Writing Tips

Today’s Romance Writing Pet Peeves

imagesHappy Monday! To start off the week, I’m disclosing a few more things that drive me crazy in manuscripts. I judge harshly but with the knowledge that writing can be refined–always.

1. Using a foreign language when you don’t really know it. Your sweet heroine is sitting at a café in Paris. Sipping her café au lait, she waits impatiently for Monsieur Ooh-la-la to come along. Just when she feels all hope is perdu, a  gorgeous artiste wearing a horizonally-striped shirt and black beret approaches her. He says the equivalent of “How you doin?” à la Joey from Friends. Except in the manuscript this delicious pick-up line is written as “Comment vous faire?” which is the kind of trash you get when you use those straight translation programs. This slip-up might land on e-reader of an editor who is fluent in French. Make sure you consult someone who speaks the language.

2. Announcing intention before showing it. I’m nitpicky about this and I’m going to tell you what I mean. Oh wait. I just did what I hate. Let me explain in a more practical way:

Hannah was shocked that Trevor complained about the overcooked carrots. She was going to tell him so. “I’m shocked you’re complaining, Trevor.” Did you catch that she’s telling us three times? I don’t blame her. I’d be really upset if Trevor didn’t like my cooking. This repetition is an easy crime to commit. It might be part of one’s speedy train of thought, but it reads as lazy filler and I cut, cut, cut. Editing these ineffective sentences will make an editor happy. Go back over what you’ve written a few times, put in a more interesting sentence. Hannah could secretly decide to put the carrots in Trevor’s breakfast smoothie the next day.

3. Predictability. With so many stories being told, my pet peeve is a cliché. Being new and different is not new and different anymore. As an editor of romantic suspense, I can smell the hero-arriving-at-the-right-time-to-defeat-the-villain-who’s-holding-her-hostage at around p. 10. Readers may like this kind of ending, but for some, it doesn’t make the story worth reading after the 20th version. Recently, I was editing a tale that was proceeding at a nice pace, good romance, lots of bells and whistles. Then the author really shocked me in a way that left me gasping. The story became more precious to me, with a happily ever after I wasn’t quite expecting. This is pure gold–happens but rarely for me. It’s difficult to write an unpredictable plot, but still I challenge writers to find a way to surprise the reader.

That is all…

Writing Tips

More of My Romance Writing Pet Peeves

I know you’re supposed to include some good with the bad, so here’s something I love: reunion romances. We’ve all had a romance that we’ve fantasized about revisiting. In Romanceland, you can! I also love cranky Alpha heroes, heroines with a touch of crazy, characters facing natural disasters and the one-night stand that winds up being happily ever after.

Because there’s balance in the cosmos, here are more of my pet peeves. I’ll try to be gentle:

*On page 1, someone is driving. I know that’s a repeat. Sometimes driving to a destination in the opening is necessary and it’s not enough for me to reject a story but grrrrr, I see it so often, especially in suspenseful romances.

*After a passionate night, the heroine wakes up to the hero cooking breakfast. He can make an omelet. I can’t even make an omelet. You’d think this might be a unique post-coital scene, but it’s not. The hero often makes soft, fluffy eggs for breakfast, which signifies his soft, fluffy underbelly. Oh, and the other cliché, the character waking up to the smell of bacon or strong coffee. I wish I kept eggs and bacon in my fridge but sadly, I just have condiments.

*When they’re lost in the woods, there’s always an abandoned cabin. And in that cabin, there’s a dusty pantry. Somehow, the heroine finds enough there to prepare a five-course meal. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if all they had was a can of tuna to share?  Maybe not so romantic but potentially funny and real.

*Characters become amateur sleuths. A cop will go to a murder scene and someone close to the victim will insist on helping with the case. They fall in love as they both search for clues. This aggravates me, though I see it all the time and it can be explained away. Plus, if someone close to me were involved in such misfortune, I’d like to think I’d be a giant pain in the posterior and insist on helping. It’s still a pet peeve. I do like, though, when non-law-enforcement characters find themselves in the middle of a suspenseful situation.

*The ex is a passionless dweeb or a gold digger. My problem with this is…well, we’ve all made mistakes, but the ex must have had some good qualities or else why would the hero/heroine get involved?

*Exes/parents/grandparents are killed in car crashes. It’s easy to kill off characters this way, but car crashes are a given now in romances. Maybe these extraneous characters could exist without appearing on the scene. Car crashes create emotional conflict by making a central character an instant orphan. It happens, it’s real and awful but if I had a penny for all the car crashes I’ve seen…They have no impact on me anymore.

And those are my pet peeves for this Monday.

Uncategorized, Writing Tips

My Top Three Grammar Pet Peeves:

It’s the substance and not so much one measly typo that will attract an editor’s eye, but bear in mind, that an editor notices both. Having read thousands of submissions, I can spot the writer who really takes her/his work seriously. She’s the one who obeys basic rules of grammar and proofreads her work. I’ve heard at conferences, “Well, the editor will fix all my typos.” Sure, but handing in sloppy work will guarantee a rejection.

Here are the three mistakes I see most often:

1. Lack of comma with direct address: This one really confounds me, especially since it’s a common mistake made by educated people. Thanks for the strudel Dave. You’re welcome Marcy. Arggggh! Make sure you put in those commas so that I don’t think there’s a strudel named Dave. Example: Thanks for the strudel, Dave.

2. You’re or your: With Twitter, Facebook and texting demanding a fast turn-around time, it’s easier to confuse “you’re” and “your.” Remember that “you’re” is the contraction for “you are.” “Your” denotes possession. Example: You’re awesome! Your dog just ate my flowers.

3. Typos: Spell check isn’t enough. You have to read through your entire manuscript and not just look for the red and blue lines. Read carefully. Then, get a friend to read it. After this, you should read it again and then hand in to an editor.

The bottom line: If you’re a writer, become a fan of grammar. It will show you as a professional rather than an amateur.

Uncategorized, Writing Tips

My Top Three Chapter One Romance Writing Pet Peeves:

1. The literal running-into-him introduction to the hero: The heroine—let’s call her Sally–is so adorable but she’s really clumsy. She opens a door and whoosh, she finds herself looking at the hero’s rock-hard chest. He stares down at her, his eyes dancing with amusement over her klutziness. Chemistry ensues. We editors see this “meet cute” all the time and we’re tired of it.

2. Starting a novel with someone driving: If I had a penny for how many manuscripts begin with the hero/heroine in a car, I’d be rich! It seems logical, doesn’t it? You begin with the character’s arrival Somewhere Important. This can work, but it’s a big cliché. Can’t you start with the knock on the door or a more active opening?

3. The first chapter info dump: Sally is brushing her hair in front of the mirror. She’s thinking about the boy who dumped her. Gosh, she’s been through so much. There was her parents’ divorce, the time she broke every bone in her body trying to save a daredevil child, the death of her cat and her grandmother’s fight with leukemia. Sally may have had a hard life but you can sprinkle in her tragedies throughout the manuscript and not just in the first chapter.

If you can avoid these three, you’re on your way to writing an original first chapter. Good luck!