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cariann92
Posts: 95
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Questions for Leigh - POV switches

Leigh,

Thanks so much, I thought that dialogue was needed. But sometimes it seems that'a all I do -- write dialogue.

I am better at showing these days, this was written in 2003, for the first few classes I took with you. A lot more tell then.

Thanks again, I will work on the dialogue and add it to the scene.

Cariann
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Vicky
Posts: 34
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
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Re: Questions for Leigh

Is targeting the new Harlequin Silhouette Romantic Suspense line for the book I'm writing the proper way to go about selling my work, if the novel turns out to be salable? I've been interested in that line for a long time since I first learned the editors are interested in new authors. I also liked their prior stories and like the new direction even better. Some how-to books say just write your story and worry about selling it afterwards. What's the smart way to go about writing manuscripts since I am working to eventually get published, I hope?
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Vicky
Posts: 34
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
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Re: Questions for Leigh

How much information should I give the reader about the characters and the mystery to catch their attention at the beginning of a story to draw them in without giving away so much of the story that I lose the suspense that keeps them turning the pages? What kind of teasers lead the reader on to keep turning that page?
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Vicky
Posts: 34
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
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Re: Questions for Leigh

Is it good for a hero or heroine to have both an internal and external conflict? Some demon he or she has to fight inside themselves as they confront the problem keeping them apart? I don't remember where I picked up this concept, but I was thinking of giving my hero, now named Garth, the younger son I wrote about in the secondary character exercise, an internal conflict as a wounded veteran from the Iraqi war fighting the ghosts of surviving while his best buddy was blown apart next to him. Then he comes home to recuperate from his wounds and is confronted by the "accidental" death of his brother which he intends to prove is murder. He enlists the aid of Chantal to help find the murderer. In the process the two fall in love.

Is Garth a good hero for a Harlequin novel? He inherits the family corporation because of his brother's death and will take over once recuperated from wounds. I think he fits all the necessary criteria. If not, what will make him more acceptable?

Also, is the problem they face of constant danger in the twists and turns the novel is going to take a sufficient enough problem to face? Throughout I intend them to be in constant danger of losing their lives. If not, what other difficulties or problems could I add to make their conflict tougher and more acceptable for romantic suspense? If this isn't a big enough problem, I'm not sure I truly understand what a sufficient problem would be? Are romantic suspense problems and conflicts between the characters different than other types of romance novels?

Thank-you, Vicky
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lavenderlass
Posts: 270
Registered: ‎01-02-2007
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Re: Questions for Leigh

Hi Vicky, I'm not an expert but I am targetting Harlequin. I think Garth would be great if you could give him some heroic slant to his war losses, perhaps he jumped on top of a nearby woman which saved her but he had to live with having seem his brother blown apart? I'm not sure if he needs more conflict, I'll leave that to the experts to suggest.

Lynne.
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LeighMichaels
Posts: 297
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Targeting a specific publisher

Hi, Vicky -- That's a very good question: Should you target a specific publisher, or write the book and then worry about where it fits?

There are good arguments both ways.

Especially when you really enjoy the line and the books they've already published, it would be a bit silly not to pay attention to those stories and the standards you've deduced from reading them, as well as the suggestions the editors have made about what they're looking for.

However, if you're thinking all the time about how the story fits into the line, this attempt to write and edit at the same time CAN have a very chilling effect. Especially when you're a new writer, this can keep you from ever finishing the book. (Even as an experienced writer, I found that the more I listened to my editor up front -- the more warnings she issued or suggestions she made or questions she asked about the work in progress -- the less fun the writing was, and the more I questioned every line and every character. It got to the point where I was next-door to paralyzed.)

So if you can tweak your story to better fit the line, by all means that's the sensible move. But if you find yourself stalling out, more worried about the editor's response than the story itself, then back off, try not to let yourself think about what the result will be, and just write the story for love of it.

Make sense?

Happy writing,
Leigh
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LeighMichaels
Posts: 297
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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How much information?

Vicky asked:

How much information should I give the reader about the characters and the mystery to catch their attention at the beginning of a story to draw them in without giving away so much of the story that I lose the suspense that keeps them turning the pages? What kind of teasers lead the reader on to keep turning that page?

Oh, that's a tough question to answer, because every story is different. I wish there was a set of clear rules about how to handle this, but there isn't.

I wrote an article once about handling backstory, pacing, and transitions that you might find interesting (if only because so many established authors weighed in to say how much trouble they have with every new story!) It's on my website at www.leighmichaels.com -- then click on the "Articles" button and it's called "Things That Stump the Best of Us."

I'm sorry not to have a clear and complete answer -- the best I can do is say that you want to intrigue the reader into turning the next page, without confusing her so much that she gives up. In general, that means holding back on explanation, and just showing the facts. You might think about movies, and how without long explanations the director draws you into the story by showing you what's going on from moment to moment.

Hope this helps!

Leigh
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LeighMichaels
Posts: 297
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Internal and external conflict

Should a hero have both an internal and external conflict? Yes, all main characters should have both the immediate, external, short-term problem and the lasting, internal, character-flaw or past experience, long-term problem. This is an area that I go into much further in ON WRITING ROMANCE than I could in CREATING ROMANTIC CHARACTERS.

The short-term problem -- external conflict -- is the thing that brings the hero and heroine together and causes the story to happen (he buys her building and threatens to evict her, for one cheesy example). The long-term problem -- internal conflict -- is the reason these people seem unable to have a happy ending (her feelings of being abandoned as a child, his reaction to his parents' nasty divorce, for more cheesy examples).

In your case, Garth's got a good internal conflict because of survivor's guilt over his buddy and his brother, and how that will make him reluctant to commit to anyone else for fear of losing them too.

What's the short-term problem? Why does he need Chantal to help investigate? What's her reason for helping? And what's her long-term conflict -- why is she reluctant or unable to commit to him?

That's a very oversimplified summary, but it hits the high spots where you might look in developing your story.

Happy writing,
Leigh
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cariann92
Posts: 95
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Questions for Leigh

We are wondering about punctuation in a certain piece of dialogue.

"Watch her steal that candy," he heard behind him.

I said that it should be "Watch her steal that candy." He heard behind him.

Heard is not a tag is it?

Cariann
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dixielandgrl
Posts: 285
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Questions for Leigh

If I am reading it correctly, he isn't the one saying the line. I don't think it can be a tag. It would need to be

" Watch her steal that candy", said the distrustful grocery store clerk behind him. Right?

Or

He heard a voice behind him whisper, "Watch her steal that candy."
"If all would lead their lives in love like me,
Then bloody swords and armor should not be:" Thomas Campion
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LeighMichaels
Posts: 297
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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punctuating dialogue

Dixie's suggestions are both better ways to handle the dialogue so it's clear. What she's done is to emphasize the speaker, rather than the listener, and that's the way we should construct dialogue. The person who gets the emphasis in the tag is the one who's talking, not the one who's listening.

The preferred structure would be something like Dixie's first suggestion: "Watch her steal that candy," said the distrustful grocery store clerk behind him.

Cariann's example 1 -- "Watch her steal that candy," he heard behind him -- is technically correct but pretty confusing, because we're not sure who's talking, and we expect the speaker to be the person we're focusing on.

Example 2 -- "Watch her steal that candy." He heard behind him. -- is incorrect because to be the verb of a full sentence, "heard" requires an object -- what did he hear? Since there's no object, this is a sentence fragment.

Happy writing,
Leigh
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staygold
Posts: 13
Registered: ‎01-27-2007
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Re: Questions for Leigh

Hi Leigh!
I actually have a couple questions...well a couple subjects with several questions :smileyhappy:

1) Do you have any tips for writing about a place, or a setting, of someplace you've never been? I research, research, and research some more...but sometimes I worry maybe I won't be accurate. I don't want to be too vague because I want the reader to feel as if they are really there. Any particular website maybe that is better for getting good information on a place, especially in regards to terrain or climate, any good pictures etc???

2) Do you have any favorite authors that you like to read? Who has influeneced you the most? Your favorite novel?

And thanks for the tip on writing a log for the Chapters. I divided what I had written into chapters (lol..I was just writing and writing, and not in manuscript form or anything), formatted it into manuscript form...and everything flows and clicks right along much much better. NOW...if I can just get everyone to leave me alone long enough to finish!! :smileywink:

Thanks so much!
Angela
"IF I HAD TO CHOOSE BETWEEN BREATHING & LOVING YOU; I WOULD TAKE MY LAST BREATH TO SAY "I LOVE YOU""
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Ch-Janet
Posts: 111
Registered: ‎02-09-2007
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Re: Questions for Leigh

"but sometimes I worry maybe I won't be accurate. I don't want to be too vague because I want the reader to feel as if they are really there"

If you're too accurate the description could read like a travelogue. Being little vague can be good as it gives the reader the chance to use her imagination and fill in the details. Maybe collecting pictures of your chosen area and building up a collage would help. A bit like a scrapbook but everything is on one big sheet of paper pinned on your wall rather than pasted into a book. Then you can use it each time you want to describe the area
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LeighMichaels
Posts: 297
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Researching places, and favorite authors

There's no one-stop shop for getting good information about places, at least none that I've found. Guidebooks and official websites (Chamber of Commerce and things like that) can help a lot. Also this is a great reason to build up a network of writers -- for instance, we have a wide range of experience represented here in the book club, and I'm betting if you have a question about West Podunk or Tahiti or the south of France, someone here has been there and can tell you just the right details to evoke the place.

The larger question, I think, might be why you're setting a story in a place where you've never been. While there are stories that can only happen in one particular place, most can be located in a variety of settings -- real and fictional. We don't necessarily need an exotic setting; our own back yard will be exotic to readers elsewhere.

Perhaps the overall answer is to look again at your setting and story to see if there's a way to use a familiar place instead, or to create a fictional location so you can be free to imagine (while using your research of real places to make it realistic).

As for favorite authors -- I read widely in romance to stay current with the market, but when I'm relaxing I read mystery (mostly cozies) and non-fiction. Some of the authors whose books stay on my shelf include Margaret Maron, Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels, Deborah Donnelly, Parnell Hall, Julia Quinn, Rosamunde Pilcher, Maeve Binchy, Claire Cross. Last night I was up much too late with an older Dean Koontz title. (Yawn. Where's my coffee?)

And of course I read and enjoy my former-students-now-published-authors, including Rachelle Chase and Roxanne Rustand -- whom I'm singling out because both of these lovely ladies have agreed to stop by the book club in upcoming months and chat with us for a week or two.

Happy writing,
Leigh
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lavenderlass
Posts: 270
Registered: ‎01-02-2007
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Re: Questions for Leigh

Hi Staygold, once we're published I think you can get tax relief on 'excursions' for book research purposes, we mustn't forget that!

A friend of mine, a little group of four who met via the Romantic Novelists Association uk has just got offered her first three book deal! She has four children, a psycotherapist husband and has been working a few years at writing novels before finally being accepted!

can you tell who is going to be accepted long before they are Leigh?

Lynne.
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staygold
Posts: 13
Registered: ‎01-27-2007
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Re: Questions for Leigh

Hi Lynne! I didn't know that about the tax credit...that's kind of a bonus to think about. I actually didn't start out writing this novel to be published, I have always just loved to "dabble" and wrote 'scenes', poems, journeled etc. My husband challenged me one day a couple years ago when I had the audacity to complain about a particulary bad novel and made the off hand comment along the lines of "I could write better than this." LOL...now in the middle of it, it is MUCH harder than it looks :smileyhappy: but I really really am enjoying myself and loving it. It's kind of my escape. And now he's insisting it will get published some day...I am a very spoiled wife with a very supportive husband I fear!!

Just curious how long you've been (or anyone that would like to chime in) have you been writing? Has everyone taken college classes for English/creative writing/journalism etc to reach this point? I guess at first I kind of felt as if I wasn't "qualified" other than that I LOVE to read and am a historical romanace junky. (I think I went straight from "Little House on the Prairie" to "The Wolf and the Dove".) Leigh?? How did you discover your calling to being a romance writer and what path did you take to get there??

Have a wonderful day everyone!
Angela
"IF I HAD TO CHOOSE BETWEEN BREATHING & LOVING YOU; I WOULD TAKE MY LAST BREATH TO SAY "I LOVE YOU""
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staygold
Posts: 13
Registered: ‎01-27-2007
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Re: Researching places, and favorite authors

Hi Leigh...I picked the location for historical reasons, and as my story centers around a particualar family, its hard to move the location. Maybe it would be better rather than actually naming certain landmarks or geographical locations, just describing them??? I wish I could find a website or book that is particularly helpful with climate and agricultural information. That doesn't take up a big portion of the story, but I think I included a paragraph or two here or there and would like to be accurate. Thanks for any tips or information....from anyone that has any ideas that would be greatly appreciated!!
Take care, Angela
"IF I HAD TO CHOOSE BETWEEN BREATHING & LOVING YOU; I WOULD TAKE MY LAST BREATH TO SAY "I LOVE YOU""
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Ch-Janet
Posts: 111
Registered: ‎02-09-2007
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Re: Questions for Leigh

lynne, I've often wondered....what does a three book deal mean? Does it mean the 3 books have been bought on the strength of the story proposals?

I love the idea of making up a setting. I was going to set my story in London but I'm not familair with the place and would have to research it. Maybe I shouild make up a city. The problem is getting a name that sounds right. Liz fielding has set several of her books for Harlequin Romance in the fictitious Melchester (which does sound like an English city. In fact, I think there might be a Melchester in Hardy's Mayor of Casterbridge)

:smileyhappy: Can anyone suggest a credible name for a ficticious English city?
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LeighMichaels
Posts: 297
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Taxes and predictions

Though it's always wise to consult an accountant, in the US a writer who can prove that she's serious about writing as a business (for instance, one who can show completed manuscripts, contest finalists, rejection letters, etc.) can deduct some expenses for writing even before she's made a sale or has any income from her writing. I don't know about the UK, but it might be a good idea to check.

As for predicting... no, not always. But a few years ago Karin Stoecker, now the editorial director of M&B, came to visit and I had a writers tea party -- eleven writers for tea, scones, and conversation with Karin. Afterwards, she said, "How many of those people do you think will make it?" and I gave her two names. One of them she bought within six weeks (in fact, she told this writer about a new program over tea, and Ellen went straight home, submitted, and sold). The other was Margot Early, who sold to Supers within a year of that tea.

So sometimes I hit the nail on the head. Most often if I'm wrong it's because someone has loads of talent but doesn't persevere -- it takes both ability and stick-to-it-iveness to make it in this field.

Happy writing,
Leigh
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LeighMichaels
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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How did I get to be a writer?

I started writing as a little kid, and I too read a lot and wrote poems and short stories. I also wrote new endings for books I liked. And for some I didn't like.

My degree is in journalism, and I intended to be a feature reporter, figuring that I'd need a day job if I wanted to sleep indoors. Fortunately, I also acquired a supportive husband. Though there were times that I had three part-time jobs, he always believed in me. (He says he married me for my money. I say, "When we were married, I had a radio station job that paid nothing, a college debt, and a car loan!" He says, "True, but I saw the potential." Fortunately for him, he says it with a smile!)

I always liked reading romance, but nobody was writing the story I wanted to read -- not quite, anyway; I always wanted the story to take a little different turn, so I started writing my own. I wrote and burned six books, and then submitted my first one to Harlequin. I was fortunate enough that the package was picked up by the legendary Jacqui Bianchi on a day when she didn't want to write back cover blurbs, and she saw potential.

And that, as they say, was that!

People who love romance but aren't trained writers probably have better odds of succeeding than people who are professional writers but don't like romance -- there's something about absorbing the attitude of romance novels through lots of reading, until they become almost second nature. So hang in there -- we can teach you about storytelling and POV and dialogue and conflict, and then if you have the patience to persist and practice...

Happy writing,
Leigh
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