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Saturday, September 24, 2016

10 Steps to Nail Your Story

By DiAnnMills @DiAnnMills

Tweet this:  10 Steps to Nail Your Novel

I’m all about ways to ensure stories delight our readers. That’s why we write. The process of shifting through blogs, how-to books, and conference speakers for the most effective way to create reader appeal is an ongoing process.

Someone is always trying to hammer a new method into our brains.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen writers get so caught up with all the dos and don’ts that their creativity becomes paralyzed. They become stuck and spend their time constantly revising their stories without making them better. Some writers spend years perfecting a manuscript and never submitting. Instead of overthinking story, the writer could have written more books to improve their craft while entertaining readers.

The following 10 guidelines will help the writer find clarity by beginning strong and carrying the novel all the way through to “The End” in a timely and efficient manner

1. Why do you want to write this story? What do you want to show? Have you developed a premise that adds passion to every keystroke? If not, do so now. The why of characters is rooted in the story premise. A motivated writer is a determined writer.

2. Have you considered the hours involved? Do you have an inner drive for what is ahead of you—learning the craft, sharpening your tools, developing a brand, and diving into social media? Are you prepared to invest your time, effort, and money into a dream? Write down your thoughts and read them often. Use a calendar to set realistic goals.

3. Before beginning a story, complete the pre-writing. This includes genre, characterization, backstory, layering the plot, planning the setting, necessary research, and a synopsis of what your story is about. I hear the moans! No matter if you’re a careful outliner or organic, preliminaries have to be established before the first sentence. Planning saves the writer headaches and rewrites.

4. Organize and record the pre-writing into a program such as Scrivener or in a file folder that will contain subfiles for your story. I recommend a subfile for each: 

Are you organized?

A. Characterization - Include pics and backstory. Go deep for a three- dimensional character. Give your characters strengths and challenges sure to win a reader’s heart. A writer always learns more about the characters during the pre-write.
B. Plot - Plot results from a character struggling to achieve a goal or solve a problem. It’s rooted in the character’s wants, needs, strengths, and flaws. How will your character move ahead according to his/her temperament? What do you know about the characters’ problems? Can you lay out the journey?
C. Setting - How can you make the setting an antagonist, an unexpected foe disguised as innocuous.
D. Dialogue - Are the spoken words true to character, plot, and genre? How is body language unique?
E. Research - This adds credibility to story. I encourage you not to sidestep this stage and journal your findings.
F. Synopsis - How much do you know about the story? Have you established a midpoint that shakes up the characters? What about the climax? Resolution? Record as much as you know.
G. Questions - Use this folder for story questions that must be answered upon completion.
H. Outtakes- These are scenes I may or may not use in the story. But nothing is ever wasted.
I. Blog topic - Every scene holds the potential to be a blog about your book.

5. Establish when the story will be finished and a doable word count per writing day. Use a calendar to set reasonable goals.

6. Craft a one sentence hook for the story as it pertains now. This may change, and that’s okay. Ensure it has “wow” value.

7. Write your story. You may choose to keep the entire manuscript in one document or break it down into scenes or chapters. I prefer a subfile for each scene in which I record the POV character. This is incredibly valuable.

8. When a scene is completed, make a note of unanswered plot questions and place in the “Questions” file.

9. When a scene is completed, make a note of any blog topics that can be written and used in the marketing and promotion phase. Place these in the “Blog Topics” file.

10. Self-editing is an opportunity to make your best writing even better. Your personal process determines whether you write the entire story before rereading any chapters or reading sections sooner. If you have a critique partner or Beta reader, now’s the time for feedback.

Ten steps to ensure your story’s written professionally. Simple and easy to follow. Are you ready to begin?

Tweet this:  10 Steps to Nail Your Novel

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

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Emotional Dragons Eating Authors: Emotions and YOU!

Peter Leavell
Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing's Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho.

I heard dragons devour authors who write boring books. Or maybe dragons burn the books. I can't remember.  

Repeat after me—my writing will not be boring.

Jesus wasn't boring! (Jesus juke!)

You know what deflects boredom? Not reading a boring book. 

But even better, add this key ingredient:


Galadriel: "The quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little and it will fail to the ruin of all." LotR

Your quest is to evoke emotions in readers. 

Emotions and Me

I hate waiting. Groans, pleadings, cries for mercy come from my side of the car at every red light. Why? Anger covers my boredom. Makes the dull moments manageable. I’m not emotionally engaged in the bored moment until I’m angry. 

David Banner: "Mr. McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." TIH

Love can work the same way. Humans are intolerable. We're writers, so we can admit that little secret. But love makes me want to be with my wife every second of every day. 

Miracle Max: "Sonny, true love is the greatest thing, in the world-except for a nice MLT – mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe. They’re so perky, I love that." PB

Getting Philosophical

Postmodern America. Emotions reign as king. Emotion is truth. Science is proved and disproved and proved again with no answers to the meaning of life. Philosophy is depressing, and worse, confusing. Religion builds massive structures then erects signs to advertise like banks, promising huge rewards for deposits. How can that be truth?

To most, how I feel is the only motivation that matters. It's the only truth we can verify. We’re told we can’t control how others feel, only ourselves. So if we control our stimuli, or situations, then we can have a pretty good time. 

*Special INSERT: Christians
The truth is Christ. But if Christ is king, then emotions are prince. We look for joy and peace from Christ. God delivers. Beware of guilt, though. We work to assuage guilt, then the lack of guilt is pleasure. Is lack of guilt true joy? For some.

Col. Jessep: ''You want answers?"
Kaffee: "I think I'm entitled to."
Col. Jessep: "You want answers?"
Kaffee: "I want the truth!"
Col. Jessep: "You can't handle the truth!" AFGM

Practical Writing Tips

Readers desperately want to feel their pain reflected back through our work. They want joy. They want boredom squashed. They want to learn so they can feel as if they are getting smarter. Evoke emotion!

These are extraordinarily boring for today's readers:

Endless Flashbacks.
Narrative longer than Tweets.
Mindless monologs.
Action with no point.
Kissing and sex with no point.
Gardening. Just kidding. Gardening is awesome. 

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in. -Greek Proverb

Last Tidbits of Advice You Can Skip But Shouldn't:

Sometimes we see the world in a problem/solution kind of way. Society and religion, yes, they have problems. But we use our fiction to dispense solutions. That’s not art. That’s propaganda. Stop it. It’s boring. The line is too fine to walk. Focus on story, and if there's a statement in there somewhere, great!

Tension on every page? It’s a cheap emotion and readers grow immune. Vary emotions like you would vary sentence structure.

What’s exciting for some is boring for others. Vary the thrills.


Counterpoints can be set out like drinks for every problem that enters the café. But there's one truth we can't get around. Boring doesn't sell well, unless the professor assigns it. Emotionally engage your reader. Give them something to feel. And maybe, just maybe, they'll feel alive.

Doc. Frankenstein "It's Alive! IT'S ALIVE!" YF

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Make Your Writing Better By Resting

From July 2015 to July 2016, I wrote three books for a total of 250,000 words.

For some super writers, that's nothing. But for me, it was quite a feat.

While I've learned to write faster using the Story Equation, three books was still a bit much.

It started last summer when my editor proposed two books due by December 1st.

I was hesitant. I wasn't sure I had the emotional energy to write two books! In the fall of 2015 I was just over a difficult year physically in 2014. What if I ran into problems again?

Connecting emotionally to the characters is important to me and that's hard to do when I have to simply "produce." Hard to do when a tough year hang over your head.

Yet the Lord nudge me, "Do it. Diamonds come from pressure."

I did it. It was fun. But no time to rest. On to the next deadline to make this trio in a year complete.

Once I turn in The Writing Desk rewrites, I will have nothing pressing until January. I can take my time to read, dream, plan the next book.

And just be. Drive to the beach. Spend time just sitting at His feet.

Rest. It's so key to a writer's life.

In the Old Testament, God tells the people of Israel to "fast work." We have to labor to enter into rest because it's our default to work. To want to stay busy. To feel like the more we work the more we'll get done.

I've heard testimonies of successful businessmen who worked 12 - 15 hours a day and still didn't accomplish all they wanted.

But when they started "resting" before the Lord at the beginning of their day, they accomplished all their work and more in a regular 8 hour day.

I ended up on a two week vacation this summer in the middle of the deadline. I had a few restless nights wondering if I'd meet my July deadline.

How can one rest when there's work to be done?

I finished. Two days early. On the heels of my father-in-laws passing.

God can multiply our time if we take time to rest and just be!

This fall I can take the top down on the car and drive along the beach if I want. Let the wind blow through my hair and my thoughts.

Take time to rest. Don't go from one thing to the next.

Work hard on deadline. Rest in between.

You'll be better for it.

New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Rachel Hauck lives in sunny central Florida.

A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, she worked in the corporate software world before planting her backside in uncomfortable chair to write full time eight years ago.

Her book The Wedding Dress hit Amazon's bestsellers list the first half of 2016.

Rachel serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a mentor, conference speaker and worship leader.

Rachel writes from her two-story tower in an exceedingly more comfy chair. She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.

Here latest novel is The Wedding Shop"Spellbinding." Starred Booklist Review

Visit her web site:

Monday, September 19, 2016

Strength in Adversity is Necessary for Life and Writing

By Pamela S. Meyers

I wrote this article several years ago and recently came across it. It bears good reminders for those of us who write, but also for anyone who has adversity in their life. And who doesn't at one time or another? 


This man has the right idea!
I'm currently reading a chapter a day in Deuteronomy Today, it wasn't the scripture that contained a takeaway for me, but the study note in my John MacArthur NASB Study Bible regarding Deut. 13:3 that says God was testing the Israelites to see how much they did love Him in the face of temptation. The study note states: "...while temptation was dangerous, the overcoming of that temptation would strengthen the people in their love for God and obedience to His commandments."

I pondered the idea that temptations can be strength-builders when we overcome, but the lesson didn't hit full-force until I went to the gym and decided to increase the weights on some of the machines I use. The increase was only five pounds, but what had become fairly easy suddenly became more difficult. Yet I pushed on, straining at times, until I accomplished my goals. Why? Because it's been proven that without increasing the resistance, my muscles will never strengthen. They needed that extra weight in order to become stronger.

That got me thinking about adversity and trials beyond the temptations that I face every day. They provide increased weight to my inner soul, strengthening it like a muscle when I don't give up and stop resisting the temptation. The harder I work at resisting and rising above the disappointments, setbacks, and trials of life, the more I will depend on God to get me through. And my love for Him can only increase because He gives me EVERTHING I need for life.

How does that translate to my writing journey? With every rejection I receive (and there have been many over the years), every hard critique that points out flaws in my story, every time a typo that slipped past me, I can benefit through in the same way increasing the weight on the leg press machine like the one like the guy is using in the picture. 

This morning I grimaced through most of the exercises, but I am now a bit stronger for having endured. And each disappointing experience I have with my writing will only make me stronger and more determined to grow from the experience, as I trust God, knowing He is in charge and equipping me to better my craft. At the proper time I will reap a harvest if I don't give up. (See Galatians 6:9)


Soon after I wrote this, I was blessed with my first book contract, and two more followed. Since then my writing still continues to be blessed, but not without ups and downs as the landscape of fiction publishing has changed in many ways. With each down I have remembered this lesson and it has carried me through.

If you are a writer looking to be traditionally published or perhaps you are thinking about going indie (self publishing), hang in there and trust God. He has a plan for you, not to harm but to give you hope and a future! (Jeremiah 29:11)

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 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 soon, 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.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Until That Day

By Marcia Lee Laycock

I’ve had cancer. Twice. These are a couple of things I learned:

1.Someday Jesus and I will be face to face; He is here, with me, right now.

2. All the ambitions I have, and all the fears I harbour, are insignificant in view of those two facts.

I learned those lessons as I lay on a cruciform table in an operating room, reflecting as the anesthesia took hold. I could wake up in heaven, I thought. The idea excited me, but it also made me realize I didn’t want to die. There were things I still wanted to do and see, people I wanted to continue to love and some things I needed to set right. But I knew the possibility of dying that day, or in the not too distant future, was very real. The fact that it would happen, some day, was undeniably clear.

That made my writer’s heart beat a little faster. There were articles and books I still wanted to write, plays I wanted to see on the stage. The idea of dying in the middle of it all made me squirm a bit on that cold table.

So I prayed and that wonderful peace that passes all understanding flooded through me. I realized if I was about to meet Jesus none of my fears and suddenly rather silly ambitions would matter. If He was about to take me home, that meant the purpose for my life, and my work, had been accomplished. If He chose to allow me to continue on this earth, I could trust that he would be there beside me, guiding me all the way. It was a “win, win” situation.

Then I woke up in an ICU on a respirator with my hands tied down. My first thought was, Well, I don’t think this is heaven. As my brain struggled to register the words the nurse was saying, telling me I had had an allergic reaction to the blue dye they had injected into my body, I tried not to panic. What did that mean, exactly? I was relieved when she told me they were going to remove the tube down my throat and untie my hands. Yes, I thought, that would be very nice.

Then I saw my husband’s face. Then I had a moment. It was brief, but quite powerful. What if it had been the face of Jesus? I thought of Isaiah’s reaction when he saw the Lord and cried out, “Woe to me, for I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). Understatement of the century, in relation to myself, I knew. But then there is the rest of the story, in which the angel tells the prophet he has been cleansed and The Lord presents him with his life’s purpose.

I too have been cleansed and presented with mine. So I will continue to write, to live my life, remembering those two things I learned on that operating table. Until He takes me home.


Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor's wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was short listed in The Word Awards. Marcia also has four devotional books in print and has contributed to several anthologies. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan.

Abundant Rain, an ebook devotional for writers can be downloaded on Smashwords or on Amazon. It is also now available in Journal format on Amazon. 

Her most recent release is Celebrate This Day, a devotional book for special occasions like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving. 

Sign up to receive her devotional column, The Spur

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Embracing Fear

post by Michelle Griep

Fear is a negative word. A hateful word. And why am I such a hater?

Well, as much as I hate to break it to wannabe writers, the ugly truth is that fear is part of an author's life. It never goes away. Fears such as:
  • What if I what I'm writing is a steaming pile of literary manure?
  • What if I can't even think of anything to write today?
  • What if my sales numbers never pull out of the nosedive they're in?
  • Sweet mercy! Will I ever be able to lose the 10 pounds I just gained from sitting around writing my last manuscript?
  • What if my book simultaneously releases when Suzy Awesome Author's book comes out?
  • What if Ben & Jerry's discontinues Chunky Monkey?
And those are just a few. Here's the deal . . . writers are psychotic little rock badgers, all fidgety and tweaky. Why?

Because art is subjective.

Even to the artist. You may think that what you create on any given day is a masterpiece, then come back to it the next and have a little bit of throw-up in your mouth because you think it's just that awful.

But you know what? A small amount of fear is a good thing. It keeps you on your toes. It keeps your head from swelling. It gives you an edge, preventing complacency. Too much fear will keep you from producing anything, but just a smidge is the sweet spot, spurring you on to bigger and better projects.

Recently I co-authored a book (Out of the Frying Pan) with a writerly buddy. You'd think working side-by-side with someone who understands the process would alleviate all those fears. Nope. Even teaming up, writelry angst still had a way of crawling in my ear and whispering, "You're not good enough to write this."

You know what? I did it anyway.

And you can too. Go forth, little writers, and embrace fear. Know that it's part of the writerly game and that you're not the only one a little shivery at the knees.

Unless, of course, it has to do with Ben & Jerry's going out of business. Then all bets are off.



Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. Follow her adventures and find out about upcoming new releases at her blog, Writer Off the Leash, or stop by her website. You can also find her at the usual haunts of FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.

Like what you read? There’s more. WRITER OFF THE LEASH: GROWING IN THE WRITING CRAFT is a kick in the pants for anyone who wants to write but is stymied by fear, doubt, or simply doesn’t know how to take their writing to the next level.