August 17, 2016

Tips to Deal with the Let-Down When Your Novel is Finished

Okay, so you might say, “I’m never finished.” I feel that way as well. It seems there’s always tweaking. But, once the novel is sent off, gone, out of your reach, how do you feel? Good? At a loss? Jumping up and down, celebrating? Tearful? bigstockphoto_Freedom_3207179

I recently finished the third installment in my mystery series. I sent it to my line editor. It’s no longer on my daily work plate. Gone. Out of my hair. I’m relieved to have it “finished.” At least to have gotten it this this far. But, now what? Do I start another project?

This is a question every writer faces. We struggle and work on a project for months, even years. Suddenly, one day there is no more to do with that particular work of art. Do we feel as if our child has left home?

My answer is yes, I do feel as if my child has left home. I feel a bit disjointed and not sure what to do with my time. So, here are some tips for dealing with the let-down between projects:

Tip #1: Enjoy the extra time you have. Allow yourself to free-think. Instead of always being in the minds of your characters (which is where you’ve been for the last several months), get in your own mind. You might be surprised at what you learn.

Tip #2: Don’t wait till the project ends before you think about what you are going to do next. Make a list of things you wish you had time to do while you’re working. The list might include: 1) Shop for a new refrigerator 2) Call my sister 3) Have lunch with my friend 4) Join a Book Club 5) Go to a movie.

Tip #3: Consult that list you made and begin working through it. Recognize that you’ll soon be into a new project which will consume your time and energy.

Tip #4: Do not immediately start a new project. Wait at least two weeks before you embark on the next novel. If you start too soon, you will not give yourself and your creative juices the time it needs to create. This tip reminds me of when I work crossword puzzles. I tend to struggle over them until I finally put it aside. When I go do something else, something totally unrelated, the answers fly at me like bees.

What about Product Placement?

Surprised businesswoman with wide opened eyes touching glasses.

That’s a no-no

Writers are told to make their fiction specific. Instead of writing a general statement like, he ate a hamburger, be more specific–he at a BigMac.

Readers do want to envision the place and what the characters are doing. If we are too general, it’s hard for readers to capture the image. We all know what McDonald’s looks like. We know what a CocaCola tastes like.

My editor is particularly nuts about naming products or places. In one novel, my character sang the words to a popular song. She had me remove the words, although I could keep the song title.  In another novel, she put TM under each mention of Diet Coke. Don’t the companies appreciate this free publicity?

My work-in-progress is full of products. It names places and things that I believe add color and dimension to the story. Okay, years from now there may not be a Hershey Bar, but by then, people won’t be reading my book. If they are, they’ll know it’s dated.

What are your thoughts? Won’t you help me out here?


What Are Beta Readers and How to Find Them?

Book WomanOkay, so you’ve finished your first draft. You’ve done everything you can with it. You’ve read it and re-read it to the point of total exhaustion. In fact you’ve gone over it so many times, that you’re not sure you’re reading the words on the page or if you have the pages memorized. What’s next?

These are people willing to read your manuscript and give you honest, constructive criticism. They are not people who will read your manuscript and say, “It’s wonderful,” without elaboration. Of course it’s wonderful. You’ve been working on it for months. You need to know more than a gut reaction to your story.

Betas are tests–trying out a test product, for example. The product is tested before going to market. Your book is no different. These are the things Beta readers can help you with:

  1. Does the story make sense. Is the plot clear? Or are you jumping around?
  2. What did you leave out? Maybe you forgot that you told a character you’d call him in an hour. Things happened and you forgot all about it. Your readers won’t. Beta readers catch these kinds of slip-ups.
  3. Does the reader feel in the place. In other words, have you created a believable setting?
  4. Are your characters acting “in character”? You haven’t had your shy character do something bold without good reason.
  5. Obvious typos that you’ve read over a million times.
  6. Timeframe. Could something happen within this time period. Did you mess up the timeframe? Maybe the story began on a Tuesday. How many days later did things happen? Is it still Tuesday?
  7. Are there too many characters? Have you introduced the people in your story well enough for your readers to keep them straight?
  8. Does the story grab the reader? If so, when? The first page, the second chapter?
  9. Is the ending satisfactory? Did you tie everything together?

They are reading to help you tweak and polish your story. Finding people willing to read a 300+ manuscript and answer all these kinds of questions isn’t easy. Here are some tips for finding Beta readers:

Tip #1: Other writers. We depend on each other. Each reads the other’s works. It’s a trade-off.

Tip #2: Find people who you trust will give you constructive criticism. They are not afraid of hurting your feelings. You want tough Beta readers.

Tip #3: Good editors make good Beta readers. If you know someone who edits other things, articles, nonfiction works, academic theses, these people often enjoy reading a novel as a change of pace and would welcome being one of your Beta readers.

Tip #4: Don’t rely on one reader. You need at least two and possibly three Beta readers. Too many will confuse you. Everyone has an opinion and often those opinions vary. But, if three readers tell you the same thing, that is something you should note.

Tip #5: If you don’t pay your Beta readers (there are some people who charge a small fee), then do something nice for them. Take them to coffee or out for a glass of wine to show your appreciation.

Tip #6: Acknowledge your Beta readers in your Acknowledgements in your final book. People love to see their name in print. Give them that bit of glory for all their hard work.

These are my tips for finding Beta readers. What are some of yours? Do you have Beta readers?

My newest book Murder on Moonshine Hill releases in one month. Check out the latest reviews here. I thanked my three Beta readers in the Acknowledgements. I couldn’t have written such a polished finished product without their help.


Creating a Narcissistic Personality When Creating Villains

These are people who display a lot of cunning and very little empathy. They may appear as sociopaths, but their tendency to want recognition for their bad behavior suggests a tendency toward a narcissistic personality type. The Norwegian man who shot and killed 77 people (many young kids ages 14-17) several years ago believed he was starting a movement. He thought he’d have followers (he didn’t). This kind of thinking tends to suggest a big ego. Hitler had a big ego. Was he more narcissistic or sociopathic? The Orlando shooter believed he would be famous for his act.Portrait of a businessman looking at himself in the mirror

The diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder include at least 5 of the following characteristics. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) says: “A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning in early adulthood.” A narcissist…

  • has a grandiosos sense of self importance (e.g. exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  • is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance beauty or ideal love
  • believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high status people or institutions.
  • requires excessive admiration.
  • has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectation.
  • is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
  • lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
  • is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
  • shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

As our political world heats up, these characteristics might be worth re-visiting. Hitler indeed fit the Narcissistic Personality and he was elected by popular vote. Had the German people realized what they were getting, history might have been different.

When writing our villains, it’s a good idea to study the particulars of mental disorders. The DSM-IV manual also suggests that Narcissistic Personalities tend toward mood swings and do not take criticism well.

What kinds of villains do you write?

Check out the e-Murderer. Was he a sociopath or a narcissistic personalty? You decide.

Tips to Write with Emotion without Overusing Exclamation Points

When we overuse commas, it distracts the reader. Conversely, when we leave out a comma, the reader may not understand what we are trying to say. Punctuation has an important place in the writing. But, is it the-be-all-end all?bigstockphoto_Fighting_Woman_3051977

As fiction writers, we can violate some rules of grammar. For example, it’s okay to write in sentence fragments. Of course, if you write only in sentence fragments, your readers will get annoyed. Writers use fragments to convey action, quick short events. Or, in dialogue. Most of us do not talk in complete sentences. Balance your sentence construction.

In my view, many of today’s authors try to use punctuation to display emotion rather challenging themselves to do so with skillful writing.

What I mean by that last statement is when we use (and overuse) exclamation points. An exclamation point does connote extreme emotion, but the savvy author knows how to convey that emotion without cheapening it with an exclamation point. Recently I read a novel (self-published) in which the author not only overused exclamation points but he also used bold and italic to create emotion.

Here are some tips to add emotion without overusing exclamation points.

Characters gasp. Chills run up a character’s back. They hold their breath. Talk in jerky sentences. All these actions show us the emotion without using an exclamation point. If you wish to show extreme happiness, think about what you might do to convey that happiness. Do you clap your hands with glee? Does your heart nearly stop from the shear pleasure of it?

Whenever something happens to you whether it’s a near miss accident or the arrival of that long-awaited contract from a publisher, what happens to you? This journal will help you better describe your character’s actions when they happen.

In other words actions are expressed by feelings. We act in a certain way because we feel something. Tears tumble down our cheeks when we feel sadness or extreme joy. Our hands clench when we feel frustration. We walk fast when we feel rushed. The list is endless. Pay attention to your own feelings that propel your actions.

As writers, we must not cheapen our craft by becoming too enamored with punctuation to share what we are trying to convey..

Here’s an example of good writing that combines punctuation as well as emotion.

When she closes her eyes, Fiona recalls the pale smells of her mother’s skin and hair; a smell like new muslin washed in salt water and left to dry in the wind. She tries to remember her mother’s voice, and the pitch and treble of it passes through her, the rhythm of it so clear that for the shock of a moment they are returned to one another in the way they had been when she was small, connected by frail strings.

Can you feel the emotion the writer is sharing?

Here’s another where the emotions are expressed:

He raced through the terminal, not stopping to apologize when he careened into someone. Sweat ran down his face and his heartbeat quickened. Would he get to her before she stepped on the airplane and disappeared from his life forever? He swallowed the lump in his throat. Fear gripped him. Spotting her alone as if under the light of a moonbeam, he nearly collapsed with relief. Not until his arms crushed her to him did the tears of joy flow.

The second example shows how feelings propel the action. As a reader, we are running beside this man, hoping he will get to his beloved before she leaves him forever. We feel what he feels.

These are some tips for using punctuation to create mood without cheapening your writing with the over use of exclamation points. What suggestions do you have?

Here’s a #booktrailer that conveys suspense. Do you feel what the character feels?



5 Tips for Eliminating Redundancy in Writing

Not long ago I read a novel in which one of the male characters had long eyelashes. In the author’s first description of the character, we heard about the long eyelashes. Later, we heard about them again in dialogue. In fact, we heard so much about the long eyelashes on this character, I was ready to scream.

We write in intervals. As for me, I write 500 words a

Retro effect and toned image of a fountain pen on a notebook. Handwritten text Repetition Repetition Repetition as business concept image

day. That’s about 2 pages. But, a reader might read three chapters in a day. That reader will pick up on more redundancies than I will as the writer. So, how can we go about eliminating the redundancy in our writing to make sure our readers don’t scream at us in frustration!

As writers sometimes we believe our readers won’t remember things. We think we must tell them over and over. Not true! They have memories like elephants. Many a reader will correct us when we make a mistake. Once you tell the reader what someone looks like, a mental image forms in their minds. There’s no need to tell them again and again.

Tip #2: I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again (not to be accused of being redundant) 

That helps me more than anything else to catch redundancies. Suddenly I’ll realize, I said the same thing several pages back. Reading it to myself doesn’t have the same impact.

Even in the early stages of a draft, a set of new eyes on your work can pick up redundancies. If the new reader says, “I didn’t know he had long eyelashes,” well… you’ll need to say it again.

Not only do we make errors in redundancy when we describe our characters, but often we do so when we describe the major events. For example in my newest manuscript, there’s something hidden under the frame of a painting. My characters are all talking about this. Do I really need them all talking about this hidden item? Maybe not. I plan to go through the manuscript to make sure I haven’t driven my readers crazy.

Sometimes we get so hung up on what we have written, that we can’t bring ourselves to hit delete. Believe me. Your editor will hit that button with relish. I’ve often deleted something I really wanted to keep, just to see how it might sound when gone. Geez. It sounds so much better.

What tips do you have to keep readers from tossing your book across the room?

MJ LaBeff Creates Suspense in her new book MIND GAMES

She’s written a number of books, including her newest release, MIND GAMESLet’s learn more about M.J. the writer, and her books.

re-worked 3_16 (2)JC: What made the “girl next door” start writing suspense stories?

MJ:  I’d always been a big fan of mysteries and then discovered suspense, and I was hooked. The suspense novels were gritty reads. I was riveted when the author took me into the victim’s and antagonist’s minds, and I loved the thrill of the chase and pulse pounding action and obstacles the protagonist(s) faced.

JC: Yes, that kind of excitement makes for wonderful page-turner reading. But, going from reader to writer isn’t easy. Where do your story ideas come from?

MJ:  Mostly from dreams. I’m a deep sleeper, even if I only get 5 to 6 hours, I sleep hard. I dream in color and it’s like watching a movie. Some nights I wake up in a panic with my heart pounding, and on the rare occasion, I’ve also been jolted awake by tears. There are times when the dream feels so real it takes me a few seconds to realize it was only just a dream! Like most authors I’ve got pens and notepads scattered about my house. I reach for pen and paper, not bothering with the lights, and write down everything left over from the dream.

JC: Wow! Your dreams sound wonderful. I don’t think I’ve ever dreamt like that. I usually wake up wondering what was going on and wishing I could replay it. I noticed that animals play a role in your stories.  I love it when authors talk about the animals in their characters’s lives—not doing unanimal-like things, such as talking, but acting like animals. Tell us about the dogs in your books.

MJ:  I’m also a fan of books with dogs in them just behaving like dogs. I have three big dogs and each one has a unique personality and intelligence. That might have also been my natural inclination to write a dog in some of my novels.

King showed up in Haunting Lyric a novel that hasn’t been released yet. He’s an Eskimo dog bred for the harshest of weather conditions but living in the desert in the fictitious town of Chillicothe, Arizona. He’s very protective of his owner Lyric, a woman on the run from a cult with dangerous practices. He puts his own life on the line to keep her safe from the Serpentariuns. Lyric is a real loner, no family, no friends, and no place to call home. She’s tough but confides in King, making it easier to showcase her vulnerability. I felt like she needed a dog to help soften her a bit.

Jupiter is a Doberman, featured in all four books of the Last Cold Case series. Last Summer’s Evil the first book releases later this year with Muse It Up Publishing. Homicide detective, Rachel Hood and FBI agent, Nick Draven solve crimes and catch criminals with Jupiter on the scene. Jupiter has a special connection to Hood and will do whatever it takes to keep her out of harm’s way.

JC: Those dogs sound like great “characters.” My mystery series has two cats and they, too, play important roles. I believe animals are a skillful way to show character. It sounds as if you’ve done that well with King and Lyric as well as with Jupiter.

Now, back to you. I noted on your website that you work in financial services. I’m assuming full-time. When do you carve out time to write? And what kind of writing goals do you set for yourself?

MJ: I feel like I’m not any different than so many other authors. I work full-time during the day, and I write full-time during the night. When I first started writing in 2007, I was very rigid about my nightly writing schedule. It was butt in chair promptly at 7 p.m. with the commitment to write a minimum of 500 words. I’m a word counter, but that’s 2 pages double spaced. I don’t trust myself to write in the mornings, despite being a morning person, because if the muse hits I hate to stop writing and then I’ll be late for work!

My original writing goal had been to write 1 book per year. I can finish a full length novel 100k words or so in 9 months. My new goal is to write 2 books per year. Not sure if I’ll pull it off this year. I’m a big believer is setting deadlines for myself, and I’m pretty tough on me.

Recently, a few authors I met on Twitter invited me to join this 1k/1hr writing challenge, and I love it!

We’ve all heard this, but it’s worth repeating.

The more often you do it, the stronger the writing muscle becomes, and it’s amazing how much you can really write.

JC: Congratulations on those goals! I, too, am a word counter and pretty disciplined. I think writers need to be disciplined to finish their projects. I’m not sure I could maintain the 1K/1hr writing challenge. Good for you!

Speaking of challenges. What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a writer?

MJ: Balancing work life with family life. My husband and I don’t have any kids, but it’s still hard working full-time, writing, trying to get published, accepting one literary agent rejection after another. My novel Haunting Lyric.  garnered over 40 agent rejections as did my novel MIND GAMES.

I remember seeing this tattoo of a pair of boxing gloves hanging from a hook and the sign above it read: NEXT. That’s what I would think of every single time I got a rejection. And, no I do not have the tattoo!

I feel so fortunate to have signed the Last Cold Case series with Muse It Up Publishing! I just finished my first round of edits on Last Summer’s Evil and am so grateful to my editor and can’t wait to see this story really come to life.

JC: How have you overcome those challenges?

MJ: I’m not sure I have! I’m a work in progress. Having just signed with a publisher, I’m learning an entirely new schedule with editing plus writing and promoting my current novel MIND GAMES. Of course, I’m also shouting out about signing with Muse It Up Publishing and Last Summer’s Evil coming fall/winter 2016! This has been a really exciting time for me. You have to understand, I wrote my first novel in 2007 and since then have written nearly 8 books. I’m writing the 4th book in the series now and am just past the halfway mark.

JC: It sounds as if you have met those challenges. The best medicine for dealing with rejections is to keep writing. Apparently you did.


Click to Order on Amazon

Let’s talk a moment about your new book, MIND GAMESTell our readers what to expect when they pick up your book.

MJ: MIND GAMES is about a woman, Sparrow Von Langley, whose repressed memories come back to life as haunting visions, and she discovers the unethical practices of her father, Dr. Theodore Von Langley.

The good doctor is a well-respected, nationally recognized behavioral therapist. I like to think of him as Dr. Phil gone wrong. Sorry, Dr. Phil, love your show, but you got me thinking about the “What ifs…” My sister also worked in the area of psychology and was helpful when I was developing the character of Dr. Von Langley. However, I must say, she chastised me a lot, insisting I couldn’t do this or that, and I just kept begging her to come to the dark side! I’m pretty sure she’ll never write a book.

Sparrow Von Langley has had a privileged life. She grew up in the fictitious town of Crystal Cove, CA an elite suburb of L.A. An only child, her parents doted on her but showed little affection. Cora Von Langley was a socialite who has fallen prey to severe depression. This is the catalyst that brings Sparrow and her closer and draws Sparrow closer to the truth about her father.

Tormented by these frightening visions brought on by a series of mysterious deaths, Sparrow is determined to search for the truth behind the tragedies and reconnects with Dr. Sloan.

Derrick Sloan has been searching for his missing sister, Kathlyn “Kat” Sloan since her disappearance 10 years ago. He believes she fled their home town in Colorado for California where they had spent a few of their teenage years during the time their dad, an engineer, helped to build the community of Crystal Cove. Derrick runs a concierge practice and a mobile health clinic RV. He recognizes the need for a mobile clinic in the L.A. area and also decides that is the best place to search for Kat.

Sparrow pulls together the pieces of her traumatic past with the help of a hypnotherapist, and her repressed memories reveal the twisted truth behind the mysterious deaths and Kat’s disappearance. Shocked to learn about her father’s possible involvement, her hunt collides with Derrick’s search for Kat, and she is forced to decide if she can trust him enough to follow the evidence trail or risk losing the man she loves.

Will the only daughter of the respected doctor prove his guilt or innocence in his quest to change lives?

JC: Wow! That sounds like an intriguing story. You mentioned talking to your sister to research your book. In what other ways do you conduct research to make sure your characters ring true?

MJ: I really enjoy talking to law enforcement professionals if the opportunity presents itself and asking them questions about processing crime scenes and dead bodies. By chance I met a retired homicide detective from NYC. I also have some friends who are retired deputies. Recently, I met a private investigator and border patrol agent.

The Investigation Discovery channel is a wealth of information and TV shows like Dateline NBC and 20/20 are also helpful to see how a crime scene is investigated, how a criminal is interrogated, and what the investigators have to say about working the case, uncovering clues, and what led them to the victim and criminal.

Of course, there is the internet where you can find law enforcement professionals who are willing to answer author questions, and blogs devoted to authors writing crime fiction.

Readers can find MIND GAMES on Amazon. And you can find out more about MJ LaBeff on her website.

Thank you MJ for visiting my blog today and good luck with all your writing projects!



The Confusing World of Mystery Genre

Why? I love to read mysteries. Actually I love reading lots of things, but I love the intrigue of a good mystery. When I picked up my pen and began the process of writing, I didn’t think, “What kind of mystery are you going to write?” No, I simple started writing.

Geez! How can I tell which genre is which?

Geez! How can I tell which genre is which?

My first book began less as a mystery and more as a family saga. But, as I wrote, things started happening that created more and more mystery and suspense. Still at the conclusion, I did not consider The Clock Strikes Midnight a mystery. In my opinion it remained a family saga with lots of suspense. My first professional reader (a published writer), however, informed me that The Clock Strikes Midnight was a mystery, but “Not your typical genre mystery.” In fact, it was considered a general mystery.

After I finished that project, I decided to write a genre mystery. I did this because it’s easier to place and sell a book that fits nicely in one genre or another. A book like The Clock Strikes Midnight is harder to place. Publishers like books they can place in certain categories. Book sellers like to put their books on certain shelves. That’s why I wrote the Jenna Scali series. In my view this was a cozy mystery.

Unfortunately the first book in that series, e-Murderer doesn’t quite fit the cozy category. Although there is no explicit sex or violence and the book features an amateur sleuth, it does center around some pretty ghastly murders. In the early stages of this book, I asked the Cozy Mystery readers on Goodreads to tell me if they felt the book fit the cozy genre. Yes, they liked the book, but a couple of readers said it had too much “blood” to be considered a cozy.

I took a long deep breath and then wrote the second book in the Jenna Scali series, Murder on Moonshine Hill. This time I was determined to write a book cozy readers would recognize as one of theirs. This book features a murder in a nice little mountain lodge around a wedding ceremony. It has a bunch of quirky characters and lots of intrigue. It will be released this  fall by MuseItUp Publishing. If this book gets rejected by cozy readers, I’ll just have to give up and simply write what I want.

Okay, you say, why not do that? Why not just write what you want and quit worrying about the sub-genres in the mystery world? One reason is that the sub-genres are very important to help readers find the books they like and for authors to connect with those readers. That’s why I keep trying.

In the mystery world for example, things are very fuzzy.

  • Police procedural. This sub-genre focuses on the police conducting an investigation of murder. The characters who move from book to book are police officers. But how is the police procedural different from detective mysteries?
  • Detective mysteries. This sub-genre focuses on a single detective who solves the murders. This detective can work for the police (Does make it a police procedural–See the problem?) or can be a private detective. But, what about when the detective is not officially a detective?
  • Amateur Sleuth mysteries. This sub-genre focuses on a person who is not an official detective or often not a professional in law enforcement but who solves crimes. What about the medical examiners who solve crimes? Where do they fit?
  • Cozy Mysteries. Most cozy mysteries include an amateur sleuth, but cozy readers are very strict in terms of other things. The locale for the mystery has to be “cozy.” A nice ski resort or a cute little town in Maine like Cabot Cove. The story cannot include a lot of blood and guts. People are killed but that happens off stage. We don’t experience the murder. We hear about it.

As you can see, there are some blurry places. Readers and writers get confused. The typical mystery lover enjoys all kinds of mysteries and does not care if its a police procedural or a cozy. But, there are those who congregate around one genre or another and these groups are growing.

But, I’ve also learned that I cannot write toward a genre. I have to write what I want and then try and fit it in the right place. If I was a formula writer–like James Patterson or Sue Grafton, maybe I could churn out books in one genre.

Meantime, when Murder on Moonshine Hill comes out, maybe you can tell me. Is it a cozy?

If you want to get a taste for the e-Murderer take a look at this book trailer.

3 Tips for Writing a Series

21d11087fe1084f48f65d3849d2d6e71Many of today’s writers write series books with recurring characters. Sue Grafton probably takes the prize for the most books with the same character with her alphabet mystery series starring Kinsey Milhone. Typical readers breeze through these books, enjoying the stories and feeling very comfortable with the characters. Those characters that reappear become the readers’ friends. They know them almost as well as the author who created them.

First, and one many series writers talk about, is keeping all the facts straight. If Kinsey Milhone is from New Jersey, we can’t have her saying she’s from Connecticut in another book. These small details become the bane of our existence as writers. Another challenge is introducing your main character as well as supporting characters over and over. How can we reveal facts and events and people that our readers already know from previous books? Each series book must stand alone. As a Sue Grafton reader, I wasn’t pleased with how she handled this challenge. I skimmed over much of the first parts of her books where she re-introduced characters. Jonathan Kellerman, however, does a good job at this. Each book tells us  little more about the characters and gives us previous details in a unique way.

Don’t worry about your previous readers when you begin your work. Begin as if it were the beginning. When you go back and edit, you can consider cutting some of the detail.

They may not need to know everything. Ann Cleeves does a nice job transitioning from Raven Black to White Nights. She had very little repetitive information. I’ll be anxious to read her third book in the series to see if she continues to make that transition so smoothly.

Both those who read the previous books and new readers. Previous readers can help you correct facts that might have gone astray. I thought Jenna had two cats, not one. New readers can tell you when you need to add more information that might have appeared in previous books.

Writing a series for a writer can be great fun. It enables us to really get to know our characters. But, doing so also has its challenges.

If you enjoy series, why not try this first book in the Jenna Scali mystery series.

Dogs Teach Writers How to Reveal Emotions

They seem to understand their owners emotions. According to the research dogs and humans are the only species able to do this. I know my dog can read my emotions. I’ve known that for a long time. I also know my cat can read my emotions. Maybe they’ll soon learn that cats, too, can read the feelings of their owners. But, sometimes I wonder about my friends. Can they read our emotions as well as our pets do?bigstockphoto_Dog_Training_736793

As a writer I understand that my characters cannot act in a vacuum. That characters act out of emotion. In fact, years ago I learned that all our behaviors are predicated by how we feel. If we feel angry, we act in a certain way. If we feel contentment, we act in a certain way. For some people it’s hard to express feelings. They don’t tell you if they are feeling stressed or sad. But, if we are like our dogs, we can sense these feelings by their actions, expressions and overall “demeanor.”

In other words, we have to be more like our dogs. Instead of writing, “She was terrified when she heard the noise.” We write, “Her stomach tightened and her mouth grew dry when the noise sounded outside her window.”

Good writers recognize how people express the unexpressed. Dogs tend to do that as well. The researchers on dogs wrote: “…they integrate information from different senses, including what they see and hear to read the emotions of people and other canines.”

So… as a writer, how do you incorporate your character’s emotions?

If you enjoyed this blog, you might like The Clock Strikes Midnight–a book full of emotions. Check out this book trailer.