Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Is Your Story a Diamond? ~ by guest blogger Maureen Lang

Maureen Lang is the bestselling author of eleven books, many of which have earned various writing distinctions including RWAs Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award, A Holt Award of Merit and finaling in the Christies. She is also a four-time finalist in ACFWs Carol Award. Her titles The Oak Leaves, On Sparrow Hill, My Sister Dilly and most recently her three-book Great War Series, all published by Tyndale House, have consistently received positive reviews from such places as Publisher’s Weekly and Romantic Times. Visit her on her website and Facebook.

NJ: Leave a comment for Maureen and be entered in a drawing for a free copy of her book.

Is your story a diamond?

Like many married women, I wear a diamond engagement ring along with my wedding band. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of it and my gaze is arrested—most often when the light hits my ring just so, particularly sunlight. While I might not believe diamonds are a girl’s best friend, I do admit to being easily fascinated by something that appears to possess an endless sparkle.

A well-crafted story can be a captivating gem, too. A good story can catch my attention and provide a memory that seems everlasting—which is why such a thought prompted me to wonder if my stories could pass a diamond-inspired grading system.

The Four C’s of Grading Your Story Like a Diamond:

Clarity: Well-crafted stories have a sense of clarity that all the best diamonds possess. Readers may bring their own interpretation to a story but they’ll never be confused, frustrated or muddled by a story that works.

Carats: Well-crafted stories have just enough carats—in other words, their size is just right. There are never too many pages in a story that’s working for a reader! Some fans might think there are too few if they don’t want a story to end, but most readers of a well-crafted book will utter that satisfied sigh when the last page is turned, because the size is just right.

Color: Well-crafted stories are colorful. They mix fascinating characters with just the right setting and apparently insurmountable obstacles that somehow are believably and heroically overcome, bringing us to a satisfying end.

Cut: Well-crafted stories are cut to just the right shape, just as diamonds are. We may dream about writing outside the box, but for the sake of book buyers, publishing sales staff and PR workers—not to mention bookstore shelf-stockers—we need to write books that fit somewhere. Even when editors say they want something fresh and new, they still need to call it something so they can sell it to the rest of the publishing world. A mystery? A romance? Even more generic terms like General Fiction or Women’s Fiction call to mind a certain type of book.

More diamond elements for our precious stories…

Dedicated authors and their editors can spot that diamond-in-the-rough idea that can be expertly cut and polished into a marketable story.

A well-crafted story has a sense of timelessness, just like those endless facets of my diamond reflecting light. Characters are revealed to readers mid-stride, and readers recognize a sense that those people filling the pages already have a well-established life. Likewise, hopefully at the end of the story the reader is left with a promise of that character’s life going on and on.

A well-crafted story can be handed down, just as my ring will be handed down. There’s nothing better than to be told by a friend that a book touched them. Word-of-mouth advertising is every writer’s dream, because it’s the most effective.

And finally, well-crafted stories are priceless—yet so much more affordable than diamonds.

So if you’re wearing diamonds or just enjoy looking at sparkling jewels, let them inspire you to write a diamond of a story!

NJ: Leave a comment for Maureen to be entered in a drawing for a copy of her book.

Springtime of the Spirit

The winter of an unjust war is over. A springtime of the spirit awaits.

Germany, 1918
Four years of fighting have finally come to an end, and though there is little to celebrate in Germany, an undercurrent of hope swells in the bustling streets of Munich. Hope for peace, fairness—the possibility of a new and better tomorrow.

It’s a dream come true for Annaliese Düray. Young and idealistic, she’s fighting on the front lines of Munich’s political scene to give women and working-class citizens a voice in the new government. But she’s caught off guard by the arrival of Christophe Brecht—a family friend, recently returned from the war, who’s been sent to bring her home.

It’s the last place she wants to go.

Christophe admires Annaliese’s passion, unable to remember the last time he believed in something so deeply. Though he knows some things are worth fighting for, he questions the cost to Annaliese and to the faith she once cherished. Especially when her party begins to take its agenda to new extremes.

As the political upheaval ignites in Munich, so does the attraction between Annaliese and Christophe. When an army from Berlin threatens everything Annaliese has worked for, both she and Christophe face choices that may jeopardize their love, their loyalty, and their very lives.


Keli Gwyn said...

I love your analogy, Maureen.

The story I sent out on submission was a diamond-in-the-rough. There were problems with clarity, carats, color, and cut. In spite of those weaknesses, my awesome agent saw the potential, offered representation, and helped me polish my prose. I learned a great deal about crafting a marketable story, one she sold this past December. My hope is that readers see some sparkle in it when it hits the shelves. =)

Karen Witemeyer said...

Fun post, Maureen. And congratulations on your RITA Final. Yay!

I agree with your analogy and would even take it a step farther to talk about the tools that are required to cut and shape our stories. Those craft tools and editorial feedback make all the difference.

Thanks for sharing!

Christine said...

I love the analogy of the story to a diamond. I believe my current manuscript is definitely a diamond, but it needs some buffing to really make it sparkle. I don't know if I'll ever get to the point where I believe my work is completely finished. I think it's the perfectionist in me.

Please enter me in the drawing.
teaching by writing [at] yahoo [dot] com

Marti Pieper said...

This analogy rocks. Or should I say sparkles?

After nearly 28 years, my engagement diamond still makes me smile. And through the years, its value (intrinsic and extrinsic) has only increased.

I know a few stories like that. I'd love to write one someday.

Elizabeth Ludwig said...

Great article, Maureen! Thanks for sharing. And congratulations on the RITA nomination!! Best of luck in the final round.

Paula said...

Congratulations on RITA nominatin Best of luck.

Sheryl Barnes said...

Very neat anology; Congrats on the nomination. I wish you lots of luck.
To be honest, I haven't read any of your books Maureen, but would love to read this one. I coordinate the ladies book club for our church and I am always looking for a new author to introduce to them.
Again, congrats on the nomination and thanks for sharing.

Cindy W. said...

What an awesome analogy. Thank you for the great post and congratulations on your RITA nomination!.

Would love to win a copy of your book. Love the cover!

Cindy W.


Dina Sleiman said...

That's very helpful to me as I just started working as an acquisitions editor for a small press. It's true, you can see the diamonds in the rough, and this helps give me an analogy to express the changes I request. I had been thinking something along the same lines, but you pinned it down perfectly.

Oh, and I'd love a chance to win your book: dina dot sleiman at gmail dot com

Maureen Lang said...

Thanks so much for the nice notes! And congratulations to Lisa for winning.
Now I'm off to polish my diamond WIP, because today it seems pretty rough!

Carrie L. Lewis said...


As the others have all said, your analogy is great. I've never heard it applied to writing, before, but it is apt. Very apt.

In addition to the aspects of the analogy you detailed, I'm reminded the best diamonds aren't finished after the cutting. They're polished, refined, polished, again....

Just like writing!

Thanks much!

kristen said...

What a fantastic analogy! Thanks so much for the chance to win. I really enjoyed you "Whisper on the wind."
kristengjohnson (at) gmail (dot) com

Kanker said...

Very neat anology; Congrats on the nomination. I wish you lots of luck.
To be honest

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