Tough Talk

Get advice on making your manuscript the best it can be.

A sure-fire way to sabotage your editor

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It’s helpful when you send me a manuscript along with a note that details areas you struggled with. Concerns you have about how readers may receive a character’s decision. A GMC listing for each character.

It’s even useful to know you are shooting for, say, a May release.

But when the manuscript arrives with a specific deadline less than a month into the future? That puts me under the gun to make sure you can hit that mark, and consequently, I catch myself saying, “Nah, I won’t mention that. It’s too much to pile on. She only has ten days to turn these edits around, after all.” (more…)

Where did I go wrong?

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Where did I go wrong?

Tired of rejections in your publishing quest? Chances are good it’s not because your story had an epilogue, or your brother put a jinx on it when he said “romance is dying as a niche” during dinner at Olive Garden last week, or a stranger sitting in a  cubicle with no view on the seventh floor wants to ruin your day.

My money is on something you did.

So, here are four of the prevalent, hard-to-explain mistakes I’ve seen at Crimson: (more…)

Subtle sabotages every author does at least once

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Subtle sabotages every author does at least once

Pull up your latest manuscript and get ready to do some searching. Chances are good you have some phrases in there that are stabbing your story in the back.

And the sad thing is, they look so innocent. Then again, so do termites, and just look at the damage they can do:

“I don’t know why, but X.”  This little freeloader, and its baby brother, “I can’t explain it, but I just x,” is a favorite go-to when authors have painted either their character or themselves into a corner. It’s code for, “well, I don’t know what just happened here, but I’ll use feelings to excuse reason and get back on track.” Frankly, it’s lazy. If you don’t know where to take the story, take some time to visit with your characters off the page. Learn more about what makes them tick, how they think, what they want, and put those traits in action to solve this moment. “I don’t know why” is a cry for help that your story hasn’t supported this conclusion, action, decision, emotion the character is about to dive into. (more…)

Short and sweet: Don’t do this

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Short and sweet: Don’t do this

Amazon is now offering readers a chance to report spelling and punctuation errors, and the retailer will pull down books with egregious problems, which sends fear into the heart of every writer.

English is a complex language, and even copy editors sweat the details a lot of times. I fret over punctuation in emails, lest someone call me a fraud, and still mistakes creep through.

Well, that’s life.

But the kind of mistakes that attract wholesale quality accusations usually stem from ignorance—said more delicately, you didn’t know it was wrong to correct it in the first place. The biggest offense? (more…)

3 conflicts that don’t work (and how to fix them!)

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3 conflicts that don’t work (and how to fix them!)

My stance on instalove situations is well known among romance writers, so I probably don’t need to sell you on that opinion today.

You get it. The hero and heroine can’t be on the same page emotionally. They need an interpersonal reason—a personality quirk, competing goals—that keeps them apart. And the next step is where many authors stumble.

Just what exactly is worthy of keeping two people from falling in love? Here are the top answers I see in manuscripts, and why they could be stronger: (more…)

Why watching TV is damaging your writing progress

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Why watching TV is damaging your writing progress

Well, duh, Sturgeon. If you are watching television, your fingers aren’t on the keyboard, churning out chapters. Everyone knows that, so this blog post is pointless.

Ah, but this isn’t a time issue for me. As a development editor, I’ve noticed a creeping perspective among the TV and movie buff authors: They write as if their book is a movie. Granted, someday it may be recreated on a big screen with Chris Hemsworth as your hero, but that is not yet reality.

Television and movies dominate the entertainment world because they are great at what they do: allow the audience to witness events and action and emotions. He grabs her in his arms and she puts her arms around his neck and they kiss until someone in the room clears their throat and the lovers break apart, looking pleased and embarrassed simultaneously.

But the key word is “witness.” (more…)

I’d bet money your story lacks emotional conflict

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I’d bet money your story lacks emotional conflict

And sometimes I do lose the bet. But overall, if I put $20 down on every manuscript I see, I’d owe Uncle Sam taxes on my winnings at the end of the year.

I’ve puzzled over this lack for years now, and I think the problem starts with the definitions of both conflict and romance. Too many people think of conflict in negative terms: violence, abuse, hatred, fighting. Many of us aren’t wired for confrontation, so we shy from it in our stories, especially romances where the point is just the opposite—we want characters to fall in love.

But the result is a story where she sees him and he’s hot. He sees her and she’s hot. They smile, they say hello. They have a conversation fraught with emotional excitement (and lots of physical distraction) and hope to see each other again. They go out and have a marvelous time. They’re in love and they just know it. This is the guy/gal for them!  And while the world falls apart around them (i.e. what many people label “conflict”), everything between our hero and heroine is moonlight and roses because together they can conquer anything.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz. (more…)

What you want to hear from your editor

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What you want to hear from your editor

No.

I don’t care how old you are, everyone is still two years old inside when it comes to hearing the word no. We hate hearing it.

Yet a funny thing happened on the way to adulthood. (more…)

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