Word choice-The power of terminology

There’s an interesting subtext to a lot of the political talk going on in social media right now. It was on my brain as I worked on an argument in my story, where the queen and the MC are arguing about another person. It’s all in how they label her-The MC calls her “my best friend” and the reader has seen this in action throughout the story up til now. The queen is calling the same person an attacker and traitor to the crown, because she was possessed temporarily. Neither is wrong, from their own point of view. They both believe things must go their way. But there’s no way for them to both get what they want, and this character’s life hangs on the dagger’s edge. Neither wants to hurt the other, but neither is willing or feels like they’re able to compromise. Both are willing to jeopardize their futures because they believe they’re right.

Sounds familiar, right?

Of course, because it’s fiction, something will force both their hands.

Words are a writer’s tool and weapon. We have the luxury of editing them, and fussing at them, until we get them right. I’m no where NEAR as insightful or witty in person as I’ve been told I am online. I tend to try to avoid conflict and drama, in my real life. I prefer the clean space of the page, where I can throw out the words and redo them, and there’s no “I should have said this” after.

I hate calling people. Probably because I work in a call center, but I generally avoid it whenever possible. I angsted the first phone call I made to an elector. I went over my words time and again, using the best of my call center experience to form something resembling coherent, compelling speech. And I got a voicemail that was full. And another. I resorted to email for the rest of the week, as by Wednesday all I got were full voicemails. Do I think anyone’s listening to them? Probably not. In their position, I can’t say I would be. They think they’re right. Why should they care what I have to say? Yes, civic duty, but when duty faces emotion, emotion wins in our culture.

I have no answers, except to keep writing. My Nano novel this year is a queer, feminist, intersectionally diverse little skeleton of a project right now. I had no plans when I started this to try querying it, but if I can knock it into shape in edits, I damn well might risk it. The worst they can say is no.

I’ll keep editing, doing what I can to help amazing #ownvoices books get out into the world too. And even when it feels futile, I will keep standing up. Especially when it feels futile. Because there’s a little optimistic bit in me that hopes that maybe, with everyone else doing the same thing, this little  bit can add to an avalanche.

 

Wherein I try to talk writing while my brain is full of politics.

You guys.

I had plans for a post this week, on Nanowrimo and some things that are working for me, and some things that others say work for them but have never worked for me.

Then the election happened, and everyone around me-My boyfriend, my coworkers, my friends- have been in a state of panic. I’m one of those people who pushes through emotions quickly and then deals with them once the crisis is over. I’ll probably have a meltdown at some point, but my brain is still trying to sort solutions out instead. I lived in TX under G.W Bush, and I never felt threatened, so don’t mistake this for some kind of hippie liberal can’t-handle-losing BS. Because no matter how much I might have disagreed with his policies, he wasn’t intent on discriminating against wholesale groups of people simply for the color of their skin, who they love, or what religion they practice. (And so far, even aside from his horrific campaign, he’s already trying to put a known white supremacist as a key member of his staff. I have no doubts that this will lead to suffering for MANY people I care about.)

I’m rounding up phone numbers to call officials, and I’m spreading that to my (very queer, very liberal) officemates. A couple hundred people who spend their days trying to help people who will be very screwed. I’m jaded enough to not think it’ll do much good, but I’m the type who has to do SOMETHING, even if it doesn’t add up much. I’m also donating to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood with some of my editing money. This post took me WAY too long, because I kept having to edit out long, personal anecdotes about WHY I am going to be way more political for the next 4 years than I have ever been. Why we’re getting our passports, just in case, and why I ordered pepper spray. Along with new sneakers.

I’m mostly getting through listening to a very empowering playlist:
Vixy & Tony-Burn it Down
Vixy & Tony- We Are Who We Are
Olivia Holt- Phoenix
Kerrie Roberts-Unstoppable
Katie Grey- Revolution Katie Grey- Revolution
Daya-Sit Still, Look Pretty
Dar Williams-Buzzer
Demi Lovato-Confident
Sara Bareilles-King of Anything

Writing has been going relatively well. I’m ahead (at about 26k), but with the election and results eating several days of count, I’m not as ahead as I was. I’m working on a nano project that started, in a very different form, as my first Nano 13 years ago. Then, it was a romance/fantasy, with alien creatures and betazoid+X-Men powers, and demons that weren’t really. It was a meandering mess, but I loved some of the elements, and always wanted to do it in a way that would showcase them better. This time, it’s a fantasy with a strong woman in a complex, diverse world.  Will I show it to people? Maybe, after I go back through and edit it. But right now, it’s escapism, and idealism, and I need that. I’ll layer the complexity in edits.

But from now on, my personal writing projects will all have:

Strong women

Disabilities

POC

Queer people

And I will do my best to not screw it up. Am I going to be perfect? Nope! I will do what I can to avoid harmful representation, including paying for sensitivity reads if I decide to seek publication. Before I even so much as query. Because right now, we need windows, and mirrors, and kaleidoscopes. We need hope, and we need pressure to be better, because the world around us isn’t going to make it easy on any of us. I don’t expect to always get it right, and I will listen to those who take the time to tell me when I’m doing it wrong. If my fantasy world can use magic, why can’t they have a mainly black/hispanic court? They know our world, it’s a portal fantasy, so they can play up the tropes, or adopt outsider ways, as they see fit. There are factions that don’t approve of how others take on outsider ways, and factions who think the outsiders have the right idea. And in their reality, the truth lies somewhere between both, and they’re both wrong and right to different degrees.

If I pull the complexity off, I will be very happy. We live in a world that wants simple, binary solutions. The world isn’t ever that easy, but I just hope we can avoid turning into a dystopian YA novel, or worse, a post apocalyptic horror show.

In the meantime, lovelies, take care of yourselves. Push yourself as kindly as you can to create, to be that better world. Don’t let yourself become complacent to hate and othering of people who aren’t just like you. Because no matter what differs on the surface, we all love people. We all want what’s best for those we care about. What we think is best for them might differ, but we cannot be complacent against injustice.

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
Robert F. Kennedy

#Pitchwars Lessons- SPOOKY Special Snowflakes vs Joe Everyman

These are two sides of the same coin:

a skull on an old looking coin

On one side, you want your character to fit the story, and your protagonist needs to have enough at stake where they can’t just say “screw this, I’m done” when the going gets tough. The Joe Everyman type character doesn’t. Anyone stuck in that situation would take the same actions, regardless of their backstory or growth. They tend to be static characters, who are stand ins for the audience en masse.

Your special snowflake, however, is the only character this could ever have happened to. If they weren’t there, everyone would be utterly screwed-The people enslaved, the ship exploded, the ancient curse fulfilled, whatever. They doubt their own skills and have to be constantly reassured of their own fabulousness before others even have reasons to believe in them. Their backstory is a key plot point that they don’t know until it’s revealed, and they always get their love interest.

How do you walk your character along the middle?

Flaws- Their flaws need to not be plot driven. That is, their flaws can, and should influence the choices they make, but those flaws shouldn’t, on their own, determine the plot. For example- In Star Trek, Next Generation, Georgie La Forge is bad with romances with women. That gets him in trouble with Leah Brahms when the real scientist doesn’t fit the same romantic mesh as a holodeck version of her did. But it’s not the only thing that causes problems for him, and it’s more an entertaining bit of character development behind the bigger Plot of whatever is going on on the ship that episode.

Ego-They have to have just enough ego to not need others for external validation except at the Dark Moment. They don’t think they’re perfect, nor do the people around them. They’re not an ass about it, but they’re not a doormat. They don’t bounce like a tennis ball between the two, either.

Dynamic-Your characters need to have the right balance of reactive/active/reinforcing going on for where they are in the novel. At first, in most novels, the protagonist is making 1. an inciting choice, followed by 2. a reactive series of choices, then 3. an active choice that doesn’t do what they expect. Making sure that the other characters aren’t on the exact same beat at the same time in that process makes the conflict stronger. Let the love interest make an active choice that backfires when your protagonist is still in a reactive phase, and it reinforces how much is out of their control. If they’re both in active mode, making choices, then they could just talk it out like adults, and we all know that doesn’t make for a good story.

Uniqueness-Your protagonist can’t be the only person ever with This Power. If they are the last, that needs to come with some heavy baggage. The lost princess needs to be the last one because the antagonists have killed all the other heirs to the throne. She’s next, if they discover who she is. Also avoid anything with obnoxious false colored eyes or excessive sparkling. Make them the last, or the latest, or one of a few currently. Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there’s a lot of potential slayers, only one is called at a time. Well, usually.

Nanowrimo starts tomorrow. The #Pitchwars agent round is later this week. How did your revisions go, folks? Inquiring minds are dying to know, are you still editing, or taking time off for fresh Nano-driven words?

 

Anything you haven’t seen in this series and want, let me know! I’ll have more time in November, so you may see more varied posts. 😉

#Pitchwars Lessons-Theory vs Application

So with the agent round almost here, I wanted to talk a bit about expectations. There’s a huge gap between knowing something intellectually and applying it to your work. You expect that you’ll get feedback, and it will tell you what to do, and you’ll just immediately see how to do what it suggests.

Except you won’t.

Most of the time, you’ll flutter and fuss and angst over how to do it before you start digging in. That’s normal, and I’d be lying if I didn’t have the same feeling every single time. I get it when I sit down to do my beatsheets, or to do a write up for a client. It’s like when your house is a mess-Dirty dishes, laundry, sweeping, mopping, taking out the trash, dusting, cleaning out the cupboards and closets, etc. It’s hard to know where to begin. If you start out dusting-cleaning up your spelling and punctuation- it’s just going to get messed up again when you start scrubbing other things.

Start with the biggest things first. If the house is on fire, figure out what parts can still be salvaged, and pull them into the fresh file. For example, I’m getting ready for Nanowrimo. I love it, I’ve done it for over a decade, and lost more than I’ve won. I decided that if I was going to try it this year, I was going to do it right. I wanted a project I was passionate about, with strong stakes, goals, conflicts, and motivations. So I started outlining a couple different projects, one practical, a romance that I could easily write up in the confines of nano. The second, a larger project that’s been stewing on the back burner since I failed at it my very first nano in ~2003.

Talk about a crapfire: This thing has one dimensional characters, a plot where I often skipped ahead to the next scene that seemed interesting, regardless of causality, and a romance angle that was, well, about as simplistic as it gets. The first version literally has 2 scenes that I want to keep. But I’ve always loved the concept of it, and wanted to redo it with the skills I’ve built over the intervening years.

I know what to do. Figure out the blurb/concept/stakes/characters. Put that into a beatsheet, develop the points, then break that into my chapter by chapter, scene by scene outline. Nothing I haven’t done time and again.

Only to discover why this story didn’t work the first time-My stakes weren’t high enough or timed correctly. It’s a portal story, and the portal wouldn’t even happen, following the normal beatsheet, until the end of chapter 5. Which is utterly ridiculous, and would cause any number of rejections. Imagine if Alice doesn’t fall down the rabbit hole in the first chapter, how dull it would be to listen to her sister drone on in her history lesson for 20,000 words?!

So I’m hitting the drawing board again, trying to find the real stakes, the core conflict that will pull her into the other world sooner, or add tensions before that, and give us a reason to care about this character and world.

I might end up doing the romance instead of this fantasy novel. At least there, the beatsheet works.

But there’s this gap, where even as an experienced editor, when I turn my eye to my own work, I have to sit there and gnash my teeth, and say “Well, that’s broken! ARGGGH!” before I can start fixing it.

Take heart- You are not alone. When the entries go up a couple weeks, we’ll be watching them for agent love, but really? I don’t care if agents request or not. I’m more interested in if the kitchen sink works, if the bed is comfortable, if everything in the house is, if not precisely gleaming, at least shiny enough that you don’t have the urge to put down plastic before you sit on the couch, you know?

#Pitchwars Lessons-Outlining in revisions

So I find it SUPER helpful when I’m revising a novel to reoutline it, and make sure everything got developed. It’s a great way to see where your story may have dropped plot threads and where the tension may lag. If you take 10k words to go from plot point A to B, chances are, you’re going to have trimming to do.

There are as many outlining methods as there are writers. Some swear by snowflake, but I find it doesn’t hit the right points for me. Instead, I use a kind of hybrid-A three act (sometimes four act) structure with key plot points. Victoria Schwab called these kind of points beads, that she then strings together.

First: list out all the major events. I find it helpful to start at the ending and say, “What caused This?” and work backwards. This keeps minor events that aren’t important out of the list.  Once I have this list, then I look at where they are in relation to the word count (up to where that event starts). This is where the beat sheet comes in handy. I divide the major events into each section of the beat sheet (I modified the ones from Jami Gold’s site and put them into each section, based on their role in the story. Then I can see, based on what the target word count should be, where I need to do cutting/adding to make the pacing flow the way I want.

*NOTE: This assumes your plot itself makes sense and is logically complete from beginning to end. If your plot itself is broken, you need to sort that out FIRST*

This can also be useful for developing your story in the first place.

Some things to keep in mind:

*Your subplot should effect the primary plot. If they’re falling in love, for example, their love interest needs to be involved in the ending in some way. If they can walk away from their love interest and that solves the plot, then your plot isn’t developed enough.

*It doesn’t need to be super precise with the word count. I’m shooting for ballparks. If I say something should happen around 10%, I’m fine if it lands at 12% or 8%. But if it’s not til 20%, I’m probably going to be grumpy, and have a lot of cutting to do.

*This outline can also be used to develop the synopsis, which makes your life MUCH easier! If an element isn’t important enough to include in that synopsis/outline, then it probably needs cut. It’s also useful to make sure your synopsis isn’t dumping too much backstory. If you hold up the novel and the synopsis side by side, you should be able to follow the progression of events in the same way, mostly.

Have you tried this method of editing before? Any tips/tricks, feel free to share them in the comments! I’m always evolving my process (As you should be as well!). You never know when you’ll find that one piece that just makes everything else gel for you!

We Interrupt these #Pitchwars Lessons for a RANT

I’m almost done with the second, very close pass on Hetal’s wonderful MS. Hopefully, by the time this posts in the morning, I will be. But I was up way too late with the debate to finish my blog post… So pretend I said something insightful here, would you?

I just.. I cannot with politics. I mostly stay quiet on the subject on my professional feeds, be it twitter or facebook or here, because that’s not what they’re FOR. My personal FB, well, that’s a whole ‘nother subject. But I found myself watching the debate, and getting so frustrated that someone so hostile, so manipulative, so awful, was even put up as the best thing the Republican party can provide. He literally gives my boyfriend nightmares and panic attacks, because he reminds him of Hitler. This is not a false equivalence notion either.

How did we, as a culture, get to the point where such incoherent, -phobic, sexist rhetoric (and I use that term VERY loosely) is spouted from a national podum? We want to be entertained? Is that it? Because I’m not entertained. I am NOT amused. I am horrified.

The sad part is? He’s not alone. The utterly damning thing is that there are still chunks of this country who think he is the better choice. In a sane world, there would not be a SINGLE state who gave Tr*mp their electoral votes. If you are anything other than straight, white, rich, male, and you vote for him? You’ve lost my respect, because you’re being used.

Back to writing lessons next week. Meanwhile, comments are set to moderated, I’ll approve anything that is civil as my time allows. I have 2 days to finish this chapter, the pitch, and the query, and a query for a crit partner, before I have more client work landing (I’m looking forward to this week and next week’s client work. Fabulous romance writers that give me an escape from the madness!). No drama.

 

#Pitchwars Lessons: Queries-Some Pet Peeves

I know I’ve given you guys advice on querying before. But I figure I’d add to that and throw some opinions out. Bear in mind, I’m not an agent (yet), though I’ve spent a couple years sorting queries for them, and I mainly see them in Pitchwars. Which, to be blunt, is a higher caliber than what I often saw in the general slushbox. I suspect most of that difference is that all new writers learn quickly to query. By the time you learn about contests, you’re more advanced, and the quality of the entries reflects that.

None of these things are hard and fast rules. I absolutely guarantee you could find examples of queries that got requests that did things I’m going to say to avoid. Why? Because agents don’t all have the same pet peeves, or sometimes they see a project as really marketable and connect with the voice, and ignore the query almost entirely. Amazing pages will almost always compensate for a lousy query, sure, but if they’re on the fence, a bad query will result in a rejection.

  • Don’t use rhetorical questions- They’re not a hook. People use these to start queries sometimes, and it just feels like filler. “Have you ever wanted to just pick up and leave your life behind?” would be better done as “Jesse walked out of the McMansion she’d bought with her husband without looking back. Armed only with a few thousand dollars, she hopped a bus to NYC to chase her dream of being a Broadway star.”
  • Get to your story first-Some agencies will have you putting the personalization (the quick bio) up front. I suggest putting it last unless they say otherwise, because it’s mostly to show you’re human and not a jerk. It’s not going to make them more disposed to requesting your novel if you like their website or share their love for Zebras. If they posted an #MSWL for it, you can mention it if it’s not obvious how that element plays in. Keep the personalization to a couple lines, tops, and keep it light. This isn’t the place to expose your secrets. Remember: This is a business letter, no different really than a cover letter attached to your resume. Don’t give them a reason to say no before seeing what you have to offer.
  • When it comes to comp titles, tread carefully. Too popular, and everyone’s using it. Too obscure, and they won’t know what you’re talking about. Your best bet? Don’t focus on plot. Find a nice, solid midlist title that fits the emotional themes, style, or character types instead.

I’ll leave you in suspense as to what next week’s post will be. It depends on when I finish these edits for #pitchwars. I wanted to have this pass half done by now, it’s a third done. My dayjob office moved locations over the weekend, so I expect things to be even more chaotic than usual there this week. If anyone needs me, I’ll get to you when I can, shout if it’s priority, please.

POV-Who’s head is it anyway?

Point of View covers a LOT of territory, so let me know if there are any parts of this you want me to get more in depth on, and I’ll try to work it in.

First: .

  • First person, present-I am writing a novel-This is most common in YA and MG. It gives it a stronger sense of immediacy, which is helpful in getting that younger sounding voice. (Scorpio Races, of course, uses this from two character’s perspectives.) Some adult novels use this too, especially ones that have a focus on action.
  • First person, past-I wrote a novel- Mostly used when you have an older version of the character telling their story. (Six-Gun Snow White)
  • Third person, present-Hetal is revising her novel
  • Third person, past -Hetal wrote her novel.-Most common in Adult novels.

There are, of course, exceptions. You also have the choice of limited-readers can only know what the character knows- vs omniscient-it can jump between people/events that the main character may or may not know- narration.

The Star Trek: Next Generation tie in novels, for example, are in third present omniscient, and so it mimics the effect, mostly, of looking through that camera lens. It gives you a little more insight to the thoughts and motivations of the characters than the TV episodes, but that’s basically just replacing the body language you’re missing from the screen. When you do this unintentionally, it’s called head-hopping, and gives me a headache to read, frankly. It makes it hard to get to know the characters, and often ends up making a mess in action scenes. Generally, if you want to do third person, stick with one or two people in limited POV. Past or present, whichever is more common for your genre and fits your story best.

What’s harder to figure out is who that I should be, or who needs to be holding the proverbial camera the most in third person. Your main character should be the person with the most at stake emotionally. This is why I always suggest keeping as few POVs as are ABSOLUTELY needed to tell the story. Sure, you can show what’s happening to the research team, the hot archeologist, his love interest, her cat, and the new intern who gets eaten by a grue… But some of these have more at stake, and the more POVs you have, the more chances for things to go wrong. Each person you take a POV to needs to earn their perspective, not just because it’s cool in this one spot.

Since this is already getting a bit unwieldy, I’m going to focus on the most common- First person past limited, and third person past limited.

A lot of YA does first person because it lets you FEEL a lot more of the emotions. When you’re a teenager, everything feels so much more immediate than once you get older. So this is great if your story has a lot of strong emotional situations causing internal conflict, and less external conflict. I hesitate to use it for stories with a lot of explosions or frequent battles, because that tends to end up with a lot of the POV character being knocked out, which is not nearly as fun in real life as novels tend to make it sound.

You’d think, from that, you’d want most adult romance novels in first person, right? Nope! Oddly, it’s a genre with the convention of dual close third narration. You follow the heroine, and the hero, but you’re not entirely seeing the world from their perspectives. It’s more like a camera that can read their body language as key thoughts, you just don’t get the ongoing narration. Close third is more useful, generally, than omniscient third. (For a good example of omniscient third, check most any TV tie in novel, like the Star Trek: The Next Generation ones.) You get a strong sense of the main characters, who they are, what they want, and how they feel, without getting bogged down in their internal monologue. In the case of romances, this lets you relate to the heroine/hero without getting in the way of the fantasy it’s building. The characters there are developed, but as part of those roles specifically.

Either POV, if you’re using more than one POV character, you have to craft different voices for them. You should be able to easily tell, without a chapter heading, which character you’re dealing with. It’s in the details-word choice, the details they notice, and the cadence of the sentences. We’ll go over this a bit more in a later post, but the way you weave the details in around the dialogue and into the action is really key to making a novel work well. This is where studying awesome books comes into play. I’m a firm believer that all the advice and help in the world won’t get you anywhere if you’re not reading. Yes, I know, it takes time, time you could use for your writing. Do it anyway. Read amazing books, read mediocre books. Just don’t read books you don’t enjoy. Life is too short for that.

More to come! (I’m not 100% sure what post is next at this point. Whatever I finish next, haha!)

#PitchWars Lessons: Character Arcs

Not the Advanced Readers Copies of books. I’m talking about your character’s emotional journey. As much as the external events of the story pull the character from one crisis to another, the emotional events of the story cause them to grow.

There are three people you need to focus on, typically:

Main Character(MC)-What makes someone the main character is that they are the PRIMARY DRIVER of the story. This isn’t always your sole point of view character, but the more you take away from them, the worse for your story, generally. They are the one with the most to lose, and their growth is a result of this. This is something I think Brenda Drake does well in Library Jumpers, for example. Gia discovers the magic of books, finds love, and finds danger, and grows as a result of all these things. The Gia of the beginning of the story, without those experiences, would not have been able to handle the climax of the story.

Love Interests(LI)-Almost all stories have these, because there’s nothing like intense emotion to heighten your tension. Love, more so than simply physical attraction, forces people to grow. Think of it like putting together a jigsaw: The first time you tried, it was overwhelming and you thought, there’s no way. Then you figured out you could put the edges together, and use the picture on the box to give you an idea of what it looks like. But you still have to figure out where each of the middle pieces go. Depending on the relationship, some puzzles are easier to solve. Some pieces click into place easily, other pieces take work, and others still will never fit right. Like, I love Owen dearly, but there are some parts of our relationship that we acknowledge are flawed. That’s okay. You don’t want everything perfect, you’ll get bored. Your love interest needs to grow almost as strongly as your MC, to stay worthy of them.

Antagonist (A)- Love and hate are two sides of the same proverbial coin-You can’t hate someone if you aren’t emotionally invested in them. If you, truly, don’t care about someone, you aren’t going to invest the energy in hating them. Feeling sorry for them, thinking they’re an ass, sure, but hating takes a lot of energy. To have a strong antagonist, there needs to be something they want, something they’re growing towards. The key? What they want most cannot happen if the MC and LI get their ways. To make them believable, they have to be at least as developed as the love interest, without making them too sympathetic that we don’t like your MC. If you’re having trouble with an antagonist that feels one dimensional, try seeing the story from their POV instead. If they were your protagonist, what would they think they’re trying to accomplish? How would they justify their actions?

So how to do this?

Go back to that outline, or make one: look at each scene, and ask yourself: What do I learn about MC/LI/A here? What situation, as a whole, ties them together? If your MC or Antagonist could just say “You know what? This is too much, I’m done.” and walk away unscathed past ~20%, you’ve got a major problem with their motives. They need to be in over their heads, and it needs to be intense for them. Whether the plot is full of explosions or personal revelations, it doesn’t matter. Your book will have a much stronger chance in the market if these characters have an emotional connection and the reader feels that.

Once you do that, look at how they bind together. They can’t get too comfortable with each other-If the LI and MC sit down for coffee to discuss their relationship, it needs to have tension still. If the Antagonist is a factor in that tension, all the better. Your MC should be willing to risk conflicting more with the Antagonist to make things work with LI, and vice versa.

Questions? Shout!

Next week: POV!

#PitchWars Lessons: Genre Lengths

Genre lengths are guidelines, but it’s to your advantage to try to follow them. (As always: All advice is a tool, not prescription. There are exceptions to every bit here.)

  • Publishing is a business full of risks. They aren’t going to push the envelope for a debut author. They’re already taking a risk on publishing a book with a new author. You have to earn your way, via having good sales, to pressing the envelope. This is also why it can be helpful to write solidly within your genre, and target it towards what a specific group of publishers tends to like (Especially in romance, where each publisher tends to have their guidelines known, they’re not likely to take on something that can’t follow their basic instructions.)
    • Readers have certain expectations. In category romance, especially, it needs to fit with the other books on their shelves of that line. If you go too long, they might think the story’s boring. If it’s too short, they might not feel they’re getting their money’s worth.

      So what to do you do when your Ms is too long? Judicious cutting.

      • Reoutline with your ending in mind. Every scene should add to your character growth, plot tension, and world building. Make sure they do. Any scenes that don’t, either fix that, or cut them. Every single scene we see SHOULD be essential to the one before it and the one after it. We want the highlights reel. The beginning and middle most often have this problem, so go through and make sure you’re not starting too early. Eliminate flashbacks and trim any place you over describe.
      • Do you have more than 2 points of view? Consider cutting them down. Make sure that nothing repeats, and that they’re really needed. You need to know whose story it is, and the reader needs to be able to follow that.

What to do when your MS is too short?

  • Look at your pacing. Is it too fast? Add more description, carefully, and if it’s first person, show your characters’ thoughts more at key points.
  • If your pacing is fine, consider if you need to add a subplot or a more complex plot. Nothing should come easy to your characters. If they just swipe the keys from the guard and walk out of the prison, that’s too easy, there’s not enough tension. Always be thinking, what is the worst thing that could happen at this moment to the character that will progress the story? Not every story has enough meat to it to be a novel. You might have a short story or novella on hand instead.
  • Look at your character arc. I’ll go over this more in detail next week, but you need space to develop your characters and their relationships, so having their arc and growth is absolutely key.

Next week- Character Arcs!