Saga of a Romantic Saga

A continuing saga of one writer's quest to reach an audience.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Books that keep you up all night.

Two books kept me up all night.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I was 14 and it was part of the school curriculum. I remember, all these years later, curling up in a chair reading and watching the sky outside become paler and paler.

I loved that book. The story, the characters remain vivid, most likely helped by the terrific Gregory Peck movie that followed.

My second all-nighter was Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I was 25, married with two children, and once again I saw the sunrise as I closed the book. GWTW had been around for years, yet I avoided it for some unknown reason. Then a friend lent me her copy and it became, "the book you can't put down."

I've read many compelling books since, many that I could have stayed up reading, but ended up putting down with a pang of regret. I've often stayed up well past midnight, but didn't have the need to keep reading through the night, desperate to find out what happened next, how the story ended.

Many books have that compelling urgency. Some have hanging-by-the-fingernails tension, dire conflict, and in romance especially, a will-they-or-won't-they-make-it darkest hour. I've been tempted to read the last page to find out, but I don't allow myself to do this. When I open a book I've made a contract with the writer, and unless it's simply terrible and I give up, I will read through to the end.

Will any of my books prove to be an all-nighter for some readers? 

– Cat


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Another overused word

I discovered another word lurking in my prose to add to the list of my overused words.

I was reading the story for the trillionth time and noticed the word most in the same paragraph as the word almost.

Got rid of the echo and did a word search.

I can't say there were thousands or even hundreds. But there were too many instances, the majority  unnecessary. I removed most [see how I use it?] of the mosts.  I found the removal made no difference to the meaning I was trying to convey. And it tightened my writing.

If the word was being used by a character in dialogue or thought, I left it, for then it became part of that character's personality and manner of speech.  Much like the words  very, some, really, actually, nearly, and similar quantifiers that are vague can be superfluous.

And I do try to limit my use of adverbs.

– – Cat

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Finding the Flavor

When someone asked me what I thought of the last book I read, I said right away, "It had flavor."

Maybe she thought I ate it.

I explained it had to do with the story and the writing evoking a feeling. The characters were true to, not just themselves, but the setting and the time. The atmosphere was right.

Yes, I could've said the story was realistic, well researched, the author used the proper syntax, and made use of all the senses...

But I like the single word flavor.

And just like some books can leave a bad taste in your mouth, this one tasted just fine.

It had flavor.


Found on the web:

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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Editing problem

It was chapter 13. [Spooked by the number, maybe?]
And it wasn't working for me. 

It usually doesn't occur to me that the problem lies with the POV [point of view].

I thought I had it nailed. Seemed logical to continue using the POV from the previous chapter. As I edited, however, it was apparent some nails had been wrenched out, leaving gaping holes.

Filling those holes without interrupting the flow proved difficult.
But changing from Her POV to His saved the day. Or the chapter, to be more precise.

I didn't have to change the events. Only the manner in which the POV character sees them, how they affect him.

And as previously she had to interpret his actions, now he will interpret hers. For this chapter it works better this way.

There may be future chapters or scenes in which I'll need to do this. I need to remember my original draft was not written in stone. That's why it's called a draft.

– Cat

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Friday, July 08, 2016

Characters with depth

I watched figure skating  and noticed the best skaters bring more than skill to their performances.

They bring emotional depth. They connect with the audience. They resonate in a way that's long remembered.

How does this relate to writing?

I remember best those novels that made the emotional connection. I was a kid staying up all night to read To Kill A Mockingbird. And some years later did the same with Gone With The Wind. I devoured works by Mary Stewart, Helen MacInnes, Frank Yerby, Sidney Sheldon, Harold Robbins, Taylor Caldwell, on and on . . .

I traveled the world in books, relived history from the age of dinosaurs through wars and beyond, leaped into a future limited only by the writer's imagination. Much excitement, yes, but none of these books would be memorable to me if I hadn't felt an emotional connection to the characters.

How many novels did I read with pounding heart and fear that characters X and Y might not make it? [I wouldn't allow myself to check the last page.] And before it became a given that Romance novels ended happily-ever-after, I sweated through that black moment of despair along with X and Y.

I don't often relive those breathtaking moments; age has jaded me. Yet there are books I close and think, "Whew, what a read," or, more rarely, "I loved it."

I've read many books in which the characters walk through without leaving an impression. I'm not sorry I spent money on those books, I'm sorry the authors toiled for months or years on the novel and failed.

Failed with me, anyway.

Writer's quotes:

If you will practice being fictional for a while, you will understand that fictional characters are sometimes more real than people with bodies and heartbeats.
--Richard Bach

I have found it easier to identify with the characters who verge upon hysteria, who were frightened of life, who were desperate to reach out to another person. But these seemingly fragile people are the strong people really.
--Tennessee Williams


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Monday, June 06, 2016



The first historical romance I wrote, a behemoth of 900 pages, single spaced, remains a fond memory. An abandoned fond memory.

I'll say one thing for myself as ambitious writer -- I was bold if I thought that novel might be published. I wrote with a lot of passion, a great thesaurus, and although I could tell the difference between good writing and bad, my own tended more to the purple side and exhibited a lot of ignorance about structure and plot development.

I started with every character's backstory.
At about page 200, the story began. I thought.

At page 300 the main characters finally met.

And so it went, until years later, older and somewhat wiser, I reluctantly put it down. RIP.

(I still begin each new story with backstory, but I've learned to place that part into an Outtakes folder for reference, and start where that particular story actually starts.)

I then began work on a story I'd vaguely plotted in my head. The beginning and end were clear. I wrote scenes in no particular order, planning to organize them at some point. Scenes multiplied as the story took shape, some elements morphing several times as new characters, new dramas arrived, stayed, or departed.

At some point I needed to list the scenes in order, so I created a rough point by point outline, adding one sentence prompts that would join the scenes I'd written.

This wasn't good enough. I needed a timeline to ensure the drought scene happened in summer, the blizzard happened in winter.

First off--the date the story began and a brief description of the event: example--train derails, A & B meet.

It became important to put the main characters' dates of birth in the timeline to keep track of their ages. Also, their parents and siblings, and various other characters.

Each important plot event received an appropriate date, so on it went.

Ordering my scenes became easy. Adding important ones and taking out needless ones made sense.

And I had the makings of an outline that came together out of necessity.

My timelines have all become outlines, usually after the fact.

To outline or not in advance is up to the writer, who learns what works for him/her. Here are four authors' takes on outlines:

I'm one of those writers who tends to be really good at making outlines and sticking to them. I'm very good at doing that, but I don't like it. It sort of takes a lot of the fun out.
--Neil Gaiman

The outline is 95 percent of the book. Then I sit down and write, and that's the easy part.
--Jeffery Deaver

The research is the easiest. The outline is the most fun. The first draft is the hardest, because every word of the outline has to be fleshed out. The rewrite is very satisfying.
--Ken Follett

In fiction, you have a rough idea what's coming up next - sometimes you even make a little outline - but in fact you don't know. Each day is a whole new - and for me, a very invigorating - experience.
--Peter Matthiessen

– Cat

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Déjà vu

I may not have noticed it so much had I not read the books back to back.

Two Historical Romances by authors living in different countries, both published in 2009 by different publishers, yet the stories so similar the writers could have been following a template.

Handsome noble tortured hero - check

Beautiful determined heroine - check

Dastardly relatives in need of heroine's inheritance attempt to force her to marry a friend who will share the wealth - check

For her safety, hero must spirit heroine to his isolated country home near the ocean - check

With the love and support of heroine, hero undergoes a harrowing catharsis, meets his demons, and is cured - check

Pages of steamy love scenes - check

HEA - of course

Both books are well-written, have unique individual style, a good sense of place and time, and unobtrusive yet endearing secondary characters.

But I would have enjoyed the second book more had I not read the first, or had more time elapsed between readings.

Not the authors' faults. Not the reader's either. I guess I'll chalk this up to coincidence, and the limitations of the genre.

This all gives me pause in my own writing. One of my works in progress knowingly contains an oft-used plot device as a subplot, and my job is to twist it so it doesn't seem business as usual.

Hopefully the characters will assist me with this task.

~Where did I read that there are only five or so different plots and all the good ones are gone?