Thursday, January 31, 2013

Are You Ready for a New BFF? by Sandra Ardoin

I’ve made two major moves in my life—once from Indiana to Texas and once from Texas to North Carolina. Those weren’t just “a hop, skip, and a jump” to another neighborhood. Each move required me to say goodbye to old friends. 

Reaching the end of a novel is a little like making a major move. As writers, we create “friends” we spend time with for as much as a year or more. I don’t know about all writers, but I suspect many are like me. They get attached to their characters—even the not-so-friendly ones. They are people we endow with talents, flaws, quirks, tragic pasts, and a destructive present. We give them happily-ever-after endings or, in some cases, vague futures. We stand alongside them as they face tough challenges. (If they don’t have tough challenges, it isn’t a story worth writing.)

Like our real-life friends, they can reflect some aspect of our own personalities—we have something in common with them. Maybe your heroine has a similar sense of humor to yours, which makes her dialog sparkle with teasing sarcasm or dry wit. Perhaps your hero has suffered a tragedy you can relate to and your empathy causes his emotions to run deeper on the page.

Some of us wipe away tears when writing that last scene because it means saying goodbye to those we’ve come to know as well as we do our real-life BFFs. It can be like staring through the rear window of the car as the people and places we know so well grow smaller and smaller until they disappear. But take heart, dear writer, there will be future visits through edits and the marketing of your book.

Now before you call in Dr. Phil for yourself (or me), let me say there is good news. Just as you made friends in your old town (novel), you’ll make friends in your new town (novel). While writing one book, plans for your move to another will have been popping in your brain like a bag of Orville Redenbacher’s best.

Soon, you’ll meet new characters whose stories draw you to them. In the planning, you’ll question them about their lives, eventually getting to see what makes them the people they are. In the process of writing, they’ll show even more of themselves.

Relationships grow when people allow us see below the surface to the person they really are—their emotions and how they change and grow. It’s the difference between true friendship and a passing acquaintance. If you cannot see below the surface of your fictional characters to sympathize or empathize with them, then neither will the reader. And everyone will miss out on a special relationship.

Have you ever written a character you dreaded saying goodbye to? 
What makes someone else’s fictional character stand out in such a way that you, as a reader, don’t want to their story to end? 


Sandra Ardoin writes historical romance, mostly set in the second half of the nineteenth century. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Carolina Christian Writers, and the author of Get a Clue, a children’s short story in Family Ties: Thirteen Short Stories. Contact Sandra through her website at www.sandraardoin.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Goodreads. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

O’s Wisdom for the Journey: Three Parting Tips


 
Happy Wednesday, my writing friends,

What joy I’ve had contributing to Seriously Write each week! I’ve learned so much as I’ve shared my small offering of writing knowledge and experience with you. I’m sad to say, my schedule—both in writing and family life—have made it necessary for me to move on. This will be my last Ask O Wednesday.

Over the past year and a half, I’ve shared a wide range of writing topics, from characters to plot to self editing. For my last Wednesday post, I want to narrow it down to three.

Seek Christ
First things first! It’s easy to seek being published. Let’s be real: it’s easy to obsess over being published. I understand this longing. I’ve felt it too, but through the years, I’ve learned to go back to Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (ESV)

Putting my hope in publication either leads to disappointment or pride. Seeking Christ reminds me that my goal is to glorify Him (not myself) and to love through words as He’s called me to do.

Deep POV
Now for a more nuts-and-bolts tip. For me, the key to creating real characters who emotionally connect with readers is to plunge into the deepest possible POV. I’m learning to lay aside my own self-consciousness and tap into my deepest emotions, (O’s blubbering time) then pour these out through the character.

I try to remember: The heroine of my story is not a stranger, not a friend, not even a family member. She’s me. The more I become her, laugh as she laughs and cry as she cries, the more real and relatable she becomes.

Strong Verbs
Tossing those to-be verbs (and other weak culprits) opens my mind to more creative thinking. And, therefore, a higher level of excellence. For example:

She is beautiful.
 
Compared with:
 
Her hair cascades over slender shoulders as her hand gently touches the scar on her face, yet Marcus can’t see the scar, only the shining love in her eyes.

I can’t tell you how many hundreds (thousands?) of my sentences have gained sparkle simply by reworking a weak verb. New characters even show up (like Marcus—who’s that guy?) and plots shift. It’s such a simple step, but so important!

Well, my dear writing friends, there you have my final tips: Seek Christ, Use Deep POV, and Find Strong Verbs. Keep strong on the journey, and if you need me, feel free to keep in touch at Ocieanna.com or Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest…

God bless and happy writing,

Ocieanna

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

2013: The Year of Pluckiness by Lisa J. Lickel


Lisa J, Lickel
I don’t have much adversity in my life, at least not compared to others, and my success is in the eye of the beholder. So what can I pass on to you, other writers, about this topic?

Pluckiness!

Plucky means being:
Brave
Courageous
and practicing
Determination in the face of Superior Odds

Adversity also comes in small packages. It’s not losing a loved one to a dreaded illness or accident, or being let go from your job, and being diagnosed with a horrible disease; sometimes it’s succumbing to a bout of depression, or getting into a situation that’s beyond your capability, or having the power go out when you’ve written the most beautiful chapter and the cloud sucks it away to la-la land forever where you hope God enjoys it because He’s the only one who will get to read it now. It’s spilling milk on your keyboard—at work—and forgetting how to spell American because you’ve been reading those British books again. It’s getting one more denial from an agent who can’t put her finger on why she doesn’t want you (your work, but really, we all know it’s us), or watching your sales figure plummet on Amazon.

Brave Writers get out of bed in the morning.
That’s a euphemism for facing the day, dividing the moments up into the chunks necessary to get the most work done, and jumping into it. Brave Writers Write. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what, if you’re lost or stuck or fed up with your current project; we just start writing something else. We blog, we toot someone else’s horn, we read, we write a note to someone we’re following…goodness, we might even pick up a pen and handwrite, using that lost art of cursive, a letter to put in the mailbox. We could do a character sketch of a plucky person.

Courageous Writers learn something new every week, if not every day.
One of my goals this year is to learn to market in at least two new ways. I’m told that if I practice something long enough it becomes a habit. If I work on these marketing ways, it’ll become a habit, and often that’s enough to get me out of a rut that’s failing and onto a path toward success. I will find new publishers, I will meet new people, I will write something that makes someone else drool or cry, I will learn not to mix modifiers, and I will discover the best place to start and end my story.

Determined Writers keep pitching, because they can only say no.
They can’t say yes unless you ask, right? Okay, I have an agent—at least at this moment I do—but that doesn’t mean I roll over and play dead. I go to conferences, I ask my agent for advice about the best person to pitch to and how to do that; I look at newer publishers and point them out to others; I take a chance with working with a friend to co-author a book and see where it gets us; I keep writing new samples of work—a theme, a plot, characters and synopsis—in hopes of successfully pitching the idea to my agent and then to a publisher. Writers are Determined to meet publisher’s and reader’s needs.

Plucky ain’t just a spaghetti western female character looking off in the distance, y’all! Plucky is you and me, and we can get the job done, even if it’s not the same one we started.
About the Author
Meow Mayhem by Lisa J. Lickel
Award-winning author Lisa Lickel started writing professionally in 2004 after finishing the Christian Writers Guild apprentice course. She welcomes several more traditionally published novels this year, starting with Meow Mayhem from Whimsical Publications in January, another cozy mystery set in Illinois and challenges Ivy and True to discover what’s rotten in Apple Grove; the much anticipated re-release of Healing Grace, a story about love and sacrifice and the gifts of the Spirit; and book three of the Buried Treasure cozy mysteries sometime in the fall, The Newspaper Code, where Judy Wingate and her not-BFF, newspaper reporter Olivia Hargrove, solve a murder. She is editor-in-chief of Wisconsin Writers Association’s Creative Wisconsin literary magazine, collects dragons, loves to travel and people watch. Find out more at http://www.LisaLickel.com.


Monday, January 28, 2013

The Power of Polish, Part 3 by Anita Higman

Hey everyone, Annette here. We have Anita Higman back with us today to finish her series on self-editing. To see the earlier posts, click here and here. I don't know about you, but this series is good timing for me as I'm currently editing one of my manuscripts. There are so many elements we fiction writers have to keep in mind, it's helpful to use checklists in the editing stage and who better to trust for said checklist than a multi-published writer? Happy (self-)editing, friends!



The Power of Polish, Part 3
by Anita Higman
  • When my character presents a potent line of dialogue, do I use it later to make an arc that is memorable and effective?
  • Do I have a sagging middle that’s in need of a few tummy tucks of story tension?
  • Did I succumb to the temptations of authorial intrusion?
  • Do my characters make gestures that reflect their personalities, and are those gestures fresh and unique? Or are my characters engaged in too much shrugging, sighing, lip chewing, nodding, brow furrowing, arm crossing, throat clearing and head shaking?
  • If I’ve added humor to my novel, does it fit the characters, and does it flow with the rest of the work?
  • Do the elements of faith happen naturally in the story, or did I toss in some prayer and Scripture to make it sound Christian?
  • Are the themes in my story memorable and effective?
  • Are the character’s thoughts interesting and necessary, or are they merely repeats of what the character is saying?
  • Do I have an overall story arc that is clear and memorable?
  • Did I create a satisfying ending, or is it too predictable and rushed because I’m tired of the story?
  • Have I read the work out loud to catch the errors that might be more obvious when heard rather than seen?
I hope these excerpts from the mini-version of my checklist are helpful in all your novel-polishing endeavors.

Texas Wildflowers anthology

*****

Romance is in full bloom for four McBride sisters living in Texas. A jilted Rosy goes home to Galveston to nurture her broken heart. Will she find the courage to love again? Lily has just opened a Christian counseling business. Will an eccentric client cause her to break the most solemn of vows? Violet runs a business that shows people how to live romantically. Will a quirky geek teach her the real meaning of love? Heather’s perfectly planned life has just come undone. Will an unexpected date give her the courage to let go—in life and love?

CBA bestselling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has over thirty books published (several coauthored) for adults and children. She’s been a Barnes & Noble “Author of the Month” for Houston and has a BA degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art. Her latest books are A Merry Little Christmas (Guideposts/Summerside Press) and Where God Finds You (Standard Publishing). Anita loves good movies, exotic teas, and making brunch for her friends. Please visit her online at www.anitahigman.com.

(paperback)        (e-book)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Say Goodbye to Frenzy in Your Writing Life by Judy Christie

Judy Christie
How has 2013 felt for you so far? Have you organized, set goals, and found time to relax and smell the roses? Or have you felt caught up in a whirlwind with no escape? No matter how organized I am—how many calendars, spreadsheets, or lists are made—the unexpected can still step in and wreak havoc on my best laid plans.  But I don’t want to live a frenzied life. Do you? Today on Seriously Write, author Judy Christie shares valuable tips for leaving chaos behind. 
~ Dawn


Say Goodbye to Frenzy in Your Writing Life
by Judy Christie

When I was fifty, I gave myself a book for my birthday: I committed to write my first novel. In the past six years, I’ve had six novels published, am working on edits of the seventh and plotting the eighth.

Whew!

I’m thankful—and always struggling to stay focused and organized. And to avoid the enemy of frenzy.

Since embarking on this fiction journey, I’ve found writing requires a special kind of balance, woven between the other parts of life. As someone who loves to hurry less and worry less (I even wrote a nonfiction series on that topic), I like to take a step back at the first of each year and look for new ways to slow down and enjoy my writing life more. 

This helps me avoid frenzy, which too easily sneaks up on writers.

 Sometimes being overwhelmed is the result of poor planning, and sometimes it arrives through no fault of our own. An illness strikes. A tragedy occurs. The family tangles. Friends struggle.  Some seasons of time are tough, no matter how positive our attitude, organized our schedule or loving our heart.

For many writers, frenzy comes to call more than we would like. It arrives as we work to be published and are anxious when a book debuts, when we seek time to write and have deadlines to meet, as we manage royalty checks and the lack of royalty checks. It sneaks in when we’re tired and when we’re trying too hard and when we take our eyes off what’s most important.

If you, along with me, want to take a fresh look at your writing life and get rid of frenzy, try these tips:

** Remind yourself why you write.

** Write regularly, even if time is short; a few words strung together here and there may add up to your best story ever.

** Don’t be afraid to say “no” to something else to say “yes” to writing.

** Take a fresh look at the Big Picture of your life. Are times of frenzy rare or regular? Do you need to make minor tweaks or major course corrections?

** Identify your next best step. You need not make the entire journey today.

** Just do your best. You don’t have to be perfect.

May you have a great year of writing with little frenzy and lots of fun. I’d love to hear your comments on how you slow down and enjoy writing more. 



Click to reach Amazon.
Judy Christie writes fiction with a Louisiana flavor, including “Downtown Green,” book 5 in the Green series of novels, and the award-winning YA novel “Wreath.” She entered the world of writing with her diary at age nine and as the editor of The Barret Banner in elementary school.  She loves primitive antiques, walking in the park near her North Louisiana home and visiting on her vintage green Kitchen Couch.

You can find Judy at www.judychristie.com , www.facebook.com/judychristie  and www.Twitter.com/judypchristieFor free tips on how to slow down and enjoy each day, check out her podcast at http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hurry-less-worry-less/id435253514.




Thursday, January 24, 2013

A New Year, A New Plan by Myra Johnson


Myra Johnson
I’m not much into making New Year’s resolutions, but January always starts me thinking about my hopes and dreams for the upcoming year. In particular, I consider areas of my thought life that need to be addressed in order to improve my outlook and increase my success potential in every area.

A few years ago, while searching for some inspiration, I came across a great little book that’s full of big ideas on how to stay motivated and prioritize your life: 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself: Change Your Life Forever, by Steve Chandler. Here are some sections I found especially helpful:

#4. Keep your eyes on the prize. Chandler points out that a huge obstacle to success is letting our worries and fears distract us from our real goals. As writers we can allow fear of failure to keep us from either completing a manuscript or taking the risk of submitting it to an agent or editor. 

#40. Find your soul purpose. You’re not going to be much good to others unless and until you’re happy with yourself and excited about your work, so take the time to discover what really makes you happy. That may mean you need to write the book of your heart instead of chasing market trends.

#59. Upgrade your old habits. According to Chandler, bad habits can’t simply be broken. You have to replace the bad habit with positive action. Like eating a healthy snack instead of one heavy on calories and fat. Like doing a workout video instead of watching TV. Like exchanging web browsing time for a concentrated period of work on your manuscript.

#68. Get up a game. Competition can be healthy. It forces us to reach deep inside ourselves, helping us grow and improve. The real victory comes not from besting someone else, but from bringing out the best in ourselves. Is there a manuscript contest you’ve thought about entering? This may be the year to give it a try!

#73. Use the 5% solution. “Great things are often created very slowly,” Chandler writes. What if you brought 5% more purposefulness into each day? What kinds of changes would you see in your life? How many more words could you write in a day?

#74. Do something badly. We’ve all heard the old adage, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. But what if that isn’t necessarily true? Can you let go of perfectionism long enough to draft the next scene, or perhaps begin that new story you’ve been dreaming of writing?

#101. Teach yourself the power of negative thinking. This one might well be my favorite. Saying no can be a powerful thing. It means standing up for ourselves and our beliefs, taking a stand against things we simply won’t tolerate. Ask yourself what you really don’t want in life, and experience a burst of energy to turn that into positive motivation!


A Horseman's Hope
Grace Lorimer is too busy for a relationship. And love is definitely out of the question while she works her way through college to earn her occupational therapist certification. Besides, her mother’s string of failed relationships and broken promises prove romance is not worth risking her heart—even when she begins to care deeply for single dad Ryan O’Keefe.

Four years after his girlfriend, Shana, became pregnant, Ryan still can’t believe he’s a father . . . and can’t imagine being anything else. His daughter is the light of his life. Now if only Shana could embrace motherhood and the three become a real family. . . .

Then Ryan receives shocking news about Shana, and his world is torn apart as he faces losing his daughter. Suddenly old feelings for Grace resurface, but is a whirlwind marriage of convenience the answer?

 

 
About Myra Johnson: Award-winning author Myra Johnson is a Texan through and through, but she has no regrets about recently making the move to the more temperate climate of the Carolinas. She and her husband of over 40 years are the proud parents of two beautiful daughters who, along with their godly husbands, have huge hearts for ministry. Four rambunctious grandsons and two precious granddaughters take up another big chunk of Myra’s heart. The Johnsons also enjoy spoiling their very pampered oversized lapdogs. Myra writes inspirational romantic fiction for Abingdon Press and Heartsong Presents. Her latest release is A Horseman’s Hope (Heartsong Presents, January 2013).

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Micro-conflict: A Quick Way to Pump Up Your Paragraphs


 

 

Happy Wednesday, my writing friends,

 Nothing new and exciting about conflict. We've heard how important layering tension throughout our stories is. But, I’m not talking about just any old conflict, but something called micro-conflict. Basically it’s the idea of injecting conflict into every sentence. Well, at least every paragraph.

Does it seem impossible? I tried it, and it really gave life to otherwise slow, bland scenes.

I first found this concept on Camy Tang’s blog, StorySinsei. I’ll read you her example.  

Before tension is added:
Wow, she was having lunch with Dr. Devon Knightley. How cool!

“Are you sure this restaurant is okay with you?” Devon peered at her over the top of his menu.
“Yes, of course.”

After tension is added:
Lunch had so not been a good idea.

Aside from the fact Naomi couldn’t scrub Jessica’s waxen face from the backs of her eyelids, Aunt Becca had embarrassed her worse than when she’d crashed Naomi’s eight-grade sleepover.
“Are you sure this restaurant is okay with you?” Devon peered at her over the top of his menu with wary eyes.
“Yes, of course. Why wouldn’t it be?”

I’m sure you can see the huge difference.

So how do we do this? I go through my manuscript, paragraph by paragraph, hunting down blah-ness and asking, “How can I inject more tension?”

Here are some suggestions of elements to add:

Offensiveness, embarrassment, confusion,  misunderstanding, mispronounces or forgets a name, interruptions, sarcasm, cynicism, self deprecation, guilt, fear, ambition. Your character does something odd, can’t finish a simple goal, can’t finish a sentence, has a snarky, rude, or too sweet, tone of voice, is disappointed, can’t stop obsessing about something in her past …

Try it! Then share how it went. I’d love to hear.

God bless and happy writing,

Ocieanna