Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pace Maker

You’re a pace maker. I’m a pace maker. We are all pace makers. If you write fiction you establish a pace for your novel. The objective of this post is to help you understand which pace is the way you roll:

Hopefully you don’t fall in this category. You know the plot that goes nowhere. The big, the bad, and the flat out boring. Long descriptive details and a wandering storyline are sure to be identifiers of the tortoise pace maker. However, there are times when you need to pace make like a tortoise and slow it down some. Descriptions, action details, thoughts, and longer stretches of dialogue can work well for your shelled self (as long as you learn to pick up the pace when it’s called for).

Tom & Jerry
You bring it…the tension that is. Just as Tom & Jerry are famous for fighting, throughout your novel you keep the conflict strong. Sensitive not to leave your readers exhausted and in need of an actual pacemaker when you write prickly stress-inducing scenes, you pay attention to when a good make up scene is necessary.

Road Runner
(I debated also writing Speedy Gonzales for this one. He’s another favorite… I watched a lot of TV as a kid.) You zip from scene to scene, leaving readers breathless to find out what will happen next. Dialogue moves your book along, well-timed dialogue that doesn’t move so fast your readers are bereft of grounding.

You keep up with trends. You know the market. You’re careful (especially if you write commercial fiction) to tackle relatable plots. You’re intentional about pacing according to present day expectations. No lengthy weather descriptors to kick off your first few pages or overwhelming setting details. You move right along with the help of Fred’s two feet.

Swiper the Fox (from Dora)
You’re an expert at stealing a scene. You swipe it with a surprising twist or a heart-clutching secret revealed. You’re fast. You’re sneaky and your novels will sell (or are selling) like crazy. I’m thinking you’re a mystery pace maker.

Bounce-er-ific. Hoo. Hoo. Hoo. You like to use shorter sentences when you want to speed things along nicely. You’ve got the moves down. And you are known for your moves. Skilled with mastering upbeat, inspirational plots, you encourage readers to follow your pace as it bounces right along.

"Writing simply means no dependent clauses, no dangling things, no flashbacks, and keeping the subject near the predicate. We throw in as many fresh words we can get away with. Simple, short sentences don't always work. You have to do tricks with pacing, alternate long sentences with short, to keep it vital and alive...Virtually every page is a cliffhanger—you've got to force them to turn it." ~ Dr. Seuss

What kind of pace maker are you?

*photos from Flickr

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Self-Editing Checklist: Dialogue

Grab any fiction book off the shelves, and you'll see characters talking (Well, not literally. If you do, you might want to seek help). Sometimes they talk more than we want them to, sometimes less.

Dialogue is a vital part of every manuscript, and it deserves its own spot on my self-editing checklist -- Point Number 10, to be exact. (For Points 1-9, click here.)

When analyzing your dialogue, ask yourself the following questions.

1) Do I have the right amount of dialogue on each page? Or you could ask it this way: Do I have several pages with no dialogue? If so, that's a good indication that you need to have your characters interact with each other more. In fact, I like to try and have at least one dialogue run per scene if possible. A dialogue run is a phrase I learned from Margie Lawson (Have I mentioned yet that she's brilliant?). It describes a section of dialogue that is mostly unhindered by dialogue tags or physical actions. Interspersed dialogue runs keep the pace moving.

2) Does the dialogue fit each character? Remember how we talked in our characterization post about how each character should have unique personality traits, etc.? That same uniqueness should come out in how they speak, how they put their words together.

3) Does my dialogue move the story forward? Mundane, everyday conversations aren't exciting in fiction. If you have this type of dialogue, there'd better be underlying tension through subtext or by contrasting it against "the elephant in the room", so to speak.

4) Do my dialogue descriptions enhance or distract? By descriptions, this can include "he said" or it can include physical actions that precede or follow the dialogue. Finding just the right balance is key. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers has really good advice on this topic, as does The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman.

5) Does my dialogue sound natural? To really be sure on this, you'll want to read it aloud. We want our characters to sound like actual people rather than robots (unless you're writing a sci-fi story that involves robots taking over the planet).

Your homework for the next two weeks, should you choose to accept it: Work through these questions and analyze your dialogue. Check out the resources and links I've provided. And for some general dialogue-improving exercises, check out this excellent post.

So how about you? Do you find yourself erring on the side of too much dialogue or not enough? How do you ensure your characters all sound unique?

(If you have an extra minute, feel free to drop by my personal blog today. I'm joining the ACFW Conference blog tour with a goofy post titled "Top 5 Things to Avoid Telling Editors and Agents at Conferences".)

*Talking photo by photostock /
**Elephant photo by Michelle Meiklejohn /

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Creating a Sense of Place

Lowood Institution.




When I think of creating a sense of place, Jane Eyre comes quickly to my mind.

As I watched the 2011 version of Jane Eyre I was transfixed by the power of setting.  The filmmakers, in my opinion, had an excellent vision for capturing the sense of place.  Each place throughout the movie is its own character. 

I want to create settings so real that you merely have to name them and the reader can immediately bring them to mind.

When I think of Lowood I see a dank, dreary, dimly lit institution.  Not a school, but an institution. 

I think of alienation, loneliness, fear, rejection, and the single ray of light shed by Miss Temple and Helen Burns' loving kindness towards Jane.

Gateshead (the first house in which we find Jane) seems enormous and empty. 

 I picture the first scene of the book where Jane is boxed in the ears by her cruel cousin.  I feel Jane's bitter anguish as she is sent away to Lowood to be educated into the ways of humiliation...then years later heartbreak as she finds her dying aunt has hidden away the fortune that rightfully belongs to Jane. 

Yet there is an ultimate peace in Jane's forgiveness of her aunt and the fact that the estate of Gatewood becomes a chapter of her past.

Thornfield evokes complex emotions as only a great writer like Bronte could yield. 

Loneliness is a force in Jane's life as she is isolated with few companions.

The moors outside Thornfield are mysterious and moody like a petulant child ready to throw a temper tantrum at any moment.

When Jane helps a coarse, brooding man on a horse in these moors this reader was terrified yet transfixed.  Who is this mysterious man?  

Thornfield brings intense fear of the unknown, a desperation to know the truth, an intense uniting of two souls, the joy of intellectual conversation and friendship, and tragedy. 

In the eyes of Charlotte Bronte, each of these settings has become a character of its own.  They immediately evoke not only a description of the setting, but bring an intense emotionally stirring to the reader.
I have read hundreds of books and even for many well-written books I cannot remember the name of the setting or bring it easily to mind.  Even fewer bring emotions to mind.
What is the setting of your story or a favorite author's story? 
What emotions does your setting evoke?

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Lil' Query Help From Shelly Beach

I had the privilege to attend the Christian Writer's Workshop in Cedar Falls, Iowa with Christy Award winner, Shelly Beach. Although my attendance was limited because of the need for childcare (can I just give kudos to my hubby for making it work by taking time off and working out of the house? What a supporter!!), I still walked away from the sessions with a bunch of knowledge.

Can I say, the one word that makes me shudder and want to throw in the towel?


Wouldn't it be great if a you could slip your manuscript under the nose of an agent or editor without having to figure out how to wow them in summaries and pitches? Well, Shelly did a fabulous job at summing up the elements of a query, so although my technical writing skill is subpar, I think I have a better grasp on my once dreaded task. ;)

Shelly defines the query as “a single page cover letter, introducing you and your book. A query letter has three concise paragraphs: the hook, the mini-synopsis, and your writer's biography.”

You want to use a professional business letter tone, but still allow your voice to shine through your query and reflect who you are.


Paragraph 1: The Hook
  • You should get the agent/editor's attention in the first paragraph by using a hook or “one concise sentence." Shelly referenced the AQ database at You can link to agencies' websites who represent your genre and find examples of loglines of their books.
An example from The Kite Runner-- "An epic tale of fathers and sons, of friendship and betrayal, that takes us from Afghanistan in the final days of the monarchy to the atrocities of the present." 
    • This paragraph should also include the genre, title of your book, word count, and why you are querying that agent/editor...see tips below.
    Paragraph 2: The Mini-synopsis
    This should be around 150 words, and it expands on the hook. It should show the main character and conflict that changes the lives of the characters. You should convey the story arc in this paragraph. Your voice should be present!

    Paragraph 3: Your Writer's Biography
    Something I didn't realize, is you don't necessarily need your educational background here, unless it specifically relates to you as a writer or your expertise in writing for a non-fiction topic. What you do want to include is:
    • Your writing background, publications
    • If something in your life relates to your main character, you could mention it to show you have first-hand knowledge of what you are writing
    • Contests and awards
    The Closing:

    And close the letter by thanking the agent or editor for their time.

    • Send thank you's even if your letter is rejected, and especially if they take the time to give you input.
    • Don't query unless you finish the manuscript: They want to know you can write your way out of a corner, and see the plot concluded.
    • Address agents/editors specifically. Know that they can change publishing houses, so check where they are going. Let them know why you chose to query them. Read their blog, website.
    • Make sure your book has a catchy, memorable title. :)


    Chuck Sambuchino's blog:

    Query Shark blog:

    Saturday, June 25, 2011

    What's Up the Street For Next Week?

    Those two words seem to go hand in hand. Anyone here married in June?
    It's a wonderfully romantic month. Filled with romance, bouquets of flowers, vows of everlasting love...AND AGENTING NEWS!

    What? How does that fit into June?
    Well, Alley Cat Krista Phillips is now the proud client of nationally known Christian agent, Rachelle Gardner.
    You can read all about it on Krista's blog. Oh yes!! Great news for June on the Alley.

    Send your congrats to her AND Rachelle. We're looking for great things to happen this year - hopefully an Alley Cat publication or two??!??!
    Here's hopin'

    with all the commotion, what's going on this week?

    Monday - straight from author Shelly Beach's Writer's Workshop, Ang is bringing us tips on proposals and queries. Important info for anyone wanting to snag an agent or editors attention.

    Tuesday - Julia joins us with a post about How Setting Shapes a Novel. It's a character that can frame, move, and help define your story.

    Wednesday - If you haven't been around to check out Sarah's fabulous series on Self-Editing, you are not too late. Today, she'll bring you her next topic in the series: Self-Editing Checklist: Dialogue.

    Thursday - Wendy brings another great writing post our way today - and it's a surprise ;-)

    Friday - A much needed post for those of us who are trying to make our way into the writing world, Cindy brings Why the Rejection? A look at what's hindering our queries and proposals from making it beyond the slush pile and onto the bookshelf.


    The Alley has some nice posts to help you figure out the world of Agenting. Check out some of these links:
     The Case of the Perfect Agent Part I and Part II - news from the insider, Detective Rosemary Allspice.

    Camy Tang's Tips for Picking an Agent

    Enjoy the weekend!

    Above pics from:

    Friday, June 24, 2011

    Money & Writing III: The big tax debate - WHAT

    To recap:
    • We are on a budget and saving money and not counting on our writing to take us from rags to riches.
    • We are being wise about when we start functioning as a business (per the IRS.)

    Now... *rub hands together* TAX DEDUCTIONS!!!!

    Before I get too far into this, a disclaimer:

    I am NOT a certified tax professional. So don't point to this post and say... "Krista said I could!" The IRS will roll their eyes at you. Really, no matter WHO gives you advice on tax matters, you should always double check it. This is for guidance and to steer you in the right direction, not schedule C filing instructions here:-)

    So anyway, what expenses CAN you write off as qualified business expenses? To list them all would be just comical and you'd be yawning. But here are a few common ones, and some common ones to be leary of.


    NO, you don't write off a portion of your car payment... or that brand used KIA you bought with your advance. You don't write off car maintenance or insurance either. You don't even write off your gas purchases (usually.)

    What you write off is your mileage. The IRS has a standard mileage rate that you can use to calculate business use of a personal car for tax write off purposes. I won't quote one here, because it changes periodically, especially the last few years with the yo-yo gas prices. So track your mileage. To writer's groups, conferences, meetings with editors/agent, to the post office to mail your contract. Make sure you document where you went and the mileage. It's good to keep a mileage log! The IRS will want to see it if you ever get audited.

    Exception is rental cars for while you are away. You just write-off actual expenses then including gas.


    Most of us writers use our home as our office. So can we deduct our home expenses, aka mortgage/utilities?

    Kinda yes, kinda no. I've heard a lot of opinions on this, so I won't give you another one. But if this is something you plan to do, I'd HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend a tax professional to assist you in your taxes vs "doing" it yourself. There are ramifications, especially if you own your home and later sell it, so you'll want to make sure you know exactly what you are doing before you do it.

    You can write off a portion of computer expenses (if you use your laptop 50% personal and 50% business... you'd write off 50% of it...), and any home office items such as pens, pencils, paper, computer paper, ink, printer, etc that is used for your business.


    There are the obvious other expenses as well. Contest fees. Editing fees. Conference fees and travel expenses (airfare, hotel, car rental.) Normal expenses for eating out while at conferences should be write-off-able as well.


    The BIGGEST thing to remember is this:


    Even if you don't think you'll be writing anything off this year... you could get to November and get that coveted contract... and you'll need those receipts!

    And even if you aren't sure you can write it off... SAVE THE RECEIPT and ask your tax professional. The worst they can say is no.

    Here is a good link (with subsequent good links) on what is deductible for small businesses. Some of this doesn't apply to us (i.e. cost of goods sold... unless maybe if you are self-pubbing or selling your own stuff) but it has some good info and links.

    Discussion: Any questions on what you can deduct? Any expense you were curious about? And here is a fun question: Who does their taxes themselves... or hires someone to do them?? Will that change (or did that change) once you're published?

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    It’s Not About the Overall Word Count

    Writers are obsessed. Like the artist with his paints, the jeweler with his beads, the carpenter with his tools, writers are obsessed with words.

    Some people can’t. get. enough. words.

    Some people have to pinch….and pull….and fight those words into existence, but they are the happiest when manipulating them around the page.

    But it all comes down to one thing: we love our words! And our words form a certain equation. 90,000 words strung together in a coherent thought make an average novel. We KNOW, we UNDERSTAND that those 90,000 words will guarantee us a novel of considerable length, the kind we are most often used to reading.

    But what happens when we start to edit those 90,000 words? We start to lose them. Sure, we lengthen some plot threads, but most often (okay ME) have to cut words. Gulp. The last week or so of editing, not a day has gone by that I haven’t deleted 1000 words.

    Now a good many of those are recovered in other areas of my novel, so the loss isn’t as great as it sounds every single day, but just before my finger punches that delete key, I pause. This will affect my overall word count. I won’t have 90,000 words anymore, I’ll have 89,395 word novel.

    My novel will be gasp….INCOMPLETE!

    I eye my word count number with a jaundice eye at the bottom of my screen (Word can be a blessing and a curse and I’m more prone to say curse)

    I’ve just deleted 500 words, where are those new magic 500 words to replace the ones I’ve lost? So I type and I get lost in the glory of creating new prose.

    But the problem is…nine times out of ten, they are filler words. And I have to go back and hit the delete key again.


    I’m back to square one, back to biting my nails because my word count is going to fall short of my goal.

    So where do you draw the line?

    You have to be aware of your word count, yes. Because a 90K novel that ends up being 50K is not going to make it. (let’s hope we don’t write that much fluff on the first draft) BUT, don’t get so caught up in the word count that you FORGET how important it is to make sure you write the RIGHT words.

    Don’t let the worry that you will cut too many words make you forget that we want the words we write to be the absolute best they can be.

    Which would be the better option … to cut a section that bogs down your plot and takes it nowhere fast….or keep those words because you want to keep a certain word count?

    Puts it into perspective, doesn’t it? I know at least for me, personally, it makes it a lot easier to hit that delete key. It’s making the work TIGHTER. It’s making the writing STRONGER and the writer more AWARE not to write such blah the first time around. ;-)

    But this is what the editing and revision section is for. So realize that when you sit down to edit that the delete key is going to play a role in your day. Look at your writing over all, what is coming up next and what just happened and be prepared to analyze and consider what needs to be completely deleted or just rewritten.

    There is a time for both. Don’t forget that latter option.

    So go forth and edit and remember the delete key is not one to be dreaded. By the time you need a new computer, the key should be smooth and void all letters. ;-)

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    On Being Mentored-Words

    You may not have realized when the first time a significant individual mentored your reading/writing career.

    Brace yourself.  You may not want to hear this.

    The answer: 

    **First mentor:  your parent/guardian. Good or bad, this/these individual/s introduced you to the world of language: Mama, Dada, please, thank you, bottle, juice, etc.

    Words, sounds, connections, and meanings blossomed before you could walk.

    **Fast forward a time. Your next mentor, possibly the same individual, put a book in your hand, probably made of plastic to endure your drooles and sticky fingers.  The specific title didn't matter. You devoured the book, flipped a couple of pages at a time, threw it at the dog, then retrieved it at a later time. Soon you would realize the book had greater importance.

    Language could be preserved, to enjoy again later.

    **Time clicked. Your next mentor, perhaps a Kindergarten teacher, showed you ink embedded in paper in specific ways. Lines and circles had names called letters and those names never changed. She/he then taught you a sound/s to make when you saw the letter/s.

    Lines and circle=letters. Letters represented sounds. Sounds could be squished together to form words. Do you remember the day you truly recognized a word--with no help?

    **Birth of mastery:  Your next mentor/s surrounded you. You called for more. Babysitters, grandpas, grandmas, uncles, aunts, cousins, anyone who would sit by you and endure yet another reading of your favorite book. "Read it," you said.

    Each time someone read the book new doors to meaning opened for you. Colors on the page, characters, why you even knew when the reader skipped a word (or two!). 

    **Revelation: Your next mentor could have been a 1st or 2nd grade teacher, perhaps a parent or friend. They asked you to write something--more than your name. You grasped a fat pencil in your hand, pressed it to the paper and wrote.  You watched the lead marks form on the paper and realized, for the first  time in your life--YOU COULD WRITE.

    Trial and error is a learning process.

    **Development: Your next mentors probably didn't need to ask you to read or write. Their job focused on encouragement. Your history probably included reading Newberry Winners, non fiction, fiction, and of course, comic books at night with a flashlight, in the car during boring trips, or when you should have been doing chores. You may have written a few chapters of your first book in fifth grade, (I hope you kept it). Journaling seemed as important to you as brushing your teeth, no, I suppose more important.

    Without being asked, you practiced because you wanted to.

    Who are your mentors now?  

    Here's a challenge: try to communicate with the mentors listed above and tell them thank you.

    This is my new series: mentors.  In two weeks: Mentors: First sentence key components/ Learning from master writers. 

    *photos used by permission and courtesy of our Alley Cat, Angie, Tim's son and father, our Alley Cat Mary Vee's family, and our Alley Cat, Casey

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    What's Your Fantasy Writing Area?

    We all have our favorite place to write. I have a comfy chair with an ottoman that I enjoy writing in, and sometimes I take to the couch so my dog is not quite so cramped while he tries to snuggle near my lap. But I have a confession to make. I sometimes fantasize about what kind of writing spaces would make my creative spirit soar.

    We are all different, with varied interests and preferences. Some like to write in dark, cozy places. Others like the light and airy spaces. Some like the heat...can't imagine that! And some like the cold. Personally, I think I could write in a variety of places and be a happy camper.

    Here's a few ideas....
    Who wouldn't like to write in a bed like this?
    sunball lounge chair
    A little modern, but look at the trays for your coffee and chocolate!
    Many people love to go to a nice coffee shop.
    Now this is a writer's desk with lots of lovely books. What ambiance!

    Ahhh...relaxation and contentment.

    How about the lush outdoors?

    The majesty of the old library. Mysterious, huh?

    Cool, calm, and inviting.
    5569062503: Bear Creek Chair/Ottoman Set
    The typical comfy, cozy chair.

    Sigh...I think the hammock and the balcony overlooking the mountains could really help my writing. What do you think? What kind of space would you love to write in?

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    The Makings of a Character

    Well, I'm sure you've heard this before (probably more than once) but at the heart of almost every great story is an unforgettable character. (or characters).
    We can all recall the 'great' ones that we've read or watched.

    Scarlett O'Hara
    Joe March
    Lizzie Bennet
    Indiana Jones
    Maria Von Trapp
    Lucy Pevensie

    So - what are some key ingredients to creating memorable characters?
    Let's look at a few (this is not an all-inclusive list, but a way for you to get started. For more information on characterization, check out Sarah's FABULOUS post here.

    Where do characters come from? Well, there are quite a few places:

    1.       Imagination - Developed completely from the creativity of your own mind.

    2.       People you’ve observed - inspiration from the people you 'see'

    3.       People you KNOW - real life is usually stranger than fiction.

    4.       Autobiographical - would we ever admit to this one? :-)
    But usually they're a mix of more than one. Characters have a crazy way of sneaking up on us out of nowhere, but they can't get very far without our help. That's why the phrase 'character DEVELOPMENT' is used. It's our job to make these characters believable, realistic, memorable, and unqiue.
    Not so easy.

    Next you must decide 'who is telling the story'. Most novels have one overarching character who is pursuing an external goal, while struggling with an internal goal. We follow this character (maybe even two characters) on his/her journey and watch him/her grow through the process. Growth is important.

    When you decide 'who' is telling your story, you'll probably need a name. Names are very important. Just listen to a DiAnn Mills lecture and your learn for sure. She puts a lot of stock in the names she gives her characters.

    Jane Eyre has a very plain name. That's important, because she sees herself as plain, but her name is also solid. Clean. Practical. Many things that apply to her personality. But the name Eyre is a bit unique, and leaves of puzzled as to how one actually pronounces it. So there is a bit of a mystery involved, as there is in the entire novel and in Jane's own life.

    Harry Potter is a common name. That's important. All of Harry's friends have unique and colorful names, but not Harry. Why? Because Harry is an ordinary kid, who is called to extraordinary things.

    Luke Skywalker gives a great 'feel' for a sci fi. Luke (as in St. Luke) and a guy who 'walks on sky'. Cool, huh?

    Pick a name with purpose.

    Know Thy Character - From simple things like filling out a character sketch to creating an entire FB page from that characters perspective, we all do something to get to know our characters better. I usually interview him/her and sometimes I'll write journal entries from the character's perspective.
    Here are a few helpful questions to ask your character.

    1.       What is his/her talent?

    2.       What is his/her goal?

    3.       What is his/her big fear?

    4.       What is his/her greatest joy?

    5.       Who is his/her best friend/mentor/confidante?

    6.       Who is his/her enemy?

    7.       What is his/her deep dark secret?

    8.       What makes them laugh?

    9.       What makes them cry?

    10.   How does he/she respond when they are embarrassed? Angry? Happy? Uncertain?

    11.   What does he/she carry in their pockets/purse?

    12.   What have they lost?

    13.   If they had to grab something from their burning house, what would they grab?
    Answer these question, devling deeper into 'knowing' your characters, makes them more three-dimensional instead of just words on a page.
    Okay - I'm getting a little carried away here, so I'll come to a close. I'll just leave you with one more note about how I 'get to know' my characters better:
    I make something happen to them.
    That's right. I throw them in the middle of some stressful scene or spiraling conflict, then see how they respond.  Putting a character into action helps you 'see' how they WILL act. :-)
    So - what are some things that you do to make your characters?

    And stop by Katie Ganshert's blog today for more information about characterization! Remember, these people are important enough to carry your story -so take time to develop them well :-)

    Saturday, June 18, 2011

    What's Up the Street For Next Week?

    First things first –
    BABY NEWS!!!
    Another Alley Kitten joins the ranks of our growing litter. Author Cindy Wilson gave birth to Brooklyn Mae Thursday, June 16. Mom & baby are doing well – but Cindy and her family would love your prayers.
    Well, we know how Cindy is going to be spending her ‘free’ time during summer now – but how about you? Do you have a summer reading list yet?
    How are you doing with it? Are you ahead of schedule, staring at a book-free nightstand, or are you like most of us – where our pile of books bears a striking resemblance to the Tower of Babel?
    Whatever the trip, The Alley Cats have a few books to add to your list. Here are some of their TOP recommendations:
    Sherrinda: The Art of Romance by Kaye Dacus.
    Julia: The Fine Art of Insincerity by Angela Hunt is a great women's fiction pick that was recently released.                                          

    Casey: When Sparrows Fall by Meg Moseley
    Mary: recommends Calvin and Hobbs--any one will do--to stir the thinking.
    Krista: Save the Date by jenny b jones. It was fun and upbeat and I L.O.V.E.D it!
    Sarah: Just Between You and Me by Jenny Jones.

    Pepper: A Great Catch by Lorna Seilstad if you want a funny-bone tickler; Mine is the Night by Liz Curtis Higgs if you want a beautiful romantic drama.
    So, what’s the lineup this week?
    Monday: Pepper still has no idea what she is going to post about. You could vote! Answering the Call – writing & other priorities; OR The Basics of Characterization OR A Few More Tips from BRMCWC.  AHHHH! Decisions.
    Tuesday: Sherrinda is having just as hard a time as Pepper – so it’s a surprise post for the day.
    Wednesday: Mary’s post draws from the ‘masters’ of writing all around us, On Being Mentored.
    Thursday: You can delete words?!? What? Well, check out Casey’s  post It’s Not About the Over All Word Count Walking the line between being aware of our total novel length and being willing to delete 1K of words.

    Friday: Stop by to see what fun Krista brings to our Friday.

    So…what books would you recommend for a summer reading list?
    What's one of your top five books you've read within the past year? Why was it so great?
    And come join us for another week of great info...even for those of us who aren't sure yet :-)

    And the WINNER of Driftwood Lane from Cindy's post on Friday is....

    Pam Kellogg!!

    Congratulations and happy reading!!

    Friday, June 17, 2011

    Fairytale Endings - Are They for You? (and a giveaway!)

    I'm a big fan of happily-ever-afters, which is a great thing with romances big in the market. Happy, satisfying endings are very popular, particularly in the CBA, but are they for everyone?

    So what makes up an ending? Because, as I re-read the previous sentence with the words "happy" and "satisfying", it's becoming more and more clear that those two don't necessarily go hand-in-hand.

    Characteristics of a Satisfying Ending

    A Resolution

    In order for readers to be satisfied with an ending, the main conflict needs to be resolved. Sure, there are people out there who still do cliffhangers, but those are few and far between (or part of a series). And not only that, each story needs to have its own resolution.

    So if the main character is searching for something, they need to find it somehow. If they're lacking something, they need to gain it somehow. If there's a problem, it needs to be fixed.


    Having a character experience growth is a strong and important way to satisfy readers. We all read about and learn about character arcs because they're important. Readers want to see characters in a different place at the end of the novel as they were in the beginning - and hopefully that's a better place.

    A Purpose

    This category sort of wraps in the first two elements of a satisfying ending and tosses in a few others. A purposeful ending is one that's well thought out. If there's a theme to your story, it can be revealed or summed up here. A purposeful ending isn't a one-page wrap up that solves all the problems of the novel without any real effort. In fact, a purposeful ending isn't always expected. In other words, it's not the easy way out. Sure, in romances certain endings are often expected (i.e. the hero and heroine make up or reunite or admit their love) but they can still stray from being cliche.

    As a fan of happily-ever-afters, I like to see a story ending well--meaning, the characters are happy, they find what they're looking for spiritually, emotionally, etc., and their future looks amazing. However, those elements aren't the only ones that make up a satisfying ending for everyone.

    What do you think? Are there certain elements necessary to creating a satisfying ending? And are you a fan of happily-ever-afters?

    Also, if you want a chance to win, Driftwood Lane, a romance by one of my favorite authors, Denise Hunter, who always makes me smile with her happy endings, leave a comment and your e-mail.

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    Building a Book Blurb

    Do you know what I love to do when I’m surrounded by the fabulously seductive smell of books in B&N? I adore flipping over book after book and reading back cover copies.

    I want the stories. I crave something fresh and unique. And I want to be hooked.

    If you’re anything like me, this is a delightful obsession for you, too. And it’s exactly why nailing the book blurb or “back cover” copy is so important.

    Regardless of whether you draft your logline and surrounding sentences before you begin writing your first word (I recommend drafting at least a rough version of this before you begin writing) of after you’ve typed The End, this step is crucial to get right.

    And I liken it to building a house.

    When building a house you need:

    A strong foundation = a high concept logline
    This is where you sum up the entire plot in a bam-pow-I-gotcha-hooked sentence. Whether someone decides to buy your book or not will hinge on how well you’ve crafted your concept.

    Mortar & bricks = compelling characters
    How you choose to describe your characters in your back cover copy is imperative. Are we talking Plain Jane and Boring Bob or Intriguing Ida and Captivating Carl?

    Insulation = the current reality surrounding your character(s)
    Does this reality have enough influence to get your reader all wrapped up in your novel?

    Plumbing = word choice
    You can have a beautifully written novel with a sloppy back cover copy. (It’s unlikely that you’ll actually be the one to create the copy that ends up on your book, but if you’ve done the legwork, you’re much more likely to adhere to the story and hone your ability to craft compelling prose.)

    Windows = a glimpse of your voice and writing style
    The back cover copy is an excellent place to showcase your skills, your command of craft, and your voice.

    Electrical = excitement factor or what James Scott Bell calls the “ka-ching” in The Art of War for Writers
    Test what kind of reactions you receive by reading (in person) your back cover copy to local book clubs, friends or family. A face can reveal a thousand things.

    Roofing = A hint the reader can trust in the satisfying experience
    Readers want to know that they’re signing up for something worthwhile when they invest time reading a book. Your back cover copy helps a reader feel confident they’re about to embark upon the real deal if you work hard to establish a non-gimmicky hook for your story.

    An experience to top all experiences.

    Can you think of any other ways the process of building a book blurb (or back cover copy) compares to building a house?

    *photos from Flickr