Hope: It’s What’s For Dinner

A couple of months ago, I blogged about how my life was a whirlwind — and to some extent, it still is. But now, it’s much calmer, more like a slight breeze.

Life has pretty much gone back to normal. And I’m loving it.

I’ve settled into my new job and I’m really enjoying it. My mom has settled into her new life at the nursing home, and she’s actually doing well and making new friends. I won’t be seeing my ex this summer, and that’s a good thing, because I have finally kicked him out of my heart. And my daughter is about to graduate from elementary school and embark on a new chapter in her life.

I’m also doing a ton of writing — both on my work-in-progress… and at work. And I’m reading novels again too — something I’ve found it hard to find the time and concentration to do in the past. It’s great to feel productive again.

As I reflect on what’s held me together and kept me going during these past few months, one word comes to mind: HOPE. Certainly my faith, my friends and family have played a role. But for me, it was the hope that everything that was previously topsy-turvy in my world would eventually right itself. Hope has been a constant theme throughout my life and I try to instill that quality in my characters. That despite everything they might have been through, they can have hope that they can move forward, forgive and love again. Because I know they can.

Because I know I can too.

MLUV:) Be Blessed!

Dominique

Don’t Let Dialogue Distract Your Readers

Ever since I started writing, I have a hard time just reading for pleasure. I think it’s because instead of reading for “fun”, I read for “craft”. I read to learn from other writers how they write. How they create characters, build conflict and tension, and bring all the pieces together for a satisfying ending.  

Since January, I’ve been attempting to read a romance novel by an author I’ve never read before and I’m enjoying the storyline, but there are two words she uses in the dialogue that keeps me from finishing the story.

B**ch and Jesus.

In the book, two girlfriends are talking and each one refers to each other as “b**ch”.  I know the author probably meant it as a term of endearment, and maybe I’m old fashioned, but if any of my friends called me the b-word in ANY kind of context, I would begin to doubt that they really cared about me. I think it’s a very demeaning way to refer to any woman, let alone a friend. So whenever I see this word in the dialogue, it immediately makes me put down the book.

As a Christian, I am equally perturbed by the use of “Jesus” in the dialogue. Primarily by the hero. Again, this is a word that is unnecessary. Perhaps the author is using it to gain some sort of “effect”. But all it makes me want to do is close the book. Forever.

I can honestly say that the reason I haven’t finished this book is because of the distracting words in the dialogue. I want to finish it. I really do. But alas, I think I never will.

The hero and heroine haven’t even kissed yet, let alone hopped into bed. I have no desire to skip ahead to see how those scenes play out between the two lovebirds. Since this is a romance, I know there will be a happy ending.

But somehow, I still feel cheated.

So the craft lesson I learned with this particular book was this:

  • Dialogue should move the story and the reader along.
  • It should keep the action going, not detract from it.  
  • Avoid slang and other terms that could offend your readers.

Sure, you have every right to write whatever words you want to, but just know that there may be a price to pay. Because it hardly matters if you are a NY Times Bestselling Author, selling eBooks on Amazon, or just new to the publishing business, what counts in the end is the repeat buyer. Those who buy and like one of your books, then buy another, and another, and so on.

This particular book cost me $5.99 at Target. But the lesson is priceless.

What are some of your biggest dialogue pet peeves?

MLUV:) Be Blessed!

Dominique

Writing Through The Pains & Joys of Life

Since my last post on February 14, my life has been a rollercoaster ride.

– Updated my resume with the intent to only send it out in search of freelance/contract work for extra cash. Didn’t even consider leaving my current position.
– Saw a great job opportunity, sent in resume, they wanted me, I only wanted them part-time and they said ok, we’ll keep your resume on file.
– Did some thinking and decided it couldn’t hurt to talk to them. Had two interviews with the President of the firm and he offered me the job.
– Took a week of soul-searching and negotiation and ended up taking the job — more money, bonus potential, plus flex-time so I can be home when my daughter gets home from school. Pretty much everything I wanted.
– Got my first rejection letter from a publisher. That sucked. Bad. Really bad.
– My sister and I made a very difficult decision of putting my 80-year old mom in a nursing home. Best and safest place for her with the medical conditions she is facing, but it broke my heart.
– Will be seeing my ex-boyfriend in three months and it’s going to be very awkward. I still care about him, but he doesn’t give a rat’s ass about me, so I’m already feeling anxious.
– Tried to sell my piano, had two interested parties, but nothing happened so I’m back to square one.
– Tried to go on a diet, exercise in the morning, stop eating chocolate — but that only lasted about an hour every time I tried. The only exercise I’ve been doing is opening up the fridge door.

How do you write through the pains and joys of life? Tell me!

MLUV:) Be blessed!
Dominique

Falling in Love with Your Writing

Writing isn’t easy. Neither is love.
I don’t know about you, but I have a love/hate relationship with my writing. Somedays I love what I do. I’m in the groove. Every thought I have somehow seems to translate into the perfect word. And when I’m done for the evening, I am on cloud nine. Sometimes, I am so excited about what I wrote that I cannot sleep. Swoon!

Other days…not so much. Those are usually the days when the words aren’t flowing from fingertip to screen as easily as I like. I’m struggling to sit down at the keyboard, and when I get there, I just want to be doing something else. Like sleeping.

Paralle-lov-o-gram
Remember that heartbreaking tune “I Can’t Make You Love Me?”, sung so beautifully by Bonnie Raitt? The words were reality check for me the first time I heard them. How many times have you and I tried so hard to make someone love us? Our parents? Our children? Our man? Friends? Be honest. We’ve all experienced this.

When I realized I can’t make someone do anything, least of all return feelings they do not share, a burden was lifted from my shoulders. And I knew that I could love someone and be ok with that person not loving me back. Sure it sucks. Yes, it hurts. But it’s better than that four-letter alternative. 

Love to Write? Love your Writing.
For me, sometimes I struggle to accept my writing as it is. Right now, flaws and all. It’s kind of like falling in love. Those first few months or years are heady, full of joy and excitement. But then you get down into the everyday normality of being in a relationship. That’s where real committment comes in. This is the point where many couples break up. When writers quit writing. When dreamers, stop dreaming and stop pursuing their goals. It’s a dangerous zone to be in.

Get Your “GaGa” On!

  1. Find a way to continually fall in love with our writing — day after day.
  2. Don’t force it. Simply open your eyes and look at what you’ve done so far.
  3. Review your goals. Think about why you are doing this in the first place…
  4. And then say those vows again. Recommit yourself to your writing.

Tell yourself “I love you. I love my writing. I love what I doing right now. At this moment, I’m successful. Because I’m doing what I love. No matter what.”

How do you fall in love with your writing? Tell me!

MLUV:) Be Blessed!

Dominique

Great Super Bowl Ads: What Writers Can Learn

I’m the first to admit that I am not a football fan. At all. And I won’t be watching the Super Bowl tonight. Not even for the ads, even though I do enjoy watching them. So tomorrow, I’ll be looking for the news story or blog that provides the link to all the Super Bowl ads.

But because I have a habit of tying everything in life back to writing, I got to thinking this afternoon about what we can learn from a great Super Bowl ad.

Below are what I believe are three qualities of great Super Bowl ads.

  1. Memorable – We need to create worlds that suck in our reader and when we finally let them go, they’ll never forget where they were. And they will want to revisit that world again and again in their minds. We need to create characters that our readers connect with and can relate to – characters they can have feelings for, whether it’s love, hate, lust, etc.
  2. Buzz – We need to create that sense of overwhelming excitement in our writing, that “buzz”, that keeps people talking about it and you, that keeps them hungry for your next word and your next book.
  3. The Three T’s – Great Super Bowl ads have one or more of these three qualities. So should our writing.
  4. a) TugThey tug at the heartstrings and make you say “awwww….” 
    b) TickleThey tickle your funny bone and make you laugh.
    c) ThinkThey engage your mind and help you think about something in a new way.

Corporations spend millions of dollars on the “media buy” – the 30 seconds (or less) of ad time. But they rarely reveal the time and money that goes into actually creating and producing these ads. Trust me, I used to work in advertising, and it isn’t easy coming up with an ad that resonates with an audience and sells product, no matter what the medium.

At the core, great Super Bowl ads build brands and sell product. And isn’t that what we’re trying to do with our writing? With all the behind-the-scenes blood, sweat, tears and time that we devote to our craft? Sell our books to multitudes of people who will love and enjoy them, and tell all their friends?

That’s my ultimate goal. What’s yours?

MLUV:) Be blessed!

Dominique

6 Tips For Writing The First Page

This weekend, I happily began writing my second novel, WAKE UP LOVE CALL — a full three days earlier than my self-imposed goal. And as I sat there at my computer, I struggled to actually “start” writing.

As fiction writers, we all know how difficult it is to write that first word, that first sentence, that first paragraph and so on.

I experienced this with my first novel, TEACH ME TONIGHT and I was determined to do things differently the second time around. 

So instead of panicking, I decided to reflect on what I’d learned thus far about the task of writing the first page.

Dominique’s “First Page” Writing Tips

1) Hook ‘Em To Your Book – You must reel your audience into your story with that first sentence. And it must be so good, so compelling that they keep reading to the next sentence, and the next, and so on. No wonder it’s often the hardest one to write. You’ll want to spend a significant amount of time on this.

2) Setting the Stage – Let your readers know “where” they are at in the story.  Don’t pour out all the details yet, just give them a sense of time and place.

3) Who’s The Main? (Character, that is!) — Decide on your POV character and stick to it throughout the first scene, or even through the first chapter, if you’d like. Head-hopping or switching POV frequently is always discouraged because it can confuse people.

4) Deliver the Goal – Within the first paragraph or two, the reader should be clear on the goal of the main character.

5) Advertise Conflict – Based on the goal of the main character, who or what is trying to stop her from achieving that goal?

6) Motivate To Relate – Tell us what the motivation is behind the main character’s goal. Why should we care that she wants this goal (or him!) so badly. Revealing your character’s motivation helps the reader begin to emotionally bond with them — and your book!

Now, I know what you’re saying.

“Dominique. You must be crazy, girl! How can I possibly cover all that in the first page of my book! “

I’m here to tell you YES – you can do it. If you would just break up that first page into the components I’ve described above, you will see that writing the first page will be less stressful and more gratifying for you.

And once you have a first page you love and you’re confident about, it’s much easier to write the second page, third and the entire book.

It worked for me. I even won a first place in a RWA-chapter contest that was based on the 1st 5 pages of TEACH ME TONIGHT.

I invite you to give it a try — and comment here with your experiences.

MLUV:) Be blessed!

– Dominique

The Waiting Game

It’s been just over a week since I got “The Call”. The contract has been signed and I’m officially agented. And…my agent informed me yesterday that he’s already sent out proposals for my novel TEACH ME TONIGHT to two editors. (Yay!!!)

I am beyond excited. Everything is happening so quickly, but I am so grateful to have an agent and so happy that my book is out there on an editor’s desk waiting to be read.

It’s a waiting game now. But that’s OK.

This is a good kind of waiting. It’s the kind of waiting you experience while you’re:

  • Engaged and waiting to walk down the aisle to be married to the man of your dreams.
  • Pregnant and in that final month, fearful of the pain of labor, but knowing at the end of all that screaming will be a baby who will change your life forever
  • Looking for a job. You’ve had several great interviews and you’re confident one is going to call. You’re just not sure which one.
  • About to graduate. From high school, college, med school, grad school. All the long nights studying, no sleep and bad food will all be worth it when they hand you that piece of paper that says you did it.

So how do you wait? Patiently. Expectantly. Hopefully. Faithfully. And you go on to the next project.

Hebrews 6:12 says “We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”

If you work at your writing and keep your eyes on your goal, you will succeed. Believe it. Do it. But most of all…Love it.

MLUV:) Be Blessed!

Dominique