Workshop: Character Driven Plotting, Pacing to Maintain Tension

Writing RomanceThis Saturday I’ll be giving a day-long workshop for the Romance Writers of America’s Vancouver Island Chapter. If you’re in the Nanaimo area, come along and join us in an exploration of character-driven plotting, and pacing your novel to maintain story tension.

Workshop Details

When: November 2, 2013, 9:00 to 4:00 (registration from 9:00 to 9:30)
Where: Vancouver Island University, 900 Fifth Street, Building 255, Room 170, Nanaimo (Campus Parking Map)
Cost: $40.00 if registering after October 19th or at the door. Lunch, coffee, and tea is included.

Session 1—Character-Driven Plotting
In this workshop, Vanessa explores character-driven plotting, and the technique of using the hero and heroine’s personal territory to build a bridge between character and conflict. We all want the magic formula to work: characters + conflict = a great story. Sometimes, we need a little help, and adding a territorial imperative to the mix could be exactly what your story needs.

Session 2—Pacing to Maintain Tension
Pacing a book involves finding the balance between showing and telling, between emotional intensity and distance, between slow and fast. Vanessa makes this complex technical subject clear with graphic examples. Topics include time and the writer: story time, reader time, and writer time; the simple rule that covers it all; and how pacing relates to viewpoint and narrative style.

I’m looking forward to a great day with this group of enthusiastic writers!

Vanessa

Workshop Handout

If You Loved Me – Kindle version free Dec 8 and 9

Cover art by AngieOCreations.com – I love this cover

I’ve always been fascinated by the power of certain settings to wield control over so much of our lives. When the universal themes of survival, love, and the dreams that drive human men and women interact with extreme environments, lives can be transformed in unexpected ways.

In IF YOU LOVED ME, I plunged a busy Seattle doctor into a remote wilderness in a desperate search for her son.

When the setting is remote – like the northern waters where my heroine Emma’s son Chris and his friend have disappeared, and men and women are stressed by life and death issues, there’s not a lot of room for pretence or hesitation.  And when people go missing in the remote, largely unpopulated coastal forests of the North Pacific shores, everyone knows it’s a matter of life and death.

And sometimes, love.

This weekend, join me in an journey of love and adventure, in the Pacific Northwest that I love.

If You Loved Me – free on Amazon USA and Amazon UK

Vanessa

Think About Love is free Dec 7-9 on Amazon!

To celebrate my birthday, I’m offering the Kindle edition of THINK ABOUT LOVE free this weekend!

One of the things I love about being a writer is the joy of sharing my belief in love with my readers. I treasure the joy of sharing life and love with the man I love, our five adult children, and  seven grandchildren – the seventh, Rebecca, just arrived two weeks ago!

This weekend, I’d like to share Think About Love – a story I loved writing - with readers who love romance.

Think About Love was the first of my books to be reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly. My editor at Kensington sent me the review before I saw a copy of the printed book. I hoped to see good sales for this title, but unfortunately, hardly anyone got to see the book because the publisher discontinued the Zebra Bouquet line, and Think About Love was published in the imprint’s final month. The publisher printed so few copies that I didn’t even get the copies I’d ordered for my friends and family. I generally refer to this book as, “the one they printed 10 copies of,” although I admit that’s an exaggeration :)

Now, thanks to the marvels of Indie publishing, Think About Love has been available in my own Indie edition for a couple of months. Because independent authors get to choose their own cover artists, I’m lucky enough to have the perfect cover, designed by my daughter, Angela Oltmann of AngieOCreations.com.

I hope you enjoy reading the story of Samantha, a successful and ambitious businesswoman, whose life is turned upside down when she gets a call for help in a family emergency.

Have a great day

Vanessa Grant

Think About Love – free this weekend at
Amazon.com
* Amazon UK * Amazon DE

 

Seeing Stars – free on Amazon July 21 and 22

Free July 21 and 22 - Click to get your copy!

I’m excited to announce that my book, Seeing Stars is now available as an ebook!  As a thank you to my readers, I’ve arranged for Seeing Stars to be offered free on Amazon July 21 and 22 (this Saturday and Sunday). Click on the “Buy” link Saturday or Sunday, the price is FREE! Download your free copy and take a journey with mountaintop astronomer Claire Welland, who is anything but starry-eyed, and the man she remembers as the bad boy from her high school days.

Seeing Stars

Arizona astronomer Claire Welland is anything but starry-eyed when it comes to romance. She knows her home on an isolated mountaintop observatory makes marriage to most men impossible, but that doesn’t mean she can’t have a little romantic fun. The last thing she expects when she comes home to Port Townsend, Washington, for her high school reunion is to be swept off her feet by blake McKenzie.

Once the town bad boy, Blake is now a prominent shipbuilder dedicated to helping local teens. When he asks Claire to talk to one of his boys about astronomy, he’s only thinking she might give direction to a troubled kid. He certainly never dreamed she’d inspire him – to fall in love. Now Blake is determined to show Claire that their future together is in the stars … if she’ll only open her eyes.

Free book – March 3 and 4. “If You Loved Me”

As a gift to my readers, I’m setting the Kindle eBook version of my romance novel “If You Loved Me” free for two days – March 2 and 3rd. Have a free read on me!

This edition includes a free preview of The Colors of Love.

In my September 23, 2011 blog Yippee! … If You Loved Me  I shared some amusing moments during this novel’s original journey to publication has some amusing moments, and talked about my excitement about this new edition of this romantic novel.

The majority of If You Loved Me is set in a beautiful – and remote – area of the Pacific Northwest coastline that was my home for many years.

She needed his help to find her son – no matter what the cost!Surgeon Emma Garrett had made sacrifices to follow her dream of becoming a doctor – and yet none was as painful as turning down Gray McKenzie. But not even the threat of losing her greatest love could stop Emma from fulfilling her dream of repairing the bodies of damaged children.Now widowed with a thriving Seattle practice and an eighteen-year-old son, Emma is suddenly plunged into the wilderness when her son and his friend disappear on a kayaking trip. She desperately needs the help of an expert who knows the territory – and nobody knows the Pacific Ocean’s north coast wilderness like Gray McKenzie.But when Emma arrives on Gray’s remote doorstep unannounced and determined that Gray will rescue her son, she soon realizes that reawakening her past may cost far more than she’d imagined.

Available from Amazon USA and Amazon UK (also Amazon DE, IT, FR, and ES)

Enjoy!

Vanessa

Yippee! … If You Loved Me

Yesterday I received the almost-ready-to-publish-as-an-ebook file of If You Loved Me, a novel of mine originally published by Zebra Bouquet (Kensington Books).  I love this story and I’m so pumped to know it will soon be available once again!

Originally I wrote it for Mills and Boon Harlequin, but my editor there wanted me to

  1. make the heroine younger (she was in her late thirties), and
  2. change the father of her son to someone else
The whole story was based on the premise that Emma’s son had gone kayaking in the wilderness with a friend, and was now missing. Changing Emma’s age would have made her either a child-mother, or a negligent one for letting her pre-adolescent son head into the wilderness without an adult. In addition, it was unlikely she would have achieved prominence as an orthopaedic surgeon at the ripe old age of twenty-something.
My editor was reasonable about Emma’s age because of the negligent mother issue, but wouldn’t budge on the identity of her son’s father. I decided not to change the identity of the father of Emma’s son, because that would change a crucial decision Emma had made in the past – and my plot would make no sense at all. So I withdrew the novel and went on to write several other books for Harlequin.
A few years later I learned that one of the Kensington editors was looking for 70,000 word stories for their new Bouquet imprint. I decided to submit  If You Loved Me. I would need to add an extra 10-15,000 words, but that would be a pleasure as I’d been challenged to fit it into M&B’s 55-60,000 word limit when I first wrote the novel. I sent off an email query and received a phone call from Kensington within a few days.  If You Loved Me became the first of four novels I wrote for Kensington, and I enjoyed the scope the extra length gave me.
I laughed when my new Kensington editor told me that one of the things she loved about the book was the boy’s parentage – the exact thing that had caused me to withdraw the book from M&B. Go figure!
Last year I applied to get the rights back to my four Kensington novels, and when I received the reversion documents I was thrilled because I could have all four novels available as eBooks for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and iBooks before the end of 2011.
So here I am with the “e” equivalent of galleys, ready to start the final edit. Unlike the world of print books, I have the opportunity to make any changes I like before the book goes out to the world – and I get to work with my own cover artist on a design! Kensington does great cover art and I liked the covers of my four Bouquets, but being in on the creation with a cover designer like Angela is a real joy.
So while my husband and I continue east on our road trip across the North American continent, I’ll be enjoying a final read through If You Loved Me before it goes to e-press on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and iBooks!

A Hero by Any Other Name

(Also posted at PenWarriors.com)

If fictional characters had to pay real dollars for therapy, a few of mine would be bankrupt and suffering from multiple identity disorder.

Even I’m confused about the identity of the hero of my seventh published book. Andrew, Takeover Man‘s hero, stormed into town to reorganize his aging father’s life and ran into Maggie, a female harbormaster with an attitude. Maggie knew who she was from the instant she flashed onto my computer screen, but Andrew wasn’t so lucky. If I’d been writing this book in the days when authors slaved over typewriters and had to retype the manuscript with each draft, Andrew would have managed to hang onto his name—too much work to change it. But when I read through my final draft, I decided that the name Andrew just didn’t evoke the image of a takeover man. So my last act as his creator was a search-and-replace, wiping Andrew out of existence and substituting Michael.

Looking back now, I’m not sure Michael sounds any more take-charge than Andrew. It seemed important to me at the time and, who knows, maybe I was right … or wrong.

One way or another I’ve spent a lot of time naming my characters.

Like many writers I’ve collected a host of baby name books over the years. After years of trying to find the perfect name book, in the late 1990s my husband and I developed a computer names database, and a few years later, my son Cameron enhanced and expanded it into MuseNames. I keep adding new names as I find them and the MuseNames database has now grown to 60,000 names. I know it’s crazy to think I need 60,000 names, but I love exploring the names and their meanings as I create my characters. With all those names at my disposal, I could write forever and never repeat a hero or heroine’s name.

Well, not exactly.

When my twenty-third book was accepted for publication, the editor suggested I change the name of Strangers by Day’s hero from Allan to something more masculine. Perhaps Max, he suggested.

I’ve always been fond of short, simple masculine names. If I couldn’t have Allan, there was no reason Faith couldn’t fall in love with a man named Max—it was exactly the sort of name I might give one of my heroes. I did another search-and-replace and Allan became Max.

Oops! Max was the hero of my very first book, Pacific Disturbance.

Oh, well. The two men will probably never meet. Max #1 (Pacific Disturbance) is a West Coast software developer; Max #2 (Strangers by Day) is a cattle rancher in the interior of British Columbia. I should be safe, unless they both turn up in Vegas on the same weekend and their wives get to comparing heroes.

As for that MuseNames database, check it out! Over the weekend, my son Cameron and I finished putting the database and its search tool up on my website. Feel free to browse those 60,000 names with their origins and meanings here at http://vanessagrant.com/character-names-for-writers/.

Happy writing

Vanessa

Check out my eBoook On Johnny’s Terms – the author’s cut – another name change story.

The Garbage Can Test for Writers

Writing Romance, 3rd Edition, by Vanessa Grant

EC Sheedy Tweeted me this afternoon about today’s blog, asking, “Are you doing the “garbage can? A little bit scary for writers, that one :-)

Although “scary” (and I do agree!), the Garbage Can Test has always come through for me. So, on request from a recent email conversation between Pen Warriors, here’s the Garbage Can Test described in Chapter 11 of   Writing Romance, 3rd Edition.

The Garbage Can Test stumbled out of my  mouth several years ago during a weekend workshop at the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts. One of the writers attending asked for help with a complicated plot involving bad guys, a sheriff, and a heroine’s imprisoned brother. It sounded like good action but I’d become confused by the details and uncertain what to recommend.

On impulse – if I’d thought it out ahead, I might not have had the nerve – I held up her manuscript and said, “Okay, we both know there’s a problem and we don’t know how to fix it. Let’s pretend for a minute that I’m going to throw this manuscript into the garbage.”

I dropped the manuscript onto the floor beside me and she leaned forward in her seat, hands gripping the arms of her chair.

“It’s gone. Into the garbage. You’re never going to be able to write it. You’ll never see the characters again. I want you to think about that.” I could feel her thinking and worried that I’d gone too far. I was winging it and hoped I knew what I was doing. “If you could reach in and pick out just one part of that story,” I asked, “just one thing you don’t want to let go of, what would it be?”

What she picked surprised me, because I hadn’t known what was important to her in the story. It wasn’t the sheriff or the brother in jail. It wasn’t the bad guys. It was something I’d lost sight of, but when she grabbed that “one thing” it was suddenly crystal clear to both of us.

A few weeks later I told Naomi Horton about my experience with the garbage can. She was stalled in her book at the time but when she tried the garbage can, she realized the thing she cared about was the hero she’d visualized, a man who had lived undercover so long he was more accustomed to lies than truth. She threw out her planned heroine and wrote No Lies Between Us with a heroine whose motivation and backstory fit the hero — a woman who vowed she’d never be lied to again. The next time I attended one of Naomi’s lectures, I heard her mention the Vanessa Grant Garbage Can Test.

Hmm. I put the test in my own arsenal of writer’s tools, and used it myself for the first time in writing Yesterday’s Vows. Since then I’ve used the garbage can test at some point on almost every book I’ve written. In the rare event when it hasn’t worked, it’s been because I’ve been at a point in my life as a writer where I need to take a break, where I have to step back from writing and re-examine my goals and myself as a person.

Not long ago my current work-in-progress took a scary trip through the garbage can when I feared I’d written 30,000 words of a story that was going nowhere. Not so, growled my detective heroine, Alix Hyde, when she climbed out of the garbage can clutching a passionate desire to right a past wrong, despite the knowledge that  her actions could destroy the life she’d fought so hard to build.

Has your idea ground to a halt? Are your characters going down in quicksand? Do you wonder what the point of your story is? Is it time to try the garbage can?

  • Sit in a comfortable chair, take a few deep breaths and relax.
  • Close your eyes and imagine you are holding your story in your hands.
  • Visualize yourself throwing the story and all its papers into your garbage can. If you have trouble imagining this, collect the papers together and physically throw them into an empty garbage can.
  • Tell yourself it’s gone. You’ll never be able to write that story now. Let yourself feel the loss.
  • If all you feel is relief, then let it go, but if you feel as if you’ve just tossed your first-born into the fire, then…
  • If you could reach in and pick out just one part of that story, one thing you don’t want to let go of, what would it be?
  • Let everything else  go. Begin again, starting from that one thing.

For more about the Garbage Can Test, see Writing Romance, 3rd Edition.

This blog is also posted on http://penwarriors.com

May the muse be with you.

Vanessa

About writing Stray Lady

Stray LadyI got the idea for Stray Lady while I was writing my fifth romance novel,  Jenny’s Turn. I needed someone to shake Jenny out of her hopeless love for Jake, and get her far enough away for Jake to realize how much she meant to him. I reached for inspiration and Jenny’s phone rang. When she picked it up, there was her cousin George. Like Jake – the hero of Jenny’s Turn – I didn’t realize at first that George was a woman.

George and her guitar caused me quite a bit of trouble while I was writing Stray Lady. Here’s a woman sailing around the world and afraid to stop because she’s running from her grief. George’s story unfolded for me as I wrote Jenny’s Turn and I had to take a firm hand with this restless woman to stop her from taking over her cousin’s romance.

“Just step back,” I told George firmly. “This is Jenny’s story, not yours. I’ll do you next, I promise.”

Once Jenny’s Turn was shipped off to my publisher, I was finally free to let George loose, but as soon as I put her on the page of her own romance, she started causing trouble for me again. How on earth could I get George to stay in one place long enough to fall in love?

I hope readers enjoy  Stray Lady as much as I enjoyed writing it.”

Vanessa Grant

Synopsis of Stray Lady

Shipwreck …

One minute George was sailing single-handed down Canada’s west coast, willing the salt breezes to show her how to go on living without her late husband.

… and rescue

The next she was being pulled from the waves by island lighthouse keeper Lyle Stevens and drawn into a magic existence with Lyle and his daughter. Lyle offered George love and the home she’d never known – but did she have the courage to gamble on love again?

This novel is available in a variety of eBook formats

 

Getting to know Jenny and Georgina again

I’ve been putting off updating my Web site for years while one by one my fellow writers joined the world of blogs and set up a 21st Century Web presence. At first I told myself I didn’t have time. When friends called up their Webmaster or Webmistress to modernize the author pages, I told myself I had no excuse to hire someone else. After all I actually had a professional certificate in Web development, and once upon a time I’d taught a Webmaster certificate program. But my ten-year-old knowledge of the Web world was so sadly out of date it was a hindrance more than a help. I’d somehow managed to avoid blogs and confess that until EC Sheedy and Bonnie Edwards dragged their fellow  Pen Warriors into Twitter during a recent retreat, in my world tweeting was something birds did. Not that I was opposed to tweeting myself, but beyond knowing it was some form of social networking, I hadn’t a clue how to tweet or even why I would want to.

It’s embarrassing to be be an Internet Luddite when only ten years ago I was the tech nerd everyone called when they had computer problems.

Ah, well. I finally got tired of my own excuses and finally, today, I’ve got the VanessaGrant.com web site up again – here’s my first blog on the new Website and I get to share the fun I’ve had today with anyone who stumbles into my virtual kitchen for a chat. Thanks to WordPress I haven’t had to dig into much of the HowTo, and have been able to focus on what I want to say here.

One thing I wanted to do on each of my book pages was to take a few minutes to write about the characters and how I came to know them. Today I’ve put up the pages for Jenny’s Turn and Stray Lady. Recalling how Jenny’s hero came to me while I was taking an instructional media course at summer school took me right back to the excitement of that moment when I started to get a feel for the world the film-maker instructor lived in. Exciting, state of the art, a perfect fit for a passionate, driven, successful, artistic – and yes, a little arrogant – hero. Jake, the hero of Jenny’s Turn was born in that lecture room and I had almost as much fun remembering as I’d had writing the book.

Remembering Jenny inevitably brought me to George, her cousin who started out as a voice on the telephone – at that point both Jake and I believed George was a man – and almost took over Jenny’s book. I rememberedhow I’d just finished writing a scene up on a boat in Massett on the Haida Gwaii islands, and George had been playing her guitar and I felt a guilty falling-in-love-with-the-wrong-person sensation when I realized it was George’s story I wanted to tell. I had some trouble subduing her voice in my mind until I could get Jenny’s story finished and get on to George’s tale in Stray Lady.

The day’s over now and instead of putting up all twenty-five books, I’ve succeeded in getting three up. But I’ve had a wonderful time reminiscing with old friends and smiling over their happy endings. It’s the sort of day where I wouldn’t miss being a writer for anything in the world!

Vanessa