Monday, February 28, 2011

Ten Beats of a Romance: Part Four by Susan May Warren

Welcome to another Manuscript Monday, readers. Susan May Warren's series wraps up today with the final beats of a romance. I've really enjoyed this series, how about you? If you write romance, don't miss her tip near the end of this article. Enjoy!

True Love and Sacrifices*
by Susan May Warren

I love a great romance with a lot of tension and conflict, something with spark and romantic tension. But, if we don’t believe these two are meant for each other, then the fear that they won’t find true love (which is what drives a book) won’t matter. If their happily ever after isn’t at stake, we won’t care if they achieve it.

We must believe that a hero and heroine are perfect for each other.

Beat 8: WHY. Why are these two perfect for each other? The core reason they belong together saves the day. Along the way, you’ll be showing each of them WHY they belong together. But at this key moment, after the breakup, they’ll realize why they belong together, and this is bigger than the WHY NOT of the breakup. You should be building this element as you go, but it rises to the apex at this moment.

Here are three elements that draw people together:

1. Their essential values. We like people who hold our values dear to their hearts. At the end of the day, they need to see the core values of each other and have that draw them to each other.
2. Their vacancies. We like people who “complete” us – who can do the things we can’t do. What can they do for each other that the other can’t do?
3. They make each other better people. We like people who can see the best in us and draw it out. What do they see in each other that they draw out, and how do they become better people when they are together?

The WHY’s are at the core of a person—think of why you love your significant other…they are often the glue that holds you together despite your misunderstandings.

As you write your romance, you’ll give your characters glimpses of those core WHY’s, until you see one that is simply inescapable. When you figure out the WHY, then you have the final major component.

Beat 9: The Big Gesture/Sacrifice: The Hero or Heroine are able to make the Big Gesture/Sacrifice to stay together.

I often talk about finding that thing that your hero can’t do at the beginning of a book…and then showing him overcoming (because of the heroine’s love, or some truth) and doing it at the end.

So—what is the Big Gesture/Sacrifice they make at the end, for love, that they can’t do at the beginning? It might be letting go of something, or doing something brave…

Ask: What can they do at the end of the book they can’t do at the beginning?

Beat 10: Happily Ever After—they find the love they’ve always longed for.

Romances end happily. Something that makes the reader GLAD they just spent two days reading your romance! (as opposed to weeping and throwing the book across the room).

The Notebook works because they are together at the end, even if she is losing her mind. She remembered!

The romance has to have changed them, forever, and made them into better people. Now, I like romances that actually have people ALIVE at the end, so I can have a sort of romantic scene. And I try and find something that epitomizes their romance.

The key is, they have to do something that makes us understand that the romance has impacted them, and they are better off for it.

Now, take the ten components, put them on note cards, and you can move them around to fit your story…what you want, when. Then, write your story summary. No, you don’t have all the layers yet, but you have an idea of where you are going, and all the essential parts.

As you are writing your synopsis, you also have the “checklist” to make sure you have all your elements.


*Article series first appeared on Book Therapy Voices blog in October, 2010. Used by permission.


To learn more about Susan, visit her website. Her latest release, Point of No Return, is a romantic suspense. Here's the blurb:

An American boy and a warlord's engaged daughter have disappeared—together—in an Eastern European border country. Only one man can find them in time to prevent an international meltdown—Chet Stryker. But Chet is taken aback when he realizes the boy is the nephew of Mae Lund, Chet's former flame. When Mae insists on rescuing her relative herself, Chet knows he has to protect her from the enemy on their trail. Yet can he protect himself from falling for Mae again?

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Crown, a Shepherd Boy, and a Handful of Torches by Lisa Harris

Do you ever feel like you may not have what it takes to make it as a writer? You’re not alone. It’s likely that most of us doubt our abilities at one point or another. This Fortifying Friday, guest author Lisa Harris offers encouragement for those days when we wonder ...

A Crown, a Shepherd Boy, and a Handful of Torches
by Lisa Harris

I don’t know about you, but as a writer, I have found that my character’s spiritual journey often mirrors things that are happening in my own life.

In my latest release, Blood Covenant, the main character, Paige, feels far too small for the task God is calling her to do—something I can certainly relate to at times. Throughout the course of the book, she comes to the realization that if she is going to survive, she will have to admit her weaknesses and fears, and rely completely on God’s strength.

Paul has some powerful words in II Corinthians 12:9-10 that have to do with our weaknesses.

“…he said to me. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me…For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (NIV)

Paul is telling us that it is through our weaknesses that we are made strong because of Christ’s power. I don’t know about you, but those words sound pretty incredible to me. And there’s more. At the greatest moment of weakness, according to the world’s point of view, Christ’s death on the cross brought victory, allowing God to enter into a relationship with us through that sacrifice. He loves us that much.

Still thinking you’re too small? Think again.

There are numerous examples in the Bible of men and women who God called to serve Him in an extraordinary way through His power. Gideon was victorious with only three hundred men, a handful of trumpets, jars, and torches. Esther became queen in order to save her people from the threat of death, David was a shepherd boy who became king of a nation, and the list goes on and on.

So what does that have to do with you?

God calls us in the middle of our ordinary, run-of-the-mill, take-out-the-trash-and drive-the-kids-to-school routine. So stop and ask yourself this one question. How do you see God calling you to make a difference in your world?

You might feel inadequate to follow God’s call as a writer, a parent, student, or whatever your situation might be, but never forget that the God who created the universe loves you and wants to be your strength. He’s the one who will give you the strength to do what He has called you to do.

Be blessed today!
Lisa Harris

LISA HARRIS is an award-winning author who has over twenty novels and novella collections in print. She and her husband, Scott, along with their three children, live near the Indian Ocean in Mozambique as missionaries. As a homeschooling mom, life can get hectic, but she sees her writing as an extension of her ministry which also includes running a non-profit organization. The ECHO Project works in southern Africa promoting Education, Compassion, Health, and Opportunity and is a way for her to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves…the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” (Proverbs 31:8)

When she’s not working she loves hanging out with her family, cooking different ethnic dishes, and heading into the African bush on safari. For more information about her books and life in Africa visit her website at or her blog at For more information about The ECHO Project, please visit

Thursday, February 24, 2011

To Be Bold

Thursdays – Dawn’s Devotions for Writers

“Therefore, since we have such a hope,
we are very bold.”
(2 Corinthians 3:12 NIV)

Have you ever experienced this scenario (or something similar) at a party, where you’re employed, or while getting your hair cut? If you’ve just met the person, they may ask, “What do you do?” If it’s a co-worker, they may comment, “I hear you’re a writer.” Then the conversation continues from there.

Person: What do you write?

Me: (I hesitate a second.) I write contemporary romance.

Person: That’s cool. What do you have published? Have you read …?” (The title of the book infers bodice-ripping action.)

Me: My articles and devotions have been published, but I'm still working on getting my novels into print. And actually, I write Christian romance.

Person: Christian romance?

Me: Sure! Christian fiction covers all the genres—romance, suspense, mystery, fantasy, historicals. You name it.

Person looking stunned: Really?

Me: The books are just as entertaining as secular. They just don’t include swearing, or gratuitous sex and violence. And a Christian theme or message is written into the story.

Person still looking stunned: Hmmm …

Do you ever hesitate to tell a stranger, or someone you don’t know very well, that you’re not only a writer, but that you write Christian material?

I’ll admit that there have been a few occasions where I’ve wondered, “Do I really want to get into this and explain?”

I’m not ashamed of what I write. I love and feel honored being a part of what’s happening in Christian writing today. I hesitate—before plowing forward—because I don’t know if the person will “get it.” I wonder if I’m just going to be wasting my time. I wonder if they’ll tune me out as soon as I mention the word Christian in connection to the writing.

Reality—it’s not my problem whether they understand, are interested, tune me out, label me a zealot, or think I’m just plain weird!

My job is to be BOLD with spreading God’s message and leave the rest up to him. If I can get one person asking questions or interested in picking up a Christian novel, then that person will be one step closer to learning a little bit about God, his love, and the hope offered.

And isn’t that the reason we write in the first place?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rhetorical Devices

Hey everyone, Annette here this Grammar-O Wednesday. Thanks for praying for Ocieanna. Please continue as she recovers from a cardiac arrest in January.

Are we ready to glean some great grammar tools? (Ooooh, I just demonstrated a rhetorical device. Can you name it?) Let's dive into today's topic.

I sat in on a workshop a few years ago and learned about anaphora, a rhetorical device of purposely repeating the same word or phrase. You've no-doubt seen this or used it in your own writing:

She didn’t see how choosing surrender could lead to life. She didn’t see how dying could mean living. She didn’t see how losing herself in Jesus could mean finding herself.

[Note, if you only repeat twice, your editor may wonder if you’re just fond of a specific word (weasel word) and have you find a synonym or rework your sentence.]

The discovery of anaphora led to study of rhetorical devices in general. You may be asking, how are these grammar relevant? Well, grammar is defined as: the study of the way the sentences of a language are constructed, so since rhetorical devices affect sentence structures (they’re really just strategic ways of communicating in writing or speaking), this is a great topic for this Grammar-O Wednesday.

You run into rhetorical devices everywhere. Here are a few examples:

Alliteration: using words with the same initial consonant sound: She slipped swiftly down South Hill (A little overkill, but you get the idea. The use of two words applies, as well. The point is to cause the phrase to remain in the reader’s mind.)

Onomatopoeia: pronunciation of a word demonstrates the sound the word describes: crash, ring, buzz

Personification: to depict inanimate objects as having human traits: The truck sputtered and choked.

Which ones are your favorites? Raise your hand if you know more than twenty. Thirty? I’m guessing we could all use a refresher course on these literary devices we’ve likely seen before but have been unable to name. Why not study rhetorical devices (I’ve included a link below) and begin using more of them in your own writing? Of course, don’t overdo it. But you have to know what they are and how to use them before you can use them accurately. By the way, simile and metaphor are also rhetorical devices.

Here’s a link to a handy guide of sixty rhetorical devices. I like this site because it seems thorough, and they often use Scripture as examples. Yesterday, remember how I spoke of freebies for writers, this link is one of them. *smile*

Challenge of the week: choose a rhetorical device (or two) and include it (them) in your WIP. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Students of the Craft Series
Net's Notations Tuesdays

Hey everyone, Annette here. Raise your hand if you’re watching your budget pretty closely these days. Yeah, me too. In our quest to be diligent students of the writing craft, we could use lack of funds as an excuse, couldn’t we? “Well, I’d love to own such-and-such a book on craft, but I can’t afford it.” Budgeting is no excuse not to take advantage of the freebies all around us. Here are some suggestions for finding freebies these days to help offset costs:

~ Free Kindle downloads. Even if you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the free Kindle application to your computer and begin download (free) books, and reading them on the screen. Sometimes great writing books come up as freebies. I’ve ordered three specific writing books free this way.

~ Libraries. These are a great resource for studying more books in your genre, finding craft books, even finding books for research (setting, character careers, etc.).

~ Websites and blogs. This blog—Seriously Write—is a free resource for writers. For almost two years, Manuscript Mondays have been dedicated to writing craft. Go into the archives and find topics covered by some of your favorite authors. Oftentimes, too, we’ve offered series on certain topics. (Like the Ten Beats of a Romance series by Susan May Warren this month for romance writers.) There are a number of other websites and blogs specifically targeting writers and offering helpful nuggets, advice, even contest information. Google to learn more, or talk to your writing buds.

~ National writers’ groups. The American Christian Fiction Writers is a fantastic group. Now, granted, it’s not free to join; there’s a small annual fee. But, once you’ve joined there are plenty of “freebies,” like month-long courses in a wide range of topics. E-mail loops specific by genre where your question are welcomed and answered by seasoned pros. Free access to course and email archives. Mentors as you connect with authors ahead of you on the road.

~ Critique groups. This is a valuable, free resource where members exchange his/her opinion for yours. Don’t miss out on this growth opportunity as well. Our local group used to meet in a library, so we didn’t have to buy a meal. Now we meet at a fast food restaurant and have the option of grabbing a meal if we’ve been rushed or just choose to. But the critique itself is free. *smile*

~ Borrow books from friends. At our crit group, oftentimes we’ll mention lending books to each other. This is a great resource.

~ Volunteer to review books. If you’ve got a blog and are willing, publishing houses would love to have you read their books for review. Sign up at their websites. For example, Thomas Nelson’s blog review group is called BookSneeze. Everyone’s welcome to sign up, abide by their policies and viola!, start receiving free books. This gives you an opportunity to achieve two purposes in one read. You’re a student, but you’re also supporting and promoting Christian novels (which we Christian writers should definitely be doing). You’ll also become more familiar with the writers. If you happen to be friends with the author on FB, you make their day when you mention you’re enjoying reading their book.

I hope this gives you some ideas and helps you find ways to take advantage of free opportunities. Thanks for joining me this month with our topic of being students of the craft. Write on!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ten Beats of a Romance: Part Three by Susan May Warren

Happy Manuscript Monday, dear readers. So far this month, we’ve gone over the first five beats of a romance novel. Susie's back to discuss the next two: The Kiss and The Heartbreak. You have to have both! Read on!

The Kiss and the Heartbreak*
by Susan May Warren

Let's begin today with a discussion on the different types of kisses (it's not what you think *grin*). We'll get to the heartbreak in a moment.

Beat 6: The sexual tension (the Kiss!)

This is my favorite part. (Ok, I like the dialogue leading up to it too!) But, a great romance has at least two great kisses—sometimes three. (If you’re writing for ABA, you might have more than a kiss.)

Kiss One: An introductory I-didn’t-mean-to; did-we-just-do-that? kiss
Kiss Two: An I-really-want-to-kiss-you-now-and-I’m-going-to kiss
Kiss Three: An I-love-you-and-I-mean-it kiss

If you have to, the last two can be combined.

Of course, before the First Kiss you want to build desire, an awareness of each other, an agreement that they aren’t repulsed by each other and even a hope that maybe, oh, no, really, oh, I shouldn’t think that but YES, I want to kiss him!

That often happens before the Intro kiss. But you can have an intro kiss where it takes them off guard that they then ponder later, and decide they like it. A lot.

Between the Intro kiss and the I-really-want-to-kiss-you kiss, there is wooing and sparks and some whys (we’ll get to that), until they realize their heart is engaged. And this kiss means something.

Often, after that, we might have the Black Moment, but it could also happen before this kiss and the second kiss could be combined with the end.

The Introductory kiss should occur before or at the halfway point of the book.

The second kiss occurs in the last quarter of the book. Usually.

In one of my books, my hero and heroine are pretending to be engaged. Which causes them to be in romantic situations. They have a FAKE kiss halfway through the book…that leads to real attraction.

The Second kiss occurs at the end. (unless they absolutely demand another one…! ) (which they might).

As far as kissing rules—just write the kiss you are comfortable with. I have a would-my-mother-read-this? rule and that seems to work fine for me. *grin*

Beat 7: The Breakup: The biggest WHY NOT rises to push them apart. Every romance has a Breakup—or a Black Moment. That reason why they can’t be together. Without it, we have no triumphant run into each other’s arms! We have no giant sign of happiness.

We have no conflict, tension and late-night reading!

YOU MUST HURT YOUR CHARACTERS and make them BREAK UP!! I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, really.

I know there are a few novelists who don’t want to be mean to your characters—but if you don’t, then they don’t ponder their existence, hit their knees, find the truth and change into better people. And we want better people, right?

Just say, as you’re typing…this is for your own good, I promise!!

As you’re sketching our your Black Moments/Epiphany and how to create, pick the biggest WHY NOT. It is this element that causes them to break up. (Find more on this at Book Therapy archives: The Black Moment archived posts.

In one of my books, my hero’s mission is going to get an untrained person hurt. And, he can’t fall for her, so he stages a breakup. This fight embarrasses and hurts her, and she believes all his feelings for her were just an act (like the feelings of her ex-non-boyfriend-turned-future-brother-in-law) which gets at her core issues that she’s a “leftover.” And then she does something that makes him think she can’t be trusted (his why not).

Ask: What makes your hero/heroine break up? (don’t worry, you can change it later—right now you are just brainstorming). Ideally, the breakup also be tied in with her greatest fear.

The breakup is essential to a romance, because we want true love to win. If love isn’t at stake, there is no fear of losing, no turning of pages. But, there should be a good reason for them to be together, which leads us to next week’s blog: why do they love each other?

See you next week.


*Article series first appeared on Book Therapy Voices blog in October, 2010. Used by permission.


To learn more about Susan, visit her website. Her latest release, Point of No Return, is a romantic suspense. Here's the blurb:

An American boy and a warlord's engaged daughter have disappeared—together—in an Eastern European border country. Only one man can find them in time to prevent an international meltdown—Chet Stryker. But Chet is taken aback when he realizes the boy is the nephew of Mae Lund, Chet's former flame. When Mae insists on rescuing her relative herself, Chet knows he has to protect her from the enemy on their trail. Yet can he protect himself from falling for Mae again?

Friday, February 18, 2011

I Would Write More If Only … by Margaret Brownley

Welcome to Fortifying Friday—a day Seriously Write features guest authors. Do you find excuses for why you haven’t finished writing your book—or maybe even the chapter you’ve been working on? Margaret Brownley shares encouraging words on this common problem.

I Would Write
More If Only ...
by Margaret Brownley

I would write more if only…

This unfinished sentence was part of a survey sent to members of my writing group in preparation for a meeting. Completed surveys were sent to Dr. Kent, a family counselor, who agreed to discuss possible solutions.

Our members all agreed we would write more if only life wouldn’t interfere. Husbands, children, pets, work and next door neighbors—you name it—were cited as holding the creative muse hostage.

Writing that compelling story takes time, concentration, determination, and energy—no surprises there— but according to Dr. Kent it also takes the setting of clear boundaries. “You must have a clear idea of how much time and effort you want to devote to your work,” Dr. Kent told us. “If you don’t take your work seriously, don’t expect anyone else to, including your family.”

She then went on to explain that boundaries start with place. Whether it’s a private office or cluttered corner of the living room it’s important that family members know this area is off-limits. She didn’t say as much but if your office is in the bathroom or kitchen you might want to consider finding another place.

Next, according to Dr. Kent, it’s essential to establish regular working hours. This was a tricky concept for those of our writers who thought being a good mother meant being a full-time mother. Fortunately, this was never my problems. I subscribe to the “don’t bother me unless your hair is on fire” rule so no one ever accused me of being a good mother.

Dr. Kent insisted that consistency is the key. Children (like writers) need guidelines. Dr. Kent pointed out that children tend to be what we need them to be. “If they are making unreasonable demands of our time, it could be that we are consciously or unconsciously encouraging this behavior.” She didn’t say as much but I suspect the same is true for husbands. What she did say was that even if you work outside the home it’s important to have a writing schedule in place—and stick to it.

Of course it’s not just family that hogs our time. We all eagerly pointed to Facebook, Twitter and email as time-robbing culprits. Someone once said that writing is 15 percent work and 85 percent avoiding the Internet—and we all know that avoidance takes as much time, energy, and determination as writing—so why bother?

In the end Dr. Kent made mincemeat out of our reasons for not writing more, calling them built-in excuses for procrastination. This seemed to ring a bell because several members admitted that the number of interruptions increased when the writing was not going well or had stopped altogether. I can attest to this because the splattered paint on the doorknob of my office has been distracting me all week.

The good news is that writing and family—and even an outside job—can be a winning combination by faithfully following Dr. Kent’s guidelines.

• Keep your writing time and space sacred
• Make your goals and boundaries clear
• Limit the time spent on the Internet and e-mail
• Put a sign over your desk that reads “No excuses”

To Dr. Kent’s rules I would like to add one of my own: Celebrate every little success! Years ago when I was still an aspiring writer, I racked up enough rejections to paper the house. Discouraged, I had just about decided to quit when I sold my first magazine article for five dollars and my hubby took me out to celebrate. Soon after, I sold yet another five dollar article and we celebrated again. I was on a roll. By the third such sale my husband said, “Honey, we can’t afford all this success.”

Ah, but I need those little celebrations. That’s what got me through the long haul of writing four books before selling my first. It’s what helped me keep procrastination at bay.

So if you write a chapter, enter a contest, read a writing book, attend a writers meeting, do revisions, query an agent, or simply honor your writing time—you have something to celebrate. I’ll join you just as soon as I scrape the paint off the doorknob.

Have a little faith!

Margaret Brownley has written more than twenty books, including the bestselling Rocky Creek series, and was a 2010 Romance Writers of American RITA finalist for A Lady Like Sarah. Her next book, A Vision of Lucy, will be published in June.

To find out more about Margaret and her books, please visit:
Just for fun: Stagecoach Etiquette:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

To Be Obedient

Thursdays – Dawn’s Devotions for Writers

“And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself and became obedient to
death— even death on a cross!”
(Philippians 2:8 NIV)

Somewhere deep inside, we have a desire to rebel. It’s human nature.

I was a very obedient child, but as I grew older, I discovered that certain things provoked Rebellion (a wild animal living in my core) to make an appearance. Usually Rebellion surfaced because I disagreed with someone in authority, I didn’t appreciate the way a command was given, or I felt unduly blamed for something. I always managed to catch the animal before it escaped and got me into trouble, but it still caused my heart to pound and my cheeks to flush, exposing my feelings to the authority figure.

It’s not easy to be obedient to others. Most of us want control over our lives. But in most cases, like following the law, obedience is imperative in keeping order and people safe.

As Christians, we strive to obey God’s direction and will for our lives. We tithe in obedience, even when the budget is tight. We’re told obedience is rewarded. “In everything that he undertook in the service of God's temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.” (Chronicles 31:21 NIV)

As writers, there are times when we must decide to obey and follow our calling—even when it’s difficult. When finances are stretched and we wonder if we should quit and get a “real” job, we find a way to continue writing. When we become discouraged because of a scathing review or rejection letter, we don’t give up. We don’t write books that dishonor God, even though our bank account would grow substantially.

Sometimes being obedient means putting down our writing for a season because God has other things for us to do or learn.

When it becomes challenging to be obedient, and we want to do things our own way, remember what it says in Philippians 2:8. If Jesus Christ, our Lord, could humble himself to be obedient—even to the point of dying on the cross for sins he never committed—we can at least try our best to be obedient and follow God’s design for our lives. :-D

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Grammar-O Wednesdays
with Ocieanna

Welcome to grammar day on Seriously Write. If you’re a regular visitor here, you know that Ocieanna, our good friend and fellow blog hostess, went into cardiac arrest early in January. She’s doing well, but needs a little more time off. In the meantime, Annette and I (Dawn) will carry on in Ocieanna’s place until she returns. Please continue praying for her. Thanks!

Ready to test your skills?

The following sentences may contain grammar, punctuation, spelling, or other writing misdemeanors. Your job is to find the infraction and set it right. Try not to look at the answers below.

Have fun!

Sentences to correct:

1) What a winter! My oldest daughter lives in Brooklyn, New York, my neice lives in Chicago, Illinois. Both cities recently recieved a ton of snow. My daughter walked or took the subway to wherever she needed to go, my niece was still stranded after digging her car out of 4 foot of snow because the roads weren’t plowed.

2) We don’t often have to contend with snow in Seattle, but our winters are still filled with chilly temperatures, wind, and rain. Roads covered with black ice and mass power outages are two things we dread.

3) There’s nothing better when its cold and damp outside than to snuggle inside by a roaring fire and to eat comfort food. You know ….chili, and homemade chicken soup, and grilled cheese sandwiches.

4) If we’ve had a bad day and need even more comfort, there’s always pizza, buttered popcorn-and CHOCOLATE.

5) God’s word can be comfort food for our souls. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” (Isaiah 66:13 NIV)

6) Having a bad day? A bad week? A bad year? Savior God’s warm, wonderful comfort.

Corrected sentences:

1) What a winter! My oldest daughter lives in Brooklyn, New York; my niece lives in Chicago, Illinois. Both cities recently received a ton of snow. My daughter walked or took the subway to wherever she needed to go; my niece was still stranded after digging her car out of four feet of snow because the roads weren’t plowed.

2) We don’t often have to contend with snow in Seattle, but our winters are still filled with chilly temperatures, wind, and rain. Two things we dread are mass power outages and roads covered with black ice.

Note: The way the last sentence was originally written, the road was covered with both black ice and power outages. Roads can’t be covered with power outages.

3) When it’s cold and damp outside, there’s nothing better than snuggling inside by a roaring fire and eating comfort food. You know chili, homemade chicken soup, and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Note: The first sentence has been rewritten to flow better. An apostrophe has been added to the word it’s because it is a contraction. The word "and" was taken out in the second sentence.
Note: An ellipsis is currently written: space, three periods, space.

4) If we’ve had a bad day and need even more comfort, there’s always pizza, buttered popcornand CHOCOLATE.

5) God’s word can be comfort food for our souls. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13 NIV).

Note: Quotation marks are needed at the beginning of the quote, as well as at the end of the quote. The period comes after the reference, not before.

6) Having a bad day? A bad week? A bad year? Savor God’s warm, wonderful comfort.

How well did you do?

I use The Chicago Manual of Style and Webster’s Dictionary as my sources.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Where Am I Really?

Where Am I Really?
Students of the Craft Series
Net's Notations Tuesdays

Hey everyone, Annette here. I sat in on a workshop at a writing conference several years ago and wondered what I was doing there. This writer was speaking way over my head. I needed someone to address writing craft at my level. I wasn’t ready for his topic.

If I took the same workshop today, I’d find more of the material familiar. But at that point, I didn’t have a clear understanding of just where I was in terms of ability. Let me share some advice, in case you can relate. As students of the craft, it’s important to:

1) Assess where we are. Ask: what are my weaknesses? Where could I improve?

2) Seek out what we need. When you’ve discovered your areas of weakness (POV, dialogue, plotting, grammar, etc.), it’s necessary to locate materials on that topic. One great way to learn more is to find a workshop. When you attend writers’ conferences there are lists of workshop options. Choose the ones which will most meet you where you are, or challenge you a bit. Don’t shoot for workshops which will cover material beyond where you are. You’ll spend most of the time trying to figure out what the speaker is talking about in general and never glean what s/he meant as the meat of his/her presentation. How-to books are helpful resources too. Find them free at the library. (Of course you cannot highlight library books, so you may want to allocate some of your writing budget for personal copies.)

3) Study. After conferences, after workshops, it’s important to read through the materials and your notes once you’re back at your writing desk. How does the information hit you now? The best way to know you’re ready to move on from this stage is to try explaining what you’ve learned to someone else. This demonstrates whether you’ve really got it or not. Practice on your critique group. *smile*

4) Apply. Now, find a place in your WIP (work in progress) and apply this new technique. Don’t worry if it doesn’t come together on the first attempt. No one’s watching over your shoulder. Take your time. Refer back to your notes. Get advice.

This process may reveal other weaknesses, but if so, don’t worry. You’re in good company. Name your favorite well-read, multi-published author and I imagine that person would admit to having a weakness or two. The great thing—we don’t have to forever compensate for those areas of struggle. We can learn. We can grow. We can overcome our writing weaknesses if we remain students of the craft.

Write on!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ten Beats of a Romance: Part Two by Susan May Warren

Happy Manuscript Monday and Happy Valentine's Day, dear readers. This craft-focused day we'll continue our series on writing romance with Susan May Warren. Today's topic, creating a good fight.

Adding Sparks to your Romance*
by Susan May Warren

We’re talking this month about the 10 beats in a romance – those ten elements that help us craft and structure our romance. Today, we’ll build to Beat 5: Sparks!

A great romance has a lot of Sparks! I love a book or movie with great dialogue. It’s that spark between the hero and heroine that makes us fall in love with them.

You want to build in some witty conversation, and especially FIGHTS! A great fight causes great tension.

My two favorite scenes in While You Were Sleeping are the couch scene and the walk home/leaning scene. But have great dialogue where they share their hearts. Often this happens when they are in a fight…so, think of a place where your hero/heroine could have ONE great fight—go write it in!

One writer recently asked, “On fights: what do you suggest to make fights not contrived, and not about one being childish, or about a simple misunderstanding?”

God question! A fight might start with a misunderstanding (as most fights do!) but in the end, they are often about core values—what they believe about each other, or things they need to confront. A good fight should make each of them think about who they are and cause some shift toward change in their lives (as do all good fights). A fight built on a misunderstanding at its core is frustrating for the reader. And although we’ll buy it for a while, as they get deeper into their relationship, it needs to be a real core issue that holds them apart.

“So how do we keep the reader from getting frustrated? I guess I’m asking how to make it a good fight without confusion the reader?”

Let’s take You’ve Got Mail—it’s basically built on “miscommunication.” But as we go deeper, we realize that he has unraveled her entire life, and she might not forgive him once she finds out who he is… so he has to woo her in the flesh to get her to overcome the “little misunderstanding.”

Get at the core of their misunderstanding and make that be the WHY NOT—not the miscommunication. The biggest fight, the one that keeps them apart, should be about core values.

“Is there a way to make the fight not sound too cheesy or too the other way, if there is one?”

You need to make it real. Which means you need a fight that is sort of…well, not childish, but not mean either. Here’s what I do—I weave into the fight, peeling back the layers until I get to the core. I also fight dirty—I use sarcasm, name calling, I will even throw things (all things I would never do in real life. *grin*)

I might reveal the fight in little bits—but the BIG fight is the one where I go for the jugular. It’s actually sort of therapeutic, now that I think about it. I love a great story fight! In a great fight, I don’t finish sentences, I cut people off, I assume things, I basically throw out everything I’ve ever told my children about fighting, and let my character misbehave.

A good fight scene reveals the core of the character…the issues they’ve been dancing around. He sees her core but she believes she’s hiding something, so he calls her out on all of her stuff. Then she reveals what she sees in him. A good fight scene really has to get straight to the core, revelatory issues. Otherwise it’s boring and you lose the good stuff in between.

You want to have it all hang out, right there, bleeding. Ugly. So they can take a good look at them and grow from it.

This is just my opinion, but polite fights (unless it is sub-texting) are cheesy fights.

You want them to say something really sharp, profound. Which means it might get rough out there. And most of all, NO APOLOGIZING!!!! Don’t pull your punches!

If she calls him a jerk, let it hang out there. Don’t write that she feels bad and says “I shouldn’t have said that.” And let the argument be sub-texted so we see they are really fighting about falling in love, not the fact that she lied to him about her identity.

You might have her think later, “I shouldn’t have said that” but at the time, don’t. It lessens the energy of the fight. I see SO many people pull back from that great, painful moment—if it needs to be said—say it!

I love it when I read a great piece of dialogue and I think—AH! I can’t believe she said that! He so deserved it!

So, build in a great fight, or a series of good fights/conflict between the heroine and heroine, and you’ll have a story with spark!

Next week we’ll finish up with the last four beats!

*Article series first appeared on Book Therapy Voices blog in October, 2010. Used by permission.


To learn more about Susan, visit her website. Her latest release, Point of No Return, is a romantic suspense. Here's the blurb:

An American boy and a warlord's engaged daughter have disappeared—together—in an Eastern European border country. Only one man can find them in time to prevent an international meltdown—Chet Stryker. But Chet is taken aback when he realizes the boy is the nephew of Mae Lund, Chet's former flame. When Mae insists on rescuing her relative herself, Chet knows he has to protect her from the enemy on their trail. Yet can he protect himself from falling for Mae again?

Friday, February 11, 2011

One in a Million by DiAnn Mills

DiAnn Mills is an award-winning, multi-published author who believes in giving back by encouraging other writers. No one becomes a best-selling author overnight. Everyone has to start somewhere. We’re so pleased that DiAnn is here today to share her own journey to publication.

One in a Million
by DiAnn Mills

Every writer has a story. Some of the behind-the-scenes events strike a gallant pose of purpose and education and inspiration, while others are mediocre in the laborious uphill climb to the city on the hill called Publishedville. If I had majored in creative writing in college and had earned a MA or PhD that elevated me to best-seller potential, or if I had written for a prominent newspaper or magazine, or if I had been a journalist during the Gulf War, then I could see a prestigious journey toward novel publication. But that’s not how God mapped my journey.

I wrote my first book in second grade. The story was a western, and every chapter ended with the hero riding off in the west. Are you surprised? The story filled a Big Chief writing pad, and all my little friends assured me it would be a success. I also wrote scads of poetry that I hid. Actually the older I became, the more I hid my stories and poetry.

Many years later, I still struggled with wanting to write a book, but I didn’t have the self-confidence (guts) to simply begin. I’d sensed a calling for years, and even realized that God wanted me to write fiction. The urging from God was strong, but I feared every aspect of the writing process. I did nothing except dream about writing and conjure up stories in my head and make the infamous claim of “someday I’m going to write a book.” How sad it is to hold onto a dream, know it is from God, and yet have too many fears and doubts to take a leap of faith.

One day, my husband said, “Stop telling me that someday you’re going to write a book. Just do it! Quit your job and see what you can do. I give you one year.” I’ve never been one who could turn my back on a challenge. My personality defies anyone who tells me I can’t do something. So I took him up on his dare and began gathering the tools needed to learn the art of writing.

This was my new full-time job. I began reading the books about the craft, underlining those things that I wanted to emulate and remember. I read novels by authors I admired and respected in the genre in which I wanted to write. I joined writing groups and participated in discussions and critiques, and I attended writing conferences. I learned about computers, and I wrote every day—whether I felt like it or not. I prayed for guidance, wisdom, and to overcome my fears. Note the number of “I’s” in this list. That’s because I had to be the one to do the work with an understanding that God would work through me. I had to be the one willing to pay the price, and I would be the one who, through the help of God, would reach publication.

Do you understand that determination is a required characteristic?

In the first year, I sold magazine articles, short stories, and devotions while working on my first novel: a historical romance. My first published piece was sold to Mature Living about my dad’s pet robin in the hills of Kentucky during the depression. Two years after the “challenge,” the historical novel was released by Barbour Publishing for their Heartsong Presents line. And I didn’t go back to my old job.

I continued to write contemporary and suspense fiction for Barbour for a number of years. Along the way a nonfiction book about the Lost Boys of Sudan graced the retailers’ shelves, as well as other full-length novels. Now I’m writing suspense for one publishing house and historical novels for another. My mind is always full of story ideas.

At times, I attempt to see a pattern of publication, something I could pass on to new writers. But my rocky climb isn’t a step-by-step career ladder. Instead, it’s a constant striving to improve skills and to pass on what I learn to other writers. For those beginning their writing ministry—and it is a ministry—I recommend being diligent and approaching the writing process as a job. The Bible says to work as though working for the Lord, and that means giving your best. Above all, I do believe I’ve been blessed with publication because of a deep-rooted belief that I should help others improve their skills. Whatever I discover or learn mean nothing to me unless I pass on the information--a pay-it-forward mindset.

This is what I want to leave you. All the stories have been written. It’s up to the writer to develop the craft and shape the story into something beautiful and lasting. On your journey, remember how you felt when you were struggling and needed answers and guidance. Encourage others and understand it’s all about glorifying God with our gifts and talents.

DiAnn Mills believes her readers should “Expect an Adventure.” She is a fiction writer who combines an adventuresome spirit with unforgettable characters to create action-packed novels. Her books have won many awards through American Christian Fiction Writers, and she is the recipient of the Inspirational Reader’s Choice award for 2005, 2007, and 2010. She was a Christy Award finalist in 2008 and a Christy winner in 2010. DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and is the Craftsman Mentor for the Christian Writer’s Guild. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops. DiAnn and her husband live in Houston, Texas.

To find out more about DiAnn and her books,
please visit

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Father, Child, and the Writer

Thursdays – Dawn’s Devotions for Writers

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”
(Matt. 6:9 NIV)

Our Father … I embrace having a relationship with God as Father.

For those of us blessed with gentle, loving, and understanding earthly fathers, it may be easier for us to view God in those terms. Not everyone is as fortunate. Regardless of what our personal relationships with our dads have been, we probably all have at least an idea of what the ideal would be like.

Parenting is not an easy job. Even if you’re not a parent, you may have friends or siblings who have children, so you’ve been around them when they’re sweet, and also when they’re cranky and rebellious.

Sometimes it would be easier to just give in to what they want instead of standing our ground, but if we constantly give in to what they want—when they want it—they’ll become selfish and irresponsible. It’s important that children learn patience and the value of hard work.

We say no because we love them and want the best for them. I believe God (as Father) sometimes answers prayers with no, or not right now for the same reasons.

Just as we wouldn’t think of handing over the car keys to a ten-year-old child who believes he’s ready to drive, God may not hand over an agent. Or a contract. We may not be ready to handle the responsibility. We may need more growth—in our writing, or even in our spiritual life.

Our Father doesn’t always let us have what we want—when we want it—because he loves us. He wants the very best for us.

We may love our children the same, but it’s not wise to always treat them the same. Some kids need more discipline, guidance, or patience than others. One child may be more interested in sports, while the other is drawn to the arts. To force either one to do something because the other child does it would be—well, wrong.

Our personal journeys in our writing lives/careers are all different. Just like our children who want to be football players and ballerinas, we don’t all have the same interests and gifts. If your critique partner gets published before you, or gets more attention, it doesn’t mean you’re a less favored child.

We encourage our children to develop their own gifts, and our heavenly Father created us to be unique—like no other—because he loves us and wants the best for us.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dashes: Which One Goes Where?

Hey everyone, welcome to Grammar-O Wednesday. Dawn and I (Annette) are filling in for Ocieanna as she recovers from a cardiac arrest in early January. She is doing well, but prayers are still appreciated as she rests up.

Today, let’s dive into a punctuation issue, shall we?

Do you know the difference between these little punctuation marks: hyphens, en dashes and em dashes? Oftentimes word processors will change the dashes we throw in to the right length, but not always. It’s best to know for yourself which one is correct. Let’s take a closer look because editors shouldn’t have all the fun of changing these out when we get them wrong. (*big grin*)

Hyphens are shortest: -

En dashes are a little longer: –

Em dashes are longest: —

You use a hyphen in compound adjectives: blue-green water. Last names are often hyphenated: Smith-Jones. These are just dashes—one dash (ooooh, see that, I used an em dash, we’ll get to those in a moment. *grin*). Here’s another example:

Non-Spanish-speaking visitors.

En dashes are two dashes, combined. You’d use them in connecting numbers. Example: 2001–2010 They are used with words, also, but rarely so. They imply distance, as in the New York–London flight. For more examples and explanations, see The Chicago Manual of Style.

Use an em dash to set off clauses, including in dialogue. Here are some examples:

The dog—snow and all—ducked inside.

“I’m here to show you the right way”
Karen shifted her arms and now held up the pink sock—“and the wrong way to sort laundry.”

Or when someone is interrupted:

“I can’t believe you said tha—”
(Hint, to get the quotation marks to face the right direction, I insert a period before the quotation marks, then the quotes, then remove the period.)

Most of the time, when some sort of dash is needed, it’s an em dash.

(Side note: There are times when you can use two and three em dashes. Two em dashes together are used when quoting material where something is missing, not to be confused with a blank line. Three em dashes are used in bibliographies when there is repeated information from an above entry.)

Can you think of examples for each of these: hyphens, en dashes, em dashes?

Happy writing!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Attending Conferences

Attending Conferences
Students of the Craft Series
Net's Notations Tuesdays

I read a review today on a book written by a multi-published author. The reviewer said, “I read such-and-such a book by her and couldn’t wait to read her next one. But I was so disappointed in it.” One star.

Yikes! Now, granted, readers have differing opinions. There are several reasons a reader might have connected with Book 11, but not Book 12. But, from the other reviews, it seemed readers weren’t impressed with the author’s characterization in this latest novel. And characterization is a teachable skill.

So, it’s back to the classroom.

This month, we’re discussing being students of the craft. I’ve heard well-published, successful authors say (at conferences), “I’m here (to listen to so-and-so teach) because I want to never stop learning.” That same person was up talking with the teacher during the break, getting advice, learning, growing as a writer.

I respect that.

Are you a committed student of the craft?

Committed students take advantage of every opportunity to learn more about their subject. Conferences are a great resource for learning and networking.

Conferences inspire me. I always think, “I can’t wait until I go home and put this great stuff to use!”

Which conferences will you attend this year? Things are lean for some of us. If that’s the case, find a local conference put on by a small organization. These are likely more affordable than the national conferences. No doubt you’ll be able to glean fresh info, or network with new people. Some writers prefer the smaller conference setting. If so, this is for you.

If funds and scheduling aren’t an issue, attend a premier conference, if you can: Mt. Hermon, ACFW, etc.

Either way, plan ahead. Do your research so you can make every meeting count. Know what agents are looking for, and the same for editors/houses.

Here’s a checklist for committed students attending conferences:

* Carry a bag with your school supplies. (smile) (Messenger bags or backpacks work well.) Pens, notebooks, pencils, highlighters; or a laptop. Plan to scribble down (or type) as much info as you can.
* Attend agent and editor panels. Again, take notes. You never know when you’ll need the information later.
* If available, purchase the CDs after the conference to catch anything you missed.
* Be professional. Agents and editors will take you more seriously if you look and act the part. Students who come in sloppy to class usually don’t apply themselves. Be organized. Project earnestness.
* Plan to study conference materials once you’re back at home, too. Leave time in your writing day for listening to those MP3s or CDs and taking new notes. Then, apply what you’re learning to your WIP (work in progress).

Remember, we’ll are students of the craft of writing. Keep studying. You won’t regret it.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ten Beats of a Romance: Part One by Susan May Warren

Happy Manuscript Monday, everyone! It's February, the month of Valentine's Day and what better way to celebrate than with a series on writing romance? Susan May Warren is here all month to share her series on the Ten Beats of Romance. This series is helpful for writers of romance, or if you include a secondary romantic thread in your novel, or if you just want to better understand this genre. Read on!

Ten Beats of a Romance Novel: Part One*
Susan May Warren

Every genre (including romance) has key elements—things that we expect from that type of story. Because of this, people might say a romance is predictable. But the author has license to change up these elements, putting them in a different order.

And of course, they are bringing their own voice to the romance—telling it in a way only they know how. That is why we enjoy remakes of old films—because even though it is the same story, it has a different take, and we love that—and frankly, we love seeing the new voice applied to the old structure!

Every romance, regardless of the order these components fall in, has the same ten components. For our series, we’ll call them beats.

Let’s start with the first component:

Beat 1: Boy Meets Girl: In this component, there is an event, goal or circumstance that occurs to bring our hero and heroine together. Usually this happens in the first chapter, but it definitely needs to happen by chapter three. In Titanic, the ship brings the hero and heroine together.

As you sketch out your novel, start by defining that Boy Meets Girl moment. Once you have your Boy meets Girl moment, you can move on to the next beat:

Beat 2: Interest/Need: Something about their own situation makes their heart vulnerable to romance.

In Titanic, Rose hates her life, feels suffocated and longs for freedom and adventure. Jack is a vagabond, and when he sees this beautiful woman who loves him, he is affirmed. She believes in him!

It’s very important for you to figure out what it is about your characters that make them ready or vulnerable to romance. Often this element is revealed though a conversation they have with their friends. Or is a part of inciting incident.

Remember, right now, you’re just building the components—you can move them around to fit the story.

Which brings us to the next beat…

Beat 3: Why Not: These are the obstacles between the hero and heroine that conspire to separate them.

I break these down into two different structures—why/why not, and why not/why.
The why not/why is when the obstacles appear first, and the why (they need to be together, which we’ll get to in a moment) appears second.

Or, you may have a why/why not book where they fall in love first…and then realize why they can’t be together.

Again, these are just components you need to have—they can occur in different orders.

Here’s an example of a Why Not: Sleepless in Seattle: She lives in Baltimore, he lives in Seattle!

The key is, you MUST have why nots in a romance. Because without the WHY NOT, there is no conflict and the story is…boring. Or not a story.

So—as you’re building your story think about the WHY NOT that you will keep them apart.

We’re going to skip over the WHY right now (but we’ll be coming back to it) and move onto the next component:

Beat 4: Wooing: Events or situations that allow the hero and heroine to fall in love. This is the fun stuff—all those “dates” or events they have that make them fall for each other. As we get deeper into building our romance, we’ll talk about the nature and purpose of each of these wooing dates, but for now, let’s just identify them.

One of my favorite is in While you Were Sleeping—moving the sofa!

It’s important to create scenes that will engage the reader—something sweet, and things the reader would like to do. You can be creative about the wooing moment—I’ve had motorcycle rides, hockey, a trip to the library, a snowmobile ride…think outside the box. Where would you like to go?

For every romance, I try and plot at least ONE great date scene, and a couple smaller scenes.

Ask: Do you have any wooing scenes?

These are the first four beats of a great romance. But they are just the beginning. Next week, we’ll talk about the element that makes a romance great: SPARKS!

*Article series first appeared on Book Therapy Voices blog in October, 2010. Used by permission.


To learn more about Susan, visit her website. Her latest release, Point of No Return, is a romantic suspense. Here's the blurb:

An American boy and a warlord's engaged daughter have disappeared—together—in an Eastern European border country. Only one man can find them in time to prevent an international meltdown—Chet Stryker. But Chet is taken aback when he realizes the boy is the nephew of Mae Lund, Chet's former flame. When Mae insists on rescuing her relative herself, Chet knows he has to protect her from the enemy on their trail. Yet can he protect himself from falling for Mae again?

Friday, February 4, 2011

My Journey to Publication by Patti Hill

God directs each of us down a unique path in our writing careers. On Fortifying Fridays, guests share their personal journeys, and offer encouraging words to those who are hoping to one day publish their first—or next book. Sit back and enjoy what author Patti Hill has for us today.

My Journey to Publication
by Patti Hill

I’ve been a storyteller since my babbling days. My earliest “stories” were meant to deflect Mom’s wrath over ravaged strawberry patches and spilled nail polish. The plotlines were ineffectual, and I tasted my share of soap, but I persevered. By the time I reached adolescence, I lied to cover my sense of unworthiness and to stay on the sunny side of Mom. And when I wasn’t lying, I used elaborate daydreams to boost my sagging self-esteem. Stories were my security blanket.

I love Jesus for redeeming my gift and my life at age 14. He took a lying daydreamer and made me into a bona fide storyteller-in-training. I am eternally grateful.

Only weeks after accepting Jesus’ amazing gift of redemption, people started suggesting writing as a career. I thought they were crazy, although I continued to hear encouragement through high school and college. To appease all, I changed my major to journalism. But I get distracted easily. Instead of graduating, I married Mr. Wonderful and settled into my dream life as wife and mother. No regrets.

Becoming a novelist never crossed my mind, but I didn’t stop writing either. I wrote to pray, to protest, to convince, to teach, to remember, and to understand. Years passed. My sons grew big and hairy, so I went back to college to earn an English degree and taught elementary school. A teacher book club changed everything.

I’d always loved to read, but this was so different. Reading contemporary literature chosen by friends with diverse tastes, well, that made for very passionate discussions. Seeing my friends delve into all manners of topics with glee just because a story had led them there, demonstrated the true power of story.

My passion became writing stories that would provide a keyhole view of the faith life to an unbelieving world. I wanted people to discuss Jesus passionately and with wonder, not contempt as so many books seem to provoke.

I quit my teaching job to write Like a Watered Garden. Lauraine Snelling critiqued the partial manuscript at a conference. Afterward, she encouraged me to send the manuscript to Bethany House. I drove home from with stars in my eyes. And then…Bethany House rejected the manuscript.

After an impressive crying jag, I finished the manuscript and started querying agents. I found the best. She shoe-horned my novel into six publishing committees and three of those houses made offers. When the dust settled, Bethany House published my first novel and the next two in the series. I’ve since published two novels with B&H, The Queen of Sleepy Eye and Seeing Things.

Now, for the rest of the story. Like Allison Strobel (read her inspirational story from two weeks ago), I’m in the “sit-and-wait” chair. Yes, my agent is hawking a finished manuscript, but so much has changed in the past few years. One thing is certain, Jesus will shepherd me through it all in ways that benefit His Kingdom. And I’m very, very good with that.

Patti Hill is the author of five published novels—Like a Watered Garden, Always Green, In Every Flower, The Queen of Sleepy Eye, and Seeing Things. She just completed her first historical novel, Goodness & Mercy, set during World War II. Patti writes stories to reveal how faith looks in working clothes, what faith feels like in a crisis, and how faith acts toward others who are hurting. She’s been married to Mr. Wonderful, Dennis, for 34 years. Her grown sons are handsome and brilliant, of course. When not writing, she works part-time as a librarian—pure indulgence—and acts as sous chef for her husband, a dedicated foodie.

To find out more about Patti and her books,
please visit:

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Awarded the Prize

Thursdays – Dawn’s Devotions for Writers

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has
called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14 NIV)

My husband and I grew up with different outlooks on awards. As a teenager, he saw no purpose in them, and had no desire to receive one. He once said, “What would people do with them after I'm gone? A plastic statue wouldn’t mean anything to them. They’d just toss it in the trash.”

I, on the other hand, have a box of trophies and ribbons awarded for music and scholastic achievements during high school. Yep, a whole box. Somewhere in the garage. It’s not that I viewed the awards as idols to be worshipped. They were reminders that if I worked hard, I could reach goals set.

It was cool to receive them at the time, but I haven’t looked at them in probably thirty-four years. The box just keeps getting moved from house to house. I thought a day might come when my children and future grandchildren might get a kick out of looking at them. But really, what would they do with the stash? Build a shrine to Grandma?

I enjoy watching the Academy Awards, the Tony Awards, and the Grammy’s. I like seeing what the stars are wearing and who wins best actor, musical score, and motion picture. I understand the thrill of being appreciated by your peers for your work. And Dancing with the Stars? Let’s get real. That disco ball trophy is hideous. The true reward for the dancers is the realization that if they can push through frustration, pain, and self-doubt, maybe they can do more with their lives than they ever imagined.

Trophies, awards, and prizes are given to “winners.” And don’t we all want to be considered winners? Doesn’t it feel good when we’re awarded a prize?

Sometimes winning an award can help you further your career. It’s almost as though it’s proof that you’re worthy of being given more opportunities.

That might also be the case when it comes to writing contests. Some, like the Genesis, are open to unpublished writers. Others, like the Carol and the Christy, honor published authors and books. Winning in either a published or unpublished contest seems to give the author more credibility with agents, editors, and publishers. Winning is helpful in starting or building a career in publishing. Contests help unpublished writers get noticed in a competitive industry, and often times provide constructive feedback.

The flip side is that not everyone can win. For some people who have put hard work and hope into winning a prize, defeat can be disheartening. They might feel discouraged to the point of giving up trying.

But if we keep our focus on the real prize, winning or losing won’t be such a big deal. The result will be kept in perspective. If we remember that an award is temporal, we can win and be humble, and we can lose and be gracious.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (1 Cor. 24-25 NIV)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Grammar-O Wednesdays
with Ocieanna

Welcome to grammar day on Seriously Write. If you’re a regular visitor here on Wednesdays, you know that Ocieanna, our good friend and fellow blog hostess, went into cardiac arrest on January 8. She’s doing well, but needs further rest. In the meantime, Annette and I (Dawn) will carry on in Ocieanna’s place until she can return. Please continue to keep her in your prayers. Thanks!

Ready to test your skills?

The following sentences may contain grammar, punctuation, spelling, or other writing misdemeanors. Your job is to find the infraction and set it right. Try not to look at the answers below.

Have fun!

Sentences to correct:

1) Some people have the abilitie to get up early in the morning: and greet the day with a smile and a song. I’m just not won of them.

2) I admire those who can rise with the sun and function at full capacity. My husband gets up at 3:30 AM to get ready for work. Mornings are the best time of the day for him.

3) I like the thought of rising early, but actually doing it is brutal. I’m not ready to participate in any dialoque until after 8:00 am. Then it’s minimal and I better have had some strong coffee.

4) Many people believe that its important to have quiet time with God first thing in the morning before they begin the rest of they’re day.

5) Isn’t God great? He doesn’t require that I become a morning person to spend time with Him. I can enjoy His presence all day and evening long.

6) Prayer doesn’t have to take place in a church; or other designated location. God is willing to meet me wherever I am, He’s available any time of day or night.

Corrected sentences:

1) Some people have the ability to get up early in the morning and greet the day with a smile and a song. I’m just not one of them.
Note: There should be no colon after “morning.”

2) I admire those who can rise with the sun and function at full capacity. My husband gets up at 3:30 a.m. to get ready for work. Morning is his favorite time of day.
Note: The last sentence in this group is an example of tighter writing. Try to make every word count.

3) I like the thought of rising early, but actually doing it is brutal. I’m not ready to participate in any dialogue until after 8:00 a.m. Then it’s minimal, and I better have had some strong coffee.
Note: There should be a comma after “minimal.”

4) Many people believe that it’s important to have quiet time with God first thing in the morning before they begin the rest of their day.

5) Isn’t God great? He doesn’t require that I become a morning person to spend time with him. I can enjoy his presence all day and evening long.

Note: Did you know that The Chicago Manual of Style and the Christian Writer’s Manual of Style both state that deity pronouns should not be capitalized? And most publishers agree. There is a long list of reasons why. But, if an author feels strongly about capitalizing He, Him, etc. when referring to God, the publisher will sometimes accept it. If you choose to capitalize the pronouns, it’s important to be consistent throughout the manuscript.

6) Prayer doesn’t have to take place in a church or other designated location. God is willing to meet me wherever I am; he’s available day or night.
Note: No semicolon after church, but there should be one after “am” in the second sentence.

How well did you do?

*Disclaimer: Like Ocieanna, I’m by no means perfect at this. I use The Chicago Manual of Style and Webster’s Dictionary as my sources.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Being an A-Student in Writing

Being an A-Student in Writing
Students of the Craft Series
Net's Notations Tuesdays

Raise your hand if you know writers are students. I see those hands. Yup. We are. So, what have you been studying lately?

I took in hand a library copy of “Filmmaking for [Smarties]” (sorry, I HATE the “dummies" line titles) and a notebook and pen. Then, I scribbled vocab words and notes for pages and pages.

I’ve been reading and studying screenwriting lately, too. How many of you write screenplays? This is my first attempt, and I’m really enjoying it. But I have a lot to learn about formatting (which is so important for being taken seriously) and technique. Seems to me, it’s all about dialogue. Great. I love dialogue. *grin*

What new skill are you learning lately? Or what aspect of writing is your weakest? Crit partners are great for pointing out our weaknesses. Once they’re through with you (*smile), go find a book on the topic, or articles you can print off. Then, glean all you can.

Researching is a type of study. Give it all you've got so your work is its most professional. Lots of historical writers I know absolutely love the research phase. See, studying isn't all bad. ;)

Maybe it's time to learn more about the genre you've been wanting to write, but have held back because it's intimidating. Dive in! Read books in that genre and study applicable how-to books.

We can’t be afraid of studying. Being students of the craft is how we prove our commitment. Doors will open for the skilled writer because you don’t see great skill in every direction. Pick up five published books. You’ll see differing levels of skill in each one. Same’s true of manuscripts which cross editors’ and agents’ desks.

Skill is something you gain through sacrifice and study, and it’s something no one can take away from you. It can’t be faked and it can’t be stolen. You owe it to yourself, your craft and your Creator to develop your skills in writing. Join me the rest of this month for Net’s Notations Tuesdays while I discuss resources to help you be an A-student in Writing.