Monday, August 31, 2015

Tighten Up Your Story - Keep it simple and powerful

I was working on some proposals with one of my clients last week. She was struggling with this new idea that her editor wanted her to consider. This was going to be a contemporary romantic suspense set in the Mid-East. Some of the first words out of her mouth, when we talked on the phone were, "How am I supposed to stay focused with all of the political backdrop of this region! There's the Nuclear Iran deal, there's ISIS, there's..." I think you can see where she was going with this.

But the thing is, the solution was very easy. Don't talk about it.

I know this sounds like an avoidance issue, but when it comes to romance novels, the focus is simply on the romance. In the case of a romantic suspense, it is A) the romance; and B) the suspense element (in her case it was a kidnapping). But here is where things get even easier and to understand this, we are going to head back into the academic world and talk about thesis writing.

We all remember thesis statements. These were those guiding sentences that told the reader exactly what you were going to write about. It was the target and the purpose for the entire essay. The thesis contained not just what you were going to talk about in a clear, concise and focused statement, it also contained a goal for the reader, a purpose for the essay and a significance factor that told the reader why it was important to read the paper. It was from that thesis that you built the paper. The organization of the essay came from the thesis. In other words, depending on what you were writing about shaped how you would structure the essay. The thesis also shaped the type of evidence you found and the type of evidence you did not include.

If, for example, you were arguing the need for increased study for natural approaches to vaccinations because of the allergic reactions some have to things like eggs that are in some vaccinations. This rough thesis would tell us it is going to be a persuasive essay. But it also tells us what we will not be focusing on. While some might argue there are personal reasons why people would avoid vaccinations, this is information that will not be included in the essay. We will also not talk about people who still believe it leads to autism or birth defects. All that we focus on is the change in ingredients to avoid eggs.

When it comes to your story, the same approach holds true. The "thesis" of your essay will dictate what you need to include. In the case of the romantic suspense author, if the focus was on the kidnapping, she simply had to control where it took place (move it to a location that the political stuff was not a huge issue) and have the kidnappers be people who are not associated with the political stuff. In other words, she keeps her life simple by focusing in on only what is important to achieve the goal of her story.

What I have found, is that a lot of authors simply make their lives difficult when creating their stories. To find the GMC for the characters, they create huge back stories, when they can keep it simple. For example.
  • OLD APPROACH: The heroine doesn't want to get involved with the hero who is her boss because she had an abusive relationship in the past with someone she went to school with and is struggling with the PTSD aspect of relationships.
  • NEW APPROACH: The heroine doesn't want to get involved with the hero who is her boss because she has always believed inter-office relationships are bad. END OF STORY
With the first approach, the author would have to include huge back-story dumps to just to explain all of this. This would probably include scenes with introspection, scenes with her best friend or family saying it was all different, and then scenes with the hero. There is also a chance that the author would then find their writing sliding into wanting to include the prior boyfriend showing up, then a confrontation with the hero, then a scene... you get the idea.

The new approach is simple, clean and requires no extra work.

I think it is important to remember that more is not always better. It is OK to eliminate things from your story and just focus on the basics. This gives you a chance to add depth to those scenes and not get bogged down in trying to work your characters out of holes they didn't need to be in from the beginning.

Friday, August 28, 2015

What Greyhaus Is Looking For: Historicals and Inspirationals

So, we are down to the last two genres Greyhaus represents - historical romance and inspirational romance. I don't have much to say on these two so it will be pretty short and sweet. I would also argue that most of the information I provided in the prior posts applies to these two genres.

As far as Historical romance goes, I am pretty much open to any time period, although right now Regency is doing really well. Please note, however, that I have several VERY strong historical authors right now, so I am not looking for people would be in competition with them.

If you write in this genre, make sure you know your time period. I am not a big fan of authors who only use those basic level source books for their "historical research."

When it comes to Inspirational romance, please note I only acquire for Harlequin Love Inspired. If you are interested in the larger single title Christian market, this is not the place for you.

One pet peeve I have with this genre are the stories where the preaching is really shoved down our throat. I don't like stories where every time I turn a page, the hero or heroine is Bible quoting. This is too much for me. I just want to see the transformation of one or both characters through their faith and action.

So, to wrap things up, if you do have any other questions about the types of stories I am looking for, please do not hesitate to email me. I'll do my best to answer those questions for you.

Finally, stay tuned here for the official announcement of when Greyhaus is open to submissions.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

What Greyhaus Is Looking For - Romantic Suspense and Paranormal

Let me first begin by saying that, although I represent these genres, I am very picky about these. In fact, if I go back and look through my databases, my bet is that I have rejected more of these genres than any other out there.

When it comes to each of these novels, authors need to realize that I am representing ROMANTIC suspense and paranormal ROMANCE. In other words, the central story arc still needs to be focused in on the romance element of the story. Yes, there will be a crime or paranormal presence, but the focus needs to be the romance. Too often, I am seeing stories where the focus is in reverse, and then, somewhere in the middle of the story, the author realized he or she needed to add a romance so they "suddenly fall in bed and BAM! They're in love." Ummmm, not!

For these two genres, it is really easier to say the things I am not interested in seeing:

  • One character is investigating the other character for criminal activity and then they fall in love. This is a conflict of interest an law enforcement would never tolerate it.
  • Not interested in stories involving controversial topics we are seeing today. A) the issue will be solved by the time you finish the story; or B) the publishers will not likely pick up the book.
  • Heroine cannot be stupid and do things that force the hero into saving her. In other words, don't go into the building with the criminals just to "ask them a few questions" and then get caught.
  • Not into those heroes with the dorky names such as Trane, Jax and so forth. These can be real people.
  • The criminal activity needs to be real.
  • The hero and heroine cannot, in the middle of a chase scene, suddenly decide that now is the time to hang out in a cabin and have sex for 2 days straight.
  • First of all, let me say FANTASY and SCI FI is not paranormal
  • Not into the brooding vamps and werewolves (and by the way, changing them to angels and demons is really the same thing.
  • I hate world building that becomes an entity in itself. If I need a companion book just to know the players, we are too far gone.
  • I personally have not gotten into the psychic thing. Too often, this is just an easy way for the author to not have to explain something that the character should have to figure on with some time.
  • Time travel is fine, but just because Jamie and Claire are big now does not mean time travel is back to stay.
  • If yo do time travel, this needs to be an issue. I don't want you historical authors to think this is just another way to write a historical.
Hope that helps!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What Greyhaus Is Looking For - Contemporary and Women's Fiction

I am putting these two genres into the same category because so many authors tend to confuse the two. So, I figure, by talking about the two at the same time, I can also insert a little educational moment into the post.

Let's start with the difference.

In simple terms, it is all about the focus and the message of the story. What you as an author emphasize in the story determines, in many ways, which of the two genres your story would fit under. Please note, you will not be able to combine these two. It is going to be one or the other.

When it comes to contemporary romance, the emphasis is on, obviously the romance. The goal of this type of story focuses on watching a relationship build to that Happily Ever After. The readers are on the journey with those characters as they fall in love.

Women's fiction, on the other hand, has the focus of understanding the world through a female perspective. The goal here is to get into the mind of the female. To understand feelings, emotions and thought processes as they tackle the issues going on around them. There may be a romance in the story, but that romance is just a plot device to some level of learning. There may or may not be a happily ever after.

I have said it here on the post before, but when I have people pitch stories to me, having them tell me the story without notes really brings out the focus. If all they discuss is the romance, then we are heading in that direction. If the focus is a character driven story that seems to emphasize the learning, we might be heading in the direction of women's fiction.

So, what I am I looking for in both? At the broad, general level, all of the stories should be in the range of 75,000-110,000 words. Both stories should have a strong single title feel to the stories. But here is the big one. I want simplicity, even on single title stories. Don't kill me (or the readers) with a ton of back story and melodrama just to keep the story flowing. I would rather see a story with a single strong external conflict keeping the characters from moving forward, than a ton of smaller little issues that read more like complications.

Now to the specifics...

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE - When I say contemporary, I mean stories set in today's world. Although I grew up in the late 70's and 80's, these really have a historical feel when used as a setting in the story. There is just too much emphasis on the world building to create that feel. Needless to say, that world building becomes a characters on it's own.

I am looking for contemporary romance that is about "real people." I am always cautious of using this term because I have a lot of authors writing stories "based on the life of a real person." That is not what I mean. When I speak of real people, I simply mean these are characters that can indeed be our neighbors or colleagues. We don't have to go over the top with creating characters that the readers cannot relate to. These are going to be real people in real situations, facing real conflicts and falling in "real" love.

The setting can be anywhere. I don't care if it is small town or in the city. Just stay away from stereotypes and cliché storylines. Sure, stick them in a small town, but this does not mean the hero has to be a cowboy and they always meet at "The Lazy Ladle" coffee shop for pie and sweet tea.

The sex and the sensuality issue is entirely up to you. Please note, these scenes have to be happening for a real reason with the characters. Don't throw these scenes in simply because you heard "steamy sex sells."

And finally, no adultery.

WOMEN'S FICTION - These stories can be set in any time period so yes, you can have historical women's fiction. What I want in these stories is to know what that central theme and message is that I am going to learn by the time I get to the end of the story.

There is a trend going on right now that I will honestly say, I am not thrilled about. Writers seem to want to fill these stories with all of this baggage. Let's say the heroine is simply a mother hitting her mid-life crisis. That's fine. But adding in a husband who starts to cheat on her, a son who is becoming a criminal or is doing drugs, and a daughter who is pregnant and then finally adding in a mother with Alzheimer's is too much. Please keep it simple.

These characters need to be people the reader can relate to. Again, it is the "keeping it real" message here.

Finally, I want resolution. I don't want the magic fairy dust solution here, but have the characters figure it out on their own. For example, the family is struggling with money due to, say the husband losing his job. She goes back to work to make up that money, but is still trying to keep up with the wife duties. But then, in the end, they win the lottery or crazy Aunt Agnes dies leaving them with 5 million dollars. That's the magic fairy dust and you WILL get the rejection letter on that. I would rather see her feel that she can be the bread winner and it is OK for the husband to do the stay at home dad thing for a while. Simple, straightforward and to the point!

As always, if you have questions, make sure to email me!