behind every favorite song, there's an untold story

IGWriters October Day 8

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decided to take part this month in #IGWritersOct, a little social media fun on Instagram sparked by Cheyanne Young, a YA author.

I missed the first few days of this but decided to go ahead and give this a go, starting with Day 8: BRAINStorming.

Music is extremely important to me. I’ve always been a lyric girl. During my teen years when I’d buy a CD the first thing I did when I got home was plop down on my floor and open up the jacket. I’d listen to the album from start to finish, reading each lyric as the album played in my bedroom, just soaking it all in.

So, how do I brainstorm? Mostly ideas come to me when I’m in my car driving, usually listening to a song. The lyrics will speak to me and I feel that they fit with a certain character, or they inspire a certain scene. I have an entire Spotify playlist full of songs that inspire chapters and scenes in my novels.

Sometimes a song describes only a scene, sometimes a song captures the entire essence of my novel. When I write, I see the story vividly in my head like a movie. I can hear the music playing in the background of a scene.

I decided to have each chapter of my book start with a song title. I’ve seen other authors to this and I love listening to what inspired them in that moment. I feel that it sets a tone for the scene, and adds to the artistic flow of the work.

Music can transport us to another place or time. So many times I’ve heard a song on the radio that I haven’t heard since high school and suddenly I’m flooded with all the emotions I felt in that exact time and space.

Music can move, music can motivate, music can inspire.

Music is life.

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Erotica, Erotic Romance, or Romance?

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hen I first started seeking out some beta readers for my manuscript that I’m working on, I warned them that my stories do have explicit sex in them. I knew these women were into the wounded hero genre, but my sex scenes could possibly be a stretch from what they normally read. I know that erotic fiction is not everyone’s cup of tea.

The reviews that I got back from my betas were all positive on my sex scenes. Most readers said they were steamy and hot and not too over the top. Of course they still haven’t read the second book with a rowdy MC gang, and sex by the bonfire…

But I digress.

I had a couple potential betas come back to me and say “I’m sorry, I just don’t read erotica.”

That left me kinda scratching my head. I never classified what I wrote as straight up erotica. Yes, my novels are steamy. Yes, they push the boundaries in some instances. Yes, there is an open door to the couples bedroom and some smutty stuff.

But erotica?

“Excuse me Avery, I’m here to fix your copy machine.” (Cue bow, chicka wow wow music).

Skrrreeek. Record comes to a halt. Hold up. That’s NOT what I write.

Yes, I love hot steamy sex, but what I love even more is a couple being able to endure the test of time. I want my couples to keep the steam alive in the bedroom for years and years.

I want to create characters that my readers fall in love with. I want readers to be drawn into my story, and enjoy the steamy scenes that go along with it.

So that left me on the quest to find out what my genre is. Since books like Fifty Shades of Grey  have hit the mainstream the lines have become even more blurred as to what is Erotica, Erotic Romance or Romance.

It seems the general consensus is if the sex is driving the story, it’s erotica. If the story drives the sex, then it’s romance. So I asked myself which of these descriptions best fit my novel?

My answer. Both.

I guess this would qualify my first book more as erotic romance. It’s more than just my heroines sexual journey, and self discovery, although that does play a huge part in the novel. It’s a story about two emotionally broken people, learning to cling to each other and falling in love.

Also my stories don’t tend to follow the traditional romance flow. Yes, I give my readers a HFN, but I’m a sucker for a good cliffhanger. I guess this comes from my love of watching prime time drama. I love that feeling of getting to the end of a season and the anticipation of waiting to see what will happen next. This also, is not everyones cup of tea.

In my teens I strictly read horror and a whole lot of suspense (Stephen King, Ann Rice, John Grisham). I never considered myself a fan of romance. One of my friends told me to read Ruby by V.C. Andrews. I curled my nose as she handed me the book. It looked like a romance from the cover. “I don’t really read romance,” I said. I was guilty of the very thing my potential betas were. My friend assured I’d love it.

So I went home and cracked open Ruby. I stayed up until 2am reading it. I could NOT put it down. I devoured that book, and immediately went out and got the next in the series from the library. I became a HUGE V.C. Andrews fan. I loved how her stories would span generations. Curiously the other day I looked up what her genre was. Andrews is listed as “Gothic Horror.”

I cocked my head to the side looking at my screen. Gothic horror? Really? Yeah, now that I recall her books were always in the horror section of the library. I wouldn’t consider Andrews melodrama “horror”.

The fact was, Andrews had me hooked. I liked her style. I love the continuing stories that span generations. I loved her cliffhangers. I loved the melodrama.

So, I’ve decided not to get too hung up on my genre or my formula. I’m going to continue writing what I feel I write best, and let my stories speak for themselves. People can call it a steamy romance, erotic romance, erotica, erotic fiction, family drama, or whatever they want. People can threaten to burn me at the stake for my cliffhangers, or choose not to read my books because you won’t get the HEA in the first book. I’m not going to change what I write to appease the masses. My hope is at the close of the last chapter I’ve written a story with characters that readers will care about as much as I do.

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Chopping Away

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s I started looking into various agents I came to the realization that my word count on my first novel was extremely high. I know within the romance genre, most books end up somewhere between 70K-100K words.

My first draft was 117,000 words.

Brevity is obviously not my strong suit. I knew I needed to cut. So, before I sent to beta readers I whittled away at it and got it down to about 113K words. I knew I needed to still get lower in order to have agents even take a look at it. So, I took a step back and took a hard look at my writing.

I started researching on how to cut my word count. I read countless blogs about tightening up my writing and learned a lot. There were scenes I was grasping onto with a death grip that I knew needed to go.

This blog was super helpful in tightening up my writing.

Let me tell you, once I hit the delete key and removed the parts that didn’t advance my story, it was a liberating feeling.

Also I learned all kinds of tips on how to cut meaningless words, remove unnecessary dialogue tags.

This article by Diana Urban was probably the most useful thing that I read in helping me cut my word count in my first novel. By cutting the word “that” in my novel I eliminated about one thousand words.

Another helpful tip I read was to divide your novel into sections (like three acts of a play). Then you can see how many words per section you need to eliminate. Then you can see how many words by chapter, and then even down to page. When it comes down to it, you may only need to remove 10 words per page when all is said and done. Ten words from a page seems much less daunting than thousands of words.

It was a tedious, boring process, but it was exhilarating when I got that word count down. In two days of editing I managed to cut 11,000 words from my manuscript. It’s coming in at about 106,000 words right now. I know this is on the high end for romance novels, but I feel much more comfortable sending out queries with this word count rather than where I was.

I know I still have some editing to do. Ideally I’d like to be at 100K words. Even if I end up self publishing I have peace knowing that I produced a better novel by tightening up my writing.

So, grab a glass of wine, or beer, or coffee, sit down at your computer and start chopping away.

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Let the journey begin

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ix years ago while my husband was away on military orders he sent me a short story about two people who were “friends with benefits” meeting in a bar for casual sex.

The hero was former military, an amputee wounded in combat now working as an independent contractor. The heroine, was blind.

He had my attention.

I was instantly drawn into the story. Who is she? What is her name? What does she do? I needed to know more about these two. I began rewriting it in my own tone, adding more and more as I went along.

What started as a sexual release to stay connected to him in his absence ended up fueling five full length novels. I turned into a madwoman. I could not stop writing.

So here I am with a hard drive full of novels, with characters I’ve fallen in love with. My question to myself is now what?

Sets down coffee, takes a deep breath.

It’s time to share Scott and Tori with the world.

Over the past several months I’ve polished and hacked away at the first book. I’ve had beta readers send me feedback. I’m looking into professional editing services. I’m querying agents. I’m learning about the difference between summaries and synopsis. I’m learning the difference between a hook, a blurb and a snippet. I’m joining romance writing forums and trying to pick the brain of some in the industry.

I have no idea what I’m doing. I have zero claim to fame. I don’t even have a reader base yet. I mean, who starts out their writing career with an entire series? Obviously, I’m insane, or obsessed. Hell, it’s probably both.

Putting myself out there is a scary thing. I know I will encounter criticism and rejection. I can live with that. What I can’t live with is letting these amazing characters I love waste away in the back of my hard drive. Some stories need told. I think I have one worth telling.

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