Friday, February 27, 2015

Everything You Need to Know About Writing You Learned in Kindergarten by C. Kevin Thompson

C. Kevin Thompson

Show & Tell.

Remember those days? Girls holding stinky, pet rabbits named “Fluffy”? Boys opening shoe boxes only to have their pet frog jump out and terrorize the class? Each stood before the class, giving you all the pertinent data, like how old the animal was, how much they ate, and where they got it.

In each case, you were TOLD all the details. You never saw the frog eat. You didn’t witness the birth of the rabbit, so its age was suspect. You just had to believe them.

We, as writers, are often guilty of Kindergartenitis. We TELL our readers what’s happening instead of SHOWING. It’s a common mistake. We TELL the reader the character’s age, her nationality, and what she’s driving down a crowded interstate. We leave little to the imagination.

Why do we do this? The answer is two-fold. First, we don’t trust our readers to “figure it out.” We’re afraid they’ll get it wrong. That’s why another common mistake follows closely: Detail overload. We feel we have to “make sure” they get it, so we go on and on explaining the diameter of the rivets on the airplane.


Second, we get lazy. It’s easier to say, “The grungy, treacherous man sat at the table playing Solitaire, waiting for the ill-kept boat to rendezvous with the human traffickers.” We add the ten-dollar adjectives to spice it up. “That makes it real,” you say?

Yeah. Real boring.

SHOWING versus TELLING is subtle, but powerful, if done correctly:

On the other side of the table, playing cards, sat a skinny, tanned man. He wore a thin, white tank top t-shirt, blue jeans, and a filthy, diseased-looking ball cap. His sweaty, unbathed body exuded a raunchy, rancid odor which reminded Jacob of the locker room at the gym his dad took him to from time to time. But this stench was much worse. A hand gun rested on the table next to an open can of soda. The man hummed some Latin tune as he flipped card after card, occasionally shifting some once in a while from one pile to another.
Did you notice the game being played? Can the reader figure it out from the details? Sure can. This adds the tension to reading most readers crave. What do I mean by that? Not only do readers want the overall storyline to be engaging, but they want the mystery of the words to be engaging as well. They want to figure out the little details as much as “Whodunit” in the end.

Did you get a sense for the character of the characters? Smelly man’s the bad guy, right? What’s his profession? Can you guess it? Jacob is young, right? Goes to the gym with his father…

Can you smell the smells? See the scene in what I like to call “the movie screen of your mind”?

I’m not saying this paragraph is perfect. It comes from the third book in my Blake Meyers series, tentatively entitled The Tide of Times, which is presently in manuscript form and has yet to be edited fully. So, it may look different once published, but you get the point.

Don’t short sale your readers. Give them credit. As a writer, don’t forget what it is to be a reader. The things that other authors do which tick you off royally as a reader are probably the same things you should avoid when you write.

Now, go catch that frog!

A Clandestine Mission.
A Cryptic Message.
A Chaste Promise.

Blake Meyer dreamed of a peaceful end to a dutiful career with the FBI. Married now, his life was taking him in a new direction—a desk job. He would be an analyst. Ride it out until retirement. Be safe so he could enjoy his grandchildren some day.

But when a notable member of the IRA is murdered in a London flat, Blake’s secretive past propels him into the middle of a vindictive, international scheme so hellish and horrific, it will take everything Blake possesses—all of it—to save the United States from the most diabolical terrorist attack to date.

C. KEVIN THOMPSON is an ordained minister, having served churches in New York, Mississippi, Texas, and Iowa. He is married (for 33+ years), has three daughters, two sons-in-law, and five grandchildren. He speaks in churches on occasion, presently works as an assistant principal in a Central Florida school district, and plays the drums in his church’s praise team. He is a huge fan of the TV series 24 , The Blacklist, and Criminal Minds, loves anything to do with Star Trek, and is a Sherlock Holmes fanatic, too.

Kevin is a member of the Christian Authors Network (CAN), ACFW, and Word Weavers International, and his published works include two award-winning novels, The Serpent’s Grasp (OakTara, 2012; winner of the 2013 Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference Selah Award for First Fiction) and 30 Days Hath Revenge - A Blake Meyer Thriller: Book 1 (OakTara 2013), as well as articles in The Wesleyan Advocate, The Preacher, Vista, The Des Moines Register and The Ocala Star-Banner.

Facebook:      C. Kevin Thompson – Author Fan Page
Twitter:         @CKevinThompson
Goodreads:   C. Kevin Thompson

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Pinterest…Love it or leave it? By Dora Hiers

I’m about to let you in on a little secret.

I’m addicted to Pinterest. Shhh! Don’t tell anybody! 

But how’s a person supposed to resist those delectable cookies and savory soups filling the screen? Or how about those comfy looking spaces that just cry out to a reader to curl up with a great book? And, oh, those delightful rustic cabins with the rocking chairs on the back decks overlooking mountains and sunsets and towering trees …imagine the inspiration for a writer!

Have you investigated Pinterest? What do you think? Do you agree with me?

If you have never visited Pinterest (really? How is that possible?), essentially Pinterest is a virtual bulletin board or scrapbook… a place to collect ideas. Maybe you enjoy collecting creative recipes for your culinary pleasure, scoping out the perfect vacation destination, or hunting down DIY instructions. Whatever your interests, you’ll find inspiration along with plenty of pictures there.

Just to give you a basic rundown, a “pin” is essentially a picture that bookmarks and references the original source. You can upload your own pictures, pin from websites or blogs, or “repin” other pins. A “board” is where you organize your pins.

Take a moment and pop over to my “bulletin board” and see what the rave is all about. While you're there, if you already have an account, you might want to click the red "follow" board on some of the boards that excite you, but make sure you come back and let me know what you think, OK? Click to visit Pinterest here >

With the holidays now behind us, I bet you can see how Pinterest might have been a gold mine for ideas. Decorating, gifts, recipes…sheesh, I never buy cookbooks anymore. For the most part, I pin and print all my recipes, and then organize them in a binder. Did you see any recipes you couldn’t wait to try? Salivate over any desserts? 

What about for writers? Can you see why Pinterest might be a place to hang out? Join us next month when we'll dig deeper into Pinterest. If you're not sold just yet, you might be after our next discussion.

Some people unwind by watching TV. Others by scrolling Instagram pictures or Facebook statuses. Next to reading, browsing Pinterest is my favorite hobby.

What about you? Love it or leave it? What’s your favorite hobby?
I'll be in and out of Internet service this week, but will check back and respond to all comments next week. Wishing you a glorious weekend!


Purchase Link
Five years ago, Emily Mannerson escaped small town living and moved to the big city where nobody knew "poor little Emily" and her miserable background. Now an attorney, Emily longs for what she left behind…her adopted mother and high-school sweetheart. Fire captain Matthew Westerly treasures his small town of Journey Creek and values faith, family, and friendships. When he rescues Emily from a horrific car accident, he's determined to win her back and make up for the lost years. Can a big city girl and a small town boy discover their true treasure? Will they trust God to work a miracle?

Dora Hiers is a multi-published author of Heart Racing, God-Gracing romances. She’s a member of RWA, ACFW, and the Treasurer for ACFW-Charlotte Chapter. Connect with her here on Seriously Write, her personal blogTwitterFacebook or Pinterest.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I’m Schizophrenic—and So Am I! by Dave Fessenden

So often we concentrate on fiction here. Today, author Dave Fessenden (who writes both fiction and non) talks about what it can take to be a non-fiction writer. -- Sandy

Dave: Writers are a strange bunch—as if you didn’t already know!  But even though fiction writers do odd things like talk about their characters as if they were real (which kind of creeps me out), I think nonfiction writers can be even odder, because their specialty is a quirky combination of artistic creativity and administrative organization.
We all know, of course, that artists tend to be somewhat disorganized and non-linear in their thinking (not to mention their personal life!). Administrators, on the other hand, are skilled at finding a place for everything, and everything in its place. Nonfiction writers, therefore, are somewhat schizophrenic, I suppose!
So if you are a nonfiction writer, but lean more toward the artistic side, you may tend to avoid moving beyond the first step of putting the idea down in words. Some manuscripts look like this was the first and only step—and is the reason they don’t get published. Like it or not, the first way an idea is expressed is usually not the best way. Your first attempt at expressing yourself is likely to be disorganized, and good writing, especially nonfiction writing, involves organizing your thoughts in a clear and unambiguous manner.
Anything that comes out of your brain and straight to paper needs to be rewritten. But if you lean toward the administrative side, you may try to rewrite as you write. You don’t let the words get on paper until you are sure your idea is expressed in just the right way. There’s a sure recipe for writer’s block! Your brain’s capacity is not large enough to hold an idea, rewrite it, and then put it down on paper.  Far better to get the idea down on paper as fast as you can (can you say “first draft,” boys and girls?), and then, at a a better time, work on polishing your diamond in the rough.

Knowing that you will rewrite whatever you put down the first time really sets your creative side free. And when you finally get to the rewriting stage, you may discover that you are drawing on your artistic sense even more than at the writing stage—so I guess we nonfiction writers are not so schizophrenic after all. Anyone who says nonfiction is not “creative” must not do much writing!

Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, do you write your first draft without much editing--releasing your creativity? 


David E. Fessenden is a literary agent with WordWise Media Services and a publishing veteran, with degrees in journalism and theology, and over 30 years of experience in writing and editing. He has published several nonfiction books and written hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles. The Case of the Exploding Speakeasy, his first novel, reflects his love for history and for the Sherlock Holmes stories of Arthur Conan-Doyle. His latest title is A Christian Writer’s Guide to the Book Proposal, the first in a series of ebooks for Sonfire Media.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

4 Disciplines of the Christian Novelist: The Spiritual Side of Creating Fiction by Janet Chester Bly

Janet Chester Bly
For the Christian fiction writer, the spiritual dynamic impels the process of creating a novel. Whatever the outcome, the whole project involves a walk with God. The work is done in tandem with a heavenly Father who a) provides the idea, b) enables the writing gift, and c) empowers with ability to start and complete the project.

4 Disciplines of Creating Fiction

  1. You pray. The act of creating a story with impact begins with God providing the kernel of an idea. Then talk through with Him the development, the follow through of crafting story and scenes. Prayer means depending on Him each step of the way.

    A sample writer’s prayer: “Heavenly Father, make this a story created by You. Bring it to life for Your purpose. Work through my mind. Challenge my heart. Give voice to the characters to reveal something You want to say to readers. Minister to me, through me, and in spite of me. Keep me going as life happens. Produce a story for Your glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”
  2. They pray. Ask others to intercede. A savvy writer realizes he or she can’t do it alone. A team is needed. Sure, the daily discipline of the hard sweat and strain of actual writing is up to you. Part of the process of creating is discovering what the book is about. Partners who pray you through to the end are a precious gift. Send out reports on your progress. And the setbacks. Let them share in the results of God’s work through you.

    “As you help (me) by your prayers … then many will give thanks on (my) behalf for the gracious favor granted me in answer to the prayers of many” (1 Corinthians 1:11 NIV).
  3. Wrestle a theme. In my recently released novel Wind in the Wires the characters thoughts and actions and the evolving story line little by little revealed recurring issues. On the negative side: deceit, lies, and bitterness. On the positive end: confession, truth, and forgiveness. Staying with that thread with each scene throughout helped me find the place to begin, what defined the middle, and how to reach the conclusion.
  4. Borrow the Bible. Whether you list it or not, be inspired by at least one Scripture passage that conveys the essence of what’s happening in your story. Early on in the process I envisioned the main characters in Wind in the Wires on a journey to the desert. They were headed to the region around Goldfield, Nevada. One day reading the minor prophet Hosea, these verses popped out for me as describing protagonist Reba Mae Cahill.

    “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope” (Hosea 2:14,15 NIV)

Question for Writer: How do you make sure you keep God as part of your work?
Question for Reader: What was the spiritual message of the last novel you read?

About the Author
Wind in the Wires
by Janet Chester Bly
Janet Chester Bly is a city girl with a country heart. She doesn’t corral horses or mow her own lawn. “I’m no womba woman,” she says. But she followed her late husband award-winning western author Stephen Bly to the Idaho mountain top village of Winchester to write books and minister to a small church. When she lost him, she stayed. She manages the online Bly Books bookstore, rakes lots of Ponderosa pine needles and cones, and survives the long winter snows.

Janet Chester Bly has authored and co-authored with Stephen 32 contemporary and historical fiction and inspirational and family-themed nonfiction books. She and her three sons—Russell, Michael and Aaron--completed her late husband’s last novel, Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot. The story of that family project can be find on her website blog under the series topic “Finishing Dad’s Novel”:

Her recently released novel Wind in the Wires is Book 1, Trails of Reba Cahill. It’s a Contemporary Western Mystery. It’s a road adventure with a touch of romance. A cowgirl searches for love and family. An old man seeks justice. Their Ford Model T journey to Goldfield, Nevada exposes lies and betrayal. And two cold case murders. Will the truth be too hard for either to bear?

It’s 1991. Reba Cahill loves ranching with her grandmother on the Camas Prairie of north-central Idaho. But there’s a lot of work for the two of them. She figures a rancher husband would ease the load. But she finds few prospects in the fictional small town of Road’s End.

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