Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Writing Advice from Traci Douglass

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! The year is winding down quickly, isn't it? Remember to keep paper and a pencil handy during this busy season to jot down all those ideas, even if you don't have time to write.

Traci Douglass, another of my fabulous IRWA friends, is here to offer her advice today. Welcome, Traci! Thanks for visiting!

Don’t Fall Victim To Plodding Pacing


Whether you’re a planner or a pantser, pacing is something that every writer struggles with at one point or another. As a full-time freelance writer, ghostwriter, editor, and frequent critique partner, one of the biggest issues I see in many writers’ work—both new and seasoned scribes—is pacing that drags. This is not something to necessarily tackle in the first draft of a manuscript, but it is something you will need to address later in the revision process, when the real act of writing takes place, to give your novel the best chance for success and keep readers turning pages.

So, what exactly can cause a “Plodding Pacing” and what steps can you take to correct it? Here are three common issues I see (and experience myself in my own work), the common culprits causes of said issues, and ways to fix them.

Lack of Conflict


A problem with pacing many times means there is an underlying lack of conflict within the scene. Every scene of every story, no matter the genre, must contain conflict or it will fall flat. And conflict comes down to three things: G-M-C. (Aside: If you’ve not read Goal, Motivation, Conflict by Debra Dixon, it is highly recommended). Distilled down, it basically means for each character in each scene you want to determine what each character wants, discover why they want said thing or outcome, then define what stands in the way of them achieving their goal. Re-read each scene of your manuscript to make sure these things are present and compelling on every page. Of course, there are different kinds of conflict as well—External (outer forces acting on protagonist), Internal (emotions and past experiences of protagonist), and in the case of the Romance Genre, Romantic Conflict (why do the H/h belong together and what keeps them apart. What’s preventing their HEA). If you can layer more than one kind of conflict in a scene and make it pull double or even triple duty, excellent. If these things are not present in the scene at all, consider cutting the scene entirely or revising to make sure the conflict is there.

Lack of Emotional Range


Characters are people too. They should have varying shades and nuances of emotion to make them believable and engaging to the reader. There are times when writers will fall into what Carina Press Editor Rhonda Helms calls “Emotional Incontinence”—basically, letting their emotions run wild all the time, every time. Though this is a tempting fantasy, it is not realistic, nor is it sustainable for the length of 300-400 pages of a novel. Would you want to spend hours on end with someone who is always angry or bouncing off the walls with excitement or the human equivalent of a drugged sloth? Me neither. The emotional range over the course of a book can be thought of as a roller coaster, both heights and valleys. It is these soaring highs and low lulls that will helps propel readers forward in the story.

Lack of Story Structure

Credit: Artist Tom Gauld

This is not to say that there is any right way or wrong way to write. Every one of us is different and that is the beauty of this art we call writing. I have my process, you have yours. But in the end, there are certain pieces of the puzzle that must fit together in order for a story to be solid and marketable. Especially genre fiction. There are parts that readers expect in mysteries, in thrillers, in sci-fi, in fantasy, in romance. For the experienced writer, fiddling with these time-tested tropes can be fun. For those less seasoned, twisting these integral parts or leaving them out all together can spell disaster. The old adage, “One must know the rules before one can break them”, is still around for a reason. Does that mean that you are stuck using standard three act structure for every story every time? Or forever bound to The Hero’s Journey? Certainly not. What it does mean is that you better know those story structures inside and out before you have a very good reason for breaking them. Genre fiction readers are among the most loyal in the world, but they are also among the smartest. Try leaving out the HEA (or Happily For Now) at the end of your Romance sometime and watch the vile e-mails pile up in your inbox. Even the most whackadoodle story still needs some identifiable story landmarks to ground readers in your make-believe world. Readers can only suspend disbelief once they believe in the first place. Give them relatable touchstones—inciting incident, major plot points or turns into the next act, the dreaded black moment, the climax—then let the connections between these be where your creativity shines.

In the end, the most important thing to remember is that writing is a process. It really is more about the journey than the destination. The best writers are the ones who never stop learning, never stop growing, never stop. Period. Except for chocolate. Or wine. Wine is good…


How do you deal with Plodding Pacing issues in your stories? Are you a pantster or a plotter? What tricks or questions do you employ to spark your muse and get your creative juices flowing?


Traci is an award-winning author of Paranormal and Contemporary Romance and Urban Fantasy, including her bestselling Seven Seals Series. Her stories feature sizzling heroes full of dark humor, quick wits and major attitudes and heroines who are smart, tenacious, and always give as good as they get. She is an avid animal aficionado, unrepentant chocoholic, and more than occasional smartass.

Discover more about Traci and her books at:

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Writing Advice from Aly Grady

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! I'm baaack! Every time I think I'm caught up, more must-be-done-this-minute stuff pops up again. When I'm working on my 2016 plan and goals over the next week or so, finding balance is going to be at the top of the list! What's on your list for next year?

My IRWA friend Aly Grady is here to add to those resolution ideas, especially where writing is concerned. Welcome, Aly, and thanks for visiting today!

Are you new to writing? OR, do you still feel like a newbie? What are some of the steps you’ve taken to get over that newness?

Honestly, my New Year resolution at the end of 2014 was to improve my writing career. Let’s face it. If you choose to start writing a book, seriously have a story in your head that just won’t stop talking to you, then you write. The problem is I’d already self-published three books, but still felt like a newbie. There are so many aspects to the writing industry that were, and still are, a mystery to me. So what did I do?

Early on in the editing process for my first book, Winslow Elliot suggested that I seek out a local Romance Writers of America chapter. What did I do? Brushed her off. Who needs a group right? Come to find out, I do! I don’t know about you, but sitting at home day in and day out—just the dog, me and my laptop—got lonely. Well, I would talk, but that stubborn dog wouldn’t respond.

Writing is lonely and I’m a social creature. That New Year resolution idea kicked in and I signed up for the national group. That’s all fine and good. But again, that was just an on-line thing. I needed people who got me and what I was doing with this writing thing.

Ta-da! Cue the bells and whistles. I found my local chapter of RWA. This group of ladies, and token gentleman, are a wealth of information. We come together once a month and learn writing techniques, strategies that have long been forgotten since high school or college. Discuss the latest trends in the writing industry and socialize.

We all come together from different places and backgrounds, but we have a common goal. We pump each other up and cheer on successes. I’ve felt less alone in my solitary career and, for me, that is priceless.

Have you looked for a local writing chapter and none are to be found? Well, since I’ve joined my writing chapter, I’ve also sought out more groups. There is a host of writing groups to be found on Facebook and I often use the hashtag #amwriting on Twitter. If you search that hashtag, you’ll see who else is writing. Go ahead. See who else is out there.

My latest endeavor to not feel alone in my writing was participating in National November Writer’s Month or NaNoWriMo. This is a crazy, stressful, exciting, and rewarding way to get 50,000 words written in a month. It is tracked on-line, but you can sign up to meet up through-out the month with others in your area. This is for any person who is interested in writing any genre. There are coaches to help you along your journey. There is a twitter sprint writing challenge you can participate in too. It’s fun tweeting with folks in Australia or Europe or anywhere in the world who are doing the exact same craziness as you. The whole thing is free, which is nice, and if you stick to their pre-prescribed plan, it can be relatively painless. Unless you are like me and you skip a day or five and push that last day to the limit of your imagination. Even if you don’t “win” by reaching that 50,000 goal, you still have the start of your amazing new work in progress.

So my point is—no matter what genre you write in, there are other folks out there doing the same thing. Seek them out, attend educational workshops designed for writers at industry events or local colleges. Most likely they want to find you too.

Talking to your Mom, sister, or friends about your writing struggles is nice, and they can pat you on the back and tell you that it will be fine. It’s a fellow writer who can work through that writing road block with you, because they know what you’re going through. They will also be the first to help you celebrate too.

So go find a writing buddy and then get to work on that next bestseller!

Aly Grady is New England born, but for the past ten years has enjoyed living in the Indianapolis area. She has firsthand knowledge of the racing industry because she is a racing widow. While not writing, Aly enjoys time spent trying to keep up with her two children and their busy lives, reading books by her favorite authors, watching IndyCar races to look for her husband, and traveling. The newest addition is a fur kid Labradoodle named Cody.

Aly accepted the challenge by her husband to write a book and created The Racer’s Widow, which was released in November 2012. Chasing The Dream and Taking A Chance round out the series. Aly is a member of Romance Writers of America, Indiana Romance Writers of America, and Contemporary Romance Writers.

Twitter: @AlyGrady

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Writing Advice from Gina Drayer

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! Can you believe November is here already? I have lots of writing to do before year's end, and I think my guest Gina Drayer may be on to something. Her advice puts a new spin on how to accomplish a daily word count. Welcome, Gina!

The best advice I can give to new writers is: SCHEDULE TIME TO WRITE.

I’m not just talking about devoting time to your craft (which you should be doing). I mean, treat your writing like a job or a class. Have a set time every day that you write. It doesn’t have to be long. Even two hours once a day is enough to get started. But make that time and fiercely protect it. Let your family know. Tell your friends. Turn off the internet and silence your phone.

Why go through the bother of scheduling time? It’s a brain chemistry thing, kind of like having a set bedtime. When you have a ritual, something you do at a set time in a particular place, you mind gets ready.

By going through the motions, if you will, you are alerting your brain that “this is the time we get creative.” Instead of waiting for inspiration to strike, you can create a neurological trigger for “inspiration” with your own writing ritual.

And when you’re ready to write, magic happens.

It doesn’t happen overnight. You are effectively retraining your brain, so it takes time. But it’s worth it. So the best advice I can give to you is don’t just make time to write; schedule time to write. You’ll thank me later.

Gina Drayer is an avid reader, writer, and Ubergeek.

A proud Navy brat, Gina has lived all over the country, but now hangs her hat in Indiana with her family. Currently, she spends her days running the family's Home Health Agency and Women's Mastectomy Center and her nights creating fantastic characters and steamy contemporary romances.

The third book in her Modern Girl’s Guide series ( will be published in December.

Follow her on Facebook ( or sign up for her newsletter (

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Roxy Mews

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! Fall is in full swing here in Indiana, so grab a cup of something warm to drink and pull up a chair. Roxy Mews is visiting today with some excellent advice for all writers. Welcome, Roxy, and thanks for being here!

I took a while trying to think about what advice I’d like to pass on to other writers. I’ve been lucky in my career. I’ve been mentored by some truly remarkable women, and something on my “to accomplish” list is to return the favor in whatever way I can. That’s why I jumped at the chance to write a post for Writing Tip Wednesday.

I could tell you the usual tips such as to never run out of coffee, write as often as you can, and ALWAYS delete your browser history before handing your laptop to parents or children. There are some things your mom can live without knowing.

I could also tell you about how I keep a book bible with details about my characters nearby while I’m writing. I learned the hard way that finding a hair color through two books is not an easy task.

But for this article I’ll stick with something a bit more true to my heart. Well, not counting coffee of course, because seriously…coffee is really needed.

My writing tip for everyone is to be brave.

Write brave. Let your characters call the shots. Don’t dial them back. Let your imagination play out loud and on the page. A special person told me once that, “If you have a story inside you, there is someone out there who needs to read it.”

Act brave. Even when you feel anything but. Jump at opportunities. When I got my first acceptance email, my first thought was…well I can’t write that on a public space without getting in trouble. Let’s just say, I didn’t think I was ready. I took the chance anyway. In that moment I acted brave, and I have a career because I took that chance.

Be brave for others. I’ve only been published for two years now, but I’ve met so many wonderful people. And guess what? Every author I have talked to has doubts. They doubt they’ll be able to switch genres, even though their heart tells them it’s the right thing to do. They doubt their latest hero will be likable. They doubt anyone will bother buying their book. But if they are as lucky as I am, when they have those doubts, they have other authors who will smack them upside the head and tell them they’re being stupid. Their fellow authors will tell them to go for it, and pass them a glass of wine when they hit send. When you find your niche, and you find those authors who are your peers, your critique partners, and ultimately your friends, be brave for them too.

So that’s my advice. Be brave. Write brave, act brave, and be brave for others, while you put your dreams on paper. Be brave enough to show your words to other people, and be brave enough to grow. Big dreams are scary. I should know. Mine terrify me.

Roxy wrote her first story at age six on an electric typewriter. It was about a cat and a haunted house. Thankfully, her stories and technology have matured since then. Now Roxy spends her days fighting the evil day job in hopes of conquering the stories that run rampant in her head when she comes home at night. When she discovered Erotic Romance, Roxy fell in love. She can’t wait to share all her fun and sexy stories with everyone. To connect with Roxy Mews find her babbling on Twitter, friend her on Facebook, visit her Blog, or find all these links on

Facebook Author Page:
Group Blog:

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Release Day for Death Benefits!!!

Are you ready for a quick paranormal read to prepare for Halloween?

Death Benefits is now available from Amazon, ARe, B&N, GooglePlay, iBooks, and Kobo for only 99 cents!

Sometimes…you’re better off dead.

Even as a woman used to dealing with dead people, Genesis Blacke has met her match.

Widow Genesis Blacke spends her days with dead people and her nights wishing she could relive the last moments with her deceased husband, that she could somehow change the past and save him from death. Fate gives her a second chance at love, but it isn’t quite what she expects.


Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Writing Advice from Jeana Mann

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! In case you missed the announcement and cover reveal, I have a short story release on Friday, October 23. Death Benefits is perfect for Halloween lovers and will be available at Amazon, ARe, B&N, GooglePlay, iBooks, and Kobo for only 99 cents!

In the meantime, Jeana Mann is here to offer some great advice on writing exercise! Welcome, Jeana, and thanks for visiting!


Thank you so much for allowing me to be here this week! It’s exciting to see so many writers sharing their knowledge and to be a part of it.

I‘m often asked about my writing process and how I’ve managed to write six books in less than a year. I thought I would share my experience and what I’ve learned.

Let me start by saying my first book, Intoxicated, took five years to write. FIVE YEARS. That’s a long time, especially in a business where authors are constantly told the faster you can produce, the quicker you will see results and build a readership. If I had any hopes of meeting these criteria, I needed to streamline my writing process. After attending a few courses on maximizing time, I took a long hard look at my work ethic. I came up with two problems. First, I was wasting time on undeveloped plotlines and getting lost in social media. Second, I had no discipline—at all. I am the world’s greatest procrastinator.

If you want to write faster, here are a few suggestions. Let me preface these by saying, I think it‘s important to evaluate your personal lifestyle and find what works for you. Everyone is different. We each have different goals and needs to be met.

1. Maximize your time—don’t waste precious minutes on things that take you away from writing. It is so easy to get sucked into social media and promotion. Focus on the areas you do well in or enjoy and let the others go.

2. Make writing a priority—carve out time each day to write, even if it’s only for ten minutes. Some days I get up an hour earlier before my day job in order to meet my writing goal for the day. I keep a small notebook in my purse to jot down ideas about characters and plots so that I’m ready to roll when I sit down at my desk.

3. Write every day—set a daily word count and stick to it. This is easy to say, hard to do. Sometimes everything I write is crap, but I keep writing anyway until I hit my count. I believe that writing is like exercising a muscle. The more you use it, the more flexible and strong it will become. The more you write, the easier it will be to get the words onto paper.

4. Set goals—make a plan for the next year. Set deadlines and keep them. I made a goal to produce one book every two months while working sixty hours a week at my day job. I do whatever it takes to hit these dates. If you can only write one book a year, then set your deadlines accordingly, but make yourself accountable.

5. Use tools to make writing easier—don’t waste time going in circles like I did. I use Scrivener to keep track of my series data (ie: character names, eye color, ages). It also allows me to write in bits and pieces and move those bits around to suit my ever-changing plotlines. I also use Hootsuite to post to multiple social media sites in one fell swoop. Talk to other authors and ask what they use to organize their writing lives.

6. Find a balance—don’t spend all your time at the computer. Recharging your batteries is just as important as hitting the keyboard. Family, diet, exercise, shopping for shoes. Whatever your pleasure, make sure you allow time for it. My best ideas come when my mind is fresh. Getting away from your desk allows you to generate new ideas and spurs creativity.

I hope you find these tips useful. Stay diligent and remember to enjoy your life. Being an author is hard work, but it is also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Thank you for letting me visit with you today and happy writing!

Jeana E. Mann is the author of sizzling hot contemporary romance. She was born and raised in Indiana and lives in a tiny town with a saloon, no stoplights, and cows in the backyard. She graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Speech and Hearing, something totally unrelated to writing.
When she’s not busy dreaming up steamy bad boys for her Felony Romance Series, she loves to travel anywhere and everywhere. Over the years she has climbed the ruins of Chichen Iza in Mexico, snorkeled along the shores of Hawaii, driven the track at the Indy 500, sailed around Jamaica, ate gelato on the steps of the Pantheon in Rome, and explored the ancient city of Pompeii. More important than the places she’s been are the people she has met along the way.
Be sure to connect with Jeana on Facebook or follow along on Twitter for the latest news regarding her upcoming releases.


Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!
Death Benefits ~ Coming Friday, October 23!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Cover Reveal Day!!!

Back in February, I submitted a short story to RWA's Second Chances Anthology call. I wrote the 5500-word story on a whim, with the plot coming out of nowhere and the story telling itself. Even the title was easy. Don't you love when that happens?!

Well, I recently got a rejection email, so that means I have a new paranormal short story just in time for Halloween. And today is Cover Reveal Day! Do you see how I worked the situation to my advantage? The Big R equals Re-purpose in my book. :) Many thanks to Bethany at Dragonfly Press Design for the rush job on the cover! You're awesome!!!

Coming to an e-tailer near you on Friday, October 23!

Blurb: Even as a woman used to dealing with dead people, Genesis Blacke has met her match.

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!