Plotting Versus Pantsing

or Why (my) Novels Take so Long to Write!!

Anywhere novelists gather, you’re sure to find a discussion of plotting versus pantsing. Do you write a detailed plot in advance, or do you wing it? There are shades along each spectrum, from pages and pages of outlines to the plot summarized on a cocktail napkin.

I have a general idea of the plot, including major turning points, but then I wing it. Here’s a better explanation.

For the Win City Lights Book Three__200x300I don’t write short stories, but if I did, envision a trip from Greenville, SC to Atlanta, GA. About 150 miles, or 233 kilometers. Having lived near both cities, I’ve done that drive. It’s fairly easy, without a lot of issues. If you set your GPS, or your phone’s map app, you might find it says it will take you two hours and thirteen minutes with no stops. That’s reasonable. If you choose to stop off halfway at the outlet malls in Commerce, that’s your choice, but it doesn’t change the drive time. You will just get there later. You arrive, short story done, crank out a few edits, and that’s that.

Some writing websites meant to encourage writers try to throw math into the equation. If you sit down and write ten pages a night, you will have three hundred pages in a month. That’s the premise behind National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO) in November of each year. Thousands of people are determined to write a novel in a month, and they try to churn out fifty thousand words, no editing, and call it a novel. Some of my writer friends who don’t have day jobs or kids can do that, and their work is still good. I am not that writer.

For the Win, around 105 pages printed, about 39,000 words, took me from August to April, nine months. That was a record time. Its companion, Breaking Even, has 40,000 words and I’m not done with edits. The grand finale, Winner Take All, has about 30,000 words and there are major holes. While I’m not working on them both at the same time, I had to nail some issues down before I could finish Breaking Even.

Right now I’m doing first edits, where I review the book chapter by chapter and send it to my editor. I’m halfway done with that. Ric and Lindsey are living in separate places during a good bit of this book, which makes the writing of a romance difficult. They are also an odd couple, especially considering how they came together.

Going back to my GPS metaphor, things happen during the first round of edits that you wouldn’t expect. If you are traveling from Atlanta to New York City by car, all sorts of things could happen. It’s 880 miles, or 1416 km. One online calculator says 13 hours two minutes. (Two minutes? Really?) Flat tire. Bad traffic. Road construction. Interesting sights that cause delays. Most people would split this trip into two days, so that adds to the time, including meals, bathroom stops…

The same thing happens when writing a novel. Real life gets in the way. Even with a first draft done, for me, things can happen during the first edit. A scene that sounded like a good idea suddenly reads flat. Or when you read it, you think Why on earth would this character do that? Or you left a hole with a note – fill this in with x, but suddenly x is the last thing you can fit there because of some other change. Or you read a scene, realize there’s no point to this particular interaction, and start cutting. This is when the GPS notices you’ve changed routes and you hear that dreaded computer voice Recalculating.

For my fans who want to know when the book will be out, I have committed to a release date of September 7. I’m hoping I can get these characters to stop arguing long enough to finish edits on Breaking Even earlier. If edits are done sooner, I will release it sooner, but I don’t want to rush it and have a bunch of errors either.

If you want to know an exact date, well, all I can say is Recalculating.

 

News:

Check out my new Pinterest board over at https://www.pinterest.com/MissLilyBishop/

I have just started using this to post inspiration and research ideas for my books, particularly with furnishings and that sort of thing.

 

If you are an author, how do you feel about pantsing versus plotting? If you are a reader, would you rather see fewer, longer works, or more frequent and shorter?

New FREE Holiday Anthology

I am featured in a FREE holiday anthology of short stories —
A Holiday Anthology Volume 2 A Collection of Winter Holiday Tales

If you are familiar with my books, you may remember Deena from the first book. She was one of Bonnie’s Assistant Chefs, and she was dating Lee at the time.

In the second book, we learn that Deena has moved to Las Vegas and she and Lee have broken up. But what happened to Deena? This little 1,500 short story gives us an idea.

The anthology is currently free on the website Smashwords, and will be free on the Nook and iTunes soon. At Smashwords, you can download an epub, an Adobe file, or read online, all for free.

You can find the anthology here… https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/498109

The stories range from sweet to Spicy Hot, with mine somewhere in the middle. Check it out, and you may find some new authors you want to explore.

When Characters Go Rogue: Meet Lindsey

You know Lindsey Todd as the younger sister of Laura. At the end of the first book, she is enrolling at Clemson University in Mathematics. At the end of the second book, she is still visiting with Ric Salzana-Toledo on his island paradise, enjoying a bit of a break before she goes back to school for her final semester.

Laura thinks her sister is a genius who must be protected at all cost.IMG_0396

Elizabeth just met her, but she thinks the girl has a good head on her shoulders.

Fox and Lee went off on a wild-goose chase in the first book to find her, but they look at her like a kid sister.

Lindsey just wants to be left alone so she can figure things out. She doesn’t think that she has as much to offer as her sister, and she sees herself as damaged goods. She has seen things that Laura has no idea about. The only time she ever felt sexy was when she dressed in tight sequined cocktail dresses and wore a platinum blonde wig that reached her waist. We know she was on the island with Ric for several days, and we know that the kissed at the airport, but we don’t know what happened. We know that when she returned to Miami, she left with Ben, a friend from college. If she felt such a connection with Ric, why would she turn around and move in with Ben?

That is the sum of what we know right now. As I spend time getting to know Lindsey better, she’s sharing some of her secrets, and I will tell you, she’s tougher than she looks.

Right now, she’s not impressed with the Tower Suite at the Castle, and she doesn’t care about the French chef that Ric swears is the best in the Caribbean. She ignores the fancy menu handwritten on parchment and orders a burger. She mocks the fact that every time she sees him, he’s in a suit. If Ric wants to keep her attention, he will have to do it some way other than the trappings of his money.

What really happened in her first trip to Calliope? And what happened the weekend of the wedding, after the two newlywed couples left? Can she set aside the logic that rules her life and let Ric into her heart? When danger comes–and you know it will–can she trust Ric enough to believe in them through it all?

I’ve got two working titles for this one. The first, No Ordinary Man, focuses on Ric. The second idea that I have for a title, No Stone Unturned, focuses on their journey. Or it may even be a third title not dreamed of yet.

What do you think? How innocent is Lindsey? Is she too young for the sophisticated Ric? I can’t wait to get to know her better, and dig into her story.

Romance Reader Survey

There are many puzzle pieces to putting together a book, including the genre, the cover, the sex scenes… I thought I would do a quick survey. Please take the time to answer a few questions. Help me get additional people to take the survey by sharing on twitter and facebook using the buttons below.

What type of romances do you like to read? Stand-alone? Connected books

What type of covers catch your eye?

All of these and more are covered in this quick survey. I’d love to hear your opinion, and I will share the results with my fellow writers.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Q9cT1AZAz6EeSp1hRmuxiSGqcH8fudxNMzy0q6z0ODc/viewform?usp=send_form

Thank you!  Did something in the survey strike a nerve? Feel free to tell me in the comments below.

(Don’t forget – I’m still waiting to give away a Starbucks gift card. Sign up for my newsletter here)

Trying Some Short Fiction

Now those are words that I ever thought would come out of my mouth. Short? That’s crazy talk. keyboard

But I’ve been encouraged by a writing group that I’m in to come up with a 1,000 – 2,000 word extra-short story related to a holiday between Thanksgiving and New Year, and it may be chosen fora n anthology. It can’t be a chapter of a longer work, and it has to stand alone.

This is coming from someone who literally dropped out of the Purdue MFA in fiction twenty-five years ago because they wanted me to write short stories. I couldn’t do it then, and frankly, since then I’ve had little interest in short. I don’t read a lot of short fiction, and as such, never had any interest in it.

But, on the other hand, I wanted to be a part of this promotional opportunity. So I brainstormed and brainstormed. How on earth could I have a romance in that few words, and end it? Really? The couple would have to know each other previously, obviously.

So tonight I punched out a first draft of a short involving two characters from my two books, and I really like it. Mark and Deena anyone? It’s tentatively called A Kiss at Midnight and it takes place on New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas. If I don’t get accepted for the anthology, I’ll probably post it here, but I’m excited about it.

Character Interview with Lee Thornton, from Under His Protection

I’m getting so excited about this book!

Today I’m interviewing Lee Thornton, Fox’s younger brother. He’s getting his own book, but he doesn’t seem happy to be here. He’s sitting with one leg flung over the other, his arms crossed in front against his chest. He looks like a young Antonio Banderas with his long ponytail and muscled arms. If you can’t remember young Antonio, you can find him here.

2013-12-07 11.45.56

So, Lee, what do you think about this whole book thing? Are you ready?

I guess. Is this really necessary? You followed Fox and Laura around for a few months, and now you want to shadow me?

You know the routine. All of our fans are dying to know what is going on in your life. Do you have a lady you’re interested in?

And that’s why this isn’t going to work. I’m not even seeing anyone. I’m trying to get this company off the ground and I don’t have time for romance.

(I didn’t remind him that Fox wasn’t seeing anyone when we started with him either)

What about Deena? (If he could look even more forbidding, he did)

I don’t want to talk about her. She moved to Las Vegas. She didn’t have time for me and I didn’t have time for her. I guess it was mutual.

I see. (I didn’t know how to respond to that. During the last book, he and Deena seemed really cozy.) Are you still doing Bonnie’s show?

I told her I wouldn’t be back on. Mom’s not happy about it, but it’s hard to be taken seriously in my line of work if your face is plastered all over a cooking show.

So there has been some question as to whether you can cook or not. Fox said you are an awesome cook, but Laura told me that you had trouble with turkey bacon. Who’s right?

I’ve been on a cooking show for years. Of course I can cook. When I made BLT’s for Laura I played helpless to get her to let her guard down. I cook all the time.

Tell me more about your company. What will you be focusing on?

I’m still working on a business plan, but I basically want to help business owners and individuals obtain the security they need for their budget.

So you want to be a bodyguard?

[He grimaces.] Not really. I’ll mostly be the link between businesses that want additional security and other companies that provide it. I’ll be deciding what they need, and then putting them in touch with companies that provide it. Sort of like a general contractor for all things security.

But you wouldn’t turn down a bodyguard job if it were short term?

Why do you ask?

No reason. Is Robert upset that you’re branching out on your own?

No, he always knew that I wouldn’t work there forever. I’ve followed orders for too long in the Marines to have someone else in charge now. I want to see what I can do, see if I can make it on my own. In fact, Robert is the one who set up this job with Senator Martin Crowne.

That’s right. You’re meeting with him tomorrow?

He wants to talk about security for his daughter Elizabeth. She’s running for Georgia attorney general, and apparently there have been some death threats.

What do you know about her?

Not a lot. She’s a pretty successful lawyer from what I hear. I’m sure it’s just the basics. Check the office, put a system in her house. Pretty routine. It will be nice to have a senator as a client. That can’t hurt.

What are you looking for in a woman to date?

I’m not looking for anyone right now. I said that.

But if you were?

Someone who realizes that I have a lot to offer even if I didn’t go to college and get a degree. There’s more to life than book learning.

That’s all I have. Do you have any questions for me?

What’s the name of this one?

Under His Protection. And you’ll get to carry your gun.

Works for me. I never go anywhere without it.

You’ve got it today? [Since he’s wearing a golf shirt and khakis, I didn’t see where he could be hiding a gun]

He lifts his leg and shows me the black cowboy boots and the holster hidden inside.

Oh, and one other thing. Stay out of sight. If you get in my way I’m canceling the whole project.

Did you notice me the last time?

Can’t say that I did. All right. If that’s all, I’ll head out. I need to do some more digging on the senator’s daughter.

 

We started to shake hands as he left, but then he said “What the hell” and pulled me into a hug. I shouldn’t have been surprised – Lee was always really friendly to me, and I’ve known him for a few years now, but it still took me off guard. If I weren’t happily married I might have to check into some security for myself. He doesn’t know it yet, but I think he will be the perfect match for Elizabeth.

(If you’re in the mood to look for Spike’s list of top 10 bro-tails, check them out here.)

http://www.spike.com/articles/wb4cs2/the-top-10-most-important-dude-ponytails?page=1

I’ll be interviewing some of my other characters as we lead up to book launch. Stay tuned!

Also, if you haven’t yet, make sure to click here to sign up for my newsletter. I still need a few more subscriptions before I can give away the $5.00 Starbucks Giftcard I promised.  A new one will be coming out around the middle of July.

 

Cover Reveal: Under His Protection

Are you ready? I’ve held onto this one for almost six months. This is the cover that made me change the name from No Time for Love to Under His Protection.

 

 

I am so excited about this book. We continue Lee’s story, and no, he’s no with Deena, the chef he was dating in the first book.

Fox and Laura are in several scenes, and they are getting ready for their wedding.

Lindsey has been at Clemson for a year, and is progressing towards her Master’s degree in mathematics.

Lee has started his new business, as he planned in No Strings Attached, but he’s having trouble getting any traction. No one wants to give a new company a chance. Robert Stephens, his mother’s husband, uses his connections to get Lee an interview with Senator Martin Crowne, who wants to hire security for his daughter.

Elizabeth Crowne (don’t call her Beth) is running for attorney general for the state of Georgia. Someone is threatening her with vicious notes, but she doesn’t think they need to hire security. She has a feeling that her ex-fiancé is behind the threats and it will all blow over. She goes along with the bodyguard for her dad, but she thinks it’s a waste of time and money. When the threats become attacks, she has to admit that someone wants her dead.

Two jaded loners find a connection, but nothing is as it seems.  As Lee digs deeper, looking for answers, he only raises more questions, uncovering a conspiracy that goes deeper than they suspected. When those closest to you betray your trust, nothing is sacred.

Originally I envisioned this series as connected books, meaning that they share characters and not much else in terms of story line.  However, I found unresolved issues carrying forward into this book, and the plots are becoming more entwined than I planned. For this reason, I recommend they be read in order, and put the order number on the cover. My editor has the complete book now, and I am hoping for a release date in June or early July.

Today I dropped the price for No Strings Attached to $0.99, to celebrate its birthday. I’m planning to run the sale through the end of May. I’m not sure how long the different retailers will take to lower the price, but you can find a direct link to your preferred ebook seller here.  All-Romance ebooks also sells the book in pdf format if you don’t have an ebook reader. The book is now available in iTunes, Kobo, and the Nook. You can also download a kindle reader app for your tablet.

Everyone who signs up for my new email list between now and the end of May will be entered for a drawing for a $5.00 giftcard to Starbucks. You can choose either the monthly newsletter option, or the email on new release only option. Either way, you’re eligible for the drawing.

The first newsletter will go out June, and the contest will reset. So be one of the first subscribers and have a chance to win. Newsletter subscribers will also be the first to read the new prequel that I’m coming out with in August or September, that explains tells some of what happened in the first book from Lindsey’s point of view. What really happened in that casino with Ric? Sign up for the nesletter here

Happy Birthday to No Strings Attached!

The official birthday for my book is May 25, 2013, because that’s when it went live on Amazon. But on May 24th, at about ten o’clock at night, I clicked publish.

2013-07-08 11.00.55It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year. One year ago today, on May 24, I clicked publish on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program. We had checked and checked and made changes, and as I stared at that screen, I was terrified. What if I had some stupid error? What if everyone hated it? What if? What if? What if?

It’s scary as a writer to Let it Go. (Cue the Frozen song, because that’s what we do at our house).

But I knew that I had put too much time and effort into that book to let it languish on my computer. So I hit publish. Since no one knew me from Adam, and I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on promotion, I’m pretty proud of my results. In it’s first year, my book has sold over 500 copies.  The most interesting thing for me is that I have developed quite a following in the UK. For the past two or three months, I have sold more books over there than in the United States.

I have had strangers email me and tell me how much they enjoyed it. People regularly harass me as to when I’m releasing the sequel. So, to celebrate the one year anniversary of No Strings Attached, tomorrow I’m going to reveal the cover for Under His Protection.

I struggle with titles. The working title for the first book was always A Corporate Affair. The sequel was to be called A Political2013-12-07 11.46.15 Affair.

Then I decided to start each book in the series with the word No. So, following No Strings Attached, I planned to have No Time for Love, which was the working title for the second book. Tomorrow you will get to see the cover that made me change my title to Under His Protection.

If I wasn’t using the title to tie the series together, I needed a series name. I liked the idea of the city background for all of my books in this series, so I decided to name the series City Lights. While we travel to the Caribbean a good bit in the books, much of the action takes place in Vegas, Miami and Atlanta in the first book, and Atlanta in the second. Plus using the city background ties the covers together. Here’s the new cover for No Strings Attached with the series name.

Tomorrow I will celebrate the first book by starting a week long sale, and we’ll have a big cover reveal for the second book.  Everyone who signs up for my new email list between now and the end of May will be entered for a drawing for a $5.00 giftcard to Starbucks. You can choose either the monthly newsletter option, or the email on new release only option. Either way, you’re eligible for the drawing.

The first newsletter will go out June, and the contest will reset. So be one of the first subscribers and have a chance to win. Newsletter subscribers will also be the first to read the new prequel that I’m coming out with in August or September, that explains tells some of what happened in the first book from Lindsey’s point of view. What really happened in that casino with Ric? Sign up here

Amazon Takes Down Monster Porn

Amazon is removing some books from its virtual shelves, namely books that have been reported as offensive, including non-consent sexual acts with monsters, sexual acts with Sasquatch, and aliens.

http://www.businessinsider.com/monster-porn-amazon-crackdown-sex-fantasy-bigfoot-2013-12

The quote that I found fascinating is this, from the literary agency that represents E.L. James, who parlayed her 50-Shades trilogy into millions:

A representative from Valerie Hoskins Associates in London, the literary agency that reps E.L. James, was apparently so opposed to being included in a story about the genre that they responded to requests for comment with “We know nothing about self publishing or erotica.” (You read it here first: “Fifty Shades of Grey” has absolutely nothing to do with self-publishing or erotica.)

This, of course, continues the age-old debate that pits pornography against freedom of expression.

What do you think? Take my short poll here.

What Happened in Vegas Didn’t Stay in Vegas

No Strings Attached is now available. After double and triple checking my final copy, I felt that the time was right to upload. After all, Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter were all visible in the twilight sky. What more of a sign do I need?

This little book started I went to Las Vegas with my husband in 2009 for our tenth wedding anniversary. My husband had been before, but I had not.

I don’t know what I was expecting. I guess after years of hearing how sleazy Vegas was, I thought there would be prostitutes openly stalking the streets, and winos on every corner. I was pleasantly surprised.

We stayed at Harrah’s, but we spent a great deal of time walking through the other casinos. We explored Caesar’s, the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace, Venice, Bellagio, New York New York, and the Desert Sands. We splurged and went to see Phantom of the Opera (now defunct) and O by Cirque du Soleil. I found Vegas the ultimate paradox. I was amazed at the opulent beauty and at the same time horrified by the men on the streets handing out the business cards with naked women on them.

Las Vegas is a tremendous conference venue, and from there, it felt right as a setting for the opening scenes of my novel. What happens when a career woman finds an attraction so strong that she can’t deny it in a town known for its sinful hook-ups? What if she gives in just this once, believing that “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas?”

Laura Todd attends a conference in Las Vegas and meets Fox Thornton, a consultant to the hotel industry. Far away from her normally quiet life, Laura is swept away by her strong attraction for Fox. They both know the score, and neither expects to see the other again. After their hot weekend, circumstances bring them back together in Miami, where Fox is investigating a suspected embezzlement and Laura is the prime suspect. Can their brief romance rekindle in the real world, where suspicions and misunderstandings lurk behind every corner? Will their no-strings-attached affair evolve into a strong relationship, or is it destined to stay in Vegas?

I hope you will join Laura and I as we take this journey together. Take a sneak peak on Amazon, or download the first few chapters for a test drive.

If you are a blogger and interested in helping me promote No Strings Attached, let me know. I’ll be happy to work with you. Let the roller coaster ride begin!