Wednesday, November 20, 2013



I recently attended a day conference sponsored by the Las Vegas Romance Writers. Angela James of Carina Press gave a class, “Before You Hit Send.”
Witty and informative, Angela told the group what she looks for as an editor. While I’m an advocate of removing weak adverbs and as many “Was” words as possible, that didn’t bother her as long as the story was strong. She also shared tips when writing with Microsoft Word.

I watched group during the presentation. The younger members smiled as they agreed, seasoned writers cast a narrow glance at the energetic speaker.

What I took away from the presentation: Read the published books from the company where you plan to submit your manuscript. Get a feel for what they print. Writing is a commercial venture. Publishers will only accept what their company sells. Keep your manuscript tight. Don’t wander off on side stories (my problem) and make sure every scene and chapter move your story forward. Also, readers tend to skip pages where the writer adds paragraphs of description. Keep it short and to the point. Don’t give a complete resume of your characters, but sprinkle your descriptions throughout your story.

Watch for the release of, “HIDDEN JOURNAL,” in January from Tirgearr Publishing. You can go to their web site for more information on my book and those from Tirgearr’s other authors.

Keep Writing, Joyce Brennan

Thursday, November 7, 2013


Drama in a Small Town: DISCREPANCY IN WRITING: I recently gave a presentation on writing Deep Point Of View. I stressed the importance of using strong verbs and eliminating distanc...


I recently gave a presentation on writing Deep Point Of View. I stressed the importance of using strong verbs and eliminating distancing adverbs and adjectives. Example: She walked quietly…she slipped into the room. Or: He thought he should call her…he called her. She felt sick…nausea bubbled in the back of her throat. She was going to the mall…she drove to the mall.

Simple hints, but they make a world of difference in your manuscript.

I finished a novel written by a well-established romantic suspense writer. She used the word was thirteen times on one page. To add to the distraction, she started sentences with: There was, instead of addressing the action and in one long compound sentence, used the word was three times. It’s difficult to explain to new writers how this passes editors. I tell them that if you want your manuscript to emerge from the slush pile, follow the rules and tighten your writing. Know the rules before you attempt to break them.

Another distraction is the over use of your character’s names. If you have two characters in one scene, introduce them once and allow the dialogue to flow without constantly adding the tags, “John said, Mary said, John said, Mary said.”


“Hand me the peanuts,” John said.

“Here,” Mary said.

“Thanks,” John said.”

Okay, so that’s terrible dialogue. How about writing…

“Hand me the peanuts,” John said.

Mary pushed the bowl across the table. “They’re salty. Do you want a glass of water?”

“Nah, I’m good.”

The reader immediately knows who’s speaking without all of the tags.

Another example:

John headed out the front door. Late for work again, John rushed to the bus stop.

The reader already knows John is the POV character in the scene. Don’t overuse his name. You can spice up the scene by showing emotion. Did the character sweat? Did he trip down the steps? Did he arrive in time to see the bus pull away?  Add these emotions if it pushes the scene forward.

No matter what your write, put yourself in your main character’s head. Feel what he/she feels. ( but don’t say, “he felt.” Show that emotion.)

Keep writing. Joyce Brennan



Sunday, April 21, 2013


Here are my notes for my next presentation for the
Las Vegas Romance Writers, a chapter of RWA.

            Don’t let plotting intimidate you. Following are a few useful tips.

Read published books in your preferred genre. Put on your writing cap and jot down notes about the construction of each chapter. How did the author end the chapter? Did they include a hook that would keep the reader turning the pages? Does his/her chapter have a beginning, middle and end? If there is a complete change of scene, is there a smooth transition?  

Determine the events that you want to include in your novel. How will your main character address these events? What or who keeps her/him from reaching their goal?   What can you write that will keep the book moving? At this point, don’t worry about what your character eats, wears, or other mundane details unless it’s essential to the plot.

Consider creating a synopsis to use as a plotting tool. If you have a picture in your mind of how your book will proceed, plot it out chapter by chapter. This doesn’t mean that during the writing process that other ideas might emerge that will make your plot more interesting, but it will prove to be a guideline.

Know how your book will end. This is important. It will provide a goal while writing your novel.



Once you’ve determined the structure of your story, don’t linger on any one plot point longer than you need to. Tell it well and move along. The scenes in the middle of your book should heighten the drama. Keep it to the point and don’t allow yourself to wander off into sub-plots that don’t move the action. This is a good place to introduce your character to their worst nightmare, and then lull them into a false sense of security. Sometimes the plot leads somewhere you haven’t preplanned. That’s okay. Keep it fresh. For those of you who are “Pantsers,” if the plot is unfolding as you write it, make sure you’re surprising yourself. If you don’t experience surprise as the writer, you won’t relate it to the reader.





Now that you have the outline, open your book with a sentence that grabs the reader’s (and Editor’s) attention. That first paragraph could make a difference. Carefully introduce the time, place, setting and your main character, but don’t spell it out like a job interview. Decide whose point of view you’ll use. The first chapter is a good place to introduce your character’s flaws. Humanize them. No one likes to read about Miss Perfect, but they enjoy reading about someone they can identify with. Hint at the main character’s goal. What is the tone of your book? Romantic? Humorous? Supernatural? Dark? Mysterious? Be subtle, but prepare the reader for the plot and suggest the conflict.


Know everything about your characters. Make a list. This information will keep you, the writer on track. Nothing stands out more than to write in the first chapter about “her clear blue eyes,” and later mention, “her brown eyes grew darker...” Or, “he put the top down on the convertible, but later “backed his truck out of the driveway.”

In a romance novel, the hero and heroine should meet within the first three chapters. This is a good place to write the first conflict. Ask yourself, what could happen. Add inner conflicts and struggles. Life doesn’t always run smoothly so magnify the events in your character’s life. Allow for redemptive moments, but don’t solve everything immediately. Don’t judge your characters, but allow them to make mistakes that maybe you wouldn’t do. The transfer of emotions moves from the writer to the characters and on to the reader.


Write the first draft. It doesn’t have to be perfect…it doesn’t even have to flow at this point, but get your thoughts down on paper. Write every day, even if it’s only a few sentences. DON’T EDIT. I know that’s difficult, but editing can come later, and believe me your finished book will look nothing like your first draft.


Once you have the first draft down on paper, question every scene. Have you added the five senses to your scenes? Adding scents, sounds, sights and tastes to your novel will make it vivid and come alive. Close your eyes. Can you see the scene? Are your descriptions clear and concise? You know what you mean to say, but will the reader? How about the use of repeat words or unnecessary explanations? Did stay in the character’s POV or did you head-hop? Did you write deep POV? Show not tell?

Be ruthless with the delete key on your computer. Cut out the scenes that don’t push the story forward. Did your main character grow or change? Did you give your villain an ever so slight redeeming quality? In a romance novel, always create a happy or satisfying ending.


Tips: Resist the urge to explain everything. Give your reader some credit.

Action before reaction.

Avoid author intrusion. You can only write what your POV character sees, feels, tastes or hears.

Revise, revise, revise.

Show, don’t tell. Write deep POV.

Don’t make your story predictable. Life isn’t.

Don’t use exclamation points. Your writing should relate surprise and irony.

The shorter the story, the more important each word becomes.

Know the rules of writing before you attempt to break them.

Use strong verbs, and eliminate the unnecessary adjectives and adverbs.

Skip the constant ‘she said, he said’ when there are only two character in a scene.

Find an honest critique partner or group.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Drama in a Small Town: DEEP POINT OF VIEW

Drama in a Small Town: DEEP POINT OF VIEW: I recently gave a presentation to the Las Vegas Romance Writers on writing Deep Point of View. Writing deep places your reader directly in y...


I recently gave a presentation to the Las Vegas Romance Writers on writing Deep Point of View. Writing deep places your reader directly in your main character's head. Writing deep eliminates the use of words like he/she thought, felt, saw. smelled, heard. tasted, wondered, etc. Writing deep is showing not telling. When you write deep, you must use the five senses and demostrate emotions. Use this process with your main character and/or villian, but don't use it with your minor characters. You can still tell the mundane things like walking to the store, but when your story takes on important action, write deep.
Writing deep will enhance your characters so that the reader will relate to the action. Remove the words or phrases that keep readers at a distance.

Instead of writing, Nancy was nervous, consider: Nancy's hands shook or her stomach chenched. Show the scene to your reader. Your character isn't thinking about her feelings, she's reacting to the the action that cause her feelings.

It's important to know your characters inside and out to accompolish writing deep. Everything you write is filtered through your character's emotions and eyes. Basic POV is as if you have a camera attached to your character's head. You can only write what they see, hear, sense, and feel. If you keep background information on your characters, you'll know how they will react to any situation. Know their motivation and their flaws.

Instead of writing: "She watched as he lifted the knife and felt absolute terror. He won't stab me, she thought .
For Deep POV: He glared at her and waved the knife. Her stomach clenched. He won't stab me.
Now you're in her head, without adding (she thought.)

Another example:
"He saw a mouse racing across the kitchen and thought he should set a trap." Good. Your character can see. Instead, consider: "James stepped into the kitchen as a mouse raced across the room."Aha, now I know where to set the trap."
See the difference?  I eliminated the 'ing' and the wasted words, saw, and thought. Instead I went straight to the action. The reader knows what James is thinking.
Instead of: Mary struggled as she felt his hands around her neck and wondered if she was going to die.  Consider: His sweaty hands squeezed her neck. She fought to take her last breath. She wouldn't die today. 

Writing deep takes practice, but it's worth the effort.   Joyce Brennan