Saturday, May 31, 2014

Weekend Round Up...Alley Cat Style

Photo by anankkml
I hope you had a great holiday last weekend. There is something about a holiday that helps to rejuvenate you, whether you are out celebrating with friends or resting it up at home. May you go forth this next week with vigor and optimism, writing up a storm or tearing up the page with a red pen. To get you through the week, we have a great line up in store for you.

The Weekly Line Up

Monday - Angie has a wonderful post that is sure to satisfy!
Tuesday - Julia is sharing about the power of Q.U.I.E.T. to supercharge your creativity.
Wednesday - Karen is hosting guest author Christy Kyser Truitt, author of Justice for All.
Thursday - Ashley is going to talk about disappointment and the writer's heart.
Friday - Amy's got you covered today with more of her awesome self.

The Awesome Link Round Up

Why You Must Embrace Your Fears to Create Your Best Work  (Positive Writer)

Book Vending Machine? (Galley Cat)

Editing in Layers: Seven Things to Search for in Your Manuscript (Go Teen Writers)

5 Things Rocky Taught Me About Writing Knockout Main Characters (Positive Writer)

June Writing Contest Update (Seekerville)

So what are your writing plans this week?

Friday, May 30, 2014

Don't Quit Now...You're Almost There!

It’s a 90,000 word mountain. You’ll probably die on it. It’s going to be a looong climb and probably by the
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time you get to the top, you’ll be convinced that you hate this book and why did you spend so much time working on it, when you could have been eating ice cream and rollerblading in the park? (because we all know that is what a writer dreams of while doing the fast draft)

Yes, that’s probably the most melodramatic overview of writing the fast draft that you’ll probably ever read. *wink* But don’t we all have that feeling when we’re in the middle of a fast draft?

10,000 words is so much fun to hit. 20,000 is pretty awesome. But 30-40,000 is getting tougher. The burn is being felt in the back of your legs as you’re climbing up that mountain, grabbing at all the scrub brush you can get your hands on.

This is not the time to quit! Trust me! You’re almost half way through the book and yes the peak of the mountain is coming, but so are the doubts. Don’t believe those lies for a minute that you can’t write. You don’t know if you can write until you’ve finished this book and think of that accomplishment you’re aiming for.

So what are some suggestions for keeping that word count flowing?

Jumping jacks.

#1k1Hr on Facebook or Twitter.

Ice cream and a brownie.

Tall glass of water.

Timer to writer as much as you can in 15 minutes without one break to check anything on the internet.

Change of scenery.

Talk with a friend—writer or otherwise.

Stand up. Move away from the computer. Think about something else.

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Make a quick list of one or two reasons why you like to write.

Celebrate the word count you HAVE reached instead of bemoaning the count that you still need to make.
Lessen the word count load for just one day. Write half of your goal to give yourself a mental break.

THEN think about how awesome it’s going to feel that you’ve written another thousand words. That you’ve got yourself closer to saying you’ve finished another book.

It’s so hard to keep that momentum working on your behalf. It’s easy to put the book aside at that point when you’re just ready to be done. But this is not the time to quit!

And remember: you’re going to have the chance to go back through the book and laugh at all the fun lines you wrote on the spur on the moment or discover something new about your character you didn’t know before. This is the part called discovery.  So go discover your story. You can fix it all later. But this a time to have FUN. Play with the words. No one cares. No one else is going to see it. Jump in. Make a mess. 
You’re putting words on the page. Words that aren’t going to be written unless you put fingers to keyboard.

Are in the process of writing a new book? How far are you? 

Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in rural Eastern Oregon in a town more densely populated with cows than people. 


Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Wise Man Will Hear....


I'm stepping out on a bit of a new journey for myself.

I always swore I would never self-publish. I didn't have anything against it, I just had ZERO aspirations to be a publisher. I just wanted to write a story.

But I'm stepping over to the other side this year.

I'm SUPER new to this journey, so I thought it'd be fun to take you all along with me. So my next few posts will include things that I have learned (and probably more like, WILL learn over the next few months!) My hope is that I can share the FUN and the NERVES and the CHALLENGES and the LEARNING CURVES that come along with it.

I'll make lots of mistakes. I'm 100% confident of that.

But sometimes God calls us out of our comfort zone, and this is definitely it.

My first bit of advice for my first post on this is a simple one:


We're told this as writers anyway, but I think it is just as important if not more so when considering publishing on your own.

I've chatted with a few self-pubbed authors, including former Alleycat Wendy Paine Miller who just released her first full-length independently published novel, The Flower Girls. She was one of my go-to advisors, and oh-my-goodness, I'm so thankful for her friendship and words of advice!

I also talked with some members who had gone down that path before me in a local writer's group as well, including one of my favorite authors, Tamara Leigh.

So yes. That's my advice.

Talk to those who have gone before. Find out the cost, the pitfalls, the dangers, the rewards. Comb through Google and read articles until you can't stand Google anymore. The more AWARE you are at the front means you will have realistic expectations and can make GOOD realistic (yet HIGH) goals for yourself.

Discussion: How has learning from those who have gone before helped you? Anyone specific come along to help you in your writing journey, whether toward independent publishing or traditional?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Summer Flowers and Purple Prose

June is right around the corner. Everyday new flowers blossom.

Flowers have a special sweet scent. An aura calling our senses to experience them. 

What is the first thing that caught your eye in the photo to the left? The purple flowers, right? The vibrant color leaps from this nature scene, enticing us to find this place, hike to the flowers, and drink in the scent.

Notice the scene is not consumed by the lavender? It is, however, delicately balanced, placed there by the Great Artist/Gardner/Creator as a splash of goodness.

We could say God has used his creation to show us how to refine our writing skills. Today's lesson: Purple Prose

What is purple prose?

Simple definition: Purple prose is exaggerated writing. 

I'm going to step out on a limb (please don't push me off). Sometimes purple prose is good.

Sometimes not. I happen to enjoy a good purple passage now and then. To be fair to the masses reading this post, I will present what is considered wrong with purple prose--AND add spices of it's goodness along the way. [whimsical grin]

Generally speaking, purple prose is elongated, descriptive passages laced with what some writers might consider creative words, but in fact are repetitive synonyms and complicated vocabulary words haphazardly strung together to show off the intelligence of the author. Fifty to ninety percent of the words used in these sentences/passages, however, can be deleted and still maintain the integrity of the passage.

Photo Courtesy
The Urban Dictionary provides this example of purple prose: by dazzlemethis August 11, 2009

normal writing: 
she lay on her bed dreaming.

purple prose: 
she lay upon her silken sheets in her ornately embellished robes of satin, her chest ascending and descending easily with every passing second, deep inside the caverns of her subconscious mind

Red flags should go off immediately for this purple prose example. POV issues!!! But that is another post for another day. Still, the example brings one issue into the light. The extra words didn't reveal anything else other than "she" must be rich. 

Okay, Mary hopping in with the sprinkle of good. When I read the example of Doc from Back to the Future I could see the extraneous point I discussed above...but still loved his lines. I even quote his hilarious lines:

Doc: Look, there's a rythmic, ceremonial ritual coming up!
Marty: Of course! The "Enchantment under the Sea" dance!

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Confession: I enjoy the show The Voice. I actually jot down some of the advice given to the competitors and  use nuggets in writing. Adam Levine stopped one of his singers during a practice session and said, "You don't need the extra attitude that is there. I just think there are certain moments that can be a little bit more simpler, you know? You really have the power to deliver a vocal. You don't need that extra sauce kind of stuff. Don't over sing."  

Even though he didn't say it, he was talking about a singing version of purple prose. 

Mary hopping in again with another sprinkle of good: I find Stefanie Arr's words helpful: "one person’s purple prose may be another person’s vivid description. Unfortunately (or, fortunately, depending on who you are), this is largely a judgment call. From Purple Prose: What It is and How to Avoid it, 12/15/2011

Still, we want to be great writers. 
Writers who can compose fantastic descriptions that do not go over the top. 
The perfect blend between tight writing and 3-D sensory description.

How can we do this?

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1. Use words that reflect your voice. Would you really say those words found in the thesaurus when you searched there the last time? I searched for purple and then prose and found violaceous for purple and shibboleth for prose. I don't think I'll be using those synonyms!  Sure you know the suggested synonyms found in resources, or most of them. Kinda. Use the thesaurus with caution choosing only the best word that reflects your voice.

2. Use description to paint senses as needed. Trust the reader's mind to fill in and tailor fit the painting for their journey through the story. We really don't need to show everything. Just enough to do the job.

3. Use exclamation points, ellipsis, and other purple punctuation sparingly. Let strong writing communicate surprise, delight, horror, and slow, deliberate thinking. Using these tools too often are actually a form of telling, not showing.

4. Examine the reason why the flowery description with big words would fit. Does the sentence sound really good to you? Maybe make you feel like patting yourself on the back and say, "Wow, I AM a great writer." Perhaps the sentence/paragraph has upstaged the rest of the chapter. Whoa! Time for that red flag, again. Successful writers never write to boast or let a renegade sentence steal the show. They write so others can read. 

On the other hand, (yes, this is another Mary good purple prose sprinkling), purple prose is a fantastic tool for humor, exaggeration, intended misinterpretation, etc. Go ahead and laugh at the sentence your wrote. Read it to your friends and family. Get them on board. Now we're talking marketing. Whoops. Something shiny.

5. Most-BUT NOT ALL- adverbs could be weeded out. An adverb usually, (keyword: usually) is a sign of a weak verb. Give that verb a vitamin B shot and let it stand on its own. For example: instead of saying Jane searched wildly, try Jane rummaged.  Remember: adverbs are real words and may be used. Treat adverbs like you would a lemon in a recipe. Sparingly. For Zest.

It's easy to find purple prose in other writer's manuscripts. Not so much in our own. Yet, amazing enough, if we're told to cut a certain amount of words in order to submit our work guest which ones will be sliced? Have you noticed?

Here is your challenge: You have been told by an editor to slice one hundred words from chapter one. Highlight the words you would choose to cut. Are these sentences/words/paragraphs actually purple prose?

You may not have time to do this challenge right now. Try to put it on your schedule and share with me next time.

In the meantime, add depth to one of these sentences without using purple prose: (you can turn the sentence into a short para if needed)

1. The ship sank.
2. Jeff choked.
3. She hated red.

I'm looking forward to your input!


This blog post is by Mary Vee

Mary has moved to Michigan with her husband, closer to her three college kids. She misses the mountains of Montana, but loves seeing family more often. She writes contemporary and romance Christian fiction, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids.

Visit Mary at her website and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Care and Nurturing of a Hopeless Romantic with Special Guest Laurie Tomlinson
There are two types of romance fans in this world: the realists and the hopeless romantics.
I’ll give you one guess which category I fall under. (Though I’ve always preferred the term hopeful romantic.)

Okay. If we’re being real, my adolescence can best be described as “boy-crazy” :) But as I look back on my earliest movie star crushes, lovingly nurtured by the very woman I inherited the gene from, maybe this silliness wasn’t so pointless after all.

Whether you’re a reader, writer, or movie aficionado, have you ever thought about what influences your affinity for a hero? I asked myself that very question, and suddenly my world came full circle. Maybe I was just refining my tastes to pick an amazing husband. To help me write a variety of multilayered heroes.

So here's why young Laurie’s favorite heroes were swoonworthy and how they groomed me to write romance:

Tony Micelli / Who’s the Boss

A good hero isn’t afraid to stand up to the heroine when she’s about to make a bad decision or being otherwise unreasonable. Hey, it can happen! Tony and Angela had an unconventional relationship in Who’s the Boss since Angela was technically his employer. But when it came down to it, he wasn’t afraid to give her tough love when she needed it the most. Along the same vein, their chemistry was built on the banter between them. An unusual relationship dynamic can lend itself to some great dialogue. So in my book (pun totally intended), a hero ultimately needs to be

able to give it right back to the heroine.

Prince Philip / Sleeping Beauty
Ohhhh, Prince Philip. Where do I even begin? Let’s see. He basically falls in love with Aurora the first moment he sees her, even though he believes she’s a peasant girl. Then he bravely conquers the most heinous villain ever written + all the tricks up her sleeve to get his girl back. While a good rescue scene does me in every. single. time, I don’t discriminate. Sometimes a hero can save his heroine in more figurative ways. Even if he’s saving her from herself!

Sully / Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
Other than the whole strong-and-silent thing Sully had going on for him, he was incredibly supportive of Dr. Mike. Okay, so it was also a plus that he had mad survival skills and could build a house out of pretty much nothing, but he was there for her when she needed him, when she faced naysayers, and when she needed to know she could accomplish her dreams. Sully taught me heroes should be partners along the heroine's journey, helping her achieve her goals. And most importantly, he should also encourage her when she is clinging to the last thread of belief in herself.

Han Solo / Star Wars trilogy

One of my favorite hero tropes is the hero who is ruined by the heroine. In a good way, of course. Perhaps he's wounded and swore off women forever. Maybe, like Han Solo, he is engaged
in roguish ways. Whatever the case, when the hero meets the heroine, it's all over. And she inspires him to be a better man. I mean, look what Han Solo turned into when he met Princess Leia. From regular scoundrel to integral role in saving an entire galaxy. If that doesn't entice a reader to root for a couple, nothing will. And that reader possibly doesn't have a soul.

Thomas Magnum / Magnum P.I.
In his day, Tom Selleck was "King of the Babes," in my mother’s words :) Though this is just a piece of the puzzle, it’s important for heroes to be easy on the eyes, written in such a way that makes the attraction between the hero and the heroine believable. Disclaimer: I'm all for a hero whose humor, bravery, or other internal characterizations lend to a heroine's attraction to him. But, just saying, a pair of smoldering eyes helps -- Tom Selleck mustache optional :)

Thanks to my AlleyCat favs for inviting me to post! This has truly been a writing bucket list moment! Now I want to know:

Romance fans, who were the heroes that started it all for you? What is your number one condition that makes a hero swoonworthy?
Laurie Tomlinson is a wife and mom who writes stories of grace in the beautiful mess. Her first book won the 2013 ACFW Genesis Award (Contemporary), and her second is a current semifinalist in the 2014 Genesis Contest (Romance). She is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Right and Tight - Succinct Crafting From Disney
Okay, I think I’ve waxed long on the Disney theme for now, so this is my last post using Disney works in story crafting. If you want to check on my previous posts related to plotting with the songs of Disney, you can start with this one.
Today, we’re going to chat about two important aspects of writing in which Disney reigns pretty supreme ;-) Tight Writing and Emotional Writing.

Here is a brief definition of how I’m using these two terms:
This first one is my kryptonite for sure. Tight writing does not mean the shortest distance from the first letter to the final sentence marker. It DOES mean using the fewest words to express what is needed to move the story forward.

Emotional writing is not related to the letter you send after a breakup. It is the ability to draw the greatest power from the words you’ve conveyed. The specific words chosen not only create vivid imagery, but also encourage an emotional response.
One of the ways Disney does this best is through its songs. Let’s look at a few:
I’m malicious, mean, and scary

My sneer could curdle dairy
And violence-wise my hands are not the cleanest

But despite my evil looks and my temper and my hook
I’ve always yearned to be a concert pianist.

Can’t you see me on the stage performing Mozart
Tickling the ivories ‘til they gleam

Yeah I’d rather be called deadly
For my killer show-tune medley

Cause way down deep inside I’ve got a dream.
Okay – this was the one my 14 year old mentioned as giving a lot of great info in a few words. In fact, it gives an entire backstory and a surprising yearning in this tough guy’s heart.

We have some power words for emotion too. I’ve bolded them. If the song had only used the words “mean and scary”, it would not have the same reaction as malicious. ‘sneer’ is a great word because it carries a visual as well as an emotion.
The difference we could transfer from this song to our prose writing is to convert as many helping verbs to action (more emotional/stronger) verbs.  Of course, the writers for songs are not only trying to write tight, but make the songs fit in rhyme and rhythm.
How about this one with some beautiful imagery?
Come run the hidden pine trails of the forest
Come taste the sunsweet berries of the Earth
Come roll in all the riches all around you
And for once, never wonder what they're worth

……. For whether we are white or copper skinned
We need to sing with all the voices of the mountains
We need to
paint with all the colors of the wind

You can own the Earth and still
All you'll own is Earth until
You can paint with all the colors of the wind

Can you ‘see’ the power words in this song from Pocahontas – and some of the phrasing is fantastic and tight? The phrase in italics is a great example of tight writing, in which words were used succinctly to make a fabulous point (and of course, it’s also rhythmical ;-)
‘sunsweet berries’ is such a fabulous phrase. It not only gives a visual response but also a tactile one. ‘roll in all the riches’ – is a visual as well as tactile. See how the right words can carry a lot more power in shorter doses than more words?

Okay, I HAVE to use this one – ONE OF MY ALL TIME FAVORITE Disney songs for writing tight and powerfully.
Hellfire from The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Yes, surprising choice, but the phrasing, words, and imagery in this song are AMAZING.
Frollo sings this of the gypsy Esmeralda (and Frollo is quite the self-righteous and somewhat murderous fellow). I’ve included almost the entire song just because it’s SO GOOD at proving the points of this post.

Tell me, Maria, why I see her dancing there
Why her smold'ring eyes still scorch my soul
I feel her, I see her - The sun caught in raven hair
Is blazing in me out of all control

Like fire. Hellfire
This fire in my skin
This burning Desire
Is turning me to sin
It's not my fault! I'm not to blame
It is the gypsy girl - The witch who sent this flame

It's not my fault! If in God's plan
He made the devil so much stronger than a man

Protect me, Maria! Don't let this siren cast her spell
Don't let her fire sear my flesh and bone
Destroy Esmeralda -and let her taste the fires of hell
Or else let her be mine and mine alone

WHOA – anybody else feeling a sizzle in the room? Sheesh, this song is ‘smokin’’ with power words ;-) Even in this song, you can see that there is a heavy amount of action verbs used (another tip to remember for increasing the emotional impact of your writing).
A bonus about this song is its use of uncommon words, so they resonate with us more. Our brains naturally stop on them because we don’t’ see them as often. (I’m NOT advocating using really weird words as much as possible, btw). ‘Siren’, ‘sear’, ‘flesh and bone’, ‘cast her spell’. They are not as common as ‘burn’, ‘temptress’, etc.

A few quick tips:

1.       Get rid of words like ‘very’, ‘just’, ‘really’, ‘that’ or ‘some’.

2.       ‘ly’ is not necessarily a bad tag on a word, but check to see if you can change some of those ‘ly’ words into something BETTER. There are times when they are fine…maybe even needed, but check that you are not overusing them.

3.       Less is sometimes more, even during lovely descriptive phrases. If you can say the same thing, more powerfully, with fewer words – use them.

4.       Replace as many weak verbs (mostly helping verbs) with more action/descriptive verbs. Again, helping verbs have a purpose in your writing, but if you have more of them than less….change some to increase the impact of your sentences/phrases.

5.       Take a tip from our clothing choices: Too tight is uncomfortable. Too loose is usually unflattering and uncomfortable. But just right is both flattering and comfortable.
Okay - time to end our Disney chats with a solid  (and classic) 'happily-ever-after' kiss pic. Of course :-)
Pepper Basham writes Blue Ridge Romance peppered with grace and humor. She’s a mom of five, a speech-language pathologist, and a lover of chocolate. She writes in a variety of genres, but enjoys sprinkling her native culture of Appalachia in them all. She is a regular contributor to Christian Fiction Online Magazine as well as developing her own blog at Words Seasoned With Salt. She is represented by 2012 ACFW Agent of the Year, Nicole Resciniti.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Weekend Round Up...Alley Cat Style

Photo by scottchan
Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Many of you are relishing the laziness of a long weekend, sleeping in, having a cookout with friends. Some of us will be rushing from church Sunday morning, grabbing a bite to eat on the way to our youngest son's graduation at 12:30 am. Then we will be rushing home to have a reception in his honor at 3:30 pm. Oh, and then we will pack up the last of our belongings so that we can move to a new home 15 miles away on Monday. Yeah...I'm crazy. But I'm happy. Life is good...because God is good...all the time.

This week at The Alley:

Monday - Pepper is Writing Tight with Disney! to stir emotion with power words in your writing.
Tuesday - It's a surprise post that is sure to please.
Wednesday - Mary's post is entitled Spring Flowers and Purple Prose. Flowers are beautiful, but flowery words can clutter our garden of words.
Thursday - Krista has a fabulously fun post in store for us.
Friday - Casey is our hostess with her post entitled "Don't Quit Now!". She will be talking more about 1K1HR and getting words on the screen.

The Awesome Link Round Up

My Best Advice On Writing Didn't Come From A Book (Storyline)

Embracing Story (Beth K. Vogt)

Writer's Tool Box (Darla Writes)

Writer's On Vacation: A Comic by Debbie Ohi (Darla Writes) honor of Memorial Day

Which Is More Important? Writing Or What We Write? (KM Weiland)

Tex Pieces of Advice for People Who Wish to Write (Heather Sunseri)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Bad Romance

“Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh! Caught in a bad romance…”

Okay, so you can’t actually hear me belting out Lady Gaga but we’ve all been there. Maybe not singing that particular pop song but you know, “caught in a bad romance.” Yep, pretty brutal. Whether we are trapped in the agony between the bindings of a book or with your very own terminally wrong frog, you almost don’t know how bad a bad romance is until you’ve experienced a good one!

It’s true, sometimes you have to kiss a few frogs before you find your prince. And sometimes you don’t realize how right Mr. Right is until you’ve been enlightened by Mr. Wrong.

Some of the best teaching tools come very simply from expirence. Did you read a great book? Did it inspire your creativity or your craft for the better? Maybe you read something just plain wretched… and perhaps learning what NOT to do was just as useful.

Consequently, the hallmarks that make a great romance novel are the very same things that make up the best love affairs. So since we are all learning… in life, in love, and in our exploration of stories, let’s talk about what makes a bad romance so we can avoid them like a cold, clammy first kiss.

Here’s my “Bad Romance” list …. The things that make me want to slap the author for getting my hopes up and wasting my precious time. Care to add?

-Barbie and Ken cardboard cutouts
Yeah, so lets be honest… Barbie and Ken are hot. They look good together. They’re poised and flawless. But they’re also all awkward angles and phony plastered smiles. There is nothing worse than reading two people on a page that are so stiff and generic they are basically plastic playthings that find each other attractive. Means diddly in the grand scheme of compatibility. Flaws can be beautiful. They can even make one person perfect for someone else. Embrace them. If your characters are perfect they are boring. No thank you.

-You bore me to tears but I love you
Do you remember falling in love? Now, I hate to burst too many bubbles but wasn’t it, dare I even say it… FUN? The flirting, dating, laughing, kissing, ahem… sometimes other fun things. (Wait until you’re married) But come on! Fun! No, more than fun. Falling in love is a stinkin’ blast! So if you are along for the ride on the page, you (and those two fools sinking in the love boat) better be enjoying something. I can’t tell you how many romance novels I’ve read where the characters are constantly miserable. The premise might be tough, there might be a lot to overcome, or A LOT of friction, distrust, hurt. But lighten up! Add some laughs. Love is not a drag.

-Your body is the only temple I worship
Since we’re keepin’ it real, let’s get this out of the way. We, all of us, come in packages. I truly believe that our uniquenesses (is that a word?) are the things that make us most lovely and appealing to that special someone. Of course personality is key! KEY! But attraction is also a key ingredient to romance and that includes the outside as well as the inside. I’m not the least bit offended when romance novels touch on physical attributes like weight or build. Paints a picture. Shows an appreciation for a thing of beauty God created. Curvy, slender, muscled, soft, busty, petite, skinny, bulky… there is no one single definition of beautiful. 
Shoot, am I going to pretend I didn’t notice my husband had a smokin’ hot bod when we were dating? Was I above temptation? Was I blind??? Heck no! Likewise, I’d probably have been a bit disconcerted if my future husband hadn’t had a clue what I looked like from the neck down. (Clothed, people, let’s keep it clean here.) ;) But sexual attraction is just one piece of the love equation. It can most definitely exist without having a single darn thing to do with that elusive L-word. If you’re gonna write a love story, or live in one, include the appreciation, sure… the pull, the desire, the things that get the engine burning hot, BUT make it about more than confusing lust for love. (Note: Not much of an issue in Christian fiction but mainstream romance is all about the lusty love confusion.)

-Banter with me, Baby!
If your dialogue is a bland exchange of information you are missing the boat. BIG time! Banter is where the romance blooms! If your characters (or you and your super hot date) aren’t talking, laughing, teasing, ENJOYING the whole getting to know you dance, what is the point??? Never underestimate the power of the banter.

-Kiss me you fool!
Last one… the kiss. The thing that distinguishes friends from lovers. Don’t scrimp on the smooches. Not on paper and DEFINITELY not in real life. Because, well… why would you want to.

What do you think? Ever gotten caught in a bad romance? What made it oh-so-bad… and not in a good way? ;)


Amy Leigh Simpson writes Romantic Suspense that is heavy on the romance, unapologetically honest, laced with sass and humor, and full of the unfathomable Grace of God. She is the completely sleep deprived mama to two little tow-headed mischief makers, one pretty little princess, and wife to her very own swoon-worthy hero. Represented by the oh-so-wise and dashing Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary Inc.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Creative Spark

Hello, friends! I just got back from an amazing trip to Italy (first time in Europe!) and have been up for around 30 hours, so I decided to pull a post from the archives today. It's one of my favorites, and it's something I've been thinking about a lot lately. What drives us to write? Why do we love it in the first place, and how do we get back to that love? I hope you enjoy the post, and I'm looking forward to hearing what you all have to say! -- Ashley


How many romance novels have you read that went a little something like this?

Boy meets girl. Boy and girl make stupid decisions. Boy and girl live happily ever after.

Or maybe romantic suspense?

Boy meets girl. Someone dies. Boy and girl make stupid decisions. Boy and girl live happily ever after.

Or literary fiction, as I am all-too-acquainted with:

A lot of weird things happen. Then on a tragic note, the story ends.

Kidding! I'm sorry literary fiction writers--I couldn't resist! Let me just be clear that as a literature instructor, I have a deep appreciation for literary fiction!


The question is, if so many of these stories are the same, how do you make yours stand out?

The answer, get creative! 

Think about your favorite characters and stories in books, movies, and even real life. Chances are, they stand out to you because they are unique and memorable. Strive for no less in your own stories.

So why don't we see more creative stories?

Because Creativity. Is. Hard. 

T.S. Eliot said, "Anxiety is the hand maiden of creativity." And here's another great quote from Pablo Picasso: "The chief enemy of creativity is 'good' sense."

Sometimes, in the humdrum of loading the dishwasher and vacuuming the dog hair from the kitchen floor, we forget something very important.

We forget why we love to write.

Creativity ought to influence everything from the scene settings in our stories, to the tags we use, to the characters' quirks. Don't settle for a character who smiles a lot when she might really want to curl her pink-chalked hair and toss her kitten-heels across the room in fury!

So how do we stir the creative spark in the midst of every day life?

  • Find a way to break from the routine. Go to a coffee shop, people watch at the mall, or be a tourist in your own town by visiting a garden or a quaint restaurant. Even if it's only for fifteen minutes a day, break your routine and see what happens.
  • Stop listening to your anxiety. Ever been writing and heard this hovering voice in your mind... "That's not good enough." "Readers will think that's stupid." "A publisher would say this character is too quirky." When you're writing--and especially when you're writing that first draft--silence your inner critic. She can come and edit once you're done. Anxiety will kill the creative spark. Snuff it right out. All you'll be left with is the remnant of a smoky idea.
  • Act out your scene. Yes, I know this is weird. But it makes a difference! If you're wondering how gravel sounds underfoot, walk across it. If you're writing about a woman throwing fist-fulls of sand into the air, find a beach. You'll be surprised what you can come up with when you put yourself in the same physical surroundings as your characters. Even a scented candle or setting-themed screensaver can do the trick!
  • Always list multiple options. Whether you're brainstorming a scene setting or a plot point, don't always go with the first thing that comes to mind. Readers will expect the obvious. Instead, push yourself to come up with alternatives. Make a list of possible plot points, settings, quips, quirks, etc. You may stumble across an interesting twist for your story!
  • Recognize that creativity knows no bounds. You can always go back and edit something out of your story, so when you're writing, give yourself permission to think big!

Have you found that creativity makes a difference in making a memorable story? How do you stir your creative spark?


Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blogFacebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.