Friday, August 29, 2008

The Sin of Conjunctions used as Transitions

If there's one thing I personally can't stand, it's using conjunctions at the beginning of sentences. AND, BUT and OR are conjunctions used to string phrases together. They do not belong at the beginning of sentences.

However, let me clarify something. Using conjunctions at the beginning of sentences is part of the American language, particularly for those with less education. They will also be found in "street" dialects. Therefore, it can be used sparingly --please, very sparingly!-- in dialogue. Such things are not acceptable in narrative unless you choose deliberately to convey to the reader that the POV character is of the lower classes or less educated.

Acceptable: He gave them a nasty glare. "And I wanna add that I don' like being bribed."

Unacceptable: And he added, "I don't like being bribed." (Two sins in one, there. A conjunction and a lazy dialogue tag.)

Instead of using poor grammar, here are some alternatives provided by Peggy Roberts, one of my former editors.

To Add:
and, again, and then, besides, equally important, finally, further, furthermore, nor, too, next, lastly, what's more, moreover, in addition, first (second, etc.),
To Compare:
whereas, but, yet, on the other hand, however, nevertheless, on the other hand, on the contrary, by comparison, where, compared to, up against, balanced against, vis a vis, but, although, conversely, meanwhile, after all, in contrast, although this may be true
To Prove:
because, for, since, for the same reason, obviously, evidently, furthermore, moreover, besides, indeed, in fact, in addition, in any case, that is
To Show Exception:
yet, still, however, nevertheless, in spite of, despite, of course, once in a while, sometimes
To Show Time:
immediately, thereafter, soon, after a few hours, finally, then, later, previously, formerly, first (second, etc.), next, and then
To Repeat:
in brief, as I have said, as I have noted, as has been noted,
To Emphasize:
definitely, extremely, obviously, in fact, indeed, in any case, absolutely, positively, naturally, surprisingly, always, forever, perennially, eternally, never, emphatically, unquestionably, without a doubt, certainly, undeniably, without reservation
To Show Sequence:
first, second, third, and so forth. A, B, C, and so forth. next, then, following this, at this time, now, at this point, after, afterward, subsequently, finally, consequently, previously, before this, simultaneously, concurrently, thus, therefore, hence, next, and then, soon
To Give an Example:
for example, for instance, in this case, in another case, on this occasion, in this situation, take the case of, to demonstrate, to illustrate, as an illustration, to illustrate
To Summarize or Conclude:
in brief, on the whole, summing up, to conclude, in conclusion, as I have shown, as I have said, hence, therefore, accordingly, thus, as a result, consequently, on the whole,

More Transition Markers to use in place of Conjunctions below.

Some Useful Transition Markers
To repeat an idea just stated: In other words, That is, To repeat, Again,
To restate an idea more precisely: To be exact, To be specific, To be precise, More specifically, More precisely,
To illustrate an idea: For example, For instance, In particular, To illustrate, In this manner, Thus,
To mark a new idea as an addition to what has been said: Similarly, Also, Too, Besides, Furthermore, Further, Moreover, In addition,
To announce a contrast, a change in direction: Yet, However, Still, Nevertheless, On the other hand, In contrast, Instead of, On the contrary, Conversely, Notwithstanding, In spite of this,
To show cause and effect: As a result, For this reason, Therefore, Hence, Consequently, Accordingly,
Time: At once, In the interim, At length, Immediately, At last, Meanwhile, In the meantime, Presently, At the same time, Shortly, In the end, Temporarily, Thereafter,
Conclusion: In short, To conclude, In brief, On the whole, In summary, To sum up,

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Passive and Showing vs. Telling

Yes, this is getting repetitive. Sometimes you have to explain something multiple times before the right phrasing or example comes up that causes the light bulb to go off in someone's head. Bear with me.

One of the easiest ways to spot passive voice is by the use of conjugations of "be": was, am, is with a helping verb ending in -ing or -ed.

Example: was willing, am going.

Instead of "she was willing" you can say "she eagerly nodded her consent." Not only are you showing the reader by the character's actions that they want to do that thing.

Action speaks louder than your words. Peppering your manuscript with descriptive and emotional actions will convey much more forcefully what's in the characters' heads than a narrative that simply says, "she was willing."

Would you rather read:

She was willing. She picked up the gun and left the room. He heard gunshots.


She nodded with a feral smile on her dirty face. Then, she snatched the AK-47 from the table and removed the safety like the pro she was. "Let's kick some ass." She darted out of the room, with her rifle firing a rapid staccato.

In the first example, the author simply told you what happened. In the second example, she showed you.

Passive voice is weak, lazy storytelling. It's a bad habit, but one that you can correct with a few button presses, because more often than not your helping verb can become active.

"She was nodding" becomes "she nodded."

"He was running" becomes "He ran."

Better still is to think beyond the most common verbs. Instead of "nodded", how about "jerked her chin". Instead of "ran" how about "dashed"?

In other cases, try something more descriptive.

"He was flabbergasted" is telling.

His jaw hung open and he stared, his blue eyes wide. "I don't believe you." That's showing.

Get it? I hope so.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Lena's No-No List for Macros

as- This is a biggie, lately. Use it with similes, but be careful not to use it to describe sequential events, such as: "As he turned, she shot him." Say instead, "He whipped around and beheld the Colt 45 in her hand. The crack of a gunshot, and he felt the bullet explode into his body...) Don't waste the opportunity to describe.

kind of
sort of
will be
had been

a few

I = highlight only
Me= him/her
My= his/her
Our = their (one at a time!)
-self = as in, myself, herself, himself. Just highlight and correct manually.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Macros for Self-Editing

Macros for Self-Editing

When you edit, you have to look for various things. We all have our own foibles; I repeat certain words, for instance, and then there are the things we need to check like speech tags, passives, the overuse of 'as,' and the rest! Checking all these things takes a lot of concentration, and still we miss one! What you need is a macro, a lovely tool that does all of these things for you. It will change all the things you need to look at into pretty colors, so that you can't miss them.

Here's how to do it.

1. Make a list of the things you want to change. Type them on to a new document in Word. (Note: I'll post my list tomorrow to get you started.)

2. In Word, go to: Tools - Macro - Record New

3. Type a name for your macro. You can't use spaces here, so keep it all one word. I call mine 'Editcoloron.' Click OK

4. You get a little box. On the left is a small toolbar with two button. The square one is to stop recording. The one with two lines and a dot is to pause. When you move the cursor you will see a little cassette tape next to it. This is to tell you that you are recording a macro.

5. Go to Edit - Replace

6. Click on the 'More' button.

7. In the 'Find What' field, type the word you want to change.

8. Type the same word in the 'Replace With' field.

9. Highlight the word in the 'Replace With' field

10. Click on the Format Button and select Font

11. On the Font Tab, pick a color. Click OK

12. Under the 'Replace with,' should be your font option

13. Click 'Replace All.' You will see the word typed on your document turn
a pretty color! This is how you keep track of what you are doing.

14. Now repeat stages 7-13 with all the words on your list until you have done them all. If you like, you can change the font color and group your words, as a kind of aide memoir as to why they are highlighted. Take note of the 'find whole words only' options. You can click and unclick this as needed. For instance, I uncheck it when I want to highlight 'ing' words because the 'ing' is at the end of the word. Of course, this means that you will highlight some words you don't need, but you will have to live with that (unless anyone knows a workaround for it!). But if you choose to highlight 'as' and you don't check the "find whole words only" box, you will have an awful lot of superfluous words!

15. When you're finished, click on the 'Close' button.

16. Click on the square button in the little box to stop recording the
Macro. That's it, you have your macro! Here's what my macro does; it highlights 'ing' words and 'ly.' It highlights speech tags so I can check that I really need them. It checks uses of the word 'to be' to check for passives. It checks usage of the word 'that' to see if I can cut it. It checks the words I tend to overuse. It makes editing a whole lot easier!

To run the Macro:
In the document you want to change:
1. Select - Tools - Macro
2. Scroll to find your Macro.
3. Highlight your macro and select 'Run.'
4. I have put the editing macros on to my "new menu" button on the menu bar
(see yesterday's lesson). It means you can run it directly.

Ok, you have a document you have highlighted and checked, but it's still full of pretty colors. How to get rid of them? You write a macro!

1. Tools - Macro
2. Record New Macro
3. Name your macro. Mine is Editcoloroff
4. Edit - Replace - More.
5. In the first box select the font color you want to change back
black. Leave the box blank.
6. In the second box, select black or auto. Leave the box blank.
7. Hit "Replace All."
8. Repeat steps 5 - 7 until all your text is back to black.
9. Click on "close" and then the square button in the macro box.
That's it!

More on Macros

I found that if you store too many macros in your template, it
leads to template bloat. So now, I'm saving them in the Start menu instead,
and they open with Word. Here's how to do it, if you want to.

1. Create your macro in a new document called "Macros" or something
that will help you remember.
2. When you've closed your macro, click "File-Save as…"
3. In the box, choose "template" from the "Save as type" box.
Navigate to C-Program Files-Microsoft Office-Office-Startup folder and save it there. Note: In Word 2000 and later, you'll find your startup folder in C/Documents and settings/Your name/Application Data/Microsoft/Word/Startup

The Application Data folder is hidden by default, so you have to go
Into the Folder Options Advanced tab and select Show All Files.

Remember to save both the template folder and the Startup folder in
Your backups!

My thanks to Lynne Connolly, who first posted this.
Lynne Connolly, GSOLFOT, Author of historical and paranormal romance
EPPIE 2005 winner with the Richard and Rose book, "Harley Street"

Monday, August 25, 2008

Just a Funny Video

We all feel like this sometimes...

Yep, I herd cats...I mean, authors...


The Hunt for It and That by M

Repetitive word use

Warning: Once you read this, you may well inherit my obsession for rooting these words out of my writing...

I'm talking about dinosaurs -- words no longer necessary to our language that hang around out of sheer stubbornness. We find these words used places where they aren't needed and have no meaning or impact on the sentence.

There are several words we should search for and simply delete before the book ever goes to final edits. Here's my hit list:

IT usually needs to be replaced. IT is like a fungus. IT takes the place of a word with meaning and simply consumes space. Try this, just to freak yourself out. In WORD, search for IT, whole word, and replace with IT, highlighted. After you crawl back up off the floor, spend some time cleaning up just one page. Maggie Osborne did this to me with a highlighter a few years back. Ohmygod. I nearly died.

OF -- when it doesn't mean anything or serve any purpose.

She ran out of the open door just as he stepped off of the porch.

Revision 1) She ran out the open door just as he stepped off the porch.
Revision 2) She ran out the door just as he stepped off the porch. (We KNOW the door's open. She can't transmute through doors.)

THAT. (This one is Kate Douglas' fault.) There are instances where that is used as a pronoun and totally necessary. -- Go get that. -- However many, many times that is just a total waste of space.

Here's a 2 for 1 special.

She thought that if she could just find her keys, she might make it on time.

Neither THAT nor IT lends anything to the sentence's meaning.

Revision 1) She thought if she could just find her keys, she might make the cross town drive on time.

Revision 2) If she could just find her keys, she might still make her court appearance on time.

(She thought didn't really add much either.)

Suddenly everything became clear. She saw the light. An Event Horizon took place. An epiphany.

Barf. Stop.

Don't tell me

He suddenly appeared on the other side of the room where she suddenly spotted him standing there in the mist that suddenly appeared.

That's not only narrative, it's just plain lazy. Give me real description. If suddenly is bad, make the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

He slipped into the shadows, crossing the room unnoticed, to appear at her side. A cold mist crept in through the open window, wrapping layers of doubt around her. Who was this man? What was he doing here?

If suddenly is good, let me feel it. Err that. Err ... the emotions suddenly evokes.

Fog rolled in across the water, blanketing the night in quiet. He stepped out of the shadows, waiting for her to notice him. Everything about her -- the set of her shoulders, the slight bow to her neck, the heaviness of her step -- spoke of the strain these last weeks had placed on her. One step. Then another.

"Richard!" she shrieked, throwing herself into his arms. "You're home!"

"Happy Valentine's Day, my love."

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Self Edit in a Nutshell

"Do it right the first time. Don't skip a step, or you will pay later. Note: if you use a computer, use the `find' feature available in most word processing programs to search for some of these items. See your individual program instructions for directions on how to do this. If you prefer to work with hard copy (paper), get different colored highlighters and use them to mark the offending passages.

Did you plot the rollercoaster of the Plot W?
Is there an opening hook in the first chapter?
Is there a closing hook at the end of each chapter?
EDITS System. (I will post this later.)
Read it out loud.
Did you backload?
Spell check! Grammar check!
Metaphors, clichés, and similes?
Where are the six senses in every scene?
Do you have flying body parts? (ie rolling eyeballs).
Get rid of `ly' words. These weak modifiers can be replaced with
stronger verbs and nouns. They often indicate areas where you
are `telling' and not `showing' as in the following examples:
a. Weak: Sam walked clumsily over the broken bricks.
b. Better: Sam stumbled over the broken bricks.

. Don't start sentences with `ing' words. They can lead to confusing
or impossible phrasing:
a. Weak: Putting his cup of coffee on the roof of the car, John drove
off. (How can he put his cup of coffee on the top of the car and
drive off at the same time - unless he's in the car and setting it
out through the window while driving - which makes even less sense.)
b. Better: John set his coffee on the roof of the car, dug out his
keys, and opened the door. A minute later, the forgotten coffee cup
became just another piece of litter tumbling down the street.

· Don't modify things that shouldn't be modified: unique, slightly
impossible, mostly alone, endlessly eternal. Unique, impossible,
alone, eternal and other words like them are ultimate words. Nothing
else is necessary to explain them. If someone is alone, there is no
one else with him. If another joins him, he is no longer alone.

· Look for redundancies: stood up (stood or arose), sat down (sat),
looked up at the sky (looked at the sky), little Chihuahua (this dog
is known for its small size so the `little' is not necessary), green
in color (green).

· Look for passive words or phrases and change them to active:
a. Weak: There was no way for us to get through the gate.
b. Better: We couldn't find a way to get through the gate.

Kind of, sort of, almost, maybe, somehow, -ing, be, been, being, are, was, is, will be, had, am, were, have

· Delete implied `that':
a. Weak: We thought that she was coming early.
b. Better: We thought she was coming early.

· Simplify. Unless you're writing a treatise on rocket science,
don't use words that require the reader to go searching for a
dictionary. If they have to figure out what you mean, you've lost
them. Remember that simple doesn't mean dull. Dance is dull, caper or
boogie is simple but interesting, terpsichorean is over the top.

· Look for repetitions, not only in words, but also in character
movements, multiple names or places all beginning with the same
letters, multiple paragraphs beginning with the same word(s). Try not
to use the same major word twice in the same paragraph:
a. Word stutter: That was the hardest test I've ever taken. What
did you think of the test?
b. Better: That was the hardest test I've ever taken. What did you
think of it?

· Get rid of weak words. The following list contains weak words
that need to be changed to stronger ones. This is by no means a
complete list, but it will get you started on the right path. Search
for these words and either use a different word or rewrite the
sentence in a stronger way.
Somewhat perhaps nearly very only
Just suddenly almost should would
Could feel/felt begin/began rather few
Seem appear quite really always

· Use contractions where appropriate for a friendlier tone. Have, could, would, are, will
Unless you're listing a series of at least three, too many commas mean that you have a dreaded run on sentence that needs to be rewritten to begin with. (Linda K)

. The word something! He does something to me. - what does he do? He makes me feel something I've never felt before - What WHAT??? What does he make you feel? Does he give you the shivers, make you hot, make you tired, make you want to dance? I almost think of this as a cop-out on the authors part - the author needs to describe something,

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Artful Critique Partner


I will assume that there are two people in this partnership, though more may apply. One is the Author (A) and one is the crit partner (C).

When A sends a chapter to C, the document should have already been run through a spell/grammar check. (F-7 in Word). Word is imperfect. It will not catch all spelling and grammar mistakes, and sometimes it's just dead wrong. However, it is the first line of defense against unprofessional work. Use it.

Do not turn on Track Changes until I tell you to. Many publishers dislike the use of Track Changes, and this layered system of critiquing will cause Track Changes to go wild. Turn it off when I tell you to, as well. You'll be doing this a lot.

A full list of words to look for is available in a separate document upon request.
(This is what a macro does for you)

I will recommend the use of Edit/Replace with highlighting a lot. Here's how to use it:

1. Choose a Highlight Color. On my toolbar, the Highlight command looks like a pen with a colored line beneath it. When I click on the arrow beside that button, I get a choice of colors. Choose one.

2. To begin checking your ms, hit Cntrl-H. This puts you in the Edit/Replace window. Type in the word you wish to find.

Let's use the word "that" for an example. In the Find What box, type: that

3. In the Replace with box, type the same. Now it gets tricky. Using your mouse, highlight the "that" in the second box. Click on the More button. Click on the Format button. Click on the Highlight button. Check to make sure the lower box (Replace with) now has the word "highlight" beneath it. This is important.

4. Now, click Replace All. If you've done this correctly, all instances of the word "that" will now be highlighted.

5. Repeat with all words you wish to check for.

6. To remove a highlight that is not needed, click on the Highlight key arrow for the dropdown menu and choose "None." Now go to the incident you don't need highlight and use your mouse to erase.

Step One: Check for Content

The first thing any C should do is read through the chapter to get an overall "feel" for the work. I encourage the use of smiley faces, smart comments, and "kill that SOB!" comments. Let A know your gut reactions. Change your font color to red and let her know how you feel.

For true effectiveness, read the chapter aloud. This forces you, the reader, to slow down and read every word. Look for places where you stutter because of awkward phrasing, have to take a breath because the sentence is too long, and spelling errors the spell check did not catch. Note them in red font.

Step Two: Mechanics- keep your font red, and comment in the text.

1. Hooks- Look at the first paragraph. Were you immediately caught up in the action/emotions of the POV character? Look at the last paragraph. Were you intrigued and left wanting to go to the next chapter?

2. Senses- did A use the five senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste) in a well-balanced manner to create a vivid picture?

3. Passive/Active- check for conjugation of "be" combined with a helping verb. (Examples: was willing, be herded.) You may use the Edit/Replace command to easily find the words: is, am, was, were, be. Then use the same Edit/Replace to find all words ending with -ing and -ed. I use yellow highlight for this. Anywhere you see yellow with yellow, you have a possible use of passive voice. Turn your font red, and type in (Passive?) when you are sure you've spotted an incident of passive voice. You are welcome to suggest an alternative phrasing, also in red font.

4. Adverbs- While adverbs can sometimes be the only answer, they are often over-used. Again, use Edit/Replace, changing the highlight to pale pink. Look for all instances of -ly. (Quietly, softly, exceptionally, entirely are some examples.) Look for the over-use of adverbs. Use the red font to suggest alternatives, especially in cases where A is "telling" instead of "showing."

5. "Wussy phrases"- Turn the highlight to light blue. Look for phrases like sometimes, sort of, kind of, almost, something. (Example: "She felt something when he kissed her. " Something? What? What did she feel? Shivers? Revulsion? Uncontrollable lust? Nausea?) Ask for clarification.

6. It and That- This is tricky. Use Edit/Replace and highlight in pink. (Example: "She felt that." What? A breeze? A cold hand?) Use red font when you see a need for more clarification or description and ask.

7. Lazy dialogue tags- Use the light green highlight and find all instances of commonly over-used and unemotional dialogue tags. (Examples: said, murmured, asked, answered.) Use red font to suggest a more emotive word like shouted, hissed, chortled, or demanded. Better still, suggest the tag be removed and a more emotive way used.


"Are you sure?" she asked.


"Are you sure?" she gasped.


She sucked in her breath, her eyes wide. "Are you sure?"

8. Now erase all highlighting. Control-A, highlight "none".

Step Three: POV

Go through the chapter again. Start with the first paragraph. Whose POV is it? Hero? Heroine? Other? If it is the hero, manually highlight in any color you choose. Continue through the scene until the POV changes. When you feel you are no longer in the original POV, change the highlight color code.


The pounding on the door forced her out of her bed. Since it was worse than the drumbeat in her skull, she vowed to murder whoever was beating on the wood like a jackhammer. She eased the door open an inch.

He lounged in the doorway, looking obscenely sexy for this hour of the morning. "You look like hell."

Cassie rubbed her aching head. "Thanks a lot. I vow never to drink tequila again."

She looked like temptation to him. He wanted to carry her back to bed and just hold her, but that wasn't the way to her heart. "I bring a peace offering." He hefted a styrofoam cup from her favorite coffee shop. POV change! Head-hopping alert.

"Leave me alone and let me die in peace." She slammed the door in his face and crawled back to bed.

Step Four: Conflict/Motivation

1. Is it clear why the characters are acting the way they are? Does this follow the previously established goals or is this a side trip into Never-Never Land? Does A give good, clear reasons for their behavior? Are they believable? Example: Hey! Why is she suddenly ready to jump his bones when she's a virgin?

2. Are the characters displaying flaws and virtues, or at least clear character traits? Are they interacting realistically? Example: Why is he acting like a certified jackass?

Step Five: Overall Comment

Give an overall comment at the bottom. Say something nice, if you must say something bad. Example: Loved the interaction between this supernatural being and the human. Made them both seem so realistic. Good job!

You'll note I did not use Track Changes. You may substitute every time I said, "change the font to red" and turn on and off Track Changes throughout, but turn it off every time you use the Edit/Replace/Highlight command. I did it the simplistic way this time. This is confusing enough.

As a final note, I suggest you discuss with your editor her personal "pet peeves" in the editing process. Some editors have a special dislike such as using conjunctions at the beginning of sentences, or passive voice. Find out what your editor's peeves are. Many editors will work with you to correct your personal bad habits. "Okay, in this book you had a problem with X. I want you to be more diligent about that habit in your next book."


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Feeding the Hag

Self-editing is why my former editor Raven called "Feeding the Hag Within." That hag
is a nagging bitch, but she must be fed her dose of your blood and sweat.

I have a stepped system for keeping my hag fed. Use it or not, as pleases you.

1. Write a chapter. Puke it out, and don't fret too much at first. Okay, use
Word to correct the spelling and easy stuff as you go, but just get the words
out of your head and on "paper."

2. Now, go back and do a little self-edit. Use Word's spell/grammar check at minimum. Don't be too harsh. It's not worth it at this level. If your crit partners have certain pet peeves, make a game of it to fix them. I have a POV maven, a hook specialist, and a "repetitive word" wizard among my crit partners, bless their meticulous souls.

3. Send to the crit partners. Print one hard copy and make all the suggested changes on it. Decide what you like and what you don't. I've had a crit partner suggest removing a character entirely from the story before, and I refused. I had plans for her, but she needed to be introduced early before she was necessary to the plot. Then again, another crit partner slashed the hell out of my first chapter, telling me it was unnecessary backstory. She was right. Take what you can use.

4. Make the changes to the draft on your computer all at once. Now is the time to let the Hag rampage. Find all the passive voice, POV issues, and anything else the crit partners didn't find. (HAH! Good crit partners find them for you and spare your head the strain, 99% of the time.) Check for balance between dialogue, emotion, introspection, conflict, and settings. All those things that feed the inner Hag in a happy gorge.

Note: After Step 4, if you have Test Readers, now is the time to use them. Create one master document, insert page numbers, and send to the readers. This will not be the document you send in, but it makes it easier for the Test Reader to have one doc.

5. When the story is done and all the chapters have been bundled together, you feed the Hag one last time. Read through for consistency of names, etc. Give yourself a deadline, and stick to it, or you'll overfeed the Hag and freeze. The greedy bitch will eat you alive if you let her.

6. Now, send to your editor so she can feed her Hag. That's her job. Let her do it. No draft is ever perfect. If you've done your best to send in a clean, professionally formatted copy free of spelling and grammatical errors, then you have done your job. Now let your editor do hers.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hags and Crit Partners

I am a member of a professional critique loop. They are the most wonderful women in the world, and they adhere to strong guidelines.

However, there's one guideline I'd love to see added --multiple offerings of the same chapter. I can see uploading the first time, finding you have major revisions, and uploading a second time for a final check-through. Most of the ladies do no more than that.

It's a pet peeve of mine, and IMHO an abuse of your crit partners, to offer the same chapter repeatedly. Twice is my limit, and only after major revisions. After that, you're nit-picking or looking for more than I can give.

That's one version of over-editing, or as I call it, over-feeding your Hag. We all have that inner editor who is a Hag. She's the bitch that keeps whispering foul things in your ear that make you lose confidence.

There's also another Hag - The over-zealous crit partner. The one who shreds your chapter, insists on knowing "Why?" to everything, and inserts her own voice unnecessarily because she didn't like the way you phrased something.

Occasionally not liking a turn of phrase is warranted. I have a foul mouth, and sometimes I go overboard or out of character. When my crit partners call me on it, they usually do so in droves.

I use and recommend crit partners. Get at least three to four. You want a democracy, just in case your style of writing brings out the Hag in someone.

One crit partner can be a pure "reader." That person is for the overall gut emotional reaction. She has to be willing to say more than, "Good!" I want to see smiley faces, laughter, calling the villain a rat b*stard, and smart comments to the characters. One of my all-time favorites was when my hero was pontificating a bit to the heroine. "Yes, Master Yoda!" told me more effectively than all the other crit partners combined that he was being an *ss.

I know I've done well when Terrie (who is my "reader") laces my chapters with comments, or shouts in the middle "Slit that SOB's throat!" If I can make Terrie grab her SO and run to the bedroom, laugh, sniffle, or tell me what an *ss the villain is, her words carry more weight than those who merely check my grammar. (Not that I have a crit partner like that anymore.)

Please, do it now. Team up. Find those compatible personalities. Find those professionals who write like you do. If you like dark, visceral tales find someone who writes them. If you are a "sweetness and light" fantasy writer, find someone who likes them. Get the idea? Historical writers should team up with others of that skill. That kind of in-depth research drives me bonkers unless the time period is an interest of mine. I'm not going to argue when buttonhooks were used or when the zipper became common.


Monday, August 18, 2008

M's Rant on Punctuation, Style and Grammar

Dialogue: “ALL punctuation inside the quotes. Exception for clarity -- ‘
single quotes inside a piece of dialogue at the end of a sentence’.”
“Use a comma at the end of a quote before a dialogue tag,” she said, “Not
a period. I keep seeing period quote capitol letter. No.” She went on to explain that you only use a period inside the quotes if the narrative that follows is NOT a dialogue tag, but is, in fact, a stand alone sentence.

Commas: Commas are not whimsical creatures to be sprinkled on a manuscript
like cayenne pepper in a Cajun restaurant. If you see them wandering about
loose please corral them and put them back where they belong.
Acceptable uses of commas: Parenthetical expressions, such as “In fact” in
the dialogue explanation, should be set off by commas. If you can take the
phrase out of the sentence without changing the sentence structure it’s a
parenthetical expression. (Parenthetical expressions should be set off by
Use serial commas before conjunctions. An example would be items, numbers,
and names in a list. Adjectives, however, do not get set off by commas. No
commas are needed in describing a big blue house.

Breaking the rules is fun and sometimes gives us all a little thrill of
guilty pleasure. While I can live with an occasional sentence fragment --
actually as a writer I’m quite fond of them -- comma splices and run on sentences
are simply bad grammar. Hunt them down and kill them, please.

Redundancy: If the main character runs her hands through her hair when she’s
nervous, it’s a character trait. Is she runs her hands through her hair
every place you cut the dialogue tag, just so that we can tell who’s speaking, it’
s redundant.

Dialogue Tags: Hunt them down like the rodents they are and kill them. “He
said” is fine for a forth grade composition. By adult literature we expect
something a tad less obtrusive and a lot more informative.
“You turned back time to spend this evening with me?” she asked.
“Almost,” he admitted. “Sorry to keep you waiting.”

Without the dialogue tags:
She eyed the clock suspiciously. “You turned back time to spend this evening
with me?”
“Almost.” He opened his palm, revealing the two double A batteries he’d
liberated. “Sorry to keep you waiting.”

Adverbs have pretty much gone out of style in modern fiction. Usually an
adverb is a shortcut -- a way for an author to TELL you something rather than
showing us the action through description. He moved quickly and quietly VS He
crossed the room, his weight on the balls of his feet as he slunk from shadow
to shadow.

Speaking of which, SHOW don’t TELL is an old and well respected rule. Just
because we’re short doesn’t mean authors can get away with narrating huge
blocks of plot between the sex. We want action, not court reporting.
While our books are short, we still need breaks. Chapters are nice.

Preferable not more than ten to fifteen pages long. Its very handy if the book is not
all one continuous chapter. Our readers are busy people, on the go, and may
well not be able to read the book in one sitting.

Within Chapters, scene breaks are often quite helpful, divided either by a
white space or a set of THREE asterisks. Within scenes, it’s also useful to
have smaller subdivisions, known as paragraphs. A few of our authors do not
understand this concept. There is simply no justification for a two page long
paragraph in short fiction. If nothing else, count. No more than eight properly
formatted lines to a paragraph, please.

Point of View. The standard rule is one scene, one POV. While an experienced
author may find it necessary or even advisable to switch POV within a scene,
an author has to demonstrate to me that she KNOWS the rule before she can
break it.

He climbed the stairs, his gaze flicking ahead into the darkness. He knew
she was waiting for him. Somewhere. Alone in the darkness, waiting. His heart
beat in a short, staccato rhythm as he rounded the last bend on the landing.
The weapon felt cool against her skin, separate, apart from her, an
instrument of the Lord’s work, refusing to absorb her body heat. She could feel him.
Sense his presence. Closer. Closer.
A breeze snuck in through an open window. A dull thud announced his
presence. Silly humans. When would they learn not to put plants on the window sill?
He stopped at to survey the damage. Thankfully he wouldn’t have to clean it
up. Some days it was useful not having hands. He screeched in outrage as the
woman stepped back on his tail.

OK. Not only is this awful, but we’ve got three paragraphs in three POVs.
How do you tell? Well, she simply CAN NOT know that his heart is beating in a
short staccato rhythm unless she’s removed it and it’s laying in her hand. Nor
can HE know the temperature of the “weapon” -- she’s holding a 357 Banana,
btw, as it’s a live action role playing scenario.

The cat’s POV does not add anything to the scene.

This is what it should look like when it comes back:
She could hear the sound of his footfalls as he crept up the old, winding
staircase. She held her breath, trying hard not to give her presence away. He
was getting close. The floorboards let out a fain groan as he reached the
The weapon felt cool against her skin, separate, apart from her, an
instrument of the Lord’s work, refusing to absorb her body heat. She could feel him.
Sense his presence. Closer. Closer.
A breeze tugged at the hem of her shirt. A dull thud behind her startled
her, eliciting a small gasp. The cat screeched in outrage as she stepped back on
his tail. So much for the element of surprise…

And lastly, there’s the sex. We’re short, hot, erotica. No cheating! I don’
t care if there are 3 sex scenes back to back -- I’m assuming they’re all
integral to the plot or they wouldn’t be there. Don’t tell me they spent the
whole night making love. We’re not in that much of a hurry to get to the next
action sequence, trust me. WRITE THE SEX SCENES! Unless it makes you go EWWWW
we simply can’t get too hot or too sexy. No necrophilia, incest, kiddy porn,
small fuzzy animals, and no bodily functions -- other than Sahara’s
occasional fart -- no scat or snuff. Other than that, almost anything goes! And I don’
t like to see M/M sex scenes with less detail just because they’re two men.
We still need the grunting and groaning and thrusting -- as well as the

Hope this is of some help to someone somewhere...

M (aka Margaret Reilly, owner of Changeling Press)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Announcement: Self Edits Coming

Starting tomorrow, 08/18/08, I will begin the lengthy section on Self-Editing.

There are so many simple things an author can do to avoid annoying an editor, whether it be the submissions editor of a publisher or one's own personal editor.

The most common is, of course, Spell Check/Grammar Check. I cannot believe how many times I've seen a first draft sent to me as a published author for my assessment, and it wasn't even spell-checked! Gimme a break!

Another error easily corrected but not often caught by Spell Check is homynyms. Words that sound alike, but have different meanings such as: They're, Their, and There. Learn them.

Finally, my personal pet peeve is when someone types "a lot" as "alot." Excuse me? Are you out of high school? Get it right! It's two words, and lazy phrasing at best. How many? A lot. How about counting? You can do that, right?

More on this as we proceed.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Writing Lessons-- Take My Ass Anal Play

Take My Ass! Sexologist Donna Powell gives you a guide to anal sex and the greatest orgasms your woman will ever experience! – From Voluptuous XL, Special #70

Some couples would rather drink goat sweat than try anal sex. Others enjoy an occasional rectal soiree. Anal sex is often associated with homosexuality, hence an inherent stigma. However, according to various statistics, 40 percent of all heterosexual couples have tried anal sex, with up to half of these continuing to do it on an occasional basis.
Does it hurt?
Does it feel good?
Can a woman have an orgasm taking the big boy anally?
The answers?
Yes, yes and oh yes!
Yes, it will be painful if a lubricant isn’t used properly.
Yes, it feels good.
And, yes, a woman can have an orgasm, and the strongest, longest-lasting, most ecstatic orgasm she’s ever had! In fact, according to most who have, once she’s had an orgasm via the unabridged butt-fuck, she’s going to be hooked on it for life! There quite simply is no other human connection that can bring a woman such unadulterated bliss as being fucked up the backside in the right way.
So, what is the right way?
That’s what you’re going to learn about as you continue reading.
The human asshole is virtually filled with lots of sensitive nerve receptors. The wall between her pussy and rectum swells when a woman is sexually aroused which, in turn, tugs on the same nerve that transmits G-spot orgasms to the brain. As a result, women will receive ecstatic sensations between the rectum and cunt during anal sex that they never get otherwise. The stimulation she gets during anal sex tugs on that nerve also. The result is a really-mind-blowing and cunt-throbbing orgasm, one that seems to bring her asshole and clit together in a climax to end all climaxes, both in sheer power of its spasms and in lasting strength.
Why all the enthusiasm? (Do I sound like a used car salesman?) Well, it’s because I was a non-believer in the power of anal sex to even bring me an orgasm, let along the strongest, longest-lasting climax I’ve ever had in my life! I really thought anal sex was just a pain in the ass that men liked and that women were forced now and then to endure.
Was I ever wrong!
But, it can be that. It can be merely a pain in the ass if it isn’t done in the right way. And, that “right way” is the secret between backside pain and backside bliss. If a guy merely sticks his erect cock up your bum and expects you to love it, no way! He has to pave the way first. He has to prepare your butt well before the onslaught of his hard prick can bring you the pleasure I’ve promised.
How does he do that? Rectal expert Erik Mainard – known as the Avatar of the Ass – has the formula down pat. He tells you to gently massage her asshole with a well-lubricated finger and to angle it upwards toward the tail bone (which is the way the rectum curves). If you’re going to try anal sex, and please do, Erik Mainard tells you to train the rectal sphincters (muscles) to relax by shoving a lubed finger up a female’s rear very gently and slowly every night for a week. (We told you it takes preparation, but it’ll be well worth the effort.) He also suggests that she use her own finger, for instance, when in the shower, so she can get a better sense of how the sphincter works (AKA digital-rectal bonding).
This preparation is very necessary. It’s the difference between sheer ecstasy and a bad pain in the ass. And, it doesn’t take a week for some women. But, as a general rule, that’s the case. It only takes a minute or so a day. A lubed finger gently slipped into her asshole for several days prior to shoving your prick in is all it takes.
Let’s you that you’ve “prepared” her the right way and you’re ready now to take the plunge. Her asshole is conditioned and ready for your prick.
Okay. Unless you’ve spent the last 15 years on the dark side of the moon, you’ll wear a condom, and you’ll lube it with a non-petroleum-based lubricant like Astroglide or K-Y jelly. You’re ready. She’s aroused and ready. Slowly, ever so slowly, you slip it in to the hilt and leave it there for about a full minute or so. (This conditions her emotionally and gets her used to something larger than a finger inside her.)
Now, slowly, ever so slowly, pull it out until only the head is buried. Then, in again, less slowly, stay there for about half a minute, and then slowly pull out about half way. Now, you’re ready to butt-fuck! Don’t begin with fast or hard lunges (especially on your “out” moves). But, within about two minutes, you can establish a fairly fast and hard thrusting rhythm.
You can tell when she’s ready for you to drive it into her really hard and fast. She’ll suddenly begin breathing hard and rear up as if she wants more. That’s your cue. Drive it in fast, hard and furious (it won’t hurt her at all if you’ve properly conditioned her with a finger). And, after a few minutes, she’ll lapse into a really thrilling orgasm, the most pleasurable and longest-lasting she’s ever experienced. You’ll feel its spasms clearly and her sphincter muscles will clamp really hard on your plunging cock.
I suppose there will be exceptions. A few women may only enjoy the feeling of building pressure and fail to climax. But, in my personal experience, every female I’ve ever told about this “preparation” method has had the most mind-blowing orgasms ever – even those who have a hard time achieving an ordinary clitoral orgasm. If she’s one of those who fails to cum, try having her stimulate her clitoris with a vibrator or a finger at the same time you’re banging her bum.
Now that I’ve got your interest, I’m going to turn you into a consummate asshole lover. I’m going to suggest some ways you can make passionate love to her entire backside and its adjacent area. And, she’ll certainly love you for it!
Have her lay on her stomach and prop some pillows beneath her pelvis. Then, begin licking her entire backside slowly and lovingly for at least five minutes. Next, insert your finger into her pussy and begin, at the same time, licking her asshole. Don’t worry, the human asshole, after a soapy shower, is more free of bacteria than the mouth – you’ll get less germs than if you kissed her. Lick it really lovingly and form a U-shaped tool with your tongue and try to insert it a little. She’ll squirm with pleasure. This is an ideal form of foreplay for you to use before you shove it in. It’s soothing and relaxing and it further prepares her sphincters for your prick.
Curiously, many females who are not particularly turned on by breast-play or nipple manipulation during foreplay will find their tits extremely sensitive and receptive to such attentions during anal sex.
One of the most exciting and successful forms of anal sex consists of deep, slow thrusting with simultaneous nipple manipulation while the female employs either a vibrator or a finger against her clitoris.
As for hygiene, the only care that should be taken during anal sex (outside of slow, genital penetration) is the simple, sanitary expedient of washing the penis before using it again for vaginal insertion – otherwise, vaginitus (inflammation of the vagina) may result.
Just as most females can achieve orgasm through the pleasure-transmitting frictions of anal penetration, similarly, due to the profusion of nerve-ends all through the buttocks, spanking can sometimes transmit orgasmic pleasure in many females (and in some males).
Nerve-ends are stimulated by the smacks of a hand or a belt and reflexive shock-waves are ecstatically received by the clitoris. Pleasure achieved through this sort of pain is as non-perverted and normal as pleasure achieved during ordinary coitus. The fun of fucking (for a female) resides in the pleasure felt in the vagina and clitoris: spanking sometimes provides that same pleasure for many females. Pain becomes the pleasure-transmitter instead of a penis. Thus, ironically, a “pain in the ass” may engender pleasure in the cunt. It’s actually that simple.
Every female has her own best position for anal sex. It may require a bit of patient experimenting to determine which posture she should assume for the easiest and most pleasurable penetration.
Bending forward while standing and placing the hands on a low stool or coffee table causes a spreading of the buttocks and a corresponding opening of the anus which some females find favorable.
Doggy style also spreads her cheeks and tends to loosen her asshole, allowing for excellent leverage and possibly the deepest penetration of any position.
Many females enjoy anal sex in the same position they enjoy vaginal sex – lying on their backs with their legs high and with their buttocks propped on pillows.
Another effective anal sex position for some couples is for the female to lie over a table with her feet spread wide on the floor.
Some females might prefer to merely recline on their backs and hug their knees up while her man enters her backside.
A marvelous and extraordinarily thrilling method is for the female to straddle the reclining male and literally sit on his penis. This method allows the female complete control as to the depth and speed of penetration, thereby allowing her to control the tempo and resulting climax.
Notwithstanding the extremely pleasurable aspects of fucking her up the bum, she’ll think you’re really a complete, considerate lover if you take the time and effort (not much) to prepare her. It’s a form of flattery that can’t be surpassed. “There he is, making love to that nasty part of me, showing me there’s no single part of me that he doesn’t love,” is what she’s bound to think. And, it’s likely she’ll want to return the favor by various kinds of asshole attentions that she gives to you.
The male has what amounts to a clitoris in his asshole, the prostate gland, and stimulation of that sensitive gland can be nothing less than ecstatic to most men, it if is contacted in the right way. A vibrator or a finger can be used, but not like the doctor uses his finger to examine your prostate. Slowly and gently does it. The nerve pathway from the penis to the brain runs through the rectum. One large bundle is located beneath the prostate.
Another reason why an anal-assisted orgasm feels deeper is because the nerve that transmits sensations from the bladder to the brain is getting stimulated.
Another suggestion for having a good time in her bum is if she occasionally contracts her upper thigh muscles. This will work to massage your buried cock marvelously and your woman will receive the same ecstatic sensations. This can even make it unnecessary for you to thrust in and out.
IF you like the thought of fucking her up the bum, chances are you like to watch anal sex videos. In her book, The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women, Tristan Taormino warns that anal intercourse requires a lot of preparation and a slow, relaxed approach. This is the part that anal sex videos leave out.
Even when making XXX-rated movies, they don’t just go plowing into some porn starlet’s rear without lots of preparation and anal foreplay – none of which the viewer actually sees in the video. So, while it’s fine to enjoy all the hot action in Anal Invaders Number Six Million and Thirty-Two, don’t for a moment try to replicate it in real life with a real partner, unless she’s inflatable and has a polyurethane asshole. No matter what you are putting into a rear-end, it needs to go in very slowly and come out even more slowly. Most people have no difficulty grasping the former, but they fail to realize that anything pulled out of an asshole, whether it’s a finger, penis, or vibrator, needs to be pulled out just as slowly as it went in.
One of the most sensitive parts of the human body is the skin that surrounds the outer rim of the asshole. It’s easy to stimulate this area with a thumb, finger, tongue, or vibrator without sticking a penis in at all. Lots of women who are receiving vaginal stimulation greatly enjoy it when their partner puts light to medium pressure on their anus with a thumb, finger, and especially a vibrator. This is also an extremely good way to prepare her asshole for later entrance.
Anal beads consist of several beads on a strong. Each bead is held in place on the string so it doesn’t slide. When inserted up the bum, and slowly pulled out at climax, they really make her kick-ass orgasm feel even more intense. Anal beads can be as small as moth-balls or as big as golf-balls. She can use them when she masturbates, and she can obviously even use them on you – have her slowly pull them out of your anus when you cum.
Instead of simply sticking a finger straight into your partner’s asshole, rest the pad of your finger over the puckered opening. Massage gently. Eventually, slide the tip of your finger in, assuming it is well lubed. Make sure she’s thoroughly aroused in other parts of her body before knocking on the back door.
One of the keys to blissful anal sex is having her entire body relaxed and receptive. Tell her not to hold her breath. Breathing deeply will help her stay relaxed.
Once you get your finger, penis, vibrator, or whatever inside her rear-end, don’t start thrusting with it. Leave it in place and gently start making circular motions. If and when she wants you to start thrusting, pull out slowly, and as far as possible, add more lube. Then, you can start thrusting slowly. A woman might like her clit being massaged at the same time she is having anal sex, as it will extend the feeling throughout her pelvis. Or, maybe not. Ask and see. Using a latex glove helps fingers slide in more smoothly; using a condom helps a penis thrust more smoothly. If you get into enemas as part of anal sex, use plain tap water and make sure it’s not too cold, unless she truly enjoys experiencing the cramps.
As I’ve emphasized, the main thrust of any kind of anal action is preparation. If you properly prepare her asshole for several days before you sink it in slowly, she’s going to love it. This is the one big difference between pain and pleasure for her: preparation. It’s not a big thing, either. A minute or so for several days (to a week) with a well-lubed finger is all it takes.
Some experts say that asshole penetration can become addictive to a female. It’s not hard to understand why. The connection can not only cause her to achieve longer and more explosive climaxes, she is also relived of the need to use contraceptives (a major cause of PMS) and her period no longer interferes with her fun. She (and her guy) can also be inclined to feel that her posterior preference sets her apart from peers whose sexual performance is strictly up front. She feels that she and her male are bonded in a merger that brings them a special (and secret) brand of bliss. There is little doubt that it is this difference that is currently making all kinds of backside play so popular.
Change is the name of the game when it comes to satisfying sex, and certainly a female’s asshole offers you guys plenty of passionate possibilities for variety and change.

Note from Lena: What makes you think guys are any different in the anal play department? That's where THEIR G-spot is!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Writing Lessons: Sex is Action

In case you haven't seen this -- from "Steam 101" by ANgela Knight.

When goddesses speak, I listen. Even when you know this stuff, seeing it
distilled sharpens the focus -- at least it does for me.

Sex is action
One of the hardest things about writing a good love scene – particularly when you've written a lot of them – is how to keep them fresh and different. After all, the physical actions of sex are basically the same – kiss this, stroke that, insert tab A into slot B. You can spice things up by using different positions, locations and props, but that only works so many times.

Besides, readers are not dumb. They notice when you've got three sex scenes, and you tick through the basic positions in them: "Okay, we'll do missionary in this one, and female superior in this one, and in this one he'll..."

Yuck. Getting into porn territory again.

I've found that to keep sex fresh and different, love scenes needs to grow out of the characters themselves, not my reference copy of the Kama Sutra. Every time the hero and heroine go to bed together, it should reflect where they are in their relationship. In fact, ideally you should be able to read through the sex scenes alone and track the progress of the romance through the book.

In that first scene, maybe they're uncertain or cautious or exploring – or maybe they just go nuts from pent-up sexual tension. In the next scene, maybe they've had an argument right before going to bed together, and that anger bubbles under the surface so that the love scene becomes another expression for the conflict. And so on, until the last scene in the book, when we see how they make love now that they're really in love and committed to one another.

Sweet, tender action will do more than flowery declarations of love to tell the reader that these folks really will live happily ever after. Remember, too, that each love scene should not only mark the progress of the relationship, but also advance it. The characters are sharing a deeply personal interaction, exposing themselves to each other emotionally as well as physically. It should change how they relate to each other.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Writing Lessons-- Getting Over Your Ick Factor

Lena asked me to give a few pointers about writing sex (or any other type) scene that you've never had experience in. First, you are NOT your character. You have to distance yourself from your own personal biases or as Lena and I put it your own "ick" factor.

Second, if you've never experienced something, take a visual trip through it - rent a video! If you're doing an anal scene, rent a movie that has it - then STOP the video during the scene, imagine you are seeing your characters doing it - now write it, repeat as often as necessary to get it across on the page.

This way, even if you haven't done that particular act, or don't find it enjoyable, your character should and those actors are at least pretending they do. This same sort of thing would work for a travel video for scenes in another part of the country or world - cheaper than a plane ticket! As an editor, I can't use my own biases in my reading. Even if I have done it with multiple partners, and yes, all the groping for room on the bed, or landing on someone's hair or leg can get really funny, there are some acts that I'm not crazy about. I can't swallow - can't, won't, but I can imagine it with a character. That's what I mean about getting through the 'ick' factor.

Third, if its something about wanting to be more varied in your scenes - and as an editor, please do this! Redundant actions in multiple scenes or even books get boring - Get yourself a set or two of those foreplay or sex dice. When you are in plotting the where's and what's of a scene - roll the dice. It will keep some spark in your scenes and take some of the pressure off you feeling like "sXXt, not another sex scene, I just did that two chapters ago."

Fourth, and this one is funny - use the dolls, whatever, and do a type of home movie with them. That way, you position the dolls, take your video camera (some Libraries and the like will have them to check out, I've heard = or borrow one from someone) and make your own porn movie. Reposition them, give a running commentary if you want (hands here, etc.) take another part of the "movie", and keep doing it until you get through the scene. Use this to help with who would see what as you go through the scene. When you are done - ERASE THE TAPE! This is not something that you want the kids, family, or anyone else viewing. Unless you want to be blackmailed by your spouse.

And if you think I've never told my authors to do this - just ask Lena. I've given her "homework" assignments. Enjoy, and let me know if any of this helps.

Peggy Roberts

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sixteen Steps of a Sex Scene Overview

Note: This is a mere overview of my full workshop on the Sixteen Steps. Please ask questions if you don't understand.

This class explains how detailed a love scene/sex scene can be. I urge you to use this form in its blank state for every sex scene you write. Not only will your word count go up, but you’ll write the hottest stuff to your personal limits and give your readers the full range of emotions and experiences. Keep in mind always that there are FIVE senses: Touch, taste, smell, hearing, and sight. Use them. Mix and match. We are not just visual creatures.

Sixteen Steps of a Sex Scene

Participants: Name them all! Whose POV will you be using? Change the font color to remind yourself you’re in THAT person’s POV. If necessary, write the scene in first person, then change it later to third. You’ll get a very deep POV this way.

Location: Note the location(s) where the action will take place. If they change locations, note why

POV Character Conflict: Note the conflict of the POV Character. Think ahead, here. How can the POV character’s conflict impact this scene? How would s/he relate the sensations to his or her personal perspective? (Example: a construction worker might relate what’s happening to hammer blows, “nailing” her, and the satisfaction of seeing the final product done. His female companion may either resent such analogies or find it cute.)

Tension (repeat as necessary to ratchet up emotions)

After all, this is the beginning of the meeting, and foreplay. This ritual of meeting, sizing up one’s possible partners, picking one, and seducing them is as old as time and very important. These actions create tension between the characters for the readers if they understand the characters reluctances, conflicts, and attractions as a mix of emotions that must be dealt with.

Why should they bang one another? Why shouldn’t they? This applies to all characters involved, not just the POV character, though their conflict is the most important and obvious. They may have a different perspective on why they should and shouldn’t enjoy themselves with their chosen partner than what the partner actually feels is important.

A classic example blast from the past: He’s the Lord, and she’s the virgin. He wants her very badly, but is constrained by the social aspects as well as not wanting to hurt her. She, on the other hand, wants him badly enough to bear the pain and may wish to be deflowered for her own reasons. Still, she’s scared and telegraphs this fear. The Lord picks up on this fear, and this adds another layer of conflict on top of his conflicts.

How and when will you convey these layers to the reader without an information dump? Choose different points to subtly express these layers as they work through the courtship and foreplay dance. When the characters break these rules, why did they do so?

State conflicts: _________________________________________

Eye to body—Let the characters check each other out. Respectfully, most start at the head/face and work down the body, then back up. Those who do not respect their partners start lower, and work their way up.

Eye to eye – They catch one another’s eyes. The eyes are the window to the soul, and the reader’s window to their emotions. The POV character can read much in his prospective partner’s eyes.

Voice to voice – How they speak to each other can mean a great deal and add much depth. How would they speak to one another?

Hand to hand – This goes beyond just shaking hands or the ubiquitous hand kiss of historical fiction. It’s built into our psyche that the first touch contact will almost always be with our hands. Even holding hands while walking in public has significance. Think about it. How many times have you read where the heroine thinks the hero is being high-handed because he took her elbow and steered her toward something instead of more correct behavior?

Arm to shoulder – Think of the classic movie theater scene where he slips his arm around her to get a little closer. Does she accept this move or give him a filthy look? Does she feel trapped or is she scared? Is he attempting to protect her or is he making a move on her? Many a surprise change of pace can happen when he lovingly wraps his arm around her, and she anticipates further foreplay. Instead, he shoves her to the ground to avoid the villain! Is this a prelude to a full embrace? Go for it!

Arm to waist – Someone slides their hand around the other’s waist and perhaps pulls the embrace into full body contact. Or, do they keep to the socially neutral side-to-side move? Is it a snatch and grab or a tentative hug? Again, what are the emotions and conflicts?

Mouth to mouth --- A kiss is never “just a kiss.” The Kama Sutra lists many different kisses from the kiss you’d give a baby to the full-throated, “I’m going to eat your face and give you a tongue tonsillectomy” kiss. What is appropriate to each character, their emotions and conflicts?

Hand to head – Believe it or not, it is built into our psyche that touching the head is even more intimate than kissing. Letting someone touch your head (girls, allowing them to take down your hair) is very intimate and involves more trust than a mere kiss. After all, the head is where your brain case is if you’re human. At this point, full intimacy has been initiated by this display of trust.

****This is the point where non-erotic authors fade to black and let the readers’ imaginations provide the rest. However, many of us can go further. ****

(KINK _____________________) –Think about your kink. Mix them up a bit. Need a hint? Look up Limits List from the BDSM community detailing every kink those twisted folks ever thought of, even a few most won’t touch. Many publishers consider some, such as Infantilism, taboo. Don’t go there. If you don’t know what it means, research. My limits list has a link to a dictionary of terms.

Hand to body – Uh…you do have to get your characters undressed. If someone’s going to tie someone up, what do they use? Tying the heroine up to the banister rails with her own sleeves or did the hero somehow conveniently have a soft cotton rope? Get creative.

Mouth to breast – Men like it too, in some cases. They too have an erogenous zone on the breast. Remember there’s more than a nipple there! The areola, under the breast, and even the sides of the breast are fair game.

Hand to genitals (May include use of protections, toys, lubes). There are sensual ways to put on a condom. You can use toys! Yes, you can. There are more than just dildoes out there. Go research if you’re clueless or need something new. Think about the setting. A pussy willow makes a great toy, but even an ice cube or handful of snow is a toy. Use the setting and the characters’ backgrounds. Would she think of the honey in the kitchen? How about the candle for a little hot wax play?

Mouth to genitals Oral technique used: _______________________ (repeat as often as you wish)—Really, who gives what to whom? Do they switch off? 69? Think about it. Where are they? What’s around beyond the bed?

Genital to genital A. Position A: ________________ B. Position B:__________________ Again, get them out of the bedroom and be unique. Go at it over an overstuffed chair or convenient rock. How about the table? Need help? May I recommend the 52 sexual position card set from Slumber Parties?

Climax and Epiphany

DANGER!! Have you neglected to finish, or did you just have them scream and collapse! These next few steps are where most authors fail to tie it all up with a bow for the reader and leave them panting. This is the “satisfaction” for the reader and it should never be neglected.

Emotional change: __________________________ No one goes through a sexual experience without a change of emotion in a romance unless they’re an unfeeling monster. The POV character will have an emotional epiphany of some kind. Examples:

The Lord, having deflowered the virgin, now feels he must in honor marry her. This is Guilt.
The woman, having given her body to her lover, now recognizes it wasn’t just a happy roll in the hay with a good-looking man, but she’s in love. How does she feel about that?
During sex, he made a discovery about her and must now leave her. He may or may not want to do so.

14. 3- minute warning to climax (POVC will have an in-character/situation analogy) – A flying creature may have the analogy of flying to the sun. A space captain may relate the orgasm to that first time they hit a hyperspace wormhole. Relate their physical sensations to their personal situation.

15. Climax – This is the danger zone of purple prose. Be realistic. If necessary, go do a little research with your mate and try to put yourself in the head of your character.

16. Afterglow: (note afterglow technique)—This is romance. There should be an afterglow cuddle, maybe a little food or drink, or something more than falling asleep with exhaustion. If your characters fall asleep, so will your reader.

Move to next scene how?______________________ --Give the reader a reason to keep turning those pages. Give a clue as to the next challenge or how their emotional change will bring a plot twist. Where will they go? What will they do now? Leave ‘em hanging and twisting in the wind. Whatever!

ã Lena Austin 2007
Please do no reproduce or share without permission

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Announcement-- Adult Warning on Next Week

It's no secret that I write erotica. Therefore, it behooves me to include a few lessons on writing the hot sex so popular with the readers. You might want to skip this week if you write anything else but erotica.

The language will be frank. There may even be pictures. Stand by. This work is from my WIP, The Kinky Kama Sutra for Erotica Writers. All work is copyrighted by me.


Friday, August 8, 2008

Writing Lessons: The Hook by Lucynda Storey

Hooks - My Crit Strength and Pet Peeve

Chapter ending hooks are exactly what they sound like. Some of you
can relate to the analogy of fishing. You bait, toss the line in the
water, and hope the hook catches you a fish.

Not into fishing? Think of a movie scene, or some story you read that
you really enjoyed. You know the kind ... the one that leaves your
heart pounding, and you holding your breath.

Every chapter in your book is at least one scene in length, maybe
more. You arrange the setting, you place the story actors on the
stage, and you have them act. They go through what they need to, and
the tension builds. You can't wait to see or read what happens next.

And then, you find out.

Then chapter ends.

You look at the watch on your cell phone, or the clock in your
bedroom and yawn. Time for bed. You shove a bookmark into the
paperback, set it on the bed stand and go to sleep.


No. No! NO! You don't want your reader to breath easy at the end of
the chapter (or a scene for that matter). You don't want to put their
mind at rest.

What do you want? You want to agitate them with the question that
keeps them reading on into the next chapter. You want them to
ask, "What happened next?" What did s/he decide? How are they going
to get out of THAT situation?

How do you do it?

Simple. Write the scene, complete with the logical consequences of
the tension of that section of your work. Then reread what you've
written with an eye to the tension you've built. Take it to the
pinnacle, where there is no way at that particular time you can make
things any worse, and then, end the chapter.

Here is a sample from my novel, 15 DEGREES OF HEAT:

Diego pointed the gun in Rob’s face as he attempted to stand. “To the
desk, Doctor.”

Cold steel slapped onto his right wrist when Diego handcuffed him to
the crossbar between the front and rear desk legs. Rob rattled the
chains, tried to loosen them. Diego laughed and left him in the
thickening smoke.

A scream followed. Cali’s. Muffled thumps, another crash, and then
Rob glimpsed Diego with Cali slumped over his shoulder. The villain
stopped in the doorway. With a leisurely look, he took in the
conflagration that would soon consume the entire clinic. He tsked
with mock sadness. “Such a shame you have to die, Doctor, but the
clinic, I will make sure it is rebuilt, someday. Buenos dias, Señor.”
Diego grinned and closed the door.

This scene personified "out of the frying pan into the fire."

The reader doesn't know what happens to Dr. Rob. He's trapped,
handcuffed to the desk, the fire roaring around him.

Of course, I, as the author, know precisely what is going to happen
next. Rob is going to escape, but my reader doesn't know how. They
must read on to find the answer.

That is what a hook is supposed to do. Use them. You'll have readers
up to all hours of the night racing to the end of your novel.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Spaceport:Time Bomb is Finished!

For those who keep track, you know I've been working on Spaceport: Time Bomb. You've listened to me revel and fuss as the story unwound. Finally, it is done today. After a few tedious days taking what the critique partners say to heart and "making it so" I'll turn it in to my long suffering editor. Thank you for your patience.

Tomorrow! Plotting and Planning! Muahahaha!


Writing Lessons: Pesky POV Solutions

POV Issues

POV- Point of View- is simply "whose eyes are you looking out of when describing a scene or story." This is their perception, with their vocabulary, and their interpretation of events.

For example, a nobly born person will not view the same setting in the same manner as a street-wise punk. A man will not perceive a room the same way a woman does. Women notice different things and often can identify decorations by name. How many men can accurately differentiate between Prada and Gucci? A punk in a rich, opulent room may have no clue he's sitting in a Louis XIV chair, all he'd know is that it was "girlie" and looked delicate. Unless he's classically trained, he probably wouldn't know Beethoven from Vivaldi. He'd also be very uncomfortable.

I will use the characters from the movie, "The Wizard of Oz" as illustrations. Most of us are familiar with these characters.

The bane of every writer is to stay in the correct POV. The author looks at the scene from an omniscient point of view, and often falls into the trap of writing that way. Head hopping is a common error, and one many writers commit.

Fortunately, there are two easy solutions to the problem. While neither is guaranteed to fix all the issues, both do have advantages and disadvantages.

Method #1:

The first method has the advantage of being more accurate with less likelihood of falling out of POV. However, it is also the most difficult, requiring two stages. I use this method personally, because POV has been a consistent issue for me. Since I began doing this, I've had no critique partners nail me for POV.

Write your chapter in first person first. This forces you into deep POV, as you literally sit inside the head of your character and view the world through his or her eyes. For that brief time, you are that person and will more accurately perceive and describe through their personality. The Cowardly Lion and Dorothy would perceive the Dark Forest very differently. After all, it was Lion's comfortable home and he no doubt would be able to name every tree's species and even relate to events in his past. Dorothy, on the other hand, grew up in Kansas and probably could not do this. She would be concerned only with what might be in the forest and how to stay on the Yellow Brick Road to further her goal of getting to the Wizard. Lion is also a predator with a keen nose, and Dorothy a human with only a limited sense of smell. Depending on whose POV you wrote from, you would not describe events or the forest the same way.

Done? Now use the Edit/Replace commands in Word to highlight: he/she, his/hers, him/her, my, I, we, us, our, myself, himself/herself, mine. Let the computer do the work for you so you don't skip a single First Person reference. Change them to third person, one by one. Example: Our becomes Their. Make sure it flows. "I" can become either the character name or "He/She" depending on placement.

This takes practice. Don't expect perfection, because you won't get it all the first time. Now read it aloud to a friend or into a tape recorder. Play it back with your eyes shut. Do you hear anything awkward, or can't figure out who is referred to? Make a note to fix it and continue. A friend is very good for this. You're too close to the work and won't hear the flaws they would.

Method #2:

Change font colors to represent the different characters as a visual reminder of whose POV you're in. A bright pink font to represent your female, a bright blue to represent the male, or any coloration you like as long as you're comfortable.

This advanced technique has the advantage of allowing the author to write in third person the first draft. However, it also is less accurate in preventing head hopping mistakes. The author may assume they are describing accurately, but can't see the switch.

For those lucky enough to be able to stay in character, this technique may be all that's needed to remind them whose viewpoint they are working from with accuracy.

Both methods are equally valid, and can be used together if necessary. What works for one person will not work for another. Experiment and find what works for you.


Short bio: Lena Austin has written over thirty published titles. She has been writing professionally since 2003. She is also the Marketing Coordinator for Changeling Press, and assistant manager of Phoenix Rising Promotions.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Writing Lessons-- The Scene, Hooks, and Emotives

The Scene

Each scene must: 1) Advance the story, 2) Reveal something about all the characters present in the scene, or 3) Expand on the story’s theme.

Each scene may: 1) Reveal a *little* backstory, 2) Increase tension, or 3) Lower tension to relax the reader.

That having been said, let's talk about what must happen first. This is one of the checks that you can self-edit long before you finish your work. In fact, it is one of the things I recommend doing when you get "stuck." Letting your characters meander their way through the story is rarely a good idea. We've all read the kind of story that hit the wall and made us yell, "Get to the frigging point, willya?"

When you are doing your plotting, whether it is my anal-retentive method or a simple list, think about each point. "Does this really advance the story, or am I just in love with the idea of that scene?" I've had scenes that had no point and no relevance, along with "cameos" from characters that never appeared again. Bless crit partners for kicking me square in the arse for such egotism.

You're telling a story, and this is a craft. Whether you consider it art or science, it is still a craft. Each scene should have a purpose that evokes something in the reader, whether it is knowledge or emotion.

And while we're at it, let's explain that "Show not tell" mantra. What does that mean? It is the difference between letting the reader feel and simply let her be a passive passenger. They want to feel through the characters.

Telling: Joe got in his car and drove away.
Showing: Joe slammed open the car door and fell into the seat. He gunned the engine and peeled rubber, getting away from the terrible scene as fast as he could. Still, he knew he'd never wipe his memory clean of the horror.

Look at the word use in the second example: "slammed," "fell," "gunned," and "peeled". Much more evocative, and definitely in his POV, because you were told why he left. How many of you immediately wanted to know what he saw? Sucked you right in, didn't it? You wanted to know more. Welcome to the hook.

Lucynda Storey is the past master of the hook, but I'm going to do my best. A "hook" is a word or phrase that evokes a feeling of urgency in the reader. It makes them want to keep reading.

There are three kinds of hook, and all have to do with placement. The opening hook is at the beginning of a scene, and the most important one of all is at the beginning of the book. You open your story with a hook. Something that evokes that urgent emotion in the reader and pulls them in, and it is usually the emotions of the main POV character. Remember what I said before about making sure your story starts with an Inciting Incident, that moment when their lives change? Well, no one likes change unless they're already in a bad situation. No matter what, the character's emotions will be intense. Show it. An ordinary day is boring. We don't care. But that precise moment when things change is rarely boring.

The next instance most commonly used for a hook is at the end of a chapter or scene. Same idea --keep the reader's eyes glued to the page because her emotions are on high, and she's got to know what's going to happen. What will the character do about this new development? It's like being on the edge of an orgasm and your partner stops whatever they were doing. "Don't stop or I'll kill you!" is the nicest thing I say at that point. Again, no one gives a rat's ass if your character falls asleep. You do that, and so will your reader. Having your character lie awake, worrying, asking questions, or chilled with fear means your reader will be just as insomniac.

The final opportunity for a hook is the most overlooked by authors: backloading. Look at my example above. What's the last word? Horror. I loaded the end of that paragraph with an emotional word. I could have done better, but that's just an example. Backloading is putting emotion at the end of a sentence, paragraph, and/or scene.

You don't backload every time, only when you need to raise tension or "explain" an emotion. Emotive words are your friend, and so is your thesaurus. Now you must consider what emotion you want. I'll change one word for each example.

Boring example: He walked across the room.
Better example: He strutted across the room. (Do you see an arrogant, self-assured man?)
Funny example: He minced across the room. (Do you see a funny guy?)
Sad example: He trudged across the room. (Aww, is he weighed down by a burden?)

Okay, think about each scene in your book. In each scene, choose the character whose eyes you will be looking out of. This person should be the one with the most emotions, the most to lose, and the one to whom what is happening is most important. Now think of their emotions and what you want the reader to feel.

Now, here's a dilemma for you to think upon: The hero, heroine, and villain are all in the room. The heroine decides she must seduce the villain to allow the hero the opportunity to do something. Whose eyes will you look out of? The villain, since he's feeling lust and suspects a trap? The heroine, who is nauseous at the thought and knows it will hurt the hero? The hero, who is anguished and jealous? Which will move the story along? Which tells something about the characters? Which tells more about the story's theme? Only you can decide.
Now, let’s use the reader’s own psyche against them to construct a scene.

Stimulus – First, something must happen. Something takes place that causes the characters to react, emote, and it must move the story along. Example: the villain tries to hit the hero in the face.

Up to now, it could have been anyone’s POV. Last chapter, an explosion rocked the building, or the heroine (in her POV) saw the villain swing, and that was your previous chapter hook. Of course, this could also be from your main POV character’s perceptions. Now it must be in one specific POV, usually that of the character who has the most emotion.

Automatic reaction- Hero ducks, flinches, his face gets knocked silly, or whatever is the appropriate automatic and unconscious reaction to the stimulus.

Perceptions- Use at least two (or three) of the five senses (sight, scent, touch, hearing, taste) to give the reader more of the story. In our example, the hero might feel the wind passing because he ducked away from the villain’s blow. He might smell the villain’s distinctive spicy aftershave. He might hear the heroine’s gasp. You get the idea. Use this chance to describe. A rule of thumb is 1 adjective per noun, 2 per sensation. (The rusty Toyota, not just the car or the spicy stench of the villain’s aftershave.)

Emotions—This reaction can be internal or vocal, but it should convey emotion. The hero snarls, “That’s it, Murphy, I’m done playing with you.” OR The heroine laughs and remembers a similar instance in her past (giving you a chance to insert a tiny bit of back story.)

Response – This is the planned response. The hero balls up his fist and plants a roundhouse on the villain’s chin, the heroine makes a break for the door, or whatever is an appropriate response for that character.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat-- The hero just planted his fist in the villain’s face. What’s the villain’s response? Remember, this is from someone else’s POV, so you can only describe what that POV Character can perceive.

That's a scene in a nutshell. Morgan Hawke goes more into the action sequence in her book I mentioned before. I'll keep mentioning it too!

Friday, August 1, 2008

On Backstory by Cheryl Norman

Cheryl Norman answered this question so beautifully, there’s no reason to change it. See for yourself.

How does one go about not having too much narrative description or passive narrative without compromising needed backstory information? <
This is a good question and could fuel an entire workshop (any volunteers? ). I agree with what everyone else has said so far, plus have a couple of comments to add.

A few years ago I sat in on a workshop given by the late Cheryl Anne Porter that was terrific. She asked volunteers to perform a western skit in which action was taking place. As each "actor" delivered her lines, Cheryl interrupted with a lengthy narration about the back story and the "actors" had to freeze action while she read. It was fun, it was hilarious, and it illustrated perfectly what you must avoid when writing backstory (or any narrative for that matter): Slowing the pace.

Give the reader enough so she isn't confused, then yell "Action" on your novel's movie set. Feed a little backstory as you go, using straight narrative as a last resort. Use quick mental thoughts (or internal dialogue) and dialogue. Beware of the "as you know" dialogue, however. Here's how NOT to do it:

"Jim's at the door!"

"You aren't going to answer it, are you? After what he's done?" (this would be fine. It raises a reader question: What has he done? But then ... )

"We're still married, June."

"Have you forgotten that you caught him in bed with your secretary, Sally Smith, during the wedding reception? As you know, your parents are financially strapped. They took out a second mortgage on their house to give you the wedding of your dreams, even though they had misgivings about the character of Jim Lewis, the man you'd dated less than six months."

"He was the only man who seemed to like me for my intelligence, not my big boobs. As you know, none of the guys I dated in high school took me seriously. I've had serious self-esteem issues from the pranks played on me, like tripping me in the halls before class just to see if I could get up. Jim said he liked my brain."

"Well, start using it and don't answer the door. As you know, I'm particularly sour on men after Rob left me standing at the altar ..."

You get the point. Use dialogue, but use it realistically. Use narrative, but use it sparingly. Feed information a little at a time to keep the reader intrigued but enough to keep her reading.

FWIW, it gets easier with practice. Good luck!

Cheryl Norman
ISBN#1932815864 / ISBN# 9781932815863
Medallion Press, March, 2007

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Thanks for popping by! Don't sit on the whipping horse unless you want to find out how it's used. I speak my mind and annoy many people, but all of it is meant in good spirit. Feel free to argue with me. I like it.

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