On Writing & Publishing by Robin D. Owens

Personal notes on writing techniques, writing a novel, my writing career and threading your way through publishing a book.

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Location: Denver, United States

RITA Award Winning Author -- that's like the Oscar, folks! Futuristic/Fantasy Romance and Fantasy with Romantic Subplots.

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Monday, February 06, 2006

Readers Helping Writers

This morning I revised this article I wrote in April 2002...

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I never in my life thought I'd write a telepathic mole.

One of the wonderful things about being a writer is getting feedback from your readers. At the beginning of 2002 the online SFR newsletter (Science Fiction Romance, now Speculative Romance Online http://www.specromonline.com ) Since my planet Celta barely has one part of a continent geographically determined and named, I offered the winning entrant their choice of naming a mountain range, river, ocean, plant, animal, etc. to appear in my second book, Heart Thief.

When the winner was drawn (Ann-Jones Rodriguez http://jollyroger.com/navy/amazing/ann/
she chose to name a plant after herself and her sons: An'Alcha. Well, An'Alcha sounds exotic to me and I visualized a climbing vine with trumpet flowers, and not ordinary flowers, but passion flowers. I emailed Ann and this was fine by her and we talked further. I immediately thought of an upcoming scene I was revising. The hero and heroine were in a lush garden and after sharing a passionate kiss, he was going to give her flowers. She'd been hurt earlier and in the scene as written he was giving her "balmheal" with a sweet scent that would help her headache. But wouldn't it be more touching if he had a choice between An'Alcha and balmheal? And passed the An'Alcha for the balmheal because he was thinking of her welfare? Of course it would. It would add a layer to the scene that it didn't have before.

Then there's a reviewer I've been corresponding with who wanted HeartMate's heroine's best friend's story (Mitchella Clover, my most recent “Heart” book out, Heart Choice, July 2006). To oblige her I did a quick revision of the two chapters I have written. She enjoyed the piece and we talked a little about the story and torturing the characters. Naturally, this got me thinking and I realized that the second scene was a lot like the second scene in HeartMate – the hero walks into the heroine's shop. Now this won't do! Where should the new setting be? Where would the heroine be on a rainy summer weekday evening? In an upscale members-only social club. Not only did my reader help me find a weakness in my story, but she helped me think more about character development.

Finally, during an online chat I connected with a woman who loved my book and has a great deal of the same reading background I do (we think we are the only ones who remember Cliffs of Night by Beatrice Brandon). Tal is fascinated by moles. HeartMate mentions mining and stones, so we talked about moles. I offered that maybe a future story could include a mole and we hashed out a few details of a young miner whose legs are crushed and so genetically engineers sentient, telepathic moles to continue the work. I saved the notes in my "Celta stories" file and returned to revising Heart Thief , then realized I had a problem in chapter 13. The heroine is trapped in an active earthquake fault. The hero is facing his inner fears and discovering an old murder in his childhood home. The heroine's telepathic puppy was left behind (she knew she was going into a dangerous situation). The hero's cat is with him to add a bit of comic relief. I need to get the hero to the heroine and decided to use the cat --removing it from the hero's scenes. Another big rewrite and cutting of humor I didn't want to do. Inspiration strikes -- enter Tal, the telepathic mole.

Every book I write has incorporated something from my discussions with my readers. So, for me, listening to readers stimulates my writing, and I'm thankful to them for making my stories richer.

You know, telepathic moles do speak differently than telepathic cats....

May your characters all be unique today.


Blogger Maura said...

Oh man, I'm looking forward now to how a telepathic mole talks!

I love it when something sparks that "aha" moment!

And I'm resisting the urge to price gouge with my *2* original copies of Heart Mate!

12:44 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

Oh, great. Now I'm going to have to buy Heart Thief just for the telepathic mole. Which means I'll get suckered in and require the rest of the Heart books. Sigh. Yesterday, I said to my hubby, "Robin's evil." (Meaning it in a good way, of course, given that the blurb of SoF on your blog required me to buy it.) He responded with, "Not evil. Smart." Though that is very true, after all this talk about telepathic moles, I have now come to the conclusion that in a past life, you must've been a lever-puller during the Inquisition. No other explanation will do. ;)

12:52 PM  
Blogger moonhart said...

Oh man, Robin! And here I thought for =sure= you were gonna talk about "clever readers."


Ah well, perhaps that is the subject of a different blog.



3:18 PM  
Blogger Robin D Owens said...

Maura, hope you enjoy Heart Thief where Tal shows up! You remind me that I really should visit the shop which might have first printings.

Holly, I was actually being lazy, mining my old articles for blog stuff...so SORRY it hooked you....ROTFLMAO

Ah, moon, preening are you, at catching me out! Discrepancies are the spice of life...maybe.

7:53 AM  

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