels. If you just want to amuse yourself writing the weekends, just keep on keeping on. If you want to bash out a novel, you need no more advice than to keep on keeping on.
But if you dream of making something original and beautiful and true, if you imagine seeing your book reviewed, or in the window of a book store, you're in the same position as the ambitious swimmer—you've got a lot of training to do, a lot of muscles to build, a lot of habits to start establishing right now, today.
If you know what these good writing habits are, there's nothing more I can give you. Perhaps you know what I'm going to tell you—you have to write regularly, every day. You have to treat this as the single most important part of your life. You do not need anything as fancy as inspiration, just this steady habit of writing regularly even when you're sick or sad or dull. Nothing must stop you, not even your beloved children. If you have kids you do what Toni Morrison did—write in the hours before they wake. If you wish to be a like the champion who swims for four hours every day of the year, you will need extraordinary will. You either have this or you don't, but you won't know unless you try .
Let's say you (quietly, secretly) want to be a genius. Then you must teach yourself to be self-critical. Trust me—your own uncertain opinions are worth one hundred times more than the judgments of your friends. Your friends love you and are may be very smart. But they cannot imagine what you have not yet imagined. So don't show them stuff you fear may not be right.
If you feel at all unhappy with your work, there is a good reason for it. Trust your judgment. Write the draft again, and again. This is the strength you must build—to work alone, in solitude, and write and rewrite and rewrite. Even when you finally succeed in making the original work you wished, you will still live with doubt and uncertainty. All writers learn to live with this. In this way you and I feel exactly the same about our work today.
If you ever read one of my books I hope you'll think it looks so easy. In fact, I wrote those chapters 20 times over, and over, and over, and that if you want to write at a good level, you'll have to do that too.
That is the first half of the good habits you must develop.
Here's the second half.
First, turn off your television. The television is your enemy. It will stop you doing what you wish to do. If you wish to watch TV, you do not want to be a serious writer, which is fine.
But if you do pull that plug you've just created time for that exercise which is going to build up your writing muscles like nothing else. It's called reading. Perhaps you are already reading good books for several hours a day, in which case you don't need me to preach at you. Forgive me. I only mention this because I have met an extraordinary number of beginners who don't think they need to read anything too much.
I don't doubt these people enjoy their writing, and perhaps they will even get to publish something. But you can not play the top game without reading every day. There are so many extraordinary books waiting for you, some writing by living writers, the majority by those a long time dead. This is not because writers used to be better than they are now, but because a lot of generations have come before us and we would be crazy not to know what miracles they achieved.
Some of the great books are about people with lives just like you. Some will have characters you can 'identify' with, but some of the very greatest will tell stories you could never have imagined, were written in languages you cannot speak, and tell the stories of people like none we have ever known.
Now you've killed the TV, you should invest in a very good dictionary.
I know it is a major drag to stop reading and look up a word in a dictionary, but it is less of a drag than continuing to read not knowing what the story really means. No-one wants to do it. I never want to do it, but it is always worth the trouble. In my own case I often write the new word down, not because I am stupid, but because it helps me remember it.
So what books should you read if your greatest aim is to lift your game? Clearly "Goose Bumps" is not going to help you in your ambitions, but where to start, where to continue the adventure you're already on?
I'd suggest a wonderful new book by Francine Prose, "Reading Like a Writer.Go buy this now. You may already be a disciplined, talented original writer but you will not be sorry to read this for two hours tomorrow.
-Peter Carey
You can learn more about Peter Carey's writing at his website.
Today I will be going to my writing group at the Barnes and Noble, where I will see if they agree that my query and synopsis for "The Movie Star's Very Personal Assistant" is ready. Then I will have to just do it - and send it out into the world.
Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
Yours Truly,
Shoshanna Evers

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Kevin Smith on Writing and Filmmaking

Hello Fellow Writers!

I have exciting news. That spec advice column that I sent out to the new local newspaper that's starting up in March got picked up! So I will be an official, paid writer. I am so excited!

Yesterday I went over my query letter and synopsis for "The Movie Star's Very Personal Assistant". I'm going to go buy more ink for my printer so I can print those out and have them ready to be reviewed one last time by my writing group tomorrow, and then I'm going to take the jump and submit to Harlequin. Scary thought!

I found a wonderful video on YouTube where writer and filmmaker Kevin Smith talks about how he got started writing and filmmaking. The first part focuses the most on writing, and then goes into how he got started making movies.

I think it's so funny how he says the idea that he could actually write a book was amazing to him!

Today I am going to incorporate some of the tips my writing group gave about Chapter 1 of "Snowed in With a Millionaire".

Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
Yours Truly,
Shoshanna Evers

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Uh oh! Harlequin Drama?

Hello Fellow Writers!

There's some drama brewing in the romance publishing industry. Harlequin, as you know, is a publishing company that I love to bits. I read most of the books they publish, and I am planning on submitting my novels to their Silhouette Desire line.

So what's the drama? Well, it looks like Harlequin has made the decision to open up another line just for self publishing. They called it Harlequin Horizons. This immediately upset so many people that they decided to change the name to DellArte Press.

From author NK Jemisin, here is an excerpt of a post about the issue. Read the whole article here.
And although Harlequin has already announced that it will be changing the new division’s name to something without “Harlequin” in the title, how much do you want to bet they’ll still make heavy use of the brand name in marketing the service to aspiring writers? A most unromantic seduction.
This impacts more than just the romance genre, as the MWA has clearly realized. For one thing, however great the potential financial gain in the short term, reputable publishers cannot be permitted to get into the business of exploitation — not without consequence. That hurts the whole industry in the long term. For another, fantasy writers like me who write “fantasy with strong romantic elements” (according to RWA) often attempt to sell books to romance publishers; Harlequin runs LUNA, one of the better-known romance/skiffy fusion imprints. If one of the juggernauts of the industry has decided to dilute its own brand like this, that cuts down on the number of places I can sell future titles. After all, how long will it be before “I’ve got a book out with Harlequin” becomes as meaningless and laughable as “I’ve got a book out with Publish America?
Hopefully it won’t come to that. I guess we’ll have to see.
ETA: Ask and ye shall receive: SFWA has declared Harlequin a non-qualifying market for membership purposes, and issued its own statement in opposition to Horizons-or-whatever-they-call-it.
Well, I think Jemisin hit the nail on the head by saying that Harlequin authors are worried that if Harlequin has a vanity press in addition to it's regular publishing lines, people will be confused and think all Harlequin books are self published.

Carol Thomas from Examiner.com has been following this all very closely. Here is an excerpt from her article. Read the whole article here.
Participants in the ongoing discussion being held on the Smart Bitches Trashy Books website defied the prediction made yesterday, November 19, 2009, by the Nora Roberts Examiner. The group did indeed regain its focus on the consequences of Harlequin Enterprises' decision to enter the self-publishing arena with its currently named Harlequin Horizons division....
The Smart Bitches discussion also picked up a more recent development. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America has prepared its own "Statement on Harlequin’s self-publishing imprint." This statement was issued after Harlequin Enterprises CEO Donna Hayes announced yesterday that Harlequin Horizons would change its name in response to the concerns of its writers. Consequently, the SWFA statement contains the view held by that organization's president, Russell Davis, and its Board of Directors as to Harlequin's most recent action:
SFWA does not believe that changing the name of the imprint, or in some other way attempting to disguise the relationship to Harlequin, changes the intention, and calls on Harlequin to do the right thing by immediately discontinuing this imprint and returning to doing business as an advance and royalty paying publisher.

As quoted on Examiner.com here, Harlequin Enterprises CEO Donna Hayes said:
"Most importantly, however, we have heard the concerns that you, our authors, have expressed regarding the potential confusion between this venture and our traditional business. As such, we are changing the name of the self-publishing company from Harlequin Horizons to a designation that will not refer to Harlequin in any way. We will initiate this process immediately. We hope this allays the fears many of you have communicated to us."
Wow! I'm very interested to see how this all unfolds.

Yours Truly,
Shoshanna Evers

Monday, November 30, 2009

Submitting to Harlequin

Hello Fellow Writers!

Yesterday I went to the last official NaNoWriMo write-in of 2009. I used the time productively, by adding a new opening (and another 1000 words to my word count, bringing my manuscript to 51K) and making all of the little changes I needed to.

While it's still a first draft, it's a first draft that I can now show my writing group. I'm planning on emailing them the first chapter today.

At some point soon, I need to gather up the courage to submit my previous novel, "The Movie Star's Very Personal Assistant", to Harlequin. Here is an article about important things to consider when submitting to Harlequin, from their website.

  • Do polish your story before you submit it. Read through your story several times for spelling, grammar, clich├ęs, unrealistic or stilted dialogue, heavy exposition, continuity errors, plot holes, etc. Consider giving it to someone else to read for a second opinion. You want to make sure that the editor that reads your story won't have a single excuse to put it down. For more tips on polishing, read Harlequin Superromance author Helen Brenna's article Polish Until it Shines.

  • Don't sweat the small stuff. After you've gone through your manuscript very carefully, don't get hung up on things like font or formatting or other stylistic considerations. Ultimately, if you've written a good book, it won't matter whether it's in 10 point Book Antiqua.

  • Once you do submit, do include a self-addressed stamped envelope if you want to be notified that your manuscript has been received. You may also want to indicate that you would like to be notified on the envelope or somewhere within your submission.

  • Don't expect a response right away, though. Even if you are just looking for an indication that Harlequin has received your manuscript, this can take several weeks from the time you send your manuscript in to the publisher. It has to be processed by Harlequin staff before being mailed, and the mail delivery in itself could take a while.

  • It will take longer still before you get a response about your actual manuscript. Often stories are evaluated by more than one Harlequin staff member, and this process takes time. Moreover, the editors like to make sure that they have crafted a useful and appropriate response to your manuscript, and try to put quality over speed of response.

  • Do have the story completed before you submit it for consideration. If after all of the time you have been waiting for a response from Harlequin you have not been working on your story, the editor will not be impressed that you are then going to make her wait for you. She's looking for a finished product—something that will live up to the potential that she saw in your partial. And if you rush to finish the story, it will likely read rushed and not polished, so when you finally do submit it to the editors, it will likely fall short of their standards.

  • Don't wait for a response before starting your next project. If the book that you have submitted is already done and is as polished as it's going to get, start the next one. If you are talented enough to get interest from a Harlequin editor, they will want to know that you have more than one good idea and will be happy to see evidence of this. Or if your first manuscript doesn't work out, you can always follow up with another book that may be more to the editor's liking.

  • Do include the fact that you are working on another book in your query letter. This will indicate that you are committed to writing and that you have many stories to tell. However, you may not want to say that you are working on too many manuscripts at once—this may signal to the editor that you can't finish a project and do not give each one enough attention.

  • Don't submit to more than one Harlequin series at a time. Only the first manuscript that Harlequin receives will be evaluated. The others will be sent back to you. So choose your targeted series very carefully. Is it really the line that best fits your book?

  • Do send your manuscript to the appropriate office and the correct editor. There's nothing that turns an editor off faster than reading a submission that clearly doesn't fit her line. This shows that you are too lazy to do your homework, and you probably won't be given very serious consideration. Luckily, finding this information is relatively easy. Each Harlequin series has a writing guidelines page on eHarlequin.com which can be found here. At the top of each of these, there will be an editor, assistant editor or editorial assistant's name. Address your submission to this person—and make sure you spell it correctly! These guideline pages will also indicate which office houses your chosen line. The addresses for the three editorial offices can be found here.

  • Don't get discouraged. You know that writing is a skill that takes practice, but so does submitting. It may take you a few tries before you find the right tone to use in your query letter, or the right amount of information in your synopsis. Keep writing, keep submitting.

  • I find it interesting that they want you to mention that you are working on another book in your query. I'll have to add that to my query letter before it goes out.

    Today I will be writing a spec advice column and submitting it to a new local newspaper.
    Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers

    Sunday, November 29, 2009

    "The Road" Author Cormac McCarthy

    Hello Fellow Writers!

    I am on my way to the very last NaNoWriMo write-in at Panera. I'll be sad to see the month end, but I'm glad that I will continue to meet a couple of the other women on the weekend to sit and have coffee and tap away on our laptops.

    DH and I saw the movie "The Road" last night. My husband read the book very quickly, which is saying a lot because it normally takes him forever to get through an entire novel. Personally, I love fun movies that leave you feeling good, with a nice neat Happily Ever After. "The Road" is not such a book or movie. But you can't argue with the awards it's received (like the 2007 Pulitzer for fiction). It's not my taste, but it's still an amazing book (and movie). If it doesn't win some sort of Oscar I will be shocked.

    Cormac McCarthy, the author of "The Road", did a wonderful interview with "Oprah". You can watch the whole thing here by clicking on the different parts. In this section, he discusses how he feels about writing.

    Today I plan on writing that new opening scene for "Snowed in With a Millionaire" and also to make some of the minor fixes that I found on my initial read-through of the first draft.

    Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers

    Saturday, November 28, 2009

    Advice Regarding Word Count

    Hello Fellow Writers!

    Yesterday I didn't get as much done on my revisions of my WIP as I had planned. Tomorrow, however, I will be going to the last NaNoWriMo write-in and I will get a lot done then. I'm sad that the official write-ins will soon be over, but I have plans to continue meeting on the weekends with a couple of the other girls.

    I read a great Silhouette Desire book by Jennifer Lewis yesterday, called "The Maverick's Virgin Mistress". I read that book so fast because it was just so much fun! I won't spoil the ending for you, (well, we all know they live happily ever after) but I literally squealed at the ending and then read it out loud to my husband.

    I know a lot of people have questions about word count. We've established that Harlequin category romances have very specific guidelines on their tip sheets, and they use computer word count. Here is an excerpt from a wonderful article by Jessica from one of my favorite blogs, Bookends, LLC, about word count. Read the whole article here.

    First and foremost, what length should your book be? My answer is when in doubt think 80,000 words, give or take. I don’t think that you can ever go wrong with 80,000 words whether you’re writing mystery, romance, fantasy, literary fiction, or nonfiction. Okay, sure, it’s never going to work for children’s books or poetry, but since I don’t rep those it doesn’t matter (to me anyway). In fact, I think 80,000 words even works for YA. Sure, with some of these genres you’re going to be on the long end and with others the short end, but again this is the “when in doubt word count.” 80,000 words is pretty much safe everywhere.

    What about range, I’ll be asked. Can you give us a range or can you be genre specific? I suppose I can, to the best of my abilities.

    Mystery: I think that for mysteries you often have the freedom of writing a book that’s a little shorter. In the case of mysteries 70,000 to 90,000 words will likely work for you.

    Romance: 80,000 to 100,000, and no, I’m not counting category. If you’re writing category you’ll need to follow the very specific word count requirements of that line.

    Fantasy or SF: Here you can go a little bit longer. Some publishers will accept books in the 80,000 to 125,000 range.

    YA: 50,000 to 75,000, and yes, this is an area that can get really fudgy (I made that up), but again, in the 80,000 range is good. **I corrected these numbers after feedback from others (and comment from Kim) although I do think with YA these days you can still be safe in 80,000 words although maybe a tad high. Fantasy YA of course can be higher.

    Women’s fiction, literary fiction or anything I failed to mention above: 80,000 to 100,000 (sometimes 125,000, especially in the case of literary fiction).

    Now all of these are ranges and estimations. You are unlikely to be rejected simply because you’re at 78,000 for your women’s fiction or 110,000 for your romance. That being said, if you start coming in at 175,000 words, 200,000 words, or 41,000 words, you better take a close look at your book. No one in their right mind would think you’re somewhat close to range. Let’s put it this way, we give a range so that you know what the fudge factor is. We’re all smart people and we all know that when we ask something to be within a range we’ll allow for some leeway. Just think about how much leeway you’d allow and keep it at that.

    Today I am going to see the movie "The Road", which is based on the book by the same name. I'll let you know it goes!

    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers

    Friday, November 27, 2009

    How She Did It - Joan Hohl, Romance Author

    Hello Fellow Writers!

    I hope everyone had as lovely a Thanksgiving yesterday as I had with my family! I finished reading through my manuscript and making small changes. Today I'm going to put those changes in the computer and also write a new opening scene that I think will provide more of an insight into my heroine's daily life before she meets the hero.

    I also just finished reading a Silhouette Desire category romance entitled "In the Arms of the Rancher", by Joan Hohl. It was very fun read. Imaging my surprise when I learned that this very sexy story was written by a woman who, according to the dates she gives in her bio, must be at least 70 years old now! One of the nice things about writing is you don't have to retire!

    From eHarlequin.com, here is an article that explains how Joan Hohl got her start in writing. I think it's absolutely amazing that she was possibly the very first romance writer to write using the hero's point of view in addition to the heroine's POV.

    For as long as she can remember, Joan Hohl has always wanted to be a writer. Her mother said Joan had her head in the clouds, always daydreaming. The only thing was, Joan's daydreams had plots!
    Thinking herself audacious for even considering joining the ranks of her heroes — the authors — she never put her ideas, or dreams, into words, never made notes or wrote anything down. She worked at several jobs — nothing remotely close to a career — some sales clerking, but primarily factory work, because that paid better.
    Then when she turned 40, Joan experienced a definite turning point in her life. Deciding that at her advanced age she could handle rejection, had nothing to lose and by some miracle, possibly much to gain if only in self satisfaction, she quit her job. With no employment, but her decision firm, she sat down at her kitchen table with pencils and a spiral notebook and let her imagination take wing.
    Joan achieved her impossible dream three years, and many rejections, after she began writing. Her first book sale was to Vivian Stephens at Dell Publishing. A few weeks later she received a call from an editor at Leisure Books, with an offer for a manuscript she had previously submitted to other houses…and believed was dead-in-the-publishing-waters, so to speak. The second sale was the first one to be published, in 1979. Her first ten books were written longhand at her kitchen table. As she wasn't a typist, she paid one to transcribe her handwritten manuscripts before biting the bullet and going to the typewriter herself to hunt and pick her way through future stories.
    Some years later, Joan sold a formally rejected, completed manuscript to Silhouette Books…and found a home. She is considered by many in the business a trailblazer in sensuous romance writing, and having been one of the first, if not the first, author to write male point of view in category romance novels.
    Many of her books are set in her beloved Pennsylvania, by an ocean, any ocean, but usually along the South Jersey coast or the West, with its mythic Western heroes.
    Now, a few years… ahem — past 40, after 60 some books (she now no longer keeps exact count), Joan is still writing two to three books a year, although she laughingly tells everyone she is semiretired!
    Joan has been married forever to her husband, Marv. They have two beautiful daughters, Lori and Amy, and two grandchildren, Erica and Cammeron.
    Joan has one question: Does she have a career yet?

    Um, I'd say yes, most definitely! Today I'm going to write that new opening scene and get my manuscript in good enough shape to allow my writer's group to take a look at it. I'm also considering adding another little element for comedic relief that will involve going back through and weaving it into place. That might also happen today.

    One thing I will not be doing is leaving the house and braving the Black Friday parking lots. Too crazy for me.

    Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    Fantasy Writer Robin McKinley

    Hello Fellow Writers!

    Yesterday I sat down with my manuscript and my red pen and had fun going through it. I wish I could read the whole book in one sitting, but my baby won't let me do anything for more than twenty minutes at a time unless he falls asleep, at which point I promptly fall asleep as well.

    Nevertheless, I managed to finish the first draft of my romance novel "Snowed in With a Millionaire" with a week still left in the month of November. NaNoWriMo is still in full swing, of course, so this morning, sitting in my inbox, I found a pep talk for week 4 from author Robin McKinley.

    Robin McKinley won the Newbery Medal for The Hero and the Crown, a Newbery Honor for The Blue Sword, and the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature for Sunshine. She writes fantasy.

    Here is her advice to writers:
    Dear writer,
    As I write this less than twenty-four hours before NaNoWriMo’s deadline for this pep talk, I also have a book due in eight days. Not just due. Absolute, final, already overdue, my-editor-is-a-patient-woman-but-publishing-schedules-are-publishing-schedules, due.
    When NaNoWriMo contacted me last April about writing a pep talk for this year's masochi—er—enthusiastic writers, I had just decided to whack PEGASUS in half and make two books out of it. I have always been a write-each-draft-straight-through-and-don’t-look-back storyteller; it’s the way I develop a feel for the pacing, for where the high and low, careening and meditative, places of each story are—and how I discover where and how it's going to end. Consistency and clarity (and spelling) begin to emerge in the second draft; there are a lot of complete re-rewrites and outtakes during the second draft, and probably the most-per-page screams of frustration: the first draft has told me that the story is there but now I have to make it work on the page. The third draft should mainly be giving the story a really good brushing and plaiting its mane and tail—but there are hazards even here (ask anyone who has ever plaited a mane or a tail), nor is it likely to stand quietly for this operation.
    Some time last winter, still on the first draft and beginning to panic, I... stopped. I did not write straight through to the end. I went back to the beginning and started on the second draft as if I knew what I was doing—as if I knew how it ended. I seriously don't know how PEGASUS ends. I won't know till I get there. And I didn't finish the first draft, so I didn't get there. I've never started a second draft without having finished a first draft—without knowing how it's going to end. I've never split a book into two books...
    Writing is like this.
    Oh, not exactly like this; every writer is different as every human being is different, one from another. (Some writers make their deadlines. Some writers know where they're going. Some writers don't mind not knowing where they're going.) But the chief thing I would like to get over to you, as you look to me to say something inspiring about this maniac—I mean, this energizing and felicitious project to write a first draft of a novel in a month, is the liveness of Story, and therefore the unpredictability inherent in writing any story down.
    You need that live, tensile, surprising strength between you and the story you're trying to write, or it'll die on the page. But this doesn't make it easier. It makes it harder. It's more exciting—more thrilling, more appalling: on good days you'll fly higher than a peregrine cruising for dinner, on bad days someone will have to scrape you off the floor with a spatula. This is what writing is like. You have to write on through the highs and lows, the careens and the meditations of your stories. And that's what you're here for now: to write. Go for it. Good luck.
    So last April, when NaNoWriMo contacted me, I had decided that PEGASUS was two books, and had cheered up a lot. My due date was the end of August—and for once in my life I was going to meet a deadline with no problem. NaNoWriMo suggested I send my encouraging words to them by the beginning of August. Fine. Happy to. Thanks for asking.
    I got to the end of the third draft of the first volume of PEGASUS on 13 September. But PEGASUS has not been one of the easy brush-and-plait ones. I’m still combing the burrs out. I am going to make it. I am going to turn PEGASUS in on the 8th of October. I’m even going to get my pep talk in to NaNoWriMo by tomorrow.
    If I can do these impossible things, you can do the impossible thing of writing the first draft of your novel in a month. It’s a first draft! It does not have to be a thing of beauty! Don’t worry about the spelling (or the consistency)! Just write it. I bet you can even get to the end, and find out what it is.
    And may you have an absolutely brilliant time doing it. Writing can be the worst, and often is—but it can also be the best. May you come out of that month knowing what you want to do next, and eager to keep going. Try to remember the peregrine days on the days that your husband/wife/roommate/dog needs steel wool to get you off the floor. And keep writing: the only way you can learn how your stories work is by letting them tell you. By putting live words together.
    Good luck.
    Robin McKinley

    Today I will continue going through the first draft of my WIP. DH is coming home early from work today since it's the day before Thanksgiving, and we have big plans to make a home video of the baby. Surprise, surprise.
    Have a happy Thanksgiving! I won't be posting a new blog entry tomorrow, but I'll still be writing.
    Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    Rewrites, Revisions, and Red Pens

    Hello Fellow Writers!

    Yesterday I basked in the happy glow of having a completed first draft sitting on my lap. I decided to take the day off from writing as a reward for having finished writing a 50,000 word romance in three weeks. Instead, I realized that for me, writing itself is the reward. I like doing it, that's why I do it. So I picked up my red pen and started reading through my novel.

    I had written it so fast that I barely remembered putting the words on the page. I even found myself laughing at some of funny things my saucy heroine says - it was almost like I didn't write it myself. So strange.

    From FictionWriters.com, here is an excerpt from an article about revising your manuscript. Read the whole article here.

    • 1. Look for the deadwood, the unnecessary bits that don't move your story forward.
    • 2. Check the first paragraph of each chapter for "hooks."
    • 3. Check the end of each chapter for "cliffhangers."
    • 4. Examine each page for balance between dialogue, action, introspection and description.
    • 5. Find places to build in more character traits.
    • 6. Look for inconsistencies.
    • 7. Look for repetition, words (and ideas) repeated too often, too close to each other.
    • 8. Find typos and grammatical errors.
    Each time you sit down to reread your manuscript, choose one point from the list to look for; ignore everything else. Every rereading needs to accomplish something specific. Have a set goal in mind each time you start. Know what it is you plan to accomplish, and your rereading time will accomplish more.
    Today I will continue reading through my manuscript, red pen in hand.

    Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    I Finished The First Draft! Now What?

    Hello Fellow Writers!

    I am happy to report that yesterday I finished the first draft of my 50,ooo word category romance "Snowed in With a Millionaire".

    Yup. Done.

    I went to a NaNoWriMo write-in with 43k words and found myself writing for 6 hours straight until I had pounded out those last 7K and wrote the words "The End". Since I started writing November 1st, that means it took me 3 weeks. I've never written so fast in my entire life. It was so much fun!

    Now that the first draft if complete, the work is far from over. Now the real work begins - I need to get the manuscript in good enough condition to be able to show my writer friends. They'll help me figure out what's unclear so I can get some nice revisions going.

    Today I'll share with you some advice about first drafts from Karen Miller.
    Karen Miller is the author of the bestselling fantasy duology Kingmaker, Kingbreaker, the fantasy trilogy Godspeaker, the bestselling tie-in novels Stargate SG-1: Alliances and Stargate SG-1: Do No Harm and Star Wars The Clone Wars: Wild Space. Writing as K.E. Mills she is the author of the Rogue Agent series.
    Here is an excerpt from her article "The Tyranny of the First Draft". Read the whole thing here.
    Writers are schizo people. We need to wear two hats: the Writer, and the Editor. And we have to keep one locked in a box while the other is working, or we won’t finish the book. The Writer writes – and must be free to write even though the work is still far from perfect. In the first draft it doesn’t matter if the prose is clunky sometimes, if there’s some word repetition, if the dialogue is occasionally stilted. None of it matters. It can be fixed on the rewrite. The Writer must not be paralysed by the carping of the Editor, who notices everything that’s wrong with the work and wants it fixed now. It doesn’t need to be fixed now. It’s more important to finish the first draft and fix it later.

    Of course, when the first draft is finished the Writer has to sit in the box so the Editor can assess the story, iron out the lumpy bits, fix all the plot-holes and so on and so forth without the Writer bleating and complaining about the cuts and changes. But only when the first draft is finished. Turning the Editor loose in the middle of the writing process is usually fatal. The Editor is critical. The Writer is creative. These two essential personas must be kept apart, or there’s a chance that first draft will never be finished.

    The only way to do this is to do it. There are no magic bullets, no quick fixes, no secret handshakes that can get you over the finishing line. The only way to run a marathon is by putting one foot in front of the other for 26 miles. The only way to produce a finished novel that you can show to an agent or an editor is complete the journey from page 1 to the end. That’s it. It’s that simple … and that hard.

    There is no point, if you’re a new writer, in showing an agent or editor the first three over-polished chapters and a synopsis. More than anything, these people want to know you can go the distance. Writing a novel is a mammoth task. You have to prove you’ve got the stamina to finish. You also have to prove you’ve got a good style and a good plot and engaging characters … but if you can’t finish the book, none of that matters.

    Yes, it’s scarey. It’s a lot of time and energy invested with no guarantee of success. No promise that you’ll be recognised, or published. Or, if you do have that contract, that anyone will buy the damned book when it’s in the shops. That’s the nature of the beast. You either accept it, or you take up knitting. You know what they say: feel the fear and do it anyway. Because if you don’t, then it’s game over. Nothing happens without a first draft.

    So write the damned thing. Get it done. Get it finished. Give yourself permission to write badly. Give yourself permission to write worse than badly. Give yourself permission to stumble, to flail, to thrash around on the pages like a raving loon.

    It doesn’t matter.

    Finish your first draft, so you can turn it into your second draft, and your third draft … or as many drafts as you need to make it a fabulous novel.

    Without a completed first draft that will never happen. The first draft is the first step, it’s not the end of the journey. It’s where the story begins. Do I need to say it again? Keep your eyes facing forward and write, write, write, till you reach The End.

    And enjoy yourself. It’s supposed to be fun!

    Today I am seriously considering taking a break from writing to just revel in the fact that I wrote a whole book. Either that, or I'm going to sit down with my manuscript and a red pen and go to town on it. One or the other!
    Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers