About those Minor/Supporting/Secondary Characters...

Rich characters to interact with the H/H (hero/heroine) or lack of them can make or break a story. Finding the right balance is key, but how is that done?

The answer is study. And that's where knowing what publishing company and line you're targeting comes in handy.

For instance, in shorter books--category/series of 50,000-55,000 words--it's imperative to keep the H/H together as much as possible. Focus on them, and have the supporting characters there to support them--or play a little matchmaking, as sometimes happens. You'll be glad you did and won't end up like I did with my first book, going back to rewrite scenes where the heroine spent time talking to the hero's step-brother, instead of interacting with the hero!

There is a little addendum to this. In category romance, each line (i.e. Desire, Intrigue, Superromance), there are certain things that set them apart. A good example is Harlequin American Romance, which centers a lot around small towns. A few quirky and memorable characters, thrown in for balance can be a good thing. Just don't let those minors take over the story or the action/dialogue between the H/H.

In longer books, especially single title (80,000 words and up), there's a lot more room to add deeper and more interseting secondary characters. So much so that these characters often have subplots of their own in which their conflict is introduced and solved by the end. Just remember to solve theirs first, before solving the big conflict between the main H/H of the story.

So who makes good secondary characters? Family members, including parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Best friends of both sexes can add a lot, especially when needing to show that the heroine doesn't hate men, just that particular hero. (grin) Co-workers and roommates can work well. A short discussion or even a few lines from a secondary character can give a hero or heroine a new slant on the relationship he or she is dealing with...or battling.

If you're not sure how to find the balance, read. Read the types of books you want your story to be and pay attention to what's going on. Using a highlighter to mark where secondary characters are involved is one idea of how to single out those sections.

Last, but not least, be careful that secondary characters don't take over the book, outshining the hero and heroine. Give them quirks to make them stand out, but don't leave the H/H lingering in the wings. It's them readers want to know and follow through the trials and tribulations of love.


Once upon a time in a land far, far away all our favorite romance characters were from the Ken and Barbie School of Romance. You know what I mean, don’t you? Tall, dark and handsome hero’s with strong, broad shoulders and sexy dimples framing their devil-may-care-smiles. They usually had a smattering of soft dark curls on their chests, throbbing body parts, and really, really deep pockets. (I’m talking a place to put their massive wealth now.) This described nearly all the hero’s from doctors to cowboys to bad-boy pirates and everything between.

And heroines, oh my goodness. They were always petite and gorgeous with long flowing hair and tightly fitted bodices, nurse’s uniforms or stewardess dresses. These garments covered their voluptuous bosoms and tiny waists. Often these women were penniless orphans in need of a big strapping man to take care of them. We rooted for these ladies, envied them and sighed when they finally got their happily-ever-after.

Well, that's old school romance and there's nothing wrong with that. We read to escape reality so it is perfectly okay to curl up with the beautiful people. But now we have a choice. We have broadened our horizons as readers and writers. No longer do hero’s and heroine’s have to look like cookie cutter characters. Today, they come in all shapes and sizes. They can be vampires, chefs, construction workers or athletes. They can be wheelchair bound or blind or poor, plus-sized people who get swept up in a romance that moves us to tears. Remember, we are limited only by our imagination.

Anyone ever read Walking After Midnight by Karen Robards? The heroine described the hero as Frankenstein for the first half of the book? Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer? The hero was dirt poor. Who are some of your favorite characters who are a bit different?

Whether you’re old school or new school always try to write compelling characters that readers fall in love with. In the end, that really is all that matters.


Where Do Ideas & Eye-Dears Come From?

I have always been a person who pays attention to details. Wondering who, what, why, where and when, without even knowing it. What is this, how does it work, why do I need one, where would I use it and who are you to tell me I need it in the first place?

Or I have a problem and I'll think about it until I come up with a solution. "Necessity is the mother of invention," for writers must be creative in their plots, places and character personalities in order to avoid getting stale and boring.

Writers are usually naturally curious. We see all the little parts and pieces of the world around us and try to make sense out of it all. We like sharing our little discoveries and might tend to embellish them as we go.

Everything you experience in life can be a story, and everyone you know can be a character for your next book, if mixed with a little imagination. You see a breathtakingly beautiful sunset, or walk under the milky moonlight and imagine sharing it with your special someone. You hear an achingly sweet love song, see an eye-popping billboard or go to the heart rending funeral of a child, and the old brain just starts ticking.

And sometimes they sound a little like this:

I know someone who is a Wichita lineman. So I got to thinking, what would it be like to live with someone who is often gone for days, weeks or months at a time? What would it be like to work in freezing temperatures for 12-14 hours a day so that someone else could be warm? Or climbing up on wet power poles with the wind still whipping from a recent storm? What about having to leave your warm home, go cross country, and sleep in a pickup truck during a snow storm because there are no hotels with power yet? What would it be like to miss your family, to not be there when your child begins to walk, or says Da Da for the first time? What if your spouse got tired of being a single parent and left you while you were gone helping other families? How would you respond? What would you be thinking? Would you chuck the job and try to put your family back together? And if so, what kind of job would you look for now? Or would you put others before yourself and continue to help those in need while your world falls apart?

Make him look like your heroic macho dream and you now have an idea, conflict, black moment, life changing decisions and a story is born. All you need to finish it is the happily ever after and a little work. (Ok, a lot of work!)

Every writer is different and every writer sees the world through their own rose colored glasses. So put on those specs and pay attention, you've got an idea for your next story. But don't let me read my idea in your new book!

Don't Forget the Flaws! (Penny Rader)

I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand perfect people. Or perfect characters. Why? Perfect people remind me just how imperfect I am and perfect characters are, well, boring. Flawed characters are so much more interesting. They learn and grow over the course of the story.

This is what Connie Flynn has to say in Building Three-Dimensional Characters: Give your central characters a fatal flaw. While greed, envy, vanity and the rest of the seven deadly sins are perfect flaws for villains, virtues carried to extreme usually works best for protagonists. For instance, a nurturing nature can become controlling or smothering. A lighthearted attitude can become irresponsibility. If a more deadly flaw is chosen, it must be well motivated. In the villain, this flaw is a vice carried to extremes. In both cases, the fatal flaw is the trait that has the potential to bring about the character's downfall. http://members.cox.net/cflynn11/articles_tips1.html

Laurie Schnebly Campbell has a terrific article you might want to read, Creating Your Hero's Fatal Flaw. She uses the personality typing called enneagrams. There are nine of them and each one has a fatal flaw built into it. Check out her workshop: http://www.booklaurie.com/workshops_flaw2.php

Here are a few more articles you might find helpful:The Fatal Flaw – The Most Essential Element for Bringing Characters to Life by Dara Marks

Being, Doing, Becoming: The Heroic Strength, the Heroic Flaw, the Heroic Journey by Alicia Rasley

Flawed Characters and Why We Love Them by Kris Cramer

Fiction Writing: Flaw Your Character by a guy named Harry

Not sure how to go about deciding what your character’s flaw is? Try this exercise from Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass:

Step 1: What is your protagonist’s defining quality; that is, how would anyone describe your protagonist. What trait is most prominent in his personality? What kind of person is she?

Step 2: Objectively speaking, what is the opposite of that quality?

So, who are your favorite flawed characters? Do you have any tips for creating them?

WARA does D.C.

Not to overwrite Pat's great post, but I had to share.

Jessica Matthews, Mills & Boone Medical author
Reese Mobley
at the eHarlequin PJ Party??

Thanks to Holly Jacobs for sharing her photos on Facebook!

Ya gotta get a thick skin

Writing is a personal experience unlike anything else I've ever done. Writing a story is pouring your heart and soul onto paper. It's almost a secret life. We authors sit alone, typing away, trying to craft the best possible prose and plot. Honestly, we all love what we've written. We know we have talent and we know it's a good story.

Now for the hard part. Someone else has to read it. What if they don't like it? Oh, what do they know, anyway. Our baby is perfect.

Having someone else read your work is important. After all, that's what you want, isn't it. You want thousands and thousands of people to read your work. So you have to start somewhere.

You have have your mother, your daughter or your best friend read it, but they love you and they are going to love what you've written. They'll try not to hurt your feelings.

Get someone who doesn't love you to read it if you really want to know if it's good. Tell them you want constructive criticism. Insist on it, and be prepared to listen. Yes, it hurts, but it this person tells you, "I didn't understand why the heroine did such and such." You quickly explain why.
No. No. No. If your reader didn't get it, you missed the mark as a writer. Other readers, editors and agents may not get it either.

Time to toughen up your skin and revise that beautiful baby. A gem is just a rock in the dirt until someone picks it up and polishes it.

I've off at a conference and won't be able to respond to your comments. Please forgive me.


How Often to change POV

POV (Point of View) is a writer’s term to define a reader’s experience to a story. The reader will become involved in the character’s viewpoint. POV has many options.

First Person
Second Person
Third Person

These techniques could be discussed in-depth in the future. The topic for today’s blog is “When to Change POV?”

Change POV at the end of every chapter? Or switch after every scene? Can a writer change POV if the character changes settings?

I use the method of POV change from scene to scene. Using the characters with the most at stake and having the most to lose or gain at that moment. I write suspense, so there might be a point during the scene, I’ll change POV. With a traumatic or scary event involving more than one character during that scene.

For Example: I usually have the heroine’s need first. I try to remain in that POV during that scene. Second scene will be the Villains. Then back to my heroine in the third scene. If the character POV changes during that scene, it usually is through dialogue. I call this pacing. Some writers use the word rhythm to the story.

Don’t switch POV too often though. This is known as head hopping. Your story will take away the emotional excitement the reader is experiencing. Once this happens the reader’s involvement with your characters will lose interest. The reader may put the book down, never knowing how your characters work out their conflict, or knowing how you bring your story to it’s happy ending.

Once you know your craft, the transition can be done smoothly keeping the reader’s interest from chapter to chapter, scene to scene, reaching the happy ending. POV has many faces. Use the one that works best for you. Point of View takes practice. The more you write and read your story out loud, you will find what Point of View technique will work the best for you. Sharon.

Self Editing Check List--the Dirty Dozen:

I blogged a few days ago and then realized that some examples might be nice of things to watch for when self-editing. So, I whipped out a dozen for your amuzement.

Attend to these, but in no order of importance:

  1. A beverage--Gotta have one--editing is thirsty business
  2. Pleasant surroundings--Gotta have one--editing is hard enough
  3. Darlings--words and phrases that are so clever you don't want to get rid of them--but they don't fit the story--store them in a darlings file for another story--not this story
  4. Repeated words or phrases--when we're on a role we can get hung up using one word or phrase repeatedly for that writing session--Do some theasaurus work.
  5. Spell-check lies and substitutes--(1)Spell check may not know the word you are using--add it to your dictionary(2) Spell check sometimes substitues words it thinks you mean--and you don't(3)Spell check may not be working--see above amuzement for amusement....
  6. Cut, Copy, and Paste violations--the problem with moving things around is that sometimes the move isn't as seamless as we thought it was, but we don't double check it. Sometimes little orphan words or phrases are left behind making absolutely no sense to a reader.
  7. Characterization uh-ohs--characters all sounding the same in speech or movements.
  8. Grammar check garbage--grammar check doesn't know what you are trying to say--don't believe it always is correct--it isn't. I split the infinitive. Also a bad move.
  9. Passive/Active--Contrary to popular writology, stories need a little passive voice to rest the reader between bouts of action. Make sure they are there and in good interesting shape.
  10. Grade level--much of the world doesn't read, but that doesn't mean the readers are simple. Don't only write simple sentences. Do a check once in a while and find the grade level you're writing at.
  11. Paragraph and sentence blahs--Paragraphs and sentences that are always the same size become very hard for a reader to follow. Vary them.
  12. Left out words or substitued words that seem the same--like life for like.

The Process: Beginning a WIP

• Decide on the genre and sub-genre.
• Decide on the approximate word length, basic market aiming for with the manuscript.
• Decide on the working title.
Build a working notebook for the story. My notebooks are arranged in this order: Photos of Characters, Character Grid, Character Contrasts Chart, Story Progression & Outline spreadsheet, setting details, clothing details, occupation details, vehicle details, etc., and printed copies of each chapter.
• Create a basic storyline theme in 100 words or less.
• Choose names for the main characters and most important side characters.
• Fill in the Character Grid for the heroine, hero, and villain (if there is one) with information as it pertains to each character under each of their columns. The information includes the Inciting Incident, Long Range Goal, Short Range Goal, Character Flaw, Relationship Barrier/Conflict, Black Moment, and Realization.
• Find photos of all characters, particularly the main characters to visually refer back to for details. I scan the photos into my computer, use Publisher to create a sheet with all the characters, save that to my manuscript’s file, and print it out for my story’s working notebook.
• Fill in the Character Contrasts Chart with very basic details for each of the main characters: name, nickname, age, height, hair color/style, facial unique features if any, color of eyes and anything unique, unique body details, sound of voice or accent, some personality details (birth order, family, education, work attitude, strengths, weaknesses, favored style of dress, occupation, marital status). Sometimes I fill it all in to get a “feel” for the characters. Sometimes I fill in part of it and maybe add to it as I write and the characters reveal themselves to me.
• Set up the Story Progression & Outline spreadsheet and fill in basic plot elements to aim for in specific chapters, remembering that anything can be changed and moved to another spot. I use a basic spreadsheet set up for what I commonly write, 5-7 chapter novellas of 25,000-35,000 words or 12 chapter novels of 50,000-60,000 words. I refer to the spreadsheet for the basic plot flow elements that might occur in a specific chapter, and I fill in the chart as I finish each chapter with what actually happened, who was involved, setting(s), and when (my story timeline). Since I work on more than one storyline at a time, I can not only read the previous chapter to get my head back into the story again but also I can use the basic summary of each previous chapter to do the same thing.
• Decide on basic setting details and find photos for visual referencing; such as sample ranches with building layouts, the main characters’ places of residence (house, condo, etc.), offices involved (actual main buildings in a particular city for details, office furniture, etc.), scenery details (mountains, beaches, particular details to an area), vehicles (pickup trucks, cars). I’m a very visual person and having pictures helps me with descriptions. Sometimes I scan in the detailed photos and print them out, sometimes I just put the pictures from magazines, etc. into my notebook, and sometimes I just write down the details I might need and put that in the notebook. Maybe I use the information and maybe I don’t, but it helps to have a basic idea of details before I begin. And I add to these details when necessary as they come up while actually writing the story.
• Do basic research for specific information I will deal with in the storyline: occupation details and appropriate lingo (cowboys, ranching, common lingo; fraud investigation, how it’s done, what is involved, terminology), time period details (type of dress, furniture, inventions up to that time period, social manners, language, etc.).
• Sometimes I add a spreadsheet that details specific items for this manuscript such as overall deadline and chapter deadlines, because most of the work I write and sell is sold either as a whole finished product, or as a whole product but published by chapters. If the manuscript is submitted somewhere else with the hopes of a sale, I list where it was sent, when, and any responses. And for my business records, I list the type of payment or amount to be received (or received).
• WRITE. Actually sit down and plant your hands on the keyboard and let them fly as you write the story.

NOTE: The charts I use are all available as pdfs or Word or Excel documents on my website www.starlakayeromance.com

Self-Editing—it’s a trust issue.

Self-editing is the approval or disapproval of every word you have written. As the writer, you determine whether each word is correct in description, depth of importance, value, placement, and nuance.

Unfortunately, writers are often torn between two extremes. Their secret egotist believes they have talent, but that pesky insecurity angster keeps looking at her feet, heartsick sure that there isn’t a square inch of talent in her whole body. The self-editor with the ego says, “Break all rules, this is my book and I’m writing my story and everyone will love it. I’ll be published in no time.” The angster self-editor says, “You don’t know what you’re doing and the last ten people you spoke to about it pretty much said the same. Hang up your pen and sneak wordlessly out of the room if there is another writer in it. Don’t touch the chocolate on the way out.”

Obviously, we have to learn to trust ourselves to learn the sacred tricks of editing our own writing. Why must we do it ourselves? Because, we are the only ones who know what we are trying to say and mean with our stories. We must believe in ourselves enough to know that when we are offered the fantastic opinions and wonderful images of others, whether they will merge seamlessly with our story. The quickest way to ruin a story is to re-write it using every reader’s suggestions. Instead of creating something as beautiful as a forest, we have nothing left but the beaten earth of a fairground where many have trod. A writer must have the courage to winnow out undesirable suggestions and the trust in their own judgment to be able to determine which idea, notion, or detail to keep or reject. We must guard against reduncy (or saying the same thing three times over as I just did).

One the other hand, a writer must be experienced enough in the world to realize that they do not know everything. That some of the best ideas have come from someone else; that the writer does not have a corner on the market for good ideas, colorful words and phrases, or the correct use of some words. Writers can be so at one with their story that they leave out significant words, never realizing that their brains are filling in the blank spot where a particular word should be. Readers tend to notice things like that. Writers can live their world so close to their imaginary world, that they know details without having to explain them to a reader. Publishing editors and readers tend to notice things like that. Thus, the reader never gets a chance to know the characters because the writer does not think more information is necessary. Writer's minds are filling in the crucial portents and details, but not communicating them.

Many writers edit as they write and end up with an almost finished product that needs little polishing. The amount of editing often depends upon the writing experience of the writer. Other writers lay in the bones of a story and their editing process adds words and excitement to the story. Editing is like cooking eggs. Too little and the integrity of the experience falls far short of expectation. Too much and the texture is too rubbery and nasty to have a joyful experience.

One editing process we don’t often think about in the self-editing process is our own SELF. Writers are better off when they can distance themselves or take the SELF out of the editing equation. Take the ego out of the experience and park her on the shelf for a while and let the integrity of communicating with all of the unknown people who will want to know the story be thought of as the most important thing. For my own experience, that means time has to pass so that my enthusiasm for the characters isn’t so immediate (kind of like dating), that I can see the story for all it is—faults and all, clean it up, clarify it, and still love it (kind of like marriage).

It is worth the time and much less wearing on the spirit to learn to trust your self-editing. Like writing or learning to ride a bicycle. Self-editing takes time and practice to get any good and or fast at it (and hopefully very little bloodshed).

Can This Book Be Saved?

Remember those articles in women’s magazines that asked the burning question, “Can this marriage be saved?” Sometimes I have to ask myself a similar question, and then decide whether or not to finish the book.

A lot of factors play in that decision. Is it your first book? Has the market you aimed it for undergone changes? Have you learned information about building plot or creating characters that tells you to rethink your story? Will the book require a major revamp that would take more time than creating a new book from scratch?

If it’s your first book, you might want to stick with it. A first book is a huge learning experience, and the confidence you get from telling your story from beginning to end is one of the biggest boosts you’ll ever receive.

If the market has changed, you can search for a new one. Or you can see if the book can be tailored to the new requirements. If you’ve grown in your craft, you might want to finish the book out while making notes for changes in your second draft.

A major revamp of a book takes time and energy. Unless an editor has requested the changes, if people you trust tell you this baby just ain’t flyin’, you might want to bury it and start with something fresh.

I have a heavily sensuous futuristic romance that features a ménage a trois. There are three and a half chapters written on it. It has too many characters in it, the consummation scenes are in the wrong place, and it was written as an attempt to begin with physical intimacy and move to emotional intimacy. Oh, and it has a hidden baby subplot in it as well.

Since it’s not the book of my heart and might be difficult to market, it’s a good bet I won’t finish out Never Love in Vain. But boy, it’s hard to let all that work go. Maybe, I’ll keep it in my files one more year….

Setting and Meeting Goals

Many have thought about writing a book--thought about it for weeks, then months, and then years but never wrote it. What is the difference between those who think and those who do? Mainly planning and obstinate doggedness. One way to get that story idea into a finished manuscript and then a published book is to get organized: Set and Meet goals.

This can be trickier than it seems. How many of us have said, “Later today I will outline the first half of the book” or “Tomorrow I will write five pages” and never got close to doing either. I’d have to raise my hand as doing so. To dodge this problem you need to craft a carefully thought out plan that you know you will commit to. Commitment is perhaps the most important ingredient in meeting your goals, so think long and hard about what is important to you as a writer and your writing career.

Here are a few points that may help you get started.

1. Set Priorities: Be it for the next book you mean to write or what you hope to accomplish in the next year you have to break down the tasks involved into manageable “bites” so that you don’t get sidetracked or overwhelmed. Decide what is most important be it writing a book, getting an agent, selling to a publisher (often it is all of these) and then set goals to achieve success.

2. Break goals into yearly, monthly, and weekly parameters.
Think of your goals for the year or a particular manuscript as a color by number book cover. Each time you achieve a goal in the plan you can color in that part of the design. When you’ve finished them all you have the book that goes with the cover.

Let’s say you’ve one manuscript ready to be submitted and you have a story idea for your next book. Your yearly goals could be:
• Get manuscript accepted by agent or publisher
• Write the new book

Now you need to break these down into steps. I sometimes have to sketch these out and then put them into monthly and weekly goals. The weekly goals should be small and incremental, that is they are parts that you build on to reach the monthly and yearly goals. They are part of the larger project broken into steps.
To get a manuscript accepted by an agent/publisher you have to
• Write a synopsis
• Do research to chose an agent or publisher
• Write a query letter
• Do all those things again if you get a rejection

To get that next book written you have to:
• Sketch basic plot
• Develop main characters
• Determine setting
• Write rough outline
• Research as necessary
• Set writing schedule

Take the above goals and determine which you want to meet the first month, etc. and which will be ongoing. Divide them into a workable timetable. Some are going to be reoccurring, like the writing schedule.

3. Have achievable realistic goals. Take a hard look at your slate of goals. Have you taken on too much in each time category? Have you allowed room for inevitable distractions? Are these goals what you truly want to accomplish and in the order that will help you achieve the most success at meeting them?

Meeting small goals builds confidence and enables you to take on larger ones. A single goal of “I will write a book” will doom it. It takes from two months to a year or more to write a book. Most people need the satisfaction of meeting goals in much shorter spans of time. A goal of “I will write a paragraph or two about the heroine’s goal, motivation, and conflict” is much more attainable and leads to the next step--doing the same for the hero.

4. Make your goals concise. A goal that is a broad generalizations makes it difficult to meet and easy to avoid. Stating exactly what is to be done is more likely to result in your doing it. “I will determine the setting--the dates and place of my story. ” It’s easy to know when you have met this goal.

5. Write goals down. Goals that aren’t written down are more easily forgotten, more easily escape our memories. I not only write them down but put them by the computer to keep me on task. It’s easy to put them out of mind with out a reminder. Not so easy if you see them all day, every day.

6. Accept Failure. Murphy’s Law is like Newton’s law on gravity, it happens to all of us. Murphy’s Law states “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” There will always be something that will interfere with your goals--little and big problems; short and long delays. If you learn to shrug it off, put your fingers to the keyboard, and get back on track you will reach the goal. Attitude is key and a positive one will always accomplish more than a negative one. “I can’t” usually means “I won’t” Vent your frustration and then get those fingers moving on the keyboard.

7. Persist. Success with goals, with anything, is 90% or more persistence. BICHOK--Butt in chair, Hands on keyboard. There are many twists and turns, even back tracking on the way to finishing that manuscript and publication. The old Frank Sinatra song “High Hopes” says it all. In part “Just what makes that little old ant; Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant? Anyone knows an ant can’t move a rubber tree plant. So any time your gettin’ low stead of lettin’ go, Just remember that ant. Oops there goes another rubber tree plant!” http://www.lyricsfreak.com/f/frank+sinatra/high+hopes_20055241.html

8. Celebrate. Put a line through each goal as you meet it. Put stars by it--whatever works for you. Have a glass of wine. I was going to say play a Free Cell game but we all know where that leads and it’s not to meeting goals. Wine is safer. Chocolate is even better.

9. Stay focused. Stick to your goals. Adjust them, redistribute them over your time line when it’s necessary but don’t loose sight of the end goal. Work your way through the obstacles you confront on your way to it and you WILL reach it!

Everyone works in their own way. What works for me may not work for you. Take the ideas that will help you and please, share yours for setting and meeting goals.

I’ve now meet my goal to blog on Setting and Meeting Goals. Pass those M&M’s!

Nothing like a little S & S to keep you up all night

Light a candle and turn down the lights. Key the sultry, sexy sounds of Barry White as we get ready for a little S & S. I’m here to tell you that after a long, hot day at work there is nothing better than crawling between your cool, 300 count cotton sheets and enjoying some S & S with your characters. Kinky? Nah. Intrigued? Hopefully.

The S & S I’m referring to is Scene and Sequel. Honestly now, what did you think it was? (wink-wink) Usually, the only initials that turn me on this much come bagged and promise not to melt in your hand so you’ll have to pardon me if I get a little excited about S & S. It’s very exciting subject matter.

Scene and Sequel is the reaction to the action in the previous chapter. Huh? It’s the one-two punch that keeps you reading long after you should have gone to bed. If it’s done well enough for you to “just read one more chapter” before you turn out the lights, then feel free to blame those little baggies under your eyes the next morning on S & S. Who cares if you were so caught up in the novel that you need an extra layer of Cover Girl or another swipe of Maybelline for your long, hot day at work? You can go to bed early the next night. I promise you if you blame your current disheveled look on S & S—no one will ask. They wouldn’t dare.

A huge share of popular romance novels employ the S & S technique. Hooks (Scenes) are meant to keep us turning pages. Sequels are the payoff—answers and reactions to the questions/situations just posed.

But, not every book has them. Some authors use them all the time and some never use them. In the ones that don’t, there is some sort of segue, but the usual Scene and Sequel as we know it is missing. These books can be just as fascinating because you know in your heart that eventually the current dilemma will be resolved, but I like to know right away what happened when a gun is fired, or the brakes on their vintage convertible no longer work or even something as simple as your heroine taking a pregnancy test. I gotta know. (See the baggies under the eyes paragraph above.)

I do my best to utilize the S & S method (uh-oh, I hear Barry White again) every chapter. If you’ve never tried it then I suggest you give it a whirl. Who knows, it might be the key to keeping your readers up all night. Now go enjoy a little S & S with a tall, dark and handsome hero or heroine of your dreams.


How to Come Up with a Story Idea.

When I saw this title I had to laugh. Most of us have way more ideas for stories than we’ll ever have time to write. I always say the difference between an idea and a book is about 55,000 words.

I was driving to visit my brother in Montana several years ago and I noticed this car on the interstate. Kind of beat up, but the same kind of car my daughter once drove so that caught my attention. Do you know how many times between Denver and Cheyenne I saw that car. Maybe 15. I’m pass them, twenty minutes later they go around me. I blow past a gas station and there was that car just pulling back onto the highway. We even stopped for lunch at the same fast food joint.

In the back of my mind a story began to form and I started playing the What if game. Want to play?
Here goes.
What if: the driver of the beat up car in on the run? Why?
She’s a single mother running away from an abusive relationship. Or-what’s your scenario?

What if, the hero is in the big SUV, keeps seeing her and wonders about her.
Why? Her little boy reminds him of the son he lost in a car accident. Or-what’s your scenario?

What if they stop at the same rest stop and he sees someone trying to take her child away from her?
Because they’re thugs hired by her ex-husband to kidnap the child and the hero saves the day and winds up taking them in his car.
Because her junker won’t start and she begs him to get her out of there.

Okay, that’s how you play the What If game. For me, this is where stories ideas grow into novels. What about you? How does your process work?


So you thought writing a book was easy. There are too many things involved and too many things to learn to keep it from being easy. Information changes, editors (and publishers!) come and go, and the market changes almost daily.

But you have an idea for a book. Great! Where to begin? Is plotting necessary? What about minor characters? How much should they play a part in the story? And one more important thing: How to keep writing until THE END.

Or maybe you don't have an idea and need some help. WARA is here!

We hope everyone has been enjoying and learning here on Bits & Bytes. We have! We've discovered it's fun and rewarding to share what we know and get questions answered. We hope our visitors are discovering the same. Don't be shy! You can just to say hi or ask a question if you have one. Someone will find an answer.

Pat will kick off the first topic tomorrow, so don't forget to stop by then. Dates each of us will be posting are on the right.

Enjoy the first half of July!