first historical romance, I wrote the manuscript using Word and stored most of
my research in a manila folder. Whenever I needed to find a quick fact – for
example, a drawing of a dress my heroine might wear to a ball – I had to
rummage through a fairly large stack of papers. More often than not I’d get
sidetracked and lose my train of thought (not difficult to do!).
So when an
author friend mentioned that the writing software Scrivener was on sale just as
I was formulating the plot of my second historical, Stages of Desire, I
figured I’d check it out.
Now, I am
no techno-whiz, and the thought of learning a new program was daunting. But I’d
read so many writers and journalists rave online about Scrivener, I figured
there was something to it. Two years and two books later, the benefits far
outweigh any reservations I might have had.
Scrivener, each book is saved as a “project.” On the left hand side of the
screen is a list of icons you’ve created for that project. Some are chapters or
scenes, others might be folders called “Research,” “Characters” or “Locations,”
where you can store Word docs, templates, photos, or whatever else you might
need. To the right of that is a split screen.
I type my
latest scene on the top screen. When I need to find a photo of a castle that I
wanted to use as a place setting, or I can’t recall a minor character’s name, I
simply click on the bottom screen, then on the pertinent folder or document.
Shazam: the photo or my list of characters is right in front of me. No
rummaging, no searching, instant answers.
websites can be saved in folders. My hero in Stages of Desire is working
on a cure for malaria during the course of the book, and whenever I needed to
check out the “history of malaria” website for a quick fact, I could access it
without switching to a web browser and covering up the page I was working on.
When the manuscript is ready to be sent out, hit the “Compile” command
and it pops up as a Word doc on your desktop, formatted exactly how you like
it. I followed the tutorial when I first got it (which has a witty, fun tone to
it), and then played around until I felt comfortable.
nothing is perfect, and Scrivener does have its quirks. The spell check feature
isn’t as good as Word at catching minor typos like double spaces, so I always
check again after it’s been compiled into a Word doc. The upside? I can write
fast and accurately and editing is a breeze, with easy access to every scene
and chapter without having to scroll through a long Word document.
your writing to the next level and check out Scrivener. You can try it free for
30 days before committing. More info at https://www.literatureandlatte.com/trial.php. Happy writing!♥
Fiona Kirk writes historical
fiction under the pen name Julia Tagan. A journalist by training, she enjoys
weaving actual events and notorious individuals into her historical romances.
Her Regency romance, STAGES OF DESIRE, released January 5. For more info, visit
www.juliatagan.com. You can also find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/julia.taganand Twitter @juliatagan.
I have about two different lengths I write at: 3,000 words and 70,000 words.
While my co-author and I have sold pieces at both of those lengths, we’ve
learned quickly that being able to produce stories at a lot of other lengths is
also valuable, not just in terms of creating material to submit to publishers
but in terms of creating stories that can act as a gateway into our other work.
ways, at 12,000 words Evergreen is
the story my co-author and I never meant to write. It’s set between the first
and second books in our LGBT romance series, and it focuses on the relationship
between secondary and tertiary characters. It’s also not a length that’s
natural for us as writers.
of how Evergreen will
ultimately succeed for us has to do with writing at that length we hadn’t
previously explored. With 12,000 words we found enough room to show character
and conflict in a way that hopefully makes readers want to know more, while
also giving them a very clear HEA.
learning to write at different lengths has come from two things: My background
in journalism and my love of television. Journalism teaches me that there’s
always a simpler way to say something if I need to save a few words or
sentences. Television teaches me that story structure varies by show length. In
the U.S., a half-hour network comedy is 22 minutes when you account for
commercials. A cable comedy without commercials will often run a little longer.
A 27-minute show without a commercial break has a very different structure than
a 22-minute show with several. These stylistic differences become even more
pronounced when you look at hour-long and movie-length programming.
To write a
shorter mid-series story that would also stand alone, Erin and I quickly
realized we’d have to write a “monster of the week” episode designed to fall
between season 1 (that is, book 1) and season 2 (book 2, which is out in
January) of our series. Once we understood the story’s function and structure
in terms of the television we’d been watching our whole lives, it became much
easier to figure out what needed to be told and how. It also became easier to
understand what pieces of the story we’d have to hold back for another
For writers who want to branch out from their natural storytelling
lengths, there is no quick answer. Like anything in writing, sometimes you just
have to hammer at it until it works. But the mental exercise of imagining your
stories (and other people’s) in different formats helps build the muscles that
can have you writing -- and selling -- at different lengths.♥
Racheline Maltese co-writes
the Love in Los Angeles LGBT romance series with Erin McRae. Set in the film
and television industry, the books Starling (September 10, 2014), Doves
(January 21, 2015), and Phoenix (June 10, 2015)) are available from Torquere
Press. Their May/December "gay for you" novella Midsummer will be
released Summer 2015 by Dreamspinner Press. You can also find their work in
Best Gay Romance 2015 edited by Felice Picano and published by Cleis Press.
I am not now, nor have I ever
been, a grammar expert. Because of this, I find myself checking on grammar
questions and rules all the time—especially when one editor “corrects”
something that another editor doesn’t. The thing I’ve discovered in all this
checking is that often people mistake style preferences for grammar rules. I
still mistake the two with great frequency (thus, this article).
So first, some definitions:
Grammar is the basic syntax and structure of our language. It
allows us to communicate in predictable ways. Language came first. Grammar was
the attempt of linguists to define the rules of that language. For most native
speakers of any given language, the grammar rules are so ingrained, they are
used automatically and without thought. When discussing grammar in relation to
the written word, we’re talking about those most basic rules that allow the
conveyance of information in a consistent manner. Some good examples of grammar
“rules” revolve around sentences and sentence structure. For example:
start with a capital letter and end with a punctuation mark.
English, basic sentence structure consists of subject, verb, object. Disrupting
this order will make a sentence sound weird to a native speaker.
sentence needs to express a complete thought, otherwise it’s a dependent
*A single subject requires a
single verb (or predicate). For example: The dog is cute. If you use
“the dog are cute”, you’ve broken a basic grammar rule.
Style, on the other hand, is a collection of suggestions on
ways to use language so as to refine and improve the readability and
understanding of the written word. That sentence, by the way, was grammatically
correct but maybe not the best choice stylistically. It’s long and could cause
confusion. Sentences that are grammatically correct aren’t automatically the
best ways to convey information. That’s where style choices come in. They fill
in the gaps left behind by grammar and help refine language to improve
understanding. Style is flexible and can depend on a particular house,
publication, field, or editor. It also takes reader expectations and context
rapidly—while grammar only changes very slowly. Some good examples of stylistic
one or two spaces are included after a sentence within a paragraph (this
changed to one with the rise of computers and word processing programs).
a sentence with a preposition—this actually isn’t a grammar rule.
or not to begin sentences with conjunctions is also a style question; there’s
no grammatical prohibition against it.
*Use of active voice versus
passive voice—active voice might be preferred in most cases, but passive voice
isn’t grammatically “wrong”.
One place where I see grammar
and style often confused is in comma usage. One hotly debated “comma rule” is
the Oxford comma (also known as serial comma or series comma)—this is the comma
that comes before the conjunction in a list. For example: dogs, cats, and pigs.
In my school days, this comma was always
used and taught to us as a rule. Years later, this comma was dropped by
many publications (the story, as I heard it, was that newspapers dropped it to
save valuable column space, and this passed on to other types of publications).
Adherents to this new “rule”
are adamant that the comma before the conjunction is no longer correct. Except
it isn’t a rule. It’s a style choice. Whether to use it or not differs
depending on the guide you consult.
So how does this affect the
First, writers should try to
learn the difference between basic grammar and style choices. This will save
you many headaches and heartaches. It will also give you some perspective when
an editor insists something needs to be written a certain way. If it’s grammar,
you should probably listen. If it’s style, you’ll need to decide if the change
is in keeping with your voice and/or changes the meaning of your prose.
Comma style choices can often
change meaning and so must be watched. You might be using passive voice on
purpose and changing to active voice would destroy the point you’re trying to make.
Splitting your infinitives could have a better dramatic effect and therefore be
better stylistically (“…to boldly go where no one has gone…” just sounds more
exciting than “…to go boldly…”).
Second, if you’re
writing for a publisher or a particular publication, knowing their house style
will make your life easier and your work look very professional. It’s important
to remember, though, that no one style is “right” or “wrong”. These guides are
put together to make things consistent within house. But again, the “rules” are
choices made by the publication, not necessarily “rules” of grammar.
Third, when in doubt, default to a commonly used style
reference book (for example, The Chicago Manual of Style’s most recent edition
is frequently used for book publishing style questions). This will get you
close to the style most editors are expecting to see.
Finally, if you choose the self-publishing path, understand
that for consistency, and your own piece of mind, you will have to make style
decisions which may or may not adhere to other style guides. This will be a
particular issue when hiring editors. These style decisions might just be
preferences (like whether or not to use the comma before a “too” at the end of
a sentence—some editors hate that comma; others consider it required). The
decisions might also affect your voice in a serious way. The last thing you
want is to have your voice destroyed by a well-meaning editor. In fact, it
might behoove you to write up your own “house style guide” which will not only
keep you consistent but will be something you can share with anyone you hire.
This will make their jobs easier as well as save you a lot of STETing and/or
rejecting in Track Changes.
For any writer trying to ensure readers “get” the picture
they’re attempting to convey, both style and grammar are extremely important.
However, it’s also important to know the difference between the two. Grammar
“rules” should generally be something you adhere to so that readers can easily
decipher your prose. Style is flexible and will change. Understanding both, will allow you to tell stories
in the clearest language so that readers can immerse themselves in your worlds.
And when you choose to break a “rule”, be it style or grammar, you’ll know
exactly what you’re doing.
For more on this topic, start with these two articles: ♥
Kelly is the author of multiple fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal
romances. Most of her work, including her most recent fantasy romance WARRIOR’S
DAWN, has benefited greatly from someone else having a style guide in place.
For more on Isabo and her books, visit her at www.isabokelly.com, follow her on Twitter @IsaboKelly, or friend her on Facebook www.facebook.com/IsaboKelly.
Welcome, 2015! Welcome,
New Directors – Tamara Lynch (Treasurer), Kate McMurray (Vice President) and Vanessa
Peters (Vice President). Below are the
bios of RWA/NYC’s 2015 Board of Directors. We want to thank all the Board Members for volunteering their time and wish them luck!
President – Ursula Renée In 2008, Ursula Renée went from wishing to doing when she
purchased a digital SLR and registered for a photography class. Armed with the
knowledge she obtained from the class, every weekend she toured New York with
her camera until she captured the perfect shot of a sleeping red panda at the
Bronx Zoo. Excited by what she could do when she put her mind to it,
Ursula decided to pursue other dreams, including drawing, sculpting and
writing. She dusted off the manuscript she completed years earlier and took
advantage of the workshops and conferences offered by RWA. Thanks to the support and encouragement of the members of
RWA/NYC, Ursula’s debut novel, Sweet Jazz, was released on September 19, 2014
by the Wild Rose Press. As President of
RWA/NYC Ursula hopes to offer the same encouragement and guidance she was shown
by other RWA members. In 2015 she plans to continue offering informative
presentations and workshops that will help authors at all stages of their
careers. Visit her at www.ursularenee.com.
Vice President – Kate McMurray Kate McMurray is an award-winning romance author and fan. When
she’s not writing, she works as a nonfiction editor, dabbles in various crafts,
and is maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball. She is active in RWA and has
served as president of Rainbow Romance Writers and on the board of RWA/NYC. She
lives in Brooklyn, NY. Visit her website at www.katemcmurray.com. Vice President – Vanessa Peters
Born and bred in Brooklyn, I am a freelance artist and writer
of Puerto Rican descent. I have embarked on a journey to complete my first multi-cultural
romance novel, I am looking to create a story that reflects the people and the
world around me. We now live in a world that is different from what is seen in
books. Interracial relationships, and the challenges associated with them, are
rarely presented in literature. With the faces of couples in America changing,
and the growing number of interracial relationships rising, this population
wants to see itself in books. I am currently working on a multicultural romance
set in New York.
Also my work as a professional artist focuses on abstract, as
well as impressionist paintings and drawings of the human form. A self-taught
artist, I've been engaged in art since childhood, when I began drawing the
images I found in my father's old art books. My art captures my vision of my
surrounding world and how I see myself in it. It also personifies the human
longing - that missing piece that often eludes us in love, friendship,
knowledge and creativity. My extensive art portfolio is complemented by a BA in
Creative Writing from City College, New York. Visit her at www.vanessa-peters.com and
follow her on Twitter/Instagram @VPetersBKNY.
Treasurer – Tamara Lynch Tamara
Lynch is a writer and long-time fashion executive whose lifestyle,
relationship, race, and culture pieces have appeared on several webzines
including Salon.com, The Huffington Post, TheFrisky.com and CNN.com. She has
also contributed to the Madonna Anthology Madonna and Me published by Soft
Skull Press. Writing as Chloe Blaque, her debut romance novel Survival of the
Fiercest was recently published by Loose-Id LLC. Secretary – Shirley Kelly
Kelly has always been a voracious reader. Growing up, her favorite genres were
mysteries and romance. Her favorite romances were set in the Regency era.
Shirley always knew she'd be a writer, but it wasn't until she joined the RWA
in 2009, that she got serious about her craft. Since she's been a member, she's
written a Regency novel, Regency and Contemporary erotic short stories, a
Contemporary Christmas novella, and a children's story. Shirley is a make-up
artist who lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. She loves cats, enjoys
traveling, watches a lot of TV, and is interested in history and politics.
She's follows tennis and figure skating, and is a life-long Yankee fan. Past President – Maria C. Ferrer
has been a Charter Member of RWA/NYC since 1989, and has served as Chapter
President, Secretary and Newsletter Editor; and was named Member of the Year
three times. On a National level, Maria served as Region 1 Director, National
Publicity Chairman, RITA Awards Co-Hostess, and coordinated both the Golden
Heart Contest and the Literacy Book signing. She was awarded a Regional Service
Award for her efforts. Maria writes contemporary romances under her real name,
and erotica under her pseudonym, Del Carmen. Her short stories have appeared in
two erotica anthologies – WOMEN IN LUST (Cleis Press) and GEEK LUST (Ravenous
Romance), and magazines, including Star, Penthouse and Cosmopolitan
for Latinas. Visit her at www.marializaferrer.blogspot.comand www.mydelcarmen.com.♥