Archive for 'Alison Kent'

Saturday, May 1st, 2010 by Sasha White
The Rules of Writing. Hmph!

One thing I’ve noticed is that when it comes to writing advice some things are worth repeating.

Today I was going over the archives of my own blog, looking at what I was thinking/feeling/doing around this time a couple years ago, and I found this post about writing rules. The link to Julie Leto’s blog post doesn’t work anymore as her blog is gone, but I still think this stuff is worth check it out…

Julie Leto has a great post on her Marisela blog about the “rules” of writing.

This is a hot button for me because I myself have no education or courses geared toward writing. I took a correspondence course on how to SELL my writing, but it didn’t teach me anything about writing other than how to research markets and find places to sell what I wanted to write.

As far as writing itself…for me, it’s always been sit my ass in a chair and write. that’s all there is to it.

I have no rules. My main goal/rule for my own writing is get rid of what’s not needed. I absolutely hate it when I skim a story, so I try my hardest when writing to make sure there is nothing to skim in my own stories.

When I started writing, I didn’t know any writers. I wasn’t connnected to the internet in any way other than Hotmail, and now, I think that was a good thing. I’m lucky in the way that when I started writing I was published right away. Short stories. I didn’t know a thing about technique or GMC or conflict. I’d never even heard of those terms!

When I decided to try novel writing, and learned about eHar and RWA and such, I was lost for a while. I really was.

I was excited to find the eHar community, and through them I learned about RWA and contests. I tried a couple of contests (this is around the time I got my website started up) and I failed miserably in the contests. My submissions were ripped apart for not being realistic in my contemporaries, not having any conflict, and my writing itself. My grammar and my style.

But everything happens for a reason. I met some wonderfully supportive authors on eHar. My friends from the Struggling Writers, authors like Alison Kent who sent me one of her first Bravas to show me that things were heating up, Suzanne McMinn, who is strong and sage with her advice and affirmations, and Julie Leto who has always been an advocate of sticking with your own strength’s and style. The article on Julie’s website about Book of your VOICE is the one that gave me a solid kick in the ass. And one I go back and reread often.

That’s not to say there isn’t a lot to be learned out there, on loops in communities and in writing manuals…however I think Julie says it best here:

“…before you start casting off all those great books out there that might or might not inspire something within you to discover your own voice, stop thinking about every piece of advice you ever receive as a rule. It’s just advice. Geez, you don’t listen to every piece of that you get from your mother, do you? “

Before that I couldn’t understand how I’d had success with short stories (with several publishers) and yet I was apparently doing it all wrong according to the contest Judges and the “rules”. Well, there are no rules. I decided then that the only rule I’d follow is to write a story that interests and intrigues ME, and hope that there are readers out ther that share my taste.

And you know what? There are. :mrgreen:

So aspiring writers, it’s always a good thing to remember that readers really just want a good story. They want to be entertained, and maybe taken out of their own heads and problems for just a little while. They don’t care about the “rules” as some organization sees them.

Thursday, July 16th, 2009 by Sasha White
Pot Luck

I had a hard time deciding what to blog about today, so you’re getting a bit of everything…a rambling pot luck or sorts…but worth reading I think. 😀

Romance Writers Of America is having their national conference right now. And I’m not there. I’m okay with that. I have plans to meet up with some writer friends for a week’s writing retreat in Sept, so I’m not missing the conference. Plus, there are so many FREE online conferences going on right now that I’ve been doing more reading than writing. (And yes, that means once again I have no new words for my BIAM challenge. I’m officially revising my goal to 50k, instead of 90)

I thought about doing a post on Writer Burnout since I’ll be doing a Q & A on it on Friday at one of my favorite online hangouts, the Romance Divas, for their Not Going To Conference conference. But, like I said, there are online workshops all over right now. So instead, I’m going to do something different here. Aside form workshops and socializing, one thing you miss out on when not going to a conference is…free books & Swag. So…I’m doing some giveaways.

What do you have to do to get something? Just say hi in the comments, and share a thought for today with me..

I’ve got 3 prize packs to give away to three different Random Winners.

Signed copies of PRIMAL MALE (paranormal), MY PREROGATIVE (contemporary) and Alluring Tales 2, Hot Holiday Nights (7 author anthology-multiple genres – all erotic)

in addition to my books, I’m also throwing in a couple of books by some of my favorite authors.

Winner 1 will also get a unsigned copies of
A Long Hard Ride by Alison Kent
Dark Need by Lynn Veihl.

Winner 2 will also get unsigned copies of
Fairyville by Emma Holly
Vanish by Tess Gerritsen

Winner 3 will also get unsigned copies of
Down In Texas by Delilah Devlin
Death Angel by Linda Howard

All prize packs will also include some swag. The giveaways are good world wide, so no matter if your in Asia, Australia or anywhere else, if you want to win these books, then leave a comment and see if you’re lucky.

Here’s some of the online workshops that I suggest you check out.
Lynn Viehl’s Left Behind & Loving It tops my list of go-to places.

Alison Kent ialso has some great articles up on her Blah Blog.

One that I really liked was From Panster to Plotter by Kait Nolan

And don’t forget the Romance Divas Not Going To Conference conference. It started on Tuesday and continues all week with workshops and seminars featuring Josh Lanyon, Rowan Mcbride, Jet Mykles and Shayla Kersten, Carrie Jones, Marley Gibson, Linnea Sinclair, Patti O’Shea, Ona Russel, Steve Hockingsmith, Joey W. Hill and ME. :)

As for the BIAM, Darlene is still kicking my butt. I got no new words this past week, and she added another 5,521 to her total. 2 more weeks. I need to write 50k in the next 2 weeks to beat her. and yes, thats my new goal. I wont hit 90k, but I am determined to give Darlene a run for her money. Be sure to check back next week and see how close I am!


Will post winners on this blog on SUNDAY. :)

Monday, July 6th, 2009 by Alison Kent
Size Does Matter

No matter the length of story you write, you’ll come up against challenges. A 100,000 word novel isn’t going to work without a plot that requires that many words to be told. Taking a 60,000 word story and padding to the longer length doesn’t give you a successful 100,000 word novel. It gives you a padded 60,000 word novel instead. Rehashing the same issues over and over in a 100,000 word novel doesn’t give you a successful 100,000 word novel. It gives you a 100,000 repetitive words. A successful 100,000 word novel will have enough action, character development, and conflict to sustain that length. On the other hand, a 60,000 word novel presents its own challenges. There can’t be too much action to be played out, character to be developed, or conflict to be resolved else the story will feel rushed and the plot short-changed. It’s a bit of a Three Bears scenario in that all of a story’s elements have to be just right for its length. One might judge by length and think a 100,000 word book is harder to write than a shorter novel, but that’s not necessarily so.

One of the most demanding story lengths has to be that of the novella. I’m only familiar with the lengths published in the romance genre, so I’m speaking strictly to those. I’ve written one novella for a Harlequin single title anthology and two which were published by Harlequin Blaze. My most recent novella for Blaze, UNBROKEN, in the Tex Appeal anthology, came in at 21,425 words. For Kensington Brava, I’ve written two novellas of 15,000 or so words which were published in “six-pack” anthologies. I’ve also written four standalone novellas at approximately 35,000 words each. Most novellas are published in anthologies, and in romance, most anthologies consist of three novellas, though they can have more.

For their RITA contest, RWA defines a novella as follows:

In this category, a love story is the main focus, and the ending is emotionally satisfying and optimistic. Typically, the word count is 20,000 – 40,000 words.

Though everyone’s experience with writing novellas or short stories will be different, here are a few tips on how to effectively write in the shorter format. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that most of these tips are about limits. Having a limited word count automatically limits what can be done with the available words and in romance, those words need to be about the love story readers want. Whatever external plot point has brought your couple together will have to take a back seat to the development of their relationship because the one thing not negotiable is the genre requirements.

1 ) – Tell one character’s story. In longer romance novels, the hero and heroine both will have goals they wish to accomplish and conflict that keeps them from doing so. In a novella, keeping the focus on one goal, one conflict will shave off a lot of words. Making the story about one character allows you to dig deeper into who he is, what he wants, what drives him, and what he’ll do to get it. Splitting your 30,000 words between two characters allows less room for each. Instead of worrying about shortchanging one or the other, you can focus on the one who has something at stake.

2 ) – Avoid writing about strangers. It’s so much easier to write a short piece if your characters don’t have to do the Getting To Know You dance. If possible, give your characters a shared history. They don’t have to have known each other well, but having some sort of common ground makes for a much easier launch pad. In romance, friends to lovers is a perennial favorite and makes for great novella fodder. My novella in the Mother, Please! anthology was such a story.

3 ) – Stick to one plot. In the shorter length work, there is really no room to adequately develop a subplot, and this is coming from someone who has written subplots in almost all of her category length romances. I love, love, love subplots but for a novella, a single focus is your best bet. One plot allows for the full word count to be used to flesh out and add the necessary color every story deserves. Don’t cheat your main story because a shiny tangent has caught your eye.

4 ) – Limit secondary characters. My novella UNBROKEN is set on a ranch populated by several hands who work there for the hero, Wyatt Crowe. None of them have their own story, their own viewpoint, or do more than facilitate the main characters’ involvement. They work for the hero, but are there to supply information my heroine needs for a newspaper article. Whether in novels or novellas, secondary characters must serve more of a purpose than window dressing.

5 ) – The fewer viewpoints the better. I was going to suggest using only the hero and heroine, but in longer novellas, I can see a third viewpoint working. With a caveat. If a third is used, it would need to enhance the main plot, not add that character’s personal story to the mix. Too many viewpoints will split the focus and lessen the intensity of the scenes and the depth achieved. Readers want the story of the main couple. Use their points of view to deliver it.

Anyone have other suggestions?

Monday, May 25th, 2009 by Alison Kent
Memorial Day

From The Memorial Day Order:

The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but Posts and com­rades will, in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, Comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers sailors and marines, who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead? We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security, is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull and other hinds slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains, and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledge to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon the Nation’s gratitude—the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.

What gorgeous, gorgeous words. Oh the power of being a writer.

Memorial Day photo courtesy of Sister72

Monday, May 18th, 2009 by Alison Kent
Letting Go

I’m going to guess that most authors have a few unsold manuscripts on their hard drives, under their beds, in their closets. I’m going to guess, too, that most authors don’t sell their first full length novel. Some will, but most won’t. I did sell my second, but there was a world of difference between the quality of that one and the one that had come before. That sale was to a small print publisher. It took me three years to make my second sale, that one to Harlequin, and during the interim I learned even more about craft. Since then, I’ve continued to sell on proposal, with many a blind option book tacked onto my contracts.If You Love Somebody I have only the one full manuscript that never sold, but I do have several partials. Most I’ve let go. Some, I just can’t. They’re stuck in my head – and in my heart – and nothing will shake them. I love them and can’t let them go.

My experience with working over old ideas, however, is not particularly positive, yet neither has it been so negative that it’s turned me off doing so. I have a Harlequin Blaze release that was rejected by one editor, then given life by another eight years later. Admittedly, I’d never done enough work on that story in the first place, so when I resurrected it, the experience was incredibly painful. Thinking I knew it well, I failed to give myself enough time in my schedule to write it. That was a huge mistake. I turned in the manuscript knowing my hero was an ass. The first revision words out of my editor’s mouth were, “Your hero is an ass.” (Okay, maybe not verbatim, but it was the same sentiment.) I rewrote about half the book, a task that threw off my next contracted book for this same editor, but I had no choice. My hero was an ass.

The only other idea I’ve sold out of my story graveyard was one which had been rejected by every single title editor in the business on the query alone – this even though it won several RWA chapter contests. It was an action adventure romance, Fly Little Wingand in the early nineties, no one was publishing much in the way of action adventure romance. (Timing, timing, timing.) My rejections all said just that. We love this, but we have NO idea what to do with it. A dozen years later, I used two characters from that idea as the basis for my action adventure Smithson Group series from Kensington Brava, and eventually wrote the original for Brava, too. It wasn’t the best book I’ve ever written. It was too short. I wrote it during a horribly stressful time in my life. I couldn’t thread the subplot as skillfully as I wanted to, so at the last minute I yanked it. The book saw print, received decent reviews, generated appreciative reader feedback, and at least my hero wasn’t an ass. In fact, he’s still one of my favorite heroes ever.

Right now, I have a proposal being shopped that is the best thing I’ve ever written. Trust me. It is the BEST, and it’s something I started working on over ten years ago. Ten. That is a long LONG time. It went out originally to five editors, then four more, then another, and I’m waiting to hear on a recent additional query. I want to write this idea more than anything I’ve ever put together. I love these characters more than life itself. I can see them, hear them. No other set of characters has ever been so real to me. It’s like they’re people I truly know, not a figment of my imagination. They’re my friends.

What have my rejections said? (Some details redacted to protect the work.)

“Alison is a lovely writer and there were several nice elements here. However, in the final analysis, I am not sure that the premise here is strong enough to stand out on the crowded contemporary romance shelf. For this reason, I am afraid I must pass on this particular project.”

“Alison is obviously a seasoned professional but, with some reluctance, we are going to pass. Her writing was nice, and I like the character of […] a great deal but we generally steer clear of stories with […] plots. I did appreciate all the realistic detail about […] though.”

“I loved the details of […], and I think her premise is a good one–she manages to combine very different heroes with a variety of skills, yet still give them the bonds of brotherhood. That said, I don’t think this one is for me. Despite some strong moments, I didn’t quite fall in love with the writing, and ultimately don’t think I’m the best editorial champion for the series.”

“I’m actively looking for contemporary romance, particularly with this kind of feel, so I was really hoping to fall in love with it. Alas, I’m afraid I have to pass as I just didn’t find it compelling enough to pursue for our list. Too much of it felt like set up for the series, backstory and introducing characters, rather than a page-turning story where the reader meets the cast of characters along the way.”

From my agent on another: “She decided not to pursue it because she didn’t find it high concept enough. But she wants me to keep her in mind for anything else you work on because she thought your writing showed a lot of talent.”

One of the original editors to get this package still has it, as does an editor who requested it after a lunch pitch by my agent. Then there’s the query that’s still out there, so I haven’t yet given up hope. But I may have to. I want to sell this story / series. I want to write it more than that, but my financial situation isn’t going to allow me to spend the time unless I’m being paid to do so. I don’t want to let it go, but if it comes down to it, do I have a choice? How do you know when it’s time to tell a beloved project good-bye?

(Oh, yeah, the current WIP? It’s one more I’ve resurrected, but the last one worthy of my time and attention. *g*)

If You Love Somebody and Fly Little Wing photos by lepiaf.geo

Monday, May 4th, 2009 by Alison Kent
Does anybody really know what time it is?

On Saturday morning, I got up at 9:10 a.m. I poured a cup of coffee (the husband was up already and had it made), carried it to my desk and turned on the computer there for the first time in a week, having been working on my laptop from the living room. I then proceeded to do paying web work, volunteer web work, print postage for mailing blog prizes, clean out the email boxes I don’t use daily, and respond to the things there that needed attention.

clock flowerAt 1:50 p.m. I got up from my desk for the second time (the first was for a coffee refill) so I could eat lunch, having forgotten breakfast – except I really didn’t get up to eat. I got up to go to the kitchen, carve off a breast from the rotisserie chicken the husband brought home after running to the post office and bank, then eat it at my desk while paying bills, seeing as how another month had arrived when I wasn’t looking.

Next time I looked up, it was 4:15 p.m. I’d spent over seven hours at the computer. Bills were paid, check book balanced, more biz emails responded to. I’d also written (or started) three blog posts I had scheduled for this week, and done some promo work for the book I mentioned last Monday. I should’ve sent my newsletter out the day it released. I waited a week, putting it off for the same reason I delayed doing so many of the other things mentioned above. I was writing.

I’m a mess when writing. I can’t think of anything else. Not housework. Not bill paying. Not volunteer work. Last week, I was working to get a proposal to my agent. I had no deadline except the one I’d set for myself. There’s not even money involved, though hopefully there will be! But I didn’t want to leave that world until I had it all in order. I needed to make sure what readers would see in those first chapters was clear, not overly complicated, and woven naturally. It’s a tough balance sometimes. Not too much, not too little. Especially when I know the story and the world so well. But back to the clock.

clock flowerWhen I’m creating, my story rolling forward under its day to day momentum, growing into something even larger than I’ve imagined, going in directions I never could have sent it without immersing myself completely, I can sit down at the laptop or with the pen and paper at 9:10 a.m., work until 4:15 p.m., taking nothing but a lunch break, and wind up with only a thousand usable words. Maybe less. All that time, and so little to show for it. Where does the time go? Why, when writing, can I not be as productive as when I have a “to do” list of web work and volunteer work and bill paying and promotional tasks? Those I can slam through, and at the end of the day I can see the progress. Writing? Not so much. I work and work and work and it takes FOREVER and DAYS to turn all those words into a story.

It’s astounding, time is fleeting . . .

I’ve lived on publishing time for years. It’s not the same time the rest of the world lives on. We don’t turn on the creativity faucet, let it run for four hours, turn it off for one so we can go to lunch, start the flow again for another four, then shut it down for an evening spent with the family at the dinner table or at a soccer game or in front of the TV. Those of us who write for a living don’t always sleep normal hours. Some nights I go to bed early and get up the next morning the same. Other times I stay up until the next day rolls around.

And then there are the ways we measure the passing of the year. Not by holidays or birthdays or days of the month, but by the writer’s calendar. Deadlines. Copy edits. Galleys. Release dates. Royalty checks due. Seriously, it’s a wonder authors manage to get anything done or be where they need to be in real world time. But if you think that’s a complaint, you’re wrong. *g* It’s the best life ever.

Clock Flower photos by Hamed Saber

Monday, April 27th, 2009 by Alison Kent
Alison (Jekyll & Hyde) Kent, Author

I have a book releasing tomorrow, and have mixed feelings about the fact that I do. The memories of writing this book are ones that will never go away because it was one of the worst writing experiences of my life. I had tons of external things going on, and every single one of them made their presence known in my head and on the page. I took a week of vacation to get the manuscript in by deadline and missed attending a writers / readers convention I’d paid to go to because I’d lost my grip on the book. My husband went to the booksigning. He got to see my friends. I did not. This was two years ago this month. In fact, two years ago tomorrow was the date of the signing. I was physically ill for a week after I sent the book in, even missing work. Two years and I haven’t forgotten a single painful word of the writing process.

On the other hand, I had some amazing fun writing this book. I’ll never forget a plotting session I had with my husband at Panera Bread one night. We ate and talked, and I had a notebook with me, and while explaining to him the petroleum geology thing I needed to have happen – since he is a petroleum geologist – I drew diagrams of my hero’s Louisiana property, where I wanted the oil rig, and we went from there, talking acreage, drilling costs, rig and well terms, etc. Not only that, my sweetie took care of everything around the house during those final days. Cooking, cleaning. Me. He fed me B-12 like the pills were M&M’s.

No Limits by Alison KentWhen I read the galleys in January, I thought, “Oh, this isn’t so bad after all.” But that was just the first third of the book. Maybe the first half. Then things got bad. Horrible. Then they got good again. Really good. A couple of scenes in particular read like the most emotionally authentic and honest scenes I’d ever written. The crap followed shortly thereafter. And stayed. And stayed. I was having Jekyll & Hyde whiplash. Was the book good or bad or both? I couldn’t tell. All I could see was the pain as I remembered where I was sitting or standing or lying or pacing while writing a particular scene, and OH the SUCK! ::shudder:: Then I started sending it out to early readers and reviewers and bloggers and friends.

And you know what? To this day, none of them have pointed and laughed at all the crap scenes I know are in there. In fact, they’ve been pretty nice about what they’ve said. I’ve given away a lot of copies via Twitter and blog contests, and I’ve heard from readers privately that they really enjoyed the story. I want to ask them all to take a closer look at such and such a scene, and how can they read that and not think the book is a complete FAIL? But then I remember they weren’t there for the misery. That was just me, and somehow my subconscious slapped my sobbing self aside and pulled off a miracle. The book is on the shelves, has the most gorgeous cover ever, is receiving good feedback . . . what do I know anyway? *g*

NO LIMITS is a May release from Kensington Brava. You can read excerpts here, and here, and here.