Monday, June 22, 2015

Robin Gianna & Research to Enrich Your Story

Please welcome Robin Gianna to the blog today!

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RESEARCH TO ENRICH YOUR STORY

I hear some of you saying, “Oh, yes, I loove to research,” as you gleefully rub your hands together.  Also hear others saying, “Research. Bah. Hate it,” as you drop your heads to your desk.

There are potential problems with both attitudes. Research lovers sometimes spend so much time at it, the book takes forever to get written. Or never gets written at all. Haters do the bare minimum, and miss out on ways just a little extra research can not only strengthen a story, but sometimes send it in a new direction.

Every time I get on the internet to look things up, I’m amazed all over again at the resources literally at our fingertips. What’s the average temperature in Cambridge, England in November?   Where are the trendy places to live in Paris? Images of the people and landscape of West Africa?  All found in remarkably little time (double-checked for accuracy, of course). But don’t stop there.  

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I also go to the library to grab books that might help. I got lucky to find an amazing memoir (The House
at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper) when I was writing a book set in Liberia that educated me about life there before and after the recent, devastating civil wars. That memoir helped me greatly with small details that I believe made the story stronger.

And there’s nothing like talking to people who are experts on a subject, which I do all the time to learn a about various medical details and different medical specialties.  Most everyone is happy to share his or her expertise.

An important thing to keep in mind? Whatever research camp you fall into, don’t let it bog you down. I recommend that you get the story started so you have the characters and basics firmly in your mind first. When you’re getting words on the page and realize there’s a detail you need to find out about, just make a note to yourself in that spot and keep going forward.  

But don’t let too many chapters pass before setting aside the time to research. You may discover things that lend themselves to entire scenes, a recurring theme, or even a whole new direction that you never would have written at all if you hadn’t learned whatever inspired it.

Here are a few examples of ways research helped me as a writer and enriched my stories:  

  1. My debut book was set in Benin, West Africa. I chose that setting because my husband had worked in a mission hospital there, and had great stories and photos which I used as the foundation.  But in doing additional research, one of the things I learned is that Benin is the birthplace of Voodoo, or Vodun as they call it.  I integrated that into the story, and it played a minor, but significant, recurring role in the story.
  2. I wrote a Valentine’s themed book set in Paris, which meant February, which meant no romantic moments in a warm park amid blooming roses!  So I had to look for other things to do in Paris, and in studying the weather, found it rains and snows quite a bit which lent itself to a recurring theme with an umbrella and some kissing beneath it!  Also ended up sending them to the Alsace region to do some snow-shoeing and visit a medieval town and vineyard, all of which were important scenes.
  3. My upcoming November release is part of a continuity with other authors, where all the stories are set in Cambridge, England. As I researched, I learned there’s a river that meanders throughout the city. Punting (pushing a boat with a pole, a bit like in Venice but the boats are flat) is popular there, both as a sport and a leisure activity. That became a big part of my story, with what I hope are some fun scenes on the River Cam. :-)
  4. My current release takes place in and near Delphi, Greece. While I was inspired to set it there after a fabulous trip last summer, and had many first-hand memories and details, there were lots of things I learned later.  One important bit of information was that the area is prone to earthquakes, and that they had a huge one in 2009 that damaged much of the area. That was such an ah-ha moment for me, it changed several important parts of my story, one of which is that the heroine’s parents’ died during the earthquake (I originally had it happen in a plane crash, but the earthquake worked much better). I won’t tell you the other way the earthquake factors into the medical mystery in the story - you’ll just have to read it to find out for yourself! ;-)

So remember - research isn’t just about those little details like average temperatures and trendy places to live and what people wear. It truly will inspire new ideas and directions that will make your story stronger and maybe even easier to write.  And isn’t that always a great thing? 

How about you?  Research lover or hater?  Have any stories to share about ways it enriched one of your stories?

About Robin
After completing a degree in journalism, working in the advertising industry, then becoming a stay-at-home mom, Robin Gianna had what she likes to call her ‘awakening’. She decided she wanted to write the romance novels she’d loved since her teens.  Robin embarked on that quest by joining RWA and a local chapter, and working hard at learning the craft of fiction writing.
Robin loves pushing her characters toward their own happily-ever-afters! When she’s not writing, Robin’s life is filled with a happily messy kitchen, a needy garden, a wonderful husband, three great kids, a drooling bulldog and one grouchy Siamese cat.
Robin Gianna on the web:

Website             Facebook         Twitter

Robin Gianna’s new release. Her Greek Doctor’s Proposal, HM&B Medical Romance


The question he thought he'd never ask… 

Archaeologist Laurel Evans put her career on hold to care for her younger sisters. Now, close to achieving her goals, she won't let anything distract her. Laurel has come to Delphi to dig up ancient treasures, but she finds a modern-day Greek god instead—local doctor Andros Drakoulias!

A devoted single dad, Andros is determined to give his little girl stability. He knows his fling with Laurel can't last, so why is it so hard to imagine a future without her by his side?

Read Reader Reviews

Read an Excerpt

Buy Links:

Amazon Kindle

AmazonAus

Amazon UK 

Harlequin US

Mills & Boon UK

B&N
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Thanks Robin! I fall into the "Love Research" camp - and it can definitely lead to way too much time disappearing!

How about you? Which Research Camp do you fall into?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Joys of June

Halfway through June already! Crazy how time is flying this year. Probably a side effect of life trying to swallow me whole.

Only two weeks left in the school year - and I can't wait to dig into the two stories I'm working on. I never have much time for writing in June, and this year I've had to add in a lot of physio therapy as well as home exercises (old high school injuries have come back to haunt me with a vengeance!!!), and some home renovations that have grown from the original plans (as per usual).

So, for now, the stories are mostly marinating in my head, then short scenes are exploding onto paper when I have a chance to write. A definite plus of being busy is when I do have time to write, there's no such thing as writer's block.

How about you? Does writer's block drive you nuts? Do your scenes explode out of you as well? Is your life completely bonkers at the moment? If so, sending hugs and chocolate!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Learning to Love Revising

I'm over at From the Write Angle today talking about what I've learned about rewriting. I'm nowhere near Expert level at this, but I've learned a lot in the last few years!

I MUCH prefer that initial draft - in fact, I could probably write 1st drafts forever and be happy.

But, I've learned to enjoy revising as well. I didn't think it would ever happen, but it has.

I like rereading that draft and finding sections I love, and sections that need to be eliminated post-haste!

I've learned to like weaving in details - although I'm still working at learning to weave in more description. Anyone else find that really, really hard???

I love the slash and burn rounds of editing. Trimming the story and finding those redundant phrases fills me with giddy pleasure. Weird, but true.

Adding/Deleting plot lines isn't something I'm adept at yet, but I'm working on it. Still gives me nightmares though!

How about you? What's your favourite (or least favourite!) part of the revising process?
(Hope to see you over at From the Write Angle!)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Spring & Revising

Spring has truly reached us here in Northern Ontario!!!



Once the tulips start popping, it feels as if we've turned or back on the snow.
Cross your fingers!!!

I'm deep in the midst of revising one story while another simmers.
Once I've done another round on the simmering one, it'll be off to the beta readers
& I'll head back to this one.

How about you? Drafting, revising or marketing?
Where are you at this beautiful spring day?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Eclectic Tastes

For anyone who's been following my blog for a while, you probably know I have rather eclectic tastes. I've really noticed this while I've been working away on my NaNo project this month (reached 50k last week!!).

I don't like writing in silence, I prefer to have music or the TV on in the background, but my TV tastes don't match my writing tastes at all!

I write contemporary romance.

I watch sports, mysteries, and all kinds of SF.

Right now, I've got my Fringe DVDs playing - not exactly on the same wavelength as my romance. My other DVDs are along the same lines - Firefly/Serenity, Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Battlestar Galactica, Grimm...

Not quite sure what that says about my brain. Maybe because the genres are so different, I'm not confused at all about what's going on in my story and what's on the screen. I do know I focus better on my writing with my TV faves (or sports) are playing on TV.

Or else I'm a little crazy - which no one has ruled out yet!

How about you? Do you write and watch the same genres? Or do you like to mix it up a bit?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Spring Optimism

Camp NaNoWriMo is here and I've pitched my tent and am camping out for the month. While we still have piles of hardened snow in our front and back yards, we also have these popping up, so spring is finally on the way!


After piecing together my last draft and doing a round of revisions, I needed to let it sit for a bit, so it's a perfect time for NaNo.

I've set my goal at 30k for the month, but I'm already over 20k, so I know I won't have any trouble meeting it.

This story is a companion novel to the previous draft and another in my potential Bloo Moose series. I feel like I'm finally making progress incorporating conflict into my stories, and the last 3 stories will hopefully be publishable after a few more rounds of revisions and edits.

Maybe it's just spring making me optimistic, or the excitement of NaNo, but I feel I'm becoming a stronger writer and hoping I'll have the confidence to put those stories out there when they're ready!

How about you, is spring making you optimistic too? Or am I the only delusional one around here?



Monday, March 30, 2015

Photo Tips

I need some!

Today I'm over at From the Write Angle talking about some blogging tips. Hope you'll pop on over and check it out.

One of the tips I mention is to use a photo of yourself as an avatar. There are so many good reasons for this - the most important being that people connect to people, not to symbols, or even pretty purple flowers.

Yet, I've never used a photo. I've had 2 avatars - both flowers. As a romance writer, I figure they've worked pretty well, but it's not as powerful of a visual statement as a face.

My problem: I write romance. I teach elementary school.

So, I can't/won't use a photo of myself.

I've considered a silhouette, an eye, hands,... but so far, nothing has really worked.

Any suggestions on what kind of photo I could use??? Do you use a photo? Do you find avatars as memorable/identifiable as photos?