Writing & Editing


Brenda Novak’s auction to support Juvenile Diabetes is winding down.  If you haven’t skipped town yet for beaches and barbecue, check out the bidding on editorial critiques, digital readers, signed author copies, rare promo opportunities, amazing jewelry, and just about anything under the sun.  You can find it all on Brenda’ auction site.

I’m offering a critique of query letter, 3 chapters and synopsis here.  This goes for romance and YA projects.

Happy bidding!

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Feel like you’re always getting distracted?  Pushing things to the last minute (like starting a blog post due at midnight at 10 p.m.)?  The theme at the Casa Author blog this month is procrastination, and my post today is on how some things we might often consider procrastination can actually help increase productivity.  Truly, sometimes YouTube is ok.  See more here.

Another not-really-procrastinating time-eater is reading.  And now you can do it cheap with a Daring Debutantes and Dashing Dukes promotion offering $2.99 ebooks.  Authors include Laura Kinsale, Amelia Gray, Laurie McBain, Rosemary Rogers, Mary Wine and Abigail Reynolds.

Commenters over on the Casablanca author blog have a chance to win some May releases today–WICKEDLY CHARMING by Kristine Grayson and SEALED FOREVER by Mary Margret Daughtridge.  All you have to do is let us know what says romance to you.

When editing I often find it’s the little things, the tender moments that would have little meaning to anyone outside these characters, that really make my heart melt and the story resonate long after I’m done reading.  Check out more here.

And we have an amazing deal on our upcoming SINS OF THE HOUSE OF BORGIA by Sarah Bower–just $2.99 when you preorder the ebook, then going up to $9.99 after March 1. List price of the print edition is $14.99.  Available at B&N, Amazon, and wherever ebooks are sold.

If you haven’t yet seen the trailer for the new Borgia series on Showtime, check it out below.

I got my Sourcebooks email access today–and 135 messages waiting in my inbox.  I’ll be working through everything as quickly as possible, but please don’t fret if you’ve written and haven’t heard back.  Thank goodness for long weekends, right?

I’m just loving going through all the titles on the list–I want to read everything!  For any Regency writers/fans, you might want to check this one this out.  Looks like an invaluable resource and it’s just hitting shelves now:

A few years back Jennifer Ashley and I did a workshop on Title & Premise and how writers could get the interest of editors, agents or readers before they even started the book.  Today, I want to concentrate on the title part. 

A lot of writers skip skip working on a title or figure that it’s not that important because it’s only likely to change anyway.  And while it’s true that the writing is what will sell your book, the title can lay a lot of groundwork for you. 

I’ll never forget the day colleague Chris Keeslar swung by my office all excited: “I just got this proposal called THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL TALE OF MISS PERCY PARKER. I haven’t even started it yet, but don’t you just love that title?”  Fortunately, Leanna Renee Hieber‘s writing lived up to it. 

A good title will:

  • Indicate the genre
  • Give a sense of the tone
  • Provide continuity for similar/series titles
  • Intrigue the reader

Julie Kenner (The Givenchy Code, Carpe Demon) and Katie MacAlister (Love in the Time of Dragons; Sex, Lies and Vampires) are some of my ultimate heroes when it comes to clever titles.  But a title doesn’t have to be particularly clever or humorous.  Because, remember, it has to fit the tone of the book.

How to come up with a good title:

  • Figure out what best conveys your style. Is it sexy? Funny? Dark? (all three?) Are you trying to convey a certain time period? 

Let’s use Jennifer Ashley’s paranormal-historical Nvengarian series as an example.  Our theme: Fairy Tales

  • Brainstorm lists of words that convey the style you’ve chosen.

–         Prince Charming, Once Upon a Time, Happily Ever After

  • Start playing around with those words and combining them with other aspects that make your work unique. Look for rhymes, alliteration, wordplay. Keep in mind that it needs to be able to fit on a mass-market cover and still have room for the art.

–         Penelope & Prince Charming has great alliteration and works in the fairy-tale theme.

–         The second book in the series was tougher. Nothing in the list above sounded original enough.  So Jennifer concentrated on the time period with a rhyme and came up with The Mad, Bad Duke.  It’s clearly Regency set–a play on Lady Caro Lamb’s words about Byron “He was mad, bad, and dangerous to know”—which Regency readers recognize.  It also sounds playful and sexy.

–         With the third book featuring a fun-loving Scot, we came up with Highlander Ever After, again pulling in that fairy-tale theme.

     

Where to find inspiration for your titles:

  • imdb.com – The Internet Movie Database
  • your CD collection
  • rhyming dictionaries
  • regular dictionary
  • advertising slogans

Most of all, brainstorming should be a fun process, not a hair-pulling one–even if it feels like it sometimes.  Just stick with it,  don’t be afraid to ask everyone you know for suggestions, and go with what feels good.

And a totally shameless plug that has more to do with art than titles: Check out Jennifer’s PRIDE MATES on Clash of the Covers this week.

Editors and agents are forever telling writers to give us something fresh, something new, something we haven’t seen before.  But then again, you don’t want to be too different.  Because there still has to be a kernel of familiarity in there to remain accessible to the readers. 

I was so excited about the new version of Robin Hood with Russell Crowe because I thought it would be the perfect balance of a familiar story with a new twist—billed as a prequel to the Robin Hood legend we all know.  Unfortunately, after reading a number of tepid reviews, it’s unlikely I’ll go see the movie.  The key elements of what makes Robin Hood so enjoyable—namely the slightly cocky attitude and the genuine sense of fun—seem to be missing from the movie.  I have no problem with gritty, but it also needs to be balanced with light. 

So the lesson here: If you’re going to take a familiar theme and twist it, first figure out the main elements of what makes that theme so popular and enjoyable.  Keep those!  Then twist the character or the setting or add an unexpected piece from another recognizable theme or story.

Figuring out these elements will then making pitching your project a breeze.  “It’s this but with a dash of that and set in there.”  Of course, once you come up with the right juxtaposition you have to deliver.

One project I recently acquired is a perfect example.  At the moment, we’re tentatively calling it NO PROPER LADY (April 2011) and it’s by debut author Isabel Cooper.  The juxtaposition: “Terminator” meets “My Fair Lady.”  Every time I say it in the office, people raise their eyebrows, but they always want to hear more.

Last year, New York Times best-selling author Brenda Novak raised more than $280,000 in her online auction to benefit diabetes research.  And this year she’s set the bar even higher.  Because Brenda is the consummate achiever (seriously, there’s nothing this woman can’t do!) and she has loads of amazing offerings at this year’s auction, I have no doubt she’ll hit her goal. 

The 2010 auction is now live.  For writers, there are 60 agent evaluations up for grabs and nearly 50 editor evaluations.  

If you’re the winning bidder on mine, you’ll receive a line edit of your cover letter, first three chapers and synopsis; a written overall critique of strengths and weaknesses and suggestions for improvement; and a follow-up phone call, should you wish you ask further questions.  Bidding goes through May 31.

There are also loads of ARCs, signed books, handbags, jewelry, art, an iPad, a Nook, and a load of other amazing items, including special promo opportunities for published writers.

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