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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Meet Day Leclaire!

Day Leclaire writes for the Silhouette Desire line and lives in the midst of a maritime forest on Hatteras Island on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Despite the yearly storms that batter them and the occasional power outages, she finds the beautiful climate, superb fishing, and unbeatable seascape more than adequate compensation. Being flexible and having a sense of humor also helps, she’s discovered, along with a love for both the island and her craft.

Day’s interest in writing started at an early age. "There were four kids in our family, the three girls all close together in age. We were home from school one winter day because we’d had a blizzard and Mom.… Well, she was practically pulling her hair out in an attempt to keep us entertained.

"We’d fought our way through any number of board games, had read all the books in the house and were basically making a total nuisance of ourselves. Out of sheer desperation, Mom told me that if I didn’t have any books to read, I should go write one.

"So, I did. It was a historical. A Cinderella story set in the Wild West with a wicked stepmother and two wicked stepsisters. As I recall, those two stepsisters bore an uncanny resemblance to my own two sisters. I guess I was out of charity with them at the time!"

Those initial attempts, rooted in elementary school, continued all the way through college. "Although I’d thought about being a writer in high school, I majored in Anthropology at University of California, Berkeley. I was going to be another Jane Goodall…right up until I went camping for the first time. It forced me to reconsider a lifetime spent without the basic necessities of life — like running water and flush toilets."

So she dropped out to reconsider her career choices. That’s when she met her future husband, Frank. "It was a whirlwind courtship. We married five months after meeting."
The two went into business together, first running a film library in Berkeley, then remodeling houses in Seattle, Washington, before opening up a produce market. "Frank is great at retail. He’s a natural salesman. But I’m not.

"With a retail operation," Day says with a laugh, "you have to be nice to the customers. That’s tough since I’m an introvert who’d rather hide in the employee lounge with my nose in a book. When I became pregnant with our son, Matt, I told Frank that I’d like to find another line of work. He was incredibly supportive. He asked me what I wanted to do and without even thinking I said, ‘Write. I want to write Harlequin Romances.’

The next day we drove into Seattle and bought our first computer." And the rest is history!
Well, not quite. "Harlequin returned my first attempt — three mercifully short chapters. They said that although my writing was competent, the plot of my story was melodramatic and my characters stereotypical.

"But I took competent to mean good. That one word gave me all the encouragement I needed. The next book received an even more positive response — and a request for a revision. Although they ultimately turned that second story down, I never grew discouraged. It certainly never occurred to me to give up."
Then tragedy struck. Day’s younger sister, Nancy, was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died the following year. "It was a very dark time," Day confesses.

"We’d recently moved into this tiny condominium outside of San Diego, California, and I didn’t know a lot of people. My son, Matt, had just turned three and I spent the summer hiding in our home with the drapes drawn, playing with him. Finally my husband — out of sheer desperation — told me to start writing again or go get a job at McDonald’s flipping burgers.

"It worked! I sat down and wrote a slapstick romance called Jinxed. After three months of depression, I needed some comedic relief and that book provided it. It was my first Harlequin Romance and I dedicated it to Nancy."

As for the future? "I have a ton of ideas. Last time I checked my schedule I was booked several years ahead. And considering I come up with book ideas all the time…well, let’s just say that I have a lot of writing ahead of me!"

Described by Harlequin as "one of our most popular writers ever!" Day's tremendous worldwide popularity has made her a member of Harlequin's prestigious "Five Star Club," with sales totaling well over five million books.  She is a three-time winner of both The Colorado Award of Excellence and The Golden Quill Award.  She's won Romantic Times Magazine's Career Achievement, and Love and Laughter's awards, the Holt Medallion, the Bestseller's Best Award, and has received an impressive ten nominations for the prestigious Romance Writers of America RITA© Award.

This information is shared from here. Day Leclaire loves hearing from readers so please do email her.

Claimed:  The Pregnant Heiress by Day Leclaire
A January 2011 Silhouette Desire 
"I'm having your baby."
With those words, Emma Worth changed Chase Larson's life forever.  Having been born on the wrong side of the marriage bed, the millionaire vowed no baby of his would be so cruelly labeled.  There was just one thing that might keep him from making Emma his wife:  their feuding families.

She'd never dreamed one night with Chase would bind them forever.  The pregnant heiress desperately wanted to raise their child together, but only if Chase could forget they were enemies...
4 1/2 TOP PICK from Romantic Times Magazine! Leclaire’s got a fine hand with sexy romance and troubled relationships. This is one of her best.  Pat Cooper

Recently Day Leclaire was asked about writing craft and how to make the story stronger and she  replied:


There are three main areas where a manuscript may lack strength.  Without reading it, I can only guess.

Conflict:  This would be my number one guess. In my Dante series, the heroes all have the ability to identify their soul mates when they first touch.  They all (for the most part) resist it.  They're not ready for anything that permanent.  That creates conflict since, hey, you're stuck with her. 
But it's not enough conflict.  It's neither deep enough, nor serious enough.  Conflict must be strong (meaning serious enough so it isn't resolved with a simple conversation) and it must be layered, meaning that when the initial conflict is resolved, it creates a new and more serious conflict as a result.  OR it's layered because there are multiple (different) issues that all must be resolved before you reach a happily-ever-after. 

In Claimed: The Pregnant Heiress, the heroine has a one-night stand with the hero.  Their birth control experiences a glitch and in the opening chapters after she and the hero are reunited, she discovers she's pregnant with his child.  That's not enough conflict to sustain an entire book since all they'd be going on about is how to handle the baby.  Marry or don't marry.  Whatever.  Boring for nearly 200 pages.

In this case, the heroine is attempting to protect her hometown against the machinations of the hero's brother.  More, deeper conflict.  Certainly adds to the whole marriage issue since the heroine isn't real eager to hook up with the hero's family.  Still not enough to sustain the book.

The final piece of conflict goes directly to character.  The WHY she won't marry him and WHY he is insistant that they marry is the core nugget of what's holding these two people apart.  The three in combination is what gives the overall conflict its strength and depth.

 Characterization.

You can also have weak characters, who aren't consistent in their actions, who aren't well motivated in their wants/needs/goals throughout the story, or who haven't been fully developed or are sterotypes versus archetypes.
For instance, I might have a warrior hero archetype.  So what?  There are lots of heroes and lots of warriors.  What makes my warrior stand out from the others?  What makes the reader care about him?   Okay, maybe it's because he fights for the underdog.  Great, much better.  But...why?  You can't just say that without giving him something from his past that drives his determination to protect those weaker than himself.  Maybe he had a mother or sister who was victimized at a time he was too weak or young to protect her. Better.  Maybe someone died as a result of his inaction or inability to defend them.  Ouch.  Deep, emotional, haunting.

Now what if he's thrust into a situation where he must--not protect the underdog heroine--but destroy her for some reason?  That's a strong character.  That's a conflicted character.

Look at your characters and keep asking WHY.  Why do they do X?  What motivates them?  Just as your conflict needs layers, so do your characters.  And the conflict must be connected to the character and his goals, motivations, and/or beliefs in some powerful way.

 Plot.

It's also possible that a judge or editor may reject your story based on the strength (or lack thereof) of your plot.  Your plot must be believable (within the romance fantasy world, lol, where we give a LOT of latitude to the word "believable").  I mean, I'm laughing as I write this because, well, come on!  I'm the Queen of UNbelievable plots.  Can anyone say Dante's Inferno??
Anyway, within the world you create you must sustain believeablity and your plot must make emotional and logical sense, with your characters acting consistently and believably in response to the conflict (or problems) you set up.  You can't just have them fight because you know they need a reason to keep them apart.  You can't just have them stuck together for convenience.  They must have problems with each other and be either apart or together for reasons the reader is willing to accept.

Your plot must move along and not get bogged down or become boring.  Readers want to be entertained, not put to sleep.  Events must happen at a pace that keeps readers turning the pages.  The story should be gripping.  Have a surprise or two.  Take unexpected turns.  Not be one you've heard a thousand times before.  Dont' be trite; be original.

And here's one that is a tough fact to swallow.  You have to be able to write well, have a solid working knowledge of grammar and the fundamentals of writing.  These can be learned.  But if you can't write well, your story will also be weak--weakly written.

I watch American Idol.  Love it.  I can even carry a tune and have a decent ear.  In fact, I have enough of an ear to know just how bad a singer I am in comparison to professional artists.  I sing for my own pleasure, but I will never, ever, not in a trillion years be paid to sing.  It reminds me of a line from Working Girl.  Joan Cusack says to
Melanie Griffith:  "Sometimes I like to dance around in my underwear.
Doesn't make me Madonna.  Never will." The tough, tough fact is, some people who love to write simply aren't very good at it.  That said...?  It's one of the few professions where you can actually learn how to write and write well.  But it takes practice and dedication and you must be a natural storyteller.


On being asked about adding layers :

That's fairly easy for me.  If it bores me, it's going to bore the reader.  It's basically part of pacing.  I try not to get bogged down in long, descriptive passages and instead get the setting or clothing or everyday stuff across in broad, concise descriptions.  I know that sounds like a contradiction, but it really isn't.  I want to paint as vivid a scene as I can in as few words as possible.

That said, if there's a lot of narrative, it better have a lot of action to keep us both interested.  I also don't do a lot of straight dialogue without tags.  I want you in the character's head when she's interacting with the hero.  I'll have a run of dialogue for a short span, but only if works for the story and serves a purpose, such as adding humor.  But I try and allow you, the reader, to feel the emotions as much as possible since that's (for the most part) why you read romances.

And then I asked her if she uses critique groups and critique partners:

Hey, Nas Dean!
When I was first starting out I had a critique group.  It was pretty much a disaster.  Then I hooked up with a couple fellow romance authors and we formed a brainstorming group.  That's where I need the most help--plotting and digging down deep to get to the core of the story so it's as emotional as I can make it.  Humor comes easily, but it takes work to mine those deeper, longer lasting emotions.  Since then, I've lost one member of the group and picked up another.  We're a tight bunch.  Really lovely to have.

Delighted to hear you enjoyed Claimed: The Pregnant Heiress.  And I'm glad my mini-lessons helped.  In case you hadn't noticed, I'm pretty passionate about what I do.

Sometimes I consider offering a class and having us rip apart one of my books and reconstruct it as a how-to lesson.  And I'd choose my own just because I know how I went about plotting and writing it.  But it would take a lot of time and I'm not sure I want to spend that much of my time not writing, if you know what I mean.


This mini lesson is shared from here.


57 comments:

  1. I love that your mother lit the writing spark. And a 5-month whirlwind romance? Sounds like you were destined to be a romance writer.

    Great explanations of conflict, character, and plot. Consistent characters is something many writers struggle with.

    Thanks for the interview, Nas!

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  2. Great interview, I liked your blog. Nice one :)
    Short Poems

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  3. Hi Marinela,

    Thanks for coming by.

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  4. Hello Desere,

    Glad you liked meeting Day Leclaire!

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  5. Fan girl moment: I love Day Leclaire's stories! Especially the Dante series!

    Another great interview Nas!

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  6. Interesting interview Nas and nice to meet you, Day! All good stuff in here. I like the information about motivation, I think that's key to writing successful characters.

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  7. Hi Lacey,

    Another fan girl? Great!

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  8. Hello Serenity,

    Hugs on your R from SYTYCW, but you clarified somethings loud and clear on your blog. Thanks!

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  9. Wow, lots of valuable information in this post. Thanks! And I love Day's story about Cinderella in the wild west. How clever.

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  10. Hi Julie,

    The mini lessons on Plots, Conflict and Character are worth its weight in gold!

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  11. Awesome advice here. Thank you! Just goes to show it doesn't matter which genre you write in, they all require the same elements to be successful. Nice reminder.

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  12. You had me at "Wild West." Great post!

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  13. Excellent information Nas!

    Day, I wanted to be Jane Goodall when I was growing up. She and The Bionic Woman were my favorite people :). Love the Outer Banks. We go there just about every summer. The views alone are inspiring.

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  14. So sorry to be late hopping on here. I had a lot of trouble signing on for some reason, but Nas walked me through it. ;)

    Best, Day

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  15. @Theresa: Yes, my marriage was a whirlwind romance, which was probably why I love to write them!

    @Lacey: Thrilled you like the Dantes. There's another coming in May and then...we'll see. ;) Since readers were getting confused about which book was which, I posted them in order on my website (http://www.dayleclaire.com) under the tab: All Dantes; All Inferno.

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  16. @Serenity: Delighted you enjoyed the mini-lessons. I agree with you (obviously) about motivation. It's a vital ingredient that many aspiring authors lack, which weakens their story. I'm also a fan of fantasy. Hope to write some YA fantasy at some point.

    @Julie: Never did publish that one, probably because I was so young when I wrote it. I think I have it in a file around here somewhere, lol.

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  17. @PK: My best friend's husband is a firefighter, so you have my sympathies! And you're absolutely right. It doesn't matter the genre, certain story elements remain the same, regardless.

    @Rula: Love your blog. Very professional. And, of course, I love your photo. ;) I think one of the most important keys to writing is to keep studying the craft. I'm always learning something new and I hope I always do.

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  18. Phew! And finally... If anyone has any questions that the blog didn't answer, or just general questions about writing, please don't hesitate to ask.

    Best, Day

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  19. Nas, great advice from Day! Thanks for posting:).

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  20. Hi PK,

    You know for all aspiring writers, these lessons are very valuable.

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  21. Hello Liz,

    Great you enjoyed it!

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  22. Hi Rula,

    You know Day held an open day at eHarl forum for readers to ask her questions. She started it off by saying about money, in her words the hottest question. But absolutely no one asked about it. Every question was writing related.

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  23. Hello Day,

    All my friends and I extend our welcome to you! Glad you manage to break through.

    We love your books and your mini lessons are very valuable to us all here, thank you!

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  24. Hi Maria,

    You welcome. These writing related advice are always appreciated!

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  25. @Liz: I think I missed you earlier. Glad you enjoyed the blog.

    @Maria: Hope my writing suggestions help. Always happy to lend a hand.

    @Nas: I kicked off the post on eHarlequin about money to draw in readers since it's the #1 question that most people want to know about, but are most reluctant to ask. I suspect no one asked anything further because I said I don't quote exact numbers. It's impossible to give accurate info, anyway (other than my own) because it depends on sales. And sales depend on your name and the line you write for. It varies hugely from author to author. Some can't make a full-time living at it. Others can. I'm one of the truly lucky ones.

    Best, Day

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  26. We're glad for you, Day.

    But I think if I'll let my relatives know that I'm writing, they'll pester me with money related questions!

    And yet, aspiring writers just love their writing related questions answered and they love the absolutely valuable lessons, the type you gave above!

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  27. Nas, most writers love talking about the craft and are happy to help. As for the financial end of things...I've never, ever had a relative ask about or for money, lol. I think they know my answer. ;)

    Best, Day

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  28. Day, do you struggle with synopsis? I was over at eHarl forum in the SYTYCW thread and a lot of rejections were due to not so good synopsis. BTW, the R's on that thread is staggering. I feel for each one of them.

    Any special tips on writing synopsis...

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  29. Oh, that was good! A writer friend, Marianne Willman, once described writing single title as performing at the Kennedy Center with spectacular scenery, a full orchestra, special effects lighting, and gorgeous costumes. While writing category is performing Swan Lake in a phone booth. (Which shows how long ago Marianne said that. Anyone even remember phone booths?)

    ANYWAY. . . You've always had the magic touch of squeezing all those lights, scenery, music, and costumes into the phone booth with you. Having written a bunch of categories myself in the past, I know it's not an easy trick, but you make it seem effortless to the reader.

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  30. @JoAnn: Aww! You're such a sweetie. You always have been. I'm terrified of Kennedy Center, but so want to perform there. ;) Thank you for the lovely comments!

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  31. @Nas: I despise synopses. Here's the thing with them. Well, a couple things with them. First, you have to know what your book is about and I never do until I'm finished writing it. But I have to submit the synopsis in order to get paid and in order to get the green light on my idea. Sometimes I just send in something and call my editor and tell her every word in the synopsis is a lie because I just don't know. Sometimes in the middle I say: Stuff happens. It's good stuff. i just don't know what it is, yet. And I've even written for an ending: They all live happily ever after, I just don't know how. But I promise they will.

    Clearly, someone who hasn't sold can't do that. I've written more than 50 books and the editors know I can complete a book and it will only need slight revisions, if any. So, I can get away with it to a certain extent. I really, seriously don't recommend you do that, though. Editors don't like it, including mine. She tolerates it because she knows me and knows that if I could tell her what was going to happen, I would. I just don't know. Yet.

    So, this is what I recommend. First, write your synopsis as close to your natural manuscript voice as you possibly can. Try not to be stilted but tell the story with enthusiasm. Hit the key moments of conflict and the key moments of romance. IOW, what is driving the h&h apart, both externally and internally? And how is the romance progressing?

    Start with the setup -- where, what does each character want and why can't they have it, any history that's essential (and only what's essential). Then the inciting incident (what brings the hero and heroine together and puts them into immediate conflict). What does the hero or heroine do to try and fix the situation? How do they make it worse? Why are they attracted to each other and how do they act on that attraction? (Make sure it's logical, makes sense, and is both reasonable and believable!) What happens in the middle of the book to keep the action immediate and interesting? Do they have a temporary alliance/coming together? How are they then yanked apart and why? What then makes it even worse? What's the darkest moment? How do they overcome the conflict and resolve the issue?

    Keep all that to 5-10 pages depending on the length of your novel. Five for a "short" cat; no more than 10 for a long one. Grammar and spelling count! NO careless typos. Read it out loud. You often catch glitches when you do that.

    Okay, that's way too much info for this sort of forum, but there you have it in a nutshell.

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  32. Hello JoAnn,

    You're so right. Day squeezes all those lights, scenery, music, and costumes into the 50,000 word book and makes it enthralling!

    Thanks for dropping by.

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  33. Day, thanks so much for the lesson on synopsis. I'm sure my friends here really appreciate it.

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  34. Thanks Nas and Day for the detailed review and insider info on crafting her book!

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  35. Hi Lydia,

    Day is described by Harlequin as "one of our most popular writers ever!" Day's tremendous worldwide popularity has made her a member of Harlequin's prestigious "Five Star Club," with sales totaling well over five million books.

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  36. Hi Nas!

    Thanks to you and Day for the great synopsis writing tips!!

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  37. Hello Julia,

    Everyone struggles with Synopsis Writing, so I knew Day's tip would be greatly appreciated!

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  38. Julia and Lydia, hope the tips help. It just takes practice. Even after so many books, I still struggle, so I really sympathize with the difficulties involved.

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  39. Thanks for gathering Day's great info in one place, Nas. And of course thanks to Day Leclair for putting it all "out there" for us!

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  40. Hi LP King,

    You welcome! Thanks for taking the time to comment!

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  41. Great blog, Day! Some great info here.

    Thanks for having Day as your guest, Nas.

    Hugs
    Serena

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  42. Hi Serena,

    Thank you so much for stopping by. Glad you liked the information on Day Leclaire!

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  43. Hi Nas, great interview!!

    Hi there Day! It was inspiring to read about your writing journey. Thanks so much for sharing those tips about synopsis and the rest..

    I always find it easier to write a few lines of blurb rather than a whole synopsis.. A synopsis often reads on the verge of boring for me..So I might have to bite the bullet and try it again, and again, till it comes right!

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  44. Hi Ju,

    You welcome. Day Leclaire's mini lesson's are good, isn't it?

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  45. I absolutely loved the article here. There was great information. The part about characterizations was spot on. So many forget to ask the why's. Plots can kill a story. Look at heroes. Season one was great, but they don't know the meaning of continuity.

    You started at such a young age. Congratulations on getting where you are now. Looking back at the Cinderella story must be fun. I love that you said it is the emotions that you read them for. That is something I will have to remember.

    Draven Ames

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  46. Hi Draven,

    Great you could stop by. You write Paranormal, don't you? Glad Day Leclaire's mini lessons helped.

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  47. Great post. Very helpful. I'm in the last stages of my 50,000 word manuscript. Once I get the story down, then the hard work begins.

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  48. Hi Wendy,

    Good luck with your revisions and all the best with your second book!

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  49. Great blog Nas and so wonderful to meet you Day! I can 'see' myself in so much of what you said as you grow as a writer. I have a full revision request I'm harboring currently from HQ Medicals that has me in a tailspin.

    What advice can you offer when an editor basically tells you to change character A from this to that (background specifically). Then you struggle to find the new character with believable conflicts that don't seem to work-- and then she suggests you make character A 'this way', only the 'new' direction is how you had that character to begin with? The way she first asked you to change the character from. More tailspins, I can tell ya! lol

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  50. @Calisa: Revisions are really difficult. Revising to an editors vision of your story versus your own is simply an ability you must learn over time. Sometimes the editor can't quite pinpoint what's wrong and you have to be able to interpret what's bothering her. I've had that problem a number of times, where I had to boil an editor's problem down for her and offer a solution. Some editors have a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as it were and you have to have enough confidence in yourself as a writer and your story, to figure out how to make it work so it remains (at heart) the story you created, while addressing the editor's issues with it.

    That's a long-winded way of saying: Take a step back from her revision request. Rewrite it in your own words. What is she asking? Is she saying the character isn't believable? Isn't motivated? Is the conflict weak? Not believable? What, in the broadest sense, is her problem with your story?

    Then you need to look at the most logical way to resolve it. It doesn't have to be HER way. Editors are very open to your offering alternate solutions. If at all possible, see if she'll call you so you can discuss her objections and ask the questions you don't understand. You don't say whether you've been published by Medicals before. If so, definitely ask her to call. If not, see if she'd be open to a phone call and decide if it's something you're willing to pay for. Then set up a time. List out your questions. Take copious notes. Tell your you may need to get back to her by email with a few final questions once you've had time to think things through.

    Once you have all that info in your possession. Really figure out what you can do to fix the story so it addresses her problems while still keeping intact the parts of the story that attracted her in the first place.

    I know it seems overwhelming, but if you approach it logically, piece by piece, it really does make it much easier to fix. Once I know what's wrong and have figured out what needs to be changed, I literally list out the changes I need to make scene-by-scene and then tackle them one at a time.

    Not sure if this precisely answers your question. If you have anything more specific you need to ask, feel free.

    Best, Day

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  51. To LP and Serena: Glad to offer any help I can. Hope it worked for you.

    Best, Day

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  52. To Ju, regarding synopses: Actually, I often start my synopsis with a blurb and then expand it from there. My blurb format tends to be: Hero, brief description of his archetype and goal, (CONFLICT) is prevented from achieving WHAT by brief description of heroine's archetype and goal. So, if I use HER SECRET SANTA as an example, you might have: Ruthless "procurer" Mathias Blackstone is in the business of obtaining whatever his client wants--and this special client wants children's storybook author, Jack Rabbitt for her Christmas wish. Free spirit, Jacqueline Randell, whose privacy means more to her than anything else, is determined to keep her alter-ego as Jack Rabbitt a deep, dark secret. But Mathias will do anything to have Jacq for his own, and Jack for his client, even if it means exposing her identity to the world.

    Now take that blurb and flesh it out, incorporating the plot elements, and how they continue to provide conflict, combined with romantic incidents and how that intensifies the conflict. Make sure you explain how each is motivated. For instance in the above book, Mathias has a secret in his background that makes him determined to do anything to fulfill this child's wish. The heroine's desire to keep her identity secret must also be well motivated, which in this case involves her family and how they earn their living. And finally, how the differences between Mathias and Jacq are resolved.

    See if that doesn't help you with your synopsis and cover letter.

    Best, Day

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  53. To Draven: Humor is the bon-bons, but emotion is what lingers with the reader the longest. If all you have is bon-bons, the story is ultimately forgettable. But when you combine it with a deep emotion, that may even succeed at bringing tears to the readers' eyes, in addition to the occasional chuckle, your stories will find a home in your readers hearts. Good luck with your paranormals! Love the genre.

    Best, Day

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  54. To Wendy: Congratulations on almost hitting the finish line. I once had a fellow author/mentor who told me: There is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting. ;) It seems you already have that figured out!

    Best, Day

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  55. Hi Day,

    Thanks for taking the time out from your busy schedule and give us this lessons. I know it's deeply appreciated by all our friends.

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