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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Few Quick Updates!

I've been buried in committee work for my local RWA chapter for months, but IGO Contest updates are done and the new IRWA website is up and running just in time for IGO to open tomorrow! Now I can concentrate on finishing my new foodie series. :)

Also, tomorrow is the last day to get Two Knights of Passion (Bewitching Desires 2) for half price at Siren! Only $2.50!!!


And I have this evening to wrap presents for my son's birthday!

See you tomorrow for Writing Tip Wednesday!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Homophones

What is a Homophone?

From Merriam-Webster's online dictionary: one of two or more words pronounced alike but different in meaning or derivation or spelling. From me: not to be confused with homonym--a single word with more than one meaning, like right (direction) and right (correct).

Even with the multitude of resources listing commonly misused homophones, using the wrong one is still a major problem for many writers. Some of us nerdy grammar types know which one to use where, but sum due knot no witch won two use wear.

Do you have any idea how hard that sentence was for me to write??? I think I have a headache...

In that sentence alone, I used eight homophones.
some (part of a whole)-sum (total amount)
do (an action verb)-due (regarding payment)
not (negative or opposite word)-knot (a binding)
no (opposite of yes)-know (understand or comprehend)
which (a specific noun)-witch (Dorothy's nemesis)
one (a number)-won (prevailed or succeeded)
to (preposition or used with an infinitive)-two (a number)-too (also or in addition to)
where (location)-wear (put on a garment, jewelry, etc.)

I'm not saying I don't occasionally mistype a word. That happens. However, every writer needs to either learn/memorize the correct usage or keep a reference guide like Chicago Manual of Style on hand to check. Most of us have a pretty good idea whether we're terrible, competent, or well-versed in English/grammar. If you know it isn't your strong point, find a critique partner or beta reader with those skills. Spelling and grammar checks in your word processing software aren't 100% reliable. Both make mistakes, and a second or third pair of eyes can catch misused homophones.

A word of warning--Rather than always relying on your crit partner/beta reader/editor to find those errors, make an effort to learn the differences between the words. Having the mindset that someone else will correct it for you means you aren't growing as a writer. It also sends up red flags to contest judges, editors, and agents, leaving them to assume you're simply too lazy to be bothered with learning craft.

Now, on to a few more homophones!

there (location)-they're (they are contraction) - their (possessive pronoun)
bear (animal)-bare (without clothing or adornment)
seen (past tense of saw)-scene (image or act in a play, book, or movie)
doe (female deer)-dough (unbaked bread or cookies)
so (adverb)-sew (use needle and thread)
veil (face covering)-vale (valley)-vail (bow)
vain (egotistical)-vane (wind direction device)

I could on and on... I found a site with 70 homophones! Which ones give you problems???

Next week--Logic Lapses!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Identifying Genre

With my local RWA chapter's writing contest opening for entries on May 1st, I'm reminded of a problem area for many writers--identifying the proper genre for their stories.

IRWA's Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest (IGO) is modeled after the Golden Heart Contest run by Romance Writers of America, our parent organization, and uses the same category definitions for genre. Other than the erotic romance category we've added, our contests have the same basic rules. We've also combined all contemporary categories.

Within the romance genre, you'll find many sub-genres. These seven don't begin to include them all, but you should see a pattern in the definitions.

Contemporary Romance--Romance that focuses primarily on the romantic relationship and has a contemporary setting. The love story is the main focus, and the resolution of the romance should be satisfying and optimistic.

Erotic Romance--Romance in which the sexual relationship plays an integral part in the love story. The sexual relationship is blended with the love story, which is the main focus, and the resolution of the romance is satisfying and optimistic.

Historical Romance--Romance set in any historical time period. Again, the love story is the main focus, and the resolution of the romance should be satisfying and optimistic.

Inspirational Romance--Romance in which religious or spiritual beliefs (in the context of any religious or spiritual belief system) play a major role in the romantic relationship. The love story is the main focus, with religious or spiritual beliefs as a significant part of the love story, and the resolution of the romance should be satisfying and optimistic.

Paranormal Romance--Romance in which the future, fantasy, or paranormal elements are an integral part of the plot. The futuristic, fantasy, or paranormal elements are blended with the love story, which is the main focus, and the resolution of the romance should be satisfying and optimistic.

Romantic Suspense--Suspense, mystery, or thriller elements constitute an integral part of the plot. These elements are blended with the love story, which is the main focus, and the resolution of the romance is satisfying and optimistic.

Young Adult--Romance geared toward young adult readers. The love story is the main focus, and the resolution of the romance should be emotionally satisfying and optimistic.

With those definitions out of the way, I'd like to address some of the issues I've encountered in judging.

Q: How would you define the genre of a story with a contemporary and/or historical setting containing paranormal elements that are vital to the plot?
A: If the paranormal elements are taken out, does the story still work? If yes, contemporary or historical. If no, paranormal. If the story involves both a contemporary setting and a historical setting with the same set of characters, then some sort of time travel, reincarnation, etc. has happened. Therefore, the story is paranormal.

Q: What if my erotic story doesn't end with a happily ever after?
A: Happy for now is acceptable as long as the resolution is optimistic. However, if the characters go their separate ways in the end, the genre is erotica rather than erotic romance. The addition of the word "romance" means the sexual relationship has evolved into a loving one as well.

Q: How much suspense can I put in my romantic suspense?
A: Romance should be at least 50% of any story labeled romance, whether it's romantic suspense, young adult romance, paranormal romance, etc. The main focus in romance is the romantic relationship. That's why genres such as suspense, thriller, mystery, etc. exist. A love story isn't the main focus, or even a minor part sometimes. Romantic Suspense has a good balance of romance and suspense.

Q: Can one story fit into more than one category?
A: Yes. An erotic romance can be contemporary, historical, paranormal, or romantic suspense. In most other cases, choose the genre that most closely fits your story. Sure, an inspirational can be contemporary, historical, or romantic suspense, but the religious/spiritual factor is usually a defining element for a publisher.

Q: Where do steampunk, sci-fi, and urban fantasy romances fit in?
A: If you've read any of these sub-genres, you know that paranormal-type elements are an integral part of the stories. They contain futuristic and fantasy world-building. They're paranormal in the case of the IGO.

Whether you're entering contests or submitting to editors and agents, know your genre. Not knowing--or choosing the wrong one--could mean a disqualification or a rejection.

How about we discuss the dreaded Homophones next week?!?!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Pacing

Yes, I picked another tough topic! Pacing--the movement of your plot from beginning to end. You can have great pacing, where the reader absolutely can't put the book down because she can't find a slow part for stopping. Or you can have mediocre pacing, with sluggish scenes that don't move the story forward fast enough to keep the reader's interest.

While an action-packed romantic suspense or thriller lends itself to faster pacing by definition, you have to take advantage of the twists and turns to make it work. Use fewer drawn-out descriptions and focus on the suspense.

Typically, other genres need a little boost. Contemporary romance won't have the same tension a well-written RS has, but keeping the characters active and the plot moving forward can help maintain good flow. Remember backstory and info dumps??? Those slow down the pacing and give the reader opportunities to stop reading or lose interest.

Ways to create good pacing:

1) Keep your characters as active as possible. Don't allow them to spend much time thinking about things that have already happened. Avoid the cursed beginning-of-the-chapter recap.

2) Don't fall victim to backstory and/or info dumps. Ease tidbits of information into the story as needed--exposition!

3) Don't define pacing by action alone. Sexual tension, good opening and chapter-end hooks, and emotional ups and downs can produce a story that moves along at a steady pace.

4) Use your genre to help decide what good pacing means. It won't necessarily be the same for paranormal and historical.

5) Remember to use POV to your advantage. Show instead of tell. Use active rather than passive sentence structure. Be the character!

6) Avoid unnecessary description, movements, and dialogue.

7) Use tight writing, with minimal adjectives/adverbs and crutch words. Use contractions wherever possible.

8) Internal dialogue can draw the reader in and reveal important details about the character while keeping the pacing strong.

9) Keep GMC a vital part of characterization and the plot.

10) Use POV choice to create tension. Who has the most to lose in each scene?

Are you noticing how almost every part of writing craft ties into pacing? Actually, each aspect of craft overlaps with others. As one area improves, another will follow. The most important point is never stop trying to improve your craft. You didn't think I'd get all philosophical, did you??? :D

Let's take a look at genre definitions next week. Do you know what makes a paranormal a paranormal and not a contemporary or a historical?

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Retro Release!

In case you missed the announcements on FB, Twitter, Google+, and my website, Two Knights of Passion (Bewitching Desires 2) was a Siren retro release yesterday! Get it for $2.50 through May 1st!!!


Enjoy!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--GMC

This topic is a huge one for writers, and I'll say right off that I can't begin to cover every detail of GMC in a single blog. I'm going to stick to the basics here. I highly recommend buying/borrowing a copy of Deb Dixon's book on GMC--Goal, Motivation, and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction. It's a great resource for all fiction writers, even those of us who are pantsers and plantsers!

Goal--What are your characters' goals? Define them, whether in your head or on paper. They can be general or specific, but they have to be part of the plot or subplot.

Motivation--Why does your character need to achieve this goal? What's in it for him/her? Does a past experience influence this motivation? Or maybe his current situation drives his need to accomplish his goal.

Conflict--What events will happen to prevent the character from reaching his/her goal? These can be internal and/or external. Internal conflicts provide the character with room to grow (the character arc) and a struggle against himself. External conflicts are outside influences that can directly or indirectly affect his path toward the goal.

Example:

Goals
Heroine, Sarah, wants to prevent her mother from remarrying.
Hero, Hank, wants to turn an empty factory into condos.

Motivations
Sarah believes the man is marrying her mother for money and property.
Hank thinks the building is an eyesore and can be put to better use. Plus, he could make some money to pay off his divorce lawyer.

Conflicts
Hank's father is the man who wants to marry Sarah's mother. (external)
After seeing the couple together, Sarah thinks the man might actually love her mother. (internal)
Sarah's mother owns the empty factory. (external)
Sarah is concerned the marriage is simply a way for Hank to get his hands on the property. (internal)
Sara wants her mother to donate the empty factory to the town for a new library. (external)

Do you get the idea of how GMC works?

Plotters, this process fits in with your outlines, character bios, story boards, etc.
Pantsers, be sure GMC is a part of your story as it unfolds.
Plantsers, use whatever combination of plotter and pantser tools you need to let that story tell itself.

Remember--without GMC, you have a series of unconnected events happening for no apparent reason!

Now I need to plant myself in my chair and write!!! Pacing is up next week!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!