Writing Romance… is it really that hard?

Here’s the thing… certain emotions are easy to evoke and others are very hard to master and write.

Anger. Hate. Rage. Fear. <– negative emotions are the easiest to write because they rely on primal instinct programmed into the human brain by thousands of years of evolution. Within cultures there are certain things that will always evoke rage (and this is why not all books translate well to other cultures). Certain fears are universal.

Every bestseller every written has a Universal Fear driving at least the opening act of the book if not the whole book itself. Most bestsellers use “I fear I am worthless.” or “I fear death.” as their driving focus. Everything from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE to HARRY POTTER has used this and it’s why it sells so well.

It’s also why Romance isn’t taken seriously at times.

Romance promises as a happy romantic ending. Which means the two most common universal fears are utterly erased by the genre requirements alone. No one is going to die. The characters are going to be loved and feel worthwhile by the end of the book.

Since readers are programmed by society to instinctively fear those things some people have trouble relating to a romance story where they must latch onto something other than fear to get through a book.

Joy. Humor. Laughter. Happiness.  <— positive emotions are really hard to write because they are complex emotions. There is nothing that makes people universally happy. I know, it’s shocking. Not kittens. Not puppies. Not a mother’s love. That thing you love, adore, and can’t live without? Yeah, someone hates it.

This is why writing satire or humor is so difficult. It’s why happy books are dismissed as fluffy or silly. They have a much narrower audience. The author has to reach into the reader’s head and manipulate their emotions so that they can feel soaring triumph. There isn’t a shortcut to writing happiness.

LOVE. <– Such a complex thing. Little understood. Hard to define. Ever roving about. Love, especially sexual and romantic love, are so individual that there will never be a One Size Fits All.

When an author sets out to write a romance they have to convince the reader not only to abandon fear but they have to write humans who are complex, convincing, and through storytelling explain the psychology of these individuals so the reader goes, “Yes, yes! I see it! I see why these two are perfect together and could never be with anyone else!”

It’s at once something many people have an innate talent for (hello, shippers!) and that many people don’t understand. Understanding love requires a very unselfish, un-egocentric view of the world. You have to think like someone else. And then, as the author, you have to create a way for a reader to easily step into the mind of someone else and understand this attraction without using shortcuts like “I saw her and got a boner. It’s love!” Because that isn’t.

It’s easy to write bad romance. It’s easy to use shortcuts and script the book like a film. But where films can rely on music and facial expressions to convey the complexity of emotion a writer only has words. There is no soundtrack for Chapter 7. There is no set of words in the English language that properly express the depth of feeling, the longing and desire, of seeing someone you treasure turn and smile at someone else and knowing from the depths of your soul that you would give up everything just to keep them smiling.

Writing a good romance means balancing internal and external conflict, knowing a person’s weaknesses and strengths, and pairing them with someone(s) who fill in their gaps, boost their strengths, and make them happy at the same time. And then, after all of that, you have to find readers who will understand and appreciate the characters you’ve written. You have to make the reader fall in love too.

Done well Romance is the most complex literary form.

Done poorly it’s just bad writing.

Heroes and Villains 4, Pirates, and Patreon… a lengthy post with math and magic

Sit down, kids, it’s time for some honest talk about life, the universe, and publishing as we know it.

A couple weeks ago I posted about the fact that I was seriously considering not writing or publishing any more Heroes and Villains books. And, like you probably know because half the regular blog readers emailed me, that didn’t go over with my Lovelies and Villains very well. You want Book 4. And probably Book 5 and 6 so all the kids get a book. For this to happen there are two major hurdles to overcome.

  1. Heroes and Villains needs to be a financially viable project that will not leave me hundreds of dollars in debt.
  2. Maria/Strike is an actual villain, not an anti-hero, and her story requires the kind of huge redemption arc reserved exclusively for male heroes in Western Literature

The second problem is a writing one I can solve. Maria made bad choices, she’s a true villain, she will have to face the consequences of her choices and she’ll have to really have the full redemption arc. Plenty of male heroes have had the same arc over the years. It can be done.

The first problem is something that needs to be addressed as a group.

To date, EVEN VILLAINS FALL IN LOVE is my most-pirated book. That’s an awful thing to say and it’s kind of vague so let me break down the numbers for you.

5000 sales on opening week <– this is enough to hit the NYT Bestseller List
3000 copies <– the average number of sales per title over its entire life span on the shelf
300 copies per year <– the average sales for a traditionally published book
300 copies ever <– the average number of sales for an indie/small press book
800 copies per month <– the average number of pirated copies of EVEN VILLAINS FALL IN LOVE every month

For a book that retails around $3.99/ebook (earning $2.79 per copy before taxes… after tax that’s $1.40), the lifetime earnings of a book don’t cover expenses.

Cost of publishing a book:
Author time – 4 months at minimum wage of $7.25/hr – $4000
Developmental edits – $200 for a novella
Line Edits – $500 – $800 is standard
Cover Art – $300 is the low end of the artist I’ve used for the other Heroes & Villains books

Just creating a book and publishing it costs money up front. The bigger the press, the more editors and artists to pay, and the more that cost goes up. When 800 copies a month are stolen, that hits the bottom line hard. It means that the Heroes & Villains already-released books aren’t selling enough copies to cover the expense of writing and publishing the future books.

That’s the goal with writing. The first book will probably be published at a large loss, the second a smaller loss, by books three and four the author wants to be earning a steady income from advances or royalties. If those earlier books aren’t earning enough to cover the bills, the author has to find another job. Most authors do. Almost every author I know works a day job. Most authors do. Almost every author I know works a day job for exactly this reason. So if we want more Heroes & Villains books, this is the Major Hurdle we have to tackle.

Enter Patreon.

This week, I’m setting up a Patreon account. You don’t have to sign up for years and years – there’s freedom to just sign up for a month or two and then drop. But if we want more Heroes & Villains books, this is the most viable way I can see to make it happen.

$200 per month will allow me 10 hrs of time to dedicate to writing super villains and superheroes.

$1 – Eternal Gratitude (and chapters of your favorite Villains!)
$2 – Copy of the final ebook in mobi, epub, and PDF (must back 3 chapters at this level)
$5 – Behind-the-scenes… plotting notes, deleted scenes, discussion of villain motivations – one extra post guaranteed per month – and you’ll get named in the acknowledgments at the back of the book.
$10 – Q & A posts …. ask questions and get answers for questions about writing, editing, life, the universe, and everything – 2 Q&A posts per month – plus all previous tiers
$20 – Print copy of the final book (signed and shipped internationally) plus all the previous tiers.
$100 – Stan Lee Cameo (hop in-hop out level) … most people do not have a few hundred to drop on an author every month, but for one chapter? Do that and I’ll sit down with you to design an original character that will have a cameo in the current book I’m posting. Become a minor superhero, a spy, a doctor, or just the fun side character running with an ice cream maker.

The goal will be to post 2 chapters per month from THE POLAR TERROR (the first few chapters will be open for everyone), HEROES AND VILLAINS 4, 5, and 6. And, if all goes well, THE POLAR TERROR will get additional stories set at the children’s hospital.

The Heroes and Villains stories are usually 40,000 words, which is about 80 hours of rough draft writing time + editing. It usually takes 9-12 months for these books to go from rough draft to final on-the-shelf version. The chapters will be lightly edited before going on Patreon (similar to BODIES IN MOTION during summer 2017). THE POLAR TERROR will probably be closer to the 20,000 word mark. Probably.

I know, asking for anything before you see a final, polished product is a leap of faith. I’m asking you to invest in me, my stories, my career. I’m asking you to take a chance on me.

 

Ready to get started? CLICK HERE to go to my Patreon page.

Holiday editing slots now available for new clients!

Between today and November 25th I am accepting new editing clients to fill a limited number of holiday slots. These slots will have 2-3 week turn-around times (time needed depends on length of manuscript) and are reserved exclusively for new clients on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Also available between now and January 1, 2018 is the NaNoWriMo Editing Letter Special. For just $100 you get a synopsis-style editing letter and comprehensive editing plan to help you turn your rough NaNo draft into a polished manuscript at your own speed.
Add a 30-minute skype session for only $30 to any editing package (limited availability).

 

What genres will I edit?
Science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, romance, and crime fiction for any age group. If it goes boom, bang, or crash, I can help.

Why let me edit your work?
I started beta reading and critiquing in 2005. Prior to that I was a newspaper editor for a local paper. I’m a hybrid author with experience prepping books for Big 5 publishers, agents, small presses, and self-publication. I know what people are looking for right now and I know how to fix your manuscript.

Email me for samples of my editing style or referrals.

Why hire an editor?
There are no good writers, only good editors. And while every author should learn to edit themselves, we all need help on every book.

None of the books you love went unedited. There isn’t a single book on the bestseller list that wasn’t worked on by an editor. You can write a book alone, but you cannot prepare it for publication alone. A good editor won’t rewrite your book, but they will tell you what needs to be fixed, what needs to be cut, and what needs to be kept.

Every writer is at a different stage of development. All writers (including me) have trouble editing their own work. A fresh set of eyes can not only improve your writing, but can help you refine your style so you stand our in a crowd.

Do you have more questions?
You can always email me at liana.brooks1 @ gmail.com, subject- Editing Question, if you have a question that isn’t answered here.

FREE FALL Flies Free!

Free Fall Mood Board – all art copyrighted to respective artists

FREE FALL, my next SF adventure, has been in the works since late 2015 and is finally finished and out with the last line of critters. Ready for some writing stats?

Word Count: 80,000
Corpse Count: 2 named characters + random guards (RIP Guards)
Chapters: 9 (but they are long chapters with breaks)
Themes: Family, diaspora, identity, friendship
Subgenre: Space heist!
Inspiration: The Train Job/Firefly
Rep: One mixed race, two demisexuals, one bi-guy. (There are various POC but skin tone doesn’t factor into the story for the most part.)
For The Fans Of… If you like my writing, Ocean’s 11, Firefly, Dark Matter, or Killjoys you’ll probably get a kick out of this one.
Pub Date: There is no publication date or publisher attached to FREE FALL at the moment. When that changes I will let you know.
What’s Next? Tomorrow I’m going to sit down with the plot for LAWS OF ATTRACTION, the sequel to BODIES IN MOTION. I already have 11k written and I’m expecting to finish the first draft before February.

 

#SonOfAPitch – ♫ I’m all about that pitch! ♪

Turn up the music! The #SonOfAPitch Twitter Pitch Party is about to start and this here is tailgate central! We’re going to party, perfect our pitches, and get ready for the big game where you – my fabulous authors – will go live on the big Twitter screen to catch the attention of those fabulous agents who will really love your book! Throughout the day the Son Of A Pitch crew will be dropping by to give their advice and help you workshop your pitch, so make sure you come back a second time to get everything you can out of today’s workshop.

Ready? Set? Let’s go!!!!

Today we’re going to work on developing two pitches. The first is the standard Twitter Pitch, also called an Elevator Pitch or Logline. This is a 1-2 sentence description of your book that summarizes the main idea for a quick sale. It’s the pitch you use on social media, at cons, at book signings, and that librarians, agents, and editors will use to pitch the book to their audiences. An ideal pitch makes your story sound unique and exciting without being too long. If you’ve never written a good Twitter Pitch before I recommend going back to the last #SonOfAPitch Pitch Party Post and look through the comments. That’s a great way to get a feel of how these work.

The second pitch we’ll be working on is the High Concept Pitch. This is the pitch you use if your book has mass market appeal. It catches the imagination quickly, it’s easy to sell, and for really complex books it’s the easiest way to pitch them on Twitter. It’s the easiest pitch to write because the formula is literally “This Popular Thing + That Popular Thing in New Location”. Promise, once you learn how to do this you’ll use it all the time. It’s also a great brainstorming tool.

These two seem very, very similar. The only difference is that an Elevator Pitch is slightly longer, and doesn’t rely on any outside world building while a High Concept Pitch will rely heavily on the audience knowing other books or movies.

So, grab your notebooks and keyboards because it’s thinking time!

HOW TO WRITE A TWITTER PITCH
Definition: One or two sentences that summarize the book you’ve written.

What You Want To Include:
– Setting
– Description of the protagonist
– The problem to be solved
– Description of the antagonist
– Conflict preventing the problem from being solved
– The ultimate goal

What You Don’t Include:
– Proper nouns (names aren’t relevant)
– Irrelevant personal data (age, height, weight, ethnicity, gender, ect… unless one of these is the main trait of a character- ie 120yo scientist with a key to eternal life)
– Information about the author (unless you are writing nonfic with a platform)
– World building details

Let’s try writing a pitch for Harry Potter…
– Setting – England
– Description of the protagonist – A young boy living with his aunt and uncle
– The problem to be solved – Wants a birthday party and friends
– Description of the antagonist – But has an abusive aunt and uncle
– Conflict preventing the problem from being solved – Who haven’t told him
– The ultimate goal – He’s a really popular wizard!

Twitter Pitch: A young English boy who lives with his abusive aunt and uncle discovers he is a wizard with a destiny! (you can probably do better than this)

 

 

HOW TO WRITE A HIGH CONCEPT PITCH
Definition: A one sentence pitch that relies on known, popular works to help someone envision the piece being sold. -or- A one sentence pitch that makes it easy to picture the story.

Formula:
Popular Thing 1 + Popular Thing 2 + New Location

High Concept Pitch for Gallagher Girl’s 1: 
James Bond meets Harry Potter in an all-girls school for spies.
-or-
I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You <- The title works as a pitch, which is awesome. This example is borrowed from agent Rachel Gardner’s blog.

High Concept Pitch For THE PRINCESS BRIDE:
A pirate rescues a princess from the prince she doesn’t want to marry.
-or-
Cinderella meets Jack Sparrow in a world of giants and magicians.

The goal here is to sum the story up in as few words as you can manage. You can use a High Concept Pitch for a pitch party, but in my experience it’s most useful at places like book signings or cons where you can refer to other popular movies or works you know the audience loves.

 

Your turn! Write your pitches and put them in the comments below. The #SonOfAPitch authors will come by to help you revise and rewrite them throughout the day so you are ready to catch the perfect agent at the upcoming pitch party!

 

One final thing… If you’ve never been to a Twitter Pitch Party before I recommend reading this post on pitching etiquette. And please remember to say thank you to the fantastic authors who have worked so hard to help everyone participating in #SonOfAPitch. You can support them by saying thank you, sharing links to their books, buying their books, or leaving reviews. Thanks goes a long way in this industry. <3

Worth A Watch – Killjoys

My second Worth A Watch show is the Canadian export KILLJOYS on Syfy. Not only does a great job of putting a WOC front and center, but it’s also LGBT+ positive with good rep, and has some pretty good disability rep. It’s at times heart-breaking, sometimes heart-warming, always a touch crazy, and has some of the best secondary characters on TV at the moment.

What’s the story? Season 1 starts with a girl on the run and her best friend/bounty hunter buddy getting into a fight, then rescuing his brother, then getting in the middle of a major war. To survive everyone will need to face their pasts, admit their mistakes, accept their differences, and make the most of what they have.

It starts with all the classic tropes – big buff hero dude, geeky nerd type, beautiful and rich witch – and twists the tropes so they’re fun and wonderful again. There’s a found family vibe and the later seasons really look at class warfare and nationalism/racism in a way that doesn’t feel preachy. It’s fun but it’s heavy at times too. Did I mention the secondary characters that I love? This show has Pree played by the super sweet and totally talented Thom Allison who I may or may not Twitter-stalk sometimes. Pree is hilarious and for me he adds the bit of light, joy, and sarcasm that it needs to keep it from being too weighty.

Who’s it for? People who like strong female characters, platonic m/f relationships, strong communities, and Found Family stories. If Stephanie Plum ran away with the crew of Firefly but was good with guns you’d get something like Killjoys. It’s not quite space western, but it’s not Star Trek either. It’s a show for people who like explosions, one-liners, and fighting injustice.

What’s the culture like? Killjoys is a Canadian show so it feels more like what an American would expect. It’s more sexually open/sex positive than some American TV with a couple of major nudity scenes. Not Game of Thrones level nudity, but more than you’d find on prime time family TV in the USA. I bring this up because Killjoys is very casually LGBT+ positive. No one says they’re gay or not. No one mentions they’re bi. But it’s there. It’s accepted. It’s part of the character. It doesn’t feel gratuitous. And it isn’t an exploration of what it means to be a certain sexuality. There’s a feeling in a lot of Hollywood shows that someone being anything but heterosexual is a Really Big Deal and we need to talk about a coming out story, and then explore the sexual tension, and angst about feelings and not being “normal” … I think US television is kind of breaking away from it, but Killjoys does a good job of skipping the angst and letting characters be more than their sexuality.

Bonuses? Hackmods played by actual actors with disabilities. Found family vibes. Redeemed bad guy. Sassy AI. Secrets. Everyone is bisexual! Plus some super cute platonic relationships. PREE!!!!

What to watch out for? Major characters death, cliffhangers, and some really sad moments. For all the fun and wit Killjoys is not a comedy.

How many seasons? Three and we’re hoping to hear about S4 soon.

Dutch is the best, but Pree is the person I’m going to buy drinks and talk to all night.

Terry Pratchett’s Hard Drive Crushed… some thoughts

After his death Terry Pratchett asked for his hard drive, and all remaining unfinished stories, to be destroyed. This happened last week. As a Discworld fan I’m sad to a point. I love Discworld. I love what Terry created. And that’s also part of why I’m at peace with this decisions.

Terry Pratchett was unique. I can’t think of another author who wrote satire and fantasy the way he did. The comic fantasy that he is often shelved with is right for his early books, but Pratchett evolved into so much more. He was keenly aware of injustice in the world. He had a burning need to make things right that runs through all his writing, not just his fiction. He saw the world in a way so very few do. And, more to the point, he was able to show the world in a way no one else could.

No one could write a book like Terry Pratchett.

That’s not a criticism, it’s a fact. No one could have mimicked his style well enough to replace him. Even his later books where he had assistance because of the early onset Alzheimer’s disease are different. Not bad in any way, but there’s a subtle change from the books before his diagnosis and those after that avid fans are aware of.

With all that, I can see why Pratchett wanted it all destroyed. Fans have time and again been disappointed by books sold after an authors death. Look at the nightmare of GO SET A WATCHMAN, a first novel that Harper Lee hid away for a multitude of reasons. Her wishes were ignored and the fall out was disheartening at best, and for good reason. Harper Lee wrote TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD after WATCHMAN. She changed characters, edited things, rewrote the world… to have the earlier draft come out without the author’s later changes in mind destroys all the hard work she did.

Harper Lee deserved better.

Sir Pratchett deserves better.

I will miss Discworld. I will miss new books coming out. I refuse to read the last few because I’m not ready to say good-bye yet. I never had the chance to meet Terry Pratchett in this life, all I have are the books he left, but his writing made a huge impact on me. He’s missed by his family, his friends, and his fans. And honoring this wish was the right thing to do. Now, please excuse me while I go cry a little and watch Color Of Magic with Samwise Gamgee. *sniffle sniffle*

Worth a Watch – CHIEF KIM

I’ve never made it a habit to recommend shows, usually because I’m a few years behind, but I’ve decided to change this for a couple of reasons. First off, I’d like someone to fangrrl with over things I love. Second, I know people (especially my American readers) are looking for something a little more diverse than white-washed Hollywood TV.

My first Worth A Watch show is the Korean Drama (Kdrama) I just finished binging called CHIEF KIM. It’s available for free on Drama Fever and worth the whole 20 hours it takes to get to the ending. Subtitles are included, although these aren’t as in-depth so viewers new to Korean culture may find themself at a loss to some of the cultural norms that aren’t explained. I don’t think it’s a barrier though.

What’s the story? A con man takes a job at a major corporation (TQ Group) with a plan to embezzle enough money to move to Europe, but he finds himself fighting the powerful leaders of the corporation who are already embezzling everything. It could be crook vs crook in a battle for cash but along the way the con man decides it’s more fun to save the day than fly away.

That’s it. That’s the story line. There’s hints of romance, and plenty of office politics and corruption, but really this appealed to me because I love the whole Bad-Guys-Make-The-Best-Good-Guys trope that’s played here on multiple levels. It’s awesome. It’s funny. It flips the bird to corrupt and unethical bosses in a way that will make anyone who ever worked for minimum wage cheer.

Who’s it for? If you love Robin Hood, Leverage, Hook from OUAT, or Stick It (a gymnastics movie from 2006) then you’ll probably love Chief Kim. This is a happy story at the end of the day. Set backs are overcome. Bad guys go to jail. Good guys (or at least the semi-decent human being) have happy lives. There are redemption arcs a plenty. It’ll make you laugh. It’ll make Mondays better. What more could you ask for?

What’s the culture like? For anyone unfamiliar with South Korean contemporary culture you’ll get to see the difference between the Big City and the Small City (Gusan). There’s differences in tone that your ear will adapt to (formal vs informal language) if you’re good at picking up that thing. The major differences for American viewers will be the lack of PDA between heterosexual pairs (there aren’t any official couples in Chief Kim) and the very clingy/touchy behavior of same-sex pairs. Korean culture as I understand it (feel free to comment if you have better info) allows for two men or two women to share open signs of affection – hand holding, cheek kisses, sharing a bed – without having a sexual implication. Korean censors will allow that on TV.

This is a newer kdrama and I’m not sure where the kissy faces between the two male leads fall in the sexuality spectrum for Koreans. To American eyes it looks super gay (in the cutest way) but whether it was intended to be that or not, I’m not sure. It’s adorable either way.

Bonuses? Sporty girl with a baseball bat. Maybe gay boi? A blind date that works. Undercover ladies getting away with things because of misogyny (smash the patriarchy!). Lady boss. Lady villain. High drama.

What to watch out for? Koream dramas love Nancy Drew pacing. Every single episode will start a super intense scene that will cut in the middle. You can avoid this by saving the last 5-10 minutes of an episode for the next time you watch, or by watching the first ten minutes of the next episode before turning the TV off.

Seo Yool has a tiny heart for you!

DECOHERENCE is today’s BookPerk!

On sale for 99cents today only! 

Bookperks don’t come along every day, but this was a nice surprise in my in-box this morning. DECOHERENCE is on sale today! If you haven’t read the first two books yet, start with THE DAY BEFORE and get ready to binge read!

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | HarperCollins | Google Play | iBooks |
GoodReads | Amazon Author Page | New Release Newsletter |

Readers of Blake Crouch’s DARK MATTER and Wesely Chu’s TIME SALVAGER will love Liana Brooks’ DECOHERENCE–the thrilling, time-bending conclusion to the Time & Shadow series!

Samantha Rose and Linsey MacKenzie have established an idyllic life of married bliss in Australia, away from the Commonwealth Bureau of Investigation, away from mysterious corpses, and—most of all—away from Dr. Emir’s multiverse machine.

But Sam is a detective at heart, and even on the other side of the world, she can’t help wonder if a series of unsolved killings she reads about are related—not just to each other, but to the only unsolved case of her short career.

She knows Jane Doe’s true name, but Sam never discovered who killed the woman found in an empty Alabama field in spring of 2069. She doesn’t even know which version of herself she buried under a plain headstone.

When Mac suddenly disappears, Sam realizes she is going to once more be caught up in a silent war she still doesn’t fully understand. Every step she takes to save Mac puts the world she knows at risk, and moves her one step closer to becoming the girl in the grave.

Hello out there!

Dear Reader,

At this point you are probably wondering whether or not I survived the drive through Canada and, if I did, will I ever return to the blog and stop leaving auto-posted chapters here. Regular readers are probably expecting a return to nice things like blog posts on writing or news about my favorite books.

Consider this the post you’ve been waiting for! Huzzah!

The summer blog break is almost at an end!

My kids go back to school September 5th, which means I will resume a normal blogging schedule (3-4 posts per week) on September 6th. Coincidentally, that week should see BODIES IN MOTION wrapping up for the grand finale and I should be kicking off a new project by mid-September. I have several posts scheduled including a series on encouraging young writers, fast drafting (and probably a reprint of the NaNo Boot Camp), and how to write a first draft you can work with. This will be interspersed with pics from my explorations of the Pacific Northwest and random other things that will appear randomly. (Random is good).

If there’s anything specific you’d like to see in my return to regular blogging feel free to let me know in the comments, my email, on Twitter, or in my Tumblr Ask box. I’m super excited to get back into a regular routine and my office is almost done, so soon I’ll have some pics of my new work space for you. What are you getting excited about?