Saturday, February 26, 2011

How Much Description is Too Much?

Sweet Historical Romance
North Texas 1901
Remember I am no expert. My knowledge on any writing topic comes from a few years of self-study, and lest you think I know a great deal, let me set you straight. I am not…Sorry, I’ve already said that.

Why am I writing about this boring topic? Lately, more lavish description than is needed or wanted seems to be creeping in some fiction. While our writing instructors tell us “less is more,” and encourage us to omit descriptive phrases, we still feel compelled to endlessly describe.

“Her lovely eyes resembled pieces of emerald, shadowed by long, lush lashes, set in an alabaster face worthy of the most beautiful of angels.” (I made that up.)

First of all, this passage must be from the Hero’s POV. How many men do you know, or have ever existed had thoughts like this? A cowboy might think, “Her eyes sure were pretty, sort of green.” A modern man might say this: “Her eyes were so pretty, I wish I had the words to describe them.”

AVOID detailed descriptions of characters. Elmore Leonard in his Ten Rules of Writing, says, In Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” what do the “American and the girl with him” look like? “She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story, yet we see the couple and know them by the tones of voice, with not one adverb in sight.

However, I need some description of the characters in some manner, or none at all. Why? Because I visualize the characters, and unless I have a clue early on I’ll paint a picture of them myself. If an author waits until about the fourth or fifth chapter to finally let me know the girl is petite, buxom, with coal-black hair hanging almost to her waist, I might have her pictured her as tall, lithe, and blond. By that time I have so much invested in my version, the author’s description makes me irritable.

AVOID great detailed descriptions of places and things. We don’t need to impress our readers with the beauty of our story setting. If we go on and on about it, heaping up adjectives and adverbs along the way, we run the risk of losing our readers because they have become weary and slammed the book shut.

Again, as a reader I do need to know in some creative way the surroundings or setting of the novel.

Now that I’ve offered this advice, I’m still in the process of “how much description is too much.” Or maybe I should be learning how to include my descriptions without listing everything in one paragraph.

In Wish for the Moon (1901), Max Garrison wanders to the McGinnis farm. There he meets the family, especially young, pretty Annie, complete with a few descriptions.


When alone, Max walked to the spreading shade tree by the house and sat so he could lean back on the trunk. He lifted his hat and repositioned it to cover his eyes. Then he crossed his arms over his full stomach, let out a huge sigh, and fell sound asleep.

After some time, he didn’t know how long, he opened his eyes because he could feel a presence like somebody watched him and maybe waited near him. There sat the little blonde girl, except on close-up inspection, she was just about grown, maybe sixteen, seventeen years old. She sat cross-legged right beside him so he could easily touch her if he reached out. But he didn’t; he just waited, until she did something instead of sitting there, studying him.

“Hi, there,” she said, in a sweet sounding voice, sort of like water gurgling and sliding over smooth rocks—that swooshing, humming sound a person never gets tired of. “What are you doing here? I’ve never seen you around here before. Are you from over to Granbury? Or maybe Mineral Wells or Dublin?”

“Uh-uh. I’m from nowhere,” he said without grinning or anything. “I’m just a wanderer.”


“Why? Because I don’t have a real home, that’s why,” he answered. He never took his eyes off her big, pretty, blue ones, a little turned down at the corners, and framed all around with dark-brown lashes.

“Everybody has a home, don’t you know that? Except maybe those hoboes that stay over yonder under the railroad trestle. Are you from over there?”

“Nope.” He shook his head and chuckled a little at her persistence and curiosity. “Aren’t you afraid of me?”

“Why should I be?” she asked with a mock frown. “Are you a crook who robbed a bank, or a bootlegger who runs whiskey, or maybe you’re just a no-account bum?”

Now her face split into the widest grin that made his cold empty heart jump to life. More than anything right now, he wanted her to keep smiling at him.

“Nah,” she answered her own question, “you’re too nice looking to be a bad person. I bet you’re really a rich man who’s just having a good time wandering about letting somebody else take care of all his money, or maybe a famous doctor who left a good-paying hospital so you could rest from all the pressure of saving people and all that operating and stuff. Or I bet you—”

Max’s laughter cut her off. She sat real still and watched him laugh aloud, studying his one slightly crooked eyetooth on the left side. He said, “Yeah, I just bet you think all that. But you don’t really know, now, do you?” Max’s voice lost all trace of the laughter, and he solemnly gazed at her prettiness.

WISH FOR THE MOON: Coming Soon from Willow Moon Publishing.

Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Me and My $25 LASR Gift Certificate Coupon

$25 Gift Coupon from LASR
Now I know why eBook sales have surged.
The number is still way behind the sale of prints, but the advent of the eReader and buying eBooks jumped dramatically in the past year. Now that I have a Kindle, I have an all-consuming urge to load it with novels.

As luck would have it, LASR (Long and Short Reviews) stepped in and gave me a $25 coupon to spend at Amazon or B&N. I won it by commenting on the Valentine's Day blog extravaganza. I followed directions, read a few, and commented. Thinking I'd get back to the contest after I ran necessary errands in town, I hoped to win something. Since I am a lucky person and often win a prize of some sort, I felt confident I'd at least get a $5 Coupon. When I arrived home and fired up my Toshiba, surprise! I won a $25 GC!

In my spare time—between edits—I perused the Amazon Kindle Store for just the right purchases. As I was checking around, I found a free novel by Jill Marie Landis, one of my favorite authors—limited time only. Well, I stopped my search to load that on my Kindle. I also found a free novel—limited time only—by Susan Wiggs, one of my very favorite authors, and I loaded that on my Kindle. (You might notice I have many favorites.)

Once I had my list, the total came to $24.17. Pretty good, huh? And the list contained SIX BOOKS. I am a true bargain hunter. Carefully, I read the directions about the use of an Amazon GC, and began buying.

Well, shoot. I forgot to click into, so the total went to my credit card. At first, I tried to figure out how to start over to use my coupon, but my greediness took over. What's a $24.17 charge anyway? I don't splurge much at all, so in conclusion, I felt very happy that I still have that $25 coupon in my account as a credit.

Yes, you guessed it. I'm already making another purchase list.
Now, to find time to read all these novels.

Oh—do you want to know what I bought? Sure, I don't mind telling you.

Cool Hand Hank by Kathleen Eagle: $3.44
The Irish Bride by Alexis Harrington: $2.99
Dry Moon by Karyna DaRosa: $5.70
Between the Lines by Kathy Otten: $4.80
Muddy Waters by Maggie Toussaint: $6.25
Iron Horse Rider by Adelle Lauden: $0.99

I hope to read these before 2011 ends.

Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas  

*TEXAS PROMISE: The Cameron Sisters-Book I
*Love Romances Café-Best Historical Romance 2010-Honorable Mention
*The Romance Studio-Five Hearts
*Love Western Romance-Four Spurs
*Sherry Gloag, Reader-Five Hearts
*Steph Burkhart, Reviewer-Five Hearts

Saturday, February 12, 2011


On a recent trip to the library, an acquaintance walked up to me and said, “I heard you write romance novels. Do you really read that stuff?”

Mmm, I mused, how often have I heard that question?

Taking my usual bold stance—on quivering legs—I replied, “Sure, I do. Why not?”

I’ve learned one important thing in my mature years. If I don’t particularly like the question, I’ll ask one of my own. It’ll throw the person off track every time. Well, usually.

“Why not?” my casual friend asked. “Well, for one thing,” she stammered, “they’re…trite, with the same plot in every single book. A learned person wouldn’t waste time on them.”

Of course, by the time I arrived home, my busy brain had made a list of “why I read that stuff, and particularly why I write it.”

Answer Number One: Defending romance novels falls in the same category as defending myself. If I probe for a real answer, the person might say, “A reader of romance usually doesn’t have a life of her own, or a poor love life at best, or she reads to live vicariously through a character.” My reply might be, “Statistics show that 75 million people read at least one romance novel last year. So, you’re saying you know how all these readers feel?”

Answer Number Two: Some romance novels are better than others. True, the first romance novels were written differently from those today, but one might say that about all fiction in general. Advice to my friend-of-the-moment: “Try a romance novel. Begin with a few of the tried and true authors: LaVyrle Spencer (my all-time favorite), Susan Wiggs, Penelope Williamson, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Judith McNaught, Kathleen Eagle, and Karen Robards. Neither you nor anyone else needs to waste time on any bad book. That applies to romance novels, as well.”

Answer Number Three: Perhaps readers and writers of romance are actually readers….period. To my detractor, I might reply: “Oh, by the way, if you’re looking for a good book, you might want to try Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Societies; The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society; Plainsong; or The Dust Bowl Years. I highly recommend them.” Would that be tacky of me?

Answer Number Four: A simple statement. Reading and writing romance novels are my inalienable rights under the constitution. After all, this is a free country.

Answer Number Five: I’m easily entertained. When I choose a movie, I do not need to select one that has garnered critically acclaimed praise over the entire globe. The same is true with my reading material.

Answer Number Six: In response to the statement “Romance novels are just fairy tales, stories that never happen in real life.” Maybe, maybe not, but I might reply, “Sometimes, I just like to escape reality.”

I’m not the first writer to pen an article titled “In Defense of the Romance Novel.” I Googled the title and found quite a few. By the time I finished reading several, I realized the question, “You don’t read that stuff, do you?” has been asked many times.

Celia Yeary-Proud to be a Romance Author

Thursday, February 3, 2011


My writing career, if I may call it that, began in 2004 on an impulse brought about by severe boredom. Soon, I had a novel-length story written. Smugly, I said, “It’s a wrap!” Well, no, it wasn’t at all. I knew nothing about the intricacies of writing fiction. The knowledge I had would fit into a thimble, and even that, I based it on my experience with writing scientific research papers.

The first big shock was something called Point of View. Since I’d only been a reader of fiction, rather than a writer, POV puzzled me. I talked with two would-be-authors and asked about this term. Each of them explained…and explained…and showed…and finally told me one day it would just click, like a light bulb turned on. Actually, this happened, but alas, I dealt with only two POVs—the hero’s and the heroine’s in third person.

Since I’ve always been a self-learner, I began to rely on "How to Write Fiction" books for enlightenment. One neat little book was totally devoted to “mastering point of view.” Just what I needed. Do you know how many Points of View exist? At least six: Unlimited POV, First-Person POV, Inner Limited POV, Second-person POV, Outer Limited POV, and Combo POV. Then the writer may combine any of the six with “Multiple POVs and Challenging Perspectives.”

How did I deal with this conundrum? I pretended only two categories existed. Since I wrote romance, I felt fairly confident. So far, not one editor has asked me why I mixed Inner Limited POV with Unlimited POV.

My second learning experience was Passive Writing. Although I didn’t know the term, I did learn that all of us had probably studied it in high school, and knew it as Voice--with action verbs or without. Well, I took care of that right away by going to the Spell Check Options in Word, opening Check Grammar, and making certain every little box contained a little blue check, especially the one titled “Passive Writing.” From my first editor, I discovered the Find button, typed in the insignificant word “was,” indicating a passive sentence. In my first editing experience with this real editor, she located 972 times I’d used “was.” That’s a close approximation. Why did the publisher ever take such a messy manuscript?

The third, and last, learning episode for now is Formatting. A new phenomenon is sweeping through the e-presses community. Earlier, the guidelines stated only a few requirements: a particular font, double-spaced, one-inch margins, and page numbers. Now that I’m working with several publishers, I’m wondering why e-presses don’t standardize their formatting requirements? Each one has a long, detailed list of tasks the author must accomplish. (I do appreciate the publisher stating “do the best you can—we don’t expect you to be an electronic genius.) I admit I spent two entire days trying to change my “curly quotes” to “straight quotes.” When I learned how, I shoved my desk chair back, stood, punched my fists into the air, and yelled, “Yeeesss!” My husband came running to make certain I had not lost my mind. No, I had not lost anything. I’d found a valuable tool.
TEXAS PROMISE: The Cameron Sisters-Book I
*Love Romances Café-Best Historical Romance 2010-Honorable Mention
*The Romance Studio-Five Hearts
*Love Western Romance-Four Spurs
*Sherry Gloag, Reader-Five Hearts
*Steph Burkhart, Reviewer-Five Hearts