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Friday, November 30, 2007

December Releases

We have another great month here at the Wet Noodle Posse for releases.  

Debut Author Jennie Lucas, The Greek Billionaire's Baby Revenge.

His mistress…
Working for Nikos Stavrakis was exhilarating—until one night, when he made love to Anna…

His baby…
Anna believes Nikos is unfaithful, and flees. Nine months later, she is left nursing a tiny baby…

His wife?
Nikos is furious when he discovers Anna's taken his son. He vows to seek retribution! He will make Anna his bride, and teach her who's boss!

We also have With This Ring by Lee McKenzie

Brent Borden has always imagined that Leslie Durrance is happy on her pedestal. Until she runs—in the midst of a rainstorm, dripping diamonds, wedding dress and all—into the construction worker's arms. With the whole town buzzing about the juiciest scandal Collingwood Station has ever seen, the embarrassed debutante needs to lie low. Brent takes her in, but it's a Christmas-themed fund-raiser, complete with hot Santas in tuxedos, that gives Leslie a chance to get the tongues wagging about something besides her almost-wedding and get the wallets to open for a worthy cause. And also makes her see that the greatest gift has been in front of her all along…

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Things, they are a'changin'

By Trish Milburn

More than three years ago, the members of the Wet Noodle Posse, the majority of whom were unpublished at the time, decided to start an e-zine for women. It was the brainchild of Noodler Colleen Gleason, and she came to me since I have a background in journalism. We added a couple more people to the brainstorming, then took the idea to the entire group, who responded with enthusiasm. It was part author promotion -- for those who'd already sold their books and those who hoped to build name recognition prior to selling -- and part supportive and interesting content for women of all backgrounds, writers or not. We've had articles on everything from travel destinations to recipes to ways to improve your daily living. We've enjoyed bringing readers the e-zine each month, so it's with a bit of sadness that we announce that our December 2007 issue will be our last. As you might expect, it takes a lot of time and effort to put out a quality e-zine with several articles each month. And since that launch day in 2004, many more of our members have sold books and now have pressing deadlines. In fact, from this group of writers who were all unpublished in 2003 when we all finaled in RWA's Golden Heart contest, there are now 138 books published or contracted. That's amazing! That group of contracted writers includes myself, editor of the e-zine since its inception, and Esri Rose, the co-editor and newsletter blurb writer extraordinaire. We no longer have the time to devote to creating the quality product we insist on putting out there.

But never fear! The Web site isn't going anywhere -- will remain online with its extensive article archives. So if you've missed some of the issues over the past few years, now is a great opportunity to catch up. Plus, we'll occasionally be rerunning content from past e-zine issues on our blog, which will still be active. In fact, our blog is now going to be our main focus. We're redirecting the focus to writers since we had such wonderful success with our Golden Heart preparation themed month in October and early November. Beginning in December, we're going to have a theme each month. To kick off, we're going to have Call Stories next month -- stories of how published Noodlers found out they'd sold their first books or accounts of the day when they got the call that they were a Golden Heart finalist. Let me tell you, both are very exciting to a hard-working writer. And Call stories are always inspirational to those in the trenches, whether they've sold already or not.

Here's a sneak peak at what we have planned for 2008:

January -- Getting Started (goals, choosing your story idea, focusing, etc.)
February -- Character Development
March -- Plotting
April -- Conflict
May -- Research
June -- The Business Side of Writing
July -- Prepping for Conference (information on preparing to attend the RWA National Conference plus some info on preparing for smaller, local and regional conferences)
August -- Inspiration (for your stories and for yourself)
September -- Writer Health
October -- Preparing to Enter the Golden Heart (after all, the GH is what brought the Noodlers together)
November -- Writing Challenges (National Novel Writing Month, book-in-a-week, Club 100, turning off the internal editor, etc.)
December -- Editing/Revisions

As you can see, we've got a lot of great information coming in the new year. So be sure to bookmark our blog at and come back each day to see what nuggets of writerly wisdom the Noodlers have to share. And be sure to bring your friends!

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Harlequin Presents Contest

Harlequin Presents is looking for new authors, and they're holding a competition to find them. Check it all out here, at the I Heart Presents Blog.

In light of this news, we're rerunning Trish Morey's blog from October, 2006 originally titled Virgins Are In

There was a question on one of our Downunder writing loops recently about why so often heroines in romance novels are virgins and how unrealistic it was in this day and age to be writing contemporary novels featuring inexperienced twenty-something heroines.

Now I don't think virgins are either as rare in real life as some would have us believe, or that contemporary novels are full of them - I think it depends on what you read - but I have to admit to writing a few of them myself:-)

So far I've had The Italian's Virgin Bride, in January 07 we have The Greek's Virgin to look forward to, and right now on the shelves is my A Virgin for the Taking (Hint - if you like gorgeous pearls, to die for heroes and romance under tropical sunsets- you'll love this book:-))

And okay,if you look at the titles of the latest Presents releases and you'll find plenty more sprinkled amongst the Greek Tycoons and Italian Stallions. Some might think it's a home away from home for virgins:-)

But not all my heroines are virgins. None of them, however, are sex in the city girls - it wouldn't fit the line, whereas it might work perfectly well in other lines or in single title.

I want my readers to be able to empathise with the heroine, so I don't want her to fall in bed with every guy she meets. I want her to be a tad more selective. And maybe, even though perhaps she's had sexual encounters in the past, they've left her cold or uninvolved or unimpressed or whatever (enter Mr Sex-on-Legs hero - she's incredibly drawn to him but damned if she's going to give into it in a hurry).

But whether the heroine is a virgin or not, it has to fit the story and be true to the character and to the tone of the book. When you're talking high stakes and drama (as in the Presents line), a hero who has the hots badly for a woman and who must possess her at all costs, then her being a virgin can be one more factor that ratchets up the stakes. That's certainly the case in my A Virgin for the Taking - discovering that the woman he believes to have been his father's mistress is a virgin is crucial to the hero's journey in that story (and that's not giving anything away, crikeys the title manages to do that quite nicely, thank you very much!). Hopefully I've also built into her history a reason why she's avoided men these past few years.

It's also worth remembering that the Presents is first and foremost a fantasy line. Larger than life heroes, larger than life situations. For instance, how often do blackmail or arranged marriages or deep seated revenge or secret babies happen in our everyday lives? I'd wager not that often. And yet this one line's books are full of just those things. They're hooks, hopefully set well enough in a believable context so that the reader becomes that heroine, and is transported away to a world of high stakes, high conflict and high passion. And heck, we all deserve a bit of the latter, eh?

Just before I sign off, I want to send huge congratulations to our fellow noodler, Jenna Ness, who just this month became the latest Presents author!! Apart from being a fabulous writer and Golden Heart winner, Jenna is the most gorgeous woman and I'm over the moon to think that sometime soon our books might be shelfmates together!

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Writing With Children

by Jill Monroe

This post was originally posted in March 2006.

Deciding to stay home with my children was not a difficult decision. There were many pros - the first obvious - I could stay home with my children. I always wanted to be a writer - now I could, and all my (small teaching/advising) income would be eaten up by daycare anyway. It was a no brainer.

And really, think of all the time I would have to write, write WRITE.

I had visions of children happily playing with toys at my feet while I typed away at the computer.

I'm sure you're laughing at this point. Because as any mommy who's tried to go to the bathroom in peace can attest, children cheerfully quietly playing while you're trying to do ANYTHING just doesn't happen. Unless of course you're trying to clean their room. Then they're anywhere but there.

So, I adjusted my schedule a bit. Instead of getting the scads written I'd hoped, I'd sneak in writing time during naps. Or after bedtime. When my husband began getting up at 5:30 in the morning, so did I. And believe me - that internal editor is not awake then!

I finaled in my first writing contest when the youngest was a baby and sold my first book before she went to Kindergarten. So, it can be done.

Now we've moved into a whole new phase for us. Booksignings, contract calls, RWA meetings - the kids have heard the names of my editors so much, they probably think we're related. They do think they're related to some of my critique partners (Aunt Donnell).

So, I've learned a few things. First, children are not impressed by your writing. Your booksigning. Or that you've been asked to speak at another writing group. Going to a bookstore to see your book on the shelves may MAY be cool the first time. It's not cool when you decide to visit every Wal-Mart, Target, Waldenbooks, Barnes and Noble and Borders within a 30 mile radius of the house.

My youngest tried to be helpful, pointing out every clinch cover book with a red spine, "There it is, Mommy!" really loud in each store. The oldest got to giggle every time she told a stranger her mommy's book was "Never Naughty Enough."

Kids are not swayed by bribery. I've told my kids that if I sold a fourth book - we'd take them to Disneyland. BUT, they'd have to let mommy work. Yeah, doesn't work. (Fourth book you ask? Hey, we still owe on the college student loans!)

Last year, my oldest asked me if I were famous. Now anyone who knows my sense of humor knows EXACTLY how I answered that. Man, what a difference a year makes. Now the kid KNOWS I'm not famous.

Lastly, sometimes you just have to sacrifice. There are times when I was watching Tellytubbies or playing Barbie when I'd think wistfully of my work in progress. But it seemed like I blinked and they were already in school. So not every book I wanted to write got written when they were little. Not every conference (or a cute outfit to wear at that conference) did I attend. But an impromptu hug or a smile because I stayed up all night sewing a Raggedy Ann costume makes it all worth it.

Although this year at The Romance Writers of America's National conference, Meg Cabot of Princess Diary fame will be signing. I plan to get autographed books for the kids (if someone can tell me how you get books signed while you're also signing - hopefully). THAT will impress the kids.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Write Through The Holidays

Originally posted by Charity Tahmaseb in December 2006

Bridget Stuart has a tongue-in-cheek take on writing through the holidays over at the Wet Noodle Posse ezine. But seriously, can you write and still enjoy the holidays? Or even more importantly, can you write and give your house the über-cleaning it needs before relatives descend on you for the holidays? (The latter is actually my question.)

There are three things you can do to make a little writing progress during the holiday season: steal, compost and fill.

Get up from the computer, put laundry in. Get son to do his homework and practice violin. Listen for the umpteenth time to his rendition of Merrily We Roll Along.

Steal. Steal a little time at the right time. Heading out for a shopping trip? Make your first (not last, you’ll be too tired) stop the library or café. Take a notebook, drink your favorite hot beverage, and write. Alternately, steal quiet time at home. One of my favorite things to do is wake up early and write by the light of the Christmas tree. I have the house, my thoughts, and the tree all to myself.

Scrub whatever that is on the bathroom floor. Don’t ask. You simply don’t want to know what that substance is. Ponder the financial feasibility of a cleaning service. Food’s overrated, isn’t it?

Compost. All stories (and writers) need a little downtime. Got a plot problem? Pondering character motivation? Write the question down in a notebook or word processing file, then go about your tasks for the day. When inspiration strikes, say in the middle of scrubbing toilets, take a quick break to jot down the notes.

Wrap present for birthday party. Bumper bowling. With four year olds. Do deep breathing and mentally prepare for that experience. Get directions from Map Quest.

Fill. Don’t feel guilty for enjoying all the season has to offer. Combine family time with filling the creative well. Take in a live performance of the Nutcracker or A Christmas Carol. Or during holiday shopping drudgery into an experience. Check Anno’s Place for a lovely description of the perfect Christmas shopping day.

Redistribute ornaments so they cover more than the lower two thirds of the tree. Convince kids that the Happy Meal ornaments look great on the backside of the tree. But the homemade ones? Those look best front and center.

As I said last January, I’m a big fan of Anne Lamott’s one inch picture frame, or what I call writing the 250. Whatever method you use, a little writing goes a long way. If you wrote 250 words per day until the end of the month, you’d head into the New Year up 5,250 words.

Words for this blog entry stolen in between laundry, ornaments, and whatever that was on the bathroom floor.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Noodler November Releases

Stock up on these November releases by the Noodlers. Next Friday will feature our Noodler December releases!

Sex and the Immortal Bad Boy by Stephanie Rowe goes on sale this week!

Paige Darlington has a problem. See, she's the former apprentice to Satan's right hand, Becka Gibbs. As a result, she's got this pretty much all consuming need to be bad... not her fault, right? Well, that will be a small comfort when she loses all human emotions, including the ability to love and care about those who matter to her.

To keep his brother alive, Jed Buchanan works for Satan Jr., the heir to hell and the most evil being in existence. Jed has been forced to do a lot of unsavory things during his time on the "job" and his latest assignment - killing Becka Gibbs - isn't pleasant either. It only gets more complicated when he arrives at Becka's apartment, and inadvertently attacks Paige, a beautiful, sexy demon who decides that saving his black soul will be just the thing to keep her own from rotting.

But can the Devil's minion and the Devil's assassin possibly find true love?

Tall, Dark and Filthy Rich by Jill Monroe arrives in stores!

What would you do if you hit the jackpot?

Private investigator Jessie Huell has always eschewed girlie things for the tools of her trade. She'd swap Jimmy Choos for a nightscope any day. But when she arrives as a guest on a popular Atlanta sex show, Jessie is unexpectedly reunited with high school crush and producer Cole Crawford—multi-million dollar lottery winner, igniter of panties...and bad, bad news for her.

Now Jessie is the official spokesperson for fling-havers everywhere—Cole and Jessie are doing hot, naughty things in the very same places she swore she'd avoid. As each incredible second explodes by, Jessie finds herself in deep trouble: if she's not careful she'll break the first rule of flingdom and it'll turn serious…which means she'll have to find the real dirt on Cole Crawford...because this man's too good to be true!

From Harlequin Presents - The Boss's Christmas Baby by Trish Morey

The Yuletide child

Tegan Fielding is supposed to be masquerading as her twin, not sleeping with her sister's boss! But James Maverick is too sexy to resist. She'll be his mistress—Yet he doesn't know who she really is.

The deception must end; Tegan is falling for the tycoon, and as Christmas approaches she has some news. How will James react when he finds his convenient mistress is expecting a special, seasonal delivery?

These great October releases from The Wet Noodle Posse are still available!


Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Superheroine From The Past

by Jill Monroe

This post was originally posted in November 2005.

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. While thanksgiving celebrations have been throughout history and all over the world, here in the US, we almost lost this wonderful tradition.

If it were not for one woman. Sarah Hale.


Now she may look like a delicate young woman, but really, aren't those the ones to really watch out for? On our Wet Noodle Posse website, we like to profile one special woman, so in honor of the holiday she helped to bring about, I'd like to profile Sarah Hale.

As people left New England and spread throughout the US, the holiday was virtually fading away. Sarah thought this was very wrong, and began a long letter writing campaign and asked the women and children of the US to join her. She met with much success and state after state began to adopt Thanksgiving as an official holiday.

But Sarah wanted it a National holiday. So she began to write to presidents. She wrote to five presidents in all, but it wasn't until our country was nearly torn apart during the Civil War that things began to change. She presented Thanksgiving as a time to bring the country together once more. And President Abraham Lincoln agreed, making it official in 1863! It took her only 38 years, but she never gave up.

Sarah also campaigned for girls to go to school, to become doctors and teachers, playgrounds and many historical monuments. She also wrote poetry, a novel and became the first female magazine editor, bringing such literary talents as Edgar Allen Poe to women alongside articles on cooking and fashion. And if you've ever sung the song, Mary Had A Little Lamb - you have Sarah to thank for it.

And as a young widow she did all this while raising five children! A real superheroine!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Revision—The Way of the Force

by Lorelle Marinello

Lorelle writes with warmth and humor and her first novel, Waltzing With Alligators will be released in 2008 from Avon Trade. You can read an excerpt here (click excerpt on bottom of the page).

This was originally posted April 17, 2006.


Lately my life has been a series of revisions, which I've begun to accept as part of a noble process, a sort of rite of passage. Perhaps it’s because I’m in a transition stage--husband retiring, children going off to college, moving--all the fun stuff at once.

In my effort to find balance amidst the chaos, I’ve come to the conclusion that periods of reflection and reevaluation are natural, even in stable times. I'm here to say that we should embrace these moments and give them our full attention and honest effort instead of rushing through them with the next hurdle in mind. Only when we‘ve had a chance to reflect and revise, we can move forward with the sense that we are on solid ground again.

It’s the Little Blue Engine sort of thinking we need to adopt. You know, I think I can, I think I can . . . We don’t drill this sort of thinking into our children’s brains without reason. Unfortunately, as we grow older, the good advice seems to be drowned out by phrases like, “Hurry up, slow-poke”, “The early bird catches the worm, and “Are we there yet?” Pretty soon we forget to reflect and revise because we are in such a hurry to keep up with the rocket scientists of the world.

Since I’m a writer, my thoughts on revision began there, then spread to the other corners of my life. Like gardeners expect weeds in the spring, we writers expect revisions, but naturally don’t welcome them. If you have a creative soul, you probably take the greatest part of your writing pleasure from the birth of a new story. The word REVISE may make you run for the cleaning supplies, any place but the computer. But I want to encourage you to add reflection, and yes, REVISION to your process.

First, what you’ll need is some distance from your story so you can gain objectivity. Then you’ll need to really love the characters as well as the dirt they walk on and want the story to succeed in the worst way. I’m encouraging you to be passionate about your revisions, passionate enough to murder your darlings!

Stephen King reminds us in his book, On Writing, that our job in the second draft (If you’re not Stephen, feel free to change the word “second” to “subsequent,” as in “many,” drafts down the road) is to make our work even more clear, which, of course, makes it more accessible to readers. And since our goal as writers is to communicate our thoughts, how can we let this part of the process slide when Stephen assures us that if we give it an honest effort, make the necessary changes, we will reap a more unified story? And, I might add, a story we have confidence in and feel passionate about.

So my new mantra is, embrace the process. Reflect and revise. It’s the Way of the Force—the path to knowledge and a fair shot at your dream—whatever it might be.


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Dianna Love Snell's Critique Winner

Winner of the 5 page critique from Dianna Love Snell's POWEFUL OPENINGS blog on November 15th is SANTA.

Please email me at by November 25th if you want the critique back by November 28th for the GH. If not, just send any time between now and January 31, 2008. Thanks again for visiting, come back for more great posts this month and stop by website for more tips on how to tighten your manuscript.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Confidence: How to Get It. (It's Easier than You Think, Duh)

Confidence: How to Get It. (It's Easier than You Think, Duh) by Jennie Lucas

Author’s note: are you unsure if you’re confident or not? Check out the original quiz posted in yesterday's blog!

Okay, posse girls, it’s brutal confession time: What will it really take for you to feel good about yourself?

According to recent polls, the main reason for your lack of confidence is …
  • 8% of you drive the crappiest piece of junk ever called a car (made in Taiwan, in 1974).
  • 14% wear clothes that are so dumpy even the garbage man won’t take them (when did frayed sweatsuits picturing droopy-eyed kittens go out of style?).
  • 32% have no man, or wish they had no man.
  • 41% have the suckiest careers that ever sucked (and you’re tossing five days a week down the drain in your panting eagerness to make it to Freedom Friday).
  • 98% of you avoid the beach, the pool, and life in general due to intense shame about your flat chest/ big boobs/ short legs/ cottage-cheese thighs/ weirdly shaped toes.

Sharp-eyed readers will notice that the percentages, when added up, don’t precisely equal 100%. That’s due to a rare statistical anomaly. (i.e. I made them up.)

The point is: most of us are lacking in confidence in some area of our lives. But getting a better job, a better man, a better body or whatever won’t give you confidence. Look around – there are plenty of people who have those things, and yet still feel insecure.

The truth is, the reasons we use are excuses. The reason we don’t feel confident is because we choose not to be.

“What?” you gasp. “I’m not getting anything out of feeling insecure! I’m stuck in a dead-end job! I never meet anyone new or try anything out of my comfort zone! I’m not only depressed, I’m bored out of my friggin’ skull!”

Maybe, but there are some benefits to your rut that you’re conveniently ignoring. Stuck where you are, you’re safe and comfortable. Which is a lot better in some ways than the alternative: nervous and out on a limb.

That’s why some people just stay out of the game. You know the ones I’m referring to. The talkers. The ones who are constantly yammering away about the diet they’re on, the manuscript they’re writing, the jerk they should dump. And yet mysteriously, the weight stays on, the manuscript never materializes, and the jerk stays.

It’s because, in our heart of hearts, we all do what we really want. We just don’t always realize what it is.

Sure, you might think you want to lose weight – but the real truth is that junk food gives you more pleasure than imaginary size-8 jeans.

You might think you want to write – but the real truth is that you love sacking out on the couch and watching TV more.

You might think that you should dump your boyfriend – but the real truth is that, even though he’s not perfect, you’re afraid to be alone.

So here's the deal:

1. Confidence means paying attention to what you really want. You might find that you’ve been far more successful than you realize.

For years I beat myself up for not traveling more. I yearned to see the world, and yet every time I had an opportunity – a year in Russia, a boarding school experience in England, a month in Africa – something would mysteriously prevent me. I felt like a failure for not following my dream.

Then I saw the truth. Deep down, I didn’t want to leave my family and go to Russia for a year. I wanted to dream about Russia from my safe, cushy sofa. So I wasn’t a failure. I’d actually been 100% successful at doing what I really wanted to do.

If you’re not putting your dreams into action, maybe it’s time for you to reexamine your dream, too.

2. Confidence means looking out for yourself. Selfishness has gotten a bad rap. But here’s a novel thought: what if you treated yourself with as much kindness and care as you give everyone else? You deserve respect and love. Give it to yourself!

As the old cliché says, if your plane runs out of air, make sure you have oxygen first and then assist others. We’re more generous and loving to others when we feel strong and nourished ourselves. So read that book, take that class, go to the gym. You need it, and your family needs you to be happy, not exhausted and resentful.

If you choose to spend every drop of your energy on others, then act like a martyr and whine about it, it’s a choice. And what are you getting out of that, really? An excuse not to go to the gym? An excuse to blame the people you love for everything you hate about your life? How selfish is that!

3. Confidence means practice, practice, practice. You don’t need to be perfect. You just need to make progress. That means practice!

The next time you’re tempted to take the easy way out, turn it into a challenge. Feel too intimidated to go into an uber-cool boutique? Listen to the little voice that whispers I dare you. Feel scared to submit a manuscript to the agent of your dreams? Terrified to ask for a raise at work? Hyperventilating at the thought of taking your dream trip to France – alone? I dare you. I dare you.

Each time you practice, you win. Every time you take a risk, even if it doesn’t turn out perfectly, you win. Because you’re practicing being brave and strong and free. You’re showing the world – and showing yourself – that you’re a force to be reckoned with.

Sure, being lazy can be great. And being afraid can keep you safe. But there’s a time and place for everything. If you’re bored, if you’re blue, then it’s time to be bold. That’s where adventure lies, and as Helen Keller said, ‘Life is either a great adventure, or it is nothing.”

Just don’t use lame excuses to be less than you are. If you’re choosing junk food instead of size-eight jeans, either change that or accept it – but either way, be at peace. You are the star of your life story. Why not have some fun?

So get a toe ring for those weirdly shaped toes. Get a nice wax job on that 1978 Pinto. Because you’re beautiful, smart, funny, and wise, and the whole world is waiting to benefit from your glory.

What are you waiting for?

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Do You Have Confidence? Take the ‘Posse Girl’ Quiz and Find Out!

Today and tomorrow's posts are from Jennie Lucas who now writes for Harlequin Presents.  Her first book arrives on the North American bookshelves in just a few days!  You can visit her website here
This post originally appeared in October of 2005.  
1. You took the weekend off and didn’t wash a single dish, floor, or sink. Monday morning, your perfectly groomed sister-in-law drops by for a quick visit. Your living room is trashed and your sweatshirt is stained with last night’s hummus
. You:

**a. Pretend not to be home.

**b. Storm out on the porch and angrily say, “Why didn’t you call first?” Then you blame her (and your messy family, and the hummus-drooling dog) for forcing you to be rude, when you’re really a gracious hostess!

**c. Let your sister-in-law come in, but follow her around the house making embarrassed noises about the mess.

**d. Let your sister-in-law come in, and after shoving aside a spot on the couch, you forget all about the mess. After all, she’s come to see you, not the house!

2. At your office’s holiday party, a superskinny co-worker looks down her nose at your well-filled plate and says, “Aren’t you worried about gaining weight?” In reply, you:

**a. Feel self-conscious at the size of your hips, and put down the plate. After the party, you stop by Krispy Kreme and eat the whole dozen donuts in the privacy of your own home.

**b. Snarl back, “Go back to South Beach, you Diet Nazi!” Then defiantly eat a whole pumpkin pie. And you don’t even *like* pumpkin pie.

**c. Make whining excuses about why you “deserve a few treats”. You’re so focused on making your co-worker agree with you that you hardly notice as you clean your plate.

**d. Look her straight in the eye, and say with a gleeful grin, “Nope.”

3. A new member of your writing group, a lovely twentysomething, announces that she’s just sold the first draft of her first full manuscript to Jen Enderlin at St. Martin’s Press. “And there’s even going to be a book tour!” Your reaction:

**a. You leave the meeting, drive straight home, and pull a blanket over your head. You were stupid to ever think you could make it as a writer. You’re giving up, forever. Again.

**b. You wait for the bright-eyed newbie in the alley after the meeting. A friend holds her down as you punch her in the face, screaming, “Jen Enderlin is mine, do you hear me?! MINE!”

**c. You ask the newbie’s advice and hang on her every word. You assume she must know more about life than you do, even though she’s 20 years younger than you and thinks you’re talking about an appliance brand when you mention Jane Eyre.

**d. You feel a brief stab of jealousy, but it’s gone before she can even finish the phrase “significant deal”. A flooding tide rises all boats, right? Her dreams came true and so can yours. You even avoid smugly considering the stressful nightmare her next attempt at a book will be.

Finished? Okay, you Posse girls, you know the drill.

If you picked mostly As: What are you hiding from, little mouse? Your life is passing you by while you’re quivering in your comfort zone!

If you picked mostly Bs: Can we say anger management? You think you’re a rebel, but guess what? You’re still allowing your feelings to be controlled by someone else!

If you picked mostly Cs: You’re so desperate for the approval of others, you don’t even have an opinion of your own! (So you’ll believe me when I call you a sad little suck-up, whether it’s true or not!)

If you picked As, Bs, and Cs: In all these cases, you’re giving other people, even complete strangers, the power to decide if you enjoy your life.

If you picked mostly Ds: Welcome to the heady world of being the ultimate ruler of your own country: YOU.

Author’s note: I have a point, I promise! Look for the rest of my semi-serious Posse Girl’s Guide tomorrow… “Confidence: How to Get It (It’s Easier than You Think, Duh)”

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What's Up This Week

The Noodlers will be taking a break this week and next, then gear back up for our December month of Good News Call stories.  Not only Noodlers will be there, but a whole group of Bestselling romance authors.  December will be fun!

But keep checking back these next two weeks - we'll be uploading our Oldies but Goodies from both the blog and ezine.


Friday, November 16, 2007

It's Q&A Day

Our GH Q&A day was so popular, we're having another.  Just ask your questions in the comments section, and our Noodlers will do their best to answer them!

Here's our first question:

What is the best way to mail your GH entry?  How soon/late do you mail it?


Thursday, November 15, 2007


By Dianna Love Snell

***WIN a critique of your first 5 pages that can be returned prior to the Golden Heart deadline if submitted the week of Thanksgiving. Everyone who comments is entered in the drawing.

Critique by RITA Award-winner Dianna Love Snell 

Could you convince an editor to read the rest of your story if all you could submit for now was your opening page in proper manuscript form? That’s about 150 words.

News flash…some editors and agents won’t read that far.

If you had their jobs you’d understand why. They see stacks of submissions so these professionals can size up a book very quickly. I know it sounds unfair, but that’s just reality. So don’t waste your time complaining, spend it creating a first page that will leave the editor wanting more.

Your don’t have to start with exploding buildings and car crashes for a powerful opening…unless that is the inciting incident and is truly part of your story. The word “powerful” can be interpreted a lot of ways, but in this context I like to think that an opening is powerful because it engages the reader.

Ah, the reader. You have to sell them on that same first page. The editor can read further in your story…for free. That reader has to lay down good money. Your story may get no more consideration than the time it takes a reader to scan the back cover blurb and the first page.

I tend to analyze something to see why it works or does not work. (Yes, I was that kid who took things apart to see how they worked. “g”) I’m going to give you some openings and show you why they work then we’ll write a sample opening and put it to the test.

There is no perfect opening and no one way to start a book. Any good story might be opened a couple different ways, but you need to find the one that best engages a reader and quickly conveys the tone of your book.

Here is a list of elements to consider for the opening:

1) POV character - why is it important to open in this character’s POV?
2) Why is the specific setting and time period of this opening significant?
3) What details are you going to share immediately about this character and do these details have to be shared now?
4) Is there a ticking clock or any sense of urgency?
5) Are there any details that can be removed that slow the opening?
6) What question will the opening create?
7) What is the tone of the story?

The key to a strong opening is not just figuring out what must be included, but also what does not belong. The most important thing to remember is that opening page is like a first impression – you only get one chance.

The opening page excites the reader about a trip they may want to take.
The opening five pages entices a reader to spend some time on the journey.
The opening chapter settles the reader into a plush seat and promises a great ride.

Your inciting incident can be a major action or simply an incident, but it must throw events into motion that are intriguing and have a direct bearing on the story. You can’t just toss someone into danger or set up a WOW moment then move into an unrelated or docile story. This is just sensationalism for a cheap hook if the story falls off right after the opening.

Always remember - You must follow through on the promise created by your first five pages and all of that is launched on page one.

Let’s take a look at some openings:

SHOW ME THE MONEY by Stephanie Feagan (Harlequin Bombshell)

Sitting in front of the senate finance committee was like sprinting down Dallas Central Expressway, naked. If I didn’t get run over and killed, I was bound to become the butt of everyone’s joke first thing in the morning when the newspapers came out.

Either way, I’d rather get a root canal, have lunch with Aunt Dru, who could bore God into a premature Armageddon, or remarry my lying, cheating mongrel of an ex-husband than face a row of senators bent on ferreting out the truth behind one of the worst accounting hoodwink jobs in history. Never mind that they got the first scent of blood from me.

Opening scene main character is UNKNOWN AT THIS POINT (NORMAL IN FIRST PERSON), but it is Pink and her significance to the story is THIS IS HER STORY.
The time period is contemporary and this is a SUSPENSE WITH ROMANTIC ELEMENTS.
This specific setting is important because the Senate meeting is the inciting incident that sets everything in motion in this story
Why are these details necessary right now and is there a ticking clock? These initial details tell us she’s in very deep trouble and that she may have made a huge mistake if she’d rather REMARRY HER MONGREL EX-HUSBAND THAN GO THROUGH THIS INQUISITION. The ticking clock is that she’s on the hot seat at a senate inquiry and they’ve JUST GOTTEN THE FIRST SCENT OF BLOOD from her so things may go downhill quickly.
Why do we care about this character or the future of this character? Hard not to care about a person who is sitting in her position and sweating bullets, plus the fact that we sympathize with a woman who has been married to a man who cheated on her.
Is there any unnecessary information that is slowing the opening? No
What question(s) will this opening create that will urge a reader to turn the page? Given the current climate on accounting scandals that make it to the senate, we wonder if she’s going to jail (emotional response)
What is the tone of the story? Tongue in cheek humor, some mystery


CHANGE ME INTO ZEUS’S DAUGHTER by Barbara Robinette Moss (literary memoir)

Mother spooned the poisoned corn and beans into her mouth, ravenously, eyes closed, hands shaking.

We, her seven children sat around the table watching her for signs of death, our eyes leaving her long enough to glance at the clock to see how far the hands had moved. Would she turn blue, like my oldest sister Alice said?

Alice sat hunched next to me in the same white kitchen chair, our identical homemade cotton dresses blending into one. She shoved my shoulder with hers as if I were disturbing her concentration and stared unblinking at Mother. Each time Mother hesitated, spoon in mid-air, Alice’s face clouded and she pushed against my shoulder.

“She’s dying,” Alice whispered, covering her mouth so Mother could not hear her. “I told you she was gonna die.”

***I love to include this opening in workshops, because this is a great example of a powerful opening that is not guns blazing. I write romantic action-suspense, but I read everything – if the author grabs my attention quickly.

Opening scene main character is THE AUTHOR BARBARA and her significance to
this story is that this is her life.
The story time period is 1960’s and genre is literary memoir. I don’t buy a lot of memoirs because most bore me to tears before I make the second page.

This specific setting is important because it underlines that these children are watching their mother eat poisoned food when they have no food in front of them. This setting shows a picture of desperation.

What details do we know about the character? She’s a child and she’s wearing an identical homemade cotton dress like her sisters.

Why are these details necessary right now and is there a ticking clock?
All the details in this opening build a sense of dread over her situation and the ticking clock is waiting for her mother to take the mouthful that may kill her.

Why do we care about this character or the future of this character? How can you NOT sympathize with a child wondering if she’s watching her parent about to die.

Is there any unnecessary information that is slowing the opening? No

What question(s) will this opening create that will urge a reader to turn the page? Will the mother die? What will these children do if she does? Why are they in this situation? (emotional response) Another question would be - Is this mother committing suicide?

In summary, the opening hook is the first line when the MOTHER SPOONS POISONED CORN AND BEANS INTO HER MOUTH IN FRONT OF HER CHILDREN. I bought the book on that opening alone.

What is the tone of the story? Heart wrenching


Here is an opening I made up for a workshop that we’ll analyze then rewrite to improve:

Deadly Encounter

Things were going to hell in a hand basket if this was as good as it got.

Eileen Bender swiped a hand across her sweaty brow then dried it on a nearby hand towel. She didn’t know which she hated more, wearing this stupid penquin outfit that didn’t have a feminine line anywhere or serving a yard full of snobs on a Saturday afternoon.

Stan Ledford’s dynasty was Houston’s real life answer to the Ewings of that old show Dallas. And the star of this bunch was the youngest Ledford, Vaughn. Eileen glanced at the crowd while loading up another tray of gourmet snacks. Her gaze stuttered on Vaughn who wore a white golf shirt that practically glowed against his tan. He was using someone’s walking cane as a makeshift golf club, leaned over, wiggled that hot butt of his and swung his shoulders in a wide arc. The muscles in his forearms cabled with the exertion.

Then he followed up with a big grin almost as bright as his shirt.

Eileen shook herself from ogling him and started walking through the crowd, smiling on cue and lowering her tray when anyone approached her. She had to finish this gig then change clothes in her car on the way to her next gig or she’d be late for the one she really cared about where she played solo on Friday nights at a local dive.

But in all honesty, people like Stan Ledford paid more money to watch her serve than anyone had ever paid to watch her play a guitar and sing.

My agent was on our workshop panel and did not know this was a made-up opening just to be used as a sacrificial critique lamb. She liked it, which was good because it doesn’t help you to see a really bad opening critiqued. We can all see problems in bad openings, but the key is figuring out the finer points and making a good opening much better.

Analysis of Deadly Encounter:

Opening scene main character is Eileen Bender and her significance to the story is she is a main character.
This story time period is contemporary and genre sounds like romance.
Eileen is currently serving appetizers to a garden party.
This specific setting is important because this places Eileen clearly below Vaughn’s social level.
What details do we know about the character? Eileen plays a guitar and sings, she works catering jobs she, but wants to do something else, she finds Vaughn attractive
Why are these details necessary right now? Other than for setting and to show us Vaughn through her eyes, these details have little meaning
Why do we care about this character or the future of this character? We don’t.
Is there any unnecessary information that is slowing the opening? Yes, we don’t need to know about the job at the dive, we don’t need to know about Vaughn’s golf swing, we don’t need to know that this family is the modern day Ewings
What question(s) will this opening create that will urge a reader to turn the page? None
In summary, the opening hook of this story is – missing
What is the tone of the story? Light hearted with possible romance
***Anyone catch the cliché in the opening line? Don’t start with those.

This could be the opening to a straight romance a mystery a romantic comedy, but there is no indication of any of those things. Just to show you that you can take any opening and improve it, after writing this first version I wondered what I would do if someone asked me to make this a hook opening.

Here’s the revised version as a mystery/suspense type of opening since that’s what I write -


Life really sucked if getting noticed by a hot guy meant jail time.(stakes)

Eileen Bender forced a smile as she gripped her silver tray of gourmet snacks and rushed through the posh Houston crowd milling about the Ledford garden party. Her pseudo-undercover tactics (stalking) had just changed from intelligence gathering to retreat and evade. The catering group could fire her if they wanted. She’d only taken this job to find a thief…and a killer. If her identity was discovered, she’d face more than embarrassment.

Vaughn Ledford, the family prince and heir apparent, had made it clear in a news interview last week that if he caught another person stalking his family he’d prosecute to the full extent of the law.

The handsome business dynamo never glanced Eileen’s way while she was a temp at his father’s company. He wouldn’t know she even existed today, but Debra Drummond, the pain-in-the-butt head of accounting, would. What was that Southern fried witch doing here? The pretentious woman masked her evil streak with a poorly executed Gone With the Wind voice.

Eileen had to get out of here undetected (ticking clock) if she wanted to find the person who killed her uncle, a security guard for the Ledford foundation who died suspiciously during a theft that still carried headlines.

And Eileen had a letter that placed Prince Vaughn number one on her list of suspects. (more conflict)

“There you ahr,” called out in molasses voice from behind her.

Eileen froze, praying that accent belonged to someone else born in the south.

“Vaughn, you remember Eileen don’t you, Sugar?” (hook)

Okay, let’s put the second version to the test…

Opening scene main character is Eileen Bender and her significance to the story is she is a main character.
This story time period is contemporary and genre sounds like ROMANTIC SUSPENSE.
Eileen is currently trying to avoid being recognized at a garden party.
This specific setting is important because this places Eileen is trying to find clues on who might be tied to her uncle’s murder
What details do we know about the character? We know she’s loyal to the point of willing to risk jail to find out who killed her uncle, she’s a temporary office worker who was once employed by the man she’s now suspicious of who she finds attractive. She has a letter that implicates this man.
Why are these details necessary right now and is there a ticking clock? The details are important to give us a reason for Eileen to be at this party under false pretense and the immediate ticking clock is if she gets away undetected.
Why do we care about this character or the future of this character? We can identify with a woman who works as a temp at a large company who goes unnoticed and who may not have security of a steady job. We care about someone trying to find out why a loved one was killed. We’ve probably all met someone in life who has the evils streak of this Debra
Is there any unnecessary information that is slowing the opening? Not this time
What question(s) will this opening create that will urge a reader to turn the page? We wonder if Eileen will get away from the party before she’s recognized. We wonder if Vaughn is tied to her uncle’s murder. We wonder why her uncle was killed in a suspicious way and what was that suspicious way.
In summary, the opening hook of this story is – when Debra outs Eileen to Vaughn. We wonder what happens next.
What is the tone of the story? Suspenseful, maybe more light tone than edgy leading us to feel it will be romantic and fun

It bears repeating - there is no perfect opening. Use these tips to help you locate weak spots in an opening, but above all – write your story your way. Study the books in your genre – both the ones you liked and the ones you had a tough time finishing. Analyze what worked for you and what did not. But don’t polish the voice out of your story. Once you have the opening the way you like it, give that baby a ride and see what happens.  

Editors aren’t looking for perfectly written books. Yes, you have to make sure it’s clean and free of annoying typos, but an editor wants to read a story with voice that fascinates him/her.

Thanks for stopping in. You have until Friday at midnight to comment so you can be included in the drawing on Saturday. Come back Saturday to check for the winner posting. This article was adapted from the BREAK INTO FICTIONTM Template Teaching series created by Dianna Love Snell and Mary Buckham. For information on HOW TO PLOT YOUR BOOK IN 2 DAYS visit

Good luck to all of you entering the Golden Heart!


Introducing Dianna Love Snell

RITA award-winng author Dianna Love Snell writes romantic action-suspense in both contemporary and paranormal.

Dianna is currently co-writing the next B.A.D. agency romantic suspense with NYT best seller Sherrilyn Kenyon - PHANTOM IN THE NIGHT (Pocket/June 2008) and her debut paranormal novella – MIDNIGHT KISS GOODBYE (St. Martin’s Press/October 2008).

For more information –

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Common Errors of Contest Entries

By Debra Holland

I’ve judged a lot of contests and invariably keep marking certain grammatical errors or weaknesses of writing. In this last Golden Pen contest, I had five good paranormal entries--great plot, voice, characters, and writing. Most of them were so good, on my comment sheet, I offered an introduction to my agent. Yet, I still returned them full of yellow highlights, crossed out words, and comments. I believe, if they take my edits to heart and do another round of polishing, these writers will sell. They will also probably final in the Golden Heart contest.

I always take the time to explain and give examples, which takes from two to five hours of editing per entry. (So the more writers who know about these problems, the less work I have to do.) I’ve gotten many grateful thank you letters. Some of the writers commented that their first reaction was anger, but, when they took the time to study my feedback, that anger changed to appreciation.

Often my feedback is nitpicky. But who’s to say you won’t be submitting to a nitpicky editor? You don’t want to give an editor any reason to reject you.

The following are 10 pet peeves, taken from actual contest entries collected over the last few years. Some of these points other members of the WNP have mentioned in their GH blog entries, but they are worth going over again.

1. Showing, not telling

All the techniques from her self-defense class came to the fore--she didn’t get an A in class for being cute, but she could have.

(Start fighting already.)

Already standing on his square, her opponent gestured to her position without a word. The warlock was enclosed in dark robes, a golden helm covering his head. Spell casters needed to visualize their adversary to execute powerful sorcery but her piercing glare couldn’t discern his form or face. Many of her most strategic enchantments would be worthless.

With a stab of fear, she realized she couldn't discern his face or form. The lack of definition rendered her most strategic enchantments worthless. For the first time, doubt crept into her mind.

2. AS in the MIDDLE of a sentence

“As” in the middle of a sentence often throws off the timing. When you place “as” in the middle of a sentence, be sure to check that the second sentence doesn’t belong first.

A silence grew as he hesitated.

(His hesitation is what makes the silence grow. As he hesitated, the silence grew.)

A chime sounded as he entered Mistress Sirena’s Shop of Quiet Contentment.

(He needs to enter before the chime can ring.)

3. Telegraphing

When you have more than two characters in a scene, you need to have some kind of gesture, action, or facial expression before they speak so you know who is speaking.

4. IT and FELT

Usually you can find a more expressive descriptive word than “it” or another way to convey emotions besides “felt.” Only use “it” or “felt” if you can’t think of any other word to use instead. Here’s some examples where the writer needed to work a little harder.

Her mouth watered at the sight of his manhood. Flaccid though it was, it was still impressive. She wondered how it would look in all of its aroused glory.

(Penis might not be the right descriptive word for a romance, but 5 its…)

Soon, it began to recede. But slowly, always slowly, like the creeping of the tide. God, he hated the static. Hated not knowing what caused it or when it would stop. Hated that he couldn’t predict it. Hated that even though he’d spent months pursuing an answer, right now he couldn’t even name it.

(Hard to figure what “it” is.)

Within seconds, it all passed.

(All what passed?)

It felt as if he was speeding on a roller coaster, yet with no wind, no sound, no sense of movement, only a vibration all along the front of his body.

(An it and a felt together.)

Lexy felt a dark clawing fear when she saw the ragged gash in his dark shirt.

(Also a timing problem.) 

When she saw the ragged gash, stark fear clawed at Lexy.

5. Was/Were

Her head was spinning and she couldn’t form a single, coherent thought.

(Her head spun, and she couldn’t form a single, coherent thought.)

Nearly all of California, Oregon and Washington State were destroyed by the earthquake.

(The earthquake destroyed most of California, Oregon, and Washington State.)

The look John was giving him was decidedly unfriendly.

(John shot him an angry look.)

6. Separate his/her actions/thoughts/words/dialogue

Keep each characters' thoughts, feelings, reactions, dialogue in a separate paragraph.

Here are two examples where the writer had one block of text. The new paragraph (NP) inserts are added by me.

He watched in dismay as Sirena’s smile drooped into a bitter frown, her hope for restitution withering, and along with it any desire to speed him on his way.
(NP) “I can’t meet your price,” he said, “but I can offer an alternative that’s almost as good.”
(NP) Her purple eyelids blinked in suspicion, and
(NP) he quickly added, “I can let you live in the Mayor’s Hall and Residence.”
(NP) Her eyes brightened.
(NP) “For a month,” he specified, though it would probably seem more like a year.

He responded with a wolfish appraisal, his awareness flicking hotly from her lips to the tips of her breasts and back.
(NP) She felt the heat of his gaze like a caress. Good God. She felt attractive.
(NP) “I have no doubt about that,” he murmured.
(NP)She flushed with an errant arousal.
(NP)“Was it wonderful?” he asked. “Was it amazing? Was it everything you’ve ever dreamed it could be?”

(In addition to keeping each person’s dialogue and responses in their own paragraph, readers want more white space on the page.)

7. Compound sentences

When two complete sentences are joined, a comma belongs in between. I think compound sentences are the easiest comma error to spot. Just look for two complete sentences, which are joined into one. The following sentences all had missing commas:

Her breathing hitched, and her head suddenly snapped forward.

There was a soft knock on the door, and David came in

She had no good reason to be here, and this guy could probably sense it.

8. Made up words with no meaning

This is usually a problem in paranormals. Many times you can get the context of a made up word from the surrounding words.

He pushed the hood of his cloak from his head. Deep ebonharde eyes captured hers before she realized her own egress from the rules. His rich, svarkened hair with highlights of deep nezarine indicated his Fastian heritage.

(Fastian is the only word I would have kept because you can get some meaning from the word “heritage.” I might have gone along with ebonharde if the writer had used the word “dark” instead of “deep.”)

9. Using “eyes” rather than “gaze”

Her eyes wandered to the floor beneath her.

(Her gazed wandered to the floor.)

The guard’s eyes locked on the jerky rise and fall of her chest, then flew to her face.

(Nothing like flying eyeballs. :)

10. Mentioning that a character’s watching another character do something

He watched as Jude’s expression changed from dreamy abandon to intense embarrassment.

(Jude’s expression changed from dreamy abandon to intense embarrassment.)

Anne watched as Trudy fussed with the teapot, then poured more tea.

(Trudy fussed with the teapot, then poured more tea.)

These are all relatively easy edits to fix in your manuscript. What ones do you have problems with?

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Now that you have fine-tuned and polished your entry for the GH, it’s time to get your query letter written. A query letter is a short letter introducing you and your book. Here are some Do’s and Do not’s:

Do keep the letter professional.
Do try and keep the letter to one page
Do your research and spell the agent/editor’s name correctly
Do spend time making your query letter shine!

Do not use fancy paper or fonts
Do not send your query by Fed Ex or in anything requiring a signature
Do not address the agent/editor as Sir or Ma’am.
Do not draw attention to your negatives (i.e. you’re not published; you’re a new writer; you’re busy with kids; if you don’t like it, I will revise it, etc.)

Within the body of your query:

1) Clearly state the word count and what kind of story you have written, but remember that the tone of the letter should reflect the tone of the book.

2) Include a high-concept hook, a paragraph or two about your book, including the main conflict. This paragraph should grab the agent/editor and make them want to read your book! Spend time on this paragraph.

3) Keep the closing simple and professional: “I’d be happy to send you a partial or full manuscript for your review. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you. A SASE is enclosed.”

That’s it. Get busy. All questions and comments are welcome.

If you google “writing a query letter” you’ll get all the help you could possibly need on writing queries. So instead of offering an even longer list of Do’s and Do Not’s, I am inviting anyone who needs help with their query to post all or part of their query and the Wet Noodle Posse will give you feedback. suggests using three paragraphs in your letter; a one-sentence hook, a mini-synopsis of your book, and a writer’s bio. See for details. Lots of great info here.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Our Latest Line-Up!

Here we go:

November 12 - Trish Milburn - HOW TO WRITE A GH ACCEPTANCE SPEECH
November 13 - Theresa Ragan - GET YOUR QUERY LETTER READY
November 14 - Debra Holland - EDITING PEEVES
November 15 - Dianna Love Snell - POWERFUL OPENINGS

You won't want to miss the 16h. We'll be having another one of our Q&A days. It was very popular last time, so come back on Friday and get those questions started!


Friday, November 09, 2007

The Demon Pacing

I was going to blog about something else today until I realized we haven't mentioned the one thing that can turn an ordinary, pleasant manuscript into a brilliant diamond. Or it can make it a giant demon on the back of anyone who dares to read it. We've talked about a lot of the elements of good pacing, but not pacing itself.

Pacing is the Demon of all writers. Go to a workshop on Pacing and you're likely to come out asking yourself what the presenter said for an hour. I think most of the time presenters just say the pacing needs to be tight, leaving the attendee asking, "Yes, but how?"

Well, the problem is, it's a very complex subject, and probably one of the most difficult things to get right. In fact, it's even hard to define. Yet it's simple, in one way. Poor pacing means the reader can't wait to get to the end to get rid of the story. Good pacing means she can't wait to get to the end so she can go back and read it all over again.

It's easier, actually, to talk about what makes pacing good or bad than it is to define it because pacing involves so many different techniques and elements. The simple mechanics of writing are involved, but so are important elements like Goal, Motivation and Conflict (capitalized to remind you to get and read Debra Dixon's book of that name.) It can be the ticking time bomb in your story or the empathy you've created. It is the degree of involvement you reach with your reader.

To begin with, you must hook your reader, for any story you write must interest the reader or it will appear to drag. You don't have to achieve complete reader identification right off the bat, but you do need to create a character readers will care about in some way, and you want to put him in a dilemma that the reader will want resolved. You must create a plot that keeps the reader wondering if it will reach a happy conclusion, or if the world will blow up and nothing will ever matter again. But assuming you've done all that, and you're down to the nitty gritty of polishing, but you're still getting comments about picking up the pacing, what do you do?

Pacing is about Time, but it is about Fictional Time. As writers of fiction, we can play with time, speed it up, slow it down, even stop it, and that can't happen in the real world. We can jump
forward by days, months, years, skip past uninteresting things, and we can even step back in time, while the real world must lumber on at a steady pace. But there is a sense of time within fiction, too, and it must meet the readers' expectations. If the author wastes the reader's fictional time, it becomes as frustrating as wasted time in real life.

Here are some, but far from all, things you can do to achieve better pacing:

1. Look at actually removing unnecessary words. Romance writers are more flowery with words than other writers, I think. They want to paint vivid pictures. But sometimes they over-do it.

2. Don't describe any object or setting more than once, or if you go back into the setting, mention one thing, preferably something different. Use one adjective or adverb if you must, but avoid two. I had a story where I called the hero's horse his great dark brown warhorse over and over. Enough already. The readers got it the first time. Give the blasted horse a name. Simplify.

3. A chain of modifiers actually weakens a description or action just when you want to strengthen it. Here's where Show Don't Tell and strong verbs come in. If you want strength and a dynamic power in your writing, cut out all those adverbs ("he went unwillingly") and find strong active verbs that jolt the picture into view ("he trudged"). Get rid of any form of the verbs "to be" and "to go". And look out for other weak verbs.

How do you know a verb is weak? Look at the action it portrays. "Going" can happen in a thousand different ways. How does the reader know which one to picture in her mind? You have to attach an adverb to it, which takes more time and space, but that then becomes you telling the reader what to visualize. On the other hand, "trudging" is a specific action, and creates an instant picture, one the reader sees without you telling her what to see. So by hunting out and replacing weak verbs and modifiers with strong verbs, you're both shortening and tightening your writing and providing action. (Don't over-do this. It can make the reader feel pounded in the head.)

4. Women authors more commonly re-describe than men do. By that, I mean we're not content with saying something once, but we go back and explain what we said, then we show it, then we interpret what the character thinks about it. That's if we didn't have the character plan ahead the action in his mind before--- oh, you get it. You got it the first time. The rule is: Resist the Urge to Explain.

5. Omit and tighten unnecessary dialog. We've said that before. Don't chat about the weather. If you do, make it a joke that pertains to the story, and make sure the story dilemma lingers in every single word of your joke.

6. Look at your scenes. Does each scene have importance to the story? The famous tennis player Billie Jean King said, "Never confuse motion with action." In tennis, the player running ll over the court is in motion. The player hitting the ball, following a course of action, winning the game by the way it is played, is in action. Who would go to watch a tennis match where the players simply ran around the court? Heck, we don't even like seeing a one-sided match. We want it contested all the way. We love a match won at the last stroke.

Use this analogy to study each of your scenes. Ask yourself how much the scene contributes to the story. If you say it's meant to show character, and can't think of anything else, you've got the wrong scene. Because--

7. ONLY show character by action (not motion). A man is what he does. He does what he is. Showing a character in action, that is, doing something that changes the story, is the best way for the reader to understand who he is. Never tell the reader who the character is. Always make her watch him doing something that shows who he is. And cut out any scene that doesn't move the story forward.

8. Don't throw in gratuitous sex or sexual tension (unless you're writing erotic romance or erotica-- or mysteries for men). What do I mean by that? We all know sexual tension powers a romance. Well, no, it doesn't. Sexual tension is a result, not the main force. To make it work, it has to be backed by more than sudden attraction. The main conflict of the story must be wrapped up and driving the sexual tension. And that comes from the dilemmas inside the characters' heads. The difficulty with throwing sex into the story just to have it there is that it actually tends to bring the story itself to a screeching halt. If it needs to be there, integrate it completely with the story's conflict.

9. The biggest pacing killer, for me, is internal monologue. I'm an analytic thinker, and that means a lot of my life goes on inside my head. But guess what? I'd make a boring character in a book. Putting a character's thoughts in a book can really slow down the pacing. You need some, yes, but be careful about long passages, especially if they take up whole pages or separate pieces of dialog in large chunks. Eyeball your pages. Do you have some white space other than margins? If not, chances are a lot of thinking is going on. And if there's too much thinking between speeches, the reader has to go back and re-read to remember what was said before.

Why is thinking a show-stopper? Well, back to the action analogy here. Thinking is usually about planning, which is a future activity or fretting (dithering) about something in the past. Both the past and the future stagnate a story. Action is in the present. Let your hero plan, but make him decisive, and get it over, fast. Let your heroine rue the day before, but keep it down to a paragraph. And only once. If she keeps on thinking about the past, she sounds whiny.

Yes, you must have some moments in your story that slow it down, but most of us don't need anywhere near as much as we put in. So just keep thinking as you polish, Action, not Motion. If your Demon is pacing around in circles, he's not going anywhere. And neither is your story.

There must be a hundred more ways authors can improve their stories' pacing. Anybody else have any suggestions?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

What To Do When The GH Call Doesn't Happen

When I was in college, I was applying for a work scholarship that I really REALLY wanted (and needed).  At one point in the process, all the administrators would leave us alone with the students currently working under the scholarship.  They called it Realities of the Job.

The energy and excitement about entering the GH has been great on this blog, but there is a sad reality - there's only so many finalist spots, and most of those who enter won't final.  I'll raise my hand and say I entered way more times than I ever finaled.  In fact, several years ago, I participated in a blog challenge where authors posted the first bit of their writing.  I posted the prologue of my first book, the one I couldn't wait to finish because I was going to enter it in the Golden Heart.  I received not one but TWO scores of 1.  Ouch.  If you're a glutton for punishment, I dug up that old blog entry - it's here.

So since I am a member of the Wet Noodle Posse, obviously my first suggestion is to enter the Golden Heart again the next year if you're still eligible.

Second, realize that the Golden Heart, like any contest, is a crapshoot.  You get five judges, who may or may not be the best judge, and who all have to pretty much agree (although standard deviation is used).

Get other feedback.  When I wrote the book that scored 1's in the Golden Heart, I didn't have a critique group, nor had I entered any other contests.  Chapter contests costs can add up, but you can really get the kind of objective feedback you might need.  I have a critique group, but lots of authors don't (NYT Bestselling author Sharon Sala comes to mind).  Even if you don't have the time or energy to commit to a full group, I'd advise finding one person whose opinion you trust (and is familiar with the genre) to give a fair read.   

Dig In.  Not finaling might just the thing to prompt you into writing more.  I know it does for me.  Anytime I received a poor contest result or a rejection, my first reaction was to go, "oh yeah?" and try even harder.  I took a long, hard critical look at my writing...was I writing something different with a unique spin?  Or was it more of the same?  Did my writing prompt someone to keep reading or was it a snoozefest of boring things happening to boring people?

This is a great time for you - change genres, look at your plot and when something looks to be going one way, switch it to keep your reader guessing.  My critique partner, Gena Showalter, often says she likes to write herself into a corner.  Write yourself into a corner, then write yourself back out!  Have a goal of being ineligible for the Golden Heart next year.

Acknowledge that it stinks not to final.  I know it is so disappointing when you don't final - believe me, I was there.  You have a lot of hope, a lot of yourself is invested in finaling.  You hear all these great stories about the GH call leading to sales.  That's your dream, too, and now you'll have to wait an entire year to try to achieve it.  Give yourself one day.  One day to be upset, mad, angry whatever.  Eat something filled with carbs.  Gripe to your best friend.  Then the next day, get right back and start writing - maybe even into a corner.  Work to make yourself ineligible for the Golden Heart! (Do you see the pattern?)

Don't Be In The House.  Really, just be away from  your phone and e-mail the day those calls go out.  You'll drive yourself crazy.  Every time the phone rings, you'll jump.  Every time you get a new e-mail, it's another person announcing they finaled.  Go out.  See a movie, just do something.  Really, coming home to a message on your answering machine is far better than waiting by the phone that's not ringing and getting down. 

Make The GH Final Gravy.  I'd never heard this phrase until I met my husband, but it's a good philosophy to have.  Have other writing irons in the fire - queries out, other projects going, set yourself up with all kinds of rewards for setting writing goals.  In other words, get your potatoes mashed, salted and buttered just the way you like them.  Then, if the GH call does come, it's just gravy.  One more thing to make those potatoes (your real meal) good. 

Finaling in the Golden Heart is great, but it shouldn't be your goal.  Writing the best work you can and getting published should be.  Many, many people get published, hit NY Times, you name it without ever finaling in the GH.  A GH final is fantastic, it gets your writing in front of an acquiring editor, but so does a lot of things.  So my last suggestion is to keep working on those other things.  

With that said - good luck!

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Jill Monroe Intro

Jill Monroe finaled in the Golden Heart once, but her first ever score was so low, the combined total didn't even go into double digits!

She'll be talking about what to do when that GH Call Doesn't Come, a topic she is, sadly, familiar with.

Her fourth book, Tall, Dark and Filthy Rich is out now.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Judged Also Judge - But How?

When you enter the Golden Heart, RWA also asks you to judge. What do you do when you don't exactly feel secure about judging?

First, remember this blog is here. It will be a while before you receive your Golden Heart entries to judge. More importantly remember that RWA has a nice list of GH Judges' FAQs. The Judges' FAQs cover such questions as how to use the 1 to 9 scale, how to decide what the scale means, what to do if an entry doesn't meet the guidelines, formating issues. It is a must to read before judging, so remember it is there.

I'm going to tell you my philosophy of judging and you are free to use it or discard it. There's nothing official about this; it is just my opinion. Much of my opinion is based on RWA Judge's Training that my friends Pam Palmer and Denise McInerney give each year for Washington Romance Writers. (Pam is a 2005 Golden Heart Winner, by the way)

1. Start with the impression that this is going to be the best entry you've ever read. If you start from the perspective of Positive Thinking, you are more apt to see what the writer does well. Be rooting for this person. Rather than worry about finding fault; focus on what is right.

2. Make your own 1 to 9 scale. Decide ahead of time what a perfect 9 would be and how bad an entry must be to make a 1. RWA wants you to use your own judgment, bearing in mind that the "judges should evaluate entries as though each is ready for publication, but lacking only the benefit of professional editing granted published work." Not the best book you've ever read, because that book would have had the benefit of professional editing, but a book you think worthy of being in print.

So your 9 could be, something like: "Hey, I want to see this one in print!"
An 8 could be: "Oh, this is so close..."

I think it is harder to go down the scale. What is a 5? How is a 5 different than a 6? What is a 1?

Don't sweat it, is my advice. The important scores are at the top of the scale, because those determine who finals. So your standard could be: 9 - This entry MUST final; 8 - I wouldn't mind if this one finaled; 7 - This entry is close, but I don't think it is quite close enough to final.

Below 7 just take your sense of where the manuscript is and don't worry about it...I always consider 5 as average, by the way, my "average" meaning this is what I expect of most beginning writers.

3. When should I give a 1?
My answer to this question is almost never (in my opinion). I think an entry that deserves a 1 is not likely to be entered in the Golden Heart. It would be a totally incomprehensible entry on every level. In fact, I'm hard pressed to give out 3s and 2s. I can't forget that there is a person behind the entry, a person whom I cannot tell why I am giving a low score, a person with feelings. In the absence of feedback, my philosophy is to give the person a score that clues them in to the fact that their entry needs work. To me, an average or slightly below average score will do that. Heck, even a 6 or 7 will do that! (Although I reserve those scores for entries that almost are making it)

This is just my style, my opinion. I'm not saying you should do this, too. RWA does give permission to score entries the full range of the scale and stresses that you are supposed to use your own judgment .

4. There is nothing I could find on the website that discusses the use of fractions or decimals - giving an entry an 8.9 or a 6.3, for example. If the final instructions include the use of decimals, by all means use them. Again, I advocate not agonizing over this. Go with your gut....or make yourself a detailed guideline of what each of the decimals mean to you...but don't worry so much about scores below 7. If you can't decide between an 8.3 and a 8.4 or an 8.8, remember that entries can miss the finals by one tenth of a point, then decide if you want this entry to have the higher score or not.

5. Try to keep your personal tastes out of your judging. This is admittedly a hard thing to do. It is made even harder, because you probably won't be judging the category you like the most and know the most about- the category you entered. Think about what you believe are the elements of good story, things like character, conflict, plot, dialogue, word usage, and judge the entry as to whether it meets those elements. For example, I personally do not read much paranormal, especially vampires (exception being Colleen Gleason's Gardella Vampire Chronicles, which I adore), werewolves, and such, but I've judged paranormal contest entries. I try to look at the entry in terms of my standards for story and if the writer meets those standards, then I score high. For the Golden Heart, I would ask myself, "Should an editor should buy this?" not, "Do I like this story."

6. Judge each entry on its own merits. DO NOT compare your packet of entries and judge them against each other. You are not ranking the entries; you are judging against a standard, and it is possible that all your entries are 9s. If they are all 9s, by all means give them what they deserve.

So when you open your packet of Golden Heart entries, think, "Goody! I'll bet these are all 9s!" then carefully read the RWA judging instructions. Next, look up the GH Judges' FAQs, and if you need more, come back to this blog.

The judging will be a piece of cake.

What is your philosophy of judging? Do you think of the task differently than I do?

What trips you up the most when you are judging?

Read Diane's bio here and visit her website for a new contest in the countdown to The Vanishing Viscountess, January 2008.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What to do while waiting for your GH results

So, you’ve mailed in your GH entry and you’ve taken that deep breath you promised yourself. Some of the more driven among you have already started on their next project. You’re probably not on a deadline unless it’s a self-imposed one, so now’s the time to shake things up a bit and work out the kinks of any part of your process that isn’t providing you with complete creative satisfaction.

If you can’t quite put your finger on the problem, try these suggestions:

1. Change your writing routine

If you’re one of those people who gets up at 4:00 a.m. to write before work, more power to you. If you’re a night owl and tend to lose track of time the later it gets, I salute you with a yawn. If you’re fortunate enough to write full time, but have a certain time of day when you tend to fade, this is for you, too, because a period of time when you don’t have a deadline is the best time to make a change.

I’m one of those nightowls who gets home from work between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m. and barely makes it to the keyboard by 8:00. If my muse is in the house, I can go until the wee hours without looking up. Things go better, though, and promise a pre-midnight bedtime if I write during the noon hour at work. I print out the last three pages I write each night and put it with my AlphaSmart and pull them out the next day after a quick lunch. One hundred lines on the Alphie add three pages to my manuscript when I finally get to the computer. On days that are nice, I sit outside and write. If it’s gloomy, I put on a Beatles cd and can’t help smiling as I write.

You know your routine best, and I’m sure there are things about it that can be changed. If you’re stymied, ask a writer friend what she does, or put the question on a loop. You’ll be amazed at the things busy writers do to get more done each day. Author April Kilstrom has dozens of suggestions on her website for using just about any length of time, from minutes to hours, to write.

2. Establish an exercise program

Pick an exercise you’d like to try and like the Nike ads, Just DO IT. It takes 21 days to develop a habit, but only 7 days to break one, so this is an important step for any writer who wants to remain healthy and at the keyboard during times busy and slack.

If you’re not currently taking a multivitamin and are medically able to do so, put the bottle on the credenza behind your desk and make that part of your daily pre-writing routine. It’s so important to take care of yourself so that you can take care of all the other things in your life. But I bet you knew that, didn’t you?

3. Renovate your work space

Ask yourself: is my work space feng shui or dung shui? Is it a mess, or a place that invites you to plant your fanny in the chair and caress those keys like you were Ray Charles tickling the ivories on his baby grand?

If you’re in the feng shui corner, congratulations. You get a gold star for the day. If not, you’ve got some work to do, and thankfully, the time to do it.

Clean everything off your desk (dump it in a box if you have to) and re-situate the computer if necessary. If you’ve been cricking your neck to see the monitor, now’s the time to adjust it or relocate it altogether. If your hands and shoulders hurt, your chair may need to be raised (or lowered) or you may need an adjustable keyboard tray or a new, fluffier wrist rest. If you regularly bang you knee on the CPU under your desk, now’s the time to move it. A narrow sofa table can serve as a fill-in credenza behind your desk if you need one for all the bits and pieces that tend to pile up on a work surface-—the pen and pencil cup, the box of blank cds or floppy disks or the safe place where you keep your flash drives, a candle, a clock (see what I mean about the stuff that piles up?). When there is nothing there to distract you, you’re ready to write.

Remember, clutter causes stress. If there’s no where to park your elbow while you rest your chin on your hand to think, you’re in trouble—-not desperate trouble, but think about it. If you’re not comfortable at your writing desk, where are you going to write?

Take a look at the walls. Is what you see pleasing to the eye? The art, the paint color? Have you displayed all the certificates you’ve gathered in your writing career? That picture of you with (insert favorite writer’s name here)? A bulletin board with “photos” of your characters and the towns where they live? You get the idea. Your writing space is your world. Make it a welcoming one. You deserve it.

4. Stretch your comfort zone

If you’ve never used writing props to jump-start your writing, try a few just for kicks. If you write traditionals, knock out a few paragraphs of the hottest kiss you can imagine. If historicals are your thing, describe a character from the year 2512. Write about what you see out the window, your ideal mate, the perfect pet. Keep those creative juices flowing in as many directions as possible.

I hope some of these suggestions are helpful to you. Most important above all is to keep your current project foremost in your mind. Think about it, talk about, write about it. Then you’ll be ready when you get the “call.”

How are you spending this post-deadline period? Any suggestions for the rest of us?