Article 8:   Ask The Author By Gaelen Foley

In this month’s article, Gaelen Foley, best-selling romance author, concludes her series on the various aspects of writing historical romance novels. In this final article, she responds to a number of questions from aspiring authors at different stages in their career, as well as some of her loyal readers. There is much food for thought here, for first-time authors just planning their first novel to authors with a substantial backlist. As you read Gaelen’s answers to these questions, certainly consider the sagacity of her responses, but also think about how you might answer these same questions yourself.

Disclaimer:   These articles were produced over the past few years and reflect how I saw things at the time, but I freely admit that my views on writing continuously evolve and probably always will. So take that into consideration when reading. Most points generally comport with my current views, but I learn more all the time as I change and grow. That’s the beauty of studying an art form — you’re never really "there" yet. Everything is a continually unfolding process. Whatever works for you is what matters. That said, enjoy!   ~ GF


1.   Do All Romance Heroines Have to Be "Beautiful?"
2.   What About Research?
3.   How Can I Improve My Descriptive Writing?
4.   I Finished My Book. Now What?
5.   Should I Copyright My Work?
6.   Will Your Books Ever Be Made Into Movies?

1.   Do All Romance Heroines Have to be Gorgeous?

Sage, an aspiring writer in her teens, asks:   Why do you make the gentlemen tall, robust, and mysterious and the women small and always beautiful and spunky? Its not that I don’t enjoy the tall strong men 😉 I am just wondering why you don’t have one of the characters be plain or not so stunning? I think this would make the stories much more interesting.

Hi Sage!

What a good question. Many critics of the romance genre have asked the very same thing. Here is the short version of my response, but first, actually I did write a book with a not-so-stunning heroine, Lizzie, in Devil Takes a Bride. She describes herself in the book as "plain, sensible sort of woman." Also, in Lord of Ice, Miranda is described as a "statuesque" beauty, which is romance-speak for big-boned. LOL. So, yes, we’ve had a mousy nerdy girl and a plus-sized, bodacious babe.

That aside, I would put forth two simple arguments. One, everything that happens in my novels is filtered through some character’s point-of-view. (Point-of-view is one of the aspects of the craft of fiction that is hardest for most newbies to grasp.) As a matter of course, I always describe the heroine through the eyes of the hero. Since the guy is going to end up marrying her, we would hope that, whatever his taste in women might be, this particular man finds her irresistibly attractive. The personality of the hero determines everything.

For example, Lucien and Damien in Lord of Fire and Lord of Ice are identical twins, but you could never have switched their girls on them. Damien (who married bodacious Miranda) would never have been the slightest bit interested in little miss goody two shoes, Alice, who, in turn, soon had wicked Lord Lucien wrapped around her finger. The girl each man chose was based on their own inner needs. Damien had come back from the war scared to death that after so many years of active duty combat that he was going to accidentally hurt someone, but Miranda’s bigger size made him feel much more at ease with her, unlike the little delicate debutantes he had otherwise encountered.

Lucien, on the other hand, was surrounded by evil and kind of spiritually lost, and it was Alice’s shining goodness, symbolized by her light, sky- (heaven-) blue eyes and the brightness of her strawberry-blond hair that made her, in his view, look like an angel, which he desperately needed. Are you getting what I mean here?

As in life, the character’s personality is the important part, but as a writer, I try to create a physical appearance for the ladies that expresses who they are inside, and that is largely based on the very kind of woman that I think the hero most needs. The external looks are a symbol for the inner person.

Miranda was big because she had a big, bold, fearless personality. Alice was petite and prim in appearance because that was how she behaved. Just as Miranda needed a hero who could keep up with her and literally look her in the eye (since she was tall), Alice needed a bad boy type hero to loosen her up. I hope that helps you see how the dynamic works.

The main thing is to remember is that the characters are not being described objectively, by an omniscient narrator—it’s not supposed to be me, Gaelen Foley, telling you how these girls look—it’s coming to you filtered through the mind and awareness of the hero. We would certainly hope that he finds his future wife to be the most beautiful woman he has ever seen.

The second point I’d like to make is that one of the defining characteristics of a heroic woman (heroine) is a solid level of self-esteem. Since you’re a teenage girl soon heading into high school, this is an especially relevant topic, so let’s take a look. Self-esteem, which I’m sure you’ve heard many times, is not being in love with yourself. It’s being contented with who and what you are—including the looks God gave you.

The French, who know a thing or two about beauty (and women, for that matter) have a famous expression called the "beautiful ugly woman." It boils down to the notion that flawed facial features have very little to do with a woman’s attractiveness or lack thereof. Point being, you don’t have to be perfect to be fabulous. There are all different kinds of beauty and the best kind emanates from inside the person, especially from how she feels about herself.

Self-confidence is the key. If a woman has solid value for herself and knows who she is, then she will naturally project a self-assurance that is devastatingly attractive, no matter what she physically looks like. She is making herself happy simply by doing what she wants to do with her life—she is not running around trying to get boys to think she’s pretty—she draws the notice and admiration of others by not trying so much. The truly self-assured person doesn’t really care what you or I think of her. What a great place to be!

That, to a greater or lesser degree, is where heroines start from. You will rarely find a heroine agonizing over her lack of beauty, and even less often congratulating herself on her good looks, if she has them. Heroines in novels are generally too busy to indulge their insecurity. They have big goals to pursue and big problems to solve. They don’t have time to be primping in the mirror and worrying much over a bad hair day. To them, their looks are a non-issue.

They barely think about it, and then the hero comes along, and through his eyes, she’s described as beautiful, so the idea of beauty is the picture that the author leaves in the reader’s mind. See how that works? The heroine might not think she’s beautiful, but the hero does. (Of course, nobody likes false modesty.)

It works the same way for the guy. The girl can be staring at him just mentally drooling, but good grief, who wants a guy who stands there admiring his own muscles in the mirror? Blech, mimbo! No thanks!

Anyway, the self-confidence of most romance heroines is, I think, one of the most valuable things about reading these books. In real life, sadly, we don’t come across that many females who have really terrific self-esteem, but in the pages of these novels, we can get a look at such women and hopefully, through the magic of fiction, get a taste of what it feels like to be that self-confident. (This high self-esteem, by the way, is why most historical romance heroines don’t leap into bed with the hero the first time they meet, unless there are some sort of extreme extenuating circumstances involved. Historical heroines, usually virgins, have too much value for themselves—not to mention good common sense—to take such a big risk without being absolutely sure that this man adores her and that he is "the one.") Hope this helps, Sage, happy writing, and good luck in high school!

2.   What About Research?

A loyal fan, Franca wants to know…"Do you sit down and write your story first and then do the research later? And when you do research and include it in your writing, do you reference those historical notes on your manuscript (e.g. Bibliography)?"

Dear Franca,

Ah, research. Before, during, or after? In a word:   Yes.

All of the above.

If you are writing a historical, then it seems to me that a basic working knowledge of the period is essential simply to be able to get your characters from point A to point B.

With the wide availability of books for historical writers, you can usually get yourself up and running on your first story after an investment of reading, say, three or four of them. The most useful kinds of books to start with are those like the "Everyday Life In" series that explore different historical periods. (A favorite survey of historical oddments for many Regency writers is Emily Hendrickson’s marvelous REGENCY REFERENCE BOOK. As a veteran author of some scores of Regencies, she gives you the kinds of specifics that writers need. Another good one is Daniel Pool’s WHAT JANE AUSTEN ATE AND CHARLES DICKENS KNEW.)

While regular history texts usually explore political currents, overarching societal changes, and so forth, what the historical writer needs starting off is a working vocabulary in the hands-on artifacts of everyday life: food and how people took meals, houses, lighting, modes of transportation, what people did for fun.

I think it’s also very important to have a broad grasp of the general rules of the society you want to write about before you begin, especially (for a historical romance) social rules regarding women—how they were taught to view themselves and what was possible/permissible for them in their lives. Along with this, I would add rules about courtship and marriage and, while we’re at it, the basics of aristocratic life and the peerage system.

If you have been reading historical romance for years, then you may have absorbed a lot of this "by osmosis,”
" but it gives a writer so much more confidence to approach a project being absolutely sure that you know what you’re talking about. So I’d say, do some exploring of these items on your own.

Building that foundation of knowledge at the beginning can be a lot of work, true, but once you make the investment of effort, then you can avoid wasted work later; should you inadvertently base major story plot points on historical impossibilities, then you probably won’t be able to sell the book you’ve written, or if you do, readers will find your errors (trust me) and may not buy your second book.

Historical readers, especially Regency fans, are notorious for losing patience quickly with writers who are too lazy to bother doing good research. For example, to legions of readers, nothing turns a historical romance into a wall-banger faster than the old illegitimate-son-inheriting-the-title fallacy. (That could never happen, FYI. It was illegal. Yet occasionally books that contain this mistake do get published. That’s because the editors who buy them are experts in editing and helping writers hone their storytelling; it’s not part of their job description that they must be experts in historical accuracy. They, too, trust their authors to do their homework.)

By first knowing the rules of a society, THEN comes the fun part—then you can begin to bend them and manipulate them to achieve the effects you want in your story.

But with that said, don’t let all this talk of historical accuracy freeze your ability to write. I have seen writers get so overwhelmed with fear of making a mistake that they can’t move forward with their book. A mistake is never the end of the world.

The most common type of error is the one where you think you absolutely know a fact, so you don’t even bother looking it up, and later end up with egg on your face.

I had this experience I am chagrined to say in my third novel, Prince Charming—on page ONE no less. The hero, Prince Rafael, is sitting at the opera in great boredom watching his mistress, a singing starlet, performing a duet in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Now, for the record, I am obsessed with Mozart; I listen to Mozart every day; and if I had to choose whether to save a human being or the last known copy of Mozart’s music from a raging house fire, I would save Mozart’s music. So much do I think that I know dear Wolfie’s music that I did not bother taking more than a cursory glance to review Don Giovanni. If I had, I would not have cast the role of Don Giovanni as being sung by a tenor rather than a baritone!

This may sound like a small thing to you, but many historical readers love the arts—after all, the Regency was the Age of Elegance. Many of them are opera fans, and a number of them caught my error. Sigh… Ah, well!

As someone once said, “
"Even Homer nods." It’s always comforting to review scholarly lists of the factual errors in Shakespeare’s plays. And if I can make one further aside: I recently learned that from the times of the Ottoman Empire, there was a tradition among Muslim artists where they would deliberately put a little mistake or two into their mosaics or other artworks as a way of expressing the idea that only God creates perfection. I like that.

It boils down to an issue of scale. I can live with having miscast the role of Don Giovanni to a tenor rather than a baritone because it is a small detail occupying one little line of text, indeed, one sentence (though I really do wish that sentence did not appear on page one!). If the mistake had involved the whole premise of the novel, such as a bastard son inheriting his father’s title, then I would have to crawl under a rock and not come out again until I realized I had better switch to contemporaries! If you don’t do a good deal of research before you begin story-making, then you won’t know what the biggies are to avoid.

At any rate, beyond a general foundation of the accoutrements of daily life in the historical era of your choice, each book will have its own research topics to be explored. It’s a judgment call as to how much you need to know first and what you can look up later. I like to leave descriptions of rooms and clothing til last, personally. These can take a LOT of time, and there’s not much point bending my brain to do interior decorating on a Regency drawing room, for example, before I know for certain whether the dialogue and emotion of the story will work.

I would just caution people to do as much research as you can stand to do up front because that way you can avoid writing in mistakes. Once you begin to visualize your historical world, the longer you labor under mistaken notions, the harder it is to change it around later it in your mind.

By the by, we sometimes encounter readers who have built up mistaken ideas about how an historical era really worked, based on the narrow worlds of the novels they have read—this is unfortunately common with readers who have read all of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. Oftentimes people fail to realize these works only represented a small sliver of the total society. That means that even when you’re right, some readers will mistakenly believe you’re wrong. Thus, it’s helpful to be able to back up your research with documentation, should the need arise—which leads me to the final part of your question.

You had asked about recording sources for the facts to be used in the manuscript. Publishers do not generally require a bibliography for works of fiction, at least not genre fiction.

My publisher doesn’t require it, and I have not heard of my colleagues being asked to turn in their bibliographies. That doesn’t mean that the author doesn’t have one, though. What you will need is some handy way of recording where you found the particular facts you’re using in a given chapter of your manuscript, in case you have to go back and double-check things, or in case you receive any future challenges from a critique partner, a copyeditor, or a reader.

It’s very useful to be able to back your work up with a reference book or two, giving specific page numbers to show where you found the information. Like I said, it’s not required, but it’s a great "C-Y-A" habit to get into (cover-your-a*s.)

Most word-processing programs include a "Comments" function. This allows you to bookmark a place in your text and insert a "comment" that won’t show on the screen unless you set it to View/Show/Reveal Comments. The comments function is a handy way to record your sources at particular points in your manuscript. You can always do it on paper, though, separately. One way to do it is, at the end of writing each chapter, go back and make a list of any specific sources that you used in constructing that chapter.

But do note that this is for your own reference; the publisher probably isn’t going to want to bother with it.

Thank you for the question, and I hope that you have found this information helpful!

3.   How Can I Improve My Descriptive Writing?

Hi, my name is Sarah and I am 20 years old. My question is in regards to descriptive writing. When I describe something in a story it’s about 2 sentences long. Maybe I don’t have the patience or devotion enough to my writing to get there. When it comes to dialogue, I can go on for ever and ever. But when someone is talking they have the hand motions, the facial expressions, and so on. I have just never been able to grasp that part of my writing, and without descriptions you have no setting, and without a setting, your story’s gonna be pretty boring. So, my question is, how do you write a descriptive piece that just makes you feel like your there in the story, like you can use all of your senses and make it seem real? Thank you.

Dear Sarah,

I’m a big believer in interdisciplinary learning. This is especially true when it comes to descriptive writing. Writers can learn so much from the other arts that can help us with our storytelling. Studying music, for example, can help sensitize us to the subtle rhythms of language. Studying drawing can help us learn to become sharper visual observers so that we pick up on details and elements like line, texture, and shading, and fine gradations in color and light, all of which really comes in handy when we need to imagine exactly what our characters and settings look like. The better you can do this, the more real your story will feel.

For me, learning about how actors and directors go about "blocking" a scene was what helped me to understand that I need to portray what my characters are doing in my scenes, not just the content of what they’re saying. Having them DO something with their hands, the poses of their bodies, or even fidgeting with their clothes makes it easier for readers to picture what’s going on.

A person’s smallest actions can give nonverbal cues, body language insight, into who that person is deep inside. Actions really do speak louder than words. "I’m a sensitive guy," as he kicks his dog. LOL. Small gestures can add up to a big expression of emotion. Intelligent blocking can give even a "talking heads" dialogue scene a feeling like there’s something significant and interesting going on, so it aids in pacing, too.

Once you figure out what your characters can be doing in your scene, then it’s just a matter of intertwining that action with the conversation.

But a key part of what brings a scene to life, as you’ve pointed out, is the setting or scenery in which the conversation or piece of action takes place. The first act of a novel can take longer to write because each new setting needs to be described for the first time it appears. Later chapters can use that same setting but by then, you’ve already established what it looks like so you can just throw in a simple detail or reminder to refresh the reader’s memory about that place.

Setting can also reflect the mood of the scene taking place there. Say for example two lovers are meeting in a beautiful park for the first time. The emotion is playful and flirtatious, and that is reflected in the details the writer would select as happening in that park at that time, like sunny weather and an ice-cream vendor or a guy playing Frisbee with his dog. Later, for example, one half of the now broken-up couple could take a walk in the same park, but by reflecting different details, it gives a totally different meaning. Maybe this day it’s raining with puddles in the path and some poor squirrel huddled on a tree branch getting soaked. Ok all this is a really lame example, but you see what I mean.

So, one way you can do it is to figure out the basic location of where you want your scene to take place. Then you sit down with a notebook and just start jotting down images of stuff that might be in a place like that. There is a simple exercise or a chart that I fill out before I write a scene just to make sure I have the setting vivid and clear in my imagination. I brainstorm on each point below and try to come up with something fresh. Partly I got this list from Robert J. Ray’s book, The Weekend Novelist (highly recommended!!) and part of it I made up on my own from bits of knowledge I’ve picked up over the years. It is one of the most valuable tools I use in my writing:

Lighting effects
Textures, temperature, motions

Historical objects/details to ground this scene in my time period (For historical writers: this could be anything from the sound of hoofbeats on the cobblestones outside to a liveried footman checking on the aristocrats to the smell of the flickering tallow candles on the mantel. Whatever. Just something you wouldn’t see in our day and time to remind the reader where/when they are in this scene.)

Actions – Large
Actions -–Small
Characters – relationships (Who’s there and how do they feel about each other)
Who wants what from whom and why can’t they have it?
Climax of scene
Exit line

Once you know "what’s there" in a scene, then you can start moving stuff around and messing with stuff, using the objects in interesting ways. This can be fun. For example, leading up to the climax scene in my 12th book, Her Secret Fantasy, I had no idea how I was going to get hero Derek out of the pit bull’s cage where the villain Edward’s henchmen were holding him inside the stable. So I took a hard look at the setting and thought, well, what’s there? What would logically be there that I could work with? Ok, first there’s lanterns, since I know it’s night time. Gee, oil lanterns, with all that hay there in the stable. Looks pretty flammable, huh? They’d also have a pitchfork for throwing the hay around. Plus the henchmen guarding Derek are whiling away the long night by playing cards, and one of them’s got some liquor. That’s flammable, too. See where I’m going with this? The next thing, I knew, Derek had goaded one of the henchmen over into his striking distance by appealing to his gambler’s spirit and in a flash was holding one the guys by the throat through the bars of his cage. Another tried to make him let the guy go by jabbing at him with the pitchfork. Within a page or two, the whole stable was on fire—the henchmen had fled, but Derek was still stuck in the cage.

Unforeseen consequences. Knowing the little details of your setting can supply you with a surprising plot twist and help to keep your readers on the edge of their seats.

By the way, I have heard that details in motion are easier for the human brain to visualize than static images. Let’s test that. What’s easier/quicker to imagine—a motionless statue of a horse, or an angry horse rearing up on its hind legs? The second one is more vivid for me.

FYI, I really don’t write my scenes in the first draft anywhere near the same way that they appear in the published book. In the first draft, I separate the elements and do them out of order, meaning, I write the dialogue first-—that’s usually the spine of the scene for me. Second, I’ll just start typing in the notes I made in my notebook from the list of imagery and details above. I don’t put everything where it needs to go until later, when it’s time to revise. The blocking, aka "dialogue tags" usually come last for me as I’m smoothing out the dialogue.

As a reader, I have noticed that it’s usually a good idea to put a short description of where and when we are right on the first page of the scene so the reader can immediately know what to imagine. You don’t want the reader imagining your characters sitting in a drawing room at tea time if they’re actually holding on for dear life to the deck of a sinking frigate (which sounds like a much more fun place to start a book if you ask me!) I think we have been beaten over the head so much with the "rule" about not starting a book with a big, long description that sometimes we go too far in the opposite direction and don’t cue the reader in to where the heck this scene is taking place until five or ten pages into the book. It’s very annoying. It results in "talking head" scenes that might as well be taking place out in the depths of space. I personally get very annoyed when I open a romance and can’t tell for the life of me if it’s a medieval or a Victorian. To me that says that the writer has not created a full, rich story world.

So, work on your descriptive writing. It makes for a much richer reading experience. Of course you don’t want to go overboard and yammer on for pages of description. That will put modern readers to sleep. But I encourage you to revel in your world-building. It’s part of what allows the reader to feel like they’re really there in the story world, truly taking part in the adventure. Go for it!

4.   Finished My Book. What Next?

Okay, my question is this. Once a new "author" has created what he/she hopes is a book that will touch many hearts, what next? Just blindly submit to agents/publishers, etc. What exactly is the next big step in getting published?

Thanks a lot,
Shawna from West Virginia

Dear Shawna,

First, congratulations! Finishing a book is a really big deal and I hope you will reward yourself! Assuming you’ve already revised and rewritten whatever needed fixing in your manuscript, the next basic step is to have a nice long sit-down with the Writers and Poets Market reference book. What you’ll want to do is just start scanning through the listings of agencies and/or publishing houses (whichever you want to target first) that handle the type of book you’ve written. Fortunately, there is a possible shortcut here, since this can be about as much fun as studying the phonebook. The shortcut is to join a serious writers’ organization for people who write your kind of book. These large national groups like RWA help to keep members informed about which publishers are looking to acquire books like yours, and which agents represent writers in your genre. Either by independent research or with help from a writers’ organization—more likely by both—you will eventually end up with a list of agencies and/or publishers to send your work to. Before you send them anything, try to research them a little bit so you are certain they are reputable. For example, one rule of thumb is never to send to an agent who requires a reading fee. You should never have to pay agents or editors to read your work—or to publish it. (The exception to this would be the VERY rare cases where people have a justified reason for paying the exorbitant sums involved in self-publishing. Do a LOT of research on the risks involved before you decide to go that route.)

How much of your story the reputable publishers and agents will want to see just depends on what they’re willing to look at. Gone are the days of sending in your whole manuscript for consideration. No one has time for that anymore. The Writer’s Market listing and/or the company’s website will usually specify what they’ll read.

Some still accept three chapters and a synopsis. If they love it, they’ll ask you for the whole book further down the road. But many companies these days only want a query letter describing your book and telling them who you are, with a bit about your writing background. Do your best to keep your cover letter to one page. Keep it short, snappy, and professional. If they are intrigued by your book’s description, they will write, email or call you back asking to see the three chapters and synopsis or the whole manuscript. So then you send that. (IMPORTANT!:   Send all requested material with tracking!)

Keep a log of your submissions and check them off as the inevitable rejections come back. Ah, rejections. Yes, there can be a lot of disappointment after all your hard work, but this is totally par for the course, so it might be a good idea to set yourself up with some sort of small ritual that you can do to pick yourself up again whenever you get a rejection. Some way of protecting yourself emotionally so that you don’t get discouraged. Because, let’s face it, discouragement can lead to giving up, and quitting is the one sure way to fail. So put some thought into how you’re going to handle the rejections even before they begin. Chocolate is always an option. J

Another thing you can do at this point is to enter your manuscript in writing contests, particularly those that have editors, agents, and published authors as judges. The goal is to get your work seen by industry insiders. You never know who might be able to help you to get "your shot" at publication. Even if you don’t win or final in contests, at least you can get some pretty interesting feedback on what’s working in your book and where you might need more practice. Plus, any good results from contests can be added into your cover letters as you continue trying to sell your work.

These days a lot of not-yet-published writers also launch websites and/or blogs that editors and agents can refer to once they receive a query from the writer. So that can be something else you can do now if you are inclined. This is where you can post a professional headshot of yourself with your bio, and showcase excerpts of the stories that you have to offer. But again, here, a word of caution. From the minute you launch your website, you are beginning to define your "name brand" as an author. Now, don’t laugh. Yes, it might be a while before your future books are on the shelves, but stuff lives on the internet forever. Definitely watch what you post, especially if you feel you must "review" other author’s books on your website. Admiring reviews are great; analyzing a favorite author’s particular skill in some area can’t harm you. Trashing some poor author’s book, however, can be very, very self-destructive to you, and end up hurting your chances in your a writing career. Remember, when you get published, you’re probably going to have to meet that author someday . . . and all of her bestseller friends. Published authors who decide that you’re a nice person can extend a helping hand to a newbies with insider advice and things like endorsement quotes for the cover of your book or website recommendations telling her readers about your debut. Or they can decide that you’re a mean jerk and leave you to fend for yourself. Why make enemies before you even get a foot in the door? The publishing industry is quite small, and there are fewer degrees of separation between people than you would imagine. But the really important people if you want to sell your book are the editors and agents.

I have seen aspiring writers trash certain published novels on their website, not realizing they just sent their work in to that author’s loyal agent or adoring editor. Duh. Trash an author and you simultaneously trash the agent who represents her as well as the editor who worked on that book. And then they send that agent or editor straight to their website, where they can read the rotten things the aspiring writer has said about this book the editor has worked on, or the author who is probably the agent’s friend as well as client. So, enough said on that, I guess. Snarkiness brings in the website hits, as the negative slant of the online world clearly shows, but out in the real world, professionally speaking, it’s a big turnoff. People want to know that you’re going to be easy to work with and not embarrass yourself or the company, or cause strife. On the contrary, saying GOOD things about good books on your website makes YOU look good. At least that’s what I think.

So, once you’ve got your list of agents and/or editors to send to, and you know how much of your material they want to see, then you’ll also need to keep track of their policy on multiple submissions. "Multiple submissions" means sending your work out to a number of different companies at the same time for consideration. One of the reasons it takes so DANG long to sell your work is because most of them have a policy that they only want you to send it out to one company at a time. If each company takes four months or so to get back to you (and that can be just on the query letter, and assuming no one has left for maternity leave!) then you can see you have got a LOT of waiting to do.

Don’t take it personally. They can’t help it. They’re really busy and most of ’em already work evenings and weekends as it is. So try not to get too frustrated with the industry peeps. The best thing that you can do for your sanity to pass the time with all that waiting is to get cracking on your next book! One book alone does not make a career, so fire up your computer and start polishing that next plot.

Best of luck to you, and I hope to see your name on the bestseller lists someday!

5.   Should I copyright my work?

This question is from Anonymous:  Should I copyright my material before I send it in? Will they need to see proof of copyright?

Unless you have doubts about the integrity or professionalism of the publisher or agent to whom you are submitting your work, IMO, you don’t need to worry about establishing your copyright for fiction. (OTOH, if you have these kinds of doubts about them, maybe this is not an agent or publisher you should really be sending your work to!) Reputable, established publishers or agents are not going to steal your work.

If you have any lingering doubts or uncertainties and just want to cover all your bases, what you can do is to send a print-out of your work to yourself through the mail. The post office will stamp it with the date, and then when you get it back, DON’T OPEN IT. The sealed copy with the stamped date will confirm that you owned the work before anyone else did.

Obviously, if you are sending your work over the internet to agents or even critique partners, then it is harder to ensure the security of your intellectual property. I’m far from a computer expert, so all I can say is to be really, really careful about where you post your work publicly online, or especially your story ideas, which are even easier to steal. You never know where your work might end up.

That said, I don’t think you have to be too paranoid about your fiction being stolen by hackers. Unless you’re J. K. Rowling, they’re more likely to go after your credit card and social security numbers than your latest manuscript!

6.   Books Into Movies?

Anja from Vienna, Austria wants to know if any of my books have been turned into movies. If yes, she writes, what’s the title of the film? If no, why not? Would you let one of your stories be filmed? Which one?

Dear Anja,

Thanks for your question. None of my books have been made into movies, unfortunately, but if it were offered to me, I would certainly leap at the chance to see one of my stories come to life on the silver screen. You might be interested to know that a couple of years ago, I agreed to let a pair of my screenwriter friends, Bob Scott and Ken Levarse, draft The Pirate Prince into a screenplay, which I could do because I retained performance rights in my contract with my publisher.

After the screenplay version was written, Bob and Ken hooked up with a local theatrical company, who performed a seated public reading of the manuscript. (This means they just read the dialogue while sitting on stools on the stage. There was no choreography or action, etc.) The actors who played Lazar and Allegra were particularly WONDERFUL and I had stars in my eyes hearing my dialogue come to life like that. (I will look around and see if I can find a photo from that night to share with my readers in the future. It was really neat!)

The purpose of a seated reading like that is to check out how the story works in the performance format. When the show was over, there was big applause, which was really cool for me, because an author never gets the immediate reaction of an audience the way actors do. We then had a talk-back session asking for feedback from the audience and got some good suggestions. Next, the three of us, Bob and Ken and I, got together over coffee to talk about how to implement the audience input. The guys went to work on these ideas.

When they had completed that final phase (I didn’t do any of the screenplay writing because I was working on my next novel), it was time to send it off to Hollywood, just like aspiring writers have to send their novels to New York. It wasn’t long before Bob called me all excited saying that a major movie star’s agent wanted to read the whole thing to consider it for his client…HUGH JACKMAN! (As Lazar—can you imagine??)

We were really excited because Lazar is a complex character, being both a pirate and a prince, and Mr. Jackmann has definitely proved that he is fabulous at both action-adventure and portraying a high class aristocrat (as in that movie with Meg Ryan where he played a time-traveling English duke). Well, a lot of time has passed and we haven’t heard anything further, but even to get that stage was pretty incredible. Thanks for asking!

© 2012 – 2013 Gaelen Foley
Originally posted at Gaelen Foley’s Writing Resources Page
Posted at The Beau Monde by permission of the author.

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One Comment

  1. Excellent article, Galen. I always think I won’t have much to research when I start a book, but I always end up doing a ton of research every time. 🙂

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