Monday, March 30, 2009

Finding The Spark

Today my guest is Tawny Weber, a woman who loves romance, happily ever after, hot love scenes… all the good things in life. She writes romance hot and sizzling. Her newest release, COMING ON STRONG, was awarded four stars by Romance Times.

Today she talks about what brings our words to life and makes our characters real to our readers.
As a reader and a writer, there’s nothing I love more than reading something that sparkles. Not with glitter, ala pixie dust fun (although that would be cool, huh?). I mean that special something that brings the words to life, makes the characters seem real, and gives the reader that sense of Wow-connection. I call that spark. Some writers do it with intense plots that have the reader holding their breath in anticipation of what comes next. Others create characters that touch hearts and live in the minds of readers long after the cover is closed. There’s suspense spark, humors spark, sexy spark – the list could go on forever. For me, because I’m not an analytical reader, it’s never easy to pinpoint just what creates spark on a page. I just know it when I feel it.

As a writer, it’s a little easier. I know when my writing seems to spark – it’s that special feeling that the words just work. It all comes together and has an edge. It’s not comfortable, it’s not that “oooh that was easy to write” feeling (that usually means I didn’t work hard enough *g*). If I had to give it a label, it would be love. Loving something about the story, for me, gives it life-or spark. If I fall in love with the characters, or I’m so intensely connected to the story and how it plays out, that shows in my pages. If I believe in the story, if I’m emotionally invested, that comes through on the pages.

To all the writers out there, when you write, what’s going through your head as you put words to page. Yes, I know the story is there in the forefront –that’s what you’re typing, right? But what’s happening in the background? Doubts? Irritation or apathy? Are you thinking ‘this one is it’? Or are you rereading your latest rejection letter or bad review? IMO, nothing’s better at smothering spark than negativity. Some tools I use when I wrote to keep my focus on the story and not the chattering background voice is music. It just drowns them out *g*. Other ideas are to write down all the worries before you start writing, then rip them to shreds. They have no place in your writing time. Hey, there are plenty of other hours during the day to worry, right? Just not while you’re writing.

Another spark killer? Feedback. Oh, don’t get me wrong; I love feedback as much as the next person (especially good feedback LOL). But there was a time that I entered a lot of contests looking for feedback and I learned fast that if I took everyone’s advice/comments and changed my story to suit those, it would be a sparkless as a glass of tepid water. As much as I respect other’s opinions, the bottom line is the story has to resonate for me. I take two opinions into account when I write – two people that know my writing, know my voice and totally believe in my stories. My CP, and my editor. That’s not to say that I don’t respect reviews and feedback – I do. I store it all, I consider what clicked or didn’t click for readers, and try to keep that in mind as I work on my next story. But the bottom line is it always has to spark for me first.

So how about you? Do you recognize spark when you read?
Are there stories that just jump to life off the pages for you?
How about in your writing? Can you see when it’s there?
Do you have ideas for bringing more spark to your pages?

Tawny Weber is usually found dreaming up stories in her California home, surrounded by dogs, cats and kids. When she’s not writing hot, spicy stories for Harlequin Blaze, she’s shopping for the perfect pair of boots or drooling over Johnny Depp pictures (when her husband isn’t looking, of course).

Tawny’s most recent Blazes: COMING ON STRONG and GOING DOWN HARD are out April/May of 2009. Come by and visit her on the web at
Available May 2009

Did you know? One in ever six mass-market books sold in North America is a Harlequin or Silhouette Novel


~Sia McKye~ said...

Welcome, Tawny!

I try to read all my guest's books. I picked yours up Sunday. I like the personality of Sierra--I have a couple of girlfriends very much like her--a bit cynical, definitly smart mouthed, but with a heart of gold. So far, Belle has made me laugh. Mitch sounds hot. And will there be points of if I just drop kick Lena off the nearest cliff? I can see where this one is going to have a lot of sparks--probably a few raging fires too. Yay!

Anna Campbell said...

Sia, thanks for having Tawny as your guest today. She's one of my favorite writers. I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of COMING ON STRONG and I loved it!

Tawny, great post. I know that spark of which you speak. It's funny - I know if I'm going to get that from a writer from the first page. And when I do, I just sigh and settle back for the great ride.

Margay said...

Tawny, I think for me, whether I'm the reader or the writer of the book, the true test of spark is how it affects the rest of my life. If I'm still thinking about the characters and wondering what they'll do next when I should be doing something else, then that sparked with me. If I rush through everything else on my agenda so I can get back to the book, then it sparked with me. I think it's a little harder to recognize spark in my own writing than in others'. If I'm reading and I think "I wish I thought of that line," then the writer has connected with me. When I'm writing, I think the best indicator of interest is how long I sit to write for the day. If I ignore the symptoms of M.S. because I "just have to" get the rest of a chapter on paper, then that's a pretty good sign that I sparked interest in my own writing. If I still feel that way after the fifth revision, then it's a winner.


Sheila Deeth said...

I guess as a reader, a book has spark if I end up carrying it around the house. Unfortunately that usually means I put it down and forget where it is, but the spark is enough to get me straight back into the story when I find it.

I was interested in the comment about feedback. I guess I've not got enough of it yet to kill the spark. And the writing spark is when I'm desperate to get back on the computer and see what happens next.

Anonymous said...

Tawny, this was an interesting post for me as I'm getting some feedback on an ms and deciding what to do about it. For the most part, I've found feedback to be useful, if the reader understands the book or chapter well enough to offer constructive points.

I think that writing shows spark when you go back to it a while after writing a scene and say, yes, that really works.

James Rafferty

Judi Fennell said...

Spark? Oh, yes! I love when that moment happens in the story and it starts to take off for me, the author. What a satisfying feeling! And, then, truly the story does seem to fly out of my fingers.

Love the title of that last book shown... yowza! Talk about spark! ;}

Tawny said...

Hi Everyone!!! Happy Monday *g*

Sia -thank you so much for reading Coming On Strong ;-) Sierra gets her own book next month - Going Down Hard. I love your take on Belle and Mitch, and as for Lena *g* Hmmm... keep reading ;-) LOL

Tawny said...

Anna :-) The feeling is so mutual, I love your books!!

YAY, I'm so glad you know what spark I mean. And yes, its often there from the beginning, the story just clicks. Of course, I've found it later, too. Sometimes its halfway into the story that the characters finally make a comment, or the plot takes a twist and it all just lights up. Then--wheeeeee *g* its a great ride.

Treethyme said...

I've read one of Tawny's books and have another one on order. I can really relate to the "sparks" (although, since you mentioned it, I'd like some of the real glitter, too). Some books end up in my keeper pile, while others that are technically good, just don't make that magical connection with me.

I'm not an analytical reader, either -- I just want to feel the emotional connection, maybe have a giggle, and I want something that will make me remember the characters and their book.

I've learned the hard way what a killer feedback can be. Even though I finaled in the first three contests I entered, I was so eager to change everything to please all the judges (with all their conflicting suggestions) that I killed the story.

It happened several times, through over-critiquing (however well-intentioned), primarily because I didn't have the confidence in myself to trust my own judgment. I'm not there yet, but I'm starting to recognize what brings out my Imposter Syndrome, and I try to avoid those things. It doesn't always work.

I usually have a ball with the first draft, no matter how hard it is. The revisions are slower and much more exhausting, because I'm forcing myself to step back and analyze everything I've written. It's hard to maintain the love, or that "honeymoon" glow, when you're busy deleting half of what you've written.

I don't think there is an easy way to write, and you've brought up an excellent point. Is it normal to get burned out on a story, after spending so much time reworking it? Or is it just a sign that you need to start all over again?

Tawny said...

Margay!!! What an awesome definition of spark. There's nothing I love better than a character that I'm thinking about months after I've finished the book. And yes, the story is definitely sparking if it keeps you in the chair writing. I looooove that feeling, don't you?!

Tawny said...

James, I agree! Feedback *is* useful. To a point ;-) I think in the beginning of a story, feedback can be a great thing to see if your idea works or to get comments that point out angles you might not have been aware of. But I've seen, at least in RWA, people send their opening chapter/s out to tons of contests, use all the feedback and comments they get to change change change their stories until its not THEIR story anymore, its a sparkless group effort.

I do get feedback - but after a few years I've learned which feedback promotes the spark in my writing and which feedback makes me doubt myself. Doubt never seems to feed spark for me *g*

Tawny said...

Hi Sheila :-) Oh, I know of what you speak! I have a habit of running into walls as I walk around with a book in front of my face LOL. As for the feedback spark, I expanded a little about that in my comment to James. I think feedback can be a great thing -especially when writers are getting a feel for their own voice and style. But a LOT of feedback can get confusing, especially when you end up with conflicting feedback ("Oh, I love your hero, but your heroine is obnoxious" from one contest judge, then "Oh, your heroine is so spunky and strong, but your hero totally flops for me" from another judge)

Tawny said...

ROFL Judi- thank you. I love these titles. The amazing Kate Carlisle came up with them when I begged my Romance Bandit sisters to help me with ideas. Isn't it fun!?

Tawny said...

Treethyme ;-) I keep asking for pixie dust, too. As soon as I get a delivery, I'll share *g*

Like you say, over critiquing is a definite spark squasher. As for losing spark or the honeymoon glow as you go through the story multiple times, *sigh* yeah, that can happen. I think this is where a little distance between drafts is a good idea. Put it away for a week or so, then go back through it. And when you do, remember the things that made you love it the first time, thats the spark you're wanting to spread through the entire story. Maybe if you look at it that way, its not as hard to cut the unsparkling bits and pieces *g*

Semantics? Yes. But I really believe that how we talk to ourselves when we write has a lot to do with staying motivated and happy with our work, ya know?

~Sia McKye~ said...

Hey, Tawny. I just started it, so I do have a ways to go, but I wanted you to know I was reading it. Today has been one of those crazy ones where I haven't had time to breathe hardly, much less read. But you were able to capture my interest from the beginning of your tale, so the spark is there.

I do love the titles of your books and oh boy, I'm looking forward to Sierra's story.

My Blog 2.0 (Dottie) said...

Hi Sia! Hi Tawny!

The *spark* is what make each and every book special, if there's no *spark* the characters aren't important. Must have the spark or the book goes into the DNF pile. But, just looking at the titles, the spark is already zigging! Good luck and many happy reads!

Dottie :)

Tawny said...

Thanks, Sia :-) I hear you on the crazy day- I was supposed to be out of the house at 11 and am still trying to get ready *g* I'll be back this afternoon to check in and visit, though.

Sierras story... I'll share a secret. As much as I had a great time and really liked Belle's story, I'm so much crazier about Sierra's. Its a little more intense, a little darker, but she was such a great character to work with. I mean, that mouth *g*

Tawny said...

I hear ya, Dottie!! and I agree ;-) Spark is key. LOL on the zigging spark, and thanks so much for the good luck wishes. I can use all I can get ;-)

Virna De Paul said...

Hi Tawny--I define spark as something that's going to get my body moving--whether it's my heart pumping, my spine straightening, my knee bouncing, or my breath catching. I definitely know when I'm reading it. Sometimes I don't know if I'm writing it until after I've put it away and read it. I don't tend to show my emotions a lot, so if there's something me react without thinking, I'm pretty sure others will, too.

Tawny said...

Hey Virna, that's a fun definition of spark - I love the body movements that go with the "wow" feeling. Its hard in our own writing, sometimes, to see where the spark is. I still can't always pinpoint it myself, but I know if I feel good, I'm on track.

Kat Sheridan said...

Hi Tawny, great article! Like you, I can't really define spark, but I know it when I see it. That line that makes me catch my breath, that moment when the hero makes me sigh... I'm always tickled when I read back over something I've written a few weeks ago, and think "oh yeah, that's gonna work!" Great book titles you have there! And Sia, thank you for hosting another entertaining author!

Tawny said...

Hi Kat :-) Don't you LOVE that feeling? That whole "wow, I really wrote that?" excitement. I think thats a great test of spark, especially when the actual writing is, well, lets just say less than smooth *g*

And thanks so much for the title compliments :-) I still giggle when I see them.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I do believe when you go back and read what you've written it's pretty easy to spot the spark.

I really like it when I'm writing and you feel that flow and you know it's working. It energizes you. the give and take, the conversation, or the flirtation and sexual tension is there and you feel it as you write. I love that feeling...

Tawny said...

Sia, I love that feeling too!

And I think you're right. But spark is sometimes like voice, it takes an author awhile to recognize and embrace theirs. Hmm, after talking about spark all day, now I'm wondering... do you think spark happens when an author is truly embracing their voice?

~Sia McKye~ said...


To me, the connotation of “spark” is more in getting life in your writing. I think you can have a distinct voice and still not quite have the spark there. For me, it’s that moment when my characters become real, or come to life on the pages. They act and react realistically, and not always as I may have originally envisioned the situation. It’s not so much you, the author, writing their lines…more like you as the author are channeling your character’s lives on to the pages of your story.

One of the ways I know I haven’t gotten the spark is when I’ve written something and there is that niggling feeling that tells me something isn’t right or something is off in this scene. It feels …flat. It might be that I’m trying to force my characters into a situation, or plot area, they wouldn’t be in, or have them reacting in a way, given their backgrounds, they wouldn’t. At that point, I have to step back and think about it. When I do, I know I’ve tried to force them into something they wouldn’t do and they go back to being cardboard and not three-dimensional.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Virna, thanks for stopping by. I saw your peice on one of Lori Foster's older stories, a fireman. Lori's a favorite of mine too, :-)

For those of you who don't know Virna, she and a couple other authors have a blog called, Chasing Heroes.

Virna De Paul said...

Oh Wow! Thanks for the shout out, Sia!! I've been devouring my backlist of L.F.'s for the past few weeks. Looking forward to exploring your blog more now that Tawny helped me discover it!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Oh, you're very welcome Virna. I enjoyed what I've read of it. :-)

Betty Hanawa said...

When a book has spark, I don't want it to end and it's on my keeper shelf, which is where Tawny's books are.

I know when my own writing has spark when I'm going back through it for the inevitable rewrite and think, "Dang, that's a great line. Where was I when my fingers typed it?" Sometimes I think I'm no more than a conduit to process the happenings in a parallel universe.

Tawny said...

Sia, awesome definition of spark. It really is about bringing the characters to life, isn't it?! Maybe voice comes in when the author is simply comfortable enough with their writing to let the characters flow without trying to censor the words?

And thanks for giving Virna the shoutout -she's amazing, huh?

Betty ;-) I've considered the conduit theory a few times, myself. And thank you!!!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Betty, isn't that fun though? Finding those gems when you reread something and have that "Oh Wow" moment when you know YOU wrote that and its good.

Tawny, I'm sure being comfortable with their writing certainly helps a writer to let their voice free without seconding guessing. For sure, you have to stay true to your story epecially when you receive feedback. As the author, you know what your intent is. Perhaps the feedback helps you see how best to showcase it, but ultimately, you have to decide whether it works for you and your story, or not. This is where having a clear vision of what you want proves the adage, 'to your ownself be true.'

Helen Ginger said...

I’m not an analytical reader either, unless my intent is to analyze the writing. Otherwise, I read for the joy of it. And I agree about the comments of others. You have to look at what others say and decide if you want to follow their advice or not. And remember it is your story to tell.

Blaze said...

Sia, I think thats one of the best adages for a writer to follow. We're the spinner of our stories, and if we don't know where its meant to go, it's quite possible to end up with a tangled mess. Of course, I'm also one of those writers who's in awe of pantzers *g*

I really appreciate you having me here to hang out - its been so much fun!!!

Tawny Weber said...

Oops, sorry, posted that from the wrong account *g*

Thanks again, Sia!! This was fun.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Tawny, it was my pleasure to have you! We had some great commenters.

Btw, I finished Coming On Strong today. I enjoyed. Your characters are very well developed, the storyline was a fun read. I loved the relationship between Belle and Sierra! I love the way Belle ties Mitch into all sorts of knots, lolol! Snappy dialog and fun, Oo-la-la, a sizzling read. :-)

If you like a fast and entertaining read, you can't go wrong with Coming on Strong.

Oh, I can NOT wait to read Sierra's Story!

Thanks to all for stopping by and Tawny for making the our time here fun and informative.

Tawny said...

Wow -thank you so much for that, Sia!!! I really appreciated the chance to hang out and have fun here with you all.