Novel Rocket

Saturday, July 23, 2016

How to Create the High Concept Novel

By DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

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Are you a novelist striving for a high concept story? Have you heard the term and not fully understood what it means? Worse yet, has an agent or
editor challenged you to create a high concept novel, and now you have brain freeze? Let me help you unpack what agents, editors, and readers are desperately seeking.

A high concept story is one that has potential to spread like wildfire, either within a genre or across a large audience. Think of Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Hunger Games, Divergent, Forrest Gump, Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, Les Misérables, and the list continues.

Rachelle Gardner writes, “High concept means the PREMISE of your book will get attention, before anyone sees even one word of your writing.”

Are you still scratching your head? What is this thing called a premise?
Do you know why you must write this?

  • What is the burning passion to spend hours perfecting your craft?
  • What is the moral truth to be explored, revisited, and turned upside down?
  • What sears your heart with a what-if?
  • What keeps you up at night and preoccupied during the day?
Begin now for a powerful premise.
Sometimes the premise can blow away an agent or editor in one sentence; sometimes it takes three. But it must be unique to the writer and to the story’s concept, something the writer has never written before.

Another element is how the premise affects you, and why you are the only one to write the story.

When you are brainstorming your novel’s potential high concept, ask yourself the following questions.
  1. What is your distinctively different premise?
  2. How is your story original?
  3. Why are you the only writer who can pen this story?
  4. How are your characters intriguing?
  5. Is your story idea fresh and exciting?
  6. Are the plot twists super-unpredictable and yet believable?
  7. Will your story touch the hearts of cross-genre readers or a wide-niche market?
  8. Does your story entertain?
  9. Are strong emotions a part of the high stakes?
  10. Can your readers step into the closet of your character and emerge satisfied that they have lived a true adventure?
Now write your high-concept idea in one sentence. Make every word count. Don’t settle for the first draft. Refine what you’ve written. Let your passion swell. Give yourself time to ponder over ideas, and consider if this type of novel writing is for you. Come back to it. How has it changed?

When I wrote Deadly Encounter, I believed in my premise. What if a woman is riding her horse and stumbles onto a dead body, a wounded dog, a drone, and a motorcycle?

Perhaps your story idea falls within the high-concept criteria. I hope so! If you believe in your premise, then get started with the groundwork of making your novel idea the next bestseller.

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DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect
an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and The Author Roadmap with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at

Friday, July 22, 2016

Tips to Refresh & Refill Your Creative Spirit

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

We all have way more things to do than time to do them. But lately it seems that more and more of my writing friends are facing serious issues. Often we have to keep working, even when the world is crashing around us. But that’s when the necessity of feeding your creative spirit becomes non-negotiable.

When life gets insane and and I’m running on empty what I want to do is pack my bags and leave on vacation. But I don’t often have time to lay out for a couple of weeks and recover. There are still more commitments and deadlines looming in the near future.

So how do I keep going and find a way to feed my creative spirit? I do a little inventory and then get my schedule down to the basics.

Evaluate Where You Are
Take an inventory and rate your mental fatigue.  When my mind is like a muscle that’s been overworked it needs time to recuperate. To give it the time it needs, I’ll be watching the clock while I’m working and taking frequent breaks during the day. I’ll wander around my yard, have lunch with a friend, or just sit and enjoy a TV show.

Next I’m looking at how disrupted my routine has become. Many of you know I keep a pretty regular schedule. I have to, I’m too easily distracted as it is. A schedule helps me focus and stay productive. But the past few months my schedule has consisted of sitting in front of the computer for twelve to fourteen hours a day, seven days a week. No one can sustain that kind of workload for any length of time.

So I’ll become very rigid with my schedule (including the break times). This will help me stay on track, even as I give myself time to recuperate. My writing time will be shorter and my breaks a little longer.

The third thing I’m looking at is how starved my creative spirit has become.  I need something to rekindle that creative that’s burned so low in my soul.

Here’s how I’ll get some nourishment in my starving creative well:
  • I’ll be spending more time reading—for pleasure. I may try a new author, or revisit an old favorite. I plan to go where my whims lead me. NOTHING from my to-do reading list allowed!
  • I’ll be doing some things that spark my creativity, like jewelry making or knitting. Something creative, but not something I do for money. Just opportunities that encourage my imagination to soar.
  • I’ll be going to the movies. This gives me the opportunity to immerse myself in worlds that other creative geniuses have imagined and most important, much-needed time with my husband and with friends.
  • Finally, I’ll be finding a time for a short vacation. It may only be a one-day trip into the mountains or a local park, but my husband and I need the unplugged time with just each other as our focus. 

Now I’d love to hear from you. How do you refill and refresh your creative spirit? Share your suggestions in the comments section so we can all learn from each other.

Edie Melson—author, blogger, speaker—has written numerous books, including While My Soldier Serves, Prayers for Those with Loved Ones in the Military. She’s also the military family blogger at Her popular blog for writers, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month, and she’s the director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers ConferenceConnections: Social Media & Networking Techniques for Writers is a print expansion of her bestselling ebook on social media. She’s the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy, the Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine, and the Senior Editor for Connect on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Sometimes, #Writing is Hard

Award-winning author Catherine West writes stories of hope and healing from her island home in Bermuda. When she’s not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or reading books by her favorite authors. She and her husband have two grown children. Catherine’s novel, Bridge of Faith, won the 2015 Grace Award. Her new novel, The Things We Knew, releases July 12th, 2016, through Harper Collins Christian Publishing. You can find Cathy on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, Google+, and her AmazonAuthor page.

This one always makes me laugh.

Because sometimes? Writing is hard. And sometimes being a writer is harder.

Today, I hope to encourage you. You know who you are. You're sitting with your plane ticket or staring at a map wondering what in the world you're thinking . . . you're heading into Writer Land, ACFW in Nashville!!
And you’re just a little terrified.

Yes, it's a big writers conference. If you're used to hanging out with your dog and maybe your spouse on occasion, you're going out of your comfort zone. A little. But . . . ACFW is a blast. It really is. Writers, editors, agents, publicists¾four days of hanging out with people just as nuts as you. (About writing).

But it can also be a scary time. Especially if you're new to this business, and you're still a little starry-eyed over the whole thing. You'll get over it. And if you want to get over it quick, find the group of haggard-looking, glassy-eyed, worn out veteran writers and come talk to us. (We'll be in the bar).

Because writing is hard. 

I know. You want me to tell you all the tricks. How to not be nervous. How to blow an editor back from the table with the best pitch they've ever heard in all their two years of coming to conference. (Yes, most of them really do look like they just graduated college). You want to know how to find your way through a crowded (think salmon season and you're swimming in the wrong direction) dining room and land a spot seated right next to your dream agent or that one editor you've never been able to talk to without crying. You want me to tell you there's no reason to panic, no reason to be nervous or fret or throw-up a couple times before your appointments.

And I wish I could. But I don't have the tricks. I don't have a magic bean and I sure don't have the confidence I certainly should after years in the field. The whole extravaganza still scares the bejeebers out of me. I feel your pain. And I still get nervous too. I'd prefer to just hang out with my friends, and then hole up in my room and read and rest and rewind a little. But that defeats the purpose, doesn't it?

We need to get out there and find the ones just like us, shaking in their boots and wondering what they were thinking coming here. They're easy to spot. Slammed against a back wall, looking a little green. We need to find them and tell them, hey, you know what, you're here, that's amazing. You're amazing! And you can do this. And they might not believe you, but you just keep saying it until they do.

Because writing is hard.

And we need our friends. Sometimes they'll drag us across a room if they have to, because honestly, what fun is it really, plastered against a wall looking like you're facing down a firing squad? And maybe you don't even know for sure that this is your calling, that this is where you're meant to be. Well, that's okay too. But you're not going to find out if you don't get out there and start asking. Seeking. Listening.

And then when it's all said and done and you've done your best, you've put yourself out there, you've prayed and maybe cried a little, and hopefully laughed a lot, you wait.

This is the hardest part. Ask me how I know. 

But . . . trust. Believe. Do the work and don’t give up. Find a little extra faith for each day that comes. And then, one day, you'll know.

One day you’ll find yourself standing in the midst of a dream come true.
And it will be good.

Until then, grab on to your seat, buckle up and hold on, because it's a heck of a ride. But if you let in a little light, love and laughter along the way, it's a really fun one.

Go in peace, friends. Face down your fears and just do the thing.

Because you're awesome.

Are you headed to conference? Tell us how you’re feeling!

The Things We Knew

When their tragic past begins to resurface, can he help her remember the things she can’t?

After her mother’s death twelve years ago, Lynette Carlisle watched her close-knit family unravel. One by one, her four older siblings left their Nantucket home and never returned. All seem to blame their father for their mother’s death, but nobody will talk about that tragic day. And Lynette’s memory only speaks through nightmares.

Then Nicholas Cooper returns to Nantucket, bringing the past with him. Once Lynette’s adolescent crush, Nick knows more about her mother’s death than he lets on. The truth could tear apart his own family—and destroy his fragile friendship with Lynette, the woman he no longer thinks of as a kid sister.

As their father’s failing health and financial concerns bring the Carlisle siblings home, secrets surface that will either restore their shattered relationships or separate the siblings forever. But pulling up anchor on the past propels them into the perfect storm, powerful enough to make them question their faith, their willingness to forgive, and the very truth of all the things they thought they knew.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Christy Awards and the Oscars

by James L. Rubart

At the end of last month I won a Christy Award in the Visionary category for my novel, The Five Times I Met Myself. It also won the Christy Award for Book of the Year. 

I was shocked, honored, thrilled, and went through most of the other emotions you can imagine. I was congratulated by many, many friends and readers of my books.

But this morning, as I considered what I would write about for this month's column, I wondered what the people who were aghast at this year's nominations would think.

Did You See It?

Did you see the people on Social Media who cried foul when the Christy nominations came out because there was only one male (me) among them this year? 

They weren't mildly disturbed. They were ticked off about it. Willful bias! Willful discrimination! It's why they refuse to read Christian fiction! 

I Didn't Get It

I still don't get it. Isn't it possible that the best books this year happened to be written by women? Isn't it possible the Christy judging committee determined (in their opinion) that no other male deserved to be on the list? 

And what do the ticked off among us do with their argument now that a male won not only his category, but Book of the Year? Maybe they feel their position still holds some H20 simply because still, there was only one man nominated, but I think that position is faulty from the start. 

It's the Same Mentality as the Oscars

The mentality of the folks saying there should have been more men nominated for a Christy this year is the same thinking that says more African Americans should be nominated for Oscars. 

Yes, I know I'm sticking my toe into the hot water here, but does anyone really want to be nominated for, or win an Oscar, not because they were the best actor that year, but because of the social pressure for more of their race to be nominated/win?

If I got a nomination or award in any contest, I'd be disgusted to think it was a token recognition. I am ignorant in holding this view? 

Wrap it up, Jim

In the end I have to decide if I believe my brothers and sisters behind the scenes at the Christy Awards are women and men of integrity or not. 

I believe they are. 

How 'bout you?

James L. Rubart is 28 years old, but lives trapped inside an older man's body. He thinks he's still young enough to water ski like a madman and dirt bike with his two grown sons, and loves to send readers on journeys they'll remember months after they finish one of his stories. He's the best-selling, Christy, INSPY, and RT Book Reviews award winning author of eight novels as well as a professional speaker. During the day he runs his marketing company which helps businesses, authors, and publishers make more coin of the realm. He lives with his amazing wife on a small lake in eastern Washington. More at

Monday, July 18, 2016

Find the Sweet Spot and Make That Sale!

By Pamela S. Meyers

One of the perks of Authorfest is the wonderful view! The Riviera Bldg. is left of center
Two weekends ago, I participated in Authorfest in my hometown of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. This is the second year for this festival and my second time participating. I have also sold my books at craft fairs and over time, I have learned one thing. If you want to sell your books, you have to find the sweet spot of emotion in each potential buyer.

I hate pushy sales people as much as the next person and when I first started selling at craft fairs and festivals, I waited for the customers to flock to my table. If I were a well-known author with a famous name that probably would have happened, but in my case not likely. After a so-so experience at a couple craft fairs I decided I needed to step it up.

You would think that my book Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin would be an auto-buy for anyone attending a book sale set next to the beach where the town's iconic Riviera Building is featured on my book cover. But not so much. I still had to sell the book to people and find that emotional connection for them to want to take my book home to read.
My Book cover that matched the view

My table was situated along a sidewalk that sees a lot of walkers over the course of a sunny summer Saturday and it was also one of several first seller tables the walkers encountered if they approached from the west. 

I'm not a shy person, but the first few times I made my pitch it was a little nerve-wracking. However, each time it got easier and I tweaked it on the fly when I saw what worked. Of course you have to make this applicable to your own situation, but I've broken the pitch down into increments to give you a head start:

1. Know your target audience and begin to search the people approaching your location for those people. My main target group are women from approximately 20 years old and up. And out of that group, women from middle age and up narrows it down even more. 

2.  When I spotted a woman that fit my target audience, I watched for her to look over at my table and slow her pace as she took in the large sign with a picture of my book. 

3. At this point I asked if she would be interested in stories set in historical Lake Geneva. By now, she had usually stopped walking and answered one of three ways: "Yes" or "Maybe" or "Not really." 

4. I gave the not-really people my book mark that features my current books and they went on their way, but with those who answered "Yes" or "Maybe," I begin my sales pitch by telling them I'm the author of the book, which they were sometimes surprised to learn. Then I continued on with the following facts:

  • I grew up in Lake Geneva (which gives authentication to the story).
  • My story is a love story that also involves historical information woven in about what the town was like in the 1930s and how the community project of building the new recreation building on the lakeshore brought the people together.
  • That the Riviera Building is on the cover of my book, and how I learned a lot about life in the town during the Great Depression and prohibition that I never knew.
  • I mentioned  how hard I worked at research to make sure that the only stores and places named were ones that were there at that time  
About this point in the conversation I could tell if I had made an emotional connection with the person. And if I had, I'd found the sweet spot. At any point after this, they were usually reaching for their wallets. Note usually, because some still walked away.

Of course, if I were doing this in a different location or even selling a different book at that time, my pitch would different. But the key point I’ve learned is searching for that “sweet spot” where you make an emotional connection. It's something I see in their face or their eyes or in something they say in response to what I've said. 

At my book table at Authorfest
One man loved the history of the area but he was hesitant to buy a book that was a love story (Calling the book a love story, as opposed to a romance, works better with men). With him I stressed the town's history that is shown throughout the story and assured him the love story wasn’t the only element in the book. I even warned him what part of the story had the first kiss so he could skim when he got to that part. He laughed and bought the book.

I also learned I did right by setting the price point at a level that a majority of people considered reasonable to pay for a trade paperback book. I was told that other authors at the sale were selling their books as much as five dollars more then I was. This was not a strategical move on my part, but I do know that there is an invisible line that most book customers don't usually cross when considering an impulse purchase of a book. I try to stay below that line.

All in all, Saturday at the Authorfest was a successful day. I have no idea how it will be for me next year when I’ll have a new rodeo story to sell that is set in southern Illinois, but I'll still be looking for that sweet spot.

What tips can you share for making the sale when selling at fests and craft fairs? 

If you’re interested in Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin,it is still available online at Amazon and other online stores. You can also purchase my other book, Thyme for Love, which I was also selling at Authorfest by clicking on the title of the book.

A native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, author Pamela S. Meyers lives in suburban Chicago with her two rescue cats. Her novels include Thyme for Love, which has recently been re-released on Amazon and her 1933 historical romance, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Love is All We Need (the sequel to Thyme for Love) will release in 2016, and Second Chance Love from Bling!, an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, will release in January 2017. When she isn’t at her laptop writing her latest novel, she can often be found nosing around Wisconsin and other Midwestern spots for new story ideas.