Category Archives: Uncategorized

How does your heroine smell?

Nice post. Smell is such a part of our lives, we should use it in our writing. Author has a blog on hero’s and smells as well.

Peggy Jaeger

A while back I did a blog titled How does your hero smell? It was a light-hearted, but serious-intended piece about using your sense of smell as writer. Today, the tables are being metaphorically turned onto your heroine. So, for lack of a better title, How does your heroine smell?

smell1

Girls are supposed to smell, well, like girls. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a female character referred to as smelling “manly” in a book…not in any I’ve read, anyway. But aside from describing to your reader how your protagonist smells like the inside of an exotic flowering hothouse, or dousing her in buckets of eau d’parfume, what sensory motivators can you use?

We’ve all heard the line sugar and spice and everything nice; that’s what little girls are made of. Well, what about big girls? I kind of think the same thing applies.smell3

Let me ‘splain it you…

View original post 452 more words

What fictional character would you like most to be stuck in an elevator with?

A very humorous post. Loved it.

Peggy Jaeger

I don’t even have to think about this one. As soon as I saw the question, Elizabeth Bennett’s name popped into my head faster than you could say…well…anyone else!

So here’s the set up. I’m on the elevator and by some time warp bend, Elizabeth Bennett gets on with me. I’m me, she’s…her. Because she was written over 200 years before I came on the scene, we’re a little differently dressed. I’m in jeans and an old Dartmouth hoodie, she’s in the typical garb of her day, parasol and reticule in hand. She nods and smiles pleasantly at me, then turns to face the elevator door forgetting I exist.

No way, Liz.

First and foremost, we need to have a little discussion about Wickham. For someone drawn as the “smart” one in the family, how come you were so blind to his narcissism? I read Pride and Prejudice for the…

View original post 508 more words

Character Development: Lifespace

Great idea for your characters

Nancy's Notes From Florida

Do you lie awake at night worrying about future events or reviewing your to-do list? The other night, I couldn’t fall asleep. Too many thoughts and concerns flickered through my mind. When this happens, one technique I use is to grab a handy notepad and pen and scribble down every thought in my head. This might include a list of things I have to get done the next day or a list of my worries, whether realized or not. Writing them down seems to allay some of the anxiety.

Assigning these concerns to a set of worry dolls is another method I might employ. These are miniature Caribbean dolls that you lay out on your nightstand or put under your pillow. Then you assign each doll one of your worries. They fret all night while you can go to sleep, safe in the knowledge that someone else is doing the…

View original post 195 more words

Have You Taken Your Once A Season Break?

If you have children in school, you know all about breaks: Spring/Easter, Winter/Christmas, Summer Vacation, and all the other holidays, staff days etc. our schools manage. If you work outside the house, there’s those wonderful days called vacation. Many work places allow workers to take a certain amount of off days. I know one friend who calls them her mental health days—days where she can just take a day off when needed. Kids and adults alike get or take breaks and vacations or even an occasional mental health day.

Except writers.

I’ve noticed that writer’s just keep going like that little pink bunny. Writers write, even during kids’ breaks, vacations, summers, etc. We’re always struggling to find those few precious minutes to write every single day. How about going on a vacation and taking that lap top or Alpha Smart to get another few pages written? How often do you declare to the world that you are on break, or are taking a vacation? And on those breaks or vacations, do you leave the writing behind; adopt a no writing allowed rule? How about a mental health day to let to relax and refill the well?

When is the last time you, as a writer took a break or vacation? Writers spend a lot of energy1686891 writing. It may not be physical activity but it is mental work and in my opinion, more exhausting. No eight-hour job I had ever exhausted me as much as four hours of writing. Add to that, being hunched over the keyboard, eyes glued to a screen, and yes, there is the physical effect on our bodies.

For some reason, writers don’t take breaks. Somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves that real writers write every day, no matter what. It doesn’t matter that we’ve just spent six months or a year or more slaving over a manuscript. Take a break? No way. Have to start the next book. And if the book we just turned in was under contract, then we are already behind on the marketing, promotion, and social media.

So the cycle begins anew. One book after another, without taking real-time to just relax and let our bodies recover and our minds refill and even find some balance (that’s a topic for another time). In other words, no breaks or vacations. There’s much to be said for the breaks our children receive. Shouldn’t we as writers adopt this philosophy? And don’t forget those odd mental health days. If teachers get staff days and all the holidays and such, then we should as well.

In the long run, writer are better off for taking time off. It benefits our careers and our health. There is nothing wrong with taking a month or two off after completing a book to have that summer vacation, or a few weeks off during the holidays. Of course, deadlines and contracts might suggest that your vacation or break be only a week or two.

1687179Regardless, taking time off does not mean you’re not a writer. (Where did this idea that writers must write every day to be considered a real writer come from anyway?) It means that you are in tune with your mind and body. Sure, you can go from one book to another with no time off. For a while. But if you neglect your body and mind, both will let you down when you need them the most.

Listen to your body. If the writing isn’t coming, if you rebel against placing butt in chair and fingers on keys, then maybe you’ve pushed yourself too far and need a break. How long has it been since you stole a day of play? If you can’t remember the last day you didn’t write (days where the family or work claim your time and energy don’t count.)

So take that break. A spring break or winter break or a summer break. Maybe a once a season break. How long? As long as you need.

Now, by writing this, you’d think I live by my words, right? Um, no. I seem to be going from one project to another. A write-for-hire novella, then a novella from my contract with my publisher. A circle of projects. Luckily, I can at any point schedule the work for hire out or skip a month, etc. And my contract with my publisher has four more novellas due. I figure I’ll be done in November and you can bet your first-born that I’m taking December off. I’m claiming a winter break. Of course, I say this now, knowing that I’ll need to get a proposal done for the next contract but if I’m smart and savvy I’ll get that done in November so I can have my holiday.

What do you do to refill the well? Do you take a break or jump right into the next project” What advice would you give to the work alcoholic writer?

Sydney

GHOSTWRITING LEADS TO REBRANDING

GHOSTWRITING LEADS TO REBRANDING 

For the last few years, I’ve been trying to rebrand myself. When the downturn in the economy hit, my publisher went out of business (Dorchester) and I found myself out in that cold, miserable world. I was an orphan with several major roadblocks:

  • My books were part of two different series which made it difficult to sell elsewhere.
  • Historicals were not doing well. Westerns were worse. And of course, I wrote Native American/Westerns
  • Publishers were not buying much. They had their current authors. Those of us out on our own faced tough times.

cropped-shutterstock_99091442.jpgMy career had come to a grinding halt. My agent managed to sell my backlist. I’d been fortunate enough to see the handwriting on the wall and had my agent get my rights back a good year before Dorchester bit the dust.

When I sold those books to Carina Press, I thought I was back. But they didn’t want any more White series books or the SpiritWalker series. So I wrote two more books in my two series for my fans/readers and started a new contemporary series. But while doing this, I needed income but an outside job wasn’t feasible as I’m a full-time caretaker for my mother. I started checking online to see what might be available. I found a blog by a writer on extra ways writers could make money.

One of the sites he recommended was Elance. I signed up thinking I might find some freelance jobs like office work or data entry. There was so many jobs, it was overwhelming, and I didn’t really find anything to fit my skills. I searched on writing and again, found tons but most of what I found, I either wasn’t comfortable doing or I didn’t have the skills or knowledge to take it on. Lots of blog writing, articles needed, website work, etc. Then I saw a job posting for ghostwriting. I searched the site on ghostwriting romance and wow! I was once again overwhelmed with tons of postings, and again, a lot weren’t good matches like a poster wanting a 65k word novel with pay well under $500.00. Really? I don’t think so! I wasn’t about to hire myself out for peanuts so I kept searching and hit the jackpot when Ishutterstock_105513959edit1 found postings seeking erotica writers.

One stood out. It was for a job of approx. 25-26k words and the poster’s guidelines stated that the proposal had to be under $300.00. We’ll I proposed just under that amount (taking into account the percentage Elance takes from her). I wrote up a formal proposal with review quotes, my awards/kudos, a sample of several of my books, love scenes of course and included an unsold erotica short story written sometime in the 90’s.

To my surprise, my proposal was accepted! Now, I’m multi-published with 14 full-length novels in the Historical Romance genre (http://susanedwards.com) but I had never sold anything less than a full-length novel (85-95K words). The change in genres didn’t worry me as my historicals tend to be very sensual and for me, writing love scenes/sex scenes is just a matter of how much, how you describe it, etc. The woman who hired me sent a story sample and some tip sheets. I read the story she sent then went out to Amazon for research (and even found the story she sent).

I found a lot of erotica authors offered book one for free then if the reader liked what they read, they could then buy the entire book. I downloaded tons of free “first books” and got a feel for the genre and the requirements of light BDSM. I wrote the novella and turned it in. The woman who hired me loved it. She sent over a transfer of copyright and within hours of sending it back signed, I had my money in the Elance escrow account! (Elance does take a small fee) Wow, I thought. For the next contract, I decided I wanted to make a bit more. I proposed a new amount and she agreed. The third contract we had, she moved me into a more elite line. Slightly longer books and she agreed to increase the pay accordingly. For me, this was a great bit of validation.

Not only did she like what I produced, but she was willing to pay more and move me up. How does this figure out pay wise? I’m getting a bit more than a penny a word and I’m trying to get my time spent writing these stories for her down to where I’ll at least make minimum wage per hour spent. It’s not great money but it’s regular. I can plan and schedule and count on what I earn. But there are pros and cons to freelance work, especially writing for hire. PROS

  • Money—you know how much you’ll get and when you’ll get it. Elance uses an escrow account so I make sure it is funded before I start the job.
  • Branch out. Learn new abilities. Great way to experiment and push your boundaries and stretch your abilities.
  • Validation. Nothing like having someone want to hire you to prove you are not washed up!
  • Seeing your book out on the market for sale even without your name on it. (yes, I’ve seen one of my stories out for sale)

CONS

  • Contract. You agreed to do the job. Now you have to write it.
  • What you agreed to be paid is all you’ll be paid. No royalties.
  • Falling in love with the story and the characters and knowing they won’t remain yours.
  • Signing the transfer of copyright ownership. Knowing the book you loved and those characters who’ve become your friends now belong to someone else. Worse than sending off your child to that first day of school. At least they come back home.
  • Seeing your book for sale with someone else’s name on the cover.
  • You do have to take time out of your own writing to write for someone else. You have to think of this as a day job and schedule it in with your regular writing.

My experience doing ghostwriting or work for hire, was a real eye opener on many levels.

  • I learned a lot about my writing and myself.
  • I discovered and proved that I could write shorter novels.
  • I kept a time sheet just like a regular job. I wanted to see what the cost to my time was and discovered I could write fairly quickly (I use Power Writing which really focuses my writing time. See previous post)
  • It was taking me approx. 40-50 hours to write a novella of approx. 30-33k words. Of course, my life doesn’t allow me to just take 40 hours in one week and crank out a book!

Aside from discovering I could write novellas and erotica, I learned how to write a lot faster as one of my goals was to cut my hours down to under 40 hours per novella. That means I need to be more efficient and treat this like a job. I know, sad that my goal is to earn minimum wage or a bit more. But the point of this endeavor for me was bringing in additional income.shutterstock_108382202 But ghostwriting did so much more. I discovered I had the talent and ability to write erotica. I squeezed in time to write my own erotica novella (Cinderella & Her Dom, sold to Wild Rose Press).

Even better, I created a six book series (Once Upon a Dom, a fairytale series). This is when I realized that I’d rebranded myself. I thought I was writing erotica to earn money until I sold a contemporary. Instead, I fell into a career change.

Often, we find what we need when we’re not even looking. I had no idea when I sent off that first free-lance proposal that I was embarking on a new career or that Sydney St. Claire would be born. Because I was open to, and willing to, learn and try something new, I have a six-book contract for a new series with a new publisher.

Will I continue to ghost write? For a while. At some point, I’ll be way too busy but for right now, its money in the bank, proof that I’m not washed up and speaks to the old adage that an old dog can learn new tricks. A writer can rebrand him/herself. In the meantime, life is busy and exciting, exactly as I like it!

How about you? Have you ever had an experience lead you into something new and wonderful? If you are an author who had to rebrand yourself, how did you do it? What did you learn from it? Would love to hear from you!

Sydney

Blind Man Walking or A Writer’s Leap of Faith

Have you ever been walking and decided to shut your eyes and see how far you could walk without peeking? I used to do this while walking home from school. I’d pick a spot up ahead: a line in the sidewalk, a bush, etc., close my eyes and try to reach that precise spot before opening my eyes, letting my senses tell me when I reached that spot.

Amazingly, most of the time, I was able to do this. I’d open my eyes and I was right there or within inches. While walking, in my mind, I’d see what I knew was there as I headed toward my goal: the grass, a fence, etc. as I’d walked the path so often. My mind was able to see what my eyes could not and my body, my instincts, felt when I reached my goal. In a way, it was my own leap of faith that I could do it. Don’t ask me why i ever did this . Walking home from school in the days when moms did not pick us up was boring!

Every once in a while, I still do this as an adult while out walking and find it enlightening to rely on other senses, not my eyesight. It’s a great way to really see the detail around me and feel my world, not just see it passing by. Of course, you do have to be safe—no cracks in the sidewalk, not close to a busy street, no hazards, etc. Being aware is key! It’s a way of letting go of the rush, stress and the sheer responsibility of our lives for just a few minutes. Instead of being in control, in the driver’s seat, we give ourselves up to just feel, not think.

1080361_53804077As writers, we take a lot of leaps of faith, relying on our other senses instead of our eyes. We close our eyes and draw up on our other senses to write our stories. We aren’t seeing a live picture of what we write about but instead, draw from our memories and our senses and even call up on instinct, sensing the right words or tone for our stories.

But do we really see what we are writing about? Do our readers? How many times have we read that a day is beautiful or that our hero leaned against the trunk of a tree or have an author tell us how green the grass is? While we can all call upon our own life experiences to paint those pictures of tree trunks, green grass or beautiful days, a good writer lets us feel and see her vision of these examples in her writing, whether fiction or non-fiction.

By telling us what kind of tree, or how the trunk feels (smooth, rough, sappy, ants crawling up it, etc.) we become immersed in the story. We see each scene not through the author’s eyes, but the author’s ability to use his or her senses. How wonderful it is when we can close our eye and see those vivid images and details. That writer/author took a leap of faith and asked us to close our eyes and see what she felt.

louis_12_bg_101202My challenge is to take a walk, somewhere safe and try to see your world using your other senses. We see so much yet we often aren’t really seeing what’s there. We take our world around us for granted and we miss so much.

With your eyes open, study the area around you, choose a spot, and walk slowly toward it. I’m not about to suggest to anyone to walk with his or her eyes closed just because I do this crazy thing, and always have. But let your senses guide you to that exact spot and once there, sit and record what you see? What you feel? Why did you pick that spot? Did something draw you to it?

Look close, at what is not obvious to the eye. An ant trail? A hidden bloom? Are the blades of grass tall and thin or short and wide? What do you feel? The sun on her face, on your back, a soft breeze? The buzz of a bee. What do you sense in this area that you cannot see? Now as writer’s we can have great imaginations. Is there a body buried in the ground, is it the perfect place for lovers to meet and make out (I do write erotica here), can you imagine the children who ran across the grass with their puppy? You can’t see any of this but I bet you can both imagine it and sense some of it. Well, maybe not the dead body!

Take off your shoes. What do the soles of your feet tell you? Can you feel vibrations, warmth, cold? How about your toes. Do they curl into the grass or sand or avoid contact? Why? Use your hands. Are the rocks warm or cold, rough or smooth? What does the grass feel like? Is there a tree in the area? What do you see and hear? Close your eyes and really listen. Do you hear the leaves rustling or birds or squirrels?

canstockphoto0480047Every time you repeat this process, close your eyes and see what you’ve miss by only relying on your eyesight. This exercise can be done anywhere: your backyard, a park, a beach, in your house (okay, maybe you’ll fall asleep but hey, naps are one of life’s greatest pleasures, right?), office (maybe when the boss isn’t around). Any setting works. Then use what you discover in your writing. Maybe a short story about why you think a body is buried in the park next to your home.

Have you ever closed your eyes and just felt life around you?


The Beauty of Power Writing

I have been doing something called Power Hour Writing for nearly a year now and thought I’d update my thoughts on this process. I started this last summer when I was about to start White Christmas (Historical Romance).

(Note: To read my original post on Power Writing, go to my Susan Edwards blog.)

Here’s what Power Writing is involves:

  • The rules are simple: write for one hour.
  • Write down your current word count (scene or chapter or document?
  • No interruptions allowed
  • No stopping to research allowed
  • No going on the internet to check facts allowed
  • No distractions period.
  • No checking email, Facebook, twitter, or other social media allowed
  • No phone calls allowed.
  • Write. Write. Write. THIS IS SO SIMPLE
  • Warn your family that you are taking an hour—JUST ONE HOUR—to write.
  • If you write with other writers, at the start of the hour, conference in everyone and state your current  word count for your chapter or document. Those in edit mode state page goals.
  • NO CHATTER ALLOWED. CURRENT WORD COUNT OR PAGE COUNT GOALS.

canstockphoto12079814First, a bit of history. A close friend invited me to join her writing group and give Power Writing a try. I jumped in with both feet. They did 4 writing sessions, each an hour-long. I decided the seven am time was far too early for this night owl so I opted to join in at ten. I was called and conferenced in to the others taking part in that writing hour and was asked for my current word count.

Well, I was staring at a blank page. I had not started this book which made it perfect for this experiment. Trouble was, I only had the basic premise of the story because it was part of my White Series. I knew who the heroine was as she was a child in a previous book. I knew she had a grandfather looking for her and I knew she didn’t like the man. There was a hero in there somewhere—maybe hired by grandfather—but he had no name, no face.

Normally, I spend some time plotting a book before typing that first word and plunging myself into the writing process.  During this call, I almost said that I was going to be plotting for that first power hour of writing.  But the purpose of this hour is to write. To produce. So I took a deep breath and told everyone my word count was zero! I jumped in with both feet and figured I would drown!

After I hung up, I stared at that horrible blank screen, not knowing where I was going to start or even which character to start with. But the clock was ticking so decided to start with the hero with grandfather in grandfather’s study. At the end of the hour, the phone rang. I was in the middle of a sentence but the rule is, you stop. No matter what. So I did. And a funny thing happened when I checked my word count for the report:

I had over 400 words! And the scene was solid.  And even more amazing, just from that one scene, I knew a lot about the hero and his goals and conflicts. That first day I think I did 2 or 3 sessions with working on the plotting and characters in-between. What I came away with was a good, solid start to my book. I was jazzed, and wowed and impressed that I was able to break my “normal mold” of writing which includes lots of piddling around. What canstockphoto2565326impressed me the most were the phone calls. Normally, you get 3-4 women on the phone and you have chatter that eats away at your time.

There was no chatter.     No gabbing.     No wasted time. We all reported our current work count—and how many words we wrote that hour.

The beauty is, you are held ACCOUNTABLE by people who are not going to sabotage your writing time. It’s not like you’ll be yelled at or publicly shamed, but you’ll know that everyone is expecting you to produce and no one wants to admit to others that they failed.

Also, with time a couple to a few hours in-between power writing sessions, there is plenty of time to do plotting, rewriting, as well as marketing and promotion and unfortunately, housework and other mundane chores. If you have kids, they can be given a timer and can look forward to some mom/dad time when the timer dings! (Spouses too!) Another plus is the fact that you can get up and move. Much healthier for our bodies than sitting for 4-6 hours or more.

I had tried something similar with one of my past critique groups. Problem was, we chatted too long before starting—you know, “how is everyone?” which always leads into long, drawn out conversations that often end in woe is me or bitch sessions or problem solving. Sometimes more than 30 minutes was spent on our greetings before we got to work.  Although we wrote for much longer, two or three hours before reporting back in, we were often back on the phone for another hour or more. Some of that was discussing our writing sessions but more often, it was gabbing. And because it took so much time, it didn’t work.

I am happy to report that nearly a year later, this method has gotten even better.  Power Writing  works  for me because:

I AM A PROCRASTINATOR

I WORK MY BEST UNDER DEADLINE

Okay, for the update. That first book last summer was written in under three months. In December, I started a new venture: ghostwriting (Next blog topic) novellas of approx. 27-31k words. I used this power writing method and when I recently took stock of my achievements I was shocked. As of today (May 25th), I have written 4 novellas (27-31k words each) for work for hire. I took some time out to write a novella (27k words) that I sold to Wild Rose Press (Cinderella & Her Dom) and have another novella that only needs another 10k words left to finish it (a work for hire not accepted).  And I’m partway done with book two for Wild Rose Press (Red & Her Big, Bad, Wolf). That’s a total of 5 ¾ novellas in five months!

Now I wasn’t super impressed because these are all short stories, right? But, I realized something else when I totaled my word count for all those novellas. I had written a solid 170k words which doesn’t include the proposal for five additional books for Wild Rose.

That word count is equal to 2 full size novels of 80-90k words!  To think that I could have written almost 2 full sized novecanstockphoto1845008ls in 5 months is just incredible to me. Now, I do have to take into consideration that a full size novel has more plotting and usually much deeper characterization and many more characters (at least mine do). But still….

Power writing works for me because it focuses my mind and forces those creative juices to flow whether or not they want too. It takes some training but when the brain is told that it has an hour to produce, guess what? It doesn’t let you down. It pulls what it needs from somewhere and out it comes: brain to fingers. I love it.

That first book I did convinced me that we can retrain ourselves to be more productive and efficient. With previous books, it might have taken me 3-5 months to do the first 3-5 chapters, then the rest came much more quickly. The entire process would take me 6-8 months or more. But now I know I can write an entire, full length novel in 3-4 months.

In this business time is money. All that time spent writing is not earning advances or royalties. How great it is to become faster, and more efficient. Just like a regular business. And that is the key for me. Writing is a business. Not just a hobby or something to be played at. To that end, I keep track of how many hours I write a day and the word count.

I know what my average hourly word count is (4-600 words) and what my “wow” word count is (8-1100). This can tell me how a story is going for me or my own mindset.  I also know approximately how many writing hours each novella takes which makes planning my writing schedule so much easier. And when I’m hitting my deadline crunch, I know I can easily (ha!) aim for 3-4k words a day.

After a huge setback in my career when Dorchester went out of business, its taken some time and work to get my self-confidence and self-esteem back. Step one of my makeover was improving how I wrote and thanks to Power Writing, I achieved that. Step two was reinventing myself and that meant being open to new things, like ghostwriting.

In my next blog post, I’ll talk about my experience with being a ghostwriter. For now I’ll say that without that challenge, I would never have broken into the erotica market or sold a new series to Wild Rose Press (Once Upon a Dom), which has breathed new life into this thing called a Writing Career. And without power writing, I might still be piddling around and not the proud owner of half a dozen finished works.

So I will continue to Power Write, set my goals and produce those thousands of lovely words that bring stories to life and put a new joy of writing in my heart.

So have you found ways to improve your writing process? Are you frustrated at your current process? I’d love to know a bit how you write and what, if anything you’d like to improve. Or any new discoveries for faster or more efficient writing.

IMG_0001Now, if anyone can figure out how to teach 5 cats and 3 dogs the concept of:

 1 hour, leave me alone for just 1 hour

I’d love to hear it as well.   Sigh. IMG_0067

I don’t have a door to my office as I took over the family room for my office/craft area  and at least 3 if not 4 cats insist on sleeping on my desk while I write.

Right now, got the 3 ft, 25 lb monster cat hitting my keyboard as he rolls and thinks he’s being cute.