Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Applying What You Learn at Conferences

I was recently blessed with the opportunity to hear Debra Dixon, author of Goal, Motivation, and Conflict

I first heard of "GMC" through Seekerville.  Here are a few great posts:

Tina Radcliffe on Why I Love GMC
Deb Dixon's Seekerville Post
GMC Chart for One of Missy Tippens' Books

Wow, this was a packed conference.  I was even fortunate enough to connect with a few ACFW members and find out information about some of the face to face groups and opportunities in my area. 

One of my most valuable conference takeaways was the fact that Debra asked us to take two sets of notes.  One on what she was saying and another set entitled "My Story."  She explained that our story and application should be the bulk of our notetaking.

Now I have to admit I do try to apply what I learned to my story, but taking this set of notes made me far more conscious of the fact that if I don't apply what I learn I've wasted my time.

Debra first had us write down our expectations of the day, what we were specifically hoping to learn in terms of improving our story.  I plan to take note of this from now on when I listen to audio conferences.

So I asked myself: How can I build sense of urgency even further in the scene where Rachel ______________(her action)?

I named the starter goal in my story, then listed items that gave Rachel's goal increased urgency.  Examples for this particular character are: abuse, her own thought processes, fear of being replaced, and the loss of a family member.

In which spots along the way do I need to make Rachel's goals more clear?  When the characters' goals have changed is it obvious to the reader?  How can I ramp up the conflict in every single scene?

I find as a result of the conference I am asking these questions as I write my scenes.

I really suggest if you're having a hard time putting GMC into practice, journaling the GMC for several movies.  Once you've done that I think it really helps charting the goals, motivations, and conflicts of your characters to come more easily.

Have you ever attended a conference or listened to relevent audio on writing?  What tips do you have that have helped you apply what you've learned to your writing?

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Hero Never Forgotten

 We stepped inside the gate, and began to explore the shell of humanity's worst. I heard the stories and watched the movies about places like that, but sorrow anchored itself in my heart when I treaded upon that very ground.

I was twenty one when my classmates and I walked the devastating tour of Dachau, a concentration camp outside Munich. Although it had been 59 years since any prisoner felt the horror, echos of agony bounced off the grey walls of the bunkhouse, the gas chambers, the ovens.
The museum at the front of the camp showed photos of the prisoners, their broken spirits, their withering bodies. Only when we left the museum, traveled the silent walk through the middle of the camp, did our solemnity turn to a triumphant twist of hope.
Holy tributes built upon that very land: A Protestant church, a Jewish synagogue, an Orthodox chapel, their very presence defying the discrimination against their believers. We found God's comfort in His goodness prevailing over the evil which occurred years ago.
My journey through a Nazi concentration camp forever changed my view of this world. It instilled in me a deep compassion for others. It made the world feel smaller, as I learned how many Greeks (my heritage) were also imprisoned there. But what I didn't expect from this awakening of my heart, was another, more intimate connection I had with Dachau.
It was no secret to me that my Greek grandfather was a great World War II hero, earning purple hearts, and raiding Hitler's summer home. But when I told my family
where I had traveled that day in Germany, I found out my grandfather was one of the American soldiers who brought freedom to the enslaved at Dachau. He touched the hands of those people in the museum photographs. He stepped into the buildings when the echoes were voices. Perhaps he met a fellow Greek, with hollow cheeks, and horror-filled eyes?
Colonel John G. Georgelas, was a living hero, a brave adventurer. I had the pleasure of knowing him into my adult life and hearing his wonderful stories. To find out his part in such a time of turmoil, grew my respect and awe for him and all our men and women who have given up their comfort for our freedom.

Papou (grandfather in Greek) passed away in 2007 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. From his grave, one can see the Pentagon memorial from the September 11th attacks. So many men and women still fight for us, die for us, and face the horror of war. It can't be ignored, it must be remembered.

Today is Memorial Day. May we never forget.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

What's Up The Street For Next Week?

June is nearly here, can anyone else believe it? Which means that a selection of new books are going to be hitting book store shelves before we know it! Through out our weekend edition, check out the titles that will be coming available in June.

Knowledge courtesy of ACFW's Fiction Finder

Coming up...

Monday is Memorial Day and Angie has a post to honor her grandfather who fought during World War II

Julia as tips from a recent workshop she attended with Debra Dixon on Tuesday

Sarah continues to Self-Editing Checklist on Wednesday with a fabulous giveaway!

Thursday welcomes author Julie Carobini to the Alley

Setting goals keeps us on track and Cindy has helpful suggestions on setting specific goals on that WIP before it even begins on Friday.


For a complete list of upcoming Christian fiction check out this list on Fiction Finder

Check out the ECPA May bestsellers

Check out the "Cold Call" interview with Karen Witemeyer on Casey's blog

Karen Ball joins The Steve Laube Literary Agency

Be sure and find out the latest news on Annabelle now that she is HOME on Krista's blog

Have a lovely Memorial Day Weekend from the Alley Cats!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Money I : Preparation

We write a lot about "how" to write. But what about "why" we write?

Most of us would say we write because we have to. Because of this in-depth need to put the story in our head down on paper. Because of our love of putting words together to tell that story.

I don't think it is too far-fetched to say most, if not all, of us would LOVE to make a little money from our writing.

The wonderful dream of sitting in your big ol' house, with your nice, plush office, pounding out words, when your maid brings you a nice glass of Sprite as your agent calls and tells you about the next seven figure advance Random House has offered you and the two other houses that were prepared to offer even more...


I am a big believer in dreaming and having goals and not limiting yourself. But if this is your day-dream, you might want to get a bit of a reality check. That doesn't mean that you can't have a goal of making SOME money... and maybe even, if you are realistic about timing, making a living with your writing.

I think, I hope, we all realize by now that this writing thing is rarely a path to "fame and fortune."

By day, I worked with money. So the "money" side of writing is something I'm interested in too... not JUST because I want to make some (someday) but because I like to work with it too! I thought I'd use my next few posts to give some good tips on finances/money as it relates to our writing.

The Preparation

You've written a book. You're doing everything you're supposed to do, submitting to crit groups, learning craft, continuing to write more books. Someday, you'd love to quit that day job and write, or at least go to part time, or maybe fund a family vacation, or you're a stay-at-home Mom and you'd love to add a little to the family budget too.

You aren't making money quite yet... but what can you do now to prepare for your future money-making writing career?

Get a handle

Get a handle of your finances NOW. Don't view your writing as a way to "get you out of your no-money pit" because it will cause a lot of stress when you are writing, thus make you not write as well. Now is still the time to ENJOY your writing, not feel pressured into the whole money thing. Write for the HOPE of selling it later... not out of desperation.

I'm a BIG believer in the Total Money Makeover from Dave Ramsey. My husband and I went through it a few years ago, paid off ALL our credit cards and our cars, and built up our emergency fund. Then, well, then Annabelle was born. Let's just say, I'm very very thankful we worked hard THEN. I won't lie. Given job situations and obvious medical stuff, I'm SO SO SO thankful we are as prepared as we are. If we were still paying on credit cards and things... I don't know what we would do.

If you get your finances in order now, then you can guilt-free set aside funds for writer's conferences, books and other things that you'll need. You'll be able to enjoy that first sale MUCH better if you get to use a few dollars of it to splurge (and save the rest!) verses having to put it all to do something boring like make a car payment... And you'll have a little nest egg for the potential to maybe, possibly, someday, MANY published books down the line... make a living from your writing!

Discussion: What are your "money" goals regarding your writing? Do you want to say adios to the ol' 9 to 5, or would you settle just for a few bucks to splurge on? Or are you REALLY not it in at ALL for the money? And here is a fun one: If God told you that he never had plans for you to "sell" any of your writing... EVER... would you still be writing? And if so, would your writing habits change?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

When Search and Replace Is Not Enough

courtesy of ehow.com
Body language has always been a struggle for me. I either have too much or not enough and much of what I include all revolves around the same motion. Twisting hands that knot themselves in your lap are the same thing. An eyebrow that lifts is the same one that quirks.

But because I am trying to write “fresh” I often take the same ways of saying something…and using different words to describe it.

Sorry. Can’t get away with that anymore.

After taking a recent Margie Lawson class (Empowering Character’s Emotions), I realized my body language (BL) was not good enough in my writing. And it suddenly became quite plain what I was doing wrong.

It was all the same.

Every bit of it revolved around a few parts of the body. A wince of a smile, restless hands, pacing, stomping, nodding or shaking of a head. There was no variety to any of it and I saw how my work suffered.

A great deal of BL that comes across on the page has the potential to speak louder than the words the character says. For example: (in the most simplistic form)

“Oh, why would you say that? I’m not nervous.” Her legs uncrossed and tapped a dance on the floor before hooking a toe on the barstool. Where a jittering rocked it from knee to toe. “Not nervous at all.”

Her actions completely contradict the words of her mouth. Now obviously I could have written that better, but do you see my point?

I decided to go through my manuscript and mark all my BL. Physically write it down on a pad of paper with a pen instead of just highlighting it on the screen. By writing it down in physical form you can see how many times you repeat a certain motion, because your mind is engaged to take it from the screen to the page.

Courtesy of linked2leadership.com

The reason you can’t use “search and replace” for this method because if you do a search for “smile” you won’t find all the other times you used a different word or description. Like: “his lips titled upward” (a pet phrase of mine…)

When I went through my first six chapters I marked not only BL, but also actions. I know I often use the same verbiage to describe something, so this was also a chance to mark those areas and see how they compare later on in the story. Don’t get stuck on marking “only” the BL. Look for the verbs that jump out at you as pet phrases.

My characters do a lot of smiling. I marked every single one so I can see how often they do. They also mess a lot with their hands, marching, stomping and nodding. Mark, mark, mark and mark them all!

If your main character doesn’t do the action, then make a little side note with which character did. Be fastidious about this exercise; take the time to mark them all. And when you are done you are going to have a resource at your fingertips that will catalog the emotions and BL of your characters, so when you start to write one that sounds similar you can search through your short-hand notes to see if you have or not.

Make your fiction “fresh” and “vibrant” by not settling for less. Take the time to go through these little extra steps (I did six chapters in a little over an hour) and you’ll plainly see what is working and what isn’t and those pet phrases to avoid.

What have you found that helps your editing process?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gaining a Reader's Trust

I aspire to write an exciting book that will touch the lives of readers. A noble cause, wouldn't you agree?

To touch a reader's life, I ought to gain their trust starting on the first page and maintaining to the last. 

Clearly my friend Casey, pictured to the left, has found a fantastic book. She appears engaged, unwilling to set the book down--even for the camera, and committed to not losing her place. Once her paparazzi puts away his/her camera, Casey most likely dove back into the story.

Why? What captured her attention. Among thousands of plausible answers, I think she believed in the storyline.

Is my book believable?

We create exciting stories.  But--

if the reader detects impossibilities unsupported by characters, setting, and plot, 
we lose their trust.

Take me to Mars, but not on a skateboard. 
      Cast off the cruise ship, but not from Paraguay. 
           Fight the Civil War, but not with an atom bomb. 
              Send the fastest message to Laura Ingalls Wilder but not with email. 
                 Monsters need to be scary (except in Monsters, Inc.), 
                      mysteries should be perplexing, 
                           dark alleys frightening, 
                               a kiss dreamy,
                                  let the underdog win, 
                                      defeat the foe before the last page, 
                                                     you have the idea.  


    What if--

    -- a story had an affluent, proper English young lady sailing a solo maiden voyage across the sea to join her family in America, who chooses to transform into a calloused, mutinous sailor? 

Hmmmmm...not likely? Definitely a dust collector? Unworthy of publication?


    What if --

   --the story had been crafted by a writing artist who painted an intriguing plot, 3D characters, and a vivid setting, might the idea work? 


In the skilled hands of author Avi, sweet Charlotte traded her

prim and proper, white gloved, hooped skirt, 
speak only at certain times manners


swabbin' starboard decks in pants, anchorin' the gasket, 
and scaling rigging in the middle of thunderstorms alongside mutineers

in the True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

Avi crafted his novel to compel readers to wish for, yea, hope for the perfect ending. As pages turn, readers know what the ending should be but doubt any author would have the guts to write the perfect-unbelievable dream ending. After all, who'd, in their right mind would transform an upper class young lady into a scruffy, sunburned sailor with thick callouses embedded into her once satin soft skin? 

Avi not only enticed readers to believe and desire the unbelievable; he won the Newberry nomination for his work.  Perhaps the unbelievable can be believed--when crafted in a believable way.

Do you have examples of unusually believable stories? What gripped your attention and caused you to stay with the story to the end?

What if your story stood in a courtroom.  The prosecutor accuses, "This work is not believable!" Would the evidence presented by your characters, setting, and plot acquit your book?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

When Not To Write

You've been there. We all have. You want to write. You need to write. But life just gets in the way. The kids are sick. Work is physically and mentally draining. Your obligations at church are time consuming. Your children's activities require your time and attention. You know the drill. Life happens.

So is it okay to set aside your writing for a time? There are many who believe you must write every day. No matter what. You get in your 1000 words a day. Period. You can't be a real writer if you can't push through the busyness of life, right?

Well, I certainly hope that is not the case, because there are seasons in my life when I have to stop and let the stories lie fallow. I am in one of those seasons right now due to my job at an elementary school and having a daughter graduate. It has been a crazy month, sapping my energy and creative thought.

There are times when you have to give yourself permission to stop writing and focus your attention on life's issues. It is difficult to not feel guilty, but if you don't surrender to God's whisper to take a break, you will be defeating His purpose for you. You will make yourself crazy trying to cram it all in each day, and your words will suffer.

Give yourself the gift of freedom. Freedom from guilt. Freedom to focus on the here and now--the urgent, the necessary. You won't loose your creative spirit. That gift is from God and will bubble forth when you are ready to release it. The stories will spew upward with renewed energy and your writing will take off like a racehorse at the starting gate.

Remember, it is only for a time. Only for a season. Give yourself a break.

Have you ever taken a rest from writing? If so, what circumstances caused you to do so?

*Clock art from A River of Design

Monday, May 23, 2011

Highlights from the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference-2011

Hello Writers Alley,
It’s me – Pepper, and I’m delighted to share the highlights of my visit to the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference two weeks ago. This was my fourth year at Blue Ridge, where each year I attend as a day guest because the conference is about an hour and a half from my home in TN.
Nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, just east of Asheville, Ridgecrest Conference Center might be a bit unexpected for this growing conference, but it’s the perfect place. Beautiful, quiet, with friendly people at every turn.
I was so pleased to recognize lots of faces this year, as well as be recognized by fabulous authors like Deb Raney, DiAnn Mills, and Jim Rubart. Getting to meet new authors like Edie Melson (we’d met last year, briefly, Gina Holmes, and Ramona Richards was another treat. And waving to familiar aspiring authors like Lisa Carter and Lori Roeveld. Oh what a blast. And this year there was even more courses , agents, and editors  than last year.
But I’m rambling (no surprise). I wanted to give you a few of the highlights.
I was only able to attend 2 days – so I tried to pack as much in as possible. I attended DiAnn Mills, Writing Romance That Sells course, Ramona Richards Writing a Lady to Love course, and returned to DiAnn Mills for Writing Dialogue.
From Writing Romance That Sells:
1.       Characters are vital. We remember well-written characters. KNOW THY CHARACTER!!!!

2.       DiAnn suggests filling out a detailed character chart on each character, and filling out the Myers-Briggs personality test for each of your main characters. It gives important information that makes your characters more three-dimensional and complex.

3.       What are some things that make a ‘selling manuscript’?

a.       The triumph of a character through pain to fulfillment
b.      Unusual plots with your unique ‘spin’ on them
c.       Transforming love that makes each main character better people
d.      Witty dialogue
e.      Emotive conflict
f.        Satisfactory ending

4.       Each page in your manuscript must have some type of conflict

5.       Your protagonist should initiate the action rather than be a victim*** (I liked this one. Readers like strong, independent women)

6.       Quick look at 5 Plot Elements

a.       A sympathetic character (make us care)
b.      A problem arises resulting in conflict (make us desire something)
c.       Conflict must have twists and turns, and character must grow (make us have to fight for our desire)
d.      A climax must exist (make us fight to the finish)
e.      Resolution (make us meet our goal, find our treasure, recover our lost item, get the guy, etc.)
A Lady to Love – this class was absolutely awesome. If you get the chance to sit in on it at a conference near you – DO IT! (here are some highlights)
What makes a woman unforgettable? Scarlett O’Hara, Marion Ravenwood, Jo March, Hester Prynne, Vivian (from Pretty Woman)
1.       All of our current movie heroines descend from Cinderella

a.       A young woman struggling against her environment
b.      Breaks free of the conflict because of her personality
c.       Finds her way to break out
d.      End of story resolved well

2.       What type of woman should we write?

a.       One who cares deeply
b.      Independent
c.       Women who face immediate conflict
d.      Smart

3.       Three conflict for your heroine:

a.       Environmental Conflict (something you can ‘see)
b.      Internal Conflict (something within the heroine)
c.       Interpersonal Conflict (with others)

4.       Heroines are one of 7 personalities:

a.       The Boss (ex. Queen Elizabeth I) a ruler
b.      Seductress (ex. Scarlett O’Hara)
c.       Spunky Kid (ex. Meg Ryan in most of her movies) ‘girl next door’
d.      Free Spirit (ex. Lucille Ball) – follow their own path; ultimate hippie
e.      Waif – ‘Ultimate damsel-in-distress’
f.        Librarian – control freak, prim, proper
g.       Crusader – (ex. Marion Ravenwood from Indiana Jones) adventurer
Most heroines have a basic personality of one of these, with another type or two layering over the foundational one.
Okay, I’m going to stop for now. I have so much information – so many notes, but I’ll just have to save those for next time. What would you like to hear more about? Writing romance? Writing Dialogue? Writing heroines? The dance of character and plot?
Or would you like to learn more of the basics? What are conferences like, or specifically the BRMCWC?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

What's Up The Street For Next Week?


They are the ethereal wispiness of wishes past and present and a grasp on what we hope will be coming in the future.

And as writers, we carry many dreams in our pockets, taking them out one by one to polish and perfect, admiring and loving before slipping them back into our pockets.

Dreams are fulfilled and sometimes discarded, but we are always left enriched for having them.

What are your dreams?

Coming Up...

Pepper brings to us a quick snap shot of tips from the recent Blue Ridge Mountains Writer's Conference on Monday.

Tuesday with Sherrinda is all about when life gets in the way and you have to put a short "hold" on your writing.

You must gain a reader's trust and on Wednesday, Mary has tips on how to keep and maintain that trust to keep them turning pages.

Sometimes simply doing a random search of your WIP is not enough. Casey has a few tips on her Thursday post to help spot the problem areas in your body language.

Krista shares on Friday the importance of your finances and managing them along with the writing dream.

~ NewsStand

Congratulations to Angie who has finaled in the Touched by Love contest!!

The ACFW Conference is open for registration and several Alley Cats are going! Are you?

James Scott Bell on Writing: Skin in the Game

Nominate your favorite Christian fiction novel for the Inspy Awards

And congratulations to Pam Hillman who recently sold her first novel, Saving Jake!!!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Scoring a Well-Rounded Manuscript: Writing Techniques

This final post of the Scoring a Well-Rounded Manuscript series deals with the back row of pins a bowler is trying to knock down. Or, in writing terms, more important techniques that can be employed in your story. Like in the game of bowling, these elements of a story might be small elements or not as readily thought of, but they're just as important to creating a well-rounded manuscript. (If you want to read the other posts in this series, you can check out Voice, Characters and Plot, or Setting, Backstory, and Hooks.)


Dictionary.com says simply that pacing is a rate of movement. It's the tempo of a story, combining chapters, scenes, paragraphs and so on to relate the story at a certain speed. And hopefully that speed is satisfactory, slowing down when necessary and speeding up when necessary - a pace that keeps a reader reading.

Tips on pacing:

* Put in plot changes, large revelations, etc. at strategic times, spreading them throughout your novel. Or, in smaller doses, give a scene with some action, followed by a scene with some reflection or smaller revelations, and so on.

* Utilize hooks and read-on prompts in scenes and chapters to keep the reader reading.

* Use techniques like narrative to slow down the pacing, or dialogue and action to speed it up.

Sentence Structure

This element is on a smaller scale, pertaining usually to paragraphs and individual scenes throughout the entire manuscript, but keeping sentence structure in mind is a great way to get a more well-rounded manuscript.

Tips on sentences structure:

* Vary sentences in paragraphs, alternating and changing up subjects and nouns, etc. so the story doesn't sound monotone.

* Utilize individual sentences. Making an impact with a single sentence separate from a paragraph changes pacing, like talked about above, and keeps the sentence structure looking and sounding varied.

* Try posing questions for thoughts and don't be afraid of fragments every once in awhile.

Strong Verbs

Giving a manuscript as much as you can will get you further with agents, editors, and readers. Sometimes this includes small things like verbs.

Tips on strong verbs:

One thing we all know is to avoid the passive. Particularly the word "was". Sometimes it's necessary and that's fine, but if it's not, replace it with something else. You can do a search for passive verbs and try to find new ones that will make sentences stronger and make more of an impact on readers.

Avoid cliches if you can. These aren't necessarily the same in everyone's writing, but there are particular phrases that are either very common in a lot of work you read or very common in your own writing. Try narrowing those down - i.e. his eyebrows rose, she grinned, she was so scared her knees shook - and replacing them if you can. Use an arch of an eyebrow or a quirk of a lip, anything that puts a new spin on an old take.

Read other books. Sometimes simply reading other books and examining the verbs another authors uses and how they work with their story will help spurn some extra creativity.


Another great element of a well-rounded story is that it serves a purpose in some way. This can come in the form of a particular overall tone or a theme.

Tips on tones and themes:

Ask yourself if you're trying to teach a lesson or have a moral for the story in some way (which doesn't have to be over or preachy). Sometimes the theme of a story is forgiveness or unconditional love. Decide if this is a direction you want to go in before or as you write the story so it can be a subtle thread throughout the book. Sometimes these are even based off of Bible verses.

Giving your story a particular tone, a way you want it to make a reader feel, is another thread that can unwind throughout a book. Adding in particular scenes or certain vocabulary (for a darker or lighter tone) are great ways to make the reader feel something.

Knowing your reader or the publisher you want to submit to will help you understand the writing style, even tones and themes that will appeal to that particular market.

These final elements are great ways to help round out a story, or get that strike. You can help your manuscript be fuller and more appealing to readers. Are these techniques ones you focus on when writing/editing or are there others you feel are especially important to making your work shine?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Get Smart, Get Short or Go Home: Creating Succinct Sentences

“Jesus wept.” John 11:45

There you have it. The Bible, with a raw and beautiful declaration. John got it. Sometimes there’s great power in a succinct sentence. It possesses a rare ability to drive home a point.

Before this Jesus wept verse we are given context, we are rooted. Jesus is saddened and moved by Mary’s reaction to Lazarus in the tomb. John didn’t describe his reaction as so:

The tears Jesus shed slid down like rain, dampening the mud caked on his sandals. He flung his hands to his face and cried a river (cry me a river, isn’t that a Justin Timberlake song?).

John didn’t give us any of that (thank you, John) because he knew the two words “Jesus wept” would not only suffice, but reach deep.

As long as we don’t overdo it and string short sentences together like popcorn Christmas tree decorations, we’ll find that a well-placed clipped sentence will make our readers snap to attention. We might even get a nod or a “Yes” from them while they read.

One of the best pieces of editing advice I’ve received has to do with this point: Get smart, get short or go home. In other words, if you have two words in a sentence that mean relatively the same thing, i.e. “Her voice was layered with hints of deception and dishonesty” cut one word. This sentence would read sharper as “Her voice was layered with hints of deception.” Bam. Done. All she wrote. Second word not needed. You might even wish to simply stick with “Her voice was layered with deception.” Kill those words off like moving ducks at a fairground game.

What about you, do you find ways to get smart and get short so you can stay out and play?
*photo from Flickr

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Self-Editing Checklist: Point of View

Do you ever have too many characters talking in your head at once? It's time to take charge and make them wait their turn.

This week we're looking at Point #7 in my self-editing checklist: Point of View. (For Points 1-6, click here.)

When analyzing Point of View in your scenes, consider the following items.

a) Have you chosen the best viewpoint character for each scene? Usually this is the person with the most to lose or the most at stake.

b) Do you stay in one POV throughout the scene? Do you see only what your POV character would see? Hear only what they would hear? Notice only what they would notice? Think only what they would think?

c) Is the language in the scene right for your viewpoint character? If your POV character is a 90-year-old grandma, she probably wouldn't think, "Dude, that is one sick iPad," unless she's the hippest granny in the universe. I'm not just talking about dialogue here...This encompasses the entire scene.

d) Look at descriptions. Can you tell how your viewpoint character feels about what you're describing? Do you have them interacting with the setting and fusing that with their thoughts and actions?

e) How deep do you go in the POV? Most books being published today put us right in the character's skin and emotions, eliminating distance words like "realized", "wondered", etc. This concept also ties in with showing versus telling. For instance, instead of saying, "She wondered when he would return," you could say, "Good gravy, he was taking forever to get back." By eliminating the word "wondered" and dumping us right in the character's head, we get a feel for her personality and feel as if we are that character.

Resources: Camy Tang has some uber-helpful articles on her Story Sensei blog. Some of my points above are summaries of her material. To get more in depth, check out these articles on basic point of view and deep point of view.

And of course, the primary foundation of my self-editing checklist is always Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King.

Your homework for the next two weeks, should you choose to accept it: For each scene you've written, write down the POV character and analyze whether they are the best character for that scene. Comb over your scenes to make sure you're staying in the POV characters' skin and thoughts, and analyze word choices to ensure they keep the POV deep while also revealing who the character is.

Which POV do you typically write in? 1st person or 3rd person? With multiple viewpoints? What are your best POV tips for our readers?

* Text bubble photo by Renjith Krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
** Grandma photo by Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Looking into the Glass

Recently I've been listening to a Mount Hermon conference recording by Mary DeMuth on "The Importance of Writing the Truth."  Mary talks about the fact that we create plastic characters because we are so afraid to be real to who we are that our characters end up resembling no human alive. So true! (I highly recommend Mary's audios, BTW).

It takes courage to be weak and to be out there on the page.

It also takes courage to face our weaknesses in our writing. We've all heard the "buzz" after contest results are published or someone gets a harsh critique.  And if we're honest I think maybe most of us have been there.  Believing that the critic is wrong, harsh, must have been having a bad day.

But what does God want to show us through this?

Maybe he wants to teach us humility. To demonstrate that HE is our strength. 

Even though we always say we can't do it on our own, sometimes we step out in our flesh. 

"But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." -2 Corinthians 12:9

When it comes to our writing (and our life for that matter) do we avoid looking in the mirror?  Or are we like the man beholding his face in the glass who walks away forgetting our faults? (James 1:24-25)

I believe God wants us to be introspective to notice the faults in our writing and then be proactive.

Sometimes I struggle with staying in that place, only thinking about my weaknesses.  It can paralyze my writing life.

There are no quick fixes for our writing faults, I believe God transforms our writing bit by bit. 

We shouldn't overlook the practical things, I've been blessed by taking a writing class in an area of weakness (descriptive writing).  ACFW and Mount Hermon Recordings have wonderful conference CDs available. 

Ask questions of others.  Maybe ask a critique partner to read a piece of yours with a particular weakness in mind and find all the areas where you struggle with this. 

Just like life change, writing change can be humbling.  In class I have weekly been asked to share my writing aloud.  I am an introverted person writing in one of my weakest areas.  So this has been stretching.

Sometimes I think we find it easier to be involved in the writing world online and there is so much on the web, but I think there is great value in meeting with local writers and building writing relationships where we can tell the truth.

How has God transformed your writing life?

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Patient Artist

“Life is Short, Art is Long”

This saying was displayed in the green room of my high school theatre. As young thespians, we were held to an expectation to create art upon the stage, art to be remembered. We would practice until it hurt, study our characters in depth, train our voices to be heard, as well as convey the type of person we were portraying.

All in the name of “Art”.

Creating art in our writing is just as worthy as the many hours an actor develops his character to produce live art on stage. And in Christian writing, we not only hope our art will be forever remembered—like a Shakespeare tragedy or the massive painting of the Sistine Chapel—we hope our art will point to the eternal God Who will never be forgotten.

An actor can memorize his lines and give them clearly on the stage. Or he can embrace them, create new ways to portray them, design the character's facial expressions, tones, reactions. A writer can write a good story. Or he can paint pictures with words, create vivid places, stir the soul of the reader with brilliant twists and turns. Create a masterpiece.

As an aspiring writer, it helps me to remember the above saying. It puts up speed bumps in my mind so I practice patience in my craft. To miss the opportunity to pour art on the page of a novel, is as sad as an actor whose performance is forgotten by the time the curtain closes.
Life is short...it runs away from us, and we are spun around in circles, breathless and unsure how we could ever get anything done in such limited time...


Art is long...it will engrave itself in the heart of the beholder, and press its message into their very Spirit.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

What's Up The Street For Next Week?

This is what the Alley Cats are doing this weekend!!!!!

Yup, that's right.

Snoopy Dancing.


An Alley Cat FINALED in the Genesis Contest!!!!!

We are SO PROUD of Pepper who finaled TWICE. Once in Contemporary Romance and AGAIN in the YA category.

You can send your congratulations to pepperbasham (at) yahoo (dot) com


What's up the street for next week... (besides extreme excitement)

Every writer creates art as a writer. Learn to recognize the talent God has given you with Angie on Monday

Our fiction has weak places, but it doesn't have to stay that way. Stop by on Tuesday to share with Julia on identifying and strenghtening the weak places in our fiction.

Grab those check list, Sarah has tip #7 for you to mark off this time with Point of View on Wednesday

Get Smart, Get Short or Go Home. Creating Succinct Sentences with Wendy on Thursday

Stop by Friday for Score a Well-Rounded Manuscript series, with techniques, including pacing, sentence structure, strong verbs and tone/themes with Cindy.


The winner of the Art of Romance by Kaye Dacus is... Amanda!! (with many thanks to Kaye for offering the giveaway)

Stop by Pepper's blog post to share in her exciting Genesis News!!

Casey is posting today (Saturday!) at the Pentalk Community blog: Find Your Word Budget and STICK TO IT!

Sherrinda is giving away Breath of an Angel by Karyn Henley on her blog on Wednesday

Stop by Casey's blog for the chance to win Lorna Seilstad's A Great Catch

And MANY congratulations to ALL the Genesis Finalists!!!!!