Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Holidays

New Blogs from the Drunk writers are going to be hit and miss over the holidays, so first and foremost.

Happy Holidays to all out there. Thanks for reading the blog and commenting, it is, in our lonely, every day worlds, really fun to hear other’s thoughts. And usually really thought provoking for us.

I’ve hit the first five chapters on the current WIP and as usual realize my initial plotting was too shallow, too vague and ultimately not going to take me any further into the book.

This is nothing new for me. I hit this stage with almost every book, and learning from past mistakes, I have to plot all the way through to the big conclusion, otherwise I end the book with a whimper, not a bang.

For me, this is the point where I also try and sort through all I learned while writing the last book, all I’ve picked up through numerous drunk writing sessions and from reading other, smarter writers.

I have to be a better plotter. No more dead scenes, no more scenes that only move the plot forward an inch, it had better be a yard, or the scene has to be changed.
No more scenes to establish character either. This is a personal point, but if I can’t establish character during the scenes that actually move the plot along, then I’m doing something wrong.
I’m trying for bigger scope, bigger stakes, my characters will face life and death situations, and I’m going to try really, really hard to up the emotional content of my books, never an easy thing for me.

So I’m spending Christmas plotting.

And I’m looking forward to it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Idea Stage

Okay, so I forgot it was Wednesday, my DWT day, and I haven't thought of a thing to talk about.

One excuse is getting ready for visitors and Christmas and all that good stuff. Over the years, I've perfected the shove-everything-in-a-closet-or-corner technique of housecleaning, but the fatal flaw of that technique is coming out to bite me in the *ss. The fatal flaw is that at some point there are no more corners or closets, and then it's about 100x more work to get the house looking tidy than if you'd been doing it properly all the way along... Gah! I have a big house and I'm ashamed to admit I've been using the shove-it-over-there-and-deal-with-it-later technique since I bought the house nearly six years ago. It has come back to haunt me. Big time. I've been tidying for several days solid. And it looks worse. There are seriously rooms in my house you can't walk through right now. (Molly's going to say, "What's new?" But seriously... this is worse than anything you've seen here before.)

But that's not what I was going to post about and if I were feeling clever I might figure out a way to tie that to what I was going to talk about... but I'm tired from spending 2 hours digging my car out of heavy wet snow so I won't even try.

I wanted to just say, "Isn't the idea stage fun???"

Those of you who know what I'm up to will go, "Idea stage? How could Maureen be at that stage? She's in the middle of something."

But I'm putting that something aside for a while because I came up with a really fun idea that I love. And one that will make me eat a lot of words I've said in the past in terms of what I think I should write and what kind of writer I want to be. (But I'm a master rationalizer, so I'm sure I'll figure out a way to make it consistent with things I've said in the past.)

We'll see. Too early to talk about it, but let's just way that brainstorming is fun and I haven't been so excited about an idea since, well, ever.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Cop-outs and the finale of Dexter

I received an email from an angry reader the other day. She felt that in Baby Makes Three, having Alice get pregnant at the end of the book was a cop out. Anti-woman, even. Resolving my conflict by having her magically conceive was a total breach in trust that I had created with the reader. Now, I am fine with criticism and people can feel however they want about my books -- but, man, I could not let this go. I emailed the woman back - thanked her for her time and for buying the book but I told her that having my character get pregnant - I thought - was the best way to up their conflict. Having babies, or not having babies was the external conflict that highlighted their internal conflicts. It was one of those "it seems like the best thing to happen but it's actually the worst" sort of plot points. I didn't think it was a cop-out because things got worse for the characters after she got pregnant. And I really didn't think it was anti-woman - but again, everyone is entitled to an opinion. I just didn't agree with hers.

But then I watched the finale of Dexter and man, I am pissed. How lame. How terrible terribly lame was that? The driving question of the whole series is "is Dexter good or bad." And in the finale, it seems like it's going to be proven by whether or not Dexter is going to kill an innocent man to save himself. If he does - Dexter is evil. If he doesn't -- good guy. And then the crazy ex-girlfriend strolls in and ruins this delicious balancing act. SPOILER - she kills the innocent man, for Dexter, out of coo-coo bird love. So when Dexter then off's the girlfriend it's still all part of the code that his father taught him. The code he's used to. The code we the viewers are used to. And that's not even the part that made me angry - what made me angry was the voice over at the end. Dexter says he has his own code now. He's going to stop asking if he's good or evil, it doesn't matter any more.

What?? Huh?! He just killed again, using his father's code. And that's fine if he's not going to care if he's good or bad anymore -- but we don't see it! We don't get that from him at all. He's still putting his slides in the air-conditioner and talking about his father??? How is he different? He's not. And if he's not - don't have Dexter say he's different. Don't lie to us - because it wasn't Dexter lying, it was the writer - I thought. I was with him and then he not only took an easy way out - but then he didn't even capitalize on that easy way out by making things harder for Dexter. They just got easier.

I don't know if they are setting things up for another season - but what's the tension if they are? What's the question? What's his own code? Will he kill indiscriminately - if so, don't show him using the old code.

Anyway, I understand my non-fan's anger better, now. Not that I would change my book, or do anything differently, but man, when a writer cops out - it hurts. Last night's finale really put a dent in my Dexter love.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Miscellaneous thoughts to end the week

Lots we could talk about this week. The golden globe nominations came out this week, and while they couldn’t limit themselves to nominate just five best dramatic picture nominees, they also couldn’t find any love for Friday Night Lights, or Battlestar.

Even Dexter just got a nod for Michael C. Hall, a well deserved nomination, but what about the show itself?

And I sort of get that Battlestar shows up on Space, a really far away place for a lot of the people choosing the nominees, but Friday Night Lights is easy to find.. Maybe the foreign press has a life and are out on Friday nights?

And Grey’s.. a show according to the critics I’ve read that is having a weak season managed to get nominated, as did House, which really isn’t breaking new ground this season, despite my enduring love for Hugh Laurie.

But I’m starting to be a broken record about this stuff. For a better best of List, check out Steven King’s the best of 2007 on the entertainment weekly website. The man really, really knows his pop culture and while I didn’t agree with all of his choices, I agreed with most.

Other than TV, what’s on the drunk writer mind this week?

Well, Molly’s post earlier in the week, when she talked about the elusive muse and what separates the writers from the want to be writers. Writing, even when the muse deserts you.

I would add, writing despite rejections. Getting a rejection on a project you love, and sitting down at your computer (within 24 hours, everyone gets a day to pout. I have to be reasonable) and typing another page on the next WIP. That really separates the people who are writers.

Or maybe it’s just me, but we have two choices, we can be defeated, or we can sit down and say, this one, I won’t give them a reason to reject.

And then eat a pound of chocolate, or better still drink some wine.. I’m sure it will add to the creativity..

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Writing through the Holidays

So, I'm wondering what most people get done in December. People with deadlines. People sans deadlines. People who will take any excuse to procrastinate. People who are super disciplined. All of you. Do you keep up your schedule? Slow it? Stop it? Speed it up? (Gasp.)

I know in past years December has never been a big writing month for me. Looking back, I think part of it's been timing. Although I've never officially done Nanowrimo -- in that I've never started a book fresh on November 1st -- I have used that month and the collective enthusiasm of the masses to push through huge chunks of writing in November. So, I'm often switching gears in December, anyway...

But all this is just excuses. This year, in particular, I feel like I have no real reason not to try to keep working through the holidays. Sure, I've got lots to do to get ready. Sure, there are a gazillion relatives showing up to distract me. But on the same token... there are a gazillion relatives I'll need to escape from occasionally and if I'm going to have some alone time, why not spend it writing?

Any words of wisdom out there? Do you write through the holidays?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Filling the well....

That sounds dirty. But it's not -- I'm referring to Hemingway's quote about his writing process. He wrote in the morning and then took the afternoon to "fill his well" so he'd be ready to write the next morning. Now, filling the well is something every writer needs to do. We all need to seek out inspiration and ideas and creativity. For Hemingway this meant getting hammered, loading a couple of rifles and going big game hunting. Oddly enough -- I don't think there are many of us out there who still get to do this. Margaret Moore? Is that the secret of your success? Big game hunting? I know Maureen has been known to have a few mid afternoon drinks and watch Friday Night Lights, hunting for Tim Riggins, but somehow I don't think that has the same effect as Hemingway's afternoons.

Sadly, these days my afternoons are all about picking up the Mr. Potato head pieces (stupid idea to get him that toy. All the kid does is empty the bucket out and chuck the earrings at the dog.) Emptying the dishwasher, staring into the freezer wondering what I'm spending all that money on at the grocery store if my stupid freezer is always empty. A few days ago I watched two episodes of Battlestar Gallactica in a row -- that was fantastic. Almost like big game hunting - or maybe almost like getting hammered - either way, more inspiring that digging under the furniture for plastic potato ears and mouths. If I were writing a book called "The Male Toddler and His Unreasonable Attachment to Fire Trucks and Poop" I'd be done with the thing by now, having all the inspiration in that area that a woman needs. I've got laundry, grocery shopping, someone actually has to pay the bills, walk the dog, write the blog and clean the crayon off the tv set.

Is it any freaking wonder my well is empty?

Sinead's post reminded me that as stay at home mom's we need entertainment to inspire us. Because we don't really leave the house! In my life before my son I would ride the subway and look at people and write their stories based on their clothes and the way they sat and what they read and then I'd take what I had come up with and create the opposite of it and try to reverse all my expectations. It was a fun game. Helpful and creative and useful to me as a writer. I don't even have that anymore. Every time I get on the subway these days, I'm like my son, distracted by the lights and scared of the loud noises.

This will change at some point. Right? It has to. Because there is a year until the next JR Ward book and a writer's strike on and I am sucking air at the bottom of my well.

PS - I am adding this after this has been posted for a while, because I forgot the whole point of this post in the middle of my stay at home mom rant. The point is -- these moments, I think are what separate the writers from the I wish I was a writers. When the muse is nowhere to be found and you still have a page count to fill - these moments are what scare a lot of writers away. When you just pound stuff out and you know it's awful but you have to do it -- ugh. Even writing that made me depressed. But it's what we have to do - because if this was easy, everyone would do it.

Still, it would be nice if those Hollywood writers weren't on strike right now....

Saturday, December 08, 2007

What to write when your brain is empty

Hey, apologies for advance for how late this post is, and how weak..

I got nothing this week. With the writer’s strike, TV has been really disappointing, except for Dexter, which as it comes to an end in the second season has been really amazing. It’s building to something I believe is going to thrill me.

I just feel it in the air.

Heroes for me has been a complete bust this season and while I adore Friday Night Lights, even in it’s 2nd season, I feel it’s hit just a bit of a slump. By that I mean it’s gone from brilliant to just excellent, but it's still the best show on network TV.

But there’s not a lot out there that’s getting my brain moving in a storytelling kind of way.

And I’m finished the JR Ward Brotherhood series and slightly bereft that I have to wait almost another year for my next fix.

So if anyone gets to this post, as late as I’ve posted it, I’m looking for recommendations. What do you go to for inspiration, books, movies, TV, anything?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


No, not the movie.

No, not the drug.

I'm talking about writing speed. I mean, how fast we all write.

I feel sure we've broached this topic at least once before at DWT, but like with most writing topics, opinions change, lightbulbs go on (or off), bold statements made in the past are retracted, and therefore, some topics bear repeating.

I was talking about being a Nanoloser over on my other blog this week and some commenters wondered if speed might not make an interesting topic for broader discussion. So here goes my speed ramble.

To me, there are at least two sides to this speed question. First, how fast can a writer write without sacrificing quality for quantity (each writer is different) (possibly each story for each writer is different), and second, how fast MUST a writer write if they want a career in commercial fiction? Is it possible to have a career if you're one of the slow ones? Can a slow writer train themselves to be faster?

I guess another way to phrase the latter question is how fast do publishers expect you to write?

There's no clear answer here, either.

If one writes category romance for Harlequin, the prevailing wisdom seems to be that to build a readerwhip you want at least two books a year, preferably three. And the same (based on my observations) seems to be true at houses like Elora's Cave. Single title romance publishers never used to put out more than one book a year for most authors, (creating the reputed inventory backlog of Nora books), but this too is changing. Rapid, tightly packed release schedules, like Ballantine did for Allison's Brennan's debut series, have proven the old marketing mold of releasing a new book for each author every 9-12 months has been broken very successfully.

So, how fast? I've heard you need to write a book in 9 months or less several times (Madeline Hunter says this in her amazing "Surviving Almost There" talk, as does Cherry Adair. And that sounds about right to me. (Surely a book shouldn't take longer than a baby?)

Problem is, I can't seem to do it. Well, maybe if I added up the time I actually spend writing a book, it is less than 9 months, but for me it seems, all-too-often, to be maybe 6 months of actual writing spread over 18 months on the calendar.

On the other hand, I have a writer friend whose first novel will be released next year. (Because I'm mentioning some details, I'm going to keep in anonymous.) She wrote this book around the same time I wrote my April Hillson book. That is to say, in 2004-2005 (gosh, that seems like a long time ago). And she's working on her second now.

Her book's being published by an "accessible literary" imprint of a major NY house, and they don't seem to be that surprised that she doesn't have her second book ready for press yet. In fact, I don't think there was even talk of two book contract when she sold the first. And her agent doesn't think she can sell the second book on proposal, either. I've heard similar stories from other writer friends and acquaintances who write women's fiction -- even the more commercial kind -- and this is what seems to be typical in that little slice of the publishing world:
One book deals.
No second contract until the publisher sees how the first one sells.
Each book sold 100% complete and quite separately from the others.

I'm sure this changes at some point. I'm sure Jodi Picoult can sell her "next Jodi Picoult title" sight unseen or on a vague idea, but this career transition happens so much more slowly in mainstream fiction than it seems to in the romance genre where relatively new authors seem to routinely sell their second books on proposal, and many authors get multi-book deals right out of the gate.

So, the above-mentioned friend's agent recently rejected a book of another of my friends and told her she'd be happy to look at her next project when it's ready. This woman replied to the agent that it would be at least six to seven months. To which the agent replied. Take your time. It takes at least a year to write a book.

So, is there a right answer here that's based on what type of book you're writing? Is there a difference in mainstream women's fiction vs romance? I'm not so sure. To go back to my Jodi Picoult example, she seems to release a new book every year, and they're pretty complicated and original stories and at least 120,000 words. So obviously it's possible.

And while I guess some people might read between the lines of this post that I'm implying it's faster to write a romance, I don't think that's necessarily true. I do think, however, speed does vary somewhat on the complexity of the book. The structure, the themes, the relative subtlety.

I just deleted a whack of this post that was talking about whether it's faster to write romances than woman's fiction... I deleted it because I feel like I was going off topic and also because I feel like I was trying to give myself excuses for writing more slowly. But I feel like when I write too quickly. When I don't let my stories percolate. What I come up with is trite, boring, derivative, predictable crap.

But even as I get ready to post this... I feel like I'm just making excuses. That on those days when it's not working to push forward in the story, I don't try hard enough to get something onto paper, even if it's just ideas for upcoming scenes.

What do you think? Is my relative pokiness because of who I am as writer, pure laziness, or a function of what I'm trying to write?

How about you? Can you write fast? Do you wish you could? How fast do you think you NEED to write to reach your particular career goals? Do you feel pressure to write faster than you can?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Totally Blunt Conversation About Royalites and Category Romance Part 2

Ah! Royalty Statement time and in keeping with my last post about royalties I thought I'd share my numbers and thoughts again. This is the second statement for my Superromance books out last year Family At Stake, His Best Friend's Baby and Who Needs Cupid? And from what I gather, this is the end of the road in terms of North American sales. In my last post I mentioned the huge reserves Harlequin keeps between statements to see if books will be returned or sold through. And those reserves are now gone. I have maybe 300 books in reserve. So, these numbers are pretty much it. Family At Stake ended up selling around 20,000 copies retail in the US and Canada. His Best Friend's Baby sold 22,000. This translates into around 10,000 dollars. Now, I'm a pretty new writer to the line and I think these numbers reflect the middle of the pack. To be a Waldenbooks bestseller you need to sell nearly 10,000 more books retail - give or take depending on the week's sales. Who Needs Cupid sold about 23,000 books, but because it's an Anthology and I'm taking my 6% from one third of the cover price I imagine I won't see much money.

Undercover Protector was out in July and the cut off for royalties is June so the only thing that's reflected on my statement are the direct/subscription sales and advance e-book sales! That's right - Harlequin now sells on-line. Which, I think will be huge but since it was the first month and a cut off month - my 16 books sold seems a little sad. But, I think these numbers will grow. Lots.

The future for His Best Friend's Baby, Family At Stake and Who Needs Cupid? now depends on foreign translations. From what I hear Superromances aren't translated very widely. I know FAS is in France now - with a wonderful cover. The big translations are Germany, Japan and Argentina. My Duets and Flipsides have all been in Argentina and I've sold a stupid number of books there - but there doesn't seem to be much action for Supers south of the border. I should know more by the next statement.

But looking at these numbers this is what I've come to believe. Category romance buyers buy on three principals -- author recognition, covers and blurbs in the back of other category books. There's not much promotion a writer can do that will make a HUGE difference in sales. I can't control the covers or force my editor to use my book as a blurb in other books. I can do everything I can to have a great relationship with my editor and hope she thinks of me. And I can write really good books fast.

On a side note, my December book Baby Makes Three was an RT Top Pick from Romantic Times and I know when the magazine came out I got a number of advance orders on Amazon but I don't know how many. Could be three. I placed an ad in the December RT and when it came out my amazon numbers didn't change. I don't know if Amazon sales really add up to big numbers. It would be fun to know -- anyone know?

Hope this answers some questions or creates a good discussion.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Contest Winner!!!

Kimber!!! You're it! Email me and we'll figure out how to get your fabulous prize package to you!!!
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