Friday, August 29, 2014

HOW TO WRITE A BETTER BOOK

Last week, I wrote about my sinking realization that, in the book I am writing live at: http://alinaadamsmedia.com/live/, one of the supporting characters was boring the hell out of me to write. Which meant he must be boring the hell out of you to read.

As I result, I went back and turned two (boring) chapters into two (hopefully less boring) pages (read all about it, here). I thought that was it and I could start moving forward again.

All went well for a couple of scenes. Or, at least, I was happy with them for the time being.  And then I realized that an argument that my hero and heroine, Seth and Lauren, were having at the end of Chapter Eight was very similar to one they'd had in Chapter Six. And there was no need for both of them.

Confession Time: I love plot. "What's going to happen next?" is what keeps me turning pages in whatever genre I'm reading. Maybe it comes from a lifetime of soap-watching. Or Sidney Sheldon reading. Maybe it's an undiagnosed case of ADD. Whatever the reason, I like action (though of the emotional and romantic, not violent and loud variety). I like "the good parts." In fact, it is my goal to make the whole of my next novel nothing but "good parts."

So, even though I liked many of my early scenes and thought they added to the overall character development, I made the tough decision to cut them - including the first argument and all of its subsequent follow-up - so that readers could get to the "good parts" faster. My hope is that the character traits high-lighted in those "lost" scenes will, nonetheless, appear elsewhere, even if only subliminally.

I cut Seth and Lauren's original argument, which means I cut the four years they spent not speaking to each other, her apology to him and their tentative reconciliation.

This also solved another problem I'd blogged about earlier, how to make time pass smoothly in a multi-year saga without resorting to The Princess Bride's "What with one thing and another, three years passed." I thought I'd come up with a pretty clever narrative solution, but that went away with this latest edit, so I just adopted a reader's earlier suggestion to put the date at the start of the chapter. (See, I'm keeping my promise to incorporate reader ideas into the story!)

I read a writing tip this week that said, "Don't edit as you write. Get the first draft down first."

But, here's the thing that doesn't make sense to me: If the beginning isn't right, how can what comes after ever be? And if I were to keep on writing in spite of my suspicion that the book had already gotten away from me, then wouldn't that just lead me further and further down the wrong path, which would then necessitate even lengthier rewrites in the second pass? I have an outline for my story. The first few chapters are supposed to set it up. When I felt they weren't working, I went back to fix them so that the next chapters could be more of what I was shooting for.

What do you think? Was it the wrong approach?

Let me know!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: LIFE ON THE EDGE BY JENNIFER COMEAUX

Two of my favorite topics, romance and figure skating, come together in Jennifer Comeaux's novel, Life on the Edge.

Set in the world Olympic skating, it tells the story of an aspiring American pair team but, in a non-Cutting Edge twist, the romance isn't between partners (and the man isn't a macho hockey player who decided to take up figure skating after an injury ends his NHL dreams, because, hey, the two styles are totally alike, and jumps, spins and lifts can be picked up by anyone in a few months time; but someone who actually likes to figure skate and has been doing it for most of his life), but between the girl of the pair, Emily, and her Russian immigrant coach, Sergei.

Here is my main problem with romance as a genre: Since we know the hero and heroine are going to live Happily Ever After, I need a plot reason beyond will they or won't they to keep turning pages - because I already know they will.

I prefer stories with a mystery aspect to them or, at the very least, a unique problem to warrant keeping the couple apart for 200+ pages.

Life on the Edge has that, and it's a good one, too. If word gets out that Emily and Sergei are dating, even though she's over 18, it might prompt the National Federation to censor Sergei, pull his credentials and forbid him from coaching. And then where will Emily be? She'd not only forfiet her own Olympic dreams (and the money and effort her parents have expended to support her), but that of her partner, too.

No, the stakes aren't life and death in the literal sense of the word, but they are damn serious, nonetheless, and not contingent on some silly misunderstanding that could be cleared up if only the two leads ever actually spoke to each other, instead of leaping to conclusions (a criticism that's been leveled, ahem, at my own book, When a Man Loves a Woman).

More importantly, the stakes are connected to skating. Often, a book's setting merely serves to provide some exotica, without having any substantial influence on the plot. Here, both skating and romance are front and center, making Life on the Edge a true skating romance, and a treat for fans of both.

Check it out by clicking the link below:


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: SOAP COUPLES WHO CAN'T STAY TOGETHER - OR APART


It was raining in Port Charles last week, so, naturally, Sonny and Carly shared an ill-advised sex romp. (Not that fair weather would have stopped them, just that they’ll grab at any excuse.) Ill-advised sex romps, are about the only kind this couple ever has. Starting from their very first time, back in 1999, when Sonny wanted to prove to his best friend, Jason, that his girlfriend, Carly, was a slut (and, obviously, there is only one way to do that), up through the infamous “limo grief sex” (they were sad because it looked like their son, Michael, might never come out of his coma) to the sex they had because they were sad about post-coma Michael going to prison to now, where, sure, let’s blame it on the weather. Or the pizza. Or Carly’s new boyfriend, the reformed serial killer.

But lest you think General Hospital’s four-time married and divorced signature couple are they only ones in daytime who can’t stay together or apart, rest assured, they’ve got plenty of company.


Check out examples from DOOL, B&B, Y&R, AMC, OLTL, ATWT, GL and more at my latest post for Entertainment Weekly: http://community.ew.com/2014/08/26/soaps-couples-general-hospital-young-and-the-restless/

Thursday, August 21, 2014

PUTTING MY WRITING WHERE MY MOUTH IS

Last week, I explained how my book had gotten away from me and announced plans to go through, slash and burn, delete everything that wasn't working and start again.

This week, I actually had to do it. (Funny how that works.)

The biggest problem was the relationship between my two lead characters, Lauren Briggs and Seth Danzinger, childhood friends who grow up and... well, it's a romance novel, no spoilers needed. Somehow, though, in my writing the first few chapters, their relationship evolved into a girl with a crush on an older guy who is completely oblivious to her feelings (or, at the very least, pretending to be). And that's not the relationship I wanted to write, at all.

Naturally, the first thing I had to do was delete all the interactions that gave that impression. Then I had to rewrite those interactions so that they gave the impression I wanted to give. (You can judge for yourselves whether or not I succeeded by going to: http://alinaadamsmedia.com/live/, the site where I am writing my book live with real-time feedback, and searching for "8/20/14," the latest revision date.)

But, the challenging part was, I had to rewrite those interactions to completely change the tone of Lauren and Seth's relationship, while still keeping the relevant plot points in place in order for subsequent scenes I'd already written to work.

There was also the matter of time passing. Personally, I love family sagas. Big, sweeping stories where readers get to watch characters age from kids to adults, and see everything that makes them who they are along the way.

Well, maybe not everything. No matter how much I love sagas, a day by day chronology would still be pretty dull. You've got to pick the exciting parts and skim over the rest. But you've got to skim over them somewhat gracefully.

With the rewrite, I know had to jump ahead three years in time. I considered taking inspiration from one of my favorite books, "The Princess Bride" (all the good stuff you love from the movie, plus a whole lot more!) and just writing, "What, with one thing and another, three years passed."

I refrained.

Since my project is a collaboration with readers, I asked for suggestions, and got some pretty good ones. The end result can also be found at: http://alinaadamsmedia.com/live/.

Check it out and let me know what you think because, for the first time in my 20 year writing career, I'm putting together a book not to please editors, agents or reviewers, but a book to please only the readers! I can't do this without you!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: TOP SOAP TWIN STORIES

In my latest for Entertainment Weekly, I tackle the topic of soap-opera long-lost twin stories, including the best from All My Children, Another World (hi, Anne Heche), As the World Turns (hey, Julianne Moore), The Bold & the Beautiful, The Young & the Restless, One Life to Live and more, plus this quote from Days of Our Lives Eileen Davidson about playing multiple roles:

Eileen Davidson began playing the role of Kristen on Days of Our Lives in 1993. A year later, she also took on the role of Susan. Susan was no relation to Kristen, but they did (coincidentally) look enough alike for Kristen to hire Susan to pretend to be Kristen and give birth to a baby that Kristen would then pass off as her own (and this was on one of Kristen’s more reasonable plans). But then, it turned out that homeless waif Susan had a twin sister named Penelope, who was a British socialite. And another one named Mary Moira, a God-fearing – and somewhat sadistic – nun. And a brother named Thomas. Davidson played them all. As she summarized in my book, Soap Opera 451: A Time Capsule of Daytime Drama’s Greatest Moments, “They worked me to death. I was going to leave after the first year I played Susan. And they asked me to stay an additional year to finish off the storyline, so I did.  It was a great, great, great thing for me. I would do something like this again, but I would want to know a beginning and an end date.  Even when I left DAYS, I knew that the shelf-life of those characters was running out.  It wasn’t something that could go on forever because it would lose its punch.  I felt like I got out at the right time.”

Travel down memory lane with Vicky/Marley, Lily/Rose, Todd/Victor and other cases of Double Trouble at: http://community.ew.com/2014/08/19/soaps-most-memorable-twin-stories/

Monday, August 18, 2014

ANNIE'S WILD RIDE BACK IN PRINT!

My best reviewed title ever, Annie's Wild Ride, originally published by AVON in 1998, is finally back in print! (Read the reviews, here.)

You can get it as an e-book on Amazon, BN.com, or Smashwords.

Here's a sneak peek of the story:

When his ex-wife and daughter’s plane goes down in a snowstorm, Major Paul Gaasbeck is forced to break every US Air Force rule and betray his own honor code in his attempt to rescue them.

As both battle the elements in a desperate struggle for survival, Paul and Anne can’t help remembering all of the reasons why they couldn’t stay together – or apart.

From Colorado’s Air Force Academy to military bases all across America to the hostile skies above Libya and the battlefields of Iraq, romance lovers will be helplessly swept away – just like Paul – by ANNIE’S WILD RIDE. 



Plus, I made it to the website, Lousy Covers (considering the original Annie's Wild Ride had a pink duck on the cover, I consider this new one a massive improvement).

Click the below link to learn more:


Friday, August 15, 2014

WHEN YOUR BOOK GETS AWAY FROM THE AUTHOR

When I started my live writing project at: http://alinaadamsmedia.com/live/ my goal was to demonstrate exactly how a book comes together by exposing all the first (and second and third) draft typos, deletions, clunky prose and inevitable plot dead ends.

Well, a month into the project, we've hit our first plot dead-end. As often happens, my book has gotten away from me, with characters doing things I didn't want and heading off in directions I don't like.

The first issue is a couple of minor characters have taken over. I realized when I woke up in the morning dreading writing scenes with Lauren's new boyfriend, Steven, and that, when it came to re-reading, I was skipping over them, that if they were boring me, they had to be boring the reader. And not only is he boring, but he is pulling focus from the main couple. Clearly, Steven Erikson is in for a major overhaul (or possibly a complete deletion - still mulling over that one).

But, the biggest problem is the relationship between Lauren and her childhood friend, Seth. Somehow, the story has turned into a girl in love with a guy who doesn't see her as anything more than, at best, a kid sister. And that's not what I initially intended at all. 

(Not that I am comparing myself to Tolstoy in any way - except that my first language is also Russian - but he once said that he pleaded with Anna Karenina not to throw herself under that train, and yet she did it anyway. I don't know what kind of parent Tolstoy was, but I'm the kind who has no problem making her kids do things they don't want to do.  And if I'm like that with my kids, I can certainly be like that with my characters. So Tolstoy can let Anna dictate story. I have no intention of doing so. Spoiled brat characters are almost as bad as spoiled brat children.)

I am currently eight chapters into the book. Some scenes, I think work quite well - at least for a first draft. Others do not. So, painful though it may be, come Monday, I am going in and deleting about half of what I've already written, so I can start again from scratch. All the Steven stuff is going to go, and I'll be doing some serious re-writing of several key Lauren/Seth interactions. And I'll be blogging about why I made the changes to better serve the story.

So, if you haven't yet, pop on over to: http://alinaadamsmedia.com/live/ and check out what I have there so far, then come back Monday for the slash and burn and rewrite - and make sure to tell me what you think!