Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Writer's Toolbox: Classes to EMPOWER Your Fiction

Are you ready to go crazy?

If you’re a writer, you probably already are.

No offense, it’s just the fact of a writer’s life. :-)

And if you are a crazy writer who wants to expand their craft and learn some great tools, sit up close for a moment. I’m going to share a writing-world secret.

You’ll probably guess my point before I get there, because truth is, this secret isn’t much of a secret.

But play along for a minute, okay?

I’m constantly searching for help in making my craft stronger. I’ve tried freelance editors (helpful, yes, but not quite there yet). I’ve taken copious classes and multiply how-to books (again very helpful, the pieces to the puzzles are coming together).

But I still don’t know what I’m doing wrong. Something isn’t clicking and when I sit down to edit I can’t SEE the physical errors in my writing besides the plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face obvious. (clichĂ© alert) Worse I don’t know how to fix them.

(HINT: there was a clue. Did you catch it?)

Hand me a class I can afford and most likely I am going to jump in feet first and see how wet I can get.

This time around, I was DELUGED.

In a very, very good way.

Photo Curtesy of Flickr
I took a class this month on powering your characters emotions, which turned into way more than I ever expected. This class took the power of an editor and put it into my hands. Through the month long class (with 10 lectures total), the most helpful thing I think I learned is the EDITS system. Basically a system of highlighting different aspects of your writing.

Put into layman’s terms, I learned what each color represented and what they represented on the PAGE and what it most likely meant for my story.

(Do you know who I’m talking about yet? I’ll keep going for a few more paragraphs.)

Chock full of examples from superb fiction, you SEE what these authors have done right. It’s all broken down and by the time the final lessons have rolled around, I’m looking to find these concepts in other books.

You learn by doing. The assignments stretched my brain and took me another step down this journey. In-depth advice from the instructor and the help of my edit partner brought concepts home.


Let me say that one more time. It needs to be over-stated.


(Figured it out yet? Answer’s coming!)

Suddenly (or probably not-so-suddenly) I can SEE what is wrong with my work. It hasn’t made it perfect, but when all you see is blocks of yellow (gotta take the class to know what I’m talking about :-)-you know you most likely have a problem.

And instead of just KNOWING you have a problem, you are given the tools and the power to go and FIX it.

It’s more than just staring at a block of words and knowing in your gut you’ve got something that needs fixing. This is actively investigating that block of words and actually making changes that will forever change how you view your fiction.

Can you tell I’m a proponent of this class?

No, I wasn’t paid to write this post. I just paid for the class. Which is worth every penny of the $30 I spent. (and I would have spent three times that)

Are you still with me?

Think you know who it is?

If you guessed Margie Lawson, you guessed right. Check her website out. I’m serious. You won’t write the same again and she puts her classes into terms you can UNDERSTAND. You will grow and stretch, plus we read many examples from Multi-Margie grads that are now published or in the stages of publication. :-)

EMPOWER YOUR FICTION. It’s guaranteed.

Questions? Comments? Do tell… :-)

To Celebrate Our 300 Followers (YOU!) I’m Hosting a Giveaway:

Leave a comment for a chance to win Home Another Way by Christa Parrish

Winner will be announced in the Weekend Edition and please be sure and leave an email address so I can contact you. :-)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

An Interview with Sally Stuart

Sally Stuart has influenced many writers with her Christian Writers' Market Guide. With this tool, she has devoted 27 years to informing writers of accurate, up-to-date information in the publishing world.

The Christian Writers' Market Guide provides a plethora of information! Any writer can discover which publisher might accept a devotional, fiction story, missions article, or Sunday School how-to. You name it- it's there. Writers/Authors can also find web sites, word count, editor's names, needs, addresses, etc. all in one handy dandy resource.

Sally has graciously agreed to spend time with us in a two-part interview. Part two will be posted Wednesday, April 13th.

Welcome Sally!  

#1 The Christian Writers' Market Guide is a vast resource. After all your work every single year, what did you take away from the project?

First of all, tons of great memories and special friendships. It's been great to have the ongoing relationships with both writers and editors for all these years. Probably most important is that God calls us to certain tasks we feel unprepared and unequipped for--but He knows what He's doing.  I would never have launched the market guide if I didn't believe it was exactly the right path for me. As writers we always have to be open to His leading--even when the path is scary.

Yes, the path can be scary. #2 How did the project start: your idea, marketing, etc.?

Actually, it wasn't even my idea. I was freelancing at the time and was always on the lookout for new markets for my own writing. As a result of that I started doing the marketing column in what was then The Christian Writer (now the Christian Communicator). It was published in Florida at that time, and I'd gone to visit the editors while I was in the area. At the time I was preparing to teach a marketing class at a writers' conference, so asked the editor if he would pay for a mailing if I sent a little questionnaire out to some of the editors asking for some current market needs I could put in a handout. He agreed, but later suggested that if I sent out a few more questionnaires and put the info together in a book, he would publish it. I agreed--and the rest--as they say--is history. Of course, I had no idea then that it would become my life's work for the next 27 years.

I have had articles published thanks to the market guide. I'm grateful for your ministry. #3 Will you share a success story from someone who used this book? 

I don't think of one specific success stories, but I have writers come up to me all the time and tell me of sales they have made--whether it was their first devotional--a series of novels--or anything in between. The reason the market guide has been so successful itself over the years is because it doesn't matter what you are writing or where you are in your writing career, it's always there to take you to the next step--whatever that step is.

#4 Who is taking over the Writer's Market Guide and what would you like to share with those who are curious about the next step?

This week we are signing final papers to transfer ownership of the guide to Jerry Jenkins (Left Behind series) with the Christian Writers' Guild. The former director of the Guild, Kerma Murray, will be doing the actual work on the guide. The guide will go on pretty much as it has in the past, although they will likely make some changes to improve it as the years go on. The publisher's plan is to put it online eventually. I know those who are on the list to get the guide automatically every year as soon as it comes out are asking if they will honor those orders--and the answer is: Yes. The questionnaires have already gone out for the 2012 edition, but if there are new groups, conferences, or editorial services you want added, just contact them at

If you are asking about my next step--I think it's a long nap. No, I hope to get back to my own writing. The responsibilities of the guide have kept me from doing much of that over all these years, so I'm excited about starting over. I will also continue doing book proposal and book contract evaluations, as well as teaching at conferences.

Let's have some fun, #5 what has been your dream?

I would love to write a novel, but because my nonfiction brain works inside little organized boxes, I'm not very good at the free thinking required for plotting. But who knows?

Thank you Sally!  I think we'd all like to encourage you to write a novel. We're your cheerleaders.

If you are interested in contacting Sally, you'll find her at:

What questions do you have for Sally? 


Today is the third day of our TWO-WEEK 300th-Follower CELEBRATION
I'm giving away Siri Mitchell's She Walks in Beauty
Please leave your spam-free email address in the comment section for a chance to win.

Winner will be announced in the weekend edition!

Part II of this interview will be posted  Wednesday, April 13th

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Synopsis, I Fear Thee NOT!

The dreaded synopsis. If you've written one, you know the difficulty of trying to condense a 100,000 word story down to one page. If you haven't, you have probably heard the moans and groans of those writing them. Well, I am here to share how I've overcome the fear.

I took an online synopsis writing class given by Camy Tang. You can check out the classes she offers by clicking on the link.

Camy's class was the most challenging and the most useful thing I have ever done to further my writing ability. During that class, I learned more about character and spiritual arcs than I have reading all my writing books combined! Seriously. Camy has an amazing ability to see the big picture of your story and draw it out of you for YOU to see. 

Here's how it works: Camy puts up a lesson through a Yahoo Group created for the class. Then she posts a lesson and gives us homework. We do the homework and post it to the Group. Camy looks it all over and comments,and makes suggestions for making your work stronger. 

What I loved about the class is the way Camy encourages you while challenging you at the same time. She has a great way of giving you examples of what she is looking for, without telling you outright what to write. I had many "aha" moments and even found a plot hole I didn't know I had. It's amazing how she helps you look at your story from a bird's eye view, and see the big picture.

Another great thing that the class did for me was to help define the main obstacles to my heroine's goal and pinpoint the black moment. And as she teaches, she helps you to eliminate unnecessary words, giving you a tight synopsis -- full of action, and story, character, and spiritual arcs. 

I learned how to write a synopsis of a completed novel. Annnd, this class taught me HOW to pre-plot a book!!!! That is HUGE! The pre-plotting will help build a solid foundation for each future story...without plot holes. 

This class is an incredible resourse for writers. Seriously, check out Camy Tang and see what she has to offer. She won't let you down! 

What other classes have you taken that gave you an "aha" moment? Or if you haven't taken a class, what lesson from what book did you learn from?


Today is the second day of our TWO WEEK CELEBRATION of our 300th follower! 
I'm giving away a copy of Age Before Beauty by Virginia Smith
Please leave your spam-free email address in the comment section for a chance to win.

Winner will be announced in the weekend edition!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Christian Writers Guild - Plus A PARTY!!!!!!!!

Oh there are three top things I LOVE about The Writers Alley.

       1. The Fabulous Alley Cats that make up our group - and encouragement I receive from each one.

      2. The tips and advice that I desperately need to learn

3.       The fact that they all like to PARTY!!!

Oh yes, ladies and gents, it’s our 300 subscriber party and we have two glorious weeks of prizes for you. We’ll keep giving you the writing tips, triumphs, and trials, but let’s throw in a bit of chocolate and a few lovely prizes to celebrate our 300 Alley Pals who visit us.

So - stop by EVERY  WEEKDAY for your opportunity to win. Winners will be listed on our Saturday post!
What’s on the prize rack for today?

Leave a comment with your email address and three commenters will win one of three books:

1.       Robin Lee Hatcher’s fabulous book A Matter of Character

2.       Henry McLaughlin’s debut novel Journey to Riverbend

3.       Patti Lacy’s gripping women’s fiction novel The Rhythm of Secrets
Okay – so what terrific tips do I have for you today? Let’s chat about writing education, shall we?

At some point or other, we come to the realization that we don’t know everything.

Shocker, I know. In fact, when I made this startling revelation at 10 years old, I had to double check just to make sure someone ELSE wasn’t wrong. (Boys usually don’t come to this realization until way past 20, if ever. ;-) Of course, I did go through a period of temporary amnesia between the ages of 14-19, but I was duly humbled back into humanity when I got married. For some reason, my husband didn’t think I knew everything either? Go figure.
As writers, there are many opportunities to learn and grow. Writing technique books, video series, online and offline courses, workshops…you name it. Some are more intensive than others. Some are more expensive than others.

I’m going to give you the spiel on the Jerry B. Jenkins’ Christian Writers Guild. Especially since we have CWG’s Operation First Novel contest winner a GIVEAWAY for today. Henry McLaughlin’s novel won Operation First Novel in 2009 and now he has the wonderful opportunity to see his book in print.

From August 2009-May 2010, I enrolled in the Journeyman course, which took me through various degrees of writing techniques, layering, rewrites, and lessons.

There are three basic CWG courses.

1.       Apprentice

2.       Journeyman

3.       Craftsman

Each increase in their expectations, mentoring, and learning curve.
For all of them, you are assigned a mentor who will be your contact person for that year.

During the Apprentice course – you’re learning the basics of being a good writer. Here you delve into the nuts and bolts of writing, both fiction and nonfiction. You get the opportunity to discover the core of writing techniques, marketing, and editing.

During the Journeyman course – you choose your track. Fiction or nonfiction. I chose fiction, of course. Then I was assigned my mentor, Doug Hirt. He was a fantastic encourager through each of the lessons. Oh, did I mention it’s an 8-month long program? 16 lessons. Two per month.
The Craftsman Course is the most advance and gives you the MOST intensive guidance. You are assigned one of their mentors for a year long course. This is the 'fine tuning' program, to push you from the slush piles to a more publishable possibility. (not that you don't improve your writing at every level) This one also includes a four-day residency where you get to sit under teaching from authors Jerry Jenkins, DiAnn Mills, and more.
- Individual attention (As a mother of five, I’ll take it anyway I can get it ;-)

- Great feedback and guidance – The specific feedback I received on EVERY assignment was invaluable and incredibly encouraging.

- Looks good on a writing resume – making an investment of time and money speaks a lot to how serious you take your writing

- Opportunity to make great contacts
- Opportunity for college credit
- You can choose to make payments or pay in full.

- It’s pretty expensive. This was a Christmas/birthday gift from my parents. That’s the only way I would have been able to do it.
- If you don’t have time, don’t invest in it. You’ll want to glean as much as you can from the opportunity.
- Though Doug Hirt was a fantastic encourager and author, I kind of wonder if having a romance author as my mentor would have fit my writing style better. I didn’t have a choice of a mentor, but all of them are supposed to be very good, though  better fit might have been a better option for me.
It’s time-intensive- as far as being a looooong process. If you want a short-term thing, there are plenty of options out there for you.

 - The Christian Writers Guild offers a critique service too, plus a newsletter with valuable info. You can get involved with their yearly contest, like Henry McLaughlin did, and have an opportunity to get published by Tyndale.

I’m glad I did it. It was a good way to get my writing to the next level and build some invaluable skills, but it’s certainly not for everyone. To learn more about it, check out their fabulous website at
You can also glean daily wisdom for their blog at:
Have you gotten involved in a long-term writing course before? What did you think? Would you recommend it to others?
If you haven’t, do you want to? Why?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

What's Up The Street For Next Week?

Photo courtesy of
Anybody in the mood for a party??

Have you seen that little counter over there on the side? The one with the follower count?

We have ALMOST hit 300 followers!!!!

Can you spell E-X-C-I-T-E-D?!?!?

Though by no means do we look at this as something we could do. We are merely creative human beings placed where God wants us. And to be sharing this with YOU?? It's beyond wonderful.

It's stupendous!



Enough with the adjectives, you get the idea. My POINT IS, once that ticker rolls around to the 3-0-0 we are going to PARTY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(and the rumor is there will be prizes ;-)

What's Comin' Up on the Alley...

Pepper starts our week off with her Monday post on what she learned while enrolled in the Christian Writer's Guild.

Sherrinda swings by with her usual dose of humor and goodwill on Tuesday to share a bit of wisdom.

Sally Stuart author of the popular Christian Writer's Market Guide is visiting Mary's post on Wednesday with a healthy dose of writing advice and what's coming up new for the Guide. Don't miss it!

Casey will take a moment on Thursday to visit the Alley and since she doesn't know yet what she's posting, it will be a surprise (cue the music)

Krista is busy juggling work, babies and fiction. Find out what's new with her writing on Friday.

On the News Stand

Vote for which author YOU would like to interview on Casey's blog. You have until next Thursday to cast your vote!

ECPA award finalists have been announced!

Word on the street is that Jerry B. Jenkins MIGHT be visiting the Alley in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more exciting details!  (Mary hopping in here--Jerry B. Jenkins just responded YES!!  April 27th.)

The 2011 RITA and Golden Heart Finalists have been announced!!

May your weekend be blessed with good writing! :-)
And may there be sunshine where you live....

Friday, March 25, 2011

Changing the World One Word at a Time

When I first started writing, I wrote what I loved. Sure I was ruled by my passion for story telling and knew nothing about the rules and the fact that beginning a novel with back story and endless description wasn't the best way to go about it. I wrote for the love of writing.

After I became a Christian, that passion for writing only intensified, and I knew I wanted to write inspirational fiction. But, I had it in my mind that if I was going to write stories with this wonderful gift God gave me, then I'd better be doing it to change lives. They'd better be deep, emotional, life-changing stories that would sink deep into the hearts of readers and bring them closer to God.

However...I was inspired by contemporary inspirational novels. Not only that, they were romances. How was I supposed to reconcile that? And worse, how was I supposed to tell people at church that I write romances. Gasp!

So, clearly it took me awhile to settle into this genre and realize that not every book needs to have that huge emotional impact. Not every novel is going to change lives in the same way.

In fact, every novel serves a purpose.

No genre is insignificant! The first Christian fiction I read was romantic suspense. And you know what? It left an impression on me. Not only as a writer but as a believer. Hard to imagine romantic suspense could have that impact, but it did. I have to remind myself of this when I wonder if my writing is making a difference. A book in any genre can make a difference.

Everyone can reach someone with their writing.
Readers pick up books for a myriad of reasons. Sometimes they need something deep and moving. Sometimes they crave a mystery to sweep them away and keep them guessing. And others, they want a romance to drag them from a long day and lift them up with a happy ending. Any and all of these genres are important to the reader for a reason.

Believe in what you write!
If you know what genre or genres you're passionate about, don't be afraid to pursue them. Don't be afraid to do them well and reach out to the readers who love that genre. Confidence in what you write doesn't just show in your writing, it shows in you, too! It shows to the people you talk to about your writing, and it shows to agents or editors. Writing is a part of who you are and feeling confident about it, and the genre you write in, is empowering.

I had to write this post because it took me so long to finally be proud of my writing. I know many of you don't face this dilemma, but for those of you who do, examine how you feel about what you write. Believe that there's a purpose behind your passion and be proud of what you write.

Any readers out there who've wondered about the genre they write in and if it's what they're supposed to be writing? How about the opposite - who shouts what they write from the rooftops? Feel free to share the genre you write in, too. I'm interested to see which genres we all share.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Backstory Backslide

Newton’s Law of motion states, “An object that is in motion will not change its velocity unless an unbalanced force acts upon it.” Let’s not be that force. Let’s not cease the moving flow of our works.

Plot and characters must move forward for a reader’s eyes to do the same.

Some images come to mind when I think of what encountering too much backstory feels like for a reader:

Clogged drain
Dam in a river
Red light when you’re anxious to get somewhere
Kite stuck in a tree
Shot duck

A refresher: Backstory = everything that made your character who he or she is, the tragedies, the triumphs, the lost slipper to kissing the prince. It’s everything that got the MC to the first page of the novel.

The temptation every writer faces is to catch the reader up to speed. Out of kindness we want the reader to be in the know so we squirt an abundance of cheese spray at them. You know what that stuff tastes like—artificial and if we squirt too much we make it so our readers won’t be hungry for more. We Cheez-it.

What’s the fix? One of the best ways to keep fingers flipping pages is to avoid massive dumps of backstory. We need to become intentional about where we splice in the story before the story.

Every time we integrate a character’s history, the psychological or emotional explanation for why they act as they do, we slow the story pace. There’ll be moments to incorporate nuanced complexities of our characters and their motivations, but learning to accomplish this through dialogue, and other nifty tricks will help our novels breathe without the asthmatic frustration of backstory.

In her post about backstory yesterday, Jody Hedlund asked two excellent questions that serve as excellent checkpoints:
Does the information add to the plot?
Will it help move the story along somehow?

Getting in the habit of asking those two questions during the writing and editing process will help move the work along.

And you all know how much I like to move it, move it!

Do you like to move it? And what do you find tricky about backstory? (If you’ve discovered solutions, please share those as well.)

*photo from Flickr

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Self-Editing Checklist: Scene Analysis

You've got a completed manuscript and you're ready to self-edit, right? So now the big question: Where do you start?

My answer: a self-editing checklist. (If you're just jumping in, check out my post from two weeks ago where I introduced the why behind a self-editing checklist as well as some ground rules.)

Once you feel pretty good about your overall story and characterization, it's time to start in with an analysis of your scenes. Now this can be done however you want. I usually take out my 4-page checklist and work through the entire thing on one scene at a time. If that doesn't work for you, do whatever does.

Here are the first two points on the checklist.

#1 - Scene or Sequel (as coined by Dwight V. Swain in his book Techniques of the Selling Writer). Does my scene have a clear goal, conflict, and disaster? If it's a reaction scene (aka sequel), does it have a reaction, dilemma, and decision that propels it into the next scene? I track these items in an Excel spreadsheet (the CPA in me never dies). :) It helps me make sure I don't have an aimless scene.

Resources: For the full description of the concept behind Scene and Sequel, I highly recommend Dwight's book. Or if you want shorter article-sized summaries, check out Randy Ingermanson's website or Camy Tang's Story Sensei blog.

#2 - Does the scene enact a tangible change, both inwardly and outwardly? This is a direct quote from a Donald Maass post on Writer Unboxed. To read the entire post, click here.

Your homework for the next two weeks, should you choose to accept it: Read the articles I've referenced. And if you have a few extra dollars and some time on your hands, buy Dwight Swain's book (or borrow it from your local library) and read Chapter 4. Then analyze your scene for these two points.

Do you tend to get in the trap of writing aimless scenes? What's your best advice to ramp up a scene and make it meatier?

* Book photo by winnond /
**Flower photo by Filomena Scalise /

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bring Back the Joy: Writing in the Broken Places

Then I went down to the potter's house, and behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.
And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so He made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. -Jeremiah 18:3-4

As writers God has given us a wonderful tool to minister out of our own neediness and brokenness.  The gift of vulnerability in our writing can bless others as we humble ourselves.  And in turn, ministering to others and using our gift can help to bring back the joy we are losing.

Have you given yourself permission to write in the broken places?  Oh, you know the ones I mean.  Those trials that you have been through that still may bring a sharp stab.  You are called out to write what only you know so others can travel deeply into your broken places and find healing.  More than that we are called to write from our broken places because He chose to be broken, He chose to be nailed to the Cross in our place. 

As you write through these places it may seem like the darkness is returning, but as God speaks your dark places to someone who is now hurting the bright torrent of light shines back through the storm creating a beautiful rainbow of designs. 

Are you willing to write less than your best?  Sometimes this is very hard for me.  And as a new writer I know even my best is far beneath many others.  But sometimes its only as I allow the words to be as they are in my strength in the page I will learn how much I need the Lord's strength in my words. 

My words are not my words.  Let us never come to believe in the power of our gift, for only when we are poured out for the Giver of Life can he use us. 

Let God use you "write" where you are and bring back your own joy by allowing His words to flow from your pen blessing someone else. 

It may mean sharing your manuscript with someone unexpected, maybe someone you don't know well.  Or could it be writing a note of encouragement to someone else.  Just write from the broken places and if you are not ready to share ask God to make you ready.

Discussion: Has God ever used someone's writing to minister to your broken places?  Or if you feel comfortable sharing is there a way that he may want you to minister in your own broken places?

Monday, March 21, 2011

HELP: Motivation Wanted

 I polished off my few contest entries, tweaking them as best as I could...anxious to send them off and put a neat little check mark by GOAL. And when I pressed “return” to send the documents into cyberspace, I was washed with success, even though I hadn't won anything yet, hadn't gleaned from a marked up scoresheet.

To accomplish a goal I had set for myself months ago, is enough of a pat-on-the-back for me...right now...maybe I should start setting myself up for the criticism upon my entries return?

Nah, I'll just wallow in my own personal success of at least getting those entries in!

After a few days of blissfully light shoulders, standing a few millimeters taller, brushing my hands together when the thought of those chapters float through my mind, I knock myself into reality and here the little voice of my wip, crying out:

“What about me??” And the potential bursting to fill more blank pages with words from my heart, begins to nudge me towards the “drawing board” once more.

So what do I do?

I sit. I open OpenOffice (Word for those Microsoft peeps out there), go to 'My Documents' , 'Novels' and then click on my manuscript.

And then....

                    I go to facebook

                                               I go to email

                                                                  I go to A CONTEST ENTRY I ALREADY SENT OFF, and hesitantly read through it to make sure it was really as polished as I thought...YIKES! I close it quickly!

I have a major problem here...

....finding the motivation to step towards a new goal once my original goal is accomplished...wait, scratch that...step towards an EXISTING, BIGGER goal (finishing my wip) once I've accomplished a smaller one (preparing just snippits of my work for a contest).

So, what to do?

Where do you find the motivation to keep on keeping on?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What's Up The Street For Next Week?

March is over half way gone already, can you believe it?? With the warmer months coming, new books to tickle your fancy are soon going to be hitting the Christian market. Which ones are YOU looking forward to the most? Here are a few I can't wait to get my hot little hands wrapped around. ;-)

But while we wait, how about we continue to hone our OWN craft in the hopes of someday holding within our hands a book of our own imagination.

What a day that will be!

Hopefully the coming week on the Alley will contain nuggets of advice that stir your writing soul and motivate you to continue working! We're all on this journey together. :-)

Coming Up....

When you get those contest entries returned dripping story blood, the inspiration to write often lacks. But on Monday, Angie shares how to fire that motivation. Join the conversation!

Julia explores why the joy can leave our writing journey and how to get it back on Tuesday.
Part two in Sarah's Self -Editing Check List brings in Scene Analysis on Wednesday. Take that scene to the next level and find out what you might be missing!

I'm fallllinnng! It's the Backstory Backslide. We've all fallen down that slippery slope and on Thursday Wendy has tips to rescue us from that oh-so-tempting downfall to our fiction.

You have a story to tell. And no one else can tell it like you. Cindy will close our work week on Friday with a post sure to encourage you to keep writing, no matter what story is laid on your heart.

The NewsStand
The winner of a 5 page critique is.... Susan Anne Mason! Susan, if you see this before I have the chance to contact you, email your five pages to Casey at caseymh18(@)gmail(.)com.

You can still enter to win Cara Lynn Jame's latest, Love on Assignment on Casey's blog here.

Did you know you can connect with the Alley Cats on Facebook?

Prayers are always welcome for Sarah's sister who just had a heart transplant and is going home and for Krista's baby Annabelle who is waiting for her new heart.

Help raise money for Ronald McDonald charities! "Like" this page on Facebook. If the page hits 20,000 "likes" $5,000 dollars will be given to Ronald McDonald homes! (as heard on KLOVE)

Visit the ACFW Conference page to see the new info filtering in. September will be here before you know it!

Share with book you are most looking forward to releasing!

Have a great weekend from the Alley Cats!

Friday, March 18, 2011


You're ready to send. Probably, hopefully, maybe, dear Lord in Heaven, please let it be!

As your cursor hovers over the button, a load of rocks has taken resident in your belly and someone has tied lead to your fingers, making it almost impossible to pick up your hand and use your index finger on that left clicky button.

What if it's all wrong?

Should you edit it just one more time?

And shoot, did you use the word "just" one too many times??

What if the agent/editor/crit partner/contest judge hates it? What if they laugh and gleefully turn on track changes and use the red highlight... not even the yellow!?!?

What if you send it and then reread it and see something HUGE wrong with it?

What if, *gasp* you attach the wrong file?!? (You then hurry and double check... yep, it's the right one.)

Pushing send is hard. You need to be ready. Willing. And tough skinned.

Because here is the deal:

All those what-if's? Well, there is a really GOOD possibility they will come true. When you hit that send button, you are saying, "Bring it on! Give me your best shot! I can take it!"

Writing doesn't come without a cost. It involves hours and hours and hours, sometimes to the point of years, of sitting in front of a computer and pouring out your story onto a word processor and subsequently editing until your fingers feel like they are bleeding. It involves taking the beating of rejection. Of people hating your stuff. Of making mistakes. It's all part of the deal.

So write your heart out, oh-ye-author. Edit like crazy. Be prepared. But in the end, you have to suck it up and push that darn send button if you want to ever get anywhere.

Think of the send button as your way of saying, "Ready writing world, HERE I COME!"

*Discussion* What's the last thing you had to suck up and push send on? How did you feel when you were done? And... dare I ask what the outcome was? If it was worth the agony of pushing the button??

Thursday, March 17, 2011

You've Got the Manuscript...

...And you don't know how to take it to that next level.

You're swamped with options for freelance editors, classes and the "next best thing" to happen to you and your writing. Every time you turn around you see MORE information!

You need to know what is the best option for YOU and your writing.

I have a list of freelance editors I have used (and many more I haven't) and classes you can take to further your writing. But first a short list of tips...

**I have not used all of these editors or taken all of these classes. Most of this information you will have to decide for yourself. Which is the proper protocol anyway, considering that each of us have different talents and abilities that are better combined with different editors.**

One: If you go with a freelance editor that has been published, read their work. Do you like it? Is it along the same lines as what you are writing? You're going to want to find someone who not only is GOOD at what they do (and you often won't know until you try), but also there is no point asking a speculative author to edit your womens' fiction.

Two: Don't jump at the first chance. Chat with the editor, even ask if they would be willing to read one to two pages before you commit. Most freelance editors are fairly inexpensive, but don't spend money until you're sure. Read their recommendations. Talk to others who have worked with that person. It'll be time worth spent.

Three: Be willing to take instruction. Don't go into such a working relationship with the idea that your work is perfect and you are expecting a pat on the back. Look at the editor is saying. Does it make sense? Do you see the validity in what he/she is saying? Then make the changes. DO be aware of completely changing your work until it doesn't sound like you. If you see this happening, the editor is probably not for you.

Christian Freelance Editors:

Tiffany Colter (freelance editor)

Gina Holmes (published author/ freelance editor)

Kaye Dacus (published author/ freelance editor)

Christina Berry (published author/ freelance editor)

Mary DeMuth (published author/ freelance editor)

Rachel Hauck (published author/ freelance editor)

Susan May Warren (published author / freelance editor)

Tracy Ruckman (freelance editor)

Camy Tang (published author / freelance editor)

WIES Editing Service

Meredith Efken (published author / freelance editor)

Writer's Online Classes

Margie Lawson (HIGHLY recommended! I can't TELL you how wonderful she has been for my writing)

ACFW member's only monthly classes

WIES Workshops (taught by different Christian authors in different months)

Christian Industry Help Sites

Literay Agent Rachelle Gardner  (blog)

Literay Agent Chip MacGregor (blog- no longer active, but archive posts are up for review)

Literary Agent Steve Laube (blog)

Author Jody Hedlund (blog)

Seekerville (blog)

Author Camy Tang (blog)

Author Mary DeMuth (blog)

My Book Therapy Blog

What sites or editors do you have to share that have been helpful?

**In honor of our chat about editing and making our work STRONGER, leave a comment for a chance to win a 5 page critique.**

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Immersed in our Stories

Something shiny has distracted me from my intended post. 

Alas, at times, I too have toiled through the bog  to finish my WIP.

For me, to move forward in my story I need to step back, reread the last chapter, tweak a few sentences, perhaps whole paragraphs, slash a little, add something else, saturate my mind in the words.

New chapter/scene/sentence rarely flow from my brain to the keyboard with the golden hues of a sunrise. 

Maybe I need different coffee. 

Like an inchworm, I need to step back, no--immerse myself into the story.

Getting from point A to point Z in my manuscript involves more than hopping on the Autobahn until I exit at my destination. 

I need the scenic route. I like to feel, see, hear, and taste the the action.

The scenic route immerses my thoughts into the lives of my character. It focuses my attention in the wholeness of my story. I look back at the path and see flora, gaze to the sides and see animals, peek straight ahead and behold glistening rays through a canopy of oak branches.

Looking back at the flora (previous chapters or scenes), I eye mutinous weeds--twining, murderous vines around daisies or an obnoxious patch of sagebrush forcing sweet Williams to surrender their lives. The weeds can be adverbs, passive voice, awkward sentence structure, etc. The sagebrush can be rabbit trails or context errors like interchanging characters, events, and  locations.

Looking to the side (the point I left my work yesterday), I question if all is as it appears. The spot on the tree may be the eye of an elk, and the branches may be the antlers. What's hiding off to the side that could be used to raise suspense in this scene?

Looking ahead, the climax and end, I don't see the sun in all its spender. It's hampered by  branches to thick in some points to allow light. Still, a ray or two eek through other branches to give a  promised hope. Is this what I see with today's step?

I am immersed in my story and unable to stop the words from flowing into a new chapter or scene

This process doesn't take long. Sherlock Holmes is not invited. Simply rewind, call attention the footprints, and fix the obvious as a warm-up to today's writing. 

One day closer to finishing a book.  :)

Once again the Alley Cats have unawares presented a theme: Press forward to the end using your voice completely immersed in your story. Then send your treasure to an expert to be polished or to a contest for critique.

Do you take the scenic route, smell the roses, breathe the fresh air, or wallow in your character's lives at times? What are your struggles in your writing today? How can we support, encourage, enlighten, entertain, energize, applaud, and fortify you? 

Nature photos taken by Mary Vee in Glacier National Park. 
Autobahn photo courtesy of Desktop Nexus Abstract