Thursday, January 24, 2019

A New Kind of Goal for 2019

Anyone who knows me (Laurie) knows I’m a planner-wielding, goal-setting kind of gal. But 2019 has been different. 

Instead of the usual color-coded list of goals and measurables for the year, I’m asking God to show me how to reinvent my processes. To create new rhythms based on who he shows himself therein to be.

Instead of setting out to finish another manuscript or blog twice a week or double my platform, I want proximity with the Father. I want to be so close to him that I can feel his heartbeat. 

So I will do the work, but my time, habits, successes, and worth won’t be decided by what I check off the to-do list, but by memorizing and moving in HIS rhythm. 

Everything else comes from that goal.


One of my favorite writers and podcasters, Emily P. Freeman, aired an episode of her show late last year that had me pausing in my kid's school parking lot to take notes on a napkin I found in the glovebox. And not just because its title is my very favorite word: Collaborate. In the episode, she shared qualities of a wholehearted creative, someone who works from a place of wholeness and health.

If you have creative goals this year, I would invite you to listen to this episode and join me in examining your processes. Learning to refill your creative well before it can run dry, if you struggle with this like I do. 

Feel free to download this PDF based on her podcast episode. I printed mine on a pretty piece of paper and framed it in my office. 

We are praying a life-giving 2019 for you, Alley Pals! We'd love to know what you're up to in the comments.


 Laurie Tomlinson is an award-winning contemporary romance author of That’s When I KnewWith No Reservations, and The Long Game, currently featured in the Once Upon a Laugh novella collection. She believes that God’s love is unfailing, anything can be accomplished with a good to-do list, and that life should be celebrated with cupcakes and extra sprinkles. You can connect with her on her WebsiteFacebookInstagram.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

#TipfulTuesday Subplot Ideas

Without a subplot, the singular journey arc of a novel from page one to the last page will fall flat.

It doesn't matter how dynamic the journey. Every good novel needs at least one subplot.

Subplots are the butter on toast. The seasoning in a marinade. The sound in a movie. They are never the primary component of a story and should never ever hijack the plot--but are so very important!

Contemporary movies, TV shows, and novels tend to use a romance thread for the subplot. It's easy to incorporate one. I must admit, my current story has one. I think readers and viewers have come to expect it. 

In my story, Christmas With The Enemy, I included a second subplot about a foster child. This subplot, more than the other one I used, has readers asking, "Will there be a story about Janey?"

Below, you will find a list of ideas, something different for you to try. Perhaps one of these ideas will morph into your next novel. Many subplots do. 

After reading the list below, add some of your own ideas in the comment section. I am tempted to say more than a keyword but will try to refrain. I don't want to limit your creativity. But if you have a question or expanded thoughts about the idea leave a message in the comment section. 

1. A new tradition including all the ancillary issues that pop up.
2. Dealing with a newly discovered disorder, like eating disorders.
3. A new skill
4. Phobia- suggest some in the comments
5. A grudge, lack of forgiveness, rivalry
6. Moving to a new home, redecorating, clutter, hoarder, building, adding on, etc.
7. Taking/planning a vacation, business trip
8. A sudden disability
9. Dealing with a family secret
10. A mysterious affliction
11. a new child, bonding, foster, adoption, loss
12. financial - sudden new income, loss of income

Happy writing. May you be blessed with many subplots. ;)

~Mary Vee
Author of Christmas with the Enemy
Photo by Mary Vee 

#amwriting #subplots #author #TheWritersAlley 

Mary Vee -  Mary Vee - Rock climbing, white-water rafting, and hiking top Mary’s list of ways to enjoy a day. She was homeless for a time, earned her MA in Counseling, and married an Air Force vet.  Mary has been a finalist in several writing contests and writes for her King.
Visit Mary at her websiteblog, and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

How Do You Edit?

How do you edit, writer? 

This past round of edits, I printed out my manuscript and red-lined it over a 2 week period. This was perfect for traveling—I loved having a tangible thing to pick up and work on when I had a chance.

When I got home, I frantically put it into the computer to make a deadline.

The thing is, I didn’t account for the ADDITIONAL editing that goes into doing this. I hit the deadline, but my head was spinning, and I probably know my manuscript word for word now!

While it wasn’t completely ideal at moments, I still stand by handwritten editing at some point in the process. It truly connects you to your story in a different way than typing does—and gives you a break from screen time!

If you’d like to try handwritten edits, here are some tips:
1. Set aside extra time for the EXTRA editing that goes into transferring to digital (unless you are an expert at turning your internal editor off while you type in the edits—I am not!)

2. Break up the transfer into acts. Paper edit the first act then transfer into the computer. Then go to the next act. This might be less daunting than trying to get them all in as a deadline creeps up.

3. Enjoy the journey. I loved sitting with pen in hand and changing things up. I only got frantic when I realized how much I had changed! Ha! But, the process is life giving, and in the end, you have a thoroughly edited manuscript to send off!
So, do you prefer editing on paper or screen?

Thursday, January 10, 2019

A Lesson On Subtext from Mary Poppins

Last night, I finally got a chance to see the new Mary Poppins movie-- wow! I loved everything about it. (And all the heart eyes for Ben Whishaw, right? I've been a fangirl since he played John Keats.) But one thing I found particularly interesting about the Mary Poppins story, and this movie particularly, is its ability to pull the subtext out from the behind-the-scenes, straight to the forefront of the storytelling.

What does that focus on subtext mean? In this case, colorful costumes, whimsical songs and dancing, and a plot structure that borders on eccentric. Somehow--amazingly--the movie pulls these elements together without crossing a line into the absurd. Through it, I think we can see not only the value of subtext, but also how we as writers can do it well.

So what can we learn about subtext from Mary Poppins Returns?

  • You have a story within your story. Tell it. Your characters are always moving from Point A to Point B. Your job as a storyteller is to fill that journey with intention. Is your character getting ready at the start of a scene? Then what subtext could you use to either foreshadow, express suspense, or convey characterization?
  • Your readers want your story to resonate. "A cover is nice, but a cover is not the book"--I mean, HELLO--does it get better than this song?! One of the reasons we all love Mary Poppins is because she's full of whimsical idioms... they look charming and colorful from the outside, but man do they pack a punch! Your readers want the same. Give them a moral and someone they can cheer for. It's best if you can use what you're learning in your own life. But be honest. Be vulnerable. Seek the Lord, and whatever you do, never talk down to them.
  • The impossible is possible with fiction. Use this fact to your advantage. Play with POV, order of scenes, etc. to tell the story in the freshest way you can.

What about you? Did you see the movie? Do you have anything else to add to the list?


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. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram at the_handwritten_story. She is represented by Karen Solem.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

#TipfulTuesday - A New Way to Deepen Your Story

#TipfulTuesday New Year topic: A New Way to Deepen Your Story. 

This year, consider deepening your story by adding characters of different cultures. This is not easy and will require a bit of work, but your labor will not be in vain. Trust me. 

Nearly every city across the world has a dominant people group. Among them are men and women from other cultures, skin colors, religions, etc. Therefore, our stories should not solely be built on any one people. We should include in our cast of characters men and women representing others who live in the same community.

The setting for my novel, "Daring to Live", was New York City. Ah, perhaps you understand now. NYC is a potpourri of cultures, races, genders, ages, etc. To make my story strong, my cast of characters included Hispanic (which I drew from experiences on mission trips to Mexico and Honduras), African American (I lived in inner-city Detroit for a time), Cowboy (I lived in Montana and spent time on ranches), military (I have several family members who were in the military), urban, suburban, foster care, and more. All of which have been a part of my life at some time. You probably have had a taste of Americana as well.

Including characters from other people group that are not your own is not easy to write. We must be respectful. Not typecast. A huge key to writing these characters is not to use labels. For example, I should not say, Brian, a white man wearing... These characters deserve the same respect you would want.

So how can this be done? You might be surprised how much you already know. My experiences have helped me include unique local islander language in one story and inner city jargon in another. Think back to your school days. A time you went on vacation. Shopped at a mall (not so much anymore, eh?). 

You have been around other people groups. You know what they might wear. What they might choose to say and how they might say it. Expand your reading to include stories about Middle Eastern characters, Asian, and more. These are fascinating people. Men and women who have also moved to your community.

I play a game of sort with my critique partners and beta readers. I purposefully don't include character descriptions like skin color unless done in a creative way, no name clues either. Instead, I write the character as true as I can to their culture. Then I ask those readers to describe the character for me. No answer is incorrect. Their imagination and background filled in the picture in their mind.

So, what do you say? Will you choose just one novel that has characters representing a group other than your own? Will you include at least one in your current or next WIP to deepen the story? 

~Mary Vee
#amwriting #characters #TheWritersAlley #TipfulTuesday #writing #multiculture
Photo credit: Pixabay

Mary Vee -  Mary Vee - Rock climbing, white-water rafting, and hiking top Mary’s list of ways to enjoy a day. She was homeless for a time, earned her MA in Counseling, and married an Air Force vet.  Mary has been a finalist in several writing contests and writes for her King.

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