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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Taking the Sting Out of a Bad Review So You Can Become a Better Writer

No one likes a bad review, but let's be honest, some of what the reviewer says might hold a bit of truth, if we’re brave enough to listen. So how do you get past the sting of a bad review so you can become a better writer?

Grow Thick Skin

Remember your first hard critique? You were a new writer. Bright-eyed, hopeful, and naïve. You thought your prose would sing in the ears of your critique partners, but instead of praise, your new friends screamed red all over your pages. Remember the sting? Remember the pain? You got over it, right? Well, you did if you’re still writing. Why? Because your skin thickened up, and you were able to pull out the truth in a tough critique to be a better writer.

The same thing should apply when we read a tough review. (If you choose to read reviews at all.) There’s a very real possibility the reviewer might be out right mean and not have understood your story or what you wanted to accomplish, but between the harshness, there might be some truth to help make you a better writer. You just need to grow an extra layer of skin to find it and realize the reader is not rejecting you. They simply didn't connect with your book on some level.

Look at the Review Objectively

Of course this is hard to do when you haven’t grown thick skin, but if you have, try looking at a bad review in hopes of finding something you can work on so you can become a better writer. Is there anything constructive you can pull out from a bad review? Did the reviewer mention some aspect of the craft you might be weak in? Maybe they didn’t connect with your main character or thought you overused analogies, not that I’m speaking from experience. But those are things you can take a closer look at and learn from.

Realize Not Everyone Will Understand Your Story

Will there be people who leave reviews totally contradicting what other reviewers have said? Yes, and that’s okay. That just means that particular reader didn’t get your story and that it wasn’t meant for her. That person is not your target audience, so don’t sweat trying to write for her. You will never make that kind of reader happy, so why try?

Accentuate the Positive

If bad reviews outweigh the good reviews, that could mean a couple of things. You need to get back to the business of studying the craft, or other readers who enjoyed your story didn’t take the time to review it. I have some ideas on how to get readers to review, but I’ll save that for another post. In the meantime, focus on what readers liked about your story and do more of that! They’re the ones you are writing for!

Forget it and Just Write

I know, easier said than done. Bad reviews can sour your mood and paralyze your writing, that’s why many authors refuse to read them. But if you choose to read a bad review, realize that no matter how thick your skin, a harsh review will sting. The disappointment in yourself and fear of letting down your readers can keep you from writing, but to be a better writer, you need to write. So unplug from the internet, seek encouragement from those who believe in you and your writing, and just write. It is that simple!

Bad reviews aren’t fun, in fact, they hurt, but they don’t have to kill your writing. By growing thick skin, being objective, and a having desire to improve your craft you can take the sting out of a bad review and become a better writer.

Gina Conroy is founder of Writer...Interrupted and is still learning how to balance a career with raising a family. Represented by Chip MacGregor, she writes fun, quirky mysteries full of twists and turns. Her first book Cherry Blossom Capers, released from Barbour Publishing in January 2012, and Digging Up Death is available now .

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Driven to Write ~ Lynn Rush

Driven to write, Lynn Rush often sees her characters by closing her eyes watching their story unfold in her mind. Lynn Rush is a pen name that is a combination of two sources – Lynn, the first name of her mother-in-law, who passed away and Rush – since the author is a former inline speed skater and mountain biker. All of Rush’s books are dedicated to Lynn, her namesake, and a portion of the proceeds benefits cancer research and awareness.

Tell our readers a bit about your journey. How long did it take you to get published?

I started writing for publication in May of 2008, and I got my first publishing contract through a contest in January of 2010; however, that didn’t end up working out as the publisher closed its doors. Crescent Moon press snatched up Wasteland March of 2011. It was an up and down journey, but that’s part of any dream, right? Totally worth it!

Tell us about this book.

The third book in this Wasteland Trilogy, Tainted, released January 15th, 2013. I was sad to see the stories end, but it was fun to write Jessica and Durk’s love story. I’d introduced Jessica in that very first book when she wasn’t even sixteen. Durk had a brief mention, but he played a bigger role in book two, Awaited. In book three, they finally get the spotlight.

Was there a specific 'what if' moment to spark this story?

No. I’m one to just get an idea and start writing. I could be walking down the street and a story idea will spark at any given time. But, as I looked back at Wasteland, it was about being out of control. I was unemployed, something I didn’t want or ask for. Things were just out of my control, much like the main character, David. He didn’t ask to be a half demon, didn’t want to be, but it was beyond his control.

Did anything strange or funny happen while researching or writing your book?

Not Wasteland, but the second book, Awaited, was interesting. My heroine is mute. So, I had to learn/research sign language for some phrases. That was really fun. I’d always wanted to learn sign language, just never took the time, so this was a nice taste.

Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy attic nook?

I can write anywhere. I love this little coffee house near me called Cabin Coffee. I did a book signing there with a local musician back in October and they were just fantastic. It was so fitting since I’ve written, like, three books while drinking their tea and eating their cookies. <grin> But for the most part, I’m at my desk shown in the picture.

I have a picture of Lynn, my mother-in-law, on the wall where I can easily see it. She inspires me. And yep, that’s where I got my name. She read the first thing I ever wrote, and she was a great writer, so I thought it was fitting. And then when she died from cancer, I thought it even more fitting that her name would be on every single thing I publish. That’s also why I donate a portion of all my book proceeds to cancer research and treatment.

Are you a plotter, SOTP writer or somewhere in between?

SOTP for sure. The most plotting or planning I do is a Mind Map of my characters. Sometimes I don’t even do that. Just sit in front of a blank word document and start writing. I love that rush!

What's your process for writing a book?

When I start a book, I really can’t rest until I write it. My characters just don’t shut up. So, I pretty much spend every waking hour writing to get the story out. It’s a VERY rough draft. Some have called it an 80,000-word outline. I’ve been known to write an entire first draft without a character name. Just blank lines throughout until the idea of a name hits me.

Do you ever bang your head against the wall with writer's block? If so, how did you overcome it?

No. If the words aren’t flowing very well, I usually go for a run, bike ride, or jam out to some really loud, rocking music. After a while, things usually work themselves out. Especially when I’m on a four-hour bike ride. That’s TONS of time to think things through for sure!

Do you consider yourself a visual writer? If so, what visuals do you use?

I literally close my eyes while typing. Visualizing everything in my mind like a movie. I’m not so much visual in the sense I like to look at something while I write or to inspire me. After I write the first draft and it’s sat for a while, I’ll go back and edit, it’s then I start doing note cards for each character, doing time lines, calendars, etc.

Novelists sometimes dig themselves into a hole over implausible plots, flat characters or a host of other problems. What's the most difficult part of writing for you?

Those things happen to me, too. Mid-first draft I’ll figure out I can’t go that direction, so I’ll just change. Totally different direction, but I’ll make notes about how I need to get to the beginning and tweak things to make it start working. The most difficult part for me…crutch words. If I didn’t have awesome editors and crit partners, I’d have stones thrown at me for how many times I use the same words. I love editing, but sometimes it’s tough because I glaze over my own weaknesses, so that’s sometimes the most difficult part. But when an editor/crit partner points things out, then I can get on it and fix. THAT part of editing is great. I don’t mind getting editorial letters or suggestions from crit partners. I know it’s for the best!

What's your strength in writing (characterization, setting as character, description, etc)?

I’ve been told I can write action scenes pretty well and that I have deep characters. I have an MA in psych and worked as a therapist for a few years, and I really think that helps me dive into a character’s mind.

Did this book give you any problems? If not, how did you avoid them?

I can’t remember any for the Wasteland Trilogy at the moment, but Violet Midnight (which released October 2012) I had some big plot holes and issues that were revealed during editing. It took a big rewrite to get everything straightened out, but it was worth it. I love the end product!!

How do you balance your writing time with family and any other work you do?

It’s a delicate balance sometimes. And once it gets out of whack, I can really tell. But for the most part, I write as much as I can while my hubby’s at work or out training (he’s a triathlete) so when he’s home, I’m freed up to be with him. I work at a bookstore, so I have my “weekend” during the week since retail’s busiest times are on the weekends. So, I get two full days to focus solely on writing. The others, I just fit it in when I can. I don’t have kids, so that leaves a bunch of free time. J

What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard?

Write every day.

That’s really true. It keeps you in a rhythm. It’s not always possible. But if you can’t write, at least do some editing or blogging to keep the juices flowing. J

Do you have any parting words of advice?

Keep at it. I know it’s easy to compare yourself to other people and their journeys, but don’t. Your path is what it’s supposed to be. Keep taking the next step. You never know where it’ll lead you. I’d never planned on being an author. It’d never been an aspiration of mine, but look where I am today…it’s because I took the first step (which was really scary) and then just kept on taking the next step.

Tainted (Wasteland #3)
Even death can’t stop true love…
After over four hundred years as a Guardian, Durk Langdon rebuked it all. Walked away from everything when his mate, Jessica, was brutally murdered. Yet he has no recollection of anything since that gruesome day.
Nothing alleviates his longing for Jessica or his disdain for the Guardians until a former brother in arms joins him and his cause. Visions of his lost love start appearing in the most unlikely places, until Durk learns she survived.
But when he sets out to find her, demonic obstacles he never could have imagined tear them apart.
If only he had trusted her…
“Tainted delivers a hot tortured hero that will keep you turning pages late into the night...” -Lisa Kessler, author of the award-winning Night Series.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Can You Help? A Chance to Win.

Hi all, Gina Holmes here. My third, and best yet I think, novel, Wings of Glass has released. I'm trying to get the word out and can use your help. If you can participate you will be entered to win 1 of 3 prize packs, which include autographed copies of all 3 of my novels: Crossing Oceans, Dry as Rain and Wings of Glass.

Here are some ways you can help and enter:

1. If you've read the book, leave a review on Goodreads, Amazon, Lifeway, CBD, B&N, Books a Million or other online bookseller or site.

2. Write a review for your blog or website. If you'd like one ready to go, we can probably get permission from another reviewer to repost.

3. Ask your library to carry it.

4. Post on facebook, pinterest, twitter or other social media site that Wings of Glass has released.

5. Post an interview with me. I have one all ready to go. You wouldn't have to do anything but post.

If you participate, please let me know so I can enter you for the prize. Anytime from now until March 15th is great.

Thanks so much! Gina

PS. Today, the Lifeway blog posted about Wings HERE. 
and Novel Crossing HERE. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Top 5 Clichés Used by Christian Writers

blah-blah-blah Did you hear about the Christian writer who responded to a rejection letter by telling the editor she was "rejecting God" because the story "came from God"?

Welcome to the world of Christian writers.

So what’s the difference between “Christian writers” and every other kind of writer? For starters, they’re forever dragging God into the biz. And usually hanging the blame on Him, too. Like the person who believes God’s “called” them to write (#5), but not provided the schedule to do so. Because of the kids, their job, their health — whatever — they just can’t follow through. They’re “waiting on God” for the "right timing" (another Christian cliché). Listen, if God’s really  “called you to write,” He wants YOU to find the time to do so. He "called" Abraham but didn't do the walking for him. Maybe you should stop “waiting on God” and put one foot in front of the other. That’s just one example of the unique, sometimes screwy approach that Christian novelists bring to their craft.

Having frequented Christian writing circles for some time now, I’ve heard all the spiritualized slogans we believers like to regurgitate. Here’s my Top 5 clichés that Christian writers use.

5.) “God’s called me to write.”Funny how God never “calls” Christians to be sales assistants, lay reviewers, work in circulation, be an advertising manager, or write obituaries for the local newspaper. You’d think that writing novels was the top of the Christian publishing holiness hierarchy.

4.) “It just wasn’t God’s will that I… (fill in the blank).” “God’s will” is a favorite “out” for Christian writers. Most often, the saying is followed by things like “find an agent,” “sell a lot of books,” “finish the manuscript,” or “advertize aggressively.” Poor God. I wish He’d get His act together so your career can finally flourish.

3.) “Marketing is not my spiritual gift.”Then you might reconsider #5. Unless God’s also “gifted” you with spare change to hire publicists and marketing strategists, it’s best to assume that if God wants you to write novels, He also wants you to find readers. Funny how hard work can make up for the absence of “spiritual gifts.”

2.) “I want to glorify God in my writing.”Usually this is code for “clean,” alternative, G-rated fare containing redemptive resolutions, biblical references, salvation events, spiritual themes, or subliminal Bible messages imbedded in the story. The question I have is whether God is also “glorified” in a good, well-crafted story. If we can only “glorify God” by specifically writing about God, we reduce God-honoring lit to religious tracts.

1.) “I write for an audience of One.”Sounds great. But unless He’s also giving you direct revelations, critiquing your novels, correcting your grammar, dialog, characterization, and plot elements, and buying your books, all this means is that you never have to answer to anyone but yourself.

So there you have it! A quintet of cop-outs. My advice to Christian writers: Maybe it’s time to stop over-spiritualizing the craft and just start digging in. Anyway, can you think of some other overused Christian Writer’s Cliches? 

* * *

Mike Duran is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket, and is represented by the rockin' Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary. Mike's novels include The TellingThe Resurrection, an ebook novella, Winterland, and his newly released short story anthology Subterranea  You can visit his website at

Now is the time for AGAPE

“The best use of life is love.
The best expression of love is time.
The best time to love is now.”
― Rick Warren

The Greek word Agape is often translated to Love in the New Testament, and the essence of agape love is self-sacrifice. Unlike our English word Love, Agape is not used in the Bible to refer to romantic or sexual love, nor does it refer to close friendship or brotherly love. Agape love is unique and distinguished by its nature and character. Agape love is the love of God, whose very nature is love. God does not merely love; He is love.

Everything God does flows from His pure and loving heart. His affection for us comes for no other reason except that it is His nature and the expression of His being. We are the undeserving recipients upon whom He lavishes His affection. In that same way, we are called to love others sacrificially.

Loving others takes time and sacrifice.

Jesus gave the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) as an example of sacrifice for the sake of others, even for those who may care nothing at all for us, or even hate us, as the Jews did the Samaritans.

Sacrificial love is not based on a feeling, but a determined act of the will, a joyful resolve to put the welfare of others above our own. But this type of love does not come naturally to humans. Because of our fallen nature, we are incapable of producing such a love. If we are to follow the example of agape, it can only come from its true source: Only God can generate within us the kind of self-sacrificing love which is the proof that we are His children. And because of God’s agape love toward us, we are now able to love one another.

Ask yourself today whether you’ve been a free and willing vessel of God’s agape love, and whether you’ve allowed it to flow out to others. What was the last sacrificial expression you’ve extended to someone else?

Remember the wave of people who initiated and encouraged others to follow suit in a trend toward Random Acts of Kindness? Step out today and revive that trend. Give yourself the permission to perform five acts of random and selfless kindness this week. Make it your mission to take the time and make the sacrifice. As Rick Warren wrote, “The time to love is NOW.”

John 15:10-12 (New Living Translation)
10 “When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.”

# # #

Sandra D. Bricker is a best-selling and award-winning author of laugh-out-loud romantic comedy for the Christian market. Her most popular series (that started with Always the Baker Never the Bride) will conclude this spring with Always the Baker FINALLY the Bride, which is now available for pre-order at Amazon.

Sandie leads a team of writers in creating the Living It Out daily Bible study for CedarCreek Church. Today's devotion is based on the Living It Out study on the importance of loving others. If you enjoyed it, feel free to check out the daily studies by e-mail or audio podcast by clicking HERE

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Dialogue ~ The Voices in Your Head

Dialogue is so important, because readers like to get to know characters the same way we like to get to know people in real life. They like to hear people talk and see people act.

So if you want your readers to like your hero, you don’t need to tell the readers how wonderful he is. You don’t have to bog the novel’s opening down with backstory telling how hard life has been for the hero and how he’s done great things despite all that.

What you need to do is give him a voice. Throw him into a situation where his good qualities will show, allow him to speak, and let the readers fall in love.

How do you give your characters strong voices? 

You do it by knowing your characters. Have a picture in mind when you write. Hear the voice. Think of real people or movie characters. I’m not saying to go for a cliché. I’m saying that if you listen to a lot of dialogue in books or movies or in real life, it will be easier for you to write it, and if you have a specific accent in mind when your character speaks, she will feel more real to your readers.

The accent of a character has to be consistent, but you need not be afraid to write a strong accent for fear of forgetting to put it in. The stronger the accent the easier it is to hear and write.

“Oh, Mr. Bennett, you do delight in vexing me!” Can you hear Mrs. Bennett saying that? Every time she speaks you know what her accent is going to be and you know that she will be talking about her lack of money or her poor nerves. That's Mrs. Bennett.

Your characters need to have very strong voices, too. They need to be unique and fun, but also predictable. Meaning they need to be so well done that the reader knows who is speaking just by the line of dialogue, without any tags. 

Maybe I’m odd, but I take on the accents of other people really easily. One of my friends told me years ago that when I spoke to my kids I sounded just like an Alaskan Native. Well, my sisters-in-law were all natives and they spoke to their children a certain way, so I adopted that way of speaking without even knowing I was doing it.

I do the same thing with writing--only I do it on purpose. If I want to write for a certain magazine, I sit down with ten issues and I absorb the voice of the magazine. The next piece I write, then, has that voice.

I think we have to do the same thing with dialogue. If we want our characters to sound real, we have to have real voices playing in our heads as we write. I had a crit partner who pasted pictures of her hero and heroine up on her cork board as she wrote. So one time it was Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious. She heard his voice every time time she wrote one of his lines of dialogue  And her dialogue was some of the best I've read. 

What about you? Are your characters based on people or characters you've seen before? If so, how do you keep them from being clichéd? 

photo credit: ohhector via photopin cc

Sally Apokedak
Sally Apokedak is an associate agent with the Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency. She's in the process of of building a dynamite list of authors. She is also active in the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Interview with Gina Holmes ... Win an Autographed Copy ofWings of Glass!

Gina Holmes is the founder of Novel Rocket and a PR professional. Her bestselling novels Crossing Oceans and Dry as Rain were both Christy finalists and won various literary awards. Her latest novel, Wings of Glass, released February 2013 and has earned a starred review from Library Journal, a Romantic Times Top Pick and a Southern Indie Bookseller's Okra Pick. She holds degrees in science and nursing and currently resides with her family in southern Virginia. She works too hard, laughs too loud, and longs to see others heal from their past and discover their God-given purpose. To learn more about her, visit

Your 3rd novel, Wings of Glass, has just released. Tell us a little about it.

I think this is my favorite book so far. Wings of Glass tells the story of Penny Taylor, a young wife who feels trapped and alone in a physically and emotionally abusive marriage. Besides her low self-esteem, she feels her Christian faith doesn’t allow for divorce. It’s not until she meets two women—one a southern socialite and the other a Sudanese cleaning woman—that her eyes are opened to the truth of her situation and she begins her journey to healing and redemption.

What made you take on the tough subject of domestic abuse?

As a little girl, I watched my mother being physically abused by her husband and then later, two of my sisters enter abusive relationship after abusive relationship and I thought that would never be me. . . until the day my boyfriend hit me for the first time and I began to make excuses for him. I know the mindset of someone who gets into and stays in an abusive relationship, because I’ve been there myself. It’s taken me years, and a lot of reading, praying, and talking to get to the heart of what brought me and kept me in toxic relationships and I want to pass on some of what I learned that helped me find boundaries and recovery from a codependent mindset and most of all healing.

What do you hope readers take away from this book?

It’s my hope and prayer that those who are in abusive relationships will begin to see that the problem lies with them as much as with the abuser. That’s something I railed against when friends suggested it. I wasn’t the one with the problem! I was no doormat who enabled abuse or addiction… or was I?

I also hope that those who have never understood the mindset of victims would better comprehend the intricacies of codependency and be better able to minister to these women and men. And of course I’d love it if young women would read this before they ever enter their first romantic relationship to have their eyes open to how abuse almost always progresses and be able to see the red flags early.

Which of the characters in the novel is most like you and why?

Each of the characters has a little of me in them or vice versa. I think years ago I was more like Penny, though tougher in many regards, at least I thought so. I’d like to think now I’m a little more Callie Mae. Because I’ve lived through what I have and have found healing, I can see in others the path that will lead to healing and the one that will lead to destruction. The difficult part once you’ve found healing is remembering that you can’t do it for others. You can offer advice, but you can’t make anyone take it. Each person has to learn in their own time, in their own way.

Who is your favorite character?

I absolutely love Fatimah. She had such a great sense of humor and didn’t care what anyone thought except those who really mattered. She was really quite self-actualized. She was so much fun to write and I actually find myself missing her presence.

What’s your favorite and least favorite part about being a writer?

Favorite: making my own schedule. I love when I’m feeling bad one day knowing that I don’t have to punch a clock. I can just take the day off and then work harder the next. Of course, there’s a lot of other things I love about writing, like allowing others to consider another point of view that may be far different from their own.

Least favorite: There’s a joke that when you work for yourself you at least get to pick which eighteen hours of the day you want. That’s true. Working from home means I’m always at work. I work from about 7:30 am until about eight at night most days. Under deadline, it’s worse. Truly understanding how much the success of a book rides on the shoulders of the author is a blessing and a curse. Because I get that no one is more invested in the success of my books than me, I put in a LOT of time on the publicity/marketing end of things. It’s tiring but an investment that I think pays off in the long run.

You had written four novels before your debut, Crossing Oceans was published. Do you think those books will ever get dusted off and reworked?

Never say never, but I doubt it. I had considered reworking some but having gone back and re-read them, I realized they weren’t published for good reason. They just didn’t work. Now, there is one story I’m resurrecting characters from for a story I should be writing next, but the plotline is completely different. I started out writing suspensel but as my reading tastes changed, so did my writing tastes. I don’t see myself doing suspense again any time soon.

You’re known for your quirky characters, what inspires you to write these types into each book?

Honestly, I’m a pretty quirky person. The older I get, the more I embrace those quirks. I think everyone is quirky really. As a student of human nature, I pick up on those and like to exaggerate them in my fiction. I also like to surround myself with quirky people. My husband is quirky, my kids are quirky and so are my friends. Often in life, especially when we’re young, we hate about ourselves what makes us different, when really those are the things we should be embracing. Different is interesting. Different is beautiful.

If you could write anything and genre, marketing and reader expectations didn’t matter, what would you write?

Speaking of quirky… I read a book a few years back that was so different that it made me want to try something like that. The book was a big-time bestseller, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. What turned me on about that book were the characters. They were quirky to an extreme. In contemporary women’s fiction, I can get away with a certain amount of quirk. but I’m always having to play it down because it’s so over the top. In a fantasy, you can be as over the top as you dare. I’d love to play around with something like that one day and just let my freak flag fly! Will I? Probably not unless I use a penname. I realize readers have certain expectations and I wouldn’t want anyone to feel mislead. We’ll see. There’s lots in life I want to do but since I only get a hundred or so years (if I’m lucky), time won’t allow for every rabbit hole.

What advice would you have for writers hoping to follow in your footsteps?

My advice would be not to follow too closely in anyone’s footsteps. Yes, there is a certain path all writers find themselves on. There are certain things that we must all do like learning to write well, figuring out platform, going to writers conferences to meet the gatekeepers and figure out the way things have to be formatted and submitted and all that sort of thing. But it’s okay to veer off the path too and forge your own. There are those who have self-published who have found great success.

There are those who have written about subjects that they were told no one wanted to read about and found success. It’s smart to figure out what others have done before you to make them successful, but alter the formula to suit your needs and passions. It’s okay to be different, in fact, I think great success and maybe even happiness depends upon it. And by all means, read Novel and leave comments. It helps not only encourage those authors who have taken the time out of their day to teach us, but it also connects you to the writing community. Community is important. 

From the best-selling author of Crossing Oceans comes a heartrending yet uplifting story of friendship and redemption. On the cusp of adulthood, eighteen-year-old Penny Carson is swept off her feet by a handsome farmhand with a confident swagger. Though Trent Taylor seems like Prince Charming and offers an escape from her one-stop-sign town, Penny's happily-ever-after lasts no longer than their breakneck courtship. Before the ink even dries on their marriage certificate, he hits her for the first time. It isn't the last, yet the bruises that can't be seen are the most painful of all.

When Trent is injured in a welding accident and his paycheck stops, he has no choice but to finally allow Penny to take a job cleaning houses. Here she meets two women from very different worlds who will teach her to live and laugh again, and lend her their backbones just long enough for her to find her own.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Crossing Oceans hits #1 on B&N

Why is it selling so well suddenly? It's the B&N Daily Find and you can pick up a copy today only for $1.99. Back to our regularly scheduled programming.


Laurie Schnebly Campbell's first novel was nominated by Romantic Times as the year's "Best First Series Romance," and her second beat out Nora Roberts for "Best Special Edition of the Year." After six books for Special Edition, she turned her attention to writing non-fiction -- using her research into the nine personality types to help writers create plausible, likable people with realistic flaws. Her other favorite activities include playing with her husband and son, recording for the blind, counseling at a mental health center, traveling to Sedona (the Arizona red-rock town named for her great-grandmother, Sedona Schnebly) and working with other writers. "People ask how I find time to do all that," Laurie says, "and I tell them it's easy. I never clean my house!"

Everybody here will be able to sympathize with such a situation, because pesky characters strike EVERY writer! And somebody who comments today will win help for all their future characters, with free registration to my “Plotting Via Motivation” class (at next month. 
The winner will be announced on Novel Rocket's Facebook page tomorrow. Be sure to like our page!

Plotting evil schemes. Being irresponsible. Where’s the middle ground?   

We all know the risks of being TOO much of a plotter, or TOO much of a pantser. Writers who spend all their time drafting outlines can miss the joy of creative inspiration, and writers who spend all their time freewheeling can miss the joy of finishing a cohesive book.

But of course, nobody is all one or the other. Sometimes we think “I wish I were better at following wherever the muse leads me” or “I wish I were better at coming up with a credible plot,” but finding the middle ground can be tough. 

That’s where motivation comes in. Not our own motivation for writing, but our characters’ motivation for doing whatever they do. 
You already know that, no matter what kind of plot you're building, it's gotta be motivated by your characters in order to feel plausible. It doesn't matter whether you're doing an emotional plot or an action plot or both -- what makes it work is the characters. 
So what IS it that makes your characters do what they do? Or another way of asking that is, what makes anybody do what they do?
There are all kinds of theories of motivation, and they all boil down to the same thing.
We want to be Okay.

Whatever it takes to be okay, that's what motivates us.

Maslow talked about that, saying that to be Okay we first need Food and Water...yep, it...then Safety...and in most books, those issues are pretty well taken care of. Sometimes you'll get characters fleeing the murderer in the North Woods or laid off from the factory job, but food isn't usually a driving motivation. 

So we get into the next level of what people need to be Okay, which is Belonging / Acceptance / Love. Then there's Respect of Others and Self-Respect, and finally there's the drive to Be All You Can Be. Everywhere along that continuum, you've got some great motivators. 
And that matters, because it's the motivation that makes a character interesting. 
Some writers start with the motivation: "let's see, a woman who's motivated by the desire for adventure would be THIS type of person." Other writers start with the character: "my heroine wants to sail to Jamaica, so that must mean she's motivated by adventure." 
Either way works fine. And either way leaves you totally free to write any kind of story you want. 

Say, given this heroine who wants to sail to Jamaica in search of adventure, could your story be full of soul-deep emotion? Absolutely. Dizzying suspense? Yep. Heartwarming faith? Yep. Quirky humor? Yep. Spine-tingling terror? Yep.
It all depends on how you write it.
So in that case, why does the heroine's motivation even matter?
Because it's what makes her credible. Same as we can't have pink-elephant aliens showing up in some 14th-century castle without sacrificing a bit of credibility, neither can we have this woman sailing off to Jamaica without SOME plausible motivation.
And that's where it's easy for us authors to fall down on the job. We love this heroine who's rigging out her sailboat, we love that she's going to Jamaica, and we know that on the way she'll meet this incredibly witty sailor, there'll be a pirate attack -- oh, and the pirate ship will have a yellow parrot named Sidney! -- it's all taking shape. We KNOW it'll work, because we can SEE this story. 

But it's that dazzling clarity which can get us into trouble. Because our readers weren't IN on this first glorious flash of inspiration. They can't see that wonderful vision. All they see is a heroine rigging out her sailboat for a trip to Jamaica, and they have no idea why she's doing it.
Unless the readers GET her desire for adventure, they're gonna feel out of the loop. They might not know why the story isn't working for them, but they're missing her motivation. 
And motivation is what makes a book memorable.
For some writers, it comes so naturally that they never even question how their characters’ motivation will feed into the plot. (Which sometimes leaves them at loose ends, wondering what on earth can HAPPEN during their plot.) 
For others, it’s more of a tack-on because their strength is in plotting. (Which sometimes leaves them wondering how to explain WHY this character did something that seems senseless but is actually integral to the plot.) 
Either way, motivation is vital. And yet we’ve all found ourselves in trouble with motivation every now and then. So that’s my question for you:
When was the last time you found yourself dealing with a problem character? Who was this person? What did he or she do? How did you resolve the situation? 
Everybody here will be able to sympathize with such a situation, because pesky characters strike EVERY writer!
And don't forget ... somebody who comments today will win help for all their future characters, with free registration to my “Plotting Via Motivation” class (at next month. 
The winner will be announced on Novel Rocket's Facebook page tomorrow. Be sure to like their page!
Meanwhile, I can’t wait to see those pesky characters on parade -- because it’s always a lot more fun to read about other people’s problems than to focus on our own. <grin>
Laurie ~ who's hoping today will be slow at work so I can check email sooner than lunchtime...but don’t worry if it takes a while to hear back; I’m definitely checking in!