I am seriously overdrawn. And I have to think that many of you out there as well. No, I’m not talking about your real money bank account. I’m talking about your emotional bank account. The place where when things are going great, you’re making massive deposits, building up that rich volume of happy, fun, chipper, and all sorts of “good collateral.”
Also the place from which you make withdrawls in the form of fear, worry, anger and other “bad debt.” The election has been a serious draw on my emotional bank account. I’ve seen friends and family, people whom I love, respect, and want to be around, change into happiness-sucking, vitriolic, swearing, overbearing, bankrobbing….Whew, you get my drift, right?
I am so glad it’s over. I have absolutely no comment either way on how it went because my opinion is my own and no one else is going to change it. I also know that I’m not going to change anyone else’s. Which is how it should be. According to Merriam-Webster, an opinion is: a belief, judgment, or way of thinking about something; what someone thinks about a particular thing. Period.
As writers we have a vast quantity of words we can use. We have big, honkin’ thesaurus’ sitting next to us. So let’s focus on kind words. Interesting words. Compelling words. Thrilling words. And maybe, for just a little while, put away the swear words. Whether you are happy or sad about how things went/will go, remember that this same thing happens every four years. And every four years approximately half the people out there are in your shoes, good or bad.
I hate being overdrawn. Especially when it’s because someone else wiped out my account. I keep that account for things like a call in the middle of the night about a family member. Funerals. A fight with my husband. The loss of a treasured pet. I NEED to have that cushion in my account so that I can keep my sanity when something bad happens, and can’t afford to waste it on what might happen, what someone thinks is going to happen, what the media tells me is going to happen. I am more than willing to expend some of that collateral on behalf of others outside my family and close friends, but I have to weigh how much I’m willing to give to someone else, especially someone who may not value that sacrifice and just want more.
So please, let’s all be friends. Try to make the best of everything, and work toward ensuring no one suffers from anything we can help alleviate. Give yourself time to recoup your losses in that account so that you aren’t too emotionally depleted to write, to enjoy, to be happy to wake up in the morning. And remember all the millions of things for which you get to be thankful, since Thanksgiving is right around the corner.
An amazing thing happened recently. At least it's amazing to me. Perhaps not the holy grail for a new writer, but a scaled down, still just as gleaming, slightly less voluminous cup which is but one step closer in the long and seemingly impenetrable process of becoming traditionally published.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, genders of all sizes and identifications, I have found an agent for my novel, currently titled, Deity Six. Cue brassy horns and angelic fanfare. Or, ya know, just sit there, in all statistical likelihood, not reading this and going about your day. Whatever. I don't care anymore. I got an agent! There's a "nah, nanny, boo boo," joke in there somewhere, but what do I look like, a writer?
What an agent means:
An agent is your ferrywoman/man across the rapid strewn and violent river Styx separating you from the publishing world. First let's be clear. You don't actually need an agent. If you're highly self motivated, a great self editor, or just simply aren't seeking the external validation provided by traditional publishing, then self-publishing is probably for you. It comes with its own pitfalls, but that's an assessment for another day. A good agent will help you edit your book, make sure it fits squarely into the genre it needs to be in, review and negotiate any publishing contracts for you, and pull your head above those rough literary waters when it inevitably feels like you're about to go under. All for the nominal fee of some money off the contract and any future royalties they've managed to secure you, as well as a reasonable portion of your immortal soul.
To sum up: if you don't want to worry about self publishing, about doing your own leg work and wish to grasp tightly to the more confident leg of another person whilst they bodily drag you, kicking and screaming, through the cliche tossed waters of publishing, then an agent is definitely for you!
My contract was fairly straight forward. One year contractual obligation on my book, wherein I would not seek alternate representation. They would do the best of their abilities to find it a good and loving home, as well as help me with some basic editing to make sure it fits the genre it's supposed to. After that period of time, if no sale/deal has been made, the rights and ability to do what I wish with (the book) return to me. There were some other things involved with it, but at that point my mind wandered off and I went in search of a cheeseburger. So, sorry about that! The contract also stipulated that the representation was for the book/novel in question, only. Not for me as a writer. Meaning, that I was free to pursue different realms of publication or representation for any/all of the other works I currently have tucked into my questionable belt.
How I actually did said agent wrangling:
For me, finding an agent had a great deal to do with connections. Keep in mind the process will likely be very different for you, as this is not a "how to" guide/one size fits all for literary agents. This last April I attended my first writer's conference where I met a super cool person (currently my editor on this blog post, as a matter of fact), who is a professional and published author. This author, who shall remain nameless *cough, sputter* J.A. Kazimer *cough, cough* became my friend. She then convinced me to attend a second writing conference. (For my take on writing conferences check out what I had to say about them here!) Now here's where it gets tricky. At this conference, this friend I'd cultivated (because, social skills), then...INTRODUCED ME TO HER AGENT! See. Personal connection. Word of your behavior and professionalism transcends boundaries. From there it was up to me. After speaking with my once and future representative, it was discovered that we got along well (an important element), she was interested in the premises of my writing (equally important), and my physical presence didn't send her eyes into uncontrollable and rather unpleasant twitching (possibly less important). Following the conference I sent her my query and some pages (I think 30, according to her request). She requested more. And upon reading my full manuscript she then showered me with lavish and much deserved praise and promises of riches, then told me of her interest in representing this book, and by default, me.
A summation to end...like, one other summation:
In total I queried in the neighborhood of about thirty different agents in the genre of my book, DEITY SIX, if I neglected to mention it before, which happens to fall under Young Adult Science Fiction. Between one third to a half of those agents queried did not respond...make of that what you will. Finding an agent, in macrocosm, is about a few things: Persistence (don't give up). It's a numbers game (also don't give up). And subjective luck. You could have written the greatest novel to have ever been written, but if you're not putting it in front of the right eyes it will still never get picked up. And to be fair about the whole thing, finding yourself an agent isn't the end...it's the beginning. The work starts there, and will probably get harder and more frustrating in many ways. So prepare yourself. I'm only just getting into the suggested edits from my agent **tee hee** and it was enough to cause a minor panic attack. So if there's anything to be taken away from this post it should be this: Don't give up. Revise when you need to. Do your research. Attend events and conventions. Be professional.
I’m writing this as I ride along in my husband’s car surrounded by Wyoming plains. Yesterday we visited the Crazy Horse memorial and Mount Rushmore (both of which I had never seen before). After, we spent the night in charming little Deadwood, South Dakota where I proceeded to win sixty dollars on an automated roulette table. This morning we visited Devil’s Tower, if you’re a fan of Close Encounters of the Third Kind then you’ve see this amazing national landmark on film. It’s hard to imagine that a tremendous pillar of stone could be so majestic—but that’s exactly what I was thinking as I stared up past the pines at this symmetrical wonder. By this evening, we’ll arrive at our final destination, Helena, Montana, and we’ll be spending the week visiting family and eating too much food.
But right now, brush, pine trees, and a delicate smattering of snow surround me. Plains stretch all the way to the horizon under a clear blue sky and there is a lone pickup truck on the road ahead of us. Clusters of deer stare out at us as we fly past them grazing on the side of the road. I suck my breath every time I see one; it’s too easy to imagine an ill timed leap out in front of us.
We just crossed the border into Montana along highway 112.
Stoneville Saloon is advertising “Cheap Drinks, Lousy Food” on a twelve foot sign outside a rundown aluminum shack—I buy myself some local beef jerky from the gas station instead. It sits at the junction where we turn onto 212, you have to pay for your gas inside, but they still let you pump it first.
It occurs to me that I’m very much enjoying having no service. I like this feeling, this middle of nowhere. Out of contact with everyone except those that are in this car with me, the ones that mean the most.
218 miles to Billings. I pour a handful of sunflower seeds into my husband’s palm. My kids are asleep in the backseat. If you were trying to call me right now, I wouldn’t hear you. I’m enjoying this tremendously. There is no email out here on 212.
I hadn’t realized how much this writer’s life would lead me to pour myself out, in small, seemingly innocuous increments, spread across a digital nonreality, a landscape that left me dry and exposed to the ebbs and flows of others, their every thought, feeling, disappointment...cluttering up my own head space.
Maybe I have been too long confused about what is required of me in the name of claiming a writer’s life. All that “putting yourself out there” while far less seems to be said about “filling yourself up.” This drive, this place has me half filled already—imagine what effect a hike might have?
That creative well, it can run dry. We can, inadvertently, dump all its rich contents out into vacuums of digital oblivions. Those virtual social connections that pull us in every direction and that all too often, especially lately I suppose, squeeze the heart, fill the head, and stress the system so that it can become close to impossible to catch the thread of a sentence, envision a scene. I have not been able to hear what my characters are saying.
Out here, I’m forced to be unconnected. I guess I forgot how amazing and beautiful that could be. All this not knowing—it feels like a blank canvas.
My husband slows the car as we drive through Broadus, Montana—my phone wakes up and cheeps at me. I have 4G, but I’m not ready to come back just yet.
It’s nice that they make these things with an off switch, I’ll be using it more often.
One of the reasons is that I live alone and I like someone to read a story to me before (or while) I fall asleep. For these, I choose books I've already read/heard before (and I DO reread and re-listen to books in my library).
Like many people, I enjoy listening to books while driving, particularly on long trips.
And I also use new books and/or new audio books as a reward for doing good work, or making wordcount.
Last night I gave myself a guilty pleasure and listened to an audio book, Sweep In Peace, by Ilona Andrews.
Advice first, then ramblings. Audio books are GREAT for getting the feel of the language, of different accents and rhythms of speech from Jane Austin's upper class British to an east Texan twang.
When I first started listening to audio books, I listened to old favorites of Jayne Ann Krentz. To my surprise, the reader put the emPHAsis on different words and phrases than I did. It was both disconcerting and illuminating. There's old common wisdom that you should read your work aloud (I don't have time with the schedule my publisher wants), and we do this at my critique group. It can help immensely, particularly if you have a run-on sentence or one of the made up words (like chwisge – whiskey) to see what works and doesn't. Sometimes I won't change a very alliterative sentence or an awkward one, but most of the time I do.
The best audio books I've ever listened to are the Elizabeth Peters historical mysteries read by Barbara Rosenblat. They are just incredible, particularly the ones that have the boy Ramses growing up, Ms. Rosenblat ages his voice...(and one of the best titles ever is The Last Camel Died At Noon). The Harry Potter audio books are exceptional, too.
I won't say the worst I've listened to – mostly because of the books themselves, not the authors' best works – but sometimes the actor screws it up. I listened to one where the actor made the hero's voce sort-of upper crust nasal, this was a ROMANCE and the hero didn't sound acceptable.
My absolute favorite audio books are romances where a husband-wife team read the hero/heroine's point of view, such as Smoke and Mirrors by Jayne Ann Krentz, and Linda Howard's Kiss Me While I Sleep. When Dick Hill makes the car noises, it had me rolling...
And since I love audio books, I am more aware of dialogue in my books, providing enough tags or movement so that my narrators have the cues they need to change their voices for different characters.
I'm in the dreaded days between turning the last revision into the editor and waiting for the acceptance so I can get paid. How do I fill my time? By working on the next book, of course, and, no, I don't do NaNo. I find it stressful, and a way to focus more on how many words I'm writing than the quality of the work on the pages. But I also catch up on my correspondence and turn to marketing. A dreaded word, but something that's necessary if you want to sell books.
"What, you want specifics?"
Take Social Media, please.
We all know what we're supposed to do—Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc. In my case, I Facebook some; I Tweet some; and I write on two group blogs: RMFW and the Rogue Women Writers. Sharing the blogging breaks up the workload (which I appreciate), and I think it keeps the blog pages interesting.
But here's the truth. I hate Goodreads. Okay, okay, I dislike Goodreads.
I know, I know, it's a problem. Goodreads is where a lot of readers hang out. Unfortunately, because of the set up I must have two separate pages for my two separate series, and that means twice the work. I was just out there today—first time since August—and I had invites to accept and comments to respond to, on both pages. In order to look active, I have to sign in on both pages, post something, post up books I'm reading, books I've read, rate books.... It's not fun. It's work. Facebook is fun. Twitter is fun. I like writing the blogs. But I may just stop doing Goodreads altogether, except...it's where readers hang out.
Tip: Focus on what you like and have a venue that doesn't appeal to you send notices when someone posts a comment, asks a question, etc. That way you're not ignoring someone by default. It's saved my bacon a time or two.
Factor in Signings
If you think just because the book is out and has been out for a while that you won't do any more signings and/or events, think again. This week alone I've gotten calls to sign at a bookstore for Indies First (a movement to support our Independent Bookstores) and to appear at the Boulder County Audubon's Annual Holiday Sale. I said yes to both, but sometimes I don't. Sometimes I strategically say no.
"Why?" you ask.
Because you want exposure, but you don't want to be overexposed. I run that risk. I get around. (Get your minds out of the gutter.) It's a good problem to have, but it can also be a negative. In the past year, I've had two books out. Since mid-April, that's meant nine Front Range signings—three of them at the Tattered Cover and two at the Denver Book Bar. Granted, three were because I was fortunate enough to be nominated for several awards and the WOTY, but that means I had to make six others worthwhile for both myself and the bookseller.
Don't believe for a minute that a signing is about selling books. That has little to do with it. You can't sell enough books at a signing to make it worthwhile financially. What you can achieve is meeting booksellers and creating rapport so they hand-sell your book and want you to back again. It's also about introducing yourself to a few people who might not otherwise have heard about your book.
Tip: Set up signings in different venues that reach different groups of people. Go for one or two bookstores, book clubs and group events. For instance, my book that came out in May has a birdwatching theme, so I'm signing at the Boulder County Audubon's Holiday Event coming up November 22nd. Find creative places to find new readers who would be interested in your work.
Eyes on the Future—Conferences and Workshops
This is where it gets harder. What's coming? There are a myriad of conferences and events that seem worthwhile and tug at you, but what's to your best advantage? This is where you have to get serious, look at your income, look at your costs, weigh the benefits and be brutal with choices. Look at when your books are coming out, so you can plan based on what give you the biggest bang for the buck.
I live in the mystery/thriller world. My next book is coming out June 13, 2017, so what are a few of my considerations, ThrillerFest (July in NYC, 2017), Bouchercon (October in Toronto, 2017) and Left Coast Crime (March in Reno, 2018). These are the ones that I should do, if possible. This year I'm skipping LCC. It's in Hawaii, and I will have just married off a daughter on Kauai the month before. Two trips to Hawaii in two months seems excessive. But these are all "FAN" conventions. They draw more readers than writers, and play to building readership. They fit with my genre and connect me with people who are the most interested in reading what I write.
Of course, this list multiplies if you add in Killer Nashville, Magna Cum Murder, Malice Domestic, etc., etc. The thing to remember is—you have to approximate spending $1K for every con you attend out-of-state—$2K for NYC. Pick the winning combination.
And what about Colorado Gold, Pikes Peak Writers, SleuthFest and any number of other conferences held across the country? RMFW is a must for me because I see my old friends, it's my hometown conference and I have only missed two (maybe) in the past 30+ years. The rest are teaching conferences, so if I'm not teaching, I'm not going. It's just that simple.
Tip: Look at your publishing schedule, then at the coming year. Figure out what you can afford to spend on travel to promote your books, and then choose accordingly. Maybe it's better to go to the Southwest Book Festival, or Tucson Festival of Books or on a book tour vs. a convention. Maybe you can combine a tour with a convention—for example, ThrillerFest comes closer to my pub date than Bouchercon, and with added benefit of face time with my agent and editor.
Once you've made a schedule, commit to it and move on to promoting it via Social Media.
Most importantly, write. Everyday! Write on that new book. All the marketing in the world won't do you any good if you don't have something to sell.
With our 35th Annual Colorado Gold coming next year, there are some fabulous things brewing.
If you're on the RMFW Conference Facebook Group, (come over and join us!) you may have already seen my announcement that we're adding Saturday lunch to the program next year. Because of the special anniversary, we're adding this meal at no additional charge. We're also planning for some special guest authors and publishing professionals to join us and make 2017 Colorado Gold a must-attend event!
I'm very excited to share that Diana Gabaldon will be joining us for 2017 Colorado Gold!
Diana Gabaldon is the author of the award-winning, #1 NYT-bestselling OUTLANDER novels, described by Salon magazine as "the smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting ‘Scrooge McDuck’ comics."
The adventure began in 1991 with the classic OUTLANDER ("historical fiction with a Moebius twist"), has continued through seven more New York Times-bestselling novels— DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, VOYAGER, DRUMS OF AUTUMN, THE FIERY CROSS, A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, AN ECHO IN THE BONE, and WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD, with more than twenty-eight million copies in print worldwide.
The series is published in 26 countries and 23 languages, and includes THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION, Volumes One and Two, which are nonfiction (well, relatively) works which provide details on the settings, background, characters, research, and writing of the first eight novels in the Outlander series of novels. Gabaldon (it’s pronounced “GAA-bull-dohn”—rhymes with “stone”) has also written several books in a sub-series featuring Lord John Grey (a major minor character from the main series): LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER, LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE, LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS, and THE SCOTTISH PRISONER.
Returning to her comic-book roots, she has also written a graphic novel titled THE EXILE (set within the OUTLANDER universe and featuring the main characters from OUTLANDER), but told from the viewpoint of Jamie Fraser and his godfather, Murtagh. The graphic novel is illustrated by Hoang Nguyen, and published by Del-Rey.
The eighth and most recent major novel in the OUTLANDER series, WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD, was released on June 10, 2014 in the U.S.A. and Canada. The book made its debut as number one on the New York Times bestseller list in the hardcover category and combined e-book and hardcover category! And the book is also a bestseller in Canada.
Diana is serving as a Co-Producer and advisor for the popular Outlander TV series, produced by the Starz network and Tall Ship Productions and distributed by Sony International, which is based on her novels. She has written a script for an episode of the series, also.
Her main current writing project is the ninth major novel in the OUTLANDER series, GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE.
Dr. Gabaldon holds three degrees in science: Zoology, Marine Biology, and a Ph.D. in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology, (plus an honorary degree as Doctor of Humane Letters, which entitles her to be “Diana Gabaldon, Ph.D., D.H.L.” She supposes this is better than “Diana Gabaldon, Phd.X,”) and spent a dozen years as a university professor with an expertise in scientific computation before beginning to write fiction. She has written scientific articles and textbooks, worked as a contributing editor on the MacMillan ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COMPUTERS, founded the scientific-computation journal SCIENCE SOFTWARE QUARTERLY, and has written numerous comic-book scripts for Walt Disney. None of this has anything whatever to do with her novels, but there it is.
Diana and her husband, Douglas Watkins, have three adult children and live mostly in Scottsdale, Arizona.
I'll be updating the conference home page soon with our growing line-up of agents and editors, programming options, and of course, our fabulous keynote speakers and guests! Stay tuned as more news and announcements are posted.
Back in the Dark Times, there used to be a commercial with the tag-line "It's what's up front that counts." Their value-added proposition was that - ahem - first impressions matter. This month I thought it might be useful to look at book layout because when it comes to books, what's up front does count.
Front-matter are those silly pages that show up at the beginning of the book. Most people skip past them but they serve a purpose. Joel Friedlander from The Book Designer lists some common front matter as half-title, frontispiece, full-title, copyright, dedication, table of contents in that order.
Traditionally published authors don't deal with this but for those of us with a more DIY bent, this stuff matters because it's how to present your work professionally.
The half-title page tells the reader the title of your book. That's it. In my own work, I bend this rule because I like establishing the graphical themes as early as possible, frequently carrying an element from the cover. I do it on purpose, knowing that it's "not done."
The frontispiece isn't used that much any more. It's a graphic on the back side (verso) of the half-title. In paper, when the reader flips the half-title, the frontispiece shows on the left and the full-title shows on the right.
The full-title page carries the title, author, series name, publisher and anything the publisher wants to say about the book. Sometimes the log-line shows up here as well as the publication date and place.
Copyright statements show on the verso. So copyright date, entity holding the copyright, publisher info, ISBN, Library of Congress control numbers, contact information, and - in fiction - frequently a statement along the lines of "I made this up. That's not you I'm talking about." (I'm paraphrasing.)
The dedication will show on the next page by itself. If you're going to honor somebody, make it count. In paper, that'll be on the right side, opposite the copyright.
Following that, you'll find tables of content, forewords, introductions, prologues, and a host of other pages which might apply to a book. Friedlander suggests a second half-title to wrap up the front-matter if the section is particularly long.
Which brings me to the secret. These pieces are all part of your stylistic toolbox and are not cast in stone -- or even paper.
My own front-matter (in both ebook and paper) consists of half-title, copyright, other books, dedication, title page. Sometimes there's a table-of-contents but in fiction, I find they're not particularly useful in paper and unnecessary in ebook. I've taken my layout based on old mass market paperbacks and my own reading preferences. Nothing says you have to do it the way everybody else does.
If you're laying out your own books, putting your story in a professional looking box can give readers a sense that you know what you're doing. Most of them won't know what's supposed to be there, but some piece of their brain will tell them if something's off. They may not be able to say "Hey! This copyright page is in the wrong place" - in reality there's no real right place - but they might notice if it's missing. They may not know what a half-title or a title page is, but it'll be a familiar landmark as they get into your story. It tells them a story is coming. It tells them to settle in. They turn to chapter one and the story begins.
If you haven’t heard the news by now, my Kindle Scout campaign was a success! My book, Call Me Zhenya, was chosen for publication by Kindle Press. I received just under 700 page views, with a surge at the very end in both views and in time spent in "Hot and Trending." The page views necessary to get into Hot and Trending dropped significantly at the end--I'm not sure why, or if that's built into their process to get last-minute votes, or how that works. As with most Amazon algorithms, there's no real way to look under the hood. But I kept up the promotion to the very end, as anybody who follows me on social media can attest, probably with an eye-roll at my multitudes of posts. I got the notification only a couple of days after the campaign ended. Everything has happened a bit faster than their materials indicate--in a day or two rather than a week or two, for example--which is cool.
So what happens next?
Basically, what happens next is that the contract as printed on the website goes into immediate effect. I was asked to look over my full manuscript and my cover art, make any changes I wanted to make, then reupload them. The next step is to fill out financial information so they can pay me my advance. (This isn’t going as smoothly—it looks like I might have broken their site. Typical of me and my weird electromagnetic field.)
The letter I received indicated that, if they feel it necessary, I’ll receive a letter with recommended edits. After that is all settled, they’ll give me a date when the book will go up for preorder. Also, I’ll presumably receive notifications when the book goes up for special promotions. So far, I’ve heard about people getting .99 deals for a period of time, special Kindle Fire deals, and other promotions directly through Amazon. Based on what I’ve seen from other Scout winners who’ve talked with me, promotions aren’t guaranteed, and of course the success of any individual promotion isn’t guaranteed, either. But a number of people seem to be pretty happy with the results they’ve gotten.
As far as the overall experience so far—for those who like personalized communications from their publishers, this won’t fulfill those needs. Most of the communication has been via form letters, though I do have an individual I’m talking to about the problems with Amazon Payee Central. You can also request a phone call if you have any questions, which I haven’t done as of yet.
Overall, it continues to be an interesting process. I’m learning a lot of things, and have discovered a whole community of Scout winners who offer help and guidance to newbies on the block. There’s a great group of people there that I wasn’t even aware of until the announcement went out about my book, so it’s cool to know there are even more resources to delve into.
As the time comes closer to publication date, emails will be going out with information on preorders, and those who voted for the book will receive their free copies. Hopefully, I’ll get some good reviews from the Scouters, and things will be off and running.
Thanks to everyone for their support, and if you have any other specific questions about Kindle Scout, the process, or anything else, feel free to ask, either here or via email.
Next month, I’m going to chat about Thunderclap/Head Talker and the pluses and minuses I saw from those platforms.
Before we get into the popular tropes in romance, I guess I should define a trope.
From Merriam Webster: Full Definition of trope. 1a : a word or expression used in a figurative sense : figure of speech b : a common or overused theme or device : cliché <the usual horror movie tropes> 2 : a phrase or verse added as an embellishment or interpolation to the sung parts of the Mass in the Middle Ages.
I think, for our purposes, though, the Urban Dictionary comes closest: “Despite the erroneous definitions already published here, TROPE on the interwebs really refers to an often overused plot device. It can also be described as another variation on the same theme.”
I do like what Tahra Seplowin says in her article at So You Think You Can Write. “Tropes are time-tested scenarios or plot devices that appear again and again, while hooks are any element of the story that might draw the reader in. You may have heard “trope” and “hook” used interchangeably, and there are often similarities and overlaps. One fundamental difference is that tropes are always tried-and-true devices, while hooks can be either well-known or brand new.”
If the theme of the romance genre is “love wins in the end” - then tropes are the subcategories of the theme, the overarching plot within the romance.
This is the list of tropes from the Romance Writers of America website:
Top 10 popular romance tropes: (1) friends to lovers; (2) soul mate/fate; (3) second chance at love; (4) secret romance; (5) first love; (6) strong hero/heroine; (7) reunited lovers; (8) love triangle; (9) sexy billionaire/millionaire; (10) sassy heroine
I’m not entirely sure that #6 and #10 are tropes. And it seems to me there are some fairly common tropes left out of this list.
Secret baby - though not one of my favorites - doesn’t show up on the list. It’s the one where the hero left town, leaving heroine pregnant and now he’s back and shocked to find that he has a child.
Forbidden love - heck this one goes back to Romeo and Juliet, doesn’t it - though R&J wasn’t a romance, was it. This is the one where hero and heroine aren’t allowed to fall in love - maybe he’s her commanding officer - or from True Honor, she’s his lawyer.
Is “older man, younger woman” (or vice versa) a trope? I have used that one.
I really like the friends to lovers one because the hero and heroine enjoy each others company for a while before the physical longings show up. This one can work nicely with the love triangle too. Am I wrong in saying that Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak (Arrow) had a friends to lovers story? Or maybe that was a different trope - loving him from the moment she saw him but from afar. Maybe Oliver and Felicity had a “girl next door” story - or more like “office downstairs.”
Good grief! RWA might want to add some to the list.
In October, 2015, I attended my first IPAL meeting at the Gold Conference. I didn’t know what to expect, and I was delighted to find that there were a healthy number of my fellow writers, all of whom had amazing ideas on how to further IPAL to work for us both as a group within RMFW, and individually. I made some great friends that day.
What also happened was that Sean Curley, our first IPAL Chair, said that after starting up IPAL he thought it was time for someone new to take over. I immediately raised my hand. Sometimes, my immediate joiner response is not a good thing, but in this case, it was.
And like that, I was the IPAL Chair. Like anyone taking over a position within a group they love, I have my own thoughts on the vision for our group. But the most important idea of what I wanted for IPAL came from the 2015 Conference.
I was all excited to be a part of IPAL, and I was meeting people in person, and talking and sharing ideas with those I’d only met online before, and I happened to be chatting with another attendee. She was an indie author, and we were talking about RMFW and how it helped us. I asked her if she was in IPAL. (I’m also an enthusiastic member – if I join something, it’s like #forlife with me in regards to that organization.)
The other woman looked at me, and asked, “What could I ever get out of IPAL?”
As a new member, I didn’t know.
That question has stuck with me. Why would she want to join IPAL if she couldn’t see an iota of benefit from it? So with that attendee in mind, here is what IPAL has done over the past year.
Established a Facebook group that is an active place for discussion.
Held a winter signing event in December 2015 at Book Bar for 12 authors
Held quarterly Facebook Takeover events online to promote bringing together readers with IPAL authors – we’ve had 4 of them so far.
Scheduled two more Takeovers before the end of 2016.
Established a Facebook Takeover group to better facilitate the Takeover events
Held a meeting in May 2016 to discuss plans for the rest of the year.
Held the NovelRama writing event in July/August. 37 people participated. Even those who didn’t meet the 25k in 4 Days goal stated that it helped them to break personal barriers with writing and the response was favorable.
Held IWOTY nominations and nominated three amazing finalists for the first ever IWOTY Award.
Awarded our first IWOTY.
Held a Summer Signing in July at the Fiction Beer Company for 12 authors
Met in the Annual Meeting at Conference.
Made plans for marketing IPAL members for 2017
Committed to at least quarterly Takeover events online with one member dedicated to the management of the events.
Began planning for two NovelRama events for 2017 so that there is more time for advertising and spreading the word to members. This is based on the IPAL participation and enthusiasm for a weekend of writing.
Decided that we wanted to open rmfw.net to non-members for the NovelRama events – kind of like our Monthly Programs.
Are instituting some online classes via FB for the members of IPAL to answer marketing and craft questions.
Have begun building a How-To library of files in the Facebook group.
Have grown the membership from 48 in October 2015 to 72 in October 2016. (I have added more members since then, but this was based on a calendar year – from October 2015 to October 2016.
Worked with the PAL Chair to bring IPAL authors into the RMFW event for the Mountains and Plains booksellers’ event earlier this week.
Secured a table for RMFW IPAL for Denver Comic Con 2017
This is only a part of what the members of IPAL have been up to this year. If, like the woman I met last year, you’re wondering what it might do for you to be a member, get in touch with me. firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s a great group of people. Are we going to solve all your authoring woes?
Let me say that again – NO.
But we will be a supportive group that you can turn to with questions, and we are always looking for ways to improve our craft, our marketing, and all the other things that go into being an author.
The greatest thing about the author community, in my opinion, is other authors. I love working with my fellow members of IPAL. I hope that this post gives you an idea of the sort of things we do, and where we’re headed.
Most of all, I hope it answers that question of “What could I ever get out of IPAL?”
Lisa Manifold is a Colorado based author living outside of Denver with her husband, two children, two dogs, and one offended cat. When not writing, she loves to hunt for “treasures” at local thrift stores, ski, and costume within her favorite fandoms.
Lisa is the author of the Sisters Of The Curse series, Three Wishes, and The Realm Trilogy. The second book in The Realm Trilogy, To Wed The Goblin King, released November 5, 2016. She is humbled and honored to be the 2016 Independent Writer Of The Year.