Tag Archives: writing romance

I love to read, but…

Yesterday, my writing friend, author Holland Rae, wrote a blog post titled  Why I DNF. I highly recommend you click on that link and read it.

Now, for those of you who don’t now what DNF means, it stands for DID NOT FINISH. Anyone who has judged the RITA awards has seen these 3 letters mentioned over and over again the past year in the judging instructions and online. To the regular world, the letters are for readers who have failed to finish a book. Not because of time constraints, but for reasons that run the gamut from not being on board with the subject matter, to hating the mealy mouthed, weak heroine. I’ve picked up books after reading the back blurb, thinking I was getting one story, and when I started reading, was given an entirely different one. This kind of publishing bait and switch isn’t common, but does happen. I think I’m getting a romantic comedy about a run away heiress and the private eye sent after her to bring her back, and once I get into the story it’s really about a spoiled bitch who doesn’t deserve to live, or the hero is a misogynistic bore.

I stop reading. Really, I’ll never get that hour I wasted back now and don’t feel I want to invest any more of the little time I have left to finish the dopey story.

I picked up a book recently by an author that I’ve read before and enjoyed and that was touted as romantic suspense and there was – literally – nothing suspenseful or romantic about the plot. The story  crammed as much sex into the pages as the author could while the h/h were being followed by a stalker. Sex in a tiny car, in a public bathroom ( yuk! Just…yuk), under a desk, in a closet. If the book had been marketed properly and not labeled a romantic suspense, I might have passed on it at the get-go. I have a large list of one-click authors, though, and she was among them, so I never really delved into the blurb.

I’ve stopped reading books and tossed them into the recycling pile, not even the donate to the public library pile because I didn’t think anyone deserved to waste their time on  poorly written, boring stories.

Judgmental, thy name is Peggy, I know.

In Holland’s well written article, she states,

  • “I…will finish problematic or frustrating reads because it teaches me how to avoid making the same mistakes. As an author, I think it’s important to read books that aren’t perfect so we can perform more effectively in our own stories.”

That is such a valid point, and I agree with it 100%…in principle. When I was first starting out in my fiction writing career, I did commit to finishing all the books I read, even though some of them were awful. Learning what not to do is as important as learning what to do, and this was my validation. Nowadays, though, I simply don’t have the time to devote more to a book that just hasn’t captured me in the first 3 or four chapters.

The deal breakers for me about whether to DNF a book or carry on til the end to see if it gets any better ( and really, haven’t we all done that?) are as follows:

The characters curse a lot.

I know this is kind of dumb, but I hate watching a movie where every other word is the f-bomb. Use our beautiful language to paint a picture, writers, and not depend on expletives to do it for you!!

The sex is all Insert A into Slot B, lather, rinse, repeat. 

I was a Registered Nurse in my before-writing life. I know how sex works. I don’t need an anatomy or a causal lesson in how to do it. What I do need – what I crave – is reading about the emotions the people involved in the act are going through while they are…acting.

Cruelty as a plot point. We’ve all read the redeemed hero. I happen to love a redeemed hero. What I don’t love – and what no one should – is a hero who starts out sadistic, mean, verbally or physically abusive, caustic, or nasty and then magically  – through the love of the heroine, someone who comes along to show him how to love for the very first time – changes into a sloppy puppy without ever finding out why he is the way he is. Dumb, just…dumb and lazy writing. I’m tossing that one down in chapter one.

Vapid, walk on secondary characters. 

 

(Holland and I agree on this one.)My real-life friends are fully formed human beings with working minds, opinions, and thoughts. They have jobs, families, hobbies, things they love and  things they hate. They were not put on this earth to walk into my life, act as a sounding board for my choices, and then walk out again. Another toss in the recycle pile if I find this in a book.

Voice.

(this is another point I have in common with Holland). I like to read books written in all points of view. First, third, revolving, omniscient. If the story is solid and the characters are well formed, the voice (or  POV) the story is told in shouldn’t be a negative factor. I know someone who says he/she never reads anything that is written in first person. Suffice it to say she isn’t reading anything of mine, then. But back to my point. If a writer has decided on telling his/her story in first person, that characters’s voice better be the best one for the job. I don’t want to read an historical romance in first person where the heroine states, Lord Suchanass was a total tool last night at Lady Fatass’s shindig. Um…no. Just…no. That’s a DNF straight into the garbage, never mind recycling. Having said that, if an author is going to use revolving first or third person, she/he better make sure the person speaking is immediately identifiable and doesn’t sound like every other person in the book. I’ve truthfully had to start a chapter over because I thought I was in the heroine’s POV when I was actually in the hero’s. There was no distinction between the two voices. That’s just poor writing at its core, peeps.

I need to own up to this: my DNF pile has grown exponentially as I’ve had more of my own books published. As stated, I simply don’t have the time to waste on a book if it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do on page one or in the first chapter: capture the reader’s ( ME!) attention. I hope I’ve learned to write that way. I’d hate to be on anyone’s DNF list/pile.

If I have been on yours…have pity on my fragile ego and don’t ever tell me! I’m better off not knowing.

~Peg

When I’m not reading you can find me here:

Tweet Me//Read Me// Visit Me//Picture Me//Pin Me//Friend Me// Triber// BookMe // Monkey me //Watch me

Here’s the link to my TELL ME ABOUT YOUR DAMN BOOK podcast interview, just in case you missed it: TMAYDB

and the link to my recent interview on NewHampshirePublicRadio

 

 

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On #Libraries, #Librarians, feelings of connection, and #books

Apparently, it’s National Library Week. This is one celebration I can get behind and actually enjoy. Enjoy writing about; enjoy celebrating.

I’ve mentioned many times before in this blog that I — for all intents and purposes — grew up in my local library. I was what was called ( during my youth) a latchkey kid, meaning, after school, I was on my own, home alone, because both the adults in my life had full-time jobs that didn’t let out until 5 or 6 each night. School let out at 3, so that meant five afternoons a week I needed a babysitter until I got old enough to be left on my own for a few hours, which in my case was at the age of 7.

I’m remembering what my daughter was like at 7 and am horrified that my mother believed it was an appropriate age for independent responsibility, but that’s another blog topic entirely.

Anyway….

Every day after school I would be dismissed after the bell and then trek to my local library to stay until it was time to get on home.

I loved the library.

I loved the safety of it.

I  loved all the books.

I loved loved loved the Librarians.

I loved the quiet.

Like Belle in Beauty and the Beast, all I wanted to do was read. I wanted to be transported to other places, live lives that weren’t my own;  be loved and cherished like a princess and rule a kingdom with wisdom and grace. I could be anything I wanted to be and I could explore everything. It was in the library that I discovered my imagination and my joy of storytelling.

Once I was through the library doors each afternoon, after a 15 block walk along city streets from my school, I’d let out a sigh, safe in the knowledge that nothing bad could happen to me here. I was secure now, protected. Bad people didn’t come into the library, only good ones. People who wanted to be educated,  and who wanted to escape from their everyday, boring lives and live richer, happier, more exciting ones. The library wasn’t the place where the bullies who tormented me in school “hung out.” I was free from the cruel insults, tormenting taunts, and physical violence that had become my daily life at school.

The Librarians all knew me by name and were my first, actual, REAL teachers. I learned facts in school. The Librarians taught me about life. They’d recommend books for me to read and once I was through the kids’ section selection, they moved me onto what would now be called YA ( young adult) novels. I may have been 8 or 9 years old, but I was reading about the lives of pre-teens and teenagers, living in their shoes as they drifted through life, and getting a feel for what was to come my way once I was their age.

The Librarians talked to me about books, asked me my opinion on ones I’d read. They actually valued my thoughts. They showed me the strength there is in knowledge and the beauty there is in imagination. They fostered in me that desire to tell a tale, tell it well, and change a reader’s life. They taught me how to be entertained, and in so doing, how to entertain. They taught me how to gather knowledge, the beauty there is in research, and how to prioritize. To this day, my home library follows a basic Dewey Decimal system. To some, that may be a bit extreme. But to me, it is a real tribute to the librarians who helped form my mind and fed my soul.

In the library, we spoke in hushed tones and whispers. We used the original inside voices. In my house, the voices were more often raised than hushed, loud than peaceful, tormented than quiet.

In the library, I found myself…as a girl, a person, a student, and, ultimately, as a writer.

Every day I thank God for the women and men who worked and still work in local libraries. They are unsung heroes to countless children and adults. Where some may think that the previous statement is a tad theatrical, it isn’t to me. The Librarians I knew as a child were my heroes. They kept me safe, loved and cared about me, and opened a world for me I never knew existed.

Heroes, every last one of them.

So, help me celebrate National Library Week. Support your local libraries by donating old, in-good-condition books, attend book sales and fund drives and become a Friend of the Library.  Encourage your children and grandchildren to get Library cards and to use them! Often and with enthusiasm.

Finding your local library is just a Google search away!

 

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Filed under Author, community advocacy, Contemporary Romance, Life challenges, Literary characters, New Hampshire, research, Strong Women

Taking risks

I’m featured on COFFEE TIME ROMANCE today talking about risk taking in life and writing. Here’s the link:  Drop on by and leave some of your own wisdom

http://coffeetimeromance.com/CoffeeThoughts/taking-risksin-writing-and-in-life/

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Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, Romance, Romance Books, Skater's Waltz, Strong Women

Ideas…I’ve got a million of ’em…

While I was working on my current WIP today, I got sidelined by an idea that wouldn’t go away. I kept shushing it, telling it I would get to it eventually, but I wanted to get my word count in for the day first. Damn idea wouldn’t shut up. It forced me to stop working on what I should have been working on and forced me to pay attention to it.

For two entire hours.

I hate getting sidetracked by pushy ideas.

This usually happens to me when I am deeply asleep, huddled under the comforter, blanketed by warmth and dreams. All of a sudden I will be shot bolt upright, a pushy idea running through the front of my brain, waking me up in a heartbeat and demanding attention. It’s like that sick little kid who comes into your room in the dead of night, wakes you up because he needs to throw up, does, and then goes back to sweet slumber while you are now forced wide awake for the rest of the night.

I used to not get up and write the ideas down. I figured I’d remember them in the morning. Not so much, really. What I did remember when I woke was that I’d had a great idea in the middle of the night but now I couldn’t remember it for the life of me.

That got old really fast so I started getting up and writing the damn things down. Then, and only then, would I be able to get back to sleep. When I woke up in the morning, I could remember not a thing, but I had the brilliant idea written down, so, yea!

But now my waking hours are being intruded upon, and I only have so many of them to devote to writing that I am starting to really get annoyed with these pushy, must be dealt with right now  ideas.

Think Ritalin would help?

You’re right: probably not. Oh well. At least I can sleep again.

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Filed under Author, Characters, Contemporary Romance, Life challenges, love, Romance, Romance Books, Strong Women