Christian Romance Author Liz Isaacson: April 2015

Monday, April 27, 2015

Taking the Knife to Your MS

So I made it into Stage 2 of the Harlequin #Blurb2Book contest! I'm super-excited, and in fact, I've spent the past couple of weeks obsessing over my synopsis, cover letter, and pages. I sent them in last week, and now I'm turning my attention to the full manuscript.

The premise of this contest is to go from blurb to full book in just 5 months. I'm sort of cheating, because my book has been finished since January. I've edited it a couple of times and my critique group has read the first three chapters. 

But, according to Harlequin's Love Inspired guidelines, my book is also 13,000 words too long. So now, as I go back to the full manuscript, I am looking for places to cut. A lot of places. I've done this before, but it is always a difficult process. When we write, we put in scenes we think we need. So now I have to decide what I don't actually need in order to meet the guidelines of the contest.

Whether I make it into Stage 3 or not, I think this will be a valuable edit. I'll have to evaluate character, plot, and motivation on a deeper level, which is never a bad thing. 

Have you ever had to cut a lot of words? How did you go about doing it?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Some Thoughts on Burning Out

So I made it into Stage 2 of the #Blurb2Book contest Harlequin is doing! Yay! (I blogged about the announcement last week before the lists were posted.)

Anyway, the second stage requires a submission package that includes a 3-5 page synopsis and the first three chapters. I've written my entire book (it needs lots of work still, but it is done), but I hadn't tackled a synopsis yet.

I've written them before, so I wasn't worried about it. I set to it and had a pretty decent one whipped out in a few days. Since my chapters were already written, I re-read the Love Inspired guidelines, combed the boards for more help, and edited the first three chapters.

Again. And then again.

And again. Again. Again. Again.

I felt like the bee on The Bee Movie, when he's trying to get out of the window that first time.

This time. This time. This time!

By Thursday, I seriously wanted to do anything and everything EXCEPT read my own words again. Other people's words were equally as nauseous to me. I tried writing a new book. No dice.

I needed a break. I was burnt out.

I've been writing for several years, so I've reached the Point of Burning Out several times. I've been here before. I know what I need to do: step back and take the break I need. So I passed my submission package on to a few trusted beta readers, and I set a date for when I can come back to my pages.

Between now and then, I'm not reading or writing, and I can't wait for the mental vacation!

Have you ever been burnt out? What did you do to rejuvenate your creativity?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Thinking Through Our Fingers Blog

So I'm excited to announce that I've been invited to be an author on the Thinking Through Our Fingers blog! There are a great group of writers there, including Katie Purdie, Jolene Perry, and Tasha Seegmiller. I'm excited to see what I can learn from them, as well as what I can contribute.

I'll be blogging on the fourth Friday, so be sure to get over there and see what's going on!

Monday, April 13, 2015

#Blurb2Book Announcement Today!

Okay, so I'd decided to stop entering contests like Pitch Madness and Pitch Wars and Pitch Slam. I didn't do very well in those arenas, and I wasn't sure if it had anything to do with my book/pitch. I've recently started querying, and I've gotten a 40% request rate so far. So I think I was right in thinking that my romance wasn't the right genre for the agents participating in those pitching events. 

But Harlequin's Love Inspired line was doing a contest called From Blurb to Book. Harlequin is a publisher that publishes romance -- they're exactly who I want reading and considering my book. So I entered. 

The announcement for those who made it into the second round are today. I entered for the Love Inspired line (there's also Historical and Suspense), and I'll find out today at 3 PM Eastern time if I made it into the second round.

I'm excited about it, but I'm also realistic. I know that lots of people entered (326, in fact!), and my submission might not have stood out. I know rejection is part of the publishing game. I still have my fingers crossed!

How have you fared during contests? 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Writing Romance -- Not As Easy As You Think

Okay, so I'm not new to the writing game. I'm going into my eighth year of doing this for real, meaning I'm writing to publish, not just because I think it's fun (though I do). I've been published both in the traditional market and the self-publishing realm under another name, in another genre.

Believe it or not, I used to think reading romance was -- gasp! -- boring. I mean, I knew how it was going to end, so what's the fun in reading? I didn't realize that the joy, the journey, lay in how we get to the end. 

So when I started writing straight romance (all my books have romance in them) last year, I had quite a steep learning curve. 

What I've Learned:
It's about satisfying the reader. So I've spent a considerable amount of time reading romances and noting the things I really like about them. I've also had to spend some time telling myself that writing romance isn't necessarily about what *I* like in a character, but rather what romance readers are looking for. 

And romance readers are mostly women. And women want a heroine they can relate to. Someone who's still beautiful and has flaws, but is relatable. They definitely want a hero that is swoon-worthy. Someone who can provide for and take care of the heroine, but also has things they need to overcome. 

So I've worked on the characterization of my heroines and heroes. 

Of course, I want to write the stories I love, in the way I want to. I'm still doing that. I've just realized that there are rules to romance, and they aren't as bendable as the other genres I've written in. 

I've also made a list of things that I see in virtually EVERY romance I've read. I realized that those elements are there for a reason, and if I don't have them in my romances, I might need to reconsider what I'm doing. 

Secondary characters, or a cast of characters is usually appreciated. Family dynamics are always a plus. Strong motivations for both parties. External and internal situations that both drive the characters together and keep them apart. Animals are usually welcome. Each person needs to sacrifice to be together. Each needs something at stake. 

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. I'm still learning, but these are the things I consider now before I even start writing a new romance. 

What do you think of my list? What do I need to add?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Writing Report!

Okay, so I sort of fell off the face of the planet there for a few weeks! I was busy with writing things, I promise. 

First, I sent my novel to a freelance editor for a developmental edit. I got her notes back about mid-month, and got to work right away. One thing I learned: I'm not that great at developing secondary characters.

So I had to dive into the layers of the story and build them up. And that's hard, intricate work. I feel like I'm playing dominoes and if I make one false move, bam! The whole thing is going to go down.

As I neared the end of the revision, I knew I wanted to start querying. So I spent what felt like years on QueryTracker, Publisher's Marketplace, and Agent Query looking up agents and making a list. Oh, and that pesky query letter needed a polish. I sent that to my critique group to get some extra eyes on it.

And last week -- on April Fool's Day no less -- I started querying! This isn't my first time in the pool, but I had forgotten that it's a lot of waiting. Perpetual waiting. So. Much. Waiting. 

So yeah. That's where I disappeared to. What have you been up to with your writing? 

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