Tuesday, October 21, 2014

One Editor's Top 7 Revision Notes by Harlequin Senior Editor Victoria Curran






Happy seventh birthday, Seekervillians (if I may call you that)! I’m delighted to be here to help celebrate the occasion. I was pleased to see one of our Harlequin Heartwarming authors, Roz Denny Fox, here a month or two ago, and she discussed a lot of the specifics about our series. Me, I’m thinking in sevens, so I’ve decided to share my top seven recurring revision notes, which are the same whether I’m editing sweet romances, inspirational or something a little hotter.



Disclaimer: I’m deeply aware that I have never written a novel and I have a huge respect for those of you who can create a story that’s thousands of words long and has a beginning, a middle and an end…let alone obstacle and romantic tension and self-motivated characters who take an unpredictable journey to that predictable happy ending!

Heartwarming Romance, October Release
In my 11-plus years at Harlequin, I have some advice I seem to repeat and it relies heavily on seven resources (see how I worked that in again?):

     Robert McKee, STORY
     Renni Browne and Dave King, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
     Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style (which one of my copy editing colleagues tells me is out of date but I refuse to believe her)
     Donald Maas, Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook
     Stephen King, On Writing
     Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey
     EL James, Fifty Shades of Gray

#1 Resist the Urge to Explain (RUE).

Thank you Renni Browne and Dave King for this invaluable acronym. Trust readers to get the point faster and say what you’re trying to say in much less. It’s more satisfying to get from A to Z without hitting the entire alphabet.

However, I think this is probably a case of not having the time to go back over the books and pare the words and ideas…or to gain objectivity from the work…enough to see the instances where you’ve shown something well and don’t need the accompanying internalization that explains it, or when a scene seems to be active, opening in the middle of something, but then stops to provide the backstory that led to this moment. (I’m big on need-to-know only, please.)

Credenza Pete, one of Victoria's cats...  How much do you love this picture????  How cute is it?
Stinkin' cute!
Stephen King wrote in his book On Writing that it wasn’t until he was finished writing a story that he knew what it was about and then he rewrote it based on the discovery he made by the end of his first draft. At the pace of romance publishing, I’d love to meet the author who has that kind of time!

#2 Never use tummy when stomach will do.

In this Strunk & White rule, the idea is cute word choice can call attention to itself. I am a huge advocate of using words that serve the story rather than pull us out of it to think about the words. (A little brogue goes a long way, as they say in Historicals!) And while we’re at it, I confess I don’t even know what a cliché is anymore. As long as the words and ideas don’t pull me out of the story, they work well.

Heartwarming Romance October release 
#3: Let’s rough your characters up more.

From tracking research our readers have told us: “If you know from the first page the lovers will end up together it spoils the story. There has to be conflict, not too much sweetness…. I hate predictable reads that are flat, lacking in highs and lows.”

Rules #2 and #3 seem to go arm and arm. My authors know I don’t like the term “sweet romance” since, even though it’s recognized in the industry as meaning a romance without sex, in practice it propels writers toward kitten and puppy dog plotting, flowers and sunshine: a polite journey to a predictable happy ending…when we’re looking for stories that make readers wonder how on earth the pair will ever get together. Clean stories need to be as exciting as edgier sexy ones.

I am one of the biggest animal lovers out there, proud caregiver to four cats, but as an editor, I like to see stray kittens or puppies when they have a reason to be in the story beyond their sweet factor.

Will Feral 
A former Superromance author of mine also wrote for Love Inspired and they were some of the darkest, redemptive romances I’ve ever had the pleasure to edit. Yes, please: go there!

#4 Let’s find ways to eliminate the coincidence.

Find the misunderstandings and coincidences and imposed plotting and turn them around so they’re driven by the leads. For instance:

*What if, instead of the ex-boyfriend entering the story near the end to ratchet up the tension (predictable external device usually because inner obstacle is gone), why not let the heroine call him in? Instead of imposing plot on characters, motivate them to provoke the action.

*Currently the hero’s faced with falling off the wagon, thinks about the heroine and how good she is and how much she has changed him…and doesn’t drink. But the heroine sees him in the bar and thinks he drank. This leads to hero not confronting her but leaving town in a petulant reaction to her misunderstanding.  Well, what if the hero did take the drink, and then we cut to the heroine finding him over the empty bottle and him seeing the disappointment in her eyes before she walks out. Then her concerns are real, and the hero must redeem himself in her eyes. Motivation that was surface becomes deeper.

#5 Motivate your characters and then let them act based on those motivations.

Most writers create fresh, interesting characters and an intriguing premise to launch a story…but too often the characters soon cast off the constraints of their motivation and act in ways that are mysterious to them based on their “unexpected” attraction to the other. Well, it may be unexpected to them, but it’s clichéd and predictable to the reader. If a story stays true to the rich characterization, the characters will drive the action and I probably won’t be able to predict each step, which is fantastic!

From our tracking research: “Characters with strong identities/personalities save a story from cliché every time… I prefer it when characters grow through action and reaction rather than too much deep soul searching… “

#6 Is this scene really about what it appears to be about or is there something else going on here?

As McKee tells us, “‘If the scene is about what the scene is about, you’re in deep [trouble].’"…

Writing this, for example: Two attractive people sit opposite each other at the candlelit table, the light glinting off the crystal wineglasses and the dewy eyes of the lovers. Soft breezes billow the curtain. A Chopin nocturne plays in the background. The lovers reach across the table, touch hands, look longingly in each others’ eyes, say, ‘I love you, I love you,”…and actually mean it. This scene…will die like a rat in the road.”

There’s a section in Donald Maas’s book about the tea scene and how, if it’s only there for BFF support and for the heroine to rehash the romance, cut it. But if there’s something else going on between the two characters in that scene, really flesh out what each wants from the other. Because even the BFF needs to want something.

#7 How can we raise the stakes in the romance?

The highest stakes, according to McKee is that by choosing love the hero and heroine stand to lose that one thing they want more than life itself.

I can usually tell what the hero and heroine have to gain in choosing love. It’s much less often I see a strong obstacle to love that takes the entire book to get past. And that’s sometimes when the villain steps in to mess with the hero and heroine, providing the tension and stakes. That’s traditional storytelling. But contemporary romance readers want the tension and stakes to come from between the hero and heroine as much as from the external plotting. They want love to cost the leads and for them to have to struggle to earn the happy ending.



I can’t resist quoting McKee: “Pressure is essential. Choices made when nothing is at risk mean little. If a character chooses to tell the truth in a situation where telling a lie would gain him nothing, the choice is trivial, the moment expresses nothing. But if the same character insists on telling the truth when a lie would save his life, then we sense that honesty is at the core of his nature.”

We all know this, right? But that’s where Fifty Shades of Grey taught me a lesson in stakes. In choosing love, the heroine risked death at the hands of a man who warned her he would hurt her, and she has no idea how far he’ll carry that threat. How much harder is it for a contemporary clean romance writer to achieve that level of high stakes!

I’d love to find out from the authors on this blog if you have any advice on how to ratchet up the romantic tension when sex is not an option. And to readers checking in, please tell me if you agree with my editing advice or whether I should read some more how-to-edit books because you want those kitten and puppy dog tummies!

Best wishes,


Victoria

Ruthy here! 

Victoria, thank you for this gold mine of straightforward information... I love it! 

Folks, feel free to pepper Victoria with questions and/or toss your ideas out there! She's cute, funny and very approachable! This is your chance to explore a fun, different, fresh form of fiction for today's reader... and even though I'm excising KITTENS from all stories, (that's totally untrue, I just wrote some barn kittens into a book... SIGH...) 


"Lucy"
I think you'd love working with this woman! 

Coffee's inside, maple cakes and apple fritters, too, and we've got BOOKS
to tempt you into examining Heartwarming more closely! 

Victoria has brought 2 4-packs of Heartwarming Romance's October releases....


and we're offering SEVEN FREE HEARTWARMING E-BOOKS of your choice! Leave a comment (and yes, ask questions!) to have your name thrown into the very clean cat dish!!!  :)

And Victoria, thanks so much for being with us today, and giving us a great look at "Heartwarming" and one of the wonderful editors behind it!

186 comments:

Marianne Barkman said...

Yep, you've got my thoughts as a reader, Victoria. Thanks for having her, Ruthy. So glad number seven stuck in her mind!

Helen Gray said...

Thanks for sharing your revision tips. This is another printer-offer!

There's plenty of coffee.
Let the party continue!!!

Christy Olesen said...

This post is sparking ideas. Thanks, Victoria.

P.S. I love the kitten pictures!

Tina Radcliffe said...

WELCOME VICTORIA!!!


You had me at the first cat.


SHE SAID CUT THE TEA SCENE FOLKS!!!


Can I have an ....AMEN????

Terri said...

Wonderful advice! Thanks for sharing. Taking Ruthy's advice and tossing a question out there.

Are you open to quirky small towns? My hero and heroine want very different things for their hometown and are running against each other for mayor.

And sorry, but I do have cute animals. Pot bellied pigs.

Oh, I stopped by Panera Bread and brought bagels and cream cheese.

Terri said...

I should mention the pigs figure heavily into the story.

Terri said...

Tina - I'll give you an amen!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Terri did you bring bagels for us or for the pigs?

Cindy W. said...

Good morning Victoria! You state in your #3, “If you know from the first page the lovers will end up together it spoils the story. There has to be conflict, not too much sweetness…. I hate predictable reads that are flat, lacking in highs and lows.” When I read a book, especially by an author I am familiar with, I usually know from the beginning that the two main characters will get together and I know there will be conflict. Are you saying that in that first meeting there has to be a lot of conflict? My current WIP brings two ex-sweethearts together within the first couple of pages and the sparks are flying as they don't want to be in that situation. But because it is a sweet story, I'm afraid the reader will know right off that they will end up together even with the conflict.

Thank you for sharing today! Have a wonderful blessed day!

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Gooooooooood Morning, Seekerville!

CUT THE TEA SCENES!!!! AND NO ONE SHOULD EVER MOSEY ANYWHERE, I EXPECT!

I knew we'd all relate to the "cut the tea scenes", but what I loved was how concisely Victoria tied in the high stakes factor.

How do you raise the stakes in a non-sensual manner and yet evoke that sense of risk?

That one thought makes me look harder and longer at my work, but another great point Victoria made is time... when you're writing romance, the quick delivery time does cut into the subtle nuance time.

I try to do that with the first edit, to slice and dice what I may have missed before, and I find that helps me. But there's always something to miss!

BAGELS! YES! Thank you, Terri! :)

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Victoria. Thank you for this meaty post. I will be using your advice.

Cute kittens! Yet as you point out, animals in our stories must have a purpose. Everything that's there must have a purpose.

What do I use to ratchet up the sexual tension? Strong backstory helps. Conflicting goals helps. Secrets help. Not easy to keep them attracted yet make readers question their HEA.

Janet

Mary Hicks said...

Great post, thanks for sharing, Victoria!
I Love the kitty pictures.;-)

Janet Dean said...

So, we need the relationship to produce a threat of a death of sorts. Not a physical death, but the death of a goal, a dream, something vital to the character.

Janet

Jackie said...

Hi Victoria,

I like Seekervillians. I live in Wilmore, KY and we've been called Wilmorons.

Thanks so much for the tip on keeping the conflict between the hero and heroine. I'm plotting my next story now, and that helps a lot.

You asked how to ratchet up romantic tension when sex is not involved...
When there is attraction and chemistry and either the hero or heroine are not a Christian.
The heroine thinks she can change the hero to being a better guy.

That's my first thoughts before the caffeine kicks in.

Thanks so much for stopping by.

Jackie said...

Victoria,

When you say you prefer action over deep soul searching, do you mean through actions dislike turns to like. Then fight the attraction. Then more action and then an ah-ha moment?

Thanks.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Victoria, we're laughing about the tea scenes because both Charlene Patterson and Tina Radcliffe did posts last week advising to CUT THE TEA SCENES!!!

And I remember my first book started with a TEA SCENE!!!!!

AAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH

I had so much to learn!

Rose said...

I'm with Helen. Great tips worth printing off for future reference.

So, Victoria, do you have certain story lines you'd like to see? High school sweethearts reunited? Cowboys and city girls? Secret children?

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Pigs love bagels. They love bread, sweets, rolls, cookies, treats.... This should be a lesson to us! :)

There's a reason pigs get plump!

Karen Kirst said...

Great tips, Victoria! There's always something to learn. Cutting a tea scene from my synopsis now....

As for conflict, I recently put a book down after the heroine said in the first chapter that she was desperately in love with the hero and would wait for him forever. And from the blurb, it was clear the hero was already in love with her. I don't want to read about characters who admit their feelings in the beginning of the book.

Audra Harders said...

Victoria, thank you for joining us in Seekerville!

Victoria said: Clean stories need to be as exciting as edgier sexy ones.

Yes, yes, yes! In writing inspirational and sweet romances, our job is to grip the reader just as fiercely with our emotions, determiniations and choices. Make it a page turner!!

Anybody out there read Julie Lessman?? The queen of edgy knows how to suck in her reader and never let go.

Audra Harders said...

Thanks for the bagels, Terri! Mmmm, I brought apple and pumpkin butter for those to like to slather, LOL.

I love including animals in my stories, but rarely are they puppies and kittens. I'm surrounded by livestock, so give me a pig anyday!

Terri, I've got the full size models, not the sportier pot-bellied ones : )

Audra Harders said...

Wilmorons. I'll be giggling over this one all day : )

Jackie Smith said...

Welcome Victoria...enjoyed your post...and cute pics of the kittens!
I am a reader so Count me in the drawing, please!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Karen Kirst, I'm laughing out loud!

I think it's all in the spin... Take "The Princess Bride", for example. Wesley and Buttercup declare their undying love in the opening minutes, then spend the rest of the amazingly wonderful movie getting back together... Via giants, screaming eels, sorcery, Miracle Max, and a very strong gate and legion of men who run at the sight of a flaming monster!!!!

I think anything CAN BE DONE in certain context, but it's up to the author to do it so well as to command the editor's and reader's attention!

So if it's L-A-M-E (and if this was my book it is okay to NOT SAY IT OUT LOUD, DARLING!!!!!) then toss the book across the room.

But every now and again an author comes around and breaks the rules, thereby making New Rules.

:)

And in writing, that can be a very good thing!

Sally Shupe said...

Love this post! Lots of good information, and from the comments as well.

God nudge here, I think. Just last night, I was talking to my daughter about what she'd like to see in a romance. She is a senior in high school, so feels the heroines are too old in the romances I read and have started writing lol. She'd like ones more age appropriate, going through things she is or will be going through in the next few years. When she was younger, I wrote short stories with her and my son as the main characters, kind of like Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys meets Goosebumps. They were about 10 pages long, and I thought, cute lol. I still read them when I come across them.

But, is there a market for romances with heroes/heroines between the ages of 17-22, before they've started a career, or even know what they want for their future? I'm not sure I'm even wording this correctly. Anyway, as we were talking, I was praying and said next time there's a relatable topic here I would ask. And here it is lol.

I saw a comment the other day about college age romances. How could that be set up? Hero/heroine still living at home, live in dorms, part-time jobs, meet in class, etc. Would that even work? I'm thinking the end of the book wouldn't be with them getting married, but maybe more of a knowing they'll be together, leaving them planning a wedding or something.

What are your ideas or thoughts about this?

Wilani Wahl said...

A great post and one I need save and refer often to. I hope everyone has a great day!

Helen said...

I'm not sure my earlier post showed up so I'll just reiterate my thanks to both Victoria and Ruth. Great post. Very helpful.

Rhonda Starnes said...

Thank you, Victoria! Your tips come at the perfect time for me as I'm currently working on my first R&R. I think I'll print off the list and tape it close to my computer for future reference.

Jill Kemerer said...

Bookmarking this one!! (Partly because of the adorable kitty pictures but mostly because of the great advice!)
I love your point about having the characters be true to their motivations. It's something I'm working on, and it's a little scary for me when my heroine goes rogue! But if her action makes sense based on the motivation, I trust it. :) Thanks for the great tips!!

Cindy Regnier said...

Great post - you wrote #1 (that RUE thing) for me! Tina has called that spoonfeeding the reader and I'm guilty. Thanks for cracking that whip. My question is about number 3. When a reader picks up a romance novel, does she not already know the characters will end up falling in love before she even reads the first word? I suspect this is an art I have not perfected - putting that doubt in the reader's mind because of the conflict, even though their logical self knows all be resolved for HEA. Right?

Dana Grimaldi said...

Hi, Sally,
It sounds like you're describing New Adult fiction. Here's the call for New Adult submissions from Carina Press (Harlequin's digital-first imprint). http://carinapress.com/blog/2012/10/now-acquiring-new-adult-at-carina-press/
All the best,
Dana

Sherri Shackelford said...

I put sticky notes on my computer screen that say:

I can't love him because (fill in the blank)
and
I can't love her because (fill in the blank)

The notes keep me focused if I start to drift. (I'm a drifter :) Also, those weren't my ideas - they're from Cheryl St.John's teachings.

kaybee said...

Good thoughts, VICTORIA.
I have managed to cut the tea scenes from my WIP, but today I need to go back and get rid of a couple of Reflection scenes. Sigh. I do need to do some plot work. My hero, Pace Williams, is ready to give up the life of a drifter and settle down with the beautiful Oona Moriarty, whom he loves deeply, but he's haunted by the past and wonders if his old enemies will find him. (They will.) Oona has fallen for Pace and wants to have a life with him, but first she's determined to go back to Ireland and avenge the landlord for the loss of her family. Neither one can let go of their past. But when the ancient enemies catch up with Pace, Oona must choose between him and Ireland. I've got the "bones" but need to make it better.
Good ideas here.
KB

Victoria Curran said...

Good morning, guys! I thought I posted an hour ago, but I don't see it... I totally forgot I had a 9 a.m. meeting. I'm just buckling in now! (25 messages before 9 a.m....you guys are serious!!!)

kaybee said...

YEAH, about that...I was briefly in a crit group with a woman who said my concept was "bland and predictable" because she knew Pace and Oona would get together in the end. Isn't that what a romance IS? I know we have to throw obstacles in their way and I'm a huge believer in that, but with the conventions of romance, how can they do anything BUT get together?
Kathy Bailey
Putting it all together in NH and hoping she can remember where she left it.

Victoria Curran said...

Thanks, Helen. Maybe the cat pics are a bit intrusive? Hope you guys weave animals better into your stories than I did here!

kaybee said...

I made a great apple pie yesterday and whanged out a second one for Seekerville. Apple pie with an Apple Crisp topping instead of the second crust. Made both the pie and the topping with Splenda, so it's okay for a tiny treat for us diabetics. Maple and apple rule! On some days, they even edge out chocolate.
KB

Victoria Curran said...

Thanks, Christy. Will Feral is new to the family and he's still pretty wild. I live for the day I can clip his claws. (I hesitate to clip the others now because they may need the self-defense while I'm at work!)

Victoria Curran said...

Well, take everything I say with a grain of salt! Sometimes a good tea scene can be exactly what a book needs. As long as there's subtext and motivations playing out. Too often it's recap and voicing doubts (which readers are privy to in internalization, so it's repetitive).

BTW: I wrote a blog last month on imbuing secondary characters with life to make sure that bff sipping tea feels like she's living outside the pages she shows up on. If you're interested, I refer to Rob Lowe's bio near the bottom...because I think writers can take lessons from the acting world:
http://bit.ly/1whT8gN

Gail Gaymer Martin said...

Thanks again for sharing these tips. I have found the books listed as excellent resources for writers. I have learned from all of them except the last two which I haven't read and I use them for support when I'm presenting workshops on writing fiction. I particularly liked the reminder of finding something important the person must give up for love. I use secrets and perhaps independence but there is so much more and I'm inspired to use this in one of my upcoming novels. Thanks again.

Sally Shupe said...

Thanks, Dana!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Let's review the guidelines for Heartwarming this am peeps.

Heartwarming Key Elements
•Clean, emotional, satisfying romances that readers can feel comfortable sharing with their mothers, daughters or granddaughters
•Romance, family and community are strong features of these stories
•Characters demonstrate traditional values, but exhibit flaws and overcome hurdles similar to those in other contemporary series romances
•Conflict between the main characters should be an emotional one, arising naturally from the story
•Plots unfold in a wholesome style and voice that excludes explicit sex or nudity, pre-marital sex, profanity, or graphic depictions of violence: references to violent incidents or pre-marital sex in the past are acceptable if they contribute to character development
•Physical interactions (i.e. kissing/hugging) should emphasize emotional tenderness rather than sexual desire or sensuality: low level of sexual tension; characters should not make love unless they are married
•No paranormal
•No explicit religious or Christian content
•Word count of 70,000 to 75,000 allows for breadth and complexity of story, and development of compelling sub-plots.

Victoria Curran said...

Yes, we're all about the quirky small towns at Heartwarming, for sure. Author Kristine Rolofson's Willing to Wed series is set in Willing, Montana, where there aren't enough women for the number of bachelors...so they create a reality TV show to try to marry off all the bachelors! Willing is about as quirky as they come.

Years back I edited a wonderful Superromance by Australian-based Joan Kilby that featured pigs. I don't think they were pot-bellied but they had distinctive markings and they helped make the story. (Did I mention I'm a vegetarian because of my great love of pigs? And birds?)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Hey, Peeps! Here's Victoria's clickable link for the link above: Link to Last Month's Blog!

Victoria Curran said...

Hi, Cindy! I skimmed these questions earlier and I know someone further down the line has the perfect answer to your question, but I'll do this in order (I'm a deadline kind of girl...guess I'm in the perfect job).

Yes, in a romance that happy ending is pretty much guaranteed, there's no escaping it. The trick is finding unexpected and unpredictable twists and turns on the journey to that predictable ending.

When I say twists and turns, I don't mean that has to be knife-wielding crazies coming out of the blue kind of plotting. The best twists and turns, in my mind, are when the hero and heroine act to pursue the goals they had before the romance began. So if the heroine is determined to be the new vice-president of research before she meets the hero and he's a country hick who might ruin her chances at the promotion...we see her trying her best to avoid hero/chase hero away/downplay her feelings for him to her circle, which could involve humiliating him...which could make her feel terrible about herself but still: she wants that promotion.

So do you see how motivated characters can bring tension into the romance by being true to themselves? Characterization will lead to unexpected and unpredictable moments in the plotting and in the romance--and add that romantic tension.

Not to be mistaken with a lot of bickering! I'm not a fan of bickering to create tension. I'm a huge fan of motivation and striving to achieve goals.

Victoria Curran said...

Good morning, Ruth! Thanks for hosting me here.
(Is it just me or does it feel like the world is spinning way too fast? Or maybe the deadlines are just getting tighter and tighter...)

Victoria Curran said...

Amen, Janet: strong backstory and conflicting goals. Sometimes secrets work really well, but sometimes I find that the romance can be a bit flat until the revelation of the secret because it's all internalized on one of the character's parts: so what creates active obstacle until the secret comes out? My hat is off to writers who can do this really well, but how you guys do it--building romantic tension and raising the stakes BEFORE the secret comes out--is beyond me!

Victoria Curran said...

Thanks, Mary!

Victoria Curran said...

Janet, that's exactly it! I took McKee's three-day Story workshop and he used Titanic as a good example of this. In the movie the heroine believes she's one type of person--primarily a kept woman. The hero is forcing her to accept she's not the person she believes herself to be. Which means that to love the hero, she has to give up who she thinks she is--which is a form of death and she struggles hard against it.

Man, McKee says this so much better than me!

Elaine Manders said...

Thanks Victoria and Ruthy for explaining Heartwarming. I've been reading romance for more years than I'll admit and I write just historical and suspense, but the 7 rules apply to all romance. My problem with reading romance, if I have one, is #5. Motivation that isn't realistic, but the HEA is worth it, so I keep reading.

Myra Johnson said...

That's an interesting way of stating it, Janet! You started my brain cells working! (Which is no easy task before noon.)

Missy Tippens said...

What a fantastic post, Victoria! Thank so much for sharing with us today. And for making it so fun. I'm still laughing at kitten and puppy tummies!

And now I need to print out all this advice. And pull out all those how-to books.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hello Victoria and welcome to Seekerville. Thanks so much for stopping by and giving us such great tips and insights.For someone who doesn't claim to know writing, you sure do know a reader's heart. Smile I really love your Heartwarming series. And Roz Denny Fox is one of my favs.
Thanks again for joining us for our birthday celebration.

Myra Johnson said...

Thanks, Tina!

Victoria Curran said...

Jackie, I think you've hit on one of the reasons that Inspirational romance has high stakes built into it: redeeming the character who's fallen off the Christianity wagon. Even if one of them hasn't fallen off the wagon, there's a higher code characters have to answer to.

So what if you're writing sweet romance that's not inspirational? If that higher code of Christianity isn't in the story, what makes the stakes high?

Sandra Leesmith said...

oh yes, Forgot to mention. I put some feral cats in my novella that we just finished. sigh. Probably just a rub the tummy moment, but we did learn a heroine reaction in the scene so hope that counts.

Terri said...

Victoria - while I'm not a vegetarian, I don't eat pork. I saw a program on a pot bellied pig rescue organization and they are so cute and were so loving.

Tina - most the bagels are for the pigs, but I brought enough for the humans too. 🐖

Victoria Curran said...

You know what, Jackie, that was actually me quoting readers from research we've conducted. I think a good balance of action, dialogue and internalization need to come together. I do have authors who are brilliant at what I lovingly call "psychobabble". Often I will suggest they get out of the characters' heads more...but deeply motivated characters often have rich internalization. I'm good with that!

Missy Tippens said...

Sounds delicious, Kathy!

Missy Tippens said...

I love that idea! Thanks Cheryl and Sherri!

Sally Shupe said...

I read the submission guidelines, but after reading the comments on that page, that's not what I write. They specifically don't want inspirational themes. That's what I write. What I'm referring to is something between young adult and contemporary, still faith-based filled with faith, forgiveness, and hope.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Great post! You just gave me an idea of how to increase the tension in the story that is going through line editing right now! Yay!

Calisa Rhose said...

Hi Victoria! So nice to meet you. My question is: we all know sex sells, but does heartwarming? I agree with everything you've said (no kittehs or puppehs? the jury is still out on that one). I write sensual with little or no sex because I'm personally not comfortable writing it. But does it sell? I have a book out now with sexy tension, but no sex and it is not doing well at all though it gets 5-star reviews and lots of great comments. What is the key to selling no sex books that do follow your tip list?

Thanks for sharing your tips.

Victoria Curran said...

We've had an awful lot of "save the dying town" and "save the beloved home" stories recently, so maybe we could take a break from that trend for a while...although we've had some great stories out of them!

We've also had quite a few military or ex-military heroes, but...they're my personal weakness, so I'm okay with getting more! And who doesn't like a cowboy story?

Yes, we've also had secret children stories (Rula Sinara's debut story last January, After the Rain, was an excellent example of this hook).

Last month, Patricia Bradley's Heartwarming Matthew's Choice came out and it's a terrific romance about an ambitious city hero and the small town girl from back home who puts a wrench in his plans... She's really brought this trope to life.

All of the above, Rose!

Victoria Curran said...

I found out the cafe on the ground floor of our Toronto building throws out all the ends of loafs of bread, so I was rescuing them to feed the birds. And then I also found out that birds shouldn't eat bread crust! Who knew???

(Do we believe this or was I fed a lie? I thought people fed birds crust all the time in parks...)

Victoria Curran said...

Janet, jump in here as much as you want! We're on the same wavelength.

Victoria Curran said...

Good point, Karen. I'm not sure why we need insta-love anyway. Isn't the growth to love the most interesting part of a romance?

...unless, of course, you're Scarlet O'Hara and you're desperately in love with Ashley Wilkes and he loves you back...but he knows who he is and he knows he belongs in the quieter, gentler world of his cousin, Melanie Hamilton--a woman he respects and admires. Then the two can be as in love as they want in that opening scene!

Victoria Curran said...

I'm going to go buy a Julie Lessman immediately! Thanks, Audra.

Victoria Curran said...

I wasn't going to weigh in on Wilmorons! Too hilarious.

Victoria Curran said...

Consider yourself "in".

Victoria Curran said...

And with The Princess Bride, we're looking at a spoof of traditional fairytale storytelling (is spoof the right word?), so not really the most independent and proactive contemporary heroine there! Not too sure what her pressing life goal is before she meets Wesley...or his for that matter!

Missy Tippens said...

That was a great article, too!

Victoria Curran said...

Thanks for weighing in here, Dana! Yes, Carina tends to be a little edgier in content, I think. You're definitely defining YA and New Adult romance, Sally. I'm not as familiar with those genres. Our readers like to read about adults who are more established in their lives. I know that to submit to Harlequin's Teen books, you have to go through your agent. I don't believe Love Inspired publishes New Adult...at one point that was a big market and I believe it's no longer the trend. I wish I could be more helpful!

Victoria Curran said...

Thanks, Wilani!

Cynthia Herron said...

Thank you, Victoria, for sharing the wonderful tips! A perfect start to the day!

Some authors ratchet up the romantic tension by simply using action verbs. Others effectively appeal to the seven senses without overuse of adjectives. Again, Julie Lessman is a master at this.

Something I've always remembered from an ACFW workshop (I believe it may have been Julie's) is this: Passion without love is lust.
Intrinsic motivation must trump physical attraction (even though--let's be real--that's one element.) I adore characters who come to the table with excess baggage because that's real life.

To me the thrill comes in seeing how God works in those characters' crazy, messed-up lives, creating a new spring from a dark, dismal winter.

(And a question... do your cats snore? Our Miranda does!) :)

Eileen Barnes said...

I love that there are more novels out there without the sex scenes, but I do like the tension. I dump so many books because of the predictable plotting or lack of romantic tension, but I am going to read from this series to see how 'clean' can also not be 'inspirational'. Just wondering how the characters reach redemptive love. I have a contemporary that I'm plotting but it will be sensual and inspirational.

Victoria Curran said...

This is where I feel like a big pretender! I can totally dish out the advice, but you're the one who has to deal with a heroine who's gone rogue! Heaven help you.

I remember years ago one of my authors replied to a comment of mine about letting their heroine act on her motivation: "If she does that, she walks out of the scene. So how do I write a book where the hero and heroine aren't in the scenes together?" Left me scratching my head.

You writers, and the trust you have to put in the characters you've created, amaze me!

Victoria Curran said...

Thanks, Helen...I'm so behind in the comments, I'm not sure if it showed up and I missed it....

Victoria Curran said...

R&R? Do I need another coffee? I can't quite figure out if you're about to work on your first rest and relaxation or...?

Sally Shupe said...

Thanks, Victoria! I had looked around about a year ago, when my daughter first mentioned what she wanted to read. I couldn't find anything that didn't have to do with vampires, ghosts, etc. That's not what she's looking for. She doesn't identify with the heroines in Love Inspired (what I read) because she hasn't gotten there yet. She likes that they are Christian romances, but she can't identify with their stage in life. Does that make sense? Maybe I'll just have to write her a few and see what she thinks lol.

Victoria Curran said...

Oh, definitely, the reader knows the characters will end up in love. So the story has to surprise them, since the ending can't.

When you pick up a romance, I suggest you expect the happy ending but you also expect to read a story where the characters have to work very, very hard to earn love. That's where you're going to surprise the readers: how you make your leads work for their ending.

Does that make sense?

Victoria Curran said...

Ah, great idea! Or also: If I love him, I might lose XX.

Diane Kenyon said...

I agree that saccharine moments pull me right out of a story. I prefer the characters to have depth and lots of angst, just so long as I still get my happy ending!

Victoria Curran said...

Maybe Sherri Shackelford needs to be the heroine for your Pace Williams hero, Kaybee. She's a drifter, too! Two drifters at odds...

This sounds like a historical romance, is it? (When I see the words "avenge" and "haunted by old enemies/ancient enemies", I think Historical...) I always feel a little out of my element with historical since I've only ever edited contemporary stories.

Anna Weaver Hurtt said...

Wonderful post... definitely bookmarking this one for later use. :)

Victoria Curran said...

You know why you might have gotten that critique, Kathy? And keep in mind I'm only guessing. You've indicated a lot of the external elements at play around the central couple but not what makes the couple stand out.

Turning to Gone with the Wind again (which some people don't think is a romance, but I'll use it for the sake of argument), you could describe it as a beautiful woman who must survive the decay of the South during the Civil War and then save her ancestral home from carpetbaggers in the aftermath before she can allow herself to love a ruggedly handsome renegade who is determined to come out ahead of the war at any cost but who ends up finding that he's too noble to stoop as low as he thought he could go...or something like that!

OR you could describe Gone with the Wind as a romance about a woman who desperately loves a married man and cannot see that the man who was destined to be her soulmate is standing right in front of her.

One puts the focus on the romance, the other puts the focus on the storylines all around the romance. Does that make sense?

Where's Janet! She's better at this than me.

Victoria Curran said...

Well, just because you haven't found the publisher for it yet doesn't mean it's not out there. I think there are more regional inspirational publishers who work on New Adult. I just am not sure who to point you toward. I'm a big believe in if you write it, the readers will come.

Victoria Curran said...

I confess I hadn't expected a lot of people to have read Fifty Shades of Grey. And it's not really a resource so much as a good example of high stakes. But not every book can be "if I love him, I may die".

Helen said...

I have a question about the line. Is it available in paperback as well as e-book?

Ruth Logan Herne said...

OH MY STARS... WE MADE FINGERPAINT APPLE TREES AND I COME BACK TO FIND 40 MORE COMMENTS. YOU GUYS ROCK IT!!!!

Victoria Curran said...

Yes, thanks, Tina. We have it on our to-do list to update those guidelines. For instance, I'm not exactly sure what "explicit religious" content is! (Sounds a little dirty, doesn't it?) But in general, that's what we are: no sex in the current story, relatively clean language and an emphasis on emotional connection rather than sexual connection. So, for instance, our hero watches the heroine walk away rather than her behind! And really, isn't that more romantically satisfying?

Victoria Curran said...

It is available in paperback, Helen, through our by-subscription book club and also by ordering it through harlequin.com. Otherwise, it's available at retail as an e-book.

Mary Connealy said...

I like to think I write sweet romances.........with shootouts.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Ruthy falls down on the floor, laughing, then works to regain a measure of public decorum.... Nope, not you, sweet thing! I think it's romance publishing in the specific and all publishing with the new inroads criss-crossing every which way in the panoramic view! I'm so psyched you're here today!

Victoria Curran said...

Absolutely with you, Diane!

Mary Connealy said...

What Stephen King said about 'not knowing what the story is about' has two levels to it. I have a hard time not believing he had an overall vision for Carrie.
But almost all books are about something MORE than the story. They have a heart, sometimes that can come as a surprise to me. In Fired Up I really didn't know the books was about forgiveness until I started writing the final scenes.
I didn't know Petticoat Ranch was about hate. Perfectly justifiable hate and how Christians deal with it....when they know there is no acceptable justification.
Wildflower Bride was about child abuse and even more so about enablers to child abuse.
Stuck Together is about mental illness.
Tried & True, more than any books I've written, is about being born again............at a time where that phrasing for belief in Jesus Christ really didn't exist.

And as I write this, I wonder if any readers really exactly get that but rather come away from a story they had fun with and maybe the books message sneaked up on them. :) Like it did on me.

Mary Connealy said...

Someone told me they'd never read a book that did better at raising the stakes than Bk#1 of The Hunger Games. (In case we want a non-50 Shades example) LOL

DebH said...

wowzers! awesome post. yay Ruthy for bringing Victoria here with another Editor's view and advice that she must repeat often.

okay, I get it now... NO TEA SCENES where RUE occurs. Allowable only if the story is enhanced. One would think with how often this is touted here at Seekerville, I'd just skip the idea entirely. meh. had a "tea" scene in my MS. crutch scene, now that I look at it.

Victoria: are there any story ideas that you immediately say "ewwwww", or *yawn... over done* to? and which story types make you go "WHOOT!!! gotta read" ? just wondering...

Mary Connealy said...

I've been reading C.J. Box's Joe Pickett series.
Victoria, your example about telling the truth when a lie would save his life....perfectly explains Joe Pickett. He's not a perfect man but he is so fundamentally HONEST. And he remains honest when being just a bit of a weasel would save him SO MUCH TROUBLE. Including save his life. He's honest at times when he feels like the law is wrong, but it's the law....and his choices torment him.
And he really loves his wife and children.
And loathes his mother-in-law.
He's a great character.

Mary Connealy said...

Oh, and I use BELLY a lot when stomach would do. It seems old fashioned and cowboyish, but maybe I need to rethink that.

Vince said...

Hi Victoria:

Welcome!

To answer one of your questions, here are 4 Ways to “ratchet up the romantic tension when sex is not an option”.

1. Up the emotional risk of loss and pain to the heroi/heroine and loved ones. Cf. Ruth’s ”The Lawman’s Second Chance” where the hero had a wife die of breast cancer and the heroine is overcoming breast cancer. Hero can’t even see the color pink without re-experiencing the hurt of his wife’s death. Could he put himself and his children through the heartbreak of having another wife/mother die of cancer? Now the heroine had her husband walk out on her when she got breast cancer. He couldn’t take it! Can she risk the pain of that happening again? Would she even want to put a man she loved through what her husband felt? In this situation the h/h have to walk on eggshells to avoid painful situations!

2. Create the high risk of repeated failure. Cf. Mary’s “The Bossy Bridegroom”. If you like tension, here it is! The hero is a spousal abuser who wants a second or third chance (I’m not sure how many times she has taken him back) . I believe that all the characters in the book (except, perhaps, the minister) as well as all the readers are ‘screaming’ for the heroine not to take him back. “They don’t change!!!” Want even more tension: have the hero revert back to some of his old non-caring ways. A little ‘reversion’ generates a great deal of emotional tension. This romance lives or dies on its inspirational/spiritual ARC. This is one of the best and most memorable romances I’ve ever read. (Beginners: don't try to write a book like this at home) :).

3. Create doubt with external differences that rise internal conflict. Cf. Sandra’s “The Price of Victory” Here the age difference, social status difference, and strong ethnic difference all stand ready to create emotional doubts. A single off comment about any of these differences has the potential to greatly increase the tension.

4. Competition between two good guys with one of them being the hero and the other a seemly wonderful person but the reader and the hero know he would be terrible for the heroine. Cf. Julie’s “A Light in the Window” and other Lessman books. In this situation the author can up the tension by making the two competitors best friends. When love for the heroine hurts another person you care for, the emotional sparks can fly.

"One Woman. Two Men.
One stirs her pulse and the other her faith.
But who will win her heart?"


Normally I hate this theme if the competition is between two men and the reader cannot determine who the hero is going to be. Since I identify with the hero, I don’t want to risk being the loser! (I think I lost on one of Julie's books. I was even killed in one of Mary's books!!!)

If that’s enough, please put my name in for a chance at those four books!

Vince

P.S. ‘Victoria’ is one of my favorite names! It’s the noun for victory (the winner) and ‘Vincent’ is the verb (to win, to conquer). I think these would be very good names for the hero/heroine in a high conflict romance. :)

Vince said...

Hi Ruth:

There is nothing wrong with Tea Scenes that a little arsenic won’t cure.

Tina Radcliffe said...

LOL on the watching the heroine's behind comment!!!

Connie Queen said...

We had a pot-bellied pig once named Jimmy Dean. That's all I'm going to say about that.

I need to print off this list. My biggest issue is number 5.
If their motivations are strong and clear, the story rolls flies off my fingertips and I know exactly how the character will react to every scene . If I'm not sure, the writing is unbearable painful.

Vince said...

Hi Tina:

What’s with this “Reply” system?

Every time I check back here I have to scroll down from the top again to see if anything new has been added.

Also even if I think I read all the comments and replies, it is still possible that I am going to be saying the same thing someone else said.

Is this intentional?
Did I do something wrong with my browser?

This all seems very pantseristic to me. : )

Vince

P.S. This is making my Scrivener class seem easy!

Mark Abel said...

Hi Victoria, Thanks for sharing your editing tips. I'm working on a book proposal right now and polishing my manuscript sample chapters. Have been working on showing vs. telling, trimming information dumps and correcting POV problems. Wow, sounds like a beginner - ah yea that's me.

And now you have me scratching my head hopping head thinking about even more editing issues! :) Thanks



Sally Shupe said...

Thanks! I appreciate your help and encouragement!

Deanna Stevens said...

to win those books would make it a Purrr fect day :)

Mary Connealy said...

Vince you were my hero in Stuck Together and you survived (and now live again in a novella I'm writing about Big John Conroy, the Regulator who became a Texas Ranger and needs help so he heads for his friends in Broken Wheel)

Mary Connealy said...

Vince it's today specially for Victoria so she can find and reply easily to comments.
Never fear....

Victoria Curran said...

Shoot, I've probably missed you, Elaine. I'd really love to know if you have an example of motivation that isn't realistic. Are you still around?

Victoria Curran said...

Thanks, Missy! Appreciate the twitter call-outs, too.

Victoria Curran said...

Thanks, Sandra. Roz writes with such warmth and emotion. You're going to love the hero and heroine in her upcoming Heartwarming, An Unlikely Rancher (surprise: It's the heroine, not the hero...and also surprise: it's an ostrich ranch). Let me see, that comes out in February.

Victoria Curran said...

Yes: heroine reaction counts! In Roz's book I mention in my comment above (An Unlikely Rancher), there's a dog that belongs to the hero and that bonds with the daughter of the heroine: serving to bring the hero and heroine together. I'd say that dog belongs in the story! I hope Roz doesn't smack me for giving away spoilers...

Victoria Curran said...

Glad to hear it (hope your editor is glad to hear it!).

Victoria Curran said...

Talk about your hard-hitters, Calisa! Yes, sweet sells...(I don't want to jinx anything at Heartwarming with this statement, though!). I think sexy sells more easily in the digital market, for various reasons. But there's definitely two markets that are doing well (that I'm tracking!): very sexy and clean. That's why we launched Heartwarming, because our Love Inspired inspirational books are so successful--our readers couldn't get enough of them.

That led to us experimenting with a spinoff that came out of inspirational: clean without the inspirational. We tested the market for two years with re-edited reprints (cutting out the sex and language from previously published Superromance, American Romance, Special Edition...and cutting out the inspirational elements from previously published Love Inspired).

The growing success of these test books through our direct to consumer division made us launch into the original series with the first books out in June 2013 (thank you Marie Ferrarella!). And so far, so good!

Is your story available only as a digital book, Calisa? How are you promoting it?

Victoria Curran said...

LOVE The Hunger Games SO MUCH.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Haha! That is yet to be determined. ;-)

Victoria Curran said...

Well, I honestly did email the entire team at one point in the past few months to find out who all was working on a "let's save this dying town" story!

But for every storyline I feel is overdone, though, there's a standout reason for having included it. For instance, the wonderful author Aimee Thurlo wrote us a "let's save this dying town" book, Homespun Christmas, which came out last November. It was one of the last books she and her husband co-wrote before her death last winter. I'm so glad she was able to contribute to our series.

Victoria Curran said...

Oops, DebH, I'm not sure I answered your question above. I must say I do love to read heroes who come from the military because there's usually a great deal of depth and trauma they're dealing with. There's just something about these boys I can't resist.

Victoria Curran said...

I think that might come down to "a little brogue goes a long way". If "belly" adds the colour you're looking for in a cowboy romance, then maybe you need to have him belly up to the counter or whatever. But a little does go a long way!

fictionthatfeedsyourfaith said...

I love how my pen name last name and your first name are the same! Ha! I also need to work on "Resist the Urge to Explain (RUE)" suggestion. Thanks for a great post. - JennaVictoria

Victoria Curran said...

In my humble opinion (Love Inspired editors are probably going to jump all over me!), it's harder to write romantic tension into clean. I'm not saying inspirational is easy to write, please don't get me wrong. It's just that without that higher code to answer to, authors have to find the means to ratchet up those stakes for their characters on their own.

Victoria Curran said...

The seven senses, eh? Must read up on that. And Julie Lessman, too. That sounds very much like an acting exercise of breaking down a script into beats. So you take maybe half a sentence and find an action verb to describe how you're going to say it to get what you want from the other person on the stage: to berate. Then you look at the next beat (2nd half of sentence) and decide a different action verb to say that part to get what you want from the other person: to entice. To ridicule. To surprise. To decimate. To expose. To flatter. And so on. Interesting!

Love the new life coming out of the dark. That's the most satisfying resolution in a romance.

(No, I had an unfortunate streak of bad luck with cats dying young of serious conditions...which means I have all younger cats right now. I find snoring doesn't usually kick in until they're older! But I sure have other challenges with them...TMI.)

jeannetakenaka said...

Victoria, I LOVED this post! I'm pre-pubbed and revising my first romance. Your tips, especially in point #4, were so helpful. Lots of practical information in here. Thank you so much!!!!

Victoria Curran said...

Well, yeah! (Sounds like my kind of story, Mary. I also edit action/adventure books for the Gold Eagle imprint!)

DebH said...

oh, p.s. please put my name in the cat dish for the opportunity to win some books. would love to get a taste of the Heartwarming line...

Victoria Curran said...

Ha, love it: Vincent Victoria (sounds a little like the movie Victor Victoria)!

Love what you're saying about romantic tension, too. You've got it: Make love come at a huge cost to the hero and heroine.

Going to play Devil's Advocate on your 4th point. Re: a seemly wonderful person but the reader and the hero know he would be terrible for the heroine... What if the second guy in this love triangle could ALSO be perfect for the heroine? What if she's got two fantastic guys for her? Sure, the hero can think the guy's all wrong. But if the heroine and the reader know that both guys are all right for her...doesn't that make it more difficult for the reader to know which direction the story's going to go? Maybe make it more unpredictable?

Or maybe I'm nuts!

Victoria Curran said...

(I confess I LOVED Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind, so to me he was as right for Scarlet as Rhett was...which built delicious suspense and tension into the read...which way is she going to go? I am STILL not convinced she went the right way. But what's a girl gonna do? The guy went and married his cousin. Sigh.)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh my stars, we're at nearly 130 and I had to stop and chat online with the delightful Melissa Endlich before she goes to Paris so she could give me guidance on my new story.... and I had to take care of cute kids!!!!! And now we have one resting, two playing and I'm loving this, Victoria! You've created a SCENE IN SEEKERVILLE!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Vince, I played "Elaine" I think her name was in "Arsenic and Old Lace" when I was 17 years old!!! Bring on the rat poison! :)

Victoria Curran said...

It's interesting, Connie, but I can usually tell which book is going to flow easily for a writer and which is not (we're talking buying a book from an author I've already worked with, so based on a synopsis and sample chapters only). Equally interesting, the book that's harder for the author to write can sometimes be the stronger book. Agonizing process but somehow it comes through the fires and reaches a different level. Not all the time, mind!

Wish you had more to say about Jimmy Dean the pot-bellied pig!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

They do in NYC! And we feed the shore birds and the carp bread and honestly, there are LOTS of them, so we haven't dented numbers any! I love that you're such a softie!!!

Victoria Curran said...

Oops, I'm making the pantsers struggle!!!! Sorry, guys.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I think they totally won on the "kids' book" angle and went with it, so it didn't matter if they glossed over story.... and went straight to screaming/shrieking eels!!! :)

Victoria Curran said...

Love that you've got a head-hopping head! (Well...don't exactly love head-hopping, but the image is hilarious.) Good luck with it all.
*Oh, and write your vision. THEN edit. Don't let self-editing as you go paralyze you and definitely don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

Victoria Curran said...

Bonus points for purrr-fect day.

Victoria Curran said...

Thanks--and great pen name, if I say so myself...

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Victoria, I see Heartwarming as the offshoot part of Supers that I loved. You had a bunch of clean, fun writers there, (and some spicier ones too!) but I loved those gals who could put a story together based on the emotion and the angst without having to ogle a butt. Not that there shouldn't be attraction, because that's huge! But the attraction should be deeper than Juicy jeans.

Valri said...

I'm a reader, Victoria, and I found your post fascinating! I love seeing the background stuff that goes into a book! No wonder the authors put out such fantastic books! I agree with all the points you mentioned here! I wouldn't have thought of them but having read them, I see how they make a better story! Thanks, Victoria for helping writers to write a better book! We readers appreciate it!

Victoria Curran said...

Wait, what? Melissa is going to Paris???? Is that what Love Inspired editors do on an overcast Tuesday afternoon? The NYC office gets way better perks than we do in Toronto...grumble...

Victoria Curran said...

This warms my heart, Valri, thank you. The authors work so hard...and then the editors whip them to work even harder... It's so nice to hear from a reader that it's appreciated. YAY!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I think you're right, actually. We can depend proportionately on the faith thread to pull a card here or there. You know who is a master at this is Lisa Wingate and Karen White. (Do not take offense, anyone, you know I love these two!!!) When I first read Lisa's "Texas Cooking"Series years ago, I thought "that's the kind of fiction I want to write, where the warmth of inspiration comes through without hitting folks over the head with it!"

Now that doesn't mean my Love Inspired's hit folks! I love my Love Inspired books! But I loved being able to publish a couple of my indie books that didn't rely so heavily on the faith thread overtly... but it was there, underneath.

And I know we've got writers here today who will FIT PERFECTLY WITH HEARTWARMING!!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I'm laughing! Sweet Home Alabama had two heroes, both lovable. I mean really???? McDreamy and McConaughey? Both great guys!

I loved that story and that's the kind of high stakes clean that grabs me in books.... Make me root for them even as it looks like they're about to self-implode!

Victoria Curran said...

Thank you! You've just pointed out what seems to be a mistake in my blog, though: the missing point #4! (Which means, I'm not sure what you're referring to!)

This is what you can't see:
#4 Let’s find ways to eliminate the coincidence.

Find the misunderstandings and coincidences and imposed plotting and turn them around so they’re driven by the leads. For instance: (and then I have the two examples that are up there...)

I'm a technophobe, so maybe it's just my version of Explorer that makes me not see it!


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Vince, I love that shout out, my friend! Thank you and I love you! That book is still selling so well, and folks write to me to ask about it. And the real "LISA", is on year three post-treatment and doing great! So we celebrate her end of treatment and her diagnosis day with super joy!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Hahahahaha! I sent the Seekers an e-mail warning them, but I probably should have put it in the post, because I UPSET THE NORM!!!!! :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Um. Hey. It IS NYC. They're sending her there on a special assignment to see if French literaries are really beyond our ken when reading Scottish historical fiction. Very involved research, you know. :) I don't think she has CATS. That could be the difference, darling. Meow.

Victoria Curran said...

You've got it, Ruth. I personally like to think of us as Superromance without the sex.

Becky said...

Thank you for your editing tips. I always have a hard time creating conflicts. I end up making the romance too easy!

Debby Giusti said...

Victoria,
Thanks for being with us in Seekerville today. Thanks especially for providing such great information and for responding to all the comments. I've been reading through your replies and have learned so much.

We met at the Georgia Romance Writers' Moonlight and Magnolias Conference some years ago. I have such fond memories of that conference. Meeting you was the highlight of the weekend, for sure. Congrats on building the Heartwarming line. Love the covers and the stories!

Smiling at the mention of tea scenes, which I don't have in my LIS tales. Although my characters drink a lot of coffee! Hmmm. That could be a problem!

Ruthy, thanks for hosting Victoria. Isn't she wonderful!

Missy Tippens said...

I see #4 on Safari! So you're good. :)

Myra Johnson said...

LOL!!! Leave it to Vince to blame the commenting format today on PANTSERS!!!

Julie Lessman said...

OH. MY. GOODNESS, VICTORIA!! This has to be one of the MOST FUN posts EVER by an editor on Seekerville -- you rock SO MUCH, I'm tempted to pitch to HQ, although my spiritual themes wouldn't fly, I'm sure. :)

WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE!!!

YOU SAID: "And while we’re at it, I confess I don’t even know what a cliché is anymore. As long as the words and ideas don’t pull me out of the story, they work well."

I SAY: YES, YES, YES!! There are SO many rules in this business, and honestly, sometimes I wonder who in the heck started them because they box you in something fierce. Good writing is good writing, in my opinion, so if a cliche works to give the mood and feel of a normal human being, then I don't think the sky is going to fall. Yes, fresh new sayings are great, but when conservation is flowing, we ALL use cliches as part of our language, so if they are just used here and there, I frankly think they naturalize dialogue.

YOU ALSO SAID: "Clean stories need to be as exciting as edgier sexy ones."

I SAY: AMEN AND AMEN!! One of the reasons I used to read only secular was because the inspies were way too sweet and saccharine for me, especially when it came to passion, which -- let's face it -- was created by God, so why shouldn't HE get a piece of the romance pie with realistic (and clean) passion? I'm happy to say that the inspy market has grown by leaps and bounds (please note cliche here) in this area, and I devour it!!

YOU SAID: "Let’s find ways to eliminate the coincidence."

Sooooo true!! I know we authors all try to make our stories interesting and unique, but the truth is, fiction has to be more believable than reality, so I find myself scratching my head when I read some books where the coincidences are just not believable for me.

FINALLY, YOU ASKED: "I’d love to find out from the authors on this blog if you have any advice on how to ratchet up the romantic tension when sex is not an option."

I SAY: As a matter of fact, I wrote a writer's workbook on this very subject entitled ROMANCE-OLOGY 101: Writing Romantic Tension for the Inspirational and Sweet Markets. Here's the link if you want to check out the chapter titles to see the various ways I came up with to ramp up the romantic tension without sex.

ROMANCE-ology 101

LOVE your cat pictures, and I'm a dog person, but Will Ferral is flat-out ADORABLE!!

Victoria, the last thing I want to say -- and yes, I really am going to shut up after this -- is you are an absolute CLASS ACT to want to respond personally to every commenter -- WOW!!

Hugs and PLEASE come to Seekerville again!

Julie


Julie Lessman said...

AUDS!!! You rock, my friend, THANK YOU!!

Hugs,
Julie

Julie Lessman said...

CYNTHIA, BLESS YOU, girlfriend -- not only for your sweet comment, but for coming to my workshop -- SO appreciated!!

Hugs,
Julie

Victoria Curran said...

Debby! I thought that's where I knew you from, but wasn't sure. I definitely remember meeting you at Moonlight and Magnolias. Such a pleasure.
(And now you're making me blush!)

Victoria Curran said...

Ya know? I think it's the hardest job of a romance author: torturing your heroes and heroines. (So good luck with that!)

Julie Lessman said...

VINCE!!! Gotta love that triangle action, don't you -- one of my faves!! :)

VICTORIA, NO!!! Say it ain't so -- you loved Ashley Wilkes over Rhett?? I'll pause here for a moment of silence (yeah, like THAT'S gonna happen!! ;). Well, since you are such a cool person, I will let that one go, but Rhett had my heart till Jamie Fraser came along. Sigh.

RUTHY ... Matthew McConaughey wasn't in Sweet Home Alabama -- that was Josh Lucas ... ;) I know my heroes, trust me. :)

Hugs,
Julie

Victoria Curran said...

Thanks for the link to your workbook, Julie. You sound like somebody I need to read! Looking forward to more tips to help with my editing, for sure.
(I think I missed a few posts here and there, but publishers will have meetings, alas!)

Chill N said...

Will Feral ... gotta love that name. Will Feral and Credenza Pete would be great names for bandits in a western. Will would wear a buffalo robe. Pete would be a good carpenter gone bad.

What was the subject?

Enjoyable, informative post, Victoria. Point #4 about eliminating coincidences ... I tend to close the book right after I roll my eyes.

So glad to see this line of books. Please toss my name in the very clean cat dish.

Nancy C

Connie Queen said...

It's not a happy ending. :(

Victoria Curran said...

I would read a book about Will Feral and Credenza Pete, absolutely.

Victoria Curran said...

Sorry, Julie. I think it's a Canadian thing. That noble "tis a far far better place that I go" kind of thing Ashley Wilkes had going on. Sigh.

Victoria Curran said...

Oh dear. The way of life, sadly.

Victoria Curran said...

I'm off to yoga class, Seekervillians! (Every Tuesday at 5 in one of the boardrooms on the fifth floor. Take that, NYC office.) It's been a pleasure celebrating your seven-year birthday with you. Some great conversations--what a day!!!

Anna Adams said...

What a timely moment for this post, Victoria. I fear you may have used every bit of this advice with me. (Great time for reminders as I finish this book!) P.S. I am in love with Credenza Pete!

Rhonda Starnes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jamie Adams said...

What a great informative blog. Thank you for sharing tips with us and spending the day with us. This post and the comments are keepers. I especially need to work on # 6 and # 7 and find a copy of McKee's book.

Lyndee H said...

Late. Thanks for the great tips, Victoria. Enjoyed the conversation.

Robin Willson said...

I've seen a couple who used a formula and it was obvious. And two whose timeline was off within the story. I was surprised it wasn't caught in editing on either one.

Vince said...

Hello Victoria:

Did you know that the Devil’s Advocate is paid by the Vatican? 

I don’t think you will see too many romances where there are two heroes that are equally wonderful, (though in different ways), for the heroine to choose from. Actually, I don’t like this type of theme because even if I guess right and pick the winning hero to identify with, why would I want a wife who picked me over someone else by a 51% vote? My gut reaction in these cases would be to drop that heroine and find one who would be 100% sold on me. :])

Donna said...

Victoria, #4 & 5 are fantastic reminders for me! You have given us lots to think about!

Dana R. Lynn said...

Thanks for the great advice Victoria. I saw some mistakes that I make in there. As a relative newbie, I really appreciate it when those with more experience take the time to share so others can grow.

Vince said...

Hi Mary:

I’m not complaining. I love what you did with Vince and the whole Andersonville band of brothers. And now a novella. I like the novella format the best of all. So I’m very happy. Just loved “The Advent Bride”. Now I’m reading “The Evergreen Bride”.

I really liked the fact that in “The Advent Bride” the hero and heroine’s life situation was such that they really could not help but be highly motivated to fall for each other and form a HEA. It is interesting that in a novella the problem is not stretching out the falling in love process with conflicts as in a novel but rather creating the foundation for the falling in love within the short time span afforded for in the novella. How you did this in "The Advent Bride” was ingenious. It's a novella I really went to school on.

Tanya Agler said...

Thank you for this post. It always helps to see writing from the editor's perspective.

I winced as I read the first tip because I just found an entire backstory dump on the first page of chapter three and had to edit the whole paragraph out, but you're right because now the story flows better.

Thank you so much for the great advice.

Vince said...

Hi Myra:

Now to be fair I did ask if I was to blame first. I could have hit a wrong button and made it happen on my computer only.

Also, I did not say the Pantsers did it. I just observed that it was the kind of thing one might expect a Pantser to do.

As a plotter I can’t help but be consistent. And now that I know the rationale for the change, all the initial confusion has lifted and I can go back to being befuddled by Scrivener.

Vince said...

Ruth:

“The Lawman’s Second Chance” and “Red Kettle Christmas”are my favorites of all your books. (And I’ve read all the published ones) I think that has to do with those books being the most memorable because they have the most sympathetic characters. I really want to see what books Myra uses as examples for her Character course. I’m looking forward to your novellas.

Vince said...

Hi Julie:

I like love triangles as long as the hero gets to choose from two heroines. : )

Remember the early 1950’s when romances were thought to be “How to” books for young ladies to learn how to win the competition for the best guys? That would not go over today. Today it seems that most often the heroine is trying not to fall in love with the guy who is expressing interest in her. I think that in every Betty Neels book there is a rich, well educated, beautiful, high class, love interest that the heroine has to compete with. The heroine always wins because of her loving virtue and goodness. Those were the days! : )

Julie Lessman said...

Oh, VINCE, yes ... THOSE were the days, my friend! I remember them well. Sigh.

Hugs,
Julie

Mary Preston said...

Most informative thank you.

jubileewriter said...

I usually get your post the next day in my email. So, by then there are a ton of comments. This was a wonderful post. And the comments were so helpful. A love a romance where I find myself wanting to smack the hero or heroine for being so dense. You know you want to get in the story and yell "So, kiss her already!" That said there have been a few times where the twists and turns toward happiness were too much making me want to yell. "Who reads this stuff."
I'll be sharing these insights with my critique group.
Cindy Huff

JessKeller said...

I'm a day behind (under deadline and becoming a hermit in my writing cave), but wow, this was so full of great information and I've already made some notes for the manuscript I'm working on to make a few changes based on this advice (which...yeah, due in less than a week...no big deal, right?). I'm so glad I stopped in to catch up today!

Carolyn Chambers Clark said...

thanks for the great advice and please put my name in the cat dish.

bonton said...

Hi, Victoria!!

I'm a reader, not a writer - but enjoyed your notes on revisions. Thank you!!

Please let me affirm one of your comments: you definitely DO need to read Julie Lessman!! She is a master at romantic tension without sex - one of my very fave authors!!

Thanks for the opportunity to win some wonderful Harlequin books!!

bonnieroof60(at)yahoo(dot)com

Janet Kerr said...

Great pointers on revisions and ones worth remembering.
Jan