Friday, February 21, 2014


A story is more than a series of events tied together or slapping a pat ending on the work and calling it a book. There has to be continuity and a reason for events and the reader has to be with you and with your characters to be satisfied. We have to prime and keep them involved enough to continue turning those pages. 
Professional editor, Beth Hill, talks about the importance of building anticipation in our readers so they want to know what happens next. 
Beth's blog, The Editor's blog, is listed as one of the 50 best blogs by and for editors (by Online  

When readers anticipate that something is going to happen to characters they've  come to know, come to like and maybe admire—whether or not they know for sure what that something is—those readers get involved and stay involved in a story. So anticipation is an emotion you want to induce in the reader.
As a writer, you have to be the one to fold in that sense of anticipation.
So how do you set up anticipation for the ending? You build it into every chapter and scene.

Ways To Build Anticipation

~  Set a clock ticking or a calendar’s pages turning—indicate a time or occasion by which the main character must succeed at his tasks in order to save whatever needs saving . . . the world or his child or his marriage. Periodically remind readers of the clicking clock and/or keep the calendar pages turning visibly—keep readers aware of the passage of time. 
~  Hint at possible outcomes and indicate what could happen if certain acts are not completed. 
~  Show negative outcomes for small infractions of the rules (stated or implied) so that character and readers anticipate even worse outcomes for large infractions. 
~  Connect events so that one leads inexorably to the next. Show those connections. Have readers anticipate even more connections because they've seen how events are linked, how events lead to particular outcomes. 
~  Set into motion a chain of events that cannot be stopped or slowed. 
~  Introduce inevitability—one circumstance, if it comes to pass, will inevitably produce the next. 
~  Show characters fighting with everything they have to stop or derail the inevitable. Show the cost characters pay for fighting against a certain happening or event. Show the toll it takes. Make the anticipated outcome have an effect on the story’s current events even as they unfold. 
~  Give characters new resolve as the story marches on—give characters reasons to keep going. Give characters new tools to use in the fight. Show a character’s inner strength coming out as the story heads toward the end. 
~  Don’t let characters go too long without thinking or talking about a future they are trying to head off or the one they are trying to create. Show characters planning for a future after the anticipated big moment. Show them planning celebrations of success as well as future battle campaigns in case they fail. Keep characters aware of the future—through dialogue or actions or thoughts—so that readers are also aware and anticipating. 
~  Show a character’s emotions when his actions bring the unwanted showdown closer. Conversely, show a character’s relief when he does something to delay the feared ending. Keep characters emotionally involved in anticipated outcomes so that readers will likewise be emotionally invested. 
~  Introduce surprises, both positive and negative, to keep characters off balance, to make them have to recalculate possible end scenarios and re-evaluate their commitment. This will keep readers aware of the end the characters anticipate. 
The point is to set up anticipation and maybe even dread in both characters and readers. Keep them pushing toward or pulling away from those outcomes. Make possible consequences drive action and response.
You can always change either the climax or the story events so that the two truly match—you can’t produce a climax or ending that you didn't build toward. Sure, you can tack on the ending that you want, but if you didn't create anticipation for that ending, the reader won’t believe in your story’s conclusion; you've got to have a setup that matches the end.
But endings should come naturally out of the elements that you mixed into the story.
Include anticipation in your writing so that readers have reasons to stay involved and turning pages.


I love the written word, the ability we have to create worlds and emotions with well-chosen phrases. It’s my intention to share tips and insights and encouragement with writers at all levels, to help you craft stories that will entertain and satisfy your readers. That will help satisfy you as writer as well.

I am both writer and editor. My editing focus is on long fiction, primarily novels. I also mentor beginning writers.

Beth has many articles on writing craft on her website A Novel Editand she covers craft and other subjects on her blog, The Editor's Blog.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


I'm delighted to have, Jade Lee, visiting with us today Over Coffee. Her stories have brought me quite a few hours enjoyment. 
Jade's topic today is all about surprises our characters present when writing a story. Even those writers who don't plot have certain story points and the ending in mind when they start. Having Jade discussing how her stories surprise her, certainly explains a few things I didn't see coming, but thoroughly enjoyed as I read.   

There's a moment in every story that surprises me. In the previous book (What the Bride Wore), it was when the hero Grant refused to tell his brother why he'd been missing for five years. I'd expected that information to come out early in the book, but he just stuck to his silence until a pivotal moment later.

Like many of my books, Wedded in Scandal had a delightful character as a surprise. For those who have read it, Edward wasn't supposed to be there at all, and yet he was so amazing, he became the hero of Engaged in Wickedness. But this book's surprise was a first for me. In What the Groom Wants, the startling moment was the entire back third of the book. Yeah, the ENDING was surprise.

Seriously, my reaction as I was writing it was WTF? But sometimes (rarely) the words just flow and I was typing something that felt right even if it had nothing to do with my outline.

So here's what I planned: Radley my hero finally faces off with the villain Damon and he defeats the bad guy in a show of manly prowess. We've all seen that before, right? It's a good, classic ending to a romance novel. I wrote it down on my outline and that's what my editor expected.

But what actually appeared on the page had my editor calling me to say, "This is not what we discussed, is it? Nevermind, I don't care. I love this ending, but I never saw it coming."

Neither did I, but the more I looked back at it, the more it made sense. My heroine, Wendy, is a woman who bargains to survive. As in: I'll give you A, if you give me B. And if you don't cheat me, we'll both come out ahead. That's great, but she's a seamstress in love with a duke. (He wasn't a duke when they met. In fact, in his heart, he's still just a seaman). So how does she make herself the equal of our hero?

My plan was that she finally just gets over herself. She says, "hey, if I'm what you want, then I love you too." Again, that's a classic romance moment. But Wendy ended up being too strong for that. She set about systematically making herself the equal of a duke. How does she do that?

SPOILER ALERT: She takes over a financial empire. She just...flat takes it over. With the aid of the constable and his men, a Cardinal in the Church of England, and quite a few of the previous book's people, she organizes a coup that lets her bring a great deal of money and power to the marriage. Suddenly, she becomes a good bargain for a duke.

So the ending became Wendy using all the myriad different characters I'd set up in the previous books and creating the future she wanted. With Radley's help in the end. And a great deal of love.

Honestly, I would like to think I was smart enough to plan this on my own. No such luck. I hadn't even expected the other characters to make an appearance, much less show up in the final scene ready to defend our heroine to the death.

But sometimes, writing just works that way. Divine inspiration or luck, I don't care. I just hope it happens again.

  • Writers: Have you ever had a story surprise you by taking a different path than what you had planned?
  • Readers: Do you like stories that take you by surprise?



An honest love...

Radley Lyncott has been in love with Wendy Drew as long as he can remember. When he went to sea, she was too young to court. Now that he’s returned to take up his Welsh title, he is appalled to find that debt has ruined the Drew family, and—even worse—Wendy is being courted by another man.

Or a dangerous attraction?

Family comes first for seamstress Wendy Drew, who is forced to settle her brother’s debt by working nights at a notorious gambling den. But her double-life hasn’t gone unnoticed—she has captivated none other than Demon Damon, a nefarious rake who understands Wendy’s darkest desires and is hell bent on luring her into his arms.

Available in stores February 2014

USA Today bestselling author Jade Lee has been scripting love stories since she first picked up a set of paper dolls. Ball gowns and rakish lords caught her attention early (thank you Georgette Heyer), and her fascination with the Regency began. An author of more than 30 romance novels and winner of dozens of industry awards, she finally gets to play in the best girl-heaven place of all: a Bridal Salon! In her new series, four women find love as they dress the most beautiful brides in England. Lee lives in Champaign, Illinois. 
You can find Jade:

Monday, February 17, 2014


One moment I’m sleeping peacefully and with the next breath I’m jerked awake by a cacophony of sound. The slam of adrenaline hits so hard it’s like fire coursing through my veins. Deep breath, hand to the chest to keep my heart in place. Seconds to identify the sounds and decide the action needed. My existence is reduced to strobe light flashes of action and reaction.

That’s what it’s like to wake up to all hell breaking loose.

One hand hits the light switch the other has already grabbed my pants. I’m aware of Dan ratcheting a round in the chamber before he grabs his clothes. I hear the snarl of my son’s pit bull. The hair on the back of my neck prickles. The Danes are going into attack mode.

I jam my feet into boots while loading the shotgun. Dan’s already out the door, gun loaded and ready, his flashlight spearing the blackness of the cold night. I hear the snick of safety off from my son’s rifle. His pit is going nuts in his bedroom. Outside the Danes are snarling and slamming against the fence engaged in a fight with coyotes and in the background a call to the pack floats on the air. Doctari bugles a challenge with his mares behind him. All faces are pointed toward the confrontation a hundred yards away.

We wade through the ground fog in hunting mode listening to dangerous dogs in protection mode. A high-pitched yelp of a wounded canine. The smell of blood. The echo of gunfire. Howls of the pack calling retreat. The snorting and stomping of alert horses. Eerie eyes where there shouldn't be eyes. 

When hell breaks loose it’s a mêlée of confusion, flashes of movement, and sound.

It’s been a hard winter. Food has been problematic for the packs, although they rarely come into the home pasture and my cats know not to venture into the pastures on winter nights. My first flare of worry was for my horses especially with Doctari’s challenge even though I know that coyotes don’t normally go after something that big, even as a pack, unless it’s badly wounded and looks easy to bring down. The home pasture is Doctari’s territory. He was confronting home invaders of the canine variety. He doesn't tolerate any threat to his mares by canines. I've seen those powerful legs and hooves in action a couple of times when strays have thought it fun to chase the horses. Let’s just say a couple of those strays didn't get back up.

Later investigation showed the clear blood trail from the open pasture to the Dane pen. It was a tale of a fierce fight between the two fleeing Raccoons and what we suspect were a few of the pack’s yearlings with a few of this year’s pups. A fatally wounded Raccoon ran for cover into my Dane pen to escape. The sound of battle through the fence between my Danes defending home ground and the Coyotes determined to get their meal.  The added din of a cornered and terrified Raccoon entering the mêlée and protecting its mate. She escaped, he, unfortunately, did not.

Unforgettable sights, sounds and smells. Things like this are the stuff of movies or books.

Upon reflection, you can imagine all sorts of things out there in the dark. Things that grab at you from the ground, shape shifters, vampires, home invasions, an army on the move, anything your imagination can conjure up could be there hiding in the ground fog of the night.

  • So, how do you use these moments of life?

  • Do they stir your imagination? Do they find their way into your writing?


~Upcoming guests~

Wednesday, February 19th: Jade Lee talking about the moment in every story that surprises her.