Monday, May 30, 2011


So, you've finished that manuscript. It's polished, you have a killer query letter, and you're sending it out to agents. What do you do now? You start something fresh and new, that's what you do.

Around the social medias where other writers hang out, I've come across writers who say they're starting the second book of the series they haven't gotten an agent for or haven't published yet. Not only that, but they have ideas for the third book that they will write after they finish the second. Don't do this.

Why you ask? Well, that storyline may not sell and you'll have wasted your time on a story that no one wants. That is, unless you're self-publishing the series. Then, by all means, keep writing that series. For those of you who are going the traditional route and are seeking representation, write a new story. Something completely different than the one you're querying. This way you'll have something else to offer should that fantabulous manuscript you're pushing on agents fail. Some wonderful stories never make it to being published. It has nothing to do with the writing or how wonderful the story is, but because of other reasons. Like the market is saturated with that type of story or the agent doesn't feel like they can sell it. So don't waste your time by writing the same story. Start fresh. With a new story.

When I recently started a new story after sending my old one out into the world, it took some time to fall in love with the new one. I still thought about the old one, lived and breathed it. The characters felt like dear friends I was abandoning and moving away from. The characters of the new story felt like strangers to me. It wasn't until I sent out a couple of chapters to my critique partners, that I felt comfortable with the new story. Reading their comments made me look at the wonderful new story I was writing. I'm now excited about the fun characters I can create and bring to life.

In life, everything is always changing. We can't wear the same shirt. We must change into something without stains or holes. So embrace that fresh start and begin a completely new story. One day, if that old story gets an agent or published, you'll get to go back to it, visit your wonderful characters, and write that series you love.

That's it until next time.

You can find Brenda on her blog: 
or on twitter:!/brendadrake

Thursday, May 26, 2011

You wrote WHAT? (I.e. Writing Sex Scenes)

If you're a subscriber to my personal blog, you'll recognize this post. No, you're not seeing double. I love this post so much that I am posting it on both blogs this week!

Apparently, I have the reputation of writing steamy scenes in my novels. I have no idea how I got that reputation. *Innocent face*.

Well, it's probably because it's true. I love to write steamy romance. But there's more to writing a steamy romance than just the sex scenes. I think that the best scenes work when there is building sexual tension, when the tension has gotten so intense, that it must culminate. And depending on the age group/genre you're going for, the act itself should be written to fit the audience.

A sex scene in a young adult (YA) novel? Gasp! Yes. There are YA novels with sex scenes. My YA novels *might* have sex in them. But it's not the same type of sex scene you'd read in my adult work. In YA, more important than the physical stuff and the sensations, are the emotions that are involved. The emotions are more intense, and they are experiencing things for the first time, and it should feel that way.

There has long been a debate about wether or not to include sex scenes in YA books, and I am of the mindset that teens are not as niave as parents would like to think. They are surrounded by sex. TV, movies, music, music videos, books. It's everywhere. They are thinking about it. They're talking about it. Some are already doing it. When I was 14 I was devouring my mom's romance novels. So, I write my scenes with that knowledge. I feel I owe it to my readers to be true to the characters. To follow the scene through. Not just fade to black, like some writers do. Keep in mind my love scenes in my YA are very different than my adult work, but the act is still there. I also feel it's my responsibility to show it in a responsible way. The purpose of the scene isn't to titilate the reader, but to show the growing and changing love between the two characters.

I also know that not all readers are comfortable reading the sex scenes. That is fine. There are tons of books out there that gloss over the details, or might not even have sex in them. I'm sure not all of my books will have sex scenes in them. I only have a sex scene if it is relevant to the plot. But I will always have hot heroes & steamy romance. That's just how I roll. :)

Now, would I let a 12 year old read my work? Probably not, at least not without their parents reading it first and THEM making that decision together. Who knows. Maybe reading my work will open up the dialog between a parent and their kid about practicing safe and responsible sex. That would be awesome.

When my work comes out I'll be posting 'heat level' guides on my website to give readers a chance to make their own decisions about how hot they can handle.

Regardless of the genre/age group that I'm writing for, here are my tips on writing great love scenes:
  1. Build up to the scene. Don't just throw two people into a room and have them start groping. Build the sexual tension to the boiling point.
  2. When you get to the scene, close your eyes, take a deep breath and forget about everything else. Pretend that no one will ever, ever read the scene but you.
  3. Write. Don't stop. Don't think. Don't let your mind tell you what is proper/isn't. Just write the damn scene.
  4. Once it's written, don't look at it. Move on. Write something else.
  5. After you've given it some time to cool off, go back and re-read. Revise. Take out anything that makes you cringe. Blushing is okay, cringing is probably a sign that you should take it out.
  6. Look at the scenes before and after the sex scene. Does it fit? Did you just throw it in for shock value? Does it add something to the plot? If you said no to the first or third, or yes to the second, cut it and put it in another file. That means it shouldn't be there in the first place.
  7. If you've decided it fits, and contributes to the plot, go through it again. Does it read like a bad porn script? If so, you've got some work to do. Don't just focus on the actions/body parts. Focus on the sensations, the feelings, the emotions. Infuse that into the scene.
  8. Have multiple beta readers. Sex scenes are notorious for getting different reactions from different readers. Especially with YA. Consier their opinions, but do what feels right for the story.
  9. Trust your agent/editor. Don't be afraid to tone it down, or heat it up. Trust their guidance.
Okay - that's all I've got. Ultimately, whether or not you include a sex scene in your book is completely up to you and your comfort level. Remember, in the end, ideally, thousands of people will be reading your work. If you are not 100% comfortable with having strangers read it, then consider cutting it. Just because there isn't a sex scene in your book doesn't mean it won't sell. Amazing books sell, regardless of their sexual content.

Here's some extra reading on writing sex scenes: (Caution - graphic language might be used - reader discression is advised.)

An agent's take on writing sex scenes
A hilarious post about writing sex scenes.
Yet another hilarious post on writing sex scenes.
Karen Wiesner's 20 steps on writing great love scenes

What about you? How do you feel about reading/writing love scenes?


Shelley Watters writes romance for young adults and adults. She lives in Arizona with her husband, two kids and two dogs. She loves listening to music, reading good books and letting her imagination go wild as she creates new worlds and torments her characters in delicious ways. She is an active member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She is represented by Mark McVeigh of the McVeigh Agency.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Revision, Rewriting, Editing? What's The Difference?

Hi Everyone!
I hope you had a lovely week. Mine was... hectic. But staying busy is a good thing, right?

So. I finished my revision. I'm doing a pass-through now, you know make sure there aren't any glaring plot holes or inconsistencies... There aren't any, the lies you speak, Erica!


So, I was thinking. What's the difference between Revising, Rewriting, Editing? I really use revise for what I'm doing, but it may really be editing or more like rewriting. So what's the difference?

I'll attempt to tell you. Although, I suspect you may know already, or you don't, and don't want to sound stupid, like me, by asking, 'cause frankly they all seem the same to me... LOL

I'll put the dictionary version (the one on my macbook) and see if that can help us. I'll take a stab at it. Sound fun? Let's try it.


the action of revising : the plan needs drastic revision.
a revised edition or form of something.

Well, that didn't help.

My take: This is when you are fixing sentences, words, not spelling, more like structure.


verb |rēˈrīt| ( past -wrote ; past part. -written ) [ trans. ]
write (something) again so as to alter or improve it : the songs may have to be rewritten | [ intrans. ] he began rewriting, adding more and more layers.

Oh, come on.

My take: This is when you rewrite whole chapters, plot points, basically make it make sense.


verb ( edited , editing ) [ trans. ] (often be edited)
prepare (written material) for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it : Volume I was edited by J. Johnson.
choose material for (a movie or a radio or television program) and arrange it to form a coherent whole : the footage wasn't good enough to be edited into broadcast form | [as adj. ] ( edited) an edited version drawn from several prerecorded performances.
be editor of (a newspaper or magazine).
( edit something out) remove unnecessary or inappropriate words, sounds, or scenes from a text, movie, or radio or television program.

A little better. But it sounds similar to the others, no?

My take: This is where you clean it up. Get the passive voice under control, find mistakes in grammar, spelling. By this point you should have a coherent story, if not... try revising or rewriting.

So, that's what I think. What about you? Anything to add. Have you always known the difference? Do you agree with my take?

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!!

<3 Er

erica m. chapman is a YA writer by night, workin' for the cause by day. Fan of football, especially Lions and Michigan. She loves alternative music, Foo Fighters, animals, reading, golf and playing her guitar. She resides in Michigan where she sits quietly typing her next story on her macbook in her Detroit Lions Snuggie. You can also find her at

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Search For That Special Someone: Critique Partners

Writing is often thought of as a solitary pursuit, but it doesn’t have to be. Most successful writers rely on the help of trusted critique partners through at least part of the writing process.
So, how do you find a potential critique partner? Sometimes a critique partnership evolves out of a friendship. Natural curiosity over what a friend’s writing is like often leads to questions about the story, and then reading and commenting. If you find yourself in need of a critique partner, maybe it’s time to reach out through social media and make some connections. 
  • Comment regularly on blogs you enjoy. Sometimes commenting can lead to discussion, and over time a friendship might form. But pay attention to the blog’s content. Does the writer often mention his or her beloved critique partner? Does he or she already have a sidebar entitled “My Critique Partners! I Love Them OMG I Don’t Know What I’d Do Without Them!!!” Maybe someone without an established writer group would be a better fit.
  • Twitter is another great way to connect and find other writers. The people you find yourself replying to often end up becoming friends. The instant nature of Twitter makes it easy to find out if someone else might also be open to becoming critique partners.
Something to keep in mind:
It's not uncommon for friendships to break up over feedback that's perceived as insensitive. Remember that there can often be an enormous level of trust and intimacy involved in sharing your writing. Try not to let a good friendship go bad over a critique... strive to be mindful of your critique partner's feelings while still be truthful, and take their feedback with a grain of salt!

So, now you've found someone who's looking for a critique partner too. Time to send your novel or dive into weekly chapter exchanges, right? Not necessarily! Critiquing someone’s novel is a big investment of time. Before taking on someone’s entire book-- and sending your own-- it’s a good idea to figure out if you and your potential critique partner’s styles mesh.
  • Ask questions. Find out the genre and a bit about the story to see if it sparks your interest. Giving someone a careful critique means you’ll need to read the story attentively, and if you don’t enjoy the genre or story idea, you might not be the best person to offer feedback. 
  • Rather than send your entire story to new critique partner, try sending only the first chapter or two. Once you receive your chapter back and read through the feedback, you’ll have a better idea of what kind of critiquer her or she is.
  • This goes both ways. When exploring a new critique partnership, offer to read the first few chapters. This will give the other writer the chance to see if your feedback style matches what he or she is hoping for. It will also give you a chance to see if the other writer’s story is one you’ll enjoy and be able to offer supportive feedback on.
Once you’ve found that person who seems to click with you, and whose story is one you’re ready to get behind and support, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get critiquing! And before you know it, you'll wonder how you ever got along without them, too!

~ ~ ~

Diana Paz is a web content writer and aspiring YA author. She grew up on Miami Beach, moved to Los Angeles in high school, and went to college in San Diego. Basically, she's a beach bum, but she did graduate from California State University, San Marcos with a Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Arts. She loves old movies, epic fantasy, all kinds of music, and heading to the beach with a good book. Preferably sipping a caramel frappuccino. Find her at her blog: or on Twitter @dianapazwrites

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Little Things That Say So Much

One of the most consistent comments I get from my beta readers is how real things always seem, especially with my dialogue. And I would love to give you guys a step by step of how I do that but the truth is, I just do. When I write, I see the scene both through the eyes and mind of my protagonist, but also as if I am just standing in the room watching. Those two images overlap for me, but it's the latter where so much of the realism comes out. Because that's where the little things show up.

The little things like taking a step forward in the middle of an intense conversation, or seeing the person the protag is talking to look away as their arms cross. In a fight, does your boy try to touch his girlfriend, or does the dad reach out for his son, think better of it and let his hand fall by his side? What are the small mannerisms of each person in the room that you can convey naturally, without repeating the same things over and over? The things beyond the sighs, and the eye rolling, and the shrugs?

That, I think, is where much of the realism in my writing comes through. I don't waste time on elegant descriptions. I admit, I don't describe how the blue of the wall matched the deepest oceans, or how the way the light glinting off the blond streaks in a girl's hair were like angels singing. Sure, I mention that the sun was hitting the girl's face, or the blue walls contrasted to the anger in a character, but I focus on the people more than the surroundings. My style is to give just enough for the reader to see it and let their mind go, because unless those blue walls truly have a huge importance in the book, I don't waste my reader's time explaining about them. When it comes to word economy, at least for my natural style, I bypass the in depth, flowery descriptions and go right for the kill.

Take the picture here as an example. When you read about this kiss, however it plays out, do you want to know what they were wearing, how the umbrella is black and not blue, and the fact that the flag in the background is red? Or do you want to know how tightly they held each other, how they tasted, how long they paused before launching into each other's arms? Me? I'd rather know the latter, and that's what I put into my books.

So there you have it. My little guide to realism in dialogue and description. Now take all that, couple it with just the normal dialogue and talking between your characters, adding in all those small things, and you've easily built the entire scene in the mind of the reader, without doing a paint by number for them.

Friday, May 06, 2011

How Original IS Your Idea?

Hi Everyone! I hope you all had a great week ;o)

My little sis is graduating from college on Saturday so it's a surreal weekend for me. *sniff* I watched her grow up and now she is all growed up. SURREAL, I tell you!  I'm also road tripping with the awesome and talented Carolina Valdez Miller (who I adore and I'm uber-excited to meet) to the amazing and gifted author Veronica Roth's book launch for DIVERGENT! Ahhhh! Let the squeeing commence!

So that's my weekend ;o) What about you 

Okay, I'll get to the point of the post ;o) 


They come from anywhere in any shape. They haunt your showers, dreams and drives. So what happens when someone has the same one? Or something similar?

Do you runaway screaming "I'm a hack!"? What if the book is published and successful?

I've read a lot of books this year. All fantastic. Seriously. There was at least one that had a similar aspect to the one I'm revising. Okay... okay. It was kind of eerily similar. 

So I had to think... Strange, I know.

Should I give up on my story because someone has something similar? That is IF this story ever makes it to publication years from now... I'll admit. I really did have a moment of... "Well that's it. I'm done, onto my next great idea".  And this particular author executed the idea well and the writing was so much better than mine. Different. Different than mine. Let's stay positive right ;o) Well, I didn't run away screaming. At least not yet. Ha. 

The thing is, no matter what idea is out there, and there will be someone who has something similar. What really sets YOU apart is your VOICE. The words you choose, your CHARACTERS, your STYLE. It won't be the same. It just won't. Even though, I could have tucked my non-existent tail between my legs, I didn't. And I'm going to finish this revision and I'm going to query it. I just maybe will have to mark that author's agent off my list. Or not. I don't know. Maybe there's room for two ;o) 

So I ask you, bloggy friends. What would you do if this happened to you? Has it happened to you?

Have a wonderful weekend full of surprises and candy and cookies and malts and fries... 

Not to self: Never blog when you're hungry ;o

<3 Er

erica m. chapman is a YA writer by night, workin' for the cause by day. Fan of football, especially Lions and Michigan. She loves alternative music, Foo Fighters, animals, reading, golf and playing her guitar. She resides in Michigan where she sits quietly typing her next story on her macbook in her Detroit Lions Snuggie. You can also find her at

pic credit:

Monday, May 02, 2011


Okay, I had to do it. I decided to use the Royal Wedding in a post. I'm sure some of you are probably sick over the constant coverage of the wedding between Prince William and the now, Princess Catherine, but please bare with me, I do have a point.

The young girls in my life were so excited to view this historical event that I recorded it and we watched it together. From my mother in her seventies down to the youngest, Fallon, who is four years of age, the group of young ... er... older ... middle aged ... um ... ladies, were swept away into the fairytale. We were quite pleased that the wedding was done in a simple, understated fashion.

So, you might ask, "What does this have to do with writing, Brenda?" Well, just like the perfectly simple wedding of the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (in royal standards, anyway), we as writers should keep things simple in our writing. I used to think I had to embellish my writing with adjectives  to get an image in the head of someone reading my manuscript. I would add so many of them, that the visual was lost by the third word. An over written story is like an over the top wedding--a chaotic mess. (Yes, I'm thinking of Princess Diana and Prince Charles' wedding.)

What I've learned is that just enough description will evoke memories from your reader and will let the reader experience your places, characters, and objects from their own point of reference. Something that they've seen, heard, touched, smelled, and tasted before. By putting faith in your reader's ability to visual from their past, you open the world you've created to them with enough reality from their experiences to make it truly believable. Take a moment and think of how you can bring about an image in as few words as possible. That is how you'll truly pull the reader into your story.

That's it, until next time.

You can find Brenda on her blog: 
or on twitter:!/brendadrake