So You Think You Can Write

When I was offered a contract last year by Harlequin, I was not only excited but relieved as well. I believed that my writing had finally reached the point where it was publishable. Boy, was I in for a rude awakening!

So you think you can write? Just wait until your editor gets a hold of your manuscript!I was assigned to an editor and I quickly learned that my book still was not publishable, but it was salvageable. First there was the developmental edit which is pretty much what it sounds like: developing further certain points of the story, fixing plot points and tying up loose ends.

Then came the line edit, which has been a humbling experience. When I received my manuscript back from my editor, it was all marked up in red. The manuscript I had worked so hard on for years still needed more work and by the amount of red on the pages, it needed a lot more work.

Initially, I was disheartened. Was my writing really that bad? I struggled with this. Halfway through the line edit I realized a few things: nine times out of ten, my editor’s suggestions and corrections were spot on, which is why she is the editor and I am the writer. Her ideas made the work cleaner and tighter. Sometimes she pointed out the obvious. Sometimes she made great suggestions and sometimes, I disagreed with her.

Although the whole process has been humbling, I know that it will not only make my book better but it will make me a better writer. Writing is a continual process and there is always something new to be learned.

About Michele Brouder

After living for seven years in Ireland, former Buffalonian, Michele Brouder now calls Florida home. Her first book, a YA paranormal, is due to be published sometime in 2014 for Harlequin E, Harlequin’s new digital format. Learn more from her contributor page.

Become a List Maker

It is quite possible that as a writer, you are juggling a lot of writing balls. You might be working on your novel. You might have an assignment due for a magazine. Or perhaps you are trying to get a short story written for a contest deadline. You have all of this plus what life throws at you on a day-to-day basis.

Become a List MakerWriters may be struggling with a full-time job as well as family issues which means time is limited. If you only have a one or two hour writing period, you need to get as much done as possible to maximize your time. Women by their very nature are natural multi-taskers however it is very easy to look at all that has to be done and lose the plot.

How do you not give up and get it done? You accomplish all your tasks by doing two things: create a list and tackle it bit by bit.

Each day (or the night before), create a list with what needs to be done for that writing session. Instead of looking at the complete magazine article, gather the facts tonight or concentrate on a catchy title. Short story due? Write down the rough draft tonight without making any corrections. Your novel? Concentrate on the next scene. If you do not know what the next scene is supposed to be then write any scene or write an outline of the book you want to write.

As you complete each small task and cross things off your list, you will feel a sense of accomplishment. What happens if you don’t finish everything on your list? Divide the tasks over your next writing day (s). But be sure to accomplish at least one item on your list.

Before you know it you will be whittling down your writing tasks on a daily basis and over time, it will yield big results.

About Michele Brouder

After living for seven years in Ireland, former Buffalonian, Michele Brouder now calls Florida home. Her first book, a YA paranormal, is due to be published sometime in 2014 for Harlequin E, Harlequin’s new digital format. Learn more from her contributor page.

Unlikeable Main Characters

Can your Main Characters be unlikeable? Apparently they can, judging by two books I have read recently. Actually, in both instances the main characters were not only unlikeable but there was nothing redeeming about them. Nothing made me feel sympathetic to their plight (as a sidebar, both books were bestsellers which has me scratching my head). This leads me to a basic rule of writing: your reader should be interested in your main character. So perhaps unlikeable is OK as long as they are interesting.

Unlikeable CharactersIt begs the question as to why I would keep turning the pages about characters that not only did I not like but really did not care about. In both instances, the books had riveting plots and lots of unexpected twists. One of them was even set during a fascinating time period. It was enough to keep me reading.

However by the end of both books, I was left with a feeling of irritation. And for one book, a sense of frustration as the narrator was not only unlikeable but unreliable as well and I am still not sure how that book ended.

We are instructed as writers to make our characters sympathetic, make them strike a chord with the reader, make the reader care about what happens to them. In both instances, the writers appeared to know the rules well and obviously felt comfortable enough breaking them.

Perhaps this is experimental writing at its best; perhaps I am naive and there are more unlikeable characters than I care to admit. But it is not my cup of tea.

I want a character that I find interesting, that I can root for; that I can care about and who will stay with me long after I put the book down. I do not want a main character who causes me to grit my teeth in the end and throw the book across the room because, then, reading has lost its pleasure and satisfaction.

What about you? Is it important for you to both like and be interested in what happens to the main character of a book your reading?

About Michele Brouder

After living for seven years in Ireland, former Buffalonian, Michele Brouder now calls Florida home. Her first book, a YA paranormal, is due to be published sometime in 2014 for Harlequin E, Harlequin’s new digital format. Learn more from her contributor page.

Minding Your Plot

Somewhere along the way of writing your story, you will need a plot. The plot is the glue that brings everything else together: characterization, voice, setting and style. Without a plot, you do not have a story.

Here are five things to consider when minding your plot:
This poor little dog is bored by the plotting of this book.

  • Conflict – There is nothing a reader loves more than a character who is faced with a conflict, struggle or dilemma. Or something that needs to be overcome. As readers we want someone to root for. We want to follow them on their quest, whatever that might be: falling in love, moving to a different place or seeking buried treasure and all the difficulties they meet along the way.
  • Growth – Over the arc of the book, your character hopefully will experience some personal growth as a result of the plot or at the very least have a clear revelation of themselves because of the plot by the end of the book.
  • Pacing – It is important to pace your book correctly. Although you need to supply the reader with information, you can drip feed it throughout your story to keep it suspenseful. All books, regardless of genre are suspenseful in the fact that the reader keeps turning the page in an effort to find out what happens in the story.
  • Sub-plots – These are the minor stories within the main story that not only support the main plot but tie into it as well.
  • Final Resolution – This is the last portion of the book where all questions are answered and all answers are revealed. Leave no stone unturned and no loose threads, everything needs to be resolved by the last page, unless of course, you are writing a series.

All stories are boiled down to a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is your plot that will bring your reader from one section to another and a good plot will do it seamlessly.

About Michele Brouder

After living for seven years in Ireland, former Buffalonian, Michele Brouder now calls Florida home. Her first book, a YA paranormal, is due to be published sometime in 2014 for Harlequin E, Harlequin’s new digital format. Learn more from her contributor page.

5 Steps to Improve Your Writing

It is not too late into the year to think about what you can do to improve your writing. Here are five steps to improve your writing:
One of the five steps to improve your writing is to improve your grammar. Even if it is to break the rules later.

  • Write every day because practice does make perfect. Even if it is only one hundred words that you end up throwing out. The discipline of writing every day will become an ingrained habit.
  • Read, read, read. You cannot be a writer if you do not read. More specifically, read the genre that you want to write in. It is the perfect hands on learning.
  • Enter some contests. There are loads of contests out there; you just need to find the one that is geared to what you are writing. The thing about contests is that sometimes you can get a free critique out of the deal. At the very least, you will learn how to format.
  • Do something writing-wise that you would not normally do or that you are afraid of. For me this would be tackling the short story form. What about you? Facing your writing demons, learning about them and mastering them is a good way to flex your writing muscles.
  • Buy a good grammar book and use it. We all forget and there are too many good grammar books out there not to have one on hand. I would recommend Grammar Girl by Mignon Fogarty, The Elements of Style by Strunk & White and/or The Blue Book of Grammar & Punctuation by Jane Strauss.

Writing is a fluid craft: there is always room for improvement, you never “graduate” because you are always learning.

About Michele Brouder

After living for seven years in Ireland, former Buffalonian, Michele Brouder now calls Florida home. Her first book, a YA paranormal, is due to be published sometime in 2014 for Harlequin E, Harlequin’s new digital format. Learn more from her contributor page.

Voracious Reader Syndrome

If you have three or more of the following symptoms, you could have voracious reader syndrome and there is only one treatment for it!
Reading a book as a writer.

  • You know what TBR (To Be Read) stands for and your TBR pile never comes to an end. Ever.
  • The first thing you read in the Sunday paper is the book reviews.
  • You follow the bestseller lists.
  • You not only have a library card but you use it regularly.
  • There are piles of books everywhere in your house.
  • You don’t mind waiting for anything because you carry a book with you at all times, especially for appointments. You get in the car line at school early so you can read your book.
  • You reread your favorite books and can recite by heart your favorite parts.
  • A gift card to Barnes & Noble (or Amazon, or Chapters) is the ultimate gift.
  • You never sleep alone because you always take a book to bed with you. If you wake up in the middle of the night and cannot go back to sleep, you grab the book at the bedside and your reading light.
  • Reading, Interrupted: When stuck in the middle of a good book, you resent the fact that you have other things to do: like go to work, go grocery shopping, or get eight hours of sleep.
  • You read everything: the backs of cereal boxes, the church bulletin, cookbooks, advertisements, the fine print, this blog post.
  • You can spend hours in the bookstore or a library and you are always shocked when you realize how many hours you have been there.
  • You read every day. 

If you develop any of these symptoms, read one book and call me in the morning.

About Michele Brouder

After living for seven years in Ireland, former Buffalonian, Michele Brouder now calls Florida home. Her first book, a YA paranormal, is due to be published sometime in 2014 for Harlequin E, Harlequin’s new digital format. Learn more from her contributor page.

10 Signs You Are A Writer

As I sat one night watching a movie on DVD, I thought I could have written that better. And then I thought, wait–most people when watching a movie don’t think that, even if they didn’t like the movie. They move on with their lives. It got me to thinking about what separates us writers from the rest of the pack. Here are ten signs you are a writer:
Looking for signs you are a writer.

  1. You read a book and think “I could have written that better”.
  2. You watch a movie and think: “I could have written that better”.
  3. You carry a pen and notebook with you at all times because you know that the muse is fickle and can strike at any time, like in the middle of your son’s soccer game.
  4. You wake up in the middle of the night thinking about the book you are writing and sometimes if you are lucky, it will be a solution to a writing dilemma or it will be a snatch of dialogue or a plot twist.
  5. You start to believe that the characters you are writing about are real people.
  6. You know who all the agents are and “what they are actively seeking”.
  7. You read voraciously and heaven on earth is being in the middle of a bookstore or library for a few hours.
  8. After your children, your writing is your most cherished possession.
  9. Writing is 24/7 even when you are not physically doing it. If you are not parked in front of your laptop or penning in a notebook, then you are constantly thinking about what you are going to be writing next. Anything that does not require your full blown attention (i.e. like being a passenger in a car or waiting for the movie to start at the theater) has your mind thinking about writing.
  10. You cannot imagine not writing because it is such an extension of yourself. You are your happiest when writing because it is who you are and it is what you are meant to be doing.

If you have any to add share them in the comments below.

About Michele Brouder

After living for seven years in Ireland, former Buffalonian, Michele Brouder now calls Florida home. Her first book, a YA paranormal, is due to be published sometime in 2014 for Harlequin E, Harlequin’s new digital format. Learn more from her contributor page.

Lost in Translation

The hardest part of writing is getting the story from inside my head and onto the paper. For the most part, the story is very clear in my mind. The book I want to write plays out like a movie reel in my head: there is a beginning, a middle and an end. But sometimes in the effort to get it all down, the story gets lost in translation and what is on paper resembles nothing from my imagination.

I have discovered that writing is 90% re-writing and editing and the finished project rarely looks anything like the first draft. I have to remind myself to keep an open mind and remember this as I am starting a new project.

The first thing I need to do is to disgorge the whole thing from my head immediately. Employ a stream-of-consciousness type of writing: write it all down as I see it; paying no attention to details like grammar, punctuation, spelling; don’t hesitate at how to write the sentence perfectly; and don’t worry about chapter breaks. That is all for later.

All I want now is the story in word form, word by word, one at a time. Once my head is empty–-and I may only have ten thousand words or I may have one hundred thousand words–then I can go back and rewrite, edit, polish and refine. Keeping an open mind, letting the story and the characters take me to where they are meant to go.

Give it a try, you may not end up where you had planned, but you might end up pleasantly surprised.

About Michele Brouder

After living for seven years in Ireland, former Buffalonian, Michele Brouder now calls Florida home. Her first book, a YA paranormal, is due to be published sometime in 2014 for Harlequin E, Harlequin’s new digital format. Learn more from her contributor page.

Discipline

Sometimes, I find it hard to be disciplined about writing, especially when I am busy with work and family. I realize that if I want to make the jump from amateur to professional, then I better pull myself together, buckle down and get the work done. Discipline takes practice and perseverance.

Institute the "write first" discipline. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you are undisciplined, nothing will get done.

I have an inclination to be lazy, especially on my days off. It is so much more appealing to faff around on Facebook or lie on the couch and read a book. But the truth is, I am absolutely miserable when I am not writing or at the end of the day when nothing has been written. It is the loss of opportunity through squandering of time. Especially when there is so much that needs to be written.

I was raised in a house where the work was done first. Always. My father used to say to the five of us: “Get your work (chores and homework) done first, then you can do what you want.” To this day, I make out a list at work and at home of things that need to be done and usually I do not fool with coworkers or do something inane until the list is done — or most of it.

I have to apply this to writing as well. Those days when I am feeling unmotivated or to be frank, just plain old lazy, I tell myself that as soon as the writing is done, I can do this this and this. Some days it requires a Herculean effort to write. However, once I am in the swing of writing, I am fine, it can be just a matter of getting started. I have to remind myself constantly that the work gets done first and then I can fool around later.

Talent + discipline + persistence = a published writer.

About Michele Brouder

After living for seven years in Ireland, former Buffalonian, Michele Brouder now calls Florida home. Her first book, a YA paranormal, is due to be published sometime in 2014 for Harlequin E, Harlequin’s new digital format. Learn more from her contributor page.

My Writing Journey

It is very easy to give up on writing when you have enough rejections to wallpaper a room. After all, why should we waste effort for something that may never be published? Why should we continue to write year after year as the rejections continue to pile up. But that is not the crux of my writing journey.

The long road of my writing journey.We write because we have to. It is like breathing; all I know is that I am utterly miserable when I am not writing. I cannot give up.

I have wanted to be a writer since I was 9. I wrote in high school–a lot of Civil War dramas that ended up at the bottom of my bedroom closet–I learned so much about the American Civil War that I could have taught a class at 16.

When I was in my 20′s, I dabbled and even managed to finish a manuscript while I was going to college and submitted it the old fashioned way, by postal mail. I received a lot of encouragement but looking back, I realized that that manuscript needed a lot of work.

In my 30′s I was busy getting married, having babies and working. My writing went on the back burner. Then when I turned 40 and we moved to Ireland, I knew for certain that I really wanted to concentrate on my writing. Those seven years turned out to be my most productive: I buckled down and wrote four manuscripts, proving not only that I could do it but that I had a lot to learn about my craft and that my writing could improve with each manuscript.

And all through my life, while I came in and out of writing, there was something inside me that pushed me not to give up on my dream. The fact that my writing journey has spanned almost 40 years from initial intent (circa 1975) to publication (approximately 2015) is not only astonishing to me but very ironic as well. I am by my very nature, a very impatient person. I want everything and everything done yesterday.

I have learned that enough desire and persistence can trump impatience any time.

About Michele Brouder

After living for seven years in Ireland, former Buffalonian, Michele Brouder now calls Florida home. Her first book, a YA paranormal, is due to be published sometime in 2014 for Harlequin E, Harlequin’s new digital format. Learn more from her contributor page.