How To Write Love Scenes That Don't Suck - A Free Class!

Parisian Love Lock Photo by Allen Skyy (click photo for link)

If you were not able to attend DFW Con this year, then you missed out on my How to Write Love Scenes That Don't Suck class. But don't stress, for this one time only, I'm going to be offering this class free through Candace Havens' free writer workshop loop. The class starts Monday June 18 and ends on the 22nd. The information will be through a yahoo loop so you don't have to be present at any specific time during the day but will need to check in to participate at some point each day.

Here's the class description:

How To Write Love Scenes That Don't Suck -- Whether you're writing YA, thrillers, or melt-the-pages romance, no one wants to write love scenes that have readers skimming the pages. Learn tips and tricks on how to write different types of love scenes, how to tailor them to your genre, the components of a great love scene, and how to get past any oh-no-my-mother-might-read-this qualms.

To sign up go here, scroll down, and sign up for the yahoo loop under Free Writing Workshops.

Hope to see y'all there! :)

CONTEST ALERT: And in case you missed it on Monday my contest is still open - Order STILL INTO YOU This Week and Win a Box of Awesome, a gift card, or a 20 page critique from me!

How To Dish Out Backstory In Digestible Bites #atozchallenge


How To Dish Out Backstory In Digestible Bites

Photo by Ken WilcoxIt's that time of the year again--contest judging. I've talked about it one here before, but I think volunteering to judge contests is (beyond being a nice thing to do) one of the greatest exercises a writer can go through. Looking for specific things in other works often helps us develop a more critical eye for our own work. I know it's definitely helped me.

Now when I'm judging, I usually see a little bit of everything--some spectacular things, some really beginner efforts, and everything in between. But as I go through the entries this year for my local RWA's chapter contest, one of the trends I'm seeing is the dreaded backstory dump.

We've probably all made this mistake at one time or another. This is why a lot of people suggest writing your book, then cutting the first three chapters because it's probably all backstory. Now, that's a little drastic, but I think there is a nugget of truth in that.

So today I'm going to cover how to share that history and backstory with the reader without choking them.  Think of backstory like a big steak--you can't swallow the whole thing at once, it must be cut up and devoured in small, juicy bites.  Ideally, these bites will blend so well with the rest of the story, that the reader will barely notice that you've slipped it in on them.

So first let's look at some choking hazards:

Prologue--These are notorious for being solely backstory, which is probably why they've developed a bit of a bad reputation.  Make sure what you have in your prologue (if you have one) can't be sprinkled in somewhere  else instead.

First Chapters--This is where it's most tempting to put in big blocks of backstory.  Resist!  Your story should start in the middle of things.  Readers don't have to know all the background yet, get them to the action so you can hook them.  Pay particular attention to chapters 1-3 in your first draft.  Many times it's where we as writers are working out the story for ourselves (which is fine as long as you go back and cut them during revision).


Alright, now for some ways to blend in that backstory...


This is an easy and obvious way to reveal information to your reader.  However, watch out for the traps with this.

--Make sure that the conversation is realistic and that there is a reason for it to be happening besides slipping in backstory to the reader.

   NOT "I can't believe you cheated on me six months ago with someone half my age." (the guy would already know that)

   INSTEAD "How's your new bimbo? Has she graduated high school yet?"

--Make sure the conversation comes up naturally and not out of the blue.  Something needs to trigger that discussion.

--Use action to break up the dialogue so it doesn't start sounding like an info dump.



Where your character relives in their head a past event as it happened.  Unlike a memory, they don't filter the events through their current point of view.

--Be very careful with this one.  Many people advise against flashbacks.  But I think if used correctly and sparingly they can work.

--Something has to trigger the flashback. That memory needs to be brought to mind by some object, situation, person, etc.

--Make it clear that it is a flashback so your reader doesn't get confused.  Some people use italics to help with this.



Similar to flashback, but the memory is seen through the person's current POV.

--Sprinkle this in.  Like everything else, large chunks of prose on a memory will get tedious.

--Just like the others, the memory must be triggered by something.  Don't have your MC vacuuming and just suddenly think of how her father died (unless it was death by vacuum).

--Can build and foreshadow throughout the story, not revealing everything up front.  For instance, in my category romance, my MC goes to a concert and for a moment she's reminded of a tragic night years ago.  But all I show is that she has a sick feeling and that she remembers to the day how long it's been since she's seen a concert--which lets us know something important happened back then, but I don't say anything about what it is specifically, just foreshadow.

--Ex.) He smiled at her, and for a moment, she was reminded of the boy he used to be, the one she used to love.  (See, that tells us they had a previous relationship and that something changed along the way.  Just enough to whet the reader's appetite.)



Using direct thoughts instead of narrative.

--This doesn't have to be a specific memory, but can let us know that there is something there behind the thought.

--i.e. "Don't you just let go and have fun sometimes?" he asked.  She shook her head and averted her eyes.  "No." Not anymore.



Sometimes you can use some event in your story to relay past events.

--i.e.  A news story comes on TV talking about a cold case murder that relates to your MC.


The easiest way for me to figure out how to put in backstory is to think like a screenwriter.  They cannot tell you things in a movie, they have to show it all.  So how would I convey this information if it were a movie?

Alright, so those are my tips, what are some of yours?  How do you sneak in your backstory?  And do you put down a book if it's pages and pages of backstory to start?

*This week I will be re-running some of my top posts from my former Fiction Groupie site because I am in Chicago for the RT Convention. Hope you enjoy!

Got Rhythm? Finding It In Your Story #atozchallenge

So I had the best of intentions, but I've come to the conclusiong that book deadline + weeklong conference out of town next week (RT Con) + blogging challenge is a bit of a deadly combination. To write seven posts before I leave on Tuesday is uh, a little too ambitious. So, instead of just slapping up some filler post where I post a music video or something, I'm going to rerun some of my popular posts from my former writing blog. I hope some of these will be new to you and that you find them worthwhile.

Photo by Thebigo (click pic for link)


Looking For the Rhythm In Your Story

As I wade through my editing for FALL INTO YOU, I'm discovering that one of the big things I pay attention to when doing my read through is cadence, or the rhythm of the words. I think it was Margie Lawson's workshop where I first heard this term used in relation to writing.

We all know about voice and style, but cadence is more the way the words sound in your head as your read them. It's the flow and the music of the prose. It's why I may use a one-word incomplete sentence somewhere instead of something longer. Part of that is my style, but a lot of it has to do with making sure the rhythm works.

And one of the best ways to see if your story has good cadence or rhythm is to read it aloud. A lot of times when we read our own work in our head, our brain naturally skims. Hell, we've written it, we know what's there and what's coming. But this can hurt you because you may be missing places where a reader with fresh eyes may stumble on a sentence. Even in our heads we need places in prose to "take a breath" while we're reading.

Maybe your crit partners point this out, but most likely it's such a subtle thing that many will intuitively feel the little stumble but not really get hit over the head enough to mark it down and bring it to your attention.

So I literally sit in my office and read passages of my book out loud. Pretend you're the narrator doing the audiobook. Does it flow? Does the scene sound how you want it too--pretty, ethereal, hard and fast-paced, sensual, etc?

Not every scene is going to have the same cadence, nor do you want it to. If they're in the middle of the car chase, the words better not read like poetry. So know what your intention is and then see if the rhythm of the words fits what you were going for.

So here are my opening lines of my prologue in MELT INTO YOU - out in July. (And yes, I know, a prologue! *gasp* But well, it's there. I like it. And so did my agent and editor. So see, "rules" can be broken.)

Most of the time temptation climbs onto your lap and straddles you, demands you deal with it immediately. Give in or deprive yourself. Choose your adventure.

Jace’s general stance: deprivation was overrated.

But he’d never faced this kind of temptation. The kind that seeped into your skin so slowly you didn’t even notice until you were soaked with it, saturated. To the point that every thought, every breath seemed to be laced with the desire for that thing you shouldn’t have.  

 And right now that thing was nibbling flecks of purple polish off her fingernails. 

So okay, see where you'd take the breaths (hint: breaths happen at commas and periods)? And we're in a dude's head so the thoughts start off short and to the point, but then he gets wrapped up with how much this is getting to him. If you read it aloud hopefully it flows. It did when I went through it.

But do you see where I'm going with the cadence thing? Do you think about this when you're going through your work? Do you read it aloud either to yourself or to a writer's group?

A Lesson in "Don't Write to the Trend"

By Joel Resnicoff (died 1986), showing mannequin he designed as artist. [FAL], via Wikimedia CommonsSo we hear it all the time in workshops and in blog posts from agents and editors--don't write to the trend, write what you love.

Why? Because at the rate publishing moves, that thing that's the trend now was bought probably two years ago. With the age of digital publishing and self publishing, this has a little more flexibility because stories can get turned around more quickly. But even so, most of the time when something "hits big", if you don't already have a manuscript close to finished, you're probably already too late.

We see it happen all the time. Twilight exploded then all of a sudden every book on the shelf was about vampires. Then we got a little burnt out on vampires, so "ooh angels!" that's totally different. And soon we tired of angels. Then shapeshifter werewolves, weretigers, werehampsters were popping up (okay, maybe not hampsters.) Then we're over that.

Same thing has been happening with dystopian. Hunger Games busted open the dam, then all these YA dystopians flooded the market. And now I'm hearing people say, love The Hunger Games but, ugh, I'm getting so burnt out on dystopian.

The market ebbs and flows and certain things are going to spike. The ones that get to ride that wave of a trend are usually people who were already writing that kind of book before the trend became a trend. Their books were already lying in wait, complete and ready to go once a publisher took interest. All the others who scrambled to start writing to the trend end up with a manuscript that's ready when the popularity is starting to wane.

We're on the cusp of a new trend as we speak. If you haven't been living in a cave for the last two weeks, the book Fifty Shades of Grey has been on all the major news programs and is popping up everywhere. This book is BDSM erotic romance. It's what I write. Now, had you told me a month ago that my little niche genre would all of a sudden become the talk on the Today show and Good Morning America and that an erotic romance was going to hit #1 on the New York Times, I would've laughed. I mean, are you kidding? Most people don't even know what BDSM is, much less that there are romances about it.

But wham, there it is, everyone is talking about it. My agent is getting calls from editors wondering if she has any BDSM romance to shop, audio rights people are calling to see if she has any BDSM books they can look at, film rights people are suddenly open to looking at those kinds of books. It's craziness.

Now I don't know how far all this exposure for the genre will go--I hope very far, obviously. But all of a sudden, I'm writing something "trendy". How the eff did that happen? I'm NEVER up with the trend for anything, lol.

But here's the lesson: I wrote the books I wanted to write. I wrote stories I was passionate about. I didn't write a BDSM story because it was the "thing". It wasn't the thing. But now when a trend is starting to explode, I have four books coming out right in the middle of it. Now, that may not affect my series' success at all, but damn, it can't hurt, right? : )

So write what you love. If that's something that's a trend right now (say you love writing dystopian), that's fine. If you are passionate about it, that's going to come through and hopefully stand out amongst a crowded shelf. For instance, there are still people writing about vampires and doing well because the stories are good and they are passionate about the topic.

But if what's "hot" right now is not your thing, don't try to write it to get a piece of that trend. You'll probably be too late and the lack of authentic passion will shine through. It will feel like an imitation.

And if what you love is not "trendy" right now, go for it anyway. Maybe you'll be the trend setter. (Ask Nirvana or Pearl Jam who started their style of music when all the other rock bands were wearing spandex and Aquanet). Or maybe you'll get lucky like me and something in your genre will break out unexpectedly, and you'll be ready to be part of the wave.

So what are your thoughts on trends? Do you write in a "trendy" genre or are you writing something not so popular? What trends have you grown tired of?