Tag Archives: novels

The #1 Question All Writers Should Ask


by Lillian Csernica on August 11, 2017

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Stories grow out of two questions: What if? and What next?

If you’re like me, your stories tend to start out as a sudden flash of action or dialogue. Maybe you think of a character first, and then the problem. Either way, once you’ve got your basic idea on paper and it’s time to think about story structure, there’s one essential question you must answer:

Why now?

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In Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge has to change his ways right now or he won’t live to see another Christmas.

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In The Hunger Games, when Katniss’ little sister is chosen to represent their District, Katniss has to take action right now to save her sister’s life. The only acceptable way is to volunteer and take her place.

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In Andy Weir’s novel The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney has to come up with some kind of life support system right now. Maybe NASA will mount a successful rescue mission.  Maybe Watney’s team will do it. That’s all off in the land of What Then? When you’re stuck on Mars with no hope in sight, right now means right now!

Answering the Why now? question will raise your stakes, heighten your action, and give your readers a story they’ll remember!

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Filed under Christmas, classics, creativity, dreams, editing, fairy tales, Family, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, Goals, historical fiction, memoirs, nature, publication, research, science fiction, travel, Writing

Four Q&A About My Writing Process


by Lillian Csernica on March 28, 2014

Today’s post is part of a Writing Process Blog Hop I was invited into by one of my favorite people, Setsu Uzume.

As part of the Hop, I’m answering four questions about my personal writing process and then passing the baton to four other bloggers whose work I enjoy and respect.

What are you working on?

The first novel in my Japanese historical romance trilogy, Sword Master, Flower Maiden.  I’m plowing through the second edit right now, making adjustments for consistency in characterization as well as upping the stakes here and there.  In Satsuma, Japan, of 1865, an English girl raised to be the highest class of courtesan escapes the cruel samurai Nakazawa who demanded her as payment for her father’s gambling debts when she was just six years old.  Now, sixteen and determined to thwart her captor’s power-hungry schemes, Yuriko flees her guards and rushes straight into the path of bandits  pursued by Tendo Kazuhiro, a ronin watching over a nearby village.  Captivated by Yuriko’s beauty and courage, Tendo is determined to protect her from her enemies.  The love that blossoms between them makes them determined to defeat Nakazawa.

How does your work differ from others in the genre?

I think history is full of treasures waiting to be discovered, stories waiting to be told.  Laura Joh Rowland’s Sano Ichiro is a fine hero, an excellent leading man for a mystery series.  I hope Tendo Kazuhiro can live up to that standard of excellence as a romance hero.  Multi-ethnic romance is not well represented in the genre, especially in the subgenre of historical romance.  I happen to find Asian men very attractive, so Japan was a natural choice as a setting for my novels.  To bring a Caucasian woman into the Japan of the Tokugawa Shogunate and enable her to speak fluent Japanese took some doing.  I knew Yuriko had to be fluent in order to communicate with Tendo-san.  Only then could they achieve ishin-denshin, or “heart-to-heart communication.”

Why do you write what you write?

I write fantasy.  I write escapist genre fiction because there’s not enough love and magic and a sense of wonder in today’s world.  Part of the reason I write historical fiction is my enjoyment of political intrigue, foreign cultures, and the challenge of recreating my chosen settings on the page.  Short stories are a different thrill altogether.  I have to keep it simple, keep it tight, and still bring plenty of depth and solid story values to my tale.  I also write because I love language.  I love words.  I love being able to speak to someone from a foreign country in his or her own language.  So far my work has been translated into German and Italian.  I would be overjoyed if the Japanese trilogy was to one day be translated into Japanese itself.

How does your writing process work?

The answer to that depends on what I’m working on.  Generally speaking, I go through five drafts.  First draft: plot, dialogue, character and some setting.  Second draft: fleshing out character, making some plot events more intense and raising the stakes.  Third draft: Major revisions as necessary.  Fourth draft: filling in the background details, checking for consistency, changing any character names that conflict, as well as editing for length.  Fifth draft: beating the manuscript like an old rug to knock out everything that doesn’t need to be there then polishing what’s left.  In this draft I get down to what’s called the “microwriting level” and do quality control line by line.  Somewhere between the Third and Fifth Drafts I often call in my beta readers to help me see what I might be missing.  That kind of help is invaluable.

Setsu mentioned listening to music while she writes.  I do that too.  I choose the music based on the emotional tone of the writing I need to do.  When I wrote Ship of Dreams, U2’s “With or Without You” became Alexandre’s theme song.  Rosalind’s music varied from Berlin to Evanescence to Pat Benatar to uplifting instrumentals.

I hereby pass the baton to four writers who are well worth your time and attention:

Sandy Appleyard — “Author of hopeful memoirs and fiction.”  Sandy is a very kind lady with a generous heart.

Dorian Graves — In words and pictures, Dorian does amazing things.  I shall watch her career with interest.

Patricia H. MacEwen — Marine biologist, physical anthropologist, former CSI in Stockton, Pat’s Been There and Done That in places that would make most of us run screaming.  Look for her cover story on the latest issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction!

Blair Bonet — If you’re in the mood for something steamy and southern, start with Moonlight on the Bayou, first in the Benoit Erotic Romances.

Looking forward to your answers, ladies!

 

 

 

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