Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Welcome Guest Blogger Lynn Romaine

Please join me in welcoming Lynn Romaine, author of Long Run Home, as our guest blogger this week. Take it away, Lynn!

Thanks, Kari, for inviting me to participate in your great blog!

Let’s get the age thing out of the way now and let’s say I’m past fifty, leaving it at that. As for writing, I have a master’s degree in information and have written mucho nonfiction, but I did not start writing novels until seven years ago. I write romantic environmental suspense, a genre I made up myself. I have had three books contracted, a fourth waiting for editing and a fifth I’m at work on now. I live in Bloomington, Indiana, have a fabulous 25 year old daughter living Seattle who is making a difference on the planet, and a fantastic ex-husband who is my best friend. Besides writing and my family/community, my other commitment is to my organization Red Pants For the World. Right now Red Pants is sending money to bring books and educational materials to a rural village in Afghanistan. My long-term goal for Red Pants is to build a school for girls in Afghanistan and in this country, to support young girls living in difficult circumstances discover their ability to create their lives through writing. You can read more about me, writing and Red Pants at:

So you want to Write A Novel!

Over the first fifty years of my life, whenever I ran into someone who told me they’d written a book, I found feel myself envying them and longing for that myself, particularly those who got their books published! Well, I'm here to tell you –if I can do it YOU sure can! (I started at 54 years of age and I now have four books written, three published, and I'm at work on my fifth romantic suspense novel).

Want to write a novel yourself but confused about how to get started? Here's one author's answers to some basic questions:

Where would I get a story?
Answer - somewhere in all of us there's a story - maybe not an entire scene by scene story, but some dream-or longing-or even bad stuff that happened once. Then take that event and write it down. Do it fast, use as many words as you want, but don't edit it. If there are more scenes, then write those down as well. They could be fantasy, they could be true, they could be somewhere in between. When you're done, you'll have a basic starting point (or points). Then figure out how you want it to end - write that scene. There you go--you've got a basic skeleton of a story.

What about my characters?
Once you have the skeleton, sit down and make a list of characters so far. Then, for each of those characters, describe how they look, what they think, what they like or don't like, their family background. Make them real for yourself. Oh, and most important, their names.

How do I fill it out and make more scenes?
Well here's how I do it. I write down any scenes that are right there already in my head (usually only 4 or 5 scenes I pull out of my head). I let it sit but start jotting down scenes I see - scenes in passing, driving down the road, sitting at the airport, waiting in the doctor's office. If they make me smile or cry or feel something, even fear, I make a note. Sometimes they're from news stories (my 1st book came from a story about environmental terrorism in our local newspaper). Sometimes it's a scene I happen upon driving to an appointment (my 2nd book, Blind Spot has a scene I saw of a little girl racing around a go-cart track in a huge helmet!) Use anything that catches your fancy - good or bad. When you get a flash of a scene, go home and write it down. Again, don't worry about your best writing, just write it down.

What do I do next?
It's time for copy and paste. Take all those snippets and full scenes and paste them into some sense of a story. Begin where something happens that changes your character. That's your starting point for the book. Just paste it all together, make sure you have a beginning and end and some stuff in the middle. Once you have that, go back and fill in the blank scenes. Don't worry or try to get it RIGHT, just fill in scenes. The only rule is to make something happen in each scene that changes your characters. You'll be amazed that you'll find the scenes and the story will develop if you relax and have fun with each scene.

What now?
Okay, you've got yourself a rough draft of a novel. Congratulations! Don't worry that it's a bit awkward or not perfect grammar or if it's not complete. Just congratulate yourself, sit there and look at it! Give yourself a little time to enjoy

So that's it - your first novel! The next steps will be a lot of work, but much easier:
1) Edit and edit and edit and edit. If you need help, join one of the many critique groups on-line or in your town. (Did you know the average published book gets six to eight edits). Or find a friend who is writing and edit with her. Editing is the workhorse of writing. My first book got edited only 2 times before I submitted it to a publisher. The more I write, the more time I spend editing since I'm getting pickier about trying to find the exact words for the story I want to tell.
2) Now you're edited and ready - jump right in and submit your book somewhere - to one of the many on-line publishers, to an agent, to a contest. It's scary but a risk worth taking in the learning process.

Okay, that's it. The basic steps to writing a novel. I'd be happy to answer questions or if you just want to come visit my web site, stop by and email me from there. PS my books are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble or The Wild Rose Press.

Oh, I have one other thing: Malcolm Gladwell has written a great book called "The Outliers" and it in, his research has proven that it takes 10,000 hours to become a master of anything in life. So, don't beat yourself up if you're not one with the first book. Instead, have a blast writing and let me know when you get your first novel done!



Kari Lee Townsend said...

Thanks again for joining us, Lynn. Fabulous blog post!

Lynn Romaine said...

Thanks, Kari - I've spread the word at my various groups and Facebook/Twitter - this is a great blog site - one of the best I've seen - Lynn

Liz Lipperman said...

Welcome, Lynn. Interesting how you start a novel. Would you call yourself a pantser, a plotter or somewhere in between. I am definitely a plotter - even plot each scene before I write it.

I mentioned in an earlier blog how intrigued I was with the genre - environmental romantic suspense. I can see how it could. open up many possibilities. Congrats on the book sales. I'll be sure to check them out.

I love the red pants idea, but when I tried to open the url, it says it doesn't exist. You might want to check that out and let us know the new url plus what we can do to help.

Again, thanks for the great blog and the nice compliment.

P.L. Parker said...

Enjoyed the blog, some good pointers there.

Cate Masters said...

Wonderful post, Lynn. And great blog, ladies! I especially love its name. :)
Lynn, I'm so happy you finally followed your muse to fiction. Kudos for your outstanding goal of creating a girls' school in Afghanistan. I wish you all the best.

jessi said...

Great information and advice, Lynn. Just the other day, I was thinking,"I'm almost 40, what am I doing, trying to write start a writing career? Then I snapped out of it, and realized I only feel 27, so age doesn't count!
Thanks for making me see that it's possible, though!

Lynn Romaine said...

Thanks to all of you for your great comments! First- eek! wrong URL for Red Pants:

As to pantser/plotter, definitely pants - I just have a vague idea of a story and it has to go wherever it wants to - in some ways, I envy you plotters - it seems so much more efficient and saves editing (17 edits myself on Long Run Home). So pantser with perfectionist might be the deadly combination.

As for late bloomers, so many people we all meet want to write and I always tell everyone - jump in! Just start writing - you can do it if I did! Isn't that always the way it goes - what stops is is the thought 'I can't do that.' Thanks again, ladies

Mary Marvella said...

Good blog, it's always good to know how other writers work.

Kathy said...

Lynn, great blog. I am 58 as of last month and I figure if my aunt was 70 plus when she had 2 books published I can do it at 58. Just have to keep working at it over and over. I won one contest have submitted that win to an editor-not holding breath there. I've moved past that story shoved it into the box. I entered a new story in a contest and it isn't plotted but is did have more planning before hand than anything else I've written in the past.

Linda Ross said...

I have known Lynn since we both lived in San Francisco in the 70's. I always knew her creative skills would take her far. Her instructions for how to write are inspiring. Hummm - maybe when I get that free moment I can take those many adventures of my life and put them on paper.

Lynn Romaine said...

Thanks Mary and Kathy for the gracious comments - and Linda! Thanks for stopping by! I wish we could get together - after so many years! I'm planning on a trip to SF for a conference late August - maybe then?
And think about writing your travel stories (and those juicy law cases you handle!)

Caroline Clemmons said...

Lynn, I was curious about your red pants legacy, but couldn't make the link work for me. That's a wonderful goal, though. I've read Greg Mortensen's books about bulding schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Good luck with all your projects.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful and creative way to shift the context of the planet we know and love. Thank you for your stand for women.

Lynn Romaine said...

Hi Caroline - I gave them the wrong URL for Red Pants - it's - sorry - I'll send it separate to as well if I can find you -

Debra St. John said...

Great post.

I tend to use the "snippet" method as well. In my current WIP, I have scenes written all over the place. Now I have to bring them together into something cohesive!

Lynn Romaine said...

Debra - it's us pantsers who do that I think - I'm pasting all over the place once a book is done - thanks for comment

linda_rettstatt said...

As a fellow pantser, I can identify with your writing style. I love techniques that aren't overwhelming--being a pantser. Great blog.

Linda Rettstatt

Lynn Romaine said...

Thanks, Linda - isn't this a great blog site? I'm getting such good ideas about subjects reading through all these ladies items - from a fellow pantser

Deborah said...

Lynn, It's great to hear mention of the Outliers, and always good to be reminded that we need to be patient with outselves as we perfect new skills.

Deborah Nemeth
Editor, Carina Press

Mary Ricksen said...

Great tips. And you are best friends with your ex? Amazing!

Lynn Romaine said...

Thanks Mary and Deb - Deb - I love the Outliers! Keep reminding myself that practice is all one needs to do - it helps to read some early works of very successful authors - and see how far they've come - PS Again congratulations on your new editorship with Carina!

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Lynn,
Very interesting and informative blog. I agree wholeheartedly with your suggestion to write and write your scene as fast as you can, just to get it down on paper and worry about editing later. That is the way I write.


Lynn Romaine said...

Hi Margaret - thanks for your comments - it's all personal, I know, since each of us lives in a world of our own design, but most (but not all) successful writers think it works best to just keep writing - then edit. I do know for some it works best to edit the next morning after a day's work but if I did that, I'd spend the entire next day doing edits - lynn

Jana Richards said...

Hi Lynn. Glad to know you followed your dreams of writing and publishing.