Dealing With Writer Burnout

By Cynthia Sax on December 14, 2016

When I first started publishing my stories, I thought writer burnout was a myth. Writing is fun. How could I get tired of a fun task?

Seven years later, I can assure you—younger me was an ignorant asshole. Writer burnout is VERY real. Do any task 16 hours a day, 7 days a week and it can become work. Unfortunately, almost every writer deals with writer burnout at least once in her/his life.

I know I’m getting burned out when I dread the writing. I’m tired all the time and feel overwhelmed about everything. I get every flu that is going around. I become snippy with readers and other loved ones and, well, just about everyone.

The Number One Cause

The number one cause of writer burnout is overcommitting to projects. It is tempting to participate in every project offered to you. Caution! Caution! That way lies burnout. It is much better career-wise to participate in a manageable number of projects forever than to binge on projects, get burned out, and stop writing for months or years or, in the case of a dear friend, decades.

The Fear Of Missing Out

You can’t participate in every project. You simply can’t. Have I regretted saying ‘no’ to some projects? I’m not going to blow smoke up your ass. Of course, I have. The first boxed set I was asked to participate in hit both the New York Times and the USA Today Bestseller Lists. I turned that opportunity down.

But most opportunities come around again. I’ve, since then, participated in two boxed sets that hit the USA Today Bestseller List. I’ve been offered spots in other boxed sets that made both lists.

The Fear Of Falling Behind

Another reason we hesitate to say ‘no’ to projects is the fear of falling behind. XXX is releasing a story a month. If I release a story every 3 months, I’ll fall behind. I’ll only have a third of XXX’s success.

Success in Romanceland doesn’t work that way. Fifty Shades of Grey’s E.L. James has released 4 books over the past 5 years. Yep, less than a book a year. Very few writers have a readership rivaling hers.

I have a much larger readership now than I did when I was producing a story a month. With a release a month, I didn’t have time to talk about my books. I was releasing stories but I didn’t tell anyone about them. Readers have to know about our books in order to read them.

Promotion can have a huge influence on success. The number of stories released every year? Not-so-much.

Pressure From Readers

If one of your stories is well loved by readers, you will likely be pressured to write another story in the series. Readers always want this story as soon as possible. Why wouldn’t they?

But they’ll wait for it. Most readers will choose a slow release time on quality story over a fast turnaround time on a shitty story. (Note: You CAN write a quality story in a short length of time but that’s usually not possible to do when you’re burned out and brain dead.) Romance readers, in particular, want to read new stories from their favorite writers for decades. They’ll accept longer delays between releases to ensure that happens.

Know Your Ideal Pace

Figure out what a comfortable schedule looks like for you (this ideal schedule will likely change over time).

Right now, my comfortable schedule is a 56k/200 page story releasing every 3 months. For promotion, it is 1 Facebook party a week, 3 blog posts a week, promoting on 10 Facebook groups a day, 1 newsletter a month, etc.

This is what I commit to. This is what others can count on me producing. If I want to release a story in a series every three months, this means I can only have one series on the go.

If I’m approaching burnout, THIS is the core schedule I’ll dial back to.

If I get ahead of this schedule, I’ll take on another project. Right now, I have February’s release (Hers To Command) already written, edited and available for pre-order. The next core story isn’t releasing until May (my 3 month schedule). Having time and energy, I wrote Dark Thoughts, Kralj’s story. If I had been burned out, I would have taken time to recuperate between the committed stories instead of writing that extra story.

That’s one of the many wonderful things about this career. You’re in control. You can craft the career YOU want.

If one story a year is your comfort zone, produce one story a year. You can easily promote that story for 12 months. Unless your story has sold more than 125 million copies (the number of copies Fifty Shades Of Grey has sold), you haven’t sold your story to every reader in Romanceland.

You’re Already Over Committed

What happens when you’re looking at writer burnout and you’ve already committed to more projects than you can handle?

Can Deadlines Move?

Some deadlines are set in stone. Some can move. Ask if the deadlines are flexible.

Note: If you’re going to miss a deadline, communicate the situation as soon as possible. That might save your relationship with that person or publisher.

Outsource Everything You Can

An awesome editor once told me that she could help a writer with edits and subsequent drafts but the first draft had to be written by the writer. That’s just about the only thing we can’t outsource.

Cover, formatting, promo, newsletters, all of these things can be completed by other people. You can pay these awesome folks or you can call in favors. Much of Romanceland runs on favors, asking for them and granting them.

You’re Normal

Every writer you know has either had writer burn out or they will have writer burn out. They might look like they have their shit together. They likely don’t.

If my tips don’t work for you, ask other writers for their tips. Eventually you’ll find something that jives with your unique brain.

Take care of yourself!

***

Subscribe To My Monthly Newsletter: http://tasteofcyn.com/2014/05/28/newsletter/

Three Battered Hearts. One Perfect Love

Ace and Thrasher share a special bond. They’ve never acknowledged that connection and have never fully acted on it. The Humanoid Alliance kill cyborg males like them, deeming the warriors to be defective. Now that Ace and Thrasher have escaped, they don’t trust the cyborg council and their brethren to react any differently. Physical love is too risky for them to consider.

Until they meet her.

Carys is the Commander of a Rebel Battle Station. She has dedicated her lifespan to seeking vengeance against the Humanoid Alliance and the cyborgs who killed her daughter. On her battle station, she makes the rules, and if she wants to kiss, touch, and pleasure two mysterious warriors, she will. Nothing, not even enemy warships and a mass cyborg rebellion, can stop her.

In the midst of a war, enemies can become lovers and loyalties can change in a moment. Can a forbidden relationship between two cautious cyborgs and one unbending human Commander survive?

Hers To Command is Book 8 in the Cyborg Sizzle series.
Due to the number of returning characters in this story, you’ll enjoy Hers To Command more if you’ve read the other stories first.
This is a MMF BBW Cyborg SciFi Romance.

Pre-order Now:

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Hers-Command-Cyborg-Sizzle-Book-ebook/dp/B01N0I7X49/

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hers-Command-Cyborg-Sizzle-Book-ebook/dp/B01N0I7X49/

Apple/iBooks/iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/hers-to-command/id1179869260

ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-herstocommand-2178067-340.html

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/hers-to-command-cynthia-sax/1125247346

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/hers-to-command-6

Topics: Writing Tips | 4 Comments »

Do You Have To Publish Every Story You Write?

By Cynthia Sax on November 21, 2016

I don’t publish every story I write. Yes. I heard that gasp. There’s a myth in the writing world that professional writers, writers who earn or try to earn a living through their stories, HAVE to publish every story they write.

Why write stories if they won’t be read by readers?

There are numerous reasons why writers would and perhaps should write stories readers will never read. The stories I write only for myself are normally not at all marketable. They are ideas that are so far out there; I’m likely the only person who would find them interesting.

I write them quickly, briefly to get them out of my mind and to satisfy my creative urges. Because they will never be published, there’s no need to complete the dozen or so drafts to get them to submission level. There’s no need to send them to my editor, to pay for that awesome editor, to spend more time on two or three additional drafts. I don’t have to worry about formatting or covers or blurbs or marketing. These stories are for my eyes only, written purely for the joy of writing them.

When we talk about branding in the writing world, about sticking to one niche and publishing stories only in that niche, many writers push back, saying they couldn’t write only in one niche. It would stifle their creativity. They don’t realize that publishing in one niche and writing in one niche are two very different things.

Write in a variety of niches. Publish only the stories in one of those niches. Bam. You’re known for a niche. You’ll build a brand and a readership around it. Yet you have total creative freedom.

Writers might be under contract with publishers and restricted as to which stories they can write (this usually ties into branding). XXX Publisher has first dibs on the writer’s next YYY stories and that publisher only wants contemporary romances or they only want the axe murderer series or they only want heroines with blue eyes and brown hair. Writing other stories for our personal enjoyment makes that contract creatively bearable.

It also prevents series burnout, which is a VERY real thing for writers. I LOVE my cyborg series. I plan to concentrate on it in 2017. It is very important to me to bring readers of this series fresh, interesting stories. Sometimes the best way to do that is to take a creative vacation from the series. I spend a week writing something completely different, something strange, something weird. Then I come back, excited, enthused, my brain brimming with different ways to approach the next story.

Sometimes I’ll write a story merely to test a technique or a style or a type of character/setting/tone. Do I feel comfortable writing this? Do I enjoy writing this? Does it work in a story? I might test a number of things in one story. That story will be a mess but I’ll often discover something I can use in a more marketable story.

Sometimes the exact opposite thing happens—we end up with a new story or series. Releasing Rage was written only for me. No one was interested in publishing it. I wrote it anyway. I believed in it and I decided to self-publish it. If I hadn’t given myself permission to write a story only for my own enjoyment, it wouldn’t have been written.

You don’t have to publish every story you write.

***

Subscribe To My Release Day Newsletter To Receive A Notification Of When Jumping Barrel Releases: http://tasteofcyn.com/2014/05/28/newsletter/

He requires an Expert. She needs a hero.

Barrel requires an Expert for the Tau Cetian orphans. He’s looking for a female who is willing to commit to a lifespan-long role, who is comfortable with moving off planet, and who, preferably, has the ability to speak the offsprings’ first language.

Nola wants the role Barrel is offering so badly she bends a few truths. Yes, she was born off planet but she has lived almost all of her lifespan in sheltered Academies. Yes, she has learned Tau Cetian but she has never spoken with a local. Yes, she plans to follow the rules but his deep, sexy voice tempts her to rebel.

When a fact-morphing human academic meets her battle-worn cyborg warrior, deceptions are revealed, passions flare, and circuits sizzle. Wrong seems right. Lies turn into truth. The candidate least qualified for the role becomes the one candidate Barrel can’t let go.

Jumping Barrel is a short companion story in the Cyborg Sizzle series and is meant to be read after Releasing Rage, Breathing Vapor and Crash And Burn.
It is also a BBW Cyborg SciFi Romance.

Coming For FREE In December 2016

Note: Amazon doesn’t allow me to list stories for free. I have to list Jumping Barrel for 99 cents and then ask them to price match it to other booksellers. This story was written as a gift for you. Please wait until the price is reduced to ZERO i.e. FREE before ‘buying’ it. Save your dollar for my next release (in February).

Subscribe To My Release Day Newsletter To Receive A Notification Of When Jumping Barrel Releases: http://tasteofcyn.com/2014/05/28/newsletter/

Topics: Writing Tips | 3 Comments »

Westworld, The Power Of Unanswered Questions And Sagging Middles

By Cynthia Sax on November 2, 2016

I LOVE HBO’s Westworld (androids in a wild west world? Sign me up!). It is my newest addiction. But this week’s episode left me feeling a bit dissatisfied. It took me some time to figure out why.

There are too many unanswered questions.

Unanswered questions are a powerful writing tool. It is why readers turn pages—to find out the answers. An awesome first page or first paragraph or first line raises a question in the reader’s mind.

The first line to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight is “I’d never given much thought to how I would die–though I’d had reason enough in the last few months-but, even if I had, I would have never imagined it like this.”

How is the heroine going to die? Why is the heroine dying? I HAVE to continue reading to find out the answers. Once I have these answers, I’ll stop reading.

UNLESS there are more questions I want answers to. Then I will continue reading to find out THOSE answers.

The biggest questions at the beginning of a story are around backstory. Why is the heroine doing what she’s doing? What makes her think this way? Why does she have X as a goal?

This is one of the reasons why many editors don’t like prologues or early story backstory dumps. They could eliminate this huge incentive for readers to continue reading. If I’m told on page one how Bella is going to die and why she’s dying, I have no reason to read page two. It is a waste of an absolutely wonderful first line.

In Romance, the big question readers are seeking the answer to is ‘Is the couple (or more) going to achieve their happy ever after or happy for now?’ This is why often the couple (or more) doesn’t exchange ‘I love you’s until the end of the story.

If they DO say that phrase earlier in the story, a skilled writer will ensure readers know the happiness won’t last. Maybe one of them still has a relationship-destroying secret or the killer is lurking outside their bedroom or they love each other but there’s no way for them to be together.

So you’re likely wondering… If unanswered questions are powerful, why am I dissatisfied with Westworld’s gazillion unanswered questions?

Because I can’t keep track of them. My mind can only handle so many unanswered questions before I get frustrated. My rule of thumb is… if I lose track of my own unanswered questions while writing a story, I have way too many of them.

This doesn’t mean we can only raise the same 3 or 4 unanswered questions throughout a 100,000 word/400 page story. That would be challenging and a bit boring.

What we CAN do is answer some of those questions and then ask different questions.

At the beginning of Releasing Rage, while writing this story, I asked myself if Joan, our heroine, would ever be assigned to a cyborg. (question raised) She was. (question answered) Why was she assigned to a cyborg? (another question raised) The last human assigned to the cyborg was killed. (question answered) Would she survive being assigned to this cyborg? (another question raised – this question remains for almost all of the story)

One of the things Game of Thrones (the show) does quite well and quite brutally is answer unanswered questions. When the storylines become too complicated, they kill everyone off in a storyline and simply eliminate it. Then they raise more questions.

We don’t have to be that bloodthirsty. We can simply answer the damn question. We can give the heroine the job she thinks will solve all of her problems but then ensure that job causes her MORE problems. We can allow the hero to escape one mess to step knee deep into another bigger mess. I really like it when the answer to the question makes the situation worse, not better. That’s a lot of fun to write and to read.

Giving readers answers to questions throughout the story creates a sense of movement and a feeling of satisfaction. Shit is getting done. (grins) Often when readers comment that ‘nothing happened’ in a story, they are truly saying that no answers are given and no new questions are raised (mid story or at all).

When we, writers, face a sagging middle, it can mean the same thing-we need to answer questions and raise new ones. This is often the reason for mid story boredom. If you, as a writer, find you can’t finish stories, look at your unanswered questions. Do you have any? Do you have too many? Do you lack answers? Talk to other writing buddies (like myself) and brainstorm both answers AND questions.

Unanswered questions are powerful. Use them wisely.

***

Subscribe To My Release Day Newsletter: http://tasteofcyn.com/2014/05/28/newsletter/

Wild. Free. Hers.

Mayhem has spent his lengthy lifespan obeying the Humanoid Alliance’s rules. Finally free from their cruel control, the cyborg warrior plans to cause chaos. He infiltrates a remote settlement, provokes the savage locals until they want him dead, and allows himself to be captured by the sexiest little Retriever he has ever laid his mechanically-enhanced eyes on.

Imee’s sole mission in life is to keep her family alive. To do this, she must hunt rebels, returning them to the Humanoid Alliance’s evil clutches where they will be executed. She doesn’t allow herself to feel anything for her targets…until she meets a tall, muscular cyborg with wild hair and even wilder eyes.

With his sure hands, laughing lips and erotic holds, Mayhem makes Imee’s body sizzle and her resistance melt. Their love is doomed. She must deliver the warrior to his death or she’ll place her family’s safety at risk. But she can’t resist him.

Imee soon discovers that Mayhem, life, and love are never predictable.

Chasing Mayhem is Book 6 in the Cyborg Sizzle series and is a STANDALONE story.
It is also a BBW Cyborg SciFi Romance.

Buy Now:

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Mayhem-Cyborg-Sizzle-Book-ebook/dp/B01IRPO9WY#nav-subnav

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chasing-Mayhem-Cyborg-Sizzle-Book-ebook/dp/B01IRPO9WY/

Apple/iBooks/iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/chasing-mayhem/id1136333685

ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-chasingmayhem-2077430-340.html

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/chasing-mayhem-cynthia-sax/1124139998

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/chasing-mayhem

Topics: Writing Tips | 1 Comment »

Why Your Favorite Writer Isn’t Writing And Other Reader Irritations

By Cynthia Sax on October 5, 2016

I was chatting with a reading buddy, telling her I couldn’t wait to finish the first draft of Hers To Command and find out how that story ends. She asked me why I wasn’t writing. Why didn’t I simply hunker down and finish it?

I can’t. My brain is dead.

Why Is Your Favorite Writer Spending Time On Facebook When She Should Be Writing?

Welcome to the wonderful yet wacky world of writer brains aka the muse.

That is truly what the muse is—a code word for the way an artist’s (very) peculiar brain works. And all of our brains work differently. I can write about 2,500 fresh words or 10 fresh pages a day. At that point, the creative part of my brain is zapped. There’s nothing in there. The hamster is dead. My Dear Wonderful Hubby will ask me to write a message in a mutual friend’s birthday card and I’ll have nothing, no words.

I’ve tried to write when my creativity has been sucked dry. (winces) It wasn’t pretty. Those forced words not only had to be discarded but they severely damaged my flow. It slowed my writing. It didn’t speed it up.

I’ve learned to step back at that point and do other things like revise stories, stare up at the ceiling, looking for new plots there, and yes, play around on Facebook.

Every writer has a different limit. One of my buddies hits the wall at 10,000 words or 40 fresh pages a day. Yeah, she’s a machine.

Some writers binge write. That’s how their muses work. They go into the writing cave, start writing and don’t stop until their stories are done. They don’t shower. They don’t change their clothes. They’ve trained their cats to feed them while they type. (joking…sort of) They emerge from the writing cave extremely smelly with horror-flick-style bloodshot eyes but they are triumphant. Their stories are finished.

Then they fall into a deep sleep for about a month.

Note: This isn’t procrastination, which is another serious writing issue. We’ve written our words for the day. This refers to a writer not having the ability to write 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. (Unless you’re Nora Roberts but we suspect she’s an android.)

Why Is Your Favorite Writer Cheating On Her Series With Another Story?

This can be an even more challenging issue for readers to understand. Your favorite writer is writing but, gasp, she’s not writing the next story in your favorite series. That beyotch! She’s cheating on her series. Doesn’t she love this series and her series readers anymore?

I’m 99% confident she does. My guess is she loves the series more than any reader ever could. The characters are family to her. But it can be challenging to spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year with even the loveliest family members. She sometimes needs a vacation from them.

EVERYONE is likely telling her not to take this vacation. Her readers, editor, agent, publisher, even many of her writing buddies are likely telling her it is career suicide to take a break from her most popular series. She might lose her readers forever. She’s messing with the momentum of the series. She also realizes she’ll receive angry emails and messages from readers. Some of these messages will be REALLY harsh.

Yet she takes this break. Why? Very often this is because she knows if she doesn’t, her brain aka muse will shut down and she won’t be able to write ANYTHING. Writing this other story, often a story that won’t sell as well and might not even break-even (*cough* my contemporaries), might allow her to return to her popular series refreshed and excited.

Again, being the stubborn gal I am, I’ve forced myself to write the next story in a series when I knew, deep down in my heart, I needed a creative break from it. I wrote garbage for three months. All those words had to be discarded. If I had switched to the side project, I would have finished that project AND the first draft of the next story in the series. Readers would have received the next story in the series sooner.

Some writers can stay in the same series without switching. Some writers switch between different series in the same subgenre, juggling two SciFi Romance series, for example. Some writers have to get the heck out of the subgenre entirely. They might juggle a Paranormal Romance and a SciFi Romance as one example. They don’t necessarily WANT to do this. They NEED to do this.

As readers, we don’t have to be thrilled about this but we should realize that it is part of our favorite writer’s creative process. This is why she is able to write the stories we love.

Reading buddies, are there any other writer quirks that you’d like to learn more about? Writing buddies, do you have a cap on your daily word count? Do you have to switch series?

***

Subscribe To My Release Day Newsletter: http://tasteofcyn.com/2014/05/28/newsletter/

Wild. Free. Hers.

Mayhem has spent his lengthy lifespan obeying the Humanoid Alliance’s rules. Finally free from their cruel control, the cyborg warrior plans to cause chaos. He infiltrates a remote settlement, provokes the savage locals until they want him dead, and allows himself to be captured by the sexiest little Retriever he has ever laid his mechanically-enhanced eyes on.

Imee’s sole mission in life is to keep her family alive. To do this, she must hunt rebels, returning them to the Humanoid Alliance’s evil clutches where they will be executed. She doesn’t allow herself to feel anything for her targets…until she meets a tall, muscular cyborg with wild hair and even wilder eyes.

With his sure hands, laughing lips and erotic holds, Mayhem makes Imee’s body sizzle and her resistance melt. Their love is doomed. She must deliver the warrior to his death or she’ll place her family’s safety at risk. But she can’t resist him.

Imee soon discovers that Mayhem, life, and love are never predictable.

Chasing Mayhem is Book 6 in the Cyborg Sizzle series and is a STANDALONE story.
It is also a BBW Cyborg SciFi Romance.

Buy Now:

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Mayhem-Cyborg-Sizzle-Book-ebook/dp/B01IRPO9WY#nav-subnav

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chasing-Mayhem-Cyborg-Sizzle-Book-ebook/dp/B01IRPO9WY/

Apple/iBooks/iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/chasing-mayhem/id1136333685

ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-chasingmayhem-2077430-340.html

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/chasing-mayhem-cynthia-sax/1124139998

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/chasing-mayhem

Topics: Writing Tips | 1 Comment »

Gods Of Egypt And Deus Ex Machina

By Cynthia Sax on October 1, 2016

I watched Gods Of Egypt ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2404233/ ) on Friday. This visually beautiful movie is a clear example of Deus ex machina gone wild.

What is Deus ex machina? According to Wikipedia ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deus_ex_machina ), it is “a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the inspired and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability or object.”

The literal translation is God from the Machine. I’ve heard it referred to as ‘the hand of God’ because it resembles a supreme being swooping down with his/her big hand to save the day.

In Gods Of Egypt, this happens again and again. For example, Horus regains his wings during a to-his-death plummet just in time to save himself. Why then? We’re not quite sure. In another scene, they’re stranded in the middle of nowhere and his heroine sends a chariot propelled by birds to transport them. Did we know she had a chariot propelled by birds? Nope. There are many more scenes in which the heroes are magically saved.

It was wearying and frustrating for me, the viewer. Why? The biggest reason is because there’s no logic to the story. Random shit happens. Yes, random shit happens in real life but we usually don’t like that. Some of us absolutely hate it. And we usually don’t want to see this in our entertainment. We want our entertainment to make sense.

I say usually because, as with any so-called writing rule, there ARE times when Deus ex machina works for a story. Maybe the theme of the story is chance. Maybe, as with Lord Of The Flies, it is used to save the reader from the otherwise inevitable grim-as-fuck ending (that even more terrible things happen to the boys). Even the writer, William Golding, called that a gimmick, however. He knew he was being tricksy.

The use of Deus ex machina is sometimes seen as lazy writing. Often a little foreshadowing can eliminate it entirely. If Horus in Gods Of Egypt had experienced short instances of being able to regain his wings before the plummet, I would have happily embraced that solution. If his heroine had used the chariot a couple of times in previous scenes, I would have believed she’d send this magical taxi for Horus. I normally like to hint at the upcoming solution at least twice before it happens (the power of three is not to be underestimated – grins).

But-but-but I want to surprise/shock/thrill the reader, you say. The I-See-Dead-People Sixth Sense movie ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0167404/ ) had perhaps one of the best twists I’ve ever experienced. Yet when I re-watched the movie, I realized all of the hints were there. I SHOULD have seen the twist. I didn’t. THIS is what makes this movie brilliant- viewers could have predicted the ending but almost all of us didn’t.

We’re romance writers. We know we have this power. Heck, we tell our readers flat out “This story is a romance. It will have a romantic happy ever after or happy for now” and then, if we do our jobs correctly, we convince readers at some time during our story that our couple (or more) won’t end up together.

What other genre does this-tells readers the ending of the stories and then convinces them that ending won’t happen? None. We have skills, folks. Believe in our skills. Use them to thrill and amaze our readers.

Note: You will ALWAYS have at least one reader/reviewer who guesses the twist. We have some of the most intelligent people on the planet reading our novels. One of them will guess correctly.

As a writer, you want this. You want a nice mix between readers knowing the twist and readers not seeing it coming. That’s when you know you’ve hit the sweet spot, the spot that will have readers re-reading your story to find all of the clues.

What are some of your tips to eliminate Deus ex machina?

***

Subscribe To My Release Day Newsletter: http://tasteofcyn.com/2014/05/28/newsletter/

Wild. Free. Hers.

Mayhem has spent his lengthy lifespan obeying the Humanoid Alliance’s rules. Finally free from their cruel control, the cyborg warrior plans to cause chaos. He infiltrates a remote settlement, provokes the savage locals until they want him dead, and allows himself to be captured by the sexiest little Retriever he has ever laid his mechanically-enhanced eyes on.

Imee’s sole mission in life is to keep her family alive. To do this, she must hunt rebels, returning them to the Humanoid Alliance’s evil clutches where they will be executed. She doesn’t allow herself to feel anything for her targets…until she meets a tall, muscular cyborg with wild hair and even wilder eyes.

With his sure hands, laughing lips and erotic holds, Mayhem makes Imee’s body sizzle and her resistance melt. Their love is doomed. She must deliver the warrior to his death or she’ll place her family’s safety at risk. But she can’t resist him.

Imee soon discovers that Mayhem, life, and love are never predictable.

Chasing Mayhem is Book 6 in the Cyborg Sizzle series and is a STANDALONE story.
It is also a BBW Cyborg SciFi Romance.

Buy Now:

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Mayhem-Cyborg-Sizzle-Book-ebook/dp/B01IRPO9WY#nav-subnav

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chasing-Mayhem-Cyborg-Sizzle-Book-ebook/dp/B01IRPO9WY/

Apple/iBooks/iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/chasing-mayhem/id1136333685

ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-chasingmayhem-2077430-340.html

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/chasing-mayhem-cynthia-sax/1124139998

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/chasing-mayhem

Topics: Writing Tips | 1 Comment »

Creating Unique Character Descriptions

By Cynthia Sax on September 29, 2016

I followed a reader discussion last week on character descriptions. The consensus was that many of the descriptions were…well…boring as hell. Every hero was ‘handsome.’ Every heroine was ‘beautiful.’ Some readers questioned if descriptions were needed at all.

When a reader questions whether or not a passage is needed, we, writers, know we have work to do.

I’ve been guilty of poor character descriptions in the past. I’ve described my characters the way I see them, using the words I would use.

And that’s the issue. I’m not the point of view character. A cyborg hero or a billionaire businessman hero or bada$$ biker hero would view his heroine much differently than I, a human female writer, would.

On Saturday, I watched Race, a movie about Jesse Owens. This movie was brilliant for a number of reasons. The storytelling and characterization was tight. It also gave us great examples of how different people first view the same person (Jesse Owens). The football coach saw race. That was his first impression of Jesse Owens. The track and field coach, in contrast, saw someone who could run fast, who had natural athletic ability. That was what he considered important. The German filmmaker, ironically, didn’t see race first. She saw an interesting character, someone who could add excitement to her film.

How a character is described can say as much about the point of view character as it says about the character being described. What does our point of view character notice first?

The cyborgs in my stories are manufactured to be warriors. They value strength, size, power. The first thing Barrel, the cyborg hero of this December’s freebie short story Jumping Barrel, notices about Nola, his heroine, is her big hair (it’s humid and she has big time frizz). He has never seen a female with so much hair. In his mind and in his processors, this makes her ‘the best’ (which is also important to cyborgs as only the best warriors survive training).

Can the hero be described as ‘handsome’ and the heroine be described as ‘beautiful’? Of course. If the point of view character would use those specific words. But the concept of ‘handsome’ and ‘beautiful’ should reflect the point of view character’s vision. For example, a badly scarred hero might think anyone with flawless skin is beautiful. Or a hero with brightly-colored tattoos might think anyone with blue or green or orange hair is beautiful.

For me, ensuring descriptions reflect both the point of view character and the character being described is a task for the second draft. Being a pantser (a writer who writes by the seat of her pants, without knowing the plot), I often don’t have a strong grasp on my point of view characters at the beginning of the first draft. Once I’ve written the first draft, I know the nuances of their personalities, their strengths, weaknesses, goals, fears. I can incorporate these into the description.

How do you make your character descriptions unique?

***

Subscribe To My Release Day Newsletter: http://tasteofcyn.com/2014/05/28/newsletter/

Wild. Free. Hers.

Mayhem has spent his lengthy lifespan obeying the Humanoid Alliance’s rules. Finally free from their cruel control, the cyborg warrior plans to cause chaos. He infiltrates a remote settlement, provokes the savage locals until they want him dead, and allows himself to be captured by the sexiest little Retriever he has ever laid his mechanically-enhanced eyes on.

Imee’s sole mission in life is to keep her family alive. To do this, she must hunt rebels, returning them to the Humanoid Alliance’s evil clutches where they will be executed. She doesn’t allow herself to feel anything for her targets…until she meets a tall, muscular cyborg with wild hair and even wilder eyes.

With his sure hands, laughing lips and erotic holds, Mayhem makes Imee’s body sizzle and her resistance melt. Their love is doomed. She must deliver the warrior to his death or she’ll place her family’s safety at risk. But she can’t resist him.

Imee soon discovers that Mayhem, life, and love are never predictable.

Chasing Mayhem is Book 6 in the Cyborg Sizzle series and is a STANDALONE story.
It is also a BBW Cyborg SciFi Romance.

Buy Now:

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Mayhem-Cyborg-Sizzle-Book-ebook/dp/B01IRPO9WY#nav-subnav

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chasing-Mayhem-Cyborg-Sizzle-Book-ebook/dp/B01IRPO9WY/

Apple/iBooks/iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/chasing-mayhem/id1136333685

ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-chasingmayhem-2077430-340.html

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/chasing-mayhem-cynthia-sax/1124139998

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/chasing-mayhem

Topics: Writing Tips | No Comments »

How To Battle Second/Next Book Stress

By Cynthia Sax on September 21, 2016

The first book is difficult to write. Many writers think the second book will be easier.

It isn’t.

With the second book, there are expectations from readers.

The expectations might be good. Readers loved the first book. The book was a run away success or critically acclaimed. They expect the second book to be even better. OMG…what if it isn’t? What if readers hate the next book? What if you’re a one hit wonder? What if you never best that first book?

The expectations might be bad. Readers hated the first book. You have a collection of 1 star reviews that rival mine. The harshness is extreme. They hope the next book will be better, say they’ll give you one more chance. OMG…what if the second book is the same? What if you blow that second chance? What if you’ll never be good enough?

The most likely expectation is readers have no expectations. They didn’t read the first book. There are no reviews, not many sales. OMG… what if they don’t read the second book? What if the second book doesn’t have a strong enough hook? What if you’re a craptastic writer, destined to never have a readership?

Rationally, we know this is all bullshit. We’re creating art. Some readers will hate the next book. Some readers will love it. If our second book is different from the first, readers will assume that the third book will be different also and give us another chance. Sales have more to do with marketing than with the quality of the book or the strength of the writing.

But humans aren’t rational beings and writing is definitely not a rational exercise. Second or next book stress is very real. It’s one of the reasons there are so many one book writers in Romanceland. Success in writing is as much psychological, knowing how our own unique brains work, as it is about talent or skill.

The number one way to beat second/next book stress is to write the first draft of that second story before the first story releases. Almost every successful writer will advise you to ‘Write the next book.” This is one of the reasons why we’re given this advice.

Jumping Barrel, the Freebie cyborg story, is ready to be released now. I’m not releasing it now, however, because I don’t have the first draft of Theirs To Command, the next story, written. (I’ll have it written by December.) Having that one story buffer eliminates almost all of the next book stress for me. It makes writing much more enjoyable.

But-but-but the first story has already released. What do I do now?

What works for me is going into the writing cave and pretending the first story DIDN’T release, acting as though I’m starting from nothing. I once made up another pen name (privately) and told myself I would release my story under that name, simply to fool my brain into thinking there were no reader expectations.

I’ll turn off social media. I’ll stop obsessively checking book rankings (Admit it. You do it. Almost all of us do.) I won’t respond to my writer email. I’ll create the illusion that no one is waiting for the next book.

I’ll also give myself permission to write shit. My first drafts are always a mess. And I’m in good company.

“The first draft of anything is shit.” – Ernest Hemingway

“My first drafts are filled with lurching, cliched writing, outright flailing around.” – Jennifer Egan

“I’ll vomit out the first draft.” – Nora Roberts

Sometimes I’ll write a short story or flash fiction, simply to put a buffer between my latest release and my next longer story. Sometimes I’ll participate in writing sprints with other writing buddies. The speed doesn’t allow my brain time to worry about whether or not the current scene is ‘the best ever.’

The trick is to try multiple tricks until something works, until something feels natural. You get sucked into the story and forget about everything else.

What are your tricks to beat second/next book stress?

***

Subscribe To My Release Day Newsletter: http://tasteofcyn.com/2014/05/28/newsletter/

Wild. Free. Hers.

Mayhem has spent his lengthy lifespan obeying the Humanoid Alliance’s rules. Finally free from their cruel control, the cyborg warrior plans to cause chaos. He infiltrates a remote settlement, provokes the savage locals until they want him dead, and allows himself to be captured by the sexiest little Retriever he has ever laid his mechanically-enhanced eyes on.

Imee’s sole mission in life is to keep her family alive. To do this, she must hunt rebels, returning them to the Humanoid Alliance’s evil clutches where they will be executed. She doesn’t allow herself to feel anything for her targets…until she meets a tall, muscular cyborg with wild hair and even wilder eyes.

With his sure hands, laughing lips and erotic holds, Mayhem makes Imee’s body sizzle and her resistance melt. Their love is doomed. She must deliver the warrior to his death or she’ll place her family’s safety at risk. But she can’t resist him.

Imee soon discovers that Mayhem, life, and love are never predictable.

Chasing Mayhem is Book 6 in the Cyborg Sizzle series and is a STANDALONE story.
It is also a BBW Cyborg SciFi Romance.

Buy Now:

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Mayhem-Cyborg-Sizzle-Book-ebook/dp/B01IRPO9WY#nav-subnav

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chasing-Mayhem-Cyborg-Sizzle-Book-ebook/dp/B01IRPO9WY/

Apple/iBooks/iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/chasing-mayhem/id1136333685

ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-chasingmayhem-2077430-340.html

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/chasing-mayhem-cynthia-sax/1124139998

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/chasing-mayhem

Topics: Writing Tips | 1 Comment »

Why I Love Tropes And Why All Romance Writers Are Literary Writers

By Cynthia Sax on September 18, 2016

According to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trope_(literature) ), a literary trope is “the use of figurative language – via word, phrase, or even an image – for artistic effect such as using a figure of speech. The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clichés in creative works.”

In Romanceland, tropes often refer to popular story premises. Why are they popular? Because readers love them, ask for them, buy books using them.

Examples of some popular Romance tropes are

- Beauty And The Beast (my personal favorite)
- The Wealthy Boss And His/Her Assistant
- Enemies To Lovers
- Friends To Lovers
- Secret Baby
- Forbidden Romance
- Marriage Of Convenience
- Second Chance At Love
- The Shocking Twist
- Fated To Mate/Love At First Sight

I could list tropes all day. (grins)

In fact, Romance is a trope. In the beginning (when dinosaurs roamed the Earth), books with strong romance storylines and romantic happy ever afters or happy for nows were classified simply as literary works. Romance didn’t have its own category. Readers loved this type of story. Writers wrote more romance novels. Readers bought them. Romance grew to be so popular; it became its own category.

So using tropes is NOT a bad or shameful thing. You MIGHT wish to evaluate whether or not you want to use a particular trope. There are some tropes in Romanceland that I don’t feel comfortable reading or writing. But never apologize for using tropes, especially if you’re a romance writer. Our entire category is one huge trope.

There will be readers who hate the trope you use, as there are readers who hate every story premise. Those are NOT your readers. Suggest other books to them and concentrate on the readers who love your trope.


How do you make trope readers happy?

You bring something fresh to the trope. I’ve read thousands of Beauty and the Beast stories. I never get tired of them because great writers in this trope incorporate something different in each of their stories.

Maybe your Beauty and the Beast story is set in India, the caste system there adding an extra layer to the premise. Or your Beast is a Mafia Boss who was born into the family and longs to go legit. Or your Beauty was once a Beast. She was horribly scarred and underwent extreme cosmetic surgery. There are thousands of ways to make this trope different.

I like to read in my trope so I know I’m bringing something fresh, something different to it. This also ensures that I understand what aspects of the trope appeal to readers. Part of the appeal of the Beauty and the Beast trope, for example, is that two beings who appear very different can find common ground and appreciation for each other.

If you love a trope, can you use it for every story?

Heck yeah. Many of the bestselling writers concentrate on one trope. Nora Roberts, with her books published under that name, is known for the small town trope. Laurann Dohner is one of the masters of Beauty And The Beast. I gobble up every one of her beast-like heroes. Harlequin often publishes a book a month using their bestselling tropes because they know readers will pick up that book based on the trope alone (in the past, they put the trope in the titles – The Billionaire’s Secret Baby, for example).

The trope can become a strong part of your branding, one of the things you’re know for writing. Tropes should definitely be included as keywords on book listings. Readers search for tropes.

Embrace the trope you’re writing. Respect it and its readers. And have fun. I love writing books with tropes as much as I love reading them.

Reading buddies, which tropes do you love? Writing buddies, which tropes do you write?

***

Subscribe To My Release Day Newsletter: http://tasteofcyn.com/2014/05/28/newsletter/

Wild. Free. Hers.

Mayhem has spent his lengthy lifespan obeying the Humanoid Alliance’s rules. Finally free from their cruel control, the cyborg warrior plans to cause chaos. He infiltrates a remote settlement, provokes the savage locals until they want him dead, and allows himself to be captured by the sexiest little Retriever he has ever laid his mechanically-enhanced eyes on.

Imee’s sole mission in life is to keep her family alive. To do this, she must hunt rebels, returning them to the Humanoid Alliance’s evil clutches where they will be executed. She doesn’t allow herself to feel anything for her targets…until she meets a tall, muscular cyborg with wild hair and even wilder eyes.

With his sure hands, laughing lips and erotic holds, Mayhem makes Imee’s body sizzle and her resistance melt. Their love is doomed. She must deliver the warrior to his death or she’ll place her family’s safety at risk. But she can’t resist him.

Imee soon discovers that Mayhem, life, and love are never predictable.

Chasing Mayhem is Book 6 in the Cyborg Sizzle series and is a STANDALONE story.
It is also a BBW Cyborg SciFi Romance.

Buy Now:

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Mayhem-Cyborg-Sizzle-Book-ebook/dp/B01IRPO9WY#nav-subnav

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chasing-Mayhem-Cyborg-Sizzle-Book-ebook/dp/B01IRPO9WY/

Apple/iBooks/iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/chasing-mayhem/id1136333685

ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-chasingmayhem-2077430-340.html

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/chasing-mayhem-cynthia-sax/1124139998

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/chasing-mayhem

Topics: Writing Tips | 3 Comments »

Does Offering Multiple Free Stories In The Same Series Increase Sales?

By Cynthia Sax on September 7, 2016

When I announced I’d be releasing another free short story in the cyborg series this December, some writing buddies contacted me, asking me if offering multiple stories in the same series for free increases sales of the remaining stories.

Why I Offer Stories For Free

Increasing sales of the remaining stories isn’t why I’m offering these stories for free. There are so many cyborg warriors; I knew I couldn’t write 200 page stories for all of them. Some of the couples had simpler love stories. I still wanted to tell these stories. I also wanted to give my reading buddies a gift for supporting this series. It was a huge risk and I’m so glad they took a chance on my cyborgs.

I didn’t want these shorter stories to be the first stories people read. I wrote them, assuming folks had read the longer stories. My solution was to offer Being Green, the first short story, to newsletter subscribers only. I figured anyone subscribing to my newsletter had likely read at least one of the longer stories.

Newsletter subscribers loved this idea. However, I received many messages, asking me if I could add the story to booksellers. Newsletter subscribers wanted to have the story in their libraries there.

This created a problem because, as I mentioned, I didn’t want Being Green to be the first story folks read. The solution was, of course, to make Releasing Rage free. Sales on that story had slowed. It was over a year old. Other writers talked about how offering the first in a series free increased sales.

Does Offering One Story For Permafree Increase The Sales Of Other Stories In The Same Series?

Yes. My writing buddies were right. I saw a lift on sales on the other stories. It was a tiny single figure percentage of the free downloads for Releasing Rage but hey, it was something and the most important thing to me was newsletter subscribers were happy.

Does Offering Two Stories (Releasing Rage and Being Green) Vs One Story (Releasing Rage) Priced At Free Increase The Sales Even More?

No. Which makes sense. If a reader doesn’t like the first free story, she is unlikely to read the second one. We, writers, either have a new reader after the first story or we don’t. Offering more stories for free isn’t going to make a difference…

…to sales. I’m offering these stories as a thank you to series readers. They’re likely to be the only folks who will enjoy them. I hope these gifts will make a difference to my reading buddies. They’re also fun to write. That’s a big win for me!

One writing buddy asked me if I worried readers might expect all short stories to be free. This isn’t a concern of mine. Series readers know these are gifts from me. The stories don’t stand on their own. They’re also REALLY short. According to Amazon, they are approximately 50 pages. I’m not taking sales away from any other books, either written by myself or by another writer.

I plan to continue offering a free short story every year. I doubt this will increase sales of my other stories. It is simply a thank you from this grateful writer to her super supportive readers.

What has been your experience with offering stories for free?

***

Subscribe To My Release Day Newsletter: http://tasteofcyn.com/2014/05/28/newsletter/

Wild. Free. Hers.

Mayhem has spent his lengthy lifespan obeying the Humanoid Alliance’s rules. Finally free from their cruel control, the cyborg warrior plans to cause chaos. He infiltrates a remote settlement, provokes the savage locals until they want him dead, and allows himself to be captured by the sexiest little Retriever he has ever laid his mechanically-enhanced eyes on.

Imee’s sole mission in life is to keep her family alive. To do this, she must hunt rebels, returning them to the Humanoid Alliance’s evil clutches where they will be executed. She doesn’t allow herself to feel anything for her targets…until she meets a tall, muscular cyborg with wild hair and even wilder eyes.

With his sure hands, laughing lips and erotic holds, Mayhem makes Imee’s body sizzle and her resistance melt. Their love is doomed. She must deliver the warrior to his death or she’ll place her family’s safety at risk. But she can’t resist him.

Imee soon discovers that Mayhem, life, and love are never predictable.

Chasing Mayhem is Book 6 in the Cyborg Sizzle series and is a STANDALONE story.
It is also a BBW Cyborg SciFi Romance.

Pre-order Now:

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Mayhem-Cyborg-Sizzle-Book-ebook/dp/B01IRPO9WY#nav-subnav

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chasing-Mayhem-Cyborg-Sizzle-Book-ebook/dp/B01IRPO9WY/

ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-chasingmayhem-2077430-340.html

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/chasing-mayhem-cynthia-sax/1124139998

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/chasing-mayhem

Topics: Writing Tips | 2 Comments »

The Best Day To Release Books

By Cynthia Sax on August 31, 2016

When I was releasing stories through publishers, I had no control over my release dates. The publisher told me when the story was being released and I had to work with that date.

Now that I’m Indie, I have total control over my release dates.

Indie writers decide on release dates based on a variety of ways. Some writers have lucky dates (for example, the 7th of every month). Some writers have set number of days between releases. Some writers always release on a specific day on a specific week (for example, the third Wednesday of the month).

The release month for my stories is usually determined by how quickly I can write these stories. It normally takes me two months to write one of the cyborg stories. Then it takes me a month for multiple rounds of edits. That means I can release a cyborg story every three months.

The actual date in that month is determined by what I personally like as a reader. I believe a writer can never go too wrong if she/he makes decisions around what readers like and want.

I prefer that releases in my favorite niches are spaced out time-wise. Having stories from fifteen of my favorite SciFi Romance writers releasing in one week stresses me out. Which story do I read first? I want to read them all on release day. It also depresses me because I know there will be weeks with NO big SciFi Romance releases.

What I do, as an Indie writer, is look at the Hot New Releases Top 100 lists on Amazon for my categories and note when other writers are releasing. I also reach out to other writers in my niche. I’ll message Cara Bristol, for example, and ask if she’s releasing a story from her awesome cyborg series that month.

If another writer’s cyborg story is releasing in the second week, I might release my story in the third week. If twelve SciFi romances from other writers are releasing in the third week, I might release my story in the fourth week.

Sometimes I’ll move months. I had originally planned to release Chasing Mayhem in August. Then I discovered that Laurann Dohner, one of my favorite cyborg romance writers, was re-releasing her 8 story cyborg series AND releasing a brand new 9th story in August. I knew I’d be reading those stories all month. I figured other cyborg romance buddies would be doing the same thing. So I moved Chasing Mayhem’s release date to September.

As for the day of the week, I usually release stories on Tuesdays. Big publishers release their stories then because it is the ideal day for making the USA Today Bestseller List. I release my stories then because, thanks to the big publishers, that’s when many readers (including myself) expect them to be released. If the story releases early, I’m happy. If the story releases later, I usually worry that I’ve somehow missed release day.

That’s my rather bizarre method of determining release dates. (grins)

Reading buddies, is there a day you prefer stories be released on? Writing buddies, how do you decide release dates?

***

Subscribe To My Release Day Newsletter: http://tasteofcyn.com/2014/05/28/newsletter/

Wild. Free. Hers.

Mayhem has spent his lengthy lifespan obeying the Humanoid Alliance’s rules. Finally free from their cruel control, the cyborg warrior plans to cause chaos. He infiltrates a remote settlement, provokes the savage locals until they want him dead, and allows himself to be captured by the sexiest little Retriever he has ever laid his mechanically-enhanced eyes on.

Imee’s sole mission in life is to keep her family alive. To do this, she must hunt rebels, returning them to the Humanoid Alliance’s evil clutches where they will be executed. She doesn’t allow herself to feel anything for her targets…until she meets a tall, muscular cyborg with wild hair and even wilder eyes.

With his sure hands, laughing lips and erotic holds, Mayhem makes Imee’s body sizzle and her resistance melt. Their love is doomed. She must deliver the warrior to his death or she’ll place her family’s safety at risk. But she can’t resist him.

Imee soon discovers that Mayhem, life, and love are never predictable.

Chasing Mayhem is Book 6 in the Cyborg Sizzle series and is a STANDALONE story.
It is also a BBW Cyborg SciFi Romance.

Pre-order Now:

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Mayhem-Cyborg-Sizzle-Book-ebook/dp/B01IRPO9WY#nav-subnav

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chasing-Mayhem-Cyborg-Sizzle-Book-ebook/dp/B01IRPO9WY/

ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-chasingmayhem-2077430-340.html

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/chasing-mayhem-cynthia-sax/1124139998

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/chasing-mayhem

Topics: Writing Tips | 1 Comment »

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