SPRING HAS SPRUNG!
The vernal equinox has happened here in the northern hemisphere, and while some of my southernmost American friends are already showing off their poolside photos, lots of you are grappling with weird spring weather. This time of year, Mother Nature doesn't know if she's coming or going. Winter storm warning on Monday and 75F by Thursday? Oh, spring, you crazy ...
Here in Beautiful British Columbia, we're starting to hear the warnings from local authorities that the BEARS and their cubs and yearlings will be waking up soon, and there are no fewer than four cougars hanging around our local area right now. Of course, I hope they don't hurt any humans or pets, but really, I hope the cougars don't find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Go back to the woods, kitties, so the people aren't mean to you!
See, folks? Hollie and Ryan's encounters AREN'T that far out of the realm of possibility, at least not around these parts. ;)
Photo from Global News BC / (c) Paul Liversidge
I’ve teamed up with more than 40 fantastic romantic comedy authors to give away a huge collection of novels to two (2) lucky winners, PLUS a Kindle Fire to the Grand Prize winner! You can win my novel MUST LOVE OTTERS plus dozens of other books.
Another BookSweeps Giveaway!
Enter the giveaway by clicking here: bit.ly/rom-com-mar17-1
Thanks very much for giving it a go. Even if you don’t win, these genre-specific giveaways are always a great way to discover new books and authors!
Ahhh, you guys, this is breaking my brain not being able to shout from the rooftops about the next Eliza Gordon book—which is coming in November!!! I heard from my editor at Lake Union (the publisher)—the GREAT NEWS is the celebrity who is included in the story, his legal team has given us the GREEN LIGHT to move forward, which is so freaking awesome.
The THIS-IS-MAKING-ME-IMPATIENT NEWS: I can’t give you the title or summary *quite* yet because we’re waiting on the lawyers to agree to the title we want to use. Once that happens, I will be sending updates via newsletter and plastering details all over Facebook. Plus I’m assured that the Lake Union marketing machine will move into warp speed, so this is very exciting.
High fives all around!
This month: My writing "process"
What does my writing process look like?
The short answer:
1. Have an idea.
2. Write the idea down.
3. Meditate on the idea.
4. Ask your leaky beagle about the idea. Or a trusted friend if you have one.
5. Write a summary, synopsis, or outline. Or do none of those things.
6. Go to Amazon to see if someone has already used your beloved title.
7. Do some research. Then maybe do more research.
8. Write until the story is done.
9. Drink whisky/whiskey (depending on where you are in the world) to celebrate the completion of your (likely) terrible first draft.
10. Rewrite whilst complaining loudly on social media about rewriting. #amediting
The longer answer:
Okay, seriously—my process: I have a busy household, as do many of us, and I’m constantly interrupted, most often by a senile, fifteen-year-old cat with an attitude problem and a beagle with a leaky bladder. Then when the family members return home from school and work, they expect to be fed, which is supremely annoying. So my process usually involves me feeling panicked to get busy the moment everyone is out of the house and the animals are asleep. (They’re never asleep for very long. I wish giving Dimetapp to senile cats and leaky beagles wasn’t illegal and/or immoral.)
My actual process of writing—that involves a side-trip. Indulge me, pretty please.
You might have heard your favorite writers mention the notion of “plotters vs. pantsers” (note: pantsers is not to be confused with Panzers, a German tank vehicle used in WWII). What does that even mean, a plotter versus a pantser?
A plotter is a writer who plots their story ahead of time. There are varying degrees of this: some writers go so far as to plot every single chapter, like a detailed road map, so they never have any guesswork about where their story is going; other plotters are a little looser and will maybe plot the overall arc of the story and main characters as well as main plot points and major climactic moments or turning points, thus allowing some wiggle room as the story takes on a life of its own. (Because the story always takes on a life of its own.)
A pantser is someone who writes by the seat of their pants, i.e., they let the story unfold as they’re writing. Some writers insist that they can only know where a story is going as the story “tells” them. On writing, legendary American novelist E. L. Doctorow famously said, “It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” I know a lot of writers—myself included—who either currently operate with just their headlights or have done so in the past.
I started as a pantser, until I worked with an editor who was a stickler for outlines. She insisted I write them so we could see where the project's rewrite was going before I spent months writing it. (One outline was nearly forty pages long!) I used to HATE outlines—like, douse them in gas and set them on fire—but now I sort of can’t live without them. The anxiety becomes overwhelming when I don’t know where a story is going, and then it paralyzes me, which is not at all useful.
[Note: This is where new writers need to be open to the possibilities: you will, and should, evolve as you venture farther along this writing path. If you are not evolving, i.e., constantly reevaluating how you are approaching your writing, take a step back and identify why. Greatness comes from failure—failure leads to growth.]
With that said, my process now involves a little pantsing, a bit more plotting, and—plot twist!— the Dreaded Synopsis. Yes, I write a detailed synopsis—like a book report in reverse—for every single project I’m considering. (Remember: not every idea has the legs to become a book!) I include the hook, the major events that will propel the story forward, the subplots, important developments that move a character’s arc—anything that I think I might need to tell the story*. It really is like writing a book report, only before the book has been written.
I do this so I can identify holes in the narrative and plot and characterization. A synopsis usually ends up around five or six pages and so far, I’ve found this method to be extremely effective. If I can’t get five or six (or more!) detailed pages on the story I want to tell, then maybe the story needs more time to ferment or maybe the idea isn’t as strong as I first thought.
The problem for me with writing a full-fledged outline? Often a story will take an unforeseen left turn out of nowhere, and then the 20+ pages of outline after that point become mostly useless, so then I spend time rewriting the outline, and an unforeseen turn happens again, and on and on until I’m spending all my time rewriting the bloody outline and no time writing the actual book. The synopsis is sort of a compromise between a ginormous road map of an outline and none at all.
Other than that? Process for me means having my ducks in a row: a solid idea, synopsis or loose outline, soundtrack music, a notebook for notes and research, my computer, full cup of coffee, and a babysitter for the senile cat and leaky beagle. (Speaking of, do you know anyone who babysits senile cats and leaky beagles? Have them email me post haste.)
*James Scott Bell is a great writing resource. He has a ton of books out on craft but one from 2004 called Plot and Structure has a nifty formula in it: L.O.C.K.
L = Lead character: Who is my lead or main character?
O = Objective: What is my lead character’s objective?
C = Confrontation: My lead character is confronted by ______________ who opposes her because _______________.
K: Knockout, as in the ending: The ending will be a knockout because _____________ .
So, for example, for MUST LOVE OTTERS, it might look something like this:
My lead character is Hollie Porter, a twenty-something female who is lost in her current life.
Her objective is to find where she fits in the world, not just by the job that is supposed to define her but by what it is she can do that will bring happiness and fulfillment in both her personal and professional lives.
Hollie Porter is confronted by her inner demons (her unfulfilling relationships, her dissatisfaction with her career, her lack of self-esteem, her tendency to attract trouble, her need to make her father happy, the abandonment issues around her mother); these demons oppose her in the sense that until she faces them head-on, she will not be able to grow as a person. If she chooses to not confront them, she will remain stagnant forever.
The ending will be a knockout when Hollie meets someone who teaches her to like herself and she opens up enough to fall madly in love.
Try this in the early days of putting down ideas for your own project and check out Bell’s books on Amazon. Let me know how it goes!
Thank you, Karen Hussey, for your great ideas for this column!
Have ideas, questions, or suggestions for Tips of the Trade? Anything you want to know about the writing or editing process? Drop me an email at email@example.com.
I recently did an interview on a blog written by Trin Carl, an enthusiastic reader, writer, and supporter of the arts! Stop by and have a look at what I had to blather on about—ambitions, inspirations, my thoughts on self- vs. traditional publishing options, and my (limited) advice on marketing.
Link to the interview: http://theglobaldig.blogspot.ca/2017/03/interview-with-eliza-gordon.html
THE VANCOUVER AQUARIUM'S
BABIES MEET TANU!
Rialto and his "siblings," Kunik and Mak, got to meet "big sister" Tanu, an older female sea otter resident at the Vancouver Aquarium. Click HERE for the adorable video from the Aquarium!
From The Daily Hive:
Three rescued sea otter pups from the Vancouver Aquarium – Rialto, Mak, and Kunik – were introduced for the first time this week to [one of] the Aquarium’s adult [female] otters, Tanu.
The Aquarium says the first meeting went very well, and they will continue to gradually introduce Tanu to the pups over the next few weeks.
“Tanu and Mak interacted almost immediately and had some good bouts of playful wrestling and porpoising about in their habitat,” said Marine Mammal Curator Brian Sheehan in a release.
“Tanu then interacted with Kunik in a similar fashion. Rialto, the youngest and most timid pup, remained on a haulout, where he was joined by Kunik and Mak, and then Tanu, who sniffed the pups before she returned to the water to swim and groom."
“As time passed, the pups became more comfortable and began grooming and spending more and more time in the water.”
I cannot wait to have a spare few moments to go into the city and meet these babies. Photos to follow, I promise!
Fan art ... OMG!
I recently received a message with a rare GIFT attached -- fan art! -- and it's so very cool. Kim Hudson of Hudson Design Works read and loved MUST LOVE OTTERS (thank you, Kim!) and she did a cover based on her interpretation of and affection for the story.
I think Hollie Porter would *definitely* approve -- except maybe she wouldn't want to spend much more time in that little boat ... ;)
Thank you again, Kim! Check out her site to see this cover in its full-size glory. It's so great. I love talented people!
Got time during your morning/evening commute?
Tapas is a great app for your smartphone/tablets where you can read comics, graphic novels, and MY BOOKS on the go, broken into little chapters that you unlock with keys. The first few chapters are free and then with in-app purchases, you buy additional keys to unlock chapters. Perfect for those who have limited time to read because of commutes and hectic schedules. Affordable and fun to discover all sorts of new artists and authors!
Look for it in the App Store or via Google Play.
Do you follow Eliza Gordon on Facebook and Instagram?
As always, be sure to stop by our Facebook page for additional blog tour information, relevant news, up-to-date posts about otters, orca, and cougars, oh my! and of course, upcoming giveaways.
Then pop over to Instagram and follow the new-ish Miss Eliza Gordon account. Join the fun so I don't feel lonely and then I will remember to post photos more often.
You can also follow Eliza Gordon on Amazon and BookBub ...
Amazon and BookBub offer announcements on sales and new releases to subscribers who follow their favorite authors. Just another way to keep in touch and on top of new books.
Amazon Author Page: Eliza Gordon
BookBub Author Profile: Eliza Gordon
And if that's not enough, follow us on Pinterest too!
Click HERE for Hollie Porter Builds a Raft's pinboard.
Click HERE for Must Love Otters' pinboard.
Click HERE for Neurotica's pinboard.
Want a paperback of Must Love Otters, Neurotica, or Hollie Porter Builds a Raft?
If you buy direct from CreateSpace, you can save a few bucks! Click the book's title below to go direct to the CreateSpace/Amazon store. Be sure to use the coupon for the corresponding book to save.
MUST LOVE OTTERS coupon code: BUMZJJLC
NEUROTICA coupon code: JM8W8Y8C
HOLLIE PORTER BUILDS A RAFT coupon code: TLAQXTYY
If you want a signed paperback of any Eliza Gordon title, these come directly from me -- in Canada. Just drop me an email. Payment is accepted via PayPal ($13.95 US* per book + shipping from Canada, which is usually $7-12 depending on where you are; international shipment might be higher, FYI. *Price is $1 more than online because of the ridiculous cost of getting books to me in Canada.).
Another successful in-store signing!
Thanks for everyone who came out to Chapters Coquitlam/Pinetree Village over Valentine's Day weekend to chat me up about books, writing, and publishing. Always fun to get out of the cave and meet new humans. Free pencils and rubber duckies for everyone!
Whatever you do, do NOT go to Society6 and type in OTTERS in the search bar. I'm warning you! It's a trap! It will do terrible things to your credit card/PayPal account!
One final note ...
(But when you DO go, send me photos of all the adorable things you buy ... like my recent bath mat that is now in my office and nowhere near a bathtub!)
Don't say I didn't warn you. HAPPY SPRING, friends!