New Review! Contest Ending!

29 05 2008

New review!

I’ve been forever posting this, as it turned up right before the RT conference, but I was very excited to get a review for my paperback anthology Hot and Bothered. Thanks Deb and Tess, who also have it posted on their blog: http://tessanddebrecommend.blogspot.com/2008/04/review-for-hot-and-bothered-by-kelsey.html

Hot and Bothered is an anthology that contains three of Kelsey’s stories, Reunion, Desirable Enemy, and Cooking with K.C.

Reunion is about a couple that met when they were younger but life and situations sent them their separate ways. Now, years later, their children are getting married to one another, and Sam and Allie are brought back together to wrap up and attend their children’s wedding. The sexual tension between them comes to a head which puts the two of them into hilarious situations which seem destined to keep them apart. Kelsey tells a wonderful story with this one.

Desirable Enemy takes place on another planet. Two enemies come together, one driven by her desire to heal, and the other, a prince, looking for answers and wanting to end the violence between the Ajindas and the Nor’euros. But someone will stop at nothing to be certain that doesn’t happen. Excellent story! Kelsey kept me on the edge of my seat wondering just why and who would do anything to stop Linnea and Rajan from succeeding. I am definitely looking forward to reading more of this world.

In Cooking with K.C., Kelsey offers some hot advice on what happens when a younger bad boy wants an older woman who seems resistant to his charms? How will he use K.C.’s catering against her to show how good it can be between them? Kelsey has a definite winner here with this story about what a man won’t do ultimately to get his hands on the woman next door. Extremely enjoyable.

Kelsey writes three very compelling, sensual romances in which the heros and heroines must overcome the odds dealt them. I would definitely recommend reading Kelsey Lewis. She is a very enjoyable read, and I look forward to reading more from her.

Contest ending!
All through the month of May, I’ve been featuring a contest where I’ll be drawing a name from those who leave me a comment on one of my blogs this month. The prize – a $10 gift certificate to Amber Quill Press (doesn’t get any better than that!) So – leave me a comment!
 
 

 

-Kelsey Lewis
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Grab them by the throat and never let go (writing a great first paragraph!)

16 05 2008

I get this terrific e-zine by a writer named Randy Ingermanson.  Here is a section from this week’s newsletter that I thought might interest people, on your novel’s first paragraph.

Creating: Your Novel’s First Paragraph

A few weeks ago, readers on my Advanced Fiction Writing Blog suggested that I critique the first chapters of their novels.

I thought that sounded like fun, so I invited them to post a first paragraph. More than 80 of them did, and I began critiquing one or two of them every day.  If you want to read some of those first paragraphs and the critiques that I made, check out this blog entry and those that follow:
http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/blog/2008/04/15/submit-your-first-paragraph-now/

It turned out to be more than just fun. In critiquing them, I was forced to think hard about what works and what doesn’t in a first paragraph.

Now let’s be clear on one thing: There aren’t any rules in a first paragraph. For just about every rule you can invent, I can find an outstanding opening paragraph in a published novel that violates your rule.

So there aren’t any rules except one — your first paragraph needs to compel the reader to read the next paragraph.

What makes a compelling first paragraph? Here is the one principle that came up again and again:

Principle #1: Bring your lead character for the scene on stage in action and in character.

A number of the paragraphs that I critiqued began with a description of the setting. That worked fine in nineteenth-century fiction, when readers were more tolerant of a page of description to set the stage.

The only problem is that those tolerant and patient nineteenth-century readers are all very tragically … dead.

Their pesky great-grandchildren are impatient devils who get bored by description.

The modern reader generally wants to meet your lead character NOW. In action and in character.

What do I mean by “in action?” I mean that the character needs to be doing something.

Far too many of the first paragraphs I read began with the lead character enmeshed in backstory — some long explanation of who the character is and how he got there.

That’s all very interesting, eventually. Great writers invariably create detailed backstories for their best characters. If you are going to write good fiction, you need to know your characters’ life histories.

But you don’t need to lay it all on the reader in the first paragraph. For that matter, the reader almost certainly doesn’t need to know any backstory on the first page. Probably, the reader doesn’t need much backstory at all in the first chapter.

Have you ever met somebody and in the first two minutes, they were launched on a long explanation of their life stories? Was it interesting? Did you care?

You have. It wasn’t. You didn’t.

The brutal fact is that you don’t care about Scarlett’s life history until you know Scarlett. Once you know Scarlett, then you MAY be interested in hearing about her backstory. (Or you may just want to jab her in the eyes.) But you don’t know until you’ve spent a little time with Scarlett — right now, in the present tense.

So bring your character on in action. But bring her on in character, also.

What do I mean by “in character?”

I mean that in that critical first paragraph, you need to show us something essential about your character.

If your lead character is a dull accountant who spends her evenings alphabetizing her coupons, then it’s misleading and unfair to the reader to bring her onstage in the middle of a helicopter chase. Or flirting with her married boss. Or breaking up an attempted mugging.

So what do you do with that accountant? Well, that’s up to you, but if you’re writing a novel about her, there must be something interesting about her. Normally, that “something” is tied in to what she wants.

Everybody wants something. Being perverse, most people want something that they can’t have.

Once you know what your lead character wants and can’t have, you have a story. The purpose of your first chapter is to key into that frustrated desire, whatever it is. By the end of the first chapter, your reader should know whether she wants to read this particular book about this particular character with this particular desire and this particular obstacle.

The purpose of your first page is to get the reader to read the whole first chapter. The purpose of the first paragraph is to get the reader to read the first page.

Let’s look at a nice example of this in the first Harry Potter book. The first chapter introduces us to the infant Harry Potter, who has somehow survived a murder attempt by the evil Lord Voldemort. Harry is “the Boy Who Lived” and Chapter One ends with an enormous question — why did Harry live?

It’s an extremely successful first chapter. How did J.K. Rowling get us to read that first chapter about this magical child? By introducing us first to Harry’s very ordinary Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia and Cousin Dudley, the wretched Dursleys.

By the end of page one, we know that the Dursleys have a terrible secret — there is something peculiar about Aunt Petunia’s sister, who married a man named Potter.  We don’t know what that secret is, but we care about that secret and want to find out what it is. We care enough that we MUST read the entire first chapter.

So page one is enormously successful also. By what magic did J.K. Rowling get us to read the first page? She did it with a great first paragraph. In that paragraph, we meet the Dursleys in character (although not in action):

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.”

Now the Dursleys are as dull a family as you could ever want. Not only are they dull, but they like it that way. Their main desire in life is to remain dull, to avoid anything strange or mysterious.

The reason paragraph one works is that it makes it immediately clear that the Dursleys are NOT going to get their wish. Something strange and mysterious is about to enter their life, and they don’t know it yet.

But the reader does. The first paragraph compels the reader to read the rest of the page, which reveals the lurking family secret with the Potter cousins. The first page compels the reader to finish the chapter, which introduces the mystery of “the Boy Who Lived.”

As I noted above, the first paragraph brings the Dursleys on in character, but not in action. The entire first page is narrative summary. Is that wrong?

No, because it works. For most writers, it wouldn’t work, but for J.K. Rowling, it did. If it works, use it, even if it doesn’t perfectly follow Randy’s Handy Dandy Rules of Writing. Don’t mess with what works.

If your first paragraph works, then run with it. If it doesn’t (and you know when it stinks like a dead muskrat), that’s when you go back to first principles. And the first principle is, in my opinion, this:

Bring your lead character on stage in character and in action.

****

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, “the Snowflake Guy,” publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 11,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit http://www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.





The One Power Tool That Will Easily, Instantly Ratchet Up Your Copy

12 05 2008

I came across this in my mailbox, and thought it was worth passing along.

The One Power Tool That Will Easily, Instantly Ratchet Up Your Copy
By Jennifer Stevens, Freelance Copywriter
This past week, a guy named Ben installed a new, high-efficiency furnace in our 109-year-old house. He came with a truck full of drills and wrenches and pipe and spent 11 hours revamping our antiquated heating system.

It required some plumbing, some electrical work, and some brute force. He met a few surprises along the way (to be expected in an old house like ours). But he had what he needed to get the job done. It was simply a matter of reaching, at each step, for the right tool. He reached, most often, for his electric drill. So many times, in fact, that the batteries died and he had to borrow my husband’s.

I edit more than 1,000 pages of copy a year. Some of it I write. Some of it others write and my clients hire me to “fix.” But when it comes right down to it, what I do isn’t that different from what Ben does.

He tinkers with furnaces. I tinker with words.

Like Ben, I have a box full of tools. Some I use to fine-tune an idea or bring a more logical flow to an argument.

Others come in handy when I want to fiddle with the way an idea is expressed. Often, in the copy I’m dealing with, the core idea is good. It’s just that the writer’s language gets in the way of it.

In that situation, I find myself reaching for one tool more than any other: the good verb. It’s like my “electric drill.” It’s powerful. And with it, I can instantly and tidily fix lots of different problems.

When a newer copywriter says to me, “I’m finding it overwhelming to try to remember everything at once. If I could just concentrate on fixing one thing in my writing, at least for now, what would you tell me to focus on?”

I always respond, “Your verbs.”

Because when your verbs are strong, your reader is able to envision what you’re talking about in his own mind. He’s engaged.

And when your verbs are strong, your writing is tighter. Because you can say what you need to say using fewer words.

And when you use fewer words, you get to your point faster and your ideas shine through more clearly.

And – assuming your ideas are good – that makes for the most powerful kind of copy.

Add instant power and pro-level polish to your copy

Here’s how to put verbs to work for you:

Banish the verb “to be.” (That’s “is,” “am,” “are,” “was,” and “were.”) Now, naturally, you can’t get rid of it entirely. But go through your copy systematically – sentence by sentence – and when you come to “is,” “am,” “are,” “was,” or “were,” replace it if you can.
Replace it with verbs that are more vibrant … active, descriptive verbs that help you paint a picture for your reader.
So instead of saying:

“AWAI is opening the door for you, preparing you to enter, and even showing you what to do when you’re in the room.”

Say:

“AWAI flings open the door for you, prepares you to waltz through, and even shows you what to do once you get in the room.”

See how “flings open” is more active than “is opening,” and how “waltz” is more descriptive than “enter”? And when you eliminate that “is” early in the sentence, you can trim the “ing” off all those other words later. It “tightens up” the language and helps a reader move through the sentence faster.

Here’s another example. Instead of:

“There are four powerful ingredients in this one formula, which means you’ll be trading four horse pills for one small, powerful remedy.” (22 words)

Try this:

“Packed with four powerful ingredients, this formula lets you replace four horse pills with one small, potent remedy.” (18 words)

If a sentence begins with “there is” or “there are,” that should trigger a fix. You can almost always recast it – and make it stronger – by using a better verb. And, more times than not, the fix lets you trim a few words too.

Here’s another example. Instead of:

“What’s amazing is the regions along the coast are just now being discovered and developed. Today, a fairly small group of Europeans have the beaches of this tropical coast to themselves. They’re buying beachfront lots for $16,500 and beachfront condos for $67,000.” (42 words)

How about:

“Amazingly, this coast sits largely undiscovered and undeveloped. A small group of Europeans has this tropical stretch of beaches to themselves. They buy beachfront lots for $16,500 and beachfront condos for $67,000. You can too.” (35 words)

When you go to eliminate “to be” from a sentence, you force yourself to really think about what you’re trying to say… and the best way to say it.

It’s the ideal first tool to reach for when you go to “tighten up” your copy or “trim unnecessary words.”

Because when you improve your verbs, you automatically improve other things as well. By recasting a sentence to incorporate a more power-packed verb, you move other words around. And, as a result, you usually leave out the words you don’t need.

You let your good ideas shine through more clearly. And that makes for more effective copy.

This article appears courtesy of The Golden Thread, an e-letter from AWAI that delivers original, no-nonsense advice on how to build your freelance copywriting business. For a free subscription, visit http://www.awaionline.com/thegoldenthread