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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

5 Ways Bad Reviews Can Help You to Become a Better Writer
by Lisa Jordan  @lisajordan 

One star.


My breath caught in my throat and heat crawled across my cheeks as I read the reviewer’s words that expressed her displeasure after reading one of my novels. How could she write such things? Didn’t she realize the struggle and tears that went into meeting that deadline? Of course not. Readers aren't aware of life's challenges we're juggling while writing novels.  

With her words echoing inside my head, I emailed my writing support team—agent, editor, and two mentors—asking if her words were true. After being assured I hadn't failed as a writer—and advised again not to read reviews—I reread her review again. This time, though, I gleaned some wisdom from her words. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Freeze Frame: Creating a Stronger Scene

by Beth Vogt @bethvogt

We all know the advantage of prep work when we paint a room or cook a Thanksgiving turkey.

In the same way, it helps to do some prep work before writing a scene. I’ve used several techniques from author Susan May Warren – FOCUS and the 5 Ws are two favorites. And when I attended a writers conference last year, I learned the Freeze Frame technique by agent and author Donald Maass, and found a fresh new way to prep a scene.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

A Storycrafting Checklist

by Susan May Warren

Do you have all the pieces of a brilliant novel? Before we dive into our storycrafting checklist, let’s talk about the debate between character driven and plot driven novels.

Character Driven versus Plot Driven Novel

Think of the last story you read, the last great movie you watched. Even your favorite television series. Were you more interested in the plot or the person? I would bet that the element that drew you into the story were the characters.

Let’s think about this. Plot is interesting, but not unless it is about someone we care about.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

5 Tips to Brand Your Writing Style

By DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

Developing a writer’s brand can sound like scaling a cliff unless the writer has sound footing. Unfortunately, if a writer fails to take distinct steps to establish a brand, the publishing industry will do the job themselves, and you might not like their choice.

A professional writer seizes control of her career and develops a brand that is an asset, not a liability. This begins by assessing what a writer knows about herself and her readers.

Friday, February 24, 2017

If You Don’t Know What To Do, Make ‘Em Sad

by Rachel Hauck

Riding my bike the other day, musing over my work-in-progress while also contemplating the book “The Nightingale” which I’d just finished, I realized that there is a certain sadness to the protagonist in books I love. In books the world loves.

Not morbid sadness. Not depressed. But a certain longing if you will.

Save for Elizabeth Bennett who covered her longing for true love with “snark” and piety.

In The Nightingale, the sister protagonists had a sad upbringing. Left with a minder by their father after their mother died.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

More Complicated Than Icebergs—But More Fun

By Peter Leavell @peterleavell

She spills on the fancy tablecloth again.

With practiced efficiency, my family finishes the dishes, whisks off the fine linen, and tosses it into washer.

My kids are good at cleaning up messes.

You’ve heard writing teachers compare character development to icebergs. Icebergs? Engines full reverse! Writing fascinating characters is so much more than a floating chunk of ice.

When the laundry is done, we put the cloth back on the table. The color across the center of the squared tablecloth is a cheerful yellow and blue. The bright patterns reflect our love and joy.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Broken Blog

By Yvonne Lehman

BROKE… at Christmastime!

On December 12, I became literally broken – physically. Then I discovered the truth in 1 Corinthians 12: 12, 26 (NLT): “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up only one body… If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it…”

There I was, 20 minutes before 14 Sunday school class members were to arrive for a Christmas party at my beautifully decorated home, the flocked Christmas tree beside the fireplace, two tables set with lovely china, crystal glasses, cloth napkins, aromas of meat concoctions in the crock pot and oven, candles glowing and emitting their holiday scents. Dirty Santa gifts festively wrapped. My Let It Snow novel ready to be given to each. Perfect!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

How To Brainstorm An Epic Series Without Killing Your Partners

by James L. Rubart

In May of 2011, right after the Blue Ridge Christians Writers Conference, Susie Warren and I shared a flight from Asheville, NC to Atlanta. During the forty minute plane ride, we brainstormed a time travel novel.

I always thought we’d write it someday. 

It’s not going to happen. Why?

Because it grew into something far grander.

What Our Seed of an Idea Grew Into

Over the past year, Susie, her brilliant son David, and I, developed the framework for a six-part book series (which will be closer to a TV series in style) about a time traveling detective named Rembrandt Stone.

The challenge?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Making it Real -- Research Before You Write!

By Pamela S. Meyers

Although the Internet has made it easier to research settings for our stories, I love traveling to the settings of my stories for research. I get a feel for the area far more than a street-view picture on the computer can never do.

Several years ago, I wrote Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, which is set in my hometown. Since the story takes place in 1933, the best place to gather information about the town back then was to review microfilms of the weekly newspaper from that time. Fortunately I only live about an hour's drive away because I spent a lot of time in front of a microfilm machine at the town library. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Going with the Flow

By Marcia Lee Laycock 

I stared at the small rubber raft, then peered at the mighty Yukon River, the third largest river in North America. My friends had left the raft for me to use to get to their cabin about fifty miles downriver from Dawson City. The raft looked very small. I knew it was a bit risky, but I remembered my friend’s words - “You won’t have to paddle much,” he’d said. “The current will take you.”

I tossed my pack into the small craft and launched. That’s when I noticed there was only one paddle. That concerned me, but I was already out into the current and heading north. For a while I tried to steer, but all I managed to do was go in circles. I knew it would take all day to reach the cabin I’d stay in that night, so I wasn’t too worried, though there are strong eddies in the Yukon River and with only one paddle it wasn’t easy to avoid them.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Pitching Pointers

by Michelle Griep @MichelleGriep

It’s that time of year to start registering for writers conferences. That means there will be a whole lot of angst-filled author wannabes out there, biting their fingernails down to stubs . . . which makes it super hard to type anything.

Not that it’s scary to go to a conference, mind you. The real terror sets in when it’s story-pitching time. Sitting across from a god-like agent or editor who can crush you faster than the bat of an eyelash—or fast-track you to stardom. I'm not going to lie. It is a bit daunting. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Dog, A Monk and A Judge Walk Into a Book Store

Sorry. There is no punchline. But Ron has author wisdom to share involving all three of those elements. How could I resist?  
Meet Ron Marasco ...

What things would you do differently…

I think I would have liked to begin my writing career with the understanding I now have about editors. Older writers sometimes have negative and cautionary things to say to young writers about editors. But it has been my experience that your relationship with you editor can be one of the truly rich experiences of your working life as a writer. The key is to approach it as a naturally collaborative relationship—as it is—as opposed to an adversarial relationship--which it only is if it gets off on the wrong foot!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Write a Novella? Easy Peasy …

by +AneMulligan @AneMulligan

Or so I thought.

Why didn't someone tell me? Sure, a novella contains fewer words—about one quarter of a full novel to be exact. And I thought that meant less work. Ha! I mistakenly figured I wouldn't need all that goal and motivation stuff. After all, this was short and a romance.

Boy, did I have a lot to learn.

It took a weeklong binge of Hallmark Christmas movies to open my mind to an ugly fact: It takes the same amount of time to work up the character interviews, learn their goals, motivations, lies, wounds, etc. And that list doesn't even include the plot. Yikes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Writing Romance: No Cheating Allowed!

by Rachel Hauck

No, I’m not talking about the characters and story line.

I’m talking the author taking shortcuts to achieve a goal without motivation.

I love romance.

God loves romance. Look at human history. It’s a romance!

In fact, I was flying home from Dallas the other day, sitting behind a young newlywed couple, and as I caught them interacting, I teared up.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

First Page Punch - Keep Your Reader Engaged from Page One

By Lynette Eason @LynetteEason

As a writer, I’m deathly afraid of writing a book that a reader is going to pick up, read the first page, and be bored to death. Keeping that fear in mind as I write, my first goal is to immediately engage the reader in the story. That’s where the First Page Punch comes in. (Yes, I made that up.) What I mean by this is, my first scene starts off with action. And I don’t mean boring action.

You don’t necessarily have to have a car chase with bullets flying and bodies dropping, although that’s great if you do, but you do need to have something happening. Save the backstory and introspection for later.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Author Newsletters ~ A Love/Hate Relationship

by Michelle Griep @MichelleGriep

Recently I attended a writing day with some authorly type buddies of mine. These are the big kids. The ones who've zipped around the writerly block on their scooters a time or two -- without skinning their knees. Honestly, I just try to keep my mouth shut so drool doesn't leak out at the corners.

Anyway, the topic of author newsletters came up. They all have one. Every last one . . . except for moi. Talk about peer pressure.

So, I voiced my biggest concern, that hey, who really needs one more stupid piece of spam filling their inbox? But here's the deal . . . apparently when people sign up for a newsletter, they actually want the dang thing. Go figure.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Love Me Tender

by Susan May Waren @SusanMayWarren
With Valentine's Day just two days away, romance is in the air.

“Christian Romance, is there such a thing?”

Wow, I sure hope so! But you have no idea how often I’ve heard those words from nice, church-going folks who I know are married and once fell in love.

Today we’re going to take a look, real quickly, at Sexual Tension in a romance.

No, no, no, our Christian books don’t have sex in them. But it doesn’t mean our characters are made of cardboard! You don’t have to say the s-word to create sexual tension. The author can focus it on eyes and lips and thinking about kissing or holding someone…because this is a natural response to the deepening affection characters have for one another. This is a very normal part of their relationship – it’s how far they pursue this normal part that makes a difference (as in every relationship).

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Writing for a Small Press

By Patty Smith Hall

Patty here, and today, I'd like to welcome my good friend, Cynthia Hickey, publisher of Forget-Me-Know Romance to talk about the advantages of writing for a small press. Cynthia, the floor is yours!

Writing for a Small Press
by Cynthia Hickey 

This is my life now. Not only am I an author, but I now run a small press with the help of my husband. A line that my agent so nicely handed me. Smart man. It’s a lot of work. But, it’s also very rewarding in having the opportunity to help authors who don’t necessarily need the help, but want some guidance.

Friday, February 10, 2017

It’s Not Up to You

by Allen Arnold @TheStoryofWith

But it can sure feel like it is. Master enough techniques, write enough words, and expand your social media platform enough and you can make it happen.

In other word, we write and live as if it is all up to us. But imagine what it might look like to step into your creativity with a power that isn’t limited to your solutions, strength, or striving.

God created you for union with him. Not one part of your life – including your calling as a writer – is dependent on you making it happen apart from him.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Building Your Characters from the Inside - Part 4: Epiphany

by Susan May Warren

By now, you should have figured out how to make your character suffer, and what his Black Moment is going to look like (and if not, that’s okay – just go and reads parts 1-3 at these links: Part 1:Values, Part 2:Conflict, and Part 3:Black Moment). Today, we’re going to talk EPIPHANY.

What is Epiphany? It’s the moment, right at the darkest in the plot when the character wakes up to the truth that has been dogging him the entire book and goes, AHA! (Accompanied by a little hand-to-head thump).

It’s the moment when they figure it out, or perhaps the moment when they reach DEEP INSIDE to gather up the strength – physical or emotional that they didn’t know they had, to complete the task.

How do we find that? 

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

The Ripple Effect of Our Characters

by Normandie Fischer @WritingOnBoard

A stone plopped into water formed ripples, creating concentric circles that moved out from the center and subsided gradually if nothing impeded their progress. Whether or not they ever came to a full stop, Teo wasn’t scientist enough to know. It looked to him as if the molecules touched by movement became propelled in an infinitely wider arc, slower perhaps as they achieved distance, but still there, still moving, still affecting other molecules and pushing them to confront whatever lay in their path. (Sailing out of Darkness, page 335)

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

3 Ways a Critique Group Will Boost Your Writing

by Gayla K Hiss

Want to Boost Your Writing? Consider a Critique Group

Most people don’t enjoy receiving critiques of their work. It’s not easy to hear that someone isn’t as enchanted with your character as you are, that your dialog is stilted, or the plot doesn’t make sense. When an editor at a conference told me that I needed to join a critique group, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea. First of all, I didn’t know many writers who lived near me. Secondly, I realized it would require a considerable investment of time critiquing other people’s work, time I couldn’t devote to writing. Then there would be those dreaded critiques of my own work that I would need to deal with.

Monday, February 06, 2017

What Marketing Is…And Isn’t

by Melissa Tagg @Melissa_Tagg

So, February is sort of a lovey-dovey month with Valentine’s Day and all, so it’s only fitting we continue talking about something I love: author marketing.

(If you just groaned at those two words, no worries. You’re normal. I’m the weird one.)

But here’s the thing, marketing doesn’t have to be a moan-inducing. It can even be, get this, fun. The key is understanding what good marketing is…and isn’t.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Dealing with the Impostor Syndrome

by Marcia Lee Laycock @MarciaLaycock

A friend once emailed me to ask for prayer. “I’m having a huge case of Imposter Syndrome,” she explained. She had been asked to lead a workshop at a writers’ conference but was on the edge of backing out. Though she was an accomplished writer with a long CV, she felt inadequate for the job.

Another writer friend once said: “I keep getting the feeling that someday someone will discover what a fraud I am and the jig will be up!”

Sound familiar? 

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Make the Sell First

by Ron Estrada

You are a salesperson.

Say it with me.

I (insert name) am a salesperson.

Let me tell you about salespeople, having spend most of my adult life working in close proximity with these folks. A salesperson will tell you what you want to hear in order to the "yes." After said "yes" is achieved, it is only then he'll tell you what you've really just bought. But you've already said "yes," so you're ten times more likely to go ahead with your purchase.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Blogging Tips From My Dog

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

Most of you know I’m an animal lover. We have one cat, Emily Dickinson, an old dog, Jake, and a new puppy, Cosmo, that belongs to our youngest son. I don’t know what I’d do without my four-legged friends cheering me on as I work every day.

But they’re more than just great companions, they’ve got a lot to teach me. I’ve shared lessons from Emily before in a devotion on Being Still. So today I’d like to pass along some of the wisdom I’ve gleaned from my dogs.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

How to Make Nifty Book Promo Ads

by Dan Walsh

Some of you know my story. Back in 2008, without paying hardly any "Writer's Dues," I submitted my first novel, The Unfinished Gift, to a handful of A-list literary agents, fully expecting to be rejected. This would result in me submitting a package to several more agents, also being rejected, and so on until I made it through the entire list. That's not what happened. Two of the first 3 agents wanted to read the entire book. I signed with one of them. She had a contract with a major publisher in 2 months. That book went on to sell very well and win 2 Carol Awards.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Thou Shalt Outline (Before You Write)

by Linore Rose Burkard

One of the most remarkable "God encounters" of my life happened while I was in college. It was a pressure-crunch week with no less than four essays coming due. For some English Majors that may not be too daunting, but for a perfectionist whose self-esteem depended strongly on getting an A or A+ --every time--I felt sadly doomed. (Melodramatic? Yes--maybe that's why I'm a writer!)