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Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Cold Hard/Ugly Truth about Novel Writing

By DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

Tweet this: The Cold Hard/Ugly Truth about Novel Writing 

Writers are survivors. If in doubt, take a look at what it takes to reach publication. It’s a little scary, but if you have courage, take a look at what’s needed. 

Writing Ain’t Easy.

If every person on the planet was destined to be a writer, then everyone would be churning out one bestseller after another. How boring! How average!

So what do we writers need to survive the front lines?

  1. Training. Every writer has a learning curve, time to explore the craft and apply technique to a manuscript. *The training never ends.
  2. Thirst. How badly does a writer want to create worthwhile nonfiction or fiction projects? *Our thirst or passion for writing must be forefront or we fail.
  3. Time. For those who claim they don’t have time to write, perhaps they don’t have the guts to carve out extra minutes and hours to pursue their goals. A writer’s time is spent in training, writing, re-writing, branding through marketing and promotion, and social media. *We all have time. It’s our choice on how we use it.
  4. Touchy comments. Family and friends often don’t understand our dream of reaching others through the written word. We have a message, and our habits and commitments can meet ridicule and teasing. *Ignore the naysayers. No one needs them.
  5. Turndown. Until our writing meets a publisher’s guidelines, we writers will face rejection. To reach our goals, we may sometimes need to take additional workshops and classes, hire a professional editor, or do a complete rewrite. *A turndown today can mean a contract tomorrow.
  6. Trust. The Bible says that if God is for us, who can be against us? Trust in the One who purposed you to write. *Believe in yourself and the God who gave you the gift.
Now that you’ve worked past all those ugly facts and you’re still determined to be a writer, then welcome to the eccentric, bizarre, and entertaining world of writing.

What obstacles have you had to overcome as you strive toward your publication goals?

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, October 21, 2016

Going Deeper

by Carol J. Post

Before I was published, I used to enter a lot of contests. One of the first contests I entered, a judge said I needed to learn to write in deep point of view. I had never heard of it and had to look it up. I have to say, that is some of the best writing advice I have ever gotten.

Writing in deep point of view is not for the lazy. Not only is the concept difficult to master, scenes written in deep point of view also take longer to write, often requiring more words. But the result is well worth the extra effort. Deep point of view lets the reader experience the story through the eyes of the POV character. It adds sparkle to that character’s voice and gives the writing emotional punch.

The first step in deepening point of view is to fully know your characters. What do they want more than anything? What do they feel strongly about? What are their goals, motivations and conflicts? What about quirks, things that make them unique and memorable? Don’t just write about the character; become the character. (Click to Tweet)

Here are some tips for deepening point of view:

  1. Eliminate “telling” words and phrases. These are words like thought, felt, saw, heard, wondered, decided, realized, and phrases like was sure and was determined. All of these words and phrases distance the reader from the POV character, because the author is intruding on the story, telling what the character is experiencing. Instead of “He heard a gunshot,” try “A shot rang through the air.” Instead of “She felt sick,” try “Nausea churned in her gut.” Instead of “She was determined not to fall for him again,” try “No way was she going to fall for that dark charm again.”

  1. Try to describe emotions rather than naming them. This isn’t to say that you will never name an emotion, but showing the character feeling and acting is much more powerful. Abstract words don’t evoke emotion. When describing an emotion, consider its physical effects on the body, the actions and behaviors of someone experiencing it, and thoughts in keeping with that particular emotion.

In Out for Justice, the heroine, a homicide detective discovers that the latest victim of a serial killer is her cousin. Telling her reaction using a shallow point of view, we would say, “Lexi was shocked and horrified.” In deep point of view, the reader instead experiences those emotions with Lexi:

Lexi shook her head. The ground seemed to tilt beneath her and she took a stumbling step backward to steady herself. A scream of protest clawed its way up her throat, followed by a wave of nausea that almost brought her to her knees.
Alan’s words finally penetrated her befuddled brain, several seconds too late.
“Lexi, it's Kayla.”

  1. Try to eliminate dialogue tags as much as possible. By their very nature, dialogue tags (he said, she whispered, etc.) are “telling.” Action and emotion beats show the reader not only who is speaking but also what that character is thinking, feeling and doing. Instead of “talking heads,” we have real flesh-and-blood characters. In the following snippet of conversation from Trust My Heart, the action and emotion beats give the reader insight into the characters that simple tags wouldn’t.

She picked up her coffee cup and washed the Danish down with a loud slurp. “So you’re single? No wife? No girlfriend?”
He cocked a brow at the intrusion into his privacy. But something told him this fiery-haired Bernie wasn’t much for convention.
“I’m not married.” He’d made that mistake once. Two years and a quarter of a million dollars later, he was once again single.
“Don’t worry, you’re still young.” She gave his hand a couple of pats. “You’ve got plenty of time.”
He stifled a snort. Thirty wasn’t exactly young. And if single was an ailment, he wasn’t looking for a cure.

  1. Incorporate sensory details. Showing what a character is seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling is one of the most effective ways to immerse a reader into a scene. Choose two or three vivid details, but make sure they are things the character would reasonably notice at that time. Here is the beginning of a scene from Hidden Identity that incorporates the senses of sight and hearing.

Time moved at a snail’s pace.
Meagan sighed and dropped her gaze from the clock on the wall to the book of poetry lying open in her lap. Voices buzzed around her, and across the room, a mother tried to quiet a crying baby.

A half page later, the hero appears, and we have the senses of smell, sound and touch.

A familiar scent wafted toward her, the faintest hint of evergreen, tipped with spice. Her thoughts tumbled over one another.
“Mind if I interrupt your reading?” The voice close to her ear was liquid smooth, sending goose bumps cascading over her.

For more information on this topic, Kathrese McKee, author and editor, offers a great resource. She has written an amazing booklet titled Mastering Deep POV, which takes a passage, sentence by sentence, and transforms it from shallow to deep point of view. She offers the booklet free to all her newsletter subscribers. You can find her at

Now go back through your current work in progress and see how deep you can go. Reach into the heart of your character and tap into all that emotion. And step out of the way. Your reader will remember your story and characters long after THE END.


Going Deep: Elicit Greater Emotion Through DEEP POV by Carol J. Post (Click to Tweet)

Don’t just write about the character; become the character.~ Carol J. Post (Click to Tweet)

From medical secretary to court reporter to property manager to owner of a special events decorating company, Carol J. Post’s resume reads as if she doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up. But one thing that has remained constant through the years is her love for writing. She currently pens fun and fast-paced inspirational romance and romantic suspense stories. Her books have been nominated for a RITA® award and an RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Book Award.

Carol lives in sunshiny Central Florida with her husband, who is her own real-life hero, and writes her stories under the shade of the huge oaks in her yard. Besides writing, she works alongside her music minister husband singing and playing the piano. She enjoys sailing, hiking, camping—almost anything outdoors. Her two grown daughters and grandkids live too far away for her liking, so she now pours all that nurturing into taking care of a fat and sassy black cat and a highly spoiled dachshund.

Connect with Carol at her website,, Facebook (, or Twitter ( For regular updates, sign up for Carol’s newsletter (

Book Blurb:
Grant McAllister arrives in Murphy, North Carolina, with one aim: to sell his inherited property and leave as quickly as possible. The big-city lawyer has no interest in his late, estranged grandparents or the dilapidated mansion he just acquired. After his high-profile divorce, he should be avoiding perky reporters, too. But Jami Carlisle is honest, funny, and undeniably appealing.
After breaking up with her safe-but-smothering boyfriend, Jami is determined to ace her first big assignment. A story about the McAllister estate is too intriguing to ignore—much like its handsome, commitment-phobic heir. Thanks to her digging, the pieces of Grant’s fraught family history are gradually fitting into place, but also upending all his old beliefs.
The two draw closer as they share their dreams, until misread signals and misunderstandings begin to test their trust. But in the unspoiled beauty of the Smoky Mountains, there’s healing and forgiveness to be found. And for Grant, this unplanned detour may be just what’s needed to finally guide him home…

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Unlocking the Passion

Copyright: herjua / 123RF 
by Author S. Dionne Moore

Almost twenty-one years ago, my daughter was born. The light of my life. As every first-time mother will tell you, she was perfect. A gift. Except, she was born too early. At one pound and fifteen ounces, her condition was fragile at best. We spent seventy-five days in NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) as she struggled to breathe, much less suck and swallow, a reflex natural to full-term babies. 

Good days were always tinged with sorrow, and bad days sometimes became the stuff of nightmares. Those times when you entered NICU and saw an empty bed where an infant had been the night before, your emotions rolled between grief for the parents, relief that it wasn't your child, then guilt over your relief. 

When the day came that we brought our baby home, it was glorious. We were filled with joy. We willingly dragged along the heart rate monitor just to have her out of NICU, and a chance for normalcy. Granted, our days were filled with more worry than most new parents, more concerns about our child's growth and development, but the question of life and death had at least been settled.
In the midst of all this I came to the slow realization that I needed an outlet for the coiled knot of hope and fear that had become my constant companion. A hobby that I enjoyed. I turned to writing. A hobby I had not dabbled in since my teenage years. 

I started small. The Preemie Experience was my heartfelt tribute to mothers of premature infants, and the culmination of experiences of other young mothers with whom I swapped stories during our stay in NICU. In that day, Geocities was the way to publish a blog on the Web, and that's what I did with my tribute. To my surprise, I was contacted by an editor who was compiling stories from other parents. She asked if she could use my article as the prologue for her book, Living Miracles: Stories of Hope from Parents of Premature Babies. It was a thrilling moment, and one that made me reconsider old story ideas I had developed in my teens, with a mind to writing a book. 

Brides of Wyoming

My new journey to write fiction began with a lot of learning. Mastering the rules of writing, the best ways to help your publisher market your book, and all about developing story, conflict and characters. After a few years of conferences and meeting with editors and agents, I received feedback from a professional encouraging me to use my sassy, mature, secondary character as a heroine. LaTisha Barnhart was born. Within a year I had finaled in a writing contest with the opening chapter of a cozy mystery in which LaTisha held the starring role. It was for this book, Murder on the Bunions, that I received my first contract.

My journey in writing continues in the form of my newest release, Brides of Wyoming (11/1/2016), an anthology of three romances featuring heroines who must overcome physical and emotional dangers to learn to live and love to the fullest. And as my daughter turns twenty-one and studies for a degree to become a Paralegal, I have to stop and smile. It's amazing how terrible circumstances can unlock an unrealized passion that brings such joy and dimension to our hearts and minds. And my daughter? She has become a beautiful young woman with a sharp mind a quick smile. She is my heart. My joy. My gift.


Unlocking the Passion by Author S. Dionne Moore (Click to Tweet)

I needed an outlet for the hope and fear that had become my constant companion.~ S. Dionne Moore (Click to Tweet)


S. Dionne Moore
S. Dionne Moore resides in the historically rich Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, where she indulges her pleasure for history and vacillates between the need to write and the desire to play. Brides of Wyoming is her newest release from Barbour Publishing. 


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Processing the Paralyzing Premise

© 123RF Stock Photo

by Rachel Hauck

I’ve heard editors and agents comment on book proposals. “Wow me.” Or, “I’m looking for something dynamic. Fantastic.”

As a hungry writer, such words can be paralyzing. Editors and agents are asking for filet mignon when I’m approaching with my supersized McDonalds meal – hot from the grill and fry vat.
I think, hope, pray, believe it’ll be a satisfying meal. But, no, turns out the requirement is filet.
High concept. I’ve heard that too. Have you? “We’re looking for high concept ideas.”
I’m not even sure what that means from house to house, agent to agent. Definitions and tastes vary from agent to agent, editor to editor.
One agent loves literary. To him, a high concept, wow-me-fantastic story will have a literary tone. Another agent loves the high concept mainstream contemporary story that’s more plot driven than character.
Rats. I just pitched to the wrong agent. Now what?
So, we eat our own supersized McDonald’s meal and contemplate how to produce a filet from two-all-beef patties, special sauce and cheese on a sesame seed bun.
Wait, I got it! What about a cooking show host who can’t cook?
It’s high concept. I can spout the premise in a single sentence. I’ve nailed the elevator pitch. Cooking shows and foodie blogs are all the rage.
Great. Sold. Go for it.
Little did I know I would go from high concept to paralyzing premise syndrome. As I told people about my WIP during the first draft, they’d laugh. “I can’t wait to read it.” Or, “What a great idea. Too funny.”
Really, okay, but just what is that idea? What do you expect to read?
The delighted would shrug. “I don’t know exactly.”
Great. Me neither.
When I started writing Dining with Joy, about a cooking show host who can’t cook, I had to ask myself several questions.
1. Why can’t she cook? Even a little bit?
2. Why does she even do the show? Doesn’t she have other goals and dreams related to her talents?
3. Is she successful? If she’s not, why not just quit the show? If she is, what is at stake if she quits?
4. How do people not figure out she can’t cook? Do people know? Do they keep it a secret? Why?
5. How did she get the show in the first place? I knew it had to be circumstantial, but then why does she stay with it?
6. Does she learn to cook over time?
7. How does the hero discover her secret and help her overcome?
8. What’s the black moment? Well, I knew the heroine had to be exposed in a big way, so what were the stakes?
9. Who loses when she’s outed? If she’s the only one, then it’s not as dramatic. But if others are at risk, then her actions have devastating rippling effects.
10. How does she recover? What does she really want to do with her life?
As you can see, I had a lot of questions to figure out before I could even get to the plot of who, what, when, where, why and how.
Some of my answers lead to more questions. Each scenario had to have a plausible outcome.
I talked to show producers, cooking show producers, and a chef. I talked to a women who taught the untalented how to cook. I talked to people, like me, who aren’t into cooking.
I read memoirs and biographies of foodies and chefs.
Still, when it all boiled down, the premise had its very paralyzing moments no matter how much pre-planning and research I did.
Why? Because the heroine’s lie lives. It’s not that Joy believed a lie like, “I can never learn to cook.” She lived the lie.
My friend Susie, Susan May Warren, had the same problem with her book about a radio host who advises the lovelorn even though she’s never been on a date.
The hows and whys are endless. Once you find one solution, another question arises.
For me, the plot called for Joy, who is beautiful and great in front of the camera, to move from a small network to a large one. She’s funny and quirky. They love her.
But it’s also her perfect time to bail. Tell the truth to her new producer. But if I did that, the book would be over. Then what? Three hundred pages of Joy trying to find herself?
I know, I know, others have written such masterpieces, but not me.
So, a great idea usually comes with great problems. Worse, readers often miss all the details threaded in to show motivation, to give reason. They blow right past them and write a review that goes something like, “Why didn’t she just tell the truth?” Or, ”How did the hero figure it out when no one else did?”
Um, didn’t you read the book? All of those questions are answered. I’m not a fan of skim-reading. If you skim, don’t bash. Chances are, you missed something. I speak from experience.
Nevertheless, it was a fun book with a witty premise that can be pitched on one sweet sentence. “A cooking show host who can’t cook.” Like it or not, the sales team at any given publisher has about that much time to sell a book.
A rep can go to a book buyer with, “It’s Amish” and write a large order. Or the rep can say, “A rogue New York cop saves his wife and an L.A. building from terrorist,” and write a decent order.
If the salesman has to explain a book, “Yeah, this is a great story about a woman who lives an every day life. She’s the happiest of homemakers but one day her daughter comes home with a new friend. That’s when things really take off. Yeah, I can wait for you to take this call. But trust me, you’re going to love this book.”
Book buyers see a lot of sales reps. And as hard as we all work to promote our books, there’s only so much time and space allowed to sell them.
So, where does this little diatribe of mine leave us, the writer? Let me list a few tips:
1. Dig deep to come up with a unique idea. By that I mean, a twists on a common theme. There are cooking show novels. But only a very few where the host can’t cook.
2. Juxtapose your character’s talent and problem. In Lost In Nashvegas, Robin was a songwriter afraid to sing in front of large crowds. Her fear doused her desire. What’s your idea? What’s the opposite of that idea? Fit your character into the scenario. What is her desire? Contrast it with her fears.
3. Once you come up with an idea, write down all the ways it will work. All the ways it won’t. Brainstorm scenarios. Ask yourself “why?” and “what if?”
4. As you write, keep digging. Is there a door your protagonist should see as an escape hatch? If so, why don’t they? Dig deep to figure out internal struggles that keep them from the truth.
5. Create a complex character. Protagonist in situations opposite their desires have to be strong enough to carry the premise. For Joy, she was a college athlete, a competitor. She never quits. Even if she’s ill equipped. And, she had a wound over her father. In Susie’s book, the protagonist suffered a tragedy that locked her in fear. The reason why she never went on a date was because she rarely left her house.
6. Write it and write it again. Answer all the questions, close all the loop holes. If a reader or reviewers asks, “Why didn’t she just tell her new producer she couldn’t cook?” I was prepared with an answer. And I wrote it in the book.
7. Be prepared to change the plot. As the questions pop up and demand answers, be ready to change your story. Once I realized Joy was going to have a new producer (problem one) on a major network (problem two) with fame and fortune being promised to her and her staff (problem three) I realized she couldn’t just walk away. It fit her character to try. She was a competitor. And, she was a popular TV show host. She knew she could pull it off. As long as the universe stayed in harmony…
Those are some tips on gaining a high concept story idea and seeing it through when it becomes the paralyzing premise!
Off to McDonalds…
New York Times & USA Today best-selling, award-winning author Rachel Hauck loves a great story. She is on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers and leads worship for their annual conference. In 2013 she was named ACFW's Mentor of the Year. She lives in Florida with her husband and ornery cat. Read more about Rachel at