2010: How writing and writing buddies got me through a shit year

My friend Suzanne Johnson wrote a great post at Write in the Shadows about how her writing career developed throughout 2010. For me personally, this year has hit higher highs and lower lows than any I can remember. For months I said I just wanted to get the year over with, but when I read Suzanne’s post and decided to write one of my own, I realized that writing – and my new writer friends – got me through it.

Here’s where I went on my roller coaster ride.

Continue reading “2010: How writing and writing buddies got me through a shit year”

Doncha wish your critter was hot like me?

Well, your critter could *be* me. Or rather, I could be your critique partner.

My online critique group, Rumored Romantics, is looking for one or two other partners. To find someone whose critique style meets ours, we’re running a little contest. Lynnette Labelle, who runs the group, has posted the contest rules on her blog, so if you’re looking for a group who’ll critique one of your chapters a week, go read Lynnette’s blog!

There are a few stages, and the first deadline is on Tuesday, so hurry!

As for me, I’m taking a social media break next week. I’ll be checking this blog until Sunday, but after that I’ll be powering down my internet access for a week and focusing on writing. So, if I don’t speak to you beforehand, have a wonderful week full of good books!

Who holds you accountable?

Frustrated man at a laptopYesterday I read Jessica Faust’s post about a day in her life (not a typical day, just a day), and it occurred to me that I always get warm fuzzies when I read about agents checking in with their clients to see how they’re doing.

Maybe it’s just the agents whose blogs I read, or maybe it’s that agents who are the best with people will be more likely to set up helpful blogs, but I love that a writer could go on Twitter and say they’re having a hard day, and get a call from their agent the next day.

Now, before you call me naive, of course I know that agents and writers have a professional relationship. And yes, it makes good business sense for an agent to check in with her authors. But just because it’s done out of professionalism doesn’t mean it’s not helpful.

Sometimes it makes me think that the best thing about having an agent would be having the kind of relationship where I could send an email to say I’m struggling, and have someone to talk it through.

Before I started blogging, I didn’t have that at all. Over the last year, though, I’ve been able to virtually meet loads of writers who’ve helped me out.

As an unpublished, unagented writer, I don’t have a professional obligation to write. I do it because it’s my passion. But that also means the only deadlines I have are the ones I set myself. And that means they’re easy for me to shift.

Continue reading “Who holds you accountable?”

My critique group has an opening

If you’re a romance writer looking for a small, online critique group, check out my crit partner Lynnette’s blog. Our group is looking for one or two more people, and we run a contest to find partners we think we’d work well with.

Lynnette’s blog has info about the three current members, but you can find out more about us (and see if you think we’d be a good fit for you) by subscribing to our blogs and following us on Twitter.

Here are some handy links:

Lynnette Labelle – Chatterbox Chit Chat blog; follow Lynnette on Twitter

Suzanne Johnson – Preternatura blog; follow Suzanne on Twitter

Katrina Latham (me) – Reader, I created him blog (yes, you’re reading it now); follow me on Twitter

Soon Lynnette will be posting more info about the contest, so now’s a good time to stalk us a bit and decide if our personalities and writing styles might mesh with yours.

“He drinks WHAT?” Product placement in novels

At one point near the beginning of my work-in-progress (a contemporary romance set in a small mountain town in California), my hero sits in a greasy-spoon cafe and thinks about how much he misses being a Starbucks customer.

I didn’t put that thought in his head on a whim. You see, he’s a small-business owner, so he tries to support other small businesses as much as possible. He’s a sensitive guy with strong moral character (even if he totally screws the pooch when it comes to his heroine).

I’ve been getting some feedback from my husband and crit partners about this scene, and it’s funny the different reactions they’ve had. Two of my crit partners said things along the lines of: “Man, I know how he feels about Starbucks! Love that place.”

My husband (a lefty intellectual) asked why I was advertising for Starbucks, and whether I’d get paid for product placement.

Sometimes as writers, especially those of us writing contemporary novels, we use brand names as a sort-of shorthand. When I needed to think of an international company synonymous with taking over the world, I thought of Starbucks.

If my story had been set in the UK, I might’ve used the name of a supermarket chain (which shall remain nameless here, in the interests of not being sued) which is often the subject of documentaries because it seems to open supermarkets across the street from independent shops that can’t compete. There’s lots of worry here that small towns are becoming generic because big-name companies suck the life out of them.

In historicals, Ye Olde Name for products can help plant the setting in a reader’s imagination. Think about all the gratuitous capital letters and superlatives companies used to use when trying to sell The World’s Most Perfect Jar of Oil Ever Created, Known For Its Laxative Powers And Abilities To Regenerate Hair On Balding Gentlemen’s Heads. Okay, I made that one up, but I love it when historical writers introduce me to an authentic (or authentic-sounding) product.

But that shorthand won’t work for all readers. In fact, like with my husband, it can backfire and make a character less sympathetic.

Continue reading ““He drinks WHAT?” Product placement in novels”