Upcoming Novel: HEARTS AND ERRORS, Chapter 3

CHAPTER 3: A Matchmaker in Paris

“Hello?” she answers.
“Did I wake you?”
“I knew you’d call. I’m in the kitchen eating leftover pizza. Have you ever had cold pizza? It’s not bad,” she says.

“I’m going to Paris,” I blurt.


More excerpts to come from my upcoming novel HEARTS AND ERRORS! Stay tuned!

Happy Friday!

What Makes a Good Novel?

What makes a good or a great novel? Is it the characters, the setting, the plot, the dialogue, or the ending? It’s probably a combination of all of these things, and more.

I’ve always believed that a good novel has to have the following ingredients, regardless of what genre:
1. Interesting characters
2. An exciting plot
3. A great story
4. A great ending

Good dialogue is important too. It is how we get a glimpse inside a character’s head and a character’s heart. When dialogue moves us—and makes us smile, laugh, and/or cry—we feel a stronger connection to the story and the characters, which makes the book memorable.

What makes a novel bad? I guess the opposite of the above, right?
1. Boring characters
2. A boring plot
3. A bad ending

And a lot more…

When you find yourself skipping paragraphs and/or pages, chances are, you’re losing interest in the characters and/or the story. I’m sure that many of you have opened a book, started reading it and then midway through, closed the book and never finished it. Do you remember why you stopped reading? 

I do. I once read a story that seemed interesting enough to keep going. But when I got to the chapter where descriptions began to feel like the author simply wanting to show off her knowledge on history, even though it didn’t necessarily pertain to the story or to the protagonist, I closed the book.

Description is a vital part of a story. It is what paints the picture for the reader. It is what puts them in the mood and helps them see the story clearer. But when descriptions become too flowery or too detailed, I lose interest.

Last year, I began reading a novel that started off strong. A few pages in, I found myself skipping sentences and paragraphs. The author described too many mundane details I didn’t care for. I wanted to get to the story, but instead found myself skipping through sections about what the character ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Then what beer he bought, when and where he bought it, and how he sipped it. It was way too much. I stopped reading in the midst of chapter four.

So now I’d like to ask you a few questions about fiction. If you’d like to answer them, simply leave your answers in the comments section below:

1. What genre of fiction do you enjoy reading?

2. What is your favorite novel, and why?

3. Who is your favorite novelist, and why?

4. What makes you lose interest in a story?

5. What types of protagonists do you like reading about? Do you dislike?

6 What type of endings do you prefer (happy, tragic, sad, cliffhanger endings)?

7. What type of narration do you prefer (example: first-person or third-person)? Does it matter?

8. What novel(s) have you read more than once? Why?

Thanks for answering the questions.

Happy reading and writing!

Writing tip #7: Know Your Target Audience

You’ve written a book and you’re ready to get it published. Question is, do you know your target audience?

If you say it’s “everyone”, you may have a problem. Everyone is too broad and everyone is not what agents and publishers want to hear.

To get a better idea of your audience, start by thinking of your genre. Knowing your genre can help identify your audience.

For instance, let’s say you’ve written a love story and it falls under Women’s Fiction. Now you know a little more about who your readers are: women. But let’s get even more specific.

Try asking yourself the following questions (modify these questions based on your genre):
What’s the age group of these women?
Are they single, married or divorced?
Are they mothers?
Are they career women?
What sorts of books do they read? Who are the authors?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll know exactly who your target audience is. This will help you pitch your story to the right agents. And if you’re self-publishing, this will help you in marketing your book.


Writing Tip #2: Read Your Manuscript Out Loud

If you haven’t already, try reading your manuscript out loud. It’s amazing how words sound different when read out loud.

I usually read my manuscript out loud and edit as I go along, but you can also have someone else read it to you. Hearing your words will help you notice things you normally wouldn’t—good and bad. Take notes and really pay attention to word choice, dialogues, descriptions, plots, subplots, and pacing. It may also be easier to catch overused words.

Here’s another idea: Read it out loud and record your voice.
Staring at the same words over and over can strain your eyes, making it easier to miss things. Try reading a chapter out loud and record it. Now you can listen to it multiple times, while taking notes. Stay away from any distractions and sit quietly with your notepad and your headphones. Maybe even close your eyes. You may be surprised at what you’ll find.

Remember: Reading your manuscript out loud will also help you prepare for future book readings.

An Interview with Samantha Sotto, Author of Before Ever After

A few days ago, I mentioned that in order to answer one of the most common questions writers have regarding getting an Agent or getting Self-Published, I would interview two authors—one who got a Literary Agent and one who is

I was fortunate enough to snag an interview with the talented Samantha Sotto, author of Before Ever After. Samantha went with a Literary Agent, which worked out well for her.

Check out our interview below:

COREY: When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
After I typed “The End.” The dream of becoming a published writer took shape after I finished writing Before Ever After. Prior to that, it was simply a fun thing to do while waiting to pick my son up from school.

COREY: What inspired you to write Before Ever After?  
There are two ways you can deal with traffic: you can sit in your car and slowly go insane, or you can plot out a novel.

It might have been the Dr. Who marathon I had just emerged from or the “hangover” I was nursing after reading the Time Traveler’s Wife (I couldn’t stop crying about Henry!) or a combination of both that made Max, my main character, hitch a ride with me that afternoon. I didn’t know much about him then, except that he had a talent for staying alive, had a soft spot for chickens, ran an offbeat European tour, and was not a vampire.

I began to wonder more about his “lifetimes” and the people he had met along the way. That’s when I discovered that he had a wife, or rather, a widow – who had no idea who he really was. I knew then that I had to hop aboard Max’s Volkswagen van and take a detour into his and Shelley’ s story.

You might say that the research for this book was done years before I even had the idea to write it. I lived, studied, and traveled through Europe and have always been drawn to its crooked cobblestone alleys and tucked away corners. These forgotten nooks whispered stories that the history books left out. The “gaps” I found between by my travel scrapbooks and formal research became the places and times Max filled in with his secrets.

COREY: If you were to tell us about your book in one sentence, what would it be?
It’s a quirky fairytale for grown-ups about love, loss, and all that comes before ever after.

COREY: How long did it take you to write your novel?
About a year.

COREY: Did you ever consider Self-Publishing or did you always know you wanted to send your manuscript out to Literary Agents? How did you decide?
I only started researching about the publishing when I finished the book. I knew absolutely nothing about the process so when I saw a second hand copy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published on sale, I bought it. That’s where I learned that I needed to find a literary agent. By default, that’s what I pursued.

COREY: Describe the process of getting published. How long did it take you to find your Agent? How long after you found your Agent did it take to get your book published?
Google became my best friend during my three-month agent hunt. I scoured the web for agents whom I thought would be a good fit for my book. I made a shortlist, sent out my query letter, and crossed my fingers and all appropriate appendages. But I didn’t send out my letter to everyone on my list. There was an agent that I particularly liked and so I decide to “save” her until I got feedback from the other agents. I was rejected a number of times, but luckily, I also received requests. When about four or five agents had my full manuscript, I found the courage to send my letter to her. She read my query, requested for the full manuscript the next day, read the book overnight, and made me an offer before the other agents had finished reading what I had sent them. She asked me to make a few revisions and when the book was ready, she pitched it to publishers. After about a month, she sold the book.

COREY: Who read your manuscript before you sent it out? Did you have it edited? Were you part of a Writer’s Group?
I sent the finished chapters to my mom and husband. They read the book in “real time” as I wrote it. My mom made sure that my T’s were crossed and my I’s were dotted. I was not a part of a formal writer’s group but I did join support forums online.

COREY: Have you joined any writing competitions?
Does an essay writing contest in 6th grade count? 🙂

COREY: What genre does your book belong to?  
Is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle a genre. No? Um…okay. The book crosses over genres – mystery, history, romance, humor. It also has a little bit of magical realism on its mother’s side. 🙂

COREY: Describe your writing style.
Quirky with a hint of lime.

COREY: Who is your favorite author, and why?
Neil Gaiman. I want to be him when I grow up. He builds worlds I want to live in.

COREY: Define a good book.
I like books that have characters that walk around in your head long after you’ve finished reading.

COREY: Define a good writer.
A good writer is an invisible one.

COREY: What is your favorite book? What are you reading now?
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. (Sorry, Neil.) I’m not reading any book at the moment. Sadly, I can’t read while I’m writing. My imaginary friends are a chatty bunch and take up the limited space in my head.

COREY: How has being a published author changed your life?
It hasn’t. I just get a whole lot more email – that I promise to get to. Pinky swear.

COREY: How do you balance being a writer and being a mom?
Being a mom comes first. I only write when the kids are in school.

COREY: What inspires you to write?
The fire-breathing deadline I have at the end of the month.

COREY: Are you working on your second book?
I’m wrestling with it now. It has me in a choke-hold. Send help.

COREY: What tips can you give other writers who are waiting to get published?
Show up for work even if inspiration calls in sick.

Thanks Samantha for allowing me to pick your brain. It was a lot of fun.

If you’d like to check out Samantha’s blog and/or buy her book, check out her website for more information:

Before Ever After is also available on Amazon.com. 

Come back soon for my upcoming interview with a Self-Published author.