Monday, December 27, 2010

Should I Hire a Freelance Editor

Today's post was originally posted at Lit Agent Rachelle Gardner's blog, Rants & Ramblings (March 25, 2010). Enjoy!

Lately more and more people have been asking me if they should hire an editor prior to submitting to agents. Here's my take:

Using a freelance editor can be a great idea - if you use it as a learning experience. You need to do most of the work yourself. I think it's wasted money if you're counting on someone to fix your manuscript for you. The point is to get an experienced set of eyes on it to help you identify problems and figure out how to fix them.

Prior to being represented or having a contracted book, the best way to work with an editor is to have them give you notes on your book, but not make changes themselves in the manuscript. Then you can go back to your manuscript, grasp the reasons for the changes they're suggesting, and implement them, all the while learning how to make your book stronger. Hopefully you're going to take that new knowledge with you into writing the next book.

It can be very helpful for an editor to give you an evaluation of your first few chapters, so that you can then rework the entire manuscript according to what you learned. It's a terrific learning experience and can help you grow as a writer. It's almost like having a writing tutor.

If you get an agent and/or sell your first book based on a manuscript that has been heavily edited by others (or is the product of intense critique group feedback), plan to do the same thing with your second book before submitting to your agent or publisher. And your third book, etc. Over time you'll grow as a writer and become less dependent on outside help.

Many agents and editors are uncomfortable with writers having too much outside editorial help prior to being contracted, because it can mask a writer's true abilities. I'd hate to get you a 3-book contract with a publisher based on that stellar first book, only to find out that you had a ton of help with it and are not able to deliver that quality of book a second time.

Q4U: Have you hired an editor? Have you considered it? Do you think it's a good idea?

Rachelle Gardner is an agent with WordServe Literary Group based in Denver, Colorado. She live with her firefighter husband, two middle school-aged daughters and a fun-loving yellow lab at the breathtaking elevation of 7,000 feet in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. When she's not reading, you can usually find her out running, hiking, skiing, or having coffee with her girlfriends.

Until next time,


Monday, December 20, 2010

December's Update

I'm writing this a few days early, as I usually do. Today, Monday the 20th, is probably taking my family out of town on a job interview for my husband. (At the time of this writing, we're debating on the whole family going, or just TMOTH.) I'm also about to move (finally!) so I'll probably be brain-dead by Sunday night (the 19th.)


My life has tried very hard to get in the way of my writing. What should have been an obstacle--my son landing in the hospital Thanksgiving week--actually turned into a blessing writing-wise. With him stuck in the hospital for observation, and me with him, I had plenty of nearly-uninterrupted hours to write (and watch the Burn Notice marathon on USA Thanksgiving Day.) This at least got me jump-started, so now, most of the scenes I needed to work on with Homebody are down on paper. I'm hopeful that if I'm in the car today (Monday), I'll be able to spend some time cleaning things up. As long as my brain's not too dead. We'll have to see about that one. ;)

When I have this all done, I'll be sending the draft off to one last crit partner in Pennsylvania, and then working on tweaking/perfecting my query letter. Yea!

What's up next after that? I haven't decided yet. I need to do some editing on my other projects, however, I'm kind of burnt out on editing. I really need to do some writing again--a fresh project, whether it's with new or old characters. I don't care which, I just want something new. I've got several unfinished projects I could choose from, and some new ideas I'm playing around with, so I've got a lot to pick from! 

So, how about you? How are your current projects coming along? Have the holidays or life gotten in the way, or are you persisting through everything? 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Isn't What It Used To Be

Photo by DreAminginDigITal via DeviantArt.
I'm finding it harder as an adult to get into the Christmas spirit than it was when I was a kid. As a child, I couldn't wait to decorate the tree, start playing Christmas tunes, and of course there was Christmas morning. I have vivid memories of mornings where my parents had artfully arranged the gifts around the tree the night before. Every Christmas morning was magical.

Now, with divorced parents plus in-laws who want to see us, Christmas is, quite honestly, an energy drainer for me. I actually have begun to loathe the holiday season because it means that I don't get recharged and get through it feeling more exhausted than before.

I've tried to explain this to TMOTH (The Man of The House), but I'm not sure he really gets it. And while I understand his wanting to see family, I'm getting to be of the opinion that that's what family reunions are for. It's a drain to watch people open gifts, gorge themselves on too much food, and spend too little time honoring what the season is really supposed to be about: the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Maybe that's why the season is such a problem for me: we're focused on the wrong things. Instead of attending a church service together, we gorge ourselves on turkey with the trimmings. Of course none of us visit each others churches since none of us can agree on a church. (My church tends to close down for Christmas anyway, so there are Christmas Eve services--on three nights no less!--but nothing Christmas day.)

This year, let's try not to be so focused on having the "perfect" dinner, or finding the "perfect" gift for someone. In these rough economic times, it's best not to feel the added pressure that the season creates anyway. I know my own Christmas giving will be leaner this year. Focus instead on your immediate family. Be thankful--and express it!--to God for sending us His Son. Make a tradition you want to continue in your life. The pastor of my church, after the gift exchange, has a tradition of putting a discarded bow on his head, sitting under the tree, and reflecting on what God has given him as well as what he can give to God. Maybe that's something you could do as well.

I wish you the happiest of Christmases. I pray you find how truly blessed you are, regardless of how abundant or lean this year may be for you.

Please enjoy this Christmas tune. It's one of my favorites.

Until next time,

Monday, December 06, 2010

Crime Pays Better

After being told by many, many people that I should watch ABC's Castle, I recently started catching it on Hulu. I love the line from the opening: "There are two kinds of folks who sit around planning how to kill people--psychopaths and mystery writers. I'm the kind that pays better."

That line alone drew me into the show.

From the time I became addicted to Nancy Drew, I've had a bit of a fascination with crime. Maybe that's why I tend to write mysteries over any other genre (even my science fiction stories are primarily mysteries, the setting puts them into the sci-fi category). I can spend hours reading the news about murders, robberies, carjackings. Sometimes, I come across a story that boggles my mind.

And despite the fact that I can, in theory, understand where the criminal is coming from as a writer, as a human being, I find myself wondering "how could they do that?"

Even though I write almost daily about murder and mayhem, I'm still relieved that I haven't been desensitized by my own research and can shake my head at what others do.

From =Falln-Stock at
For instance, a few years ago, there was a pregnant woman killed relatively nearby (within 100 miles of where I live). Her unborn baby was cut from the womb. The perpetrator had told her boyfriend or husband that she was pregnant, and after a while, needed a baby to "prove" things. As a writer, the story fascinated me. As a woman, it made me sick to my stomach, especially since it was around this time that my husband and I had started trying to have children.

Quite honestly, I think this split in my personality may make me a better writer. And I know for a fact it's led to some of my story ideas.

So even though crime may pay, I'm relieved that the only kind of crime I'll ever be paid for is the fictional kind. I'll just continue reading about the real-life crime, and leave the perpetrating to the idiots psychopaths criminals.

And because I love Castle's theme song so well, here's that ditty just for your own amusement. Enjoy!
Until next time,

Monday, November 29, 2010

Paranormalcy (a book review)

I must admit right off the bat that I never read YA novels. Nor do I usually indulge in urban fantasy. (I have read a few books in that genre, but I won't mention them now.)

However, earlier this year, I was perusing the tweets of an agent I'm researching, and found she had a debut author with a book coming out this year. "Hmmm," I thought. That debut author is Kiersten White, and her book is Paranormalcy.

Photo from
The blurb on the jacket reads:

"Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.

But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal."

I really loved this book. Of course, being of a Christian persuasion, there were elements I fundamentally disagreed with, but for a pure entertainment value, I found this book fit the bill. When I set the book down, I pondered what was going to happen next, and ended up reading the last couple hundred pages in one sitting.

I could really identify with Evie. Since I was homeschooled, although not working for a paranormal containment agency, I felt the same emotions Evie did at that age by not having others her age around her, not being able to go to a prom, or have a "normal" life.

Evie has an awesome presence on the page. Her asides to the reader really add to her personality and realism.

If I would say there is one negative about this book is the fact that towards the end, it seems Evie doesn't grieve much for the loss of life (particularly for a friend). I'm not sure if this is just an oversight, or if this will be tackled more in the next book or not. (The next book, by the way is Supernaturally, due out next fall. I will be picking up a copy.)

You can pick up a copy of Paranormalcy pretty much anywhere, especially since it hit the New York Times Bestseller List for Children's Books. Amazon has it for $11.55, as well as a $9.99 Kindle version. It may be a good gift for your teen girl for Christmas, especially if she likes urban fantasy.

Until next time,

Monday, November 22, 2010

November's Update

Okay, so I checked my blog to make sure today's post had been posted, and what do I find? I hadn't even written the blasted thing! So you're getting my freshest, pre-caffeine update here.

Long and the short of it: not much progress this month.

Sure, I've done my blog posts, both here and over at Christian Children's Book Review. And, I was able to get out one evening and work on a new scene in Homebody that needed to be added.

My Little Guy. Photo courtesy J. Smith Innovations
But quite honestly, since we found out about my son's illness, writing has come down off the priorities list from somewhere around #3 or #4 to maybe #6 or #7 (lower when I'm feeling pressure to find a new place to live.)

I know this is just a phase, and I'll eventually be able to pick up more steam, especially since I think we're seeing improvements with my son already, but it's still frustrating.

On the upside, a friend of mine and I had a conversation over the weekend that has me brainstorming on some freelance ideas that would merge my two passions: writing and politics. Maybe I'll be the next Michelle Malkin. (I'm not as bombastic as Ann Coulter.) So, those are good prospects. I'll have to see where that leads.

With the holidays coming up, I know I'll be in the car a bit more. Hopefully, that means I'll be able to spend some time on the trusty laptop and do some writing. (No, I don't get carsick.)

Anyway, there's my update. Please have a safe and happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends, and my out-of-the-country followers, enjoy your week.

Until next time,

Monday, November 15, 2010

What I'm Thankful For

This month in the blog chain, the theme is Thankfulness and Thanksgiving.

I had this post all ready to go a few weeks ago, and thought it was great, but now, I need to add this. I've left the rest of my original post below, but I need to get this first part off my chest.

This has been a very tough year for myself and my family. It seems we've had battle after battle, hurdle after hurdle since December last year. The most recent battles are coming on top of each other: selling our home/needing to move, and finding out our son has a condition called failure to thrive.

When days go like they've gone in the last week or so for me, it's tough to find much to be thankful for. Last Wednesday, my son was positively diagnosed with FTT (Failure to thrive). Tomorrow, we see a dermatologist about his problem eczema, the day after, back to his doctor to see if he's gaining weight. I've been so worried about my little guy that my daughter has started throwing more tantrums. *sigh* Makes writing a difficult impossible prospect.

For right now, I want to state I'm incredibly thankful for my doctor. She's calm, collected, and takes my concerns as a mom seriously. She's also proactive. I know where we're going with the treatment of my son, and as a mom, that's something I appreciate--I know what I can expect.

On days where things aren't going well, try to find the one bright spot in your life, no matter how dim it may be comparatively.

And now, my original post:

By ~NefaroStock at
First off, I'd like to remind folks that across America, there are falsehoods taught about the origins of Thanksgiving in public schools. Kids these days are often taught that the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Native Americans.

Nope. Nada. Uh-uh.

The Pilgrims gave thanks to Almighty God. My CW friend Tamera Lynn Kraft has a thumbnail sketch of the history at her blog. And, Rush Limbaugh has a chapter on it in his book, See, I Told You So. Both are accurate in their presentations.

This year, I have a lot to be thankful for. A year ago, I had one child. Today, I have two very beautiful children. At this time last year, I wasn't even aware I was pregnant. (This year, I'd better not be!) Both my children, though they can frustrate me to no end, bring a lot of joy to my life.

My husband and I celebrated eight years of wedded bliss this year. We've had our ups and downs, and this year has definitely been difficult for us, but I'm so thankful for my wonderful, sexy husband.

I'm very thankful that my elderly grandparents finally moved back to the city where they have family close by that can be over at their place in a matter of minutes rather than hours. My grandpa turned 90 this year, my grandma 87, and it's a blessing to have them closer--and that they can spend more time with their only great-grandchildren in this hemisphere. (They have a third in Asia, but that's another story.)

There's a lot more that I'm thankful for, but for now, I'll leave it at that. I hope over the next few weeks, you stop and ponder the meaning of thankfulness, and remember to thank God for the blessings in your life--even for the difficulties.

And be sure to tell those in your life how thankful you are for them. You never know--they may need to hear it.

Many Thanksgiving blessings.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Don't Label Your Characters

In the last couple of years, I've been working hard on the rewrites of the novel I want to start pitching to agents in 2011. But, it wasn't until this summer that a crit partner pointed out that the way I described certain characters could, just possibly, border on racist.

When I read that, I was appalled. Me? A racist? Couldn't possibly be the case! But when I started looking at what he said and the areas he pointed it out in, the more I saw he could be right. How could I miss this?

In the October 2010 edition of The Writer, Lynn Capehart has an insightful piece just on this topic. In part, she states:

As fiction writers, we can show support for racial equality--or inequality--by the way we describe our characters, or, as is too often the case, the way we don't describe them. Many white writers, for instance, will be surprised to learn that they may be inadvertently supporting inequality by how they use race in describing people of color, as compared to white characters.
These writers, you see, will not mention race unless the character they are writing about isn't white.
The more I've pondered not just this statement, but the entire article, the more I think she's right. I can even think of some examples from books I've read by New York Times bestselling authors.

I've seen it in my own writing. In one of my projects, my main character's best friend as well as a business associate are black. Most of the rest of my cast are white (not all, but quite a bit.) Unless I mention how pale one of my characters is, I usually don't mention their race. I do, however, make note of those that aren't white.

There are white writers who let the reader figure out a character's race from subtle descriptive clues. Others don't bother with clues but still manage to convey the information. ... But as a rule, it would be nice if either everyone's race gets mentioned, or no one's does.
The last part of the statement rings out "pipe dream" to me. It would be nice if I had some chocolate to eat right now. But, the first part is what I'm honing in on. Subtle descriptive clues. What does that look like?

While Ms. Capehart didn't give an example in her article I would think of as good, I can think of a few of my own. For instance, in Homebody, I have a character named Tyrone. Some people have said that just by his name, they can tell he's African-American. But, I don't want to leave that to conjecture just based on his name, but I don't want to use labels either (more on that in a minute.) In one scene, I describe him as "NBA-sized". In another scene, he drags his hand through his close-cropped dark curls. While these descriptions could, possibly, be viewed as Caucasian, my bet is that won't be the case.

So, I've just illustrated descriptions (I hope!), what's a label and why shouldn't we use it? As Ms. Capehart relates, she was reading a story that originally ran in The New Yorker.
In the story, when two police officers enter a house, the white one is described without resorting to race, while the other is labeled "a Puerto Rican cop".
Can you see the difference? It's a crutch. How much ingenuity does it take to whip out a label? None. How much time would it take to describe the "Puerto Rican cop"? Maybe a minute. Wouldn't that minute be time well-invested in your story, and maybe, just maybe, help it stand out from the crowd? As Ms. Capehart states:
Writers are supposed to look at the world and blend their observations into their prose.
So, my challenge to you is to look closer at your characters (and the real-life people around you.) Don't give them short shrift. Give them the description they deserve--no matter their gender, race, color, or creed.

How can you improve your current work-in-progress to eliminate labels--both ethnic and non?

Until next time,

Monday, November 01, 2010

A Celebration of NaNo!

National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo as it's affectionately called) has arrived!

Every November for the last decade or so, authors around the world have set aside the month to make a mad race at writing a 50,000 word novel. It's a lesson in tenacity, breaking rules, and, above all else, just writing. It's a way to break out of a writer's block routine. To just get your story down on paper (or in bytes.)

Last year, I wrote about 55,000 words on a novel called Beyond Dead. Since I'm still working on editing Homebody and Cora's Song, I haven't had a chance to do much more than clean up B.D. But I'm planning to work on it, probably in the second half of 2011.

I'm not planning to do NaNo this year. For some reason, every time I do NaNo (or something similar,) I end up getting pregnant. Can't take that risk this year!

However, I do wish those I know who are making that insane run at 50,000 the best. Know you can do it! I did it in 2009, finishing on Thanksgiving Day. Even being sick, and having several days where I didn't write. (Probably morning sickness, but I didn't find out I was pregnant until December. If I'd known, I'd probably have given up!)

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo?

Until next time,

For additional information, check out my post from last year. You can check out the NaNo website here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pitch It! (follow up)

I redid my pitch based on some of the comments I received. I tried to add the changes in the body of my original post, but for some reason, Blogger doesn't like me today. So, here it is. Original first, then the redo.


Finding dead bodies is not what journalist-cum-real estate investor Amanda O'Flannigan had in mind when she changed careers. All she wanted was a distraction from the recent death of her fiancé. A man dying in her arms doesn't do much to help her grief.

As she investigates the man's death, she stumbles into a web of lies and half-truths. If anyone knows the full story behind the victim's life and death, they aren't sharing.

Rick Pierce has been in love with Amanda for a decade. A year and a half after the tragedy, Rick has worked up the nerve to tell Amanda how he feels. But with Amanda still lost in the past, how can he convince her he's the one she needs to be with?

The possibility of romance isn’t enough to erase the fact two convicts Amanda helped put away have escaped prison and are on a mission to find the woman who made their life hell. Intent on torturing and killing her, they're on a warpath to her doorstep. Are they responsible for the growing number of murders among Amanda's tenants?

As Amanda races to find the murderers and stop the men who want her dead, she must learn to look to her future. Rick will stop at nothing to make sure she sees that future realized.


Finding dead bodies is not what journalist-turned-real estate investor Amanda O'Flannigan had in mind when she changed careers. All she wanted was a distraction from the recent death of her fiancé. A former tenant dying in her arms doesn't do much to help her grief. As she investigates the man's death, Amanda stumbles into a web of lies and half-truths.

Two convicts Amanda helped put away have escaped. Intent on torturing and killing her, they're on a warpath to her doorstep. Are they responsible for the growing number of murders among Amanda's tenants?

Enter Rick Pierce. He has been in love with Amanda for a decade. A year and a half after the tragedy, Rick has worked up the nerve to tell Amanda how he feels. With Amanda caught up in the past as she races to stop the men who want her dead, how will Rick make her see their future together?

So, what say you? Better? Worse?

Until next time,

Pitch It!

For the October Christian Writers blog chain, we're pitching our novels! (Or doing a little tutorial on pitches.)

What is a pitch? 

A pitch is basically a way to sell your novel. Think of it like the trailer to that movie you're going to go see because of the commercials you've seen on TV. It's a tease; it gives the reader an idea on what your book is about. Some authors now are making their own book videos (K.M. Weiland has an AWESOME one for her novel Behold the Dawn.) But, most readers aren't going to go track down your video; they're going to read the blurb on the jacket cover of your book at the bookstore.

Photo from DeviantArt's SixSecondsLess
That's essentially what a pitch is, something that a reader sees that whets their appetite to read your book. Or, as in my case, something to whet the appetite of an agent or editor.

This month, I'm sharing the pitch for my novel, Homebody. And, it's up to you, my lovely reader, to help me improve the pitch. Tell me if what I've written would make you want to read more. If it's sitting on the shelf next to Nora Roberts, would you choose mine or hers? (Or, name another of your favorite authors.)

I'm pulling this directly from the latest query I've drafted--so I need it to be good!


Finding dead bodies is not what journalist-cum-real estate investor Amanda O'Flannigan had in mind when she changed careers. All she wanted was a distraction from the recent death of her fiancé. A man dying in her arms doesn't do much to help her grief.

As she investigates the man's death, she stumbles into a web of lies and half-truths. If anyone knows the full story behind the victim's life and death, they aren't sharing.

Rick Pierce has been in love with Amanda for a decade. A year and a half after the tragedy, Rick has worked up the nerve to tell Amanda how he feels. But with Amanda still lost in the past, how can he convince her he's the one she needs to be with?

The possibility of romance isn’t enough to erase the fact two convicts Amanda helped put away have escaped prison and are on a mission to find the woman who made their life hell. Intent on torturing and killing her, they're on a warpath to her doorstep. Are they responsible for the growing number of murders among Amanda's tenants?

As Amanda races to find the murderers and stop the men who want her dead, she must learn to look to her future. Rick will stop at nothing to make sure she sees that future realized.

So, what do you think? Would you want to take this book home?

Until next time,

Monday, October 18, 2010

Writing Update: October

By *NoCompletion on
I must admit that I started the last month with many good intentions. My goals included editing the entirety of Homebody and getting out to a friend via snail mail. As of this writing, I've gotten about 1/4 of the way through the editing, and haven't been able to send the draft out.

Part of the problem is my own laziness; I've been derelict in my duties as a writer.

But, part of the problem is the fact that my husband and I found out a few weeks ago that we'll be moving by the end of the year. We'd put our house on the market, and in late September, got a contract. So, now I'm packing and looking for a new place to live. Ugh. (This last comment comes from the part of me that hates any form of change.)

I have made some headway, I'll say that much. Just not as much as I wanted by this point. And my brain is working overtime coming up with ideas for plot and character changes. Unfortunately, thinking is not doing. I must start doing more. (Makes me think of Yoda: "Do. Or do not. There is no try." Yeah, I need more discipline from the Jedi Master.)

I have had the pleasure of attending the Muse Online Writers Conference last week. Man, did that kick my butt in gear! And it was a good diversion to potty training my daughter and wrangling three dogs (two more than normal since I was babysitting my mom's dogs.) At least I was able to refine my understanding of grammar, learn more about blogging and Facebook fan pages (did you notice the subtle change to the blog? And, I now have a fan page on FB!) All good things, but they didn't get me any editing done.

Anyway, despite the anticipated trials of the next few months (especially since we're gearing up for holiday season), I'm going to do what I can to set aside some time on a daily and/or weekly basis to work on my projects. I really want to be able to start submitting to agents come January 2011. And the only way that's going to happen is if I have a polished manuscript.

With that, I'd better get back to work.

Until next time,

Monday, October 11, 2010

Dissection: A Date You Can't Refuse

Several years ago, I stumbled across the books by Harley Jane Kozak featuring sleuth Wollie Shelley. The books are only released about every two to three years, and I requested a copy of the latest, A Date You Can't Refuse, from my library before it released. That was in 2009. Early 2009.

Fortunately, I'm the patient sort, and I finally got my copy a few weeks ago, just before I went on vacation, which gave me ample time to devour the book.

In earlier books, it's made clear that Wollie (short for, I believe, Wollstonecraft) is a woman in her 30s, unmarried, and is feeling the pressure of a ticking biological clock. By the third book, she finally has gotten into a relationship with FBI agent Simon Alexander. This one seems to be lasting, except for the fact that he's on a long-term undercover assignment. Recipe for conflict!

Wollie, in the latest offering, has been offered a job by Yuri Milos, whom she knows because she sat on the jury of a trial in which he was the defendant. After the trial is over, she's offered the job, and shortly after that, one of Simon's associates approaches her about accepting the job in order to feed them information. Simon knows nothing of this. And when he finds out she accepted a job with the notorious Milos... well, let's just say he was less than happy.

Our heroine needs the money and some of the benefits that are being used to lure her into accepting the spying aspect by the FBI, however. And although she's not good at lying, she finds she must learn to do so in order to do her jobs.

Can't you see how this situation is ripe for conflict? I sure did! Even while I was in the middle of reading the book, I couldn't help but think that it would make a good book to use for a book dissection post. Of course, all fiction must have some conflict, but it seemed to me that Wollie was dogged by it every sentence of every page.

While the relationships in the book are important (it's a series--isn't that what most series are really about, the relationships?) the mystery holds its own. The two deaths in the book happen off screen, so to speak, starting with the woman who held Wollie's job previously, then her boyfriend, who was convinced that his girlfriend was murdered. Until the end of the book, you're never quite sure why the girlfriend was killed, and there were enough hints that while you may be able to put the puzzle together, you need quite a few pieces in order to do so.

What I learned:

Conflict, conflict, conflict. That was probably the key thing I learned in this book, that it needed to be EVERYWHERE. Okay, maybe not learned (I know this--I've been writing fiction for over 15 years.) But, it was definitely reinforced. From the time Wollie's approached by Yuri until she has her confrontation with the murderer, she's in conflict with someone. Simon, her brother, her friends, herself, Yuri, people she works with both in the civilian job and in the FBI--it's everywhere. And she needs to be able to lie, and feels physically incapable of pulling it off!

I also could see the value of having good resources to go to. Ms. Kozak obviously had to be speaking with a lot of people to pull this book off, and her acknowledgments page supports this. While she doesn't name everyone's role in helping her book, the names list is quite exhaustive. Looks like I'll be making some calls soon to do further interviews and tours! And tapping some of the online-human resources I've made over the years...

As a reader, I'd recommend this book if you enjoy works by Janet Evanovich. While not as crazy as the Stephanie Plum world, I'd say that Wollie's got quite a nutty world to live in.

Until next time,

Monday, October 04, 2010

Write What You DON'T Know

My writing friend K.M. Weiland recently asked on Twitter what the worst piece of writing advice you've ever received is.

I had a prompt response:

Write what you know.

While this piece of advice is common in writer's circles, I'd have to say my stories would be pretty boring if I wrote about what I know. Who really wants to read about a stay-at-home mom nursing her infant son or trying to figure out how to get hand lotion out of her two-year-old's curly locks? Sounds pretty boring to me--and I've done both of these in the last 24 hours.

I write mystery and science fiction. Have I ever stumbled over a dead body? As long as you don't count the funerals I've gone to, no. Have I ever solved a crime? No. Have I ever flown in space? Okay, that one could get a varied response based on who you ask--some may say I'm a space cadet. Technically, the answer is no. (Not that I wouldn't if offered!)

I've done all these things while writing, yet I have no personal knowledge of any of them.

Research is the answer. Even a romance book requires some research. Unless a writer was raised in an Amish or closed community, how else are they going to know how to write so-called "bonnet romances"? Research. If I need to know the difference between a Glock G26 and a Saturday Night Special, what do I do? Research.

My point is that instead of "writing what we know," the creative use of research allows us as writers to fill in the blanks that we don't know, sometimes with mundane, but most of the time with interesting facts we've discovered. It gives us a chance to get it right: talking to a homicide detective about how they solve a crime, for instance.

My local writing buddy, Juliet Kincaid, taught a lesson at a Sisters in Crime meeting a few years ago. I wish she had that lesson online so I could share it with you, but it basically shared some creative places to do your research. She writes primarily historical mysteries, so she makes good use of librarians--I would never have thought of asking a librarian before her talk!

For more on research, I highly recommend this post by K.M. Weiland.

So, going back to K.M.'s question, what's the worst piece of writing advice you've ever received?

Until next time,

P.S. K.M. Weiland covered this topic as well yesterday her blog. Check it out here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Cast Your Novel!

With the fact that one of my favorite book series' is finally being made into a movie (the Plum novels by Janet Evanovich), and everyone's been cast, I thought we'd discuss who we'd cast to play our main characters in our novels (published or unpublished) if they were made into a movie. I know this can be controversial if you're a well known author (they picked who to play XYZ character from that book? That's completely wrong! I didn't picture them like that!)

But, this is just for fun. I'll start off, then everyone can join in. Please share the name of your book (if you desire--this isn't required), the name (first only) of the character you're casting, and the person you'd like to play them. You can choose as many characters from as many of your books as you want.

And, if you want, for fun, you can cast the lead character of one of your favorite books. :) Have fun with this!

For Homebody, I'm going to cast Amanda and Rick, my lead characters. I actually haven't given much thought to my other projects, so for now, I'll just post for Homebody.

For Amanda, I picture her as Anne Hathaway. Ms. Hathaway has a down to earth appearance, though quite beautiful, and from what I've seen of her acting, could pull off the range of emotions I've put Amanda through in Homebody. 

Photo of Ms. Hathaway from:

Rick is a bit of a different casting choice. This actor struck me as the perfect Rick the moment I saw him. No way around it, he'd be the perfect choice, and probably the only one I'd allow if I had a hand in the casting of my book. The actor is Jeffrey Donovan. While he currently stars in Burn Notice, which is a primarily an action series, I've spotted him in other roles since I started watching the show (Hitch, for instance, with Will Smith). I think he would have the versatility as an actor to portray Rick who, while he's not the most macho of men, has his moments in my book.

Photo of Mr. Donovan was procured from:

An aside, I also think that if Vince Flynn's Mitch Rapp series were cast, Mr. Donovan would make an awesome Mitch Rapp. He's shown an aptitude for action, so pulling off that role should be no sweat for him.

Okay, now it's your turn! 

Until next time, 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Writing Update: September

I thought as a way to keep myself honest and to offer encouragement to others, I'd try to do a monthly update on my writing projects and what I'm attempting to accomplish. I'm going to plan to do this on the 3rd Monday of each month, but it may occasionally be more or less frequent.

Photo from: everRiviere via DeviantArt
Truth be told, lately I'm feeling a little discouraged. Everything I'm trying to do is taking a lot longer to do than it should. (It would help if I wouldn't get distracted by games--have you figured out how addictive Spider Solitaire and Soduku are??) In the winter, I'd hoped to have my book Homebody out to agents before I had my baby.

Little Xander was born in July. He'll be two months old tomorrow.

I'm still editing.

I was fortunate to finish reviewing a critique while on vacation at the beginning of the month and taking appropriate action on it, but as of this writing, I'm still working on the second critique. Then, I've got someone who's agreed to do a critique of it if I mail her a copy. *sigh* Maybe by Christmas, this book will be ready to go out to agents. Which may mean that a couple agents I'm wanting to target may be reopened to queries, so that could be a good thing.

In the interim, I've got two other projects that are sitting: Cora's Song and Beyond Dead. I've started the rewrite on Cora's Song, and it's coming along, though I stopped working on it for a while right before my son was born. Beyond Dead I thought I may be able to find time to whip into shape so it could go to Port Yonder Press in January when they open up submissions.

Right now, I'll feel lucky if it makes it there for 2012 submissions.

On the good front right now, I continue to write reviews for Christian Children's Book Review, and I feel that's going well. Getting back into the swing of things where that's concerned after having my son have been interesting, but I'm sure I'll get the hang of it before much longer.

Other than that, I can't think of anything. Just need to keep my nose to the grindstone and get things done--difficult when one is managing a household and raising two kids under two years of age!

Until next time,

Sunday, September 19, 2010

School and the Impact on a Writer

Okay, I did it again! I'm participating in the blog chain (see links on the right for the full roll). This may turn into a regular thing, so stay tuned.

Photo from: LeoNn via DeviantArt
September's topic is "It's All About School".

I had what you'd call a "unique" school experience. From kindergarten through 5th grade, I went to public schools. After that, I was home-schooled until my parents split up, which happened to be in my senior year. Technically, I never finished high-school (there, I've said it publicly!) because my parents never ordered my final year's curriculum, and I don't have a diploma or GED. However, I did go to college and completed my degree in Journalism.

Having that "unique" experience has definitely shaped me. If I'm not careful, I revert to a hermit state, which is good for the writer, but not so hot for relationships. I hated being home-schooled, and spent much of that time as a hermit, leaving my house for the rare doctor's appointment, 4-H meetings, to go to the library, and when I was forced to leave by either of my parents. (That's probably an exaggeration, but not much.)

That alone time coupled with the fact that, since I was home-schooled, I had more time on my hands meant my imagination had a lot of room to roam. Most of my reading material consisted of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, thus feeding my mind with adventurous capers and mysteries, plus a little bit of romance thanks to Nancy and Ned, and occasionally Nancy and Frank Hardy in the so-called "Supermysteries" that were produced in the 1990s.

When the publisher began slowing down their output of the books, I had to do something! I turned to fan fiction. Shortly thereafter, when I realized what was happening and there wouldn't be any new books, I decided I'd create my own stories and characters. It was in my mid-teens that the character Amanda O'Flannigan was born, who stars in some of the stories I write now. While Amanda was most decidedly a clone of Nancy at the time, she's changed over the 12 - 15 years I've been working with her, becoming more sophisticated and complex. Other than physical looks, she's nothing like the original I wrote about all those years ago.

Photo from: IvanJS via DeviantArt
It's all because of school. Had I not been home-schooled, I may not have discovered my love of writing, at least not so early in my life. So while I still lambaste my own experiences, and I still wish some things had been different, I do have to acknowledge that I may not have become who I am now--a writer--had I not had those experiences.

And you know what? I don't think I'd change that one bit. Not even if it meant I'd been able to go to a prom, graduate with my peers, be able to go to a high school reunion (which my 10th reunion would have been this year, come to think of it.) I like who I've become.

Until next time,

Monday, September 13, 2010

Keep an Eye on the Stupid Things

Through the experience of submitting work to agents/editors and having work submitted to me as a free-lance and PYP editor (and from having a friend/crit partner/mentor who knows all), I’ve learned some interesting points. Most of them you can find on any good blog or website, but few folks write about the “stupid things” that can trip you up.

Linda Yezak
I’m not going to say that these things can keep your manuscript from being accepted, but by the time your masterpiece hits the submission trail it should be spit-shine perfect. It should reflect not just your writing abilities, but also your professionalism. Finding too many of these unprofessional “stupid things” in someone’s piece can tip the scales of whether I will accept the work or not–and I’m just a newbie with few submissions. Can you imagine what it’s like for a seasoned pro with hundreds of submissions a week?

So, after you’ve perfected all the major stuff that makes up a great novel and before you pray over your piece and send it out, check for some of the stupid things:

Chapter Headings–make sure they’re uniform all the way through. That includes having them on  same place on the page. If you type Chapter One on line sixteen, then all the chapters should be on line sixteen, too. If you type Chapter 1 on the first page, don’t have Chapter Thirty on page 385. If you have chapter titles, don’t have chapter one’s title Like This and chapter thirty’s title Like this. Uniform location, type, capitalization and font all the way through.

Numbers–in general, these should be spelled out. Of course, there are exceptions. No one expects you to type out seven hundred thirty-seven million, five hundred thousand fifty-three. I’m not even sure how to do it. Where do the commas go?

Generally, numbers under 101 should be spelled out. Different style manuals have different rules, so consult the manual preferred by the agent/publisher you’re submitting to. (Port Yonder Press prefers The Chicago Manual of Style, the heavy hitter of most publishing companies, while many Christian publishers prefer The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style. One or both of these should be on every writer’s desk–or at least a copy of Polishing the “PUGS” by Kathy Ide, which hits the high points of most major style manuals including Chicago and Christian Writer’s.)

Contemporary Jargon–until the powers that be recognize “alright,” it’s not all right to use. Spell it out in its two-word form. “Okay” is different. Sometimes it’s okay to use OK, but usually the preference is to spell it out. Again, check your style manual and the preference of the folks you’re submitting to.

Holy Pronouns–if you write Christian fiction and refer to our Savior and Lord, decide early whether you’re going to capitalize Him and stick with it. And not just “Him,” but You and His also. Jesus shouldn’t be the Messiah in one place and the messiah in another, Savior here and savior there. Check your manual; be consistent.

Only–this word can be an adverb, adjective or conjunction, but the placement can change a sentence’s meaning entirely. Watch how you’re using it; make sure you’re modifying the word you intend to modify.

Using the example I found on (“I cook only on weekends”), I’ll show you the difference in meaning with different placements of  “only.”

    Only I cook on weekends (no one else cooks on weekends).
    I only cook on weekends (I don’t do anything else but cook).
    I cook only on weekends (I don’t cook during the week).

Punctuation–this is a biggie. I’m going to assume you know how to punctuate a sentence, so let’s get to some of the annoying things.

Overuse–ellipses and dashes can be overused so easily, and when they are, they lose their effectiveness. In dialogue, ellipses are used when a thought tapers off, and dashes are used to illustrate an interruption. In prose, dashes are used to set off a thought, idea or something that would otherwise be parenthetical. Exclamation points should rarely be used. They illustrate shouting, anger, excitement, but overuse dilutes their power.

Quotation Marks–unless you use italics, full quotes should be used around “things” you want to set apart in your sentence in prose. Not partial ‘quotes’ but the “real deal.” Also, periods and commas go inside the quote. Other punctuation has different rules depending on whether they’re part of the quote or speaker’s dialogue. While we’re at it, keep an eye out for open quotes: In dialogue or any time you use quotation marks, be sure you close the quotes.

Apostrophe Direction–this is the one few ever pay attention to. I never did, until I read about it in one publisher’s submission instructions. This is obviously somebody’s pet peeve, and can be one of the stupid things that’ll trip you up. But I seriously doubt it’ll prevent acceptance.

You use the apostrophe when you’re leaving out a letter in a word or making a contraction, and usually it’s faced in the right direction. But when you’re omitting the first letter, the apostrophe is faced in the wrong direction. It’s a pain, but it’s not too difficult to change ‘nough said to ’nough said. Just type ‘’ together and delete the first one. Okay, okay, I know. Petty, picky, peevish. But now that you’ve read this, I bet it’ll drive you nuts too.

This micro-proof reading should be the last thing you do before you pray over your work so all the corrections you’ve made will be checked, too.

Good luck!

Linda Yezak is a two-time finalist in ACFW’s Genesis Contest as well as a two-time judge in the contest and a judge for smaller competitions. She has been published in Christian Romance Magazine and her review of Riven by Jerry Jenkins was published on the Tyndale website for the book (under the “Reviews” tab). Linda writes blog posts for several sites including AuthorCulture, 777 Peppermint Place, PeevishPenman and VibrantNation. Her first novel, Give the Lady a Ride is currently being considered for publication. She is an editor for Port Yonder Press, a small, traditional publishing company, and a free-lance editor.

Thanks so much for sharing your pet peeves, Linda! Apostrophe direction drives me insane, too, so I shut off "curly quotes" in Word when I'm writing--it keeps the direction neutral!

And for you, my delightful reader, I hope you've enjoyed this respite with our guest bloggers. I'll be back two weeks from now with a fun little post before I get back to the important business of harder-hitting posts. Thanks for your support and readership during these few months as my family and I have adjusted to having another child in the house!

Until next time,

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Winner of "The Women in Jesus' Life"

Hello, dear readers!

I want to thank Mindy again for being so gracious and agreeing to an interview, as well as the giveaway for her book. I apologize for the lateness of this winner announcement; I was on vacation last week, without easy access to the internet.

Anyway, my toddler did the honors this morning, and our winner is...

Tracy Krauss!

Tracy, please contact me through the "Contact Me" box on the right with your mailing address and we'll get your book out to you.

Thanks to everyone!

We've got one more guest post coming up from Linda Yezak this coming Monday (please make her feel welcome), then we'll resume whatever normalcy Word Wanderings has had in the past. I see a post reviewing the book "A Date You Can't Refuse" by Harley Jane Kozak in our future, and my thoughts on conflict with it.

Until next time,

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Women in Jesus' Life

I was honored recently to receive a request to review a new Bible study: The Women in Jesus' Life by Mindy Ferguson. Mindy was gracious enough to agree to an interview in tandem with my review.

Liberty Speidel: Why did you decide to write “The Women in Jesus’ Life”?

Mindy Ferguson: I taught an evening women’s Bible class for about seven years. Most of the women worked and I noticed that they often struggled to finish their homework when we did in-depth Bible studies that required a lot of Bible reading and questions. I also noticed that the majority of the women felt like they couldn’t measure up to all of the expectations or meet the many needs of their families, employers, and friends. It was clear to me that a study with a lighter amount of homework that emphasized the depth of Jesus’ love for them was needed.  As I prayed about that need, my attention was drawn to the compassionate and loving way Jesus treated the women He encountered during His life and ministry. Inspired, I wrote The Women in Jesus’ Life for the women in my class. I found the lessons generated rich, open discussion. Women came to class each week feeling affirmed and encouraged, anxious to share how they related to the women they had studied during the week. It was a special time with a special group of women.

LS: What kind of research did you do? How did the research impact how you decided to present this study?

MF: I did my best to step into the sandals of the women we studied each week. I researched the culture, as well as the attitudes of and about the women of the time. I imagined myself in each woman’s circumstance and attempted to feel the emotions she might have felt. Then I related those circumstances to the situations women face today. I wanted the study to stir women’s minds as well as their hearts. By keeping the lessons short, I was hoping the women in my class would be able to complete their lessons. They did.  I was encouraged by what I learned and it blessed me greatly to see group feeling affirmed and excited about the material.

LS: Did anything you learned surprise you?

MF: What surprised me most is the important roles women served in Jesus’ ministry. Many of them supported Him by their own means. Jesus first spoke of Himself as the Messiah to the Woman at the Well. The first person to see the risen Christ was Mary Magdalene. Jesus always treated women with dignity and He enabled them to participate in His work while He walked this earth, just as He does today.

LS: What did writing this study teach you?

MF: I gained a greater sense of the depth of Jesus’ love and mercy.

LS: For the writers, how is writing a Bible study such as “The Women in Jesus’ Life” different from writing a different kind of book, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction.

MF: I’ve always considered myself more of a Bible student than a writer. I think it is important to allow God’s Word to teach His Word. Writing a Bible study is more like guiding a friend through Scripture and allowing her to discover the sweetness of God, the vastness of His power, and the consistency of His commands for herself.  Rather than painting all of the details, like you might do as you develop characters and create scenarios when writing fiction, a Bible study writer paints a picture with broader strokes and allows the Word of God to bring out details that convict or encourage.

LS: What do you hope women gain most from this study?

MF: I hope that their hearts will be touched by Jesus’ lavish love for them and their minds would be engaged as they learn new information and read familiar passages of Scripture in this fresh context.   


In reading and working through the Bible study, I've found it to be a study that not only teaches me about the women in the Gospels, but gives me a new perspective on Jesus. The passages utilized are typically ones I've never heard unpacked before, or ones I've never seen from such a point of view. But the questions asked in the study really make me as a woman dig deep into myself and further explore my own relationship with Christ. There were many points where I couldn't honestly answer a question without thinking about it for several minutes, hours, or even a day or two.

That said, this is a study I would love to do with a group of other women. It would also probably be a great study for a MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) group. I recommend this book to any woman who wants to dig deeper into the lives of the women in the New Testament.

Mindy Ferguson
In a world that urges us to live for ourselves, Mindy Ferguson encourages women to live for Christ. She founded Fruitful Word Ministries in April 2003 and is passionate about encouraging women of all denominations to develop a more intimate and fruitful relationship with Jesus Christ through the study of God's Word.

Mindy stumbled her way into the arms of Christ at the age of twenty-six. She speaks nationally at women's events and at retreats as one who understands the tug of worldly passions and the emptiness of selfish ambition. Her writings have appeared in Christianity Today's, the P31 Woman magazine, Just Between Us magazine, Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul, and the One Year Life Verse Devotional. Mindy is the author of the in-depth Bible study, Walking with God: From Slavery to Freedom; Living the Promised Life. Mindy latest book, Hugs Bible Reflections for Women, is now available in bookstores.

Mindy lives in a suburb of Houston, Texas with her husband of twenty-two years and their daughter. Their son is currently attending college in Bryan, Texas. You can find out more about Mindy at her website and blog.

Thanks, Mindy, for letting me review this book, and offering up a copy to one of my lucky readers. 

Interested in a copy of The Women in Jesus' Life? Leave a comment in this post for a chance to win! You can also purchase a copy for $9.99 through The giveaway will close midnight CDT on Labor Day (Sept. 6, 2010), and the winner will be announced sometime on Sept. 7.

Until next time,

Monday, August 23, 2010


Tony Lavoie

"Do what?"

"You killed her! You killed my favorite character! I loved her and you killed her! How could you do that to me?"

"I had to. THE STORY demanded it."

"What do you mean, the story demanded it? You're the author, for Pete's sake! You could have killed off the other one. I like him too, but you killed off the character I loved most!"

"Not 'the story', 'THE STORY'. In capitals. Yes, I could have killed off a different character, but that wouldn't have been true to THE STORY. It would have broken it."

"You're cold. Cruel and cold."

"I'm not cold."

"You're cold and heartless and you're the author, for Pete's sake! You're writing the thing, so you can change anything you want!"

"I can't. I have to write THE STORY as it happens. I'd be a liar otherwise."

"I loved her and you killed her. How could you do that to me?"

"I didn't do it to you. I wrote it that way because--"

"I know I know! Because THE STORY demanded it. I get it. You can't change it because you'd break the story."

"Please don't mock me."

"I'm not. I'm sorry. I'm just hurting. It hurt to read that. A lot. You have no idea how much."

"I know how much it hurt."

"How could you? How can you even write something like that unless you don't feel it?"

"I do feel it. As much as it hurt you to read it, you only had to read it once. I had to write it. I had to live her death in my head over and over as I wrote it and re-wrote it and edited it and edited it again. When she died, I wept. I still shed tears every time I read the scene. Every time the orphanage is attacked, I weep for the children suddenly swept from their home. Every time my starfighter pilot blacks out and has those terrible, despairing visions, I feel her pain. Every time my pirate breaks his leg, I cry out silently. When Dumbledore falls, I fall. When the Galactica's back snapped, I cringed. When Obi-Wan's heart breaks over the loss of his brother Anakin, my heart breaks. I feel. Sometimes I think writers feel more than readers do, in general. Or maybe we just feel things more closely."

"How can you write things like that and not break down? You described every bit of her death, her pain, and his pain at losing her. It took three pages! Didn't that hurt to write?"

"Terribly. There were times I had to take a break from writing for a while because it hurt so much. It took a long time to write that one guy's despair over his loss in the previous book, because I had to put my pen down every now and then so I could regroup."

"Pen? You mean laptop."

"Figuratively speaking. I'm a writer...I'm allowed to use metaphors."

"I never saw you feeling down like that."

"It passes quickly. I make a decision before going into a dark or troubling scene to stop when it becomes too dark or intense, and come back to it later. I make sure I have bright and happy things to come out to, like my kids, or some time on the lake, or a good film or something. All of that helps me cope with the darkness."

"Darkness? Isn't that a bit melodramatic?"

"A bit. I'm a writer, remember?"

"So why write stuff like that if it hurts so much?"

"Because THE STORY demands it. We are creatures of emotion. If I had written the scene without emotion, you wouldn't have read it. Well, not with the same impact, anyway. It wouldn't have meant as much to you, therefore it would have been a broken story."

"Don't you mean STORY?"

"Heh. No. Because at that point it would have ceased to be THE STORY and would have become merely a story."

"I don't know. I think it could have been written a little less painfully."

"Finish reading it. Without bringing you to this low, the high that's coming wouldn't mean as much."

"It gets better?"

"Read on. I think you won't be disappointed. If THE STORY demanded this much pain and loss and despair, don't you think it might also demand an equal or even greater measure of joy and laughter and light?"

"Really? There's joy coming? I can't imagine feeling joy after her death."

"No, but THE STORY can. Give it a chance. Read the rest."

"Okay, I'll finish it. But you'd better not hurt me this much again in any other stories!"

"No promises. It all depends on what THE STORY demands."

"So if you feel pain while you write pain, you must also feel joy when you write joy, then."

"Yes, well, that's the theory anyway."


Tony Lavoie is a sometime writer of fiction--at least, in his own mind, which, admittedly, isn't always the most reliable of machines.  After all, he also sometimes steps out of his door at night and gets lost in the stars.

When his feet are planted on the Earth, he can occasionally be found at If he's not there, just leave a message. He'll get back to you as soon as the stars let him go. While you're there, though, you should read his published stories.

Thanks for guest blogging, Tony!

Last, but not least, of our guest bloggers is up next in September: Linda Yezak. Stay tuned for her post, as well as another review in the next couple weeks.

Until next time,

Monday, August 09, 2010

Finding Time to Write

A writer must make time to write every day. Even if she can only peck out a few words or sentences, it’s better than not writing at all.

What of the writer who, like me, has a day job? I come home tired, yet I have to fix dinner or risk starvation. The laundry monster roars, cats demand food, litter boxes need scooping and …

The list is endless.

Yet, I’m still supposed to write?


True, those of us who work have less time than stay-at-home writers, but it can be done.

  • Carry a tape recorder with you. Record those ideas as they come and get them on paper later. Think about your manuscript while shopping for groceries, on your commute, or while you’re brushing your teeth. Sometimes my best ideas come to me while I’m in the shower.
  • If you have a laptop, take it to work with you. On your lunch break, find a private location and get busy. If you don’t own a laptop, print out the latest chapter and edit it while you eat your bologna sandwich.
  • One writer I met uses Documents To Go on her BlackBerry. The app has a Word document, and while her car’s getting an oil change, or when she’s waiting at the doctor’s office, she works on her manuscript. Once she gets home, she uploads to her desktop computer. Another writer takes her laptop to her kid’s soccer games.
  • Set a time every day and dedicate it to writing, even if you can only manage thirty minutes. If time is a problem, set a word count goal. You’d be surprised how fast 250 words a day (about one page, double spaced) can add up.
  • Turn off the TV.

If writing is important to you, you must make time for it. But it does call for dedication. Sometimes it requires a firm voice to family members, or a lock on your office door.

Billy Crystal’s character in Throw Mama from the Train said, “A writer writes. Always.” So, what are you waiting for? Shake the muse awake.

And start writing.

Lorna wrote her first story when she was twelve years old. In 1992 Country Extra magazine published one of her short stories. She writes a blog, Myriad Musings, and is working on a novel called Wounded Hearts.

Until next time,

Monday, August 02, 2010

Winner of "A Tidbit Romance"

Okay, somehow last week got away from me. I completely forgot about the giveaway!

Better late than never, eh?

Well, our winner is none other than....

Cindy R. Wilson!!!

Congratulations, Cindy! Please contact me through the "Contact Me" link in the column to the right with your mailing address. I'll make sure you get a copy of this great devotional just as quick as can be.

Thanks so much! And, look for another review of a new Bible study on August 30.

Until next time,

Monday, July 26, 2010

Take Your Writing to the Next Level

Learning to write fiction well is a process. There are so many details of grammar and style that trying to learn them all at once is overwhelming. Instead, consider it an ongoing “continuing education” class. No matter where you are in the process, there’s always something else you can learn or perfect.

LEVEL 1: The first step in taking your writing to the next level is to get your writing out there—let others read it. By that, I mean other writers. Friends and family can give you reader feedback, but they can’t give you the specifics about what you’re doing right and wrong.

The best place to get feedback when you’re beginning to write is a critique group (either local or on-line). I can’t say enough about how much they can offer. My first critique group practically taught me fiction style from the ground up. It was tough getting critiques back with all kinds of color marking errors and denoting long comments. But I took their teaching to heart and began applying it. It took a while—and many more tough critiques—but eventually they went from pointing out basic errors to asking me when I’d be sending the next chapter because they couldn’t wait to read more.

At this level, it’s also a good idea to read as many books on the craft of writing as you can get your hands on. Joining writing groups (both local and on-line) is also beneficial. There is a great wealth of knowledge available through other writers. Soak it up like a sponge!

LEVEL 2: When I reached a level where other writers began to enjoy my writing, that didn’t mean I had “arrived.” I still had much more to learn. I had another major revision to go through, along with some tweaking and a several complete rewrites of the first two chapters before my writing was good enough to catch the eye of an agent. During this time, the feedback from my critique group was still extremely important. Instead of pointing out basic stylistic and grammatical errors, however, they focused on deeper issues: goal/motivation/conflict, deep POV, motivation-reaction units, and character development, among others.

At this intermediate level, it’s also good to enter some contests to get feedback from professionals. It’s also an excellent time to find a mentor or hire a professional to critique your work. Either option connects you to someone who can help you navigate through these deeper issues.

LEVEL 3: Getting an agent is an awesome accomplishment, but isn’t the top level…neither is publishing your first book. There’s still more to learn. We need to work on the issues where we know we’re weak. We can polish our voice and our style. And anyone who has ever worked with an editor knows that they almost always suggest changes that will make your
novel even better. Learn from them and apply these lessons to your future novels.

Even at this level, being a part of a critique group or having several trusted critique partners can be very valuable. There are also a variety of editorial services available to help you polish your manuscript.

LEVEL 4: Even multi-published authors need to be open to learning. It never hurts to review the basics. A good way to do this is to work with newer authors in some way. Mentoring or critiquing or teaching are good options. It helps keeps you sharp. Also, the publishing industry is constantly changing. Styles come and go, and writers need to be aware of what the current trend is. If you’ve always written with omniscient POV, but the industry is moving towards third-person POV, you might find yourself left behind if you’re not willing to continue learning and growing.

AT ALL LEVELS there are good courses available. Most are short-term and focus on only one issue at a time, which makes them easier to digest. Attending writing conferences is also something good to do no matter what level you’re at. There’s something for everyone at these conferences. The key, no matter what level you’re at, is a willingness to keep learning.

Suzanne Hartmann is the author of the pre-published books, THE RACE THAT LIES BEFORE US and DISAPPEARING MOM. She is an editor with Port Yonder Press and offers her own critique service. She also blogs about the craft of writing at:

Thanks, Suzanne, for guest blogging today!

Until next time,

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