Guest Post from Carl Schmidt, author of the mystery novel, Dead Down East The Importance of a Good Editor: Every seasoned novelist will tell you that there is absolutely no substitute for a good editor. An editor doesn’t just alert you to mistakes in spelling, grammar, sentence structure and punctuation; editing goes way beyond that. […]
I try to separate my writing life from my politics, but recently I’ve felt like our presidential election has taken too many unprecedented turns to ignore it. When a video was released where Donald Trump boasted about forcibly kissing and grabbing the pussies of women he found attractive, many people of all political stripes condemned him, but there were also those who dismissed his words as “locker room talk.”
I shouldn’t have been surprised that some men-and women-leapt to Trump’s defense. For me, one of the most surprising and confusing counterattacks was that women shouldn’t be disturbed by Trump’s words because they bought so many copies of 50 Shades of Grey. This goes back to the idea that when women express their sexuality, through reading erotica, wearing a revealing top, or perhaps even admitting they enjoy sex, they’re inviting rape and deserve what they get.
Julia Nelson, the heroine of my erotic romance Goddess, enjoys having power in a sexual relationship. That’s what I generally like writing. But that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with portraying BDSM, or enjoying it in real life. It doesn’t mean you’re inviting strangers to tie you up and rape you, or even kiss you. If a woman wants to relinquish control in a relationship, that’s her choice. When a man demands control regardless of what a woman wants, that’s assault.
So, please, let’s continue to enjoy erotic romance, and let’s speak up for the rights of women everywhere to control their bodies however they choose.
First of all, let me make one thing clear: I hate outlining. When I outline, I have a very hard time getting my creative juices flowing. I want to be knocking out pages, writing dialogue, creating colorful descriptions. It’s like cleaning my house before a party when I really want to be drinking wine and laughing with my friends.
Is outlining even necessary? I have a writer friend who doesn’t believe in it. He has a theme in mind, a main character, and a few other elements. Then he just starts writing and sees where it leads. That method seems to work for him. His books are good.
But it doesn’t work for me. While the writing initially feels good, I inevitably run into brick walls where I feel lost without a map. I have no idea which way to go.
So it’s back to the outline for me.
After outlining many screenplays and three books, I’ve come up with a few tips I’d like to share. Hopefully, they’ll help you write a better outline, and in turn, a better book.
- Drill down into your story. Start with the big picture. Where does the story start? Where will it end? What are the three or four major turning points? Write those first before you get into the details.
- Stay focused on your theme. It should resonate in ever chapter and every scene. If it doesn’t, consider cutting or changing that section.
- Break your outline down on paper, on your computer screen, or even on PostIt Notes. I usually break mine down by chapters and scenes. These change over the course of writing. The outline helps me to keep track.
- Make sure each section connects with the one before it and after it. Sometimes I write a favorite scene, but when I look at the outline, I realize it interrupts the flow of the story. I either have to cut it or move it elsewhere.
- As you write each section, give it some “juice.” Especially when you’re on your second or third draft of your book, add a little dialogue and spruce up the descriptions in your outline. It will help connect you with the magic of your story.
- Read over your outline many times. Look for the holes in it. Look for strained connections from one scene to the next. Do important characters disappear for lengthy periods? Does the story get bogged down? This is where number 5 will help.
- Have other people read it too.
- Whenever you feel stuck in your book, go back and write a new outline.
- When you’re finished with your first draft, read it and write yet another outline from it.
- When you’ve finished the second and third draft, outline again.
- And again, and again. Your book should, must, will evolve as you discover the characters and the story. If you keep re-outlining, you’ll have a better sense of the story arc.
Outlines are the annoying friend you can’t live without. Treat them with kindness and respect and they’ll pay you back many times over.
I’m pleased to welcome New York Times bestselling author Dianne Duvall (A Sorceress of His Own, Phantom Embrace) to my blog today. Dianne is on tour promoting her second novel set in the Gifted Ones world, Rendezvous With Yesterday. The book will be released October 17. If you preorder it, you can win some awesome prizes. Just fill out this form. Go to Dianne’s website for more details.
I asked Dianne how she goes about the always difficult challenge of blending genres. (In Rendezvous‘s case, romance, fantasy and action.) Welcome, Dianne!
Thank you, Kelee, for letting me visit and for helping me celebrate the upcoming release of RENDEZVOUS WITH YESTERDAY. And thank you, readers, for joining us.
One thing I have always liked about the romance genre is that it contains all of the other fiction genres as subgenres. (This, by the way, is something I frequently point out whenever someone tries to look down his or her nose at romance, because no other fiction genre can make that claim.) And romance has expanded so much in recent years that even its subgenres have subgenres now. This gives writers the exhilarating freedom to weave multiple genres together in their tales in whatever combination they desire. So how can they do this with success?
My answer, I fear, is not very groundbreaking. I think if a writer loves the genres she or he combines, blending them together is something that will just come naturally. I have always loved the romance genre. I loved it when I was a child and sighed over the happily-ever-afters in Disney movies. I loved it when I discovered young adult romance novels. And graduating to adult romance novels just solidified my addiction.
But I also can never resist a good (or bad, or even a so-bad-it’s-good) horror movie. Old. New. Big budget. Low budget. It doesn’t matter. I’ll give just about any horror movie a chance. And action-packed films are no different. So it’s only natural that some of the elements I love so much in horror and action films always manage to work their way into my novels and novellas.
It may surprise some to learn that when I sat down to write A SORCERESS OF HIS OWN, the first book in The Gifted Ones series, I actually intended to write a traditional medieval romance novel. But my love of fantasy, the paranormal, and action wound its way into the pages until the romance between the hero and heroine grew amidst action-packed battles and the shadows spawned by a despicable enemy. It was the same with my time travel romance RENDEZVOUS WITH YESTERDAY, but Bethany’s bold, teasing nature and lively sense of humor enabled me to throw more comedy into the mix. And in my Immortal Guardians books, my love of horror tends to creep in a bit more, adding a darkness that provides a nice contrast to what readers often call the laugh-out-loud moments.
If anything, the challenge of combining multiple genres—like romance, fantasy and action—is finding the right balance. Too many action scenes can leave little room for the development of the romance and disappoint readers who really wanted to watch the hero and heroine get to know each other and fall in love. And too few action scenes may bore readers who are less interested in the romance and more interested in high-octane battle scenes. (Not interested in the romance? What? Tell me it isn’t so!) But a balance can be found. And when it is, the resulting story will give readers an entertaining and exhilarating ride. J
So what genres do you like to see combined in your romance novels? I’d love to hear some of your favorites.