Monday, April 25, 2016

HARDER, BETTER, FASTER, STRONGER! BY PRESIDENT KATE MCMURRAY



New Yorkers are busy folk. 

I feel as though everyone I know is always trying to juggle a dozen balls—myself included. All this activity can make it hard to find writing time. However, it is absolutely possible to write more without losing sleep or burning out. And I think that’s something we career-focused writers should strive for: writing harder, better, faster, and stronger, and improving our process and our finished novels as we go.

In March, I read two writing books: 2,000 TO 10,000 by Rachel Aaron and WRITING FASTER FTW by L.A. Witt (both are short and available as ebooks, and I definitely recommend them). I read both books in part because I was putting together a workshop on how to write better first drafts, and I thought these books might have some tips. They did, but they had some useful advice for me, too, and also take somewhat different approaches to writing faster.

One bit of advice from both books is to use your time more wisely.

Aaron recommends keeping a detailed log of when you write, how long you write for, where you are when you write, and how many words you wrote in that time. When she did this for herself, as she details in the book, she discovered that she wrote more per hour if she wrote for several hours consecutively, and she was most productive in the afternoons when she turned off her wifi. She explains that this isn’t necessarily true for all people (it’s not for me; I’m more on my game first thing in the morning) but the point is to keep track so you can determine when your most productive time is. Which is to say, you don’t have to carve more time out of your already jam-packed schedule in order to write more, but you should assess when your most productive hours are so you can make the most of that time. It’s not about writing more, it’s about writing smarter. Then guard your writing time—don’t plan other things during it and minimize distractions.

Witt talks in her book about those distractions. We all know what a time suck the Internet can be. How sometimes “writing” means browsing Facebook for three hours. There are also often environmental things that keep us from writing: your chair is uncomfortable, your back hurts, you have a headache, the neighbors are playing their music way too loud, your kids are screaming in the other room, and so on. Sometimes, the writing just isn’t going to happen. But sometimes you can get up and fix those things so they aren’t distracting you.

To me, it’s about priorities. Writing is one of my first loves, and if I could do it more, I would. I sometimes prioritize writing over things like housecleaning, although I haven’t quite mastered the art of time management yet, especially having just started a new job. So I read these two books about making the most of your writing time, and I sat with their advice for a little bit.

 
Aaron says in her book that, if writing isn’t a joy for you, you’re doing it wrong. Which is to say, yeah, sometimes you have hard days. But the reason you sit in that chair every day (or however often you write) is that you love it. Writing is a difficult career to succeed at—it’s a lot of work, it’s competitive, and sometimes it pays in Styrofoam packing peanuts—but a lot of writers get into it for love. They love writing and storytelling, love developing characters, love the time spent living in other worlds. So writing should always be something that brings you joy, or at least some level of satisfaction. It should be fun.


It’s not always. I know that. I find deadlines debilitating sometimes. I have days when I feel like the worst hack. Sometimes I’ll sit down in the chair and the words just won’t come, or I’m stuck on something, or I’m procrastinating on revising because I know how much work it will be.

Here’s one takeaway from Aaron’s book, though. She challenges us to ask why? When writing is not joyful, why is it such a struggle? What is our resistance, what are our blocks? One suggestion she has is that often writers block is born of the fact that we don’t know what comes next. An easy solution is to spend five minutes with a notepad working out the next scene and figuring out what you don’t know. As an avowed plotter, I can testify to the fact that having a plan is so enormously helpful in combatting the dread blank page and the cursor blinking at you mockingly.

But Aaron argues that we need to look deeper for the answer to that why. What are our blocks? There are a lot of possibilities worth examining. Insecurity is one; that’s something Witt talks about in her book. The trick, Witt argues, is to silence that insecurity. One way to do that is to realize that every writer has insecurities, but they power through them anyway. And so can you! Another possible block is impostor syndrome, something a lot of creative women suffer from—it’s that “I’m not worth” feeling, or the sense that you’re not worthy of praise because you’re a talentless hack and everyone else is delusional or lying to you, something I am well familiar with—but focusing on writing the best book we can is one way past that. 

We block ourselves in other ways, too—assuming we won’t be successful, or that no one wants to read the kinds of books we’re writing, or that we just can’t compete with all the other books being published. I try to believe that all things are possible, because these kinds of negative assumptions definitely hold us back and impede our progress. It’s hard to summon the energy to write if you don’t think you’ll be successful, you know? But you definitely have it in you to be a successful writer. Yes, even you. It just takes some hard work and elbow grease.

More to the point, you can’t publish a book that hasn’t been written, so sit down and write it! In other words, take the time to work out what is holding you back, or what is making writing hard or undesirable, and work on those things. Then when you sit down to work on your novel, the words will come easier.♥


Kate McMurray is an award-winning author of gay romance and an unabashed romance fan. When she’s not writing, she works as a nonfiction editor, dabbles in various crafts, and is maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball. She has served as President of Rainbow Romance Writers, the LGBT romance chapter of Romance Writers of America; and as Vice President of RWA/NYC. She lives in Brooklyn, NY. Visit her at www.katemcmurray.com

Friday, April 22, 2016

BOOK COVER FRIDAY! LET IT SHINE BY ALYSSA COLE (RITA FINALIST!)



WELCOME TO BOOK COVER FRIDAYS!
Every week we bring you an exciting hot book cover from 
one of New York's Leading Romance Authors.



LET IT SHINE
by Alyssa Cole


This novella is a RITA Finalist.
Winners will be announced at the RWA conference on July 16.
Our fingers are crossed for you, Alyssa.
  

SUMMARY:  Sofronia Wallis knows that proper Black women don't court trouble by upending the status quo, and they most certainly don't associate with roughneck Jewish boxers like Ivan Friedman. But it’s 1961 and the Civil Rights movement is in full swing.
Change—and love—are coming whether Sofie is ready or not.



Friday, April 15, 2016

BOOK COVER FRIDAY! THE WITCH'S MARKET BY MINGMEI YIP



WELCOME TO BOOK COVER FRIDAYS!
Every week we bring you an exciting hot book cover from 
one of New York's Leading Romance Authors.



THE WITCH'S MARKET
by Mingmei Yip
Kensington



BOOK SUMMARY:  Chinese-American assistant professor Eileen Chen specializes in folk religion at her San Francisco college. Though her grandmother made her living as a shamaness, Eileen publicly dismisses witchcraft as mere superstition. Yet privately, the subject intrigues her.  When a research project takes her to the Canary Islands—long rumored to be home to real witches—Eileen is struck by the lush beauty of Tenerife and its blend of Spanish and Moroccan culture. A stranger invites her to a local market where women sell amulets, charms, and love spells. Gradually Eileen immerses herself in her exotic surroundings, finding romance with a handsome young furniture maker. But as she learns more about the lives of these self-proclaimed witches, Eileen must choose how much trust to place in this new and seductive world, where love, greed, and vengeance can be as powerful, or as destructive, as any magic.




Friday, April 8, 2016

BOOK COVER FRIDAY! HONOR & ROSES BY ELIZABETH COLE



WELCOME TO BOOK COVER FRIDAYS!
Every week we bring you an exciting hot book cover from 
one of New York's Leading Romance Authors.




HONOR & ROSES
by Elizabeth Cole


BOOK SUMMARY:   This is the first book in The Swordcross Knights series.

The knight Alric of Hawksmere has endured years of war and survived dozens of battles in the service of the king. A new challenge awaits him when he returns home to renew his bond with a childhood friend. Alric instead discovers she is now a spirited woman of rare beauty whose kiss makes his blood burn. But the lady Cecily de Vere has been offered in marriage to another man, and Alric‘s duty is to escort her to the wedding. Cecily wants to behave as a proper lady. But she yearns for her childhood flame and knows he shares the same desire. When a sudden twist of fortune puts Cecily in mortal danger, Alric takes an unimaginable risk to rescue her. Left alone in the wild, Alric and Cecily must make a choice that will change their lives forever. 



Friday, April 1, 2016

BOOK COVER FRIDAY! ROMANTIC JOURNEYS COLLECTION BY LISA ANN VERGE



WELCOME TO BOOK COVER FRIDAYS!
Every week we bring you an exciting hot book cover from 
one of New York's Leading Romance Authors.


AND We want to wish Lisa and her husband Tom a 
Happy Anniversary!




ROMANTIC JOURNEYS COLLECTION
by Lisa Ann Verge




BOOK SUMMARY:  A collection of historical road-trip romances by Lisa Ann Verge including HEAVEN IN HIS ARMS, HER PIRATE HEART, and SING ME HOME.
  

Friday, March 25, 2016

BOOK COVER FRIDAY! TEN DAYS IN AUGUST BY KATE McMURRAY (new release)



WELCOME TO BOOK COVER FRIDAYS!
Every week we bring you an exciting hot book cover from 
one of New York's Leading Romance Authors.


THIS BOOK RELEASES TOMORROW --  March 19, 1016!




TEN DAYS IN AUGUST
by Kate McMurray
Lyrical Press



BOOK SUMMARY:  New York City, 1896.

As the temperatures rise, so does the crime rate. At the peak of this sizzling heat wave, police inspector Hank Brandt is called to investigate the scandalous murder of a male prostitute. His colleagues think he should drop the case, but Hank’s interest is piqued, especially when he meets the intriguing key witness: a beautiful female impersonator named Nicholas Sharp.  As a nightclub performer living on the fringes of society, Nicky is reluctant to place his trust in a cop—even one as handsome as Hank. With Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt cracking down on vice in the city, Nicky’s afraid that getting involved could end his career. But when he realizes his life is in danger—and Hank is his strongest ally—the two men hit the streets together to solve the crime. From the tawdry tenements of the Lower East Side to the moneyed mansions of Fifth Avenue, Nicky and Hank are determined to uncover the truth. But when things start heating up between them, it’s not just their lives on the line. It’s their love…
  

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

RESEARCH: HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT BY ANNA DEPALO



Research is a big part of writing a story, and our focus this week.
Watch for stories from authors Lise Horton, 
Ursula Renée and Anna DePalo.




Research is often not very fun, but every writer has to do it., including me. I’ll spare you the obvious (do a Google search!), and with the additional caveat that I writer contemporary romance, here are my top research tips:

A little goes a long way. Readers want the flavor of authenticity and believability without being lectured to. Research should be sprinkled into your story so it’s not obvious. Like seasoning on a fine dish, it should not overwhelm everything else. So don’t feel as if you have to know everything.

It doesn’t have to be hard. If you need to include a mass retailer in your current book, and you happen to be thinking about this while passing J. Crew at the mall, why not use J. Crew? More than one successful writer has used this approach. When I first heard about it, I thought, of course! Within reason, this is a fantastic plan. (I mean, you wouldn’t want to be in Palm Springs thinking about a book set in New York and have your landscape be cacti—unless we’re talking about a fantasy book.)

Write what those around you know. At a conference a few years ago, Harlan Coben mentioned that he was married to a pediatrician, and voilà, one appeared in his books.

Magazines. I write contemporaries, so keeping abreast of current popular culture is important. I read People and Vanity Fair. When I was writing a series about present-day British aristocrats, I read Tatler.

Biographies/Memoirs. These books are great for little gems of information. I’m currently writing a book about a Hollywood actress. Lucky for me, Mindy Kaling’s latest book, Why Not Me?, came out. Do actors fake it? Well, according to well-placed source Dr. Mindy Lahiri, aka Kelly Kapoor, aka Mindy Kaling, the unwritten rule in kissing scenes is “no tongue.”

Social media. Follow people who might give you insight into a profession or field. For example, the last issue of People that I read had a page devoted to celebrity makeup artists and listed their Twitter handles. Similarly, YouTube is a treasure for how-to videos.♥


Anna DePalo is the USA Today best-selling author of a dozen romance novels. Her next book, SECOND CHANCE WITH THE CEO, the first in the Serenghetti family series, will be released in September 2016 by Harlequin. You can find Anna online at www.annadepalo.com, www.facebook.com/anna.depaloauthor, www.facebook.com/AnnaDePaloBooks and twitter.com/Anna_DePalo


This is the last article on Research this week. 
Do visit us again for other articles by our members and 
Book Cover Fridays!