Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Characters and Age

Many publishers refuse to have characters involved in relationships under the age of eighteen. Yes, we all know Margaret Beaufort was married at twelve and widowed at thirteen when she gave birth to Henry Tudor (King Henry VII of England. And we all also know nine is the age of consent for girls today in some countries.

However most western women find the idea of young girls being married and/or having sex in a romance novel off-putting. And since the hero is almost always older some women find it even a fraction pedophilic. So it’s best to keep your characters older.

If you’re writing an historical romance and think twenty-one is way too old don’t mention her age at all, or simply have her staying at home caring for her family/estates or something to give her a reason to be older.

At the other end of the age scale, think about the future. Yes, I’m sure eighty year olds fall in love in the retirement village. And good luck to them too! But if you have a hero in his sixties thinking babies, please do the math. Do your readers really want to envision him having a heart attack and dying while teaching his child to drive? Maybe give him a little longer to enjoy his happy ever after.

And finally age gap. In arranged marriages in real life the man may well be old enough to be his wife’s father. In some cultures he’s the same age as her grandfather. But is this really romantic? Does the reader want to imagine the heroine traumatized by his early death? Many publishers suggest no more than about ten or twelve years age gap for this reason.

You want to leave your reader in a happy cloud of bliss imagining the hero and heroine with long years of happiness ahead of them.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

People still read, they just do it differently now

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that 83% of Americans aged 16-29 had read a book in the past year, and 60% of them used their local public library.

It found that of Americans under 30 who read a book, 41% of them read it on their cell (mobile) phone and 55% on a computer.

The Romance Writers report asked romance readers about their habits. 91% of romance buyers are women, about half of romance buyers are between the ages of 30 to 54, and 94% of romance readers have read ebooks (either purchased or free).

So yes, people are still reading books, a lot of books, but the way people read them is changing.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The covering letter

The covering letter or email that the author sends in with her work needs to follow EXACTLY the guidelines of the publisher or agent to which she is submitting. This is absolutely essential. Too many authors write one covering letter then copy and paste it to use with every submission thereafter, wherever they may be sending it.

This is not a good idea. Quite apart from the likelihood that the facts included in it may have changed since it was first written, it simply won’t be targeted to the company to which the author is now writing.

The aspiring author needs to do her research carefully. Does the company ask for real name as well as author name? Do they want a blurb? A synopsis? Or even both? If they say a 200 word blurb this does not mean 250 words or 180 words. It means 200.

Do they ask for your blog or website address? If so, when was the last time you updated your blog? Are the facts in it still accurate? If the editor reading your submission likes the covering letter the next thing she’ll look at is your blog. If it was last updated in 2011 she’ll probably look no further into your work.

Once the covering letter is checked for accuracy and that it matches what was requested, get a critical friend—not your best friend or your mother—to read through it for typos and flow. This is the first thing an acquiring editor sees so it’s important you make a good impression.

Good luck!

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I’m going to call my book…

Choosing a good title for a book is vital. I’ve heard dozens of authors whine, “But I suck at titles.” So keep bouncing ideas around until a better one comes to you.

A now famous author named her book, “Pansy”. Pansy was the heroine of the story.
I’ll sit here and wait a moment while you tell me you know all about the book and thought it was wonderful.

Yes, you do?

No, you don’t?

The author was Margaret Mitchell. The book became “Gone with the Wind” and the heroine’s name was changed to Scarlett.

Right now I expect you’re nodding and agreeing Margaret Mitchell’s editor was correct and the heroine’s name and book title are much better than the author’s original idea.

It doesn’t matter how good your book is if no one is attracted to the title and no one picks it up.

The other thing to watch for is a really good title but there are already other books with that name. It may be intensely annoying to have finally found the perfect title and then see three other books out there with it, but it’s going to be way more annoying to see all the returns taken out of your sales from the readers who got your book in mistake for one of the other ones. Your title needs to be unique.

Good luck.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The most fascinating two letter word

And no, it’s not “me” or even “no”.

There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is “UP”.

It's easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP?

At a meeting, why does a topic come UP?

Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report?

We call UP our friends.

And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver; we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen.

We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car.

At other times the little word has real special meaning.

People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses.

To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special.

A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP.

We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.

We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP!

To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look the word UP in the dictionary.
In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions.

If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used.
It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP.
When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP.
When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things UP.
When it doesn't rain for awhile, things dry UP.

One could go on and on, but I'll wrap it UP,
for now my time is UP,
so, now it is time to shut UP!
Now it's UP to you what you do with this fascinating piece of trivia.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Vanity Publishing

Vanity publishing is not new. It’s been mentioned in the newspapers since 1941. It also does not imply the book is bad. Traditional publishers do not have a one hundred percent record for picking winners. It took them about ten years to work out romance, including erotic romance, is actually a top seller.

What vanity publishing means is that the primary audience for the book is the author. The author pays for everything—editing, cover art, ISBNs, formatting, printing, publishing, marketing. The vanity publisher then pays their staff or contractors who do the work.

The difference between self publishing, or independent publishing, and vanity publishing, is that with self publishing the author controls the decision making. She chooses her own editor, cover artist, formatter, marketing firm etc. She then pays them for their work and it’s the author who chooses when and where her book will be for sale.

Thus the costs may be very similar for vanity publishing and independent publishing, but with vanity publishing she is just a client, one of many, with minimal or zero control.

Vanity publishing can be the right choice for authors who don’t wish to use a more traditional publisher but don’t have the confidence or experience to self publish.

Unfortunately it may also attract authors who don’t want their book edited and won’t listen to professional advice about cover art, font sizes and formatting.

If you want your book read and loved as much as you love it, the book needs to be free of obvious grammatical, spelling and typographical errors, head hopping and plot holes.

The method the author chooses to use to ensure a polished product hits the shelves is her choice.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

When writing sweet romance

For those who prefer the bedroom door closed, and enjoy hints much more than description, sweet romance is their chosen reading.

In days gone by the heroine only needed to be stunningly beautiful. The hero could do whatever he wanted to, as often as he wanted to, as long as she sat there waiting for him. By the end of the book he fell in love with her. Readers today want a lot more than that. Stunningly beautiful, TSTL (Too Stupid To Live) heroines, are no longer popular.

Today’s heroines need a fully developed personality, may have flaws, and need to do a lot more than wait around to be noticed. There has to be a reason why the hero and heroine fall in love, and that chemistry has to be shown vividly on the page. Since there isn’t going to be sex, authors need to write this genre very much relying on the five senses. The looks they share (not just their eye color please. Tell the reader what their eyes are doing), sounds, scents, touches (or the desire to touch if actual touching is not allowed), taste (if kissing is not allowed think of other things to use this sense).

It is not enough to throw the heroine into danger and have the hero defeat the villain. The heroine needs to be an active participant at every stage, not blindly walking into danger by acting stupidly, but thinking and getting involved in her own rescue. This should provide the author with many opportunities to develop the characters and show the reader why they are falling in love.

Happy writing.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.