Posted in For Authors

Chemistry and Tension Writing Rule: Bring Out the Rocks!

Clinic Rule Chemistry and Tension 1

I began the Christian Fiction Writers’ Clinic as a means for sharing what I’ve gleaned over the years concerning content editing. I learn best by example and like to use memorable rules to help myself remember how to avoid particular pitfalls that I’ve read in books or that have been exposed in my own writing. For years the rules have been hidden in a shared document between myself and Dana Kamstra.
These “rules,” while being helpful, can be ignored if the author desires. I never want to set something up as an unbreakable rule. I certainly have not invented the art of fiction writing. However, each of the rules are meant to be guidelines to help you stay away from troublesome areas.
You’ll find a live video within the Facebook Clinic group discussing this writing rule.


This month, we’re looking at one of the Chemistry and Tension problems.

Symptoms: Lack of tension, Reader not invested in the story, Reader not caring about what happens, Boring, Reader being able to put the book down and
forget about the story, Shallow tension

Have you ever read a book and was so drawn to the story that you couldn’t wait to pick it back up? Maybe you even thought about the characters while you were away. Or maybe you contemplated how they’d get out the jam they were in or how you’d get out if you were them.
It was a great book, wasn’t it?

Now stop and consider a book that you read where you felt just the opposite. You never thought about the characters and their problems when you weren’t reading. Maybe you even set it down for good and never regretted not knowing what happened to them.

Why is that? What makes one book so thrilling and the other so optional? What keeps you turning the pages late into the night when you know you should have already gone to bed?

Tension.

Tension in real life isn’t all that pleasant. But tension in fiction … that’s the key to the entire genre.

There are a lot of different ways we authors can hiccup in the tension/chemistry department but one of the basics is simply forgetting to add conflict.

Ouch. If the entire genre hinges on great tension and we forget to add it, we’ve created something bland instead of something exciting. It’ll read like a good little girl’s diary instead of the page-turning, action-packed drama that we were hoping for.

If nothing happens … then nothing is happening.
I don’t mean to sound redundant but it really is that simple.
But what do we do about it? And how can we tell if we’ve slipped up and sorta forgot to add tension?

Here’s your answer: You bring out the rocks.

Dana is often quoting this concept to me … which proves that we all need to be reminded to keep the pot stirred and the drama bubbling. Here’s the visual for you:
Your job as the author is to chase your character up a tree, then throw rocks at them.

I’m serious! And don’t you dare feel sorry for them either!

You can’t protect your characters just because you love them. If you love them, let them suffer! Chase them up a tree (in a position where they can’t get out) and throw rocks at them (problem after problem), and in due time you’ll help them down and bind their wounds but not before you’ve made them suffer.

Making your characters suffer is your sole purpose and the reason why everyone bought a ticket to the show. It’s like showing up at a Roman Colosseum but not seeing anyone fed to the lions.

When the time is right, you’ll bring them down, bind their wounds, and lead them to their happily-ever-after.
But not yet!
Right now,  you’re a troublemaker. You’re an instigator. You’re a bully with a rock and a good aim. USE IT.

Sometimes we simply forget to add conflict.
Sometimes we chase them up a tree but quickly put up a ladder and help them right back down.
Sometimes we love them and want to shelter them, so we chase them to the tree but never force them up the tree or even consider grabbing a rock.

So take inventory of your current draft. Has your character been chased up a tree and into a position where there’s no easy way out?
Have you thrown rock after rock at them when they were helpless?
Giving them one problem then fixing it for them isn’t adding tension, it’s keeping your character weak and your tension shallow. And it’s boring your readers to tears.

Tension is the one thing that the fiction genre has that no other genre can claim. Religious books, cookbooks, how-to’s, biographies … none of these are tension driven. Only in fiction will you find book after book after book with varying degrees of tension.
So doesn’t it stand to reason that if fiction was the only one to offer tension, that we’d better be using it?

Here are a couple quotes to keep in your back pocket: 

“Trouble is your business; make more of it!” -James Scott Bell

“Write the tough stuff! It’s going to be great!” – Christy Gragg

 

Posted in For Authors

Author Interference Writing Rule: Mother Hen Knows Best

Clinic Rule Author Interference 1

I began the Christian Fiction Writers’ Clinic as a means for sharing what I’ve gleaned over the years concerning content editing. I learn best by example and like to use memorable rules to help myself remember how to avoid particular pitfalls that I’ve read in books or that have been exposed in my own writing. For years the rules have been hidden in a shared document between myself and Dana Kamstra.
These “rules” while being helpful can be ignored if the author desires. I never want to set something up as an unbreakable rule. I certainly have not invented the art of fiction writing. However, each of the rules are meant to be guidelines to help you stay away from troublesome areas.
You’ll find a live video within the Facebook Clinic group discussing this writing rule.


This month in the Clinic, the topic has been Critique Partners. So I wanted to offer the first official rule from the troubleshooting file because it’s not like the other rules. This one is a little more personal.

Symptoms: Argumentative, Denial, Clinging to a particular idea

The Mother Hen Knows Best rule is meant to zero in on the author who is refusing to see the truth about her draft. This is the sort of problem that typically only surfaces during the critiquing/revising process.

You might be the author who has dug in her heels and refused advice. Or you might be working with an author who is refusing to see reason.

If you’re the author, recognizing that you’re guarding your baby should cause you to snap out of it and think a little longer before tossing aside the valued advice of your critiquer.

But if you’re the critiquer, you might gently let them know that they’re being a little overly protective of an unfinished draft. Try to encourage them to pray and to give the draft a little more space before making any final decisions.

This rule came into existence because I WAS the mother hen. I forget now if it was me or Dana who had created the rule, but it’s something that we both point back to.
Sometimes feedback just doesn’t jive with your plans. Sometimes you just want to keep things the way they are.

Over the years, I’ve had to admit that I was being the mother hen and needed to back off and think objectively instead of like the creator.
What would I have said if I was reading this draft and it wasn’t mine? If I would expect someone else to make the revision, then why wouldn’t I?

After being honest about being overly protective, it opens the door for me to dig deeper into why I’m so against a particular change. And it allows me to be honest with Dana and myself about what is holding me back.

From there, we’re able to work together to find a way to fix it. Maybe I DO just need to come to terms with the problem and fix it as suggested. But sometimes, we can find a different alteration that can bridge the gap between what I want and what the story needs.

But the mother hen is too occupied with protecting her baby that she can’t consider the other options around her. Learning to let go and at least consider the options are the first steps for a mother hen.

While the other rules in the troubleshooting file focus on the draft, the Mother Hen Knows Best rule focuses on the heart and attitude of the author. So keep this one in your back pocket. I promise you, it’ll only be a matter of time before you find yourself with a death grip on your manuscript.

*As mentioned in the Critique Partner series, the author is not obligated to take 100% of the suggestions offered. A general rule of thumb is that you’ll likely accept 80-90%. I don’t think I’ve ever accepted 100% of the feedback from any of my drafts. So don’t feel like you have to. But this rule is meant for those times when the problem is more obvious to everyone except the author.

Posted in For Authors

Critique Partners: Part 3

Critique 3This month in the Christian Fiction Writers’ Clinic we’re focusing on critique partners. I want to share some things that I’ve gleaned over the years.
Note: I’m using the phrase critique partner but this applies to beta readers or whoever else reads and offers feedback to an unfinished work with the intent on shaping the draft. This does not include grammar or line editors.

The Critique Partner series will be broken into 3 parts.
Part 1: How to find a critique partner and how to be a good critique partner
Part 2: Preparing yourself for feedback and what to do with the feedback once it arrives
Part 3: Dealing with hard to swallow feedback and conflicting feedback


Processing Hard Feedback:

Fast and Free Tips:
~ Everyone hears it
~ Do you want to publish just to publish or do you want a great story?
~ Reviews last forever, hard work will only last for a moment
~ Do the hard stuff; it’s going to be great
~ Never expect perfection
~ It’s not personal
~ Your critique partner is on your side

Everyone hears it:
There’s something comforting in realizing that you’re not alone. If the greats are being corrected, then why shouldn’t you be? If your favorite author stares down criticism and pushes her way through to a wonderful story, then why can’t you?
Once you grasp that you’re not alone, that every book you’ve ever enjoyed had been through the wringer, then you can let the pain roll off of you and get back to work. Being distracted by your wounded feelings will only keep you from your goal.

It’s not personal:
Despite how you feel, the comments are not personal. Your critiquer still likes YOU, she just thinks you need to dig deeper or clean up your writing style. So don’t take it to heart.

They’re on your side:
Instead of taking it to heart, side with  your critiquer and view the draft as the “enemy.” Correct the draft. They really do want to see you publish your best story. An honest critiquer is hard to find, so don’t feel bullied when you have one. Listen and learn. They only want to help you. And the story you love so much is worth it.

Do the hard work:
Listen. The simple fact is that a great story IS hard work. If writing is too easy, you’re doing it wrong. I guarantee you that if writing has become too easy, simply switching critique partners will change that for you. You’ll suddenly be challenged and stretched.
Don’t cheat yourself, your beloved characters, or your readers with a story only half done because you rushed the publication process. Put in your best effort. And if that means you sweat a little and take months longer to complete the novel, then so be it. Reviews will last forever, the work will not.

 

What to do with conflicting feedback:

Fast and Free Tips:
~ Listen
~ Pray
~ Consider the results of both options
~ Re-examine your story’s purpose
~ Consider the level of expertise offered by the critiquers
~ Just because only 1 person says it, doesn’t mean they’re wrong.
~ It’s ultimately your story and your decision. Never forget that.
~ If a reviewer made the same comment would you be upset?

Listen and pray:
Just like in our other sections, pausing to process, listen, and pray is vital. There’s no need to rush into anything.

Consider the results of both options:
Sometimes there is no “wrong” answer, there are just two different options. So take time to truly consider both options. How would your story change if you did A? How would it change if you did B?

Re-examine your story’s purpose:
After you’ve taken some time to consider how A and B would change your story, you need to take a closer look at your purpose. What is the theme or purpose you really mean to express with this story? Does A or B take you closer to that goal or further away from it? Is your original goal still the goal you want? Maybe after considering one of the options you realize that the change takes you further away from your original goal but closer to what you’ve now discovered you want to express.
It’s okay to change your mind. And it’s okay if you choose not to change your mind. The key is to KNOW without a shadow of a doubt what you mean to do with this story and challenging your ideas is never a bad thing. Weigh your options. Test the ideas. Then make a decision.

It’s your story:
While it’s healthy to challenge your ideas, in the end, it’s your story. As my friend often reminds me, she only has an opinion but it’s my name that has to be on the cover.  YOU had better be pleased with the outcome.  Don’t feel bad if you go in a different direction. Sometimes that happens.
The important thing is that you took the time to weigh your options before brushing an idea aside. Your critique partner should respect that.

If a reviewer made the same comment your critiquer did, would that upset you?
I have personally faced this in my writing. My critique partner said that my plot needed more tension. And she wasn’t wrong. After examining the types of tension I could add, I did add some but kept it fairly light because to add more would have taken me away from my intended goal. I did decide to set her advice aside for the most part and press on. And I have heard from the occasional reviewer who agrees with her. And you know something, it doesn’t bother me. If I hadn’t been challenged beforehand, the reviewer comments might have upset me. But I could agree with their comment and walk away with confidence knowing that, while I saw what they were saying, I did what I meant to do and wouldn’t have chosen differently.
Your critiquer is your first line of defense. So listen closely. The next person to say it just might be a reviewer. How would you feel if it was?

There’s not always power in numbers:
There’s a reason why we hear conflicting advice, and it’s because we have differing strengths. While it’s a must to take note of repeated comments, don’t be so quick to brush aside the lone ranger comment. There’s a reason you’ve asked this person to critique your work. They’re not stupid. And if they’ve worked for you in the past, their opinion should hold even more weight with you. Sometimes only 1 person can see the problem but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. So tread lightly and take time to pray for wisdom and clarity.

Consider the level of expertise:
Let’s say you have 2 conflicting critiquers. It’s possible that both are right. But it’s also possible that one is wrong and one is right. But who? Maybe one says she loves it as is while the other said it was shallow.
Consider the level of expertise being offered here. Again, you asked them on your team for a reason. Could it be that the author is pointing out a problem while the reader is praising it as is? If you find yourself in this position, you’d be wise to side with the author in most cases. And the reason is that they’re qualified. They’ve studied the craft. It stands without reason that they’ll pick up more than the average reader will.

Posted in For Authors

Critique Partners: Part 2

Critique 2This month in the Christian Fiction Writers’ Clinic we’re focusing on critique partners. I want to share some things that I’ve gleaned over the years.
Note: I’m using the phrase critique partner but this applies to beta readers or whoever else reads and offers feedback to an unfinished work with the intent on shaping the draft. This does not include grammar or line editors.

The Critique Partner series will be broken into 3 parts.
Part 1: How to find a critique partner and how to be a good critique partner
Part 2: Preparing yourself for feedback and what to do with the feedback once it arrives
Part 3: Dealing with hard to swallow feedback and conflicting feedback


Prepare Yourself for Feedback:

Fast and Free Tips:
~ Expect to be challenged
~ Pray for yourself
~ Pray for the critiquer
~ Remember the 1st draft is a jumping-off point
~ Never expect perfection

Never expect perfection:
The biggest mistake authors make is thinking that their story is perfect as is. I admit I’ve been guilty here. The truth is, we work and work and work on that draft. We wouldn’t pass it along to a critique partner unless we knew it was ready (unless, of course, we knew it wasn’t and needed their help finding the problem). Because we brought it to a place where we thought it was ready, we’re prone to believe there will be no corrections to make. And THAT will hurt you when the feedback comes rolling in and you’re proven wrong.

It’s a jumping-off point:
The first draft isn’t meant to be the final draft. It’s meant to be the first solid place for you to launch. If you can establish this mindset now while your draft is out, you’ll be prepared to hear what needs to be changed.

Expect to be challenged:
You should EXPECT your partner to have work for you to do. And if your partners have little to no work for you, it’s a good sign that you’ve outgrown them. The more you grow as an author, the more you’re going to need to be challenged. That’s why it’s vital that you don’t stick with only your momma and favorite readers as critique partners. They don’t have the skill set to help you to improve any more than you already have. You need writers who are also learning and growing in the craft to help you find where you can continue to grow. Don’t make the mistake in thinking that you’ll arrive someday. Every great book, every talented author, is proof that drafts are revised again and again.

Prayer:
Pray for your critiquers to have clarity and to be able to explain to you what the problems are. Pray for a blessing on their time. They’re doing you a big favor! Pray for them to have the courage to speak up and point out what they find. It’s not easy to give painful truth with grace. So pray for them. (Note: If your partner cannot be honest with you, drop them! The #1 goal of a critique partner is to be faithfully honest.)
And don’t forget to pray for yourself! You’re about to have the rug pulled out from underneath you. Feedback is coming that may very well knock you back and make you question your path as a writer. You’re going to need to be protected. You need to know that you can survive this. You need the ability to accept what they’re saying and to truly listen. You need to be able to take sides against your work as if the draft is the enemy and not your critiquer. You’re going to need some thick skin. You’ll need clarity.
There are verses all throughout Proverbs about a wise man accepting advice or rebuke. One of my favorites is Proverbs 12:1 “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.”
Find and pray over these verses while your draft is out.

 

What to do with feedback:

Fast and Free Tips:
~ Read it and set it aside
~ Do NOT touch it
~ Take notes
~ LISTEN
~ Look for common comments
~ Separate minor and major comments, then tackle separately

Read it and set it aside:
Step one is to simply read it. Don’t expect you’ll understand everything or agree with everything. Your first job is to simply read what is written. That’s it.

Do NOT touch it:
Seriously. Walk away. Don’t start dismantling the entire draft. Just set it aside.
How long? That depends. You might come back after a few hours or the next day. Chances are the seeds have been planted since you read it and you’ll begin mulling over the comments, especially anything that confused you or something you didn’t agree with. Let things marinate for a little bit before picking it back up.

Take notes:
Your next step after your break is to read it again. This time take a piece of paper with you and just jot down some notes. Not every note, but some things that stood out to you. Maybe the comments kept pointing out that something was wrong with your heroine. You’re still not ripping it to shreds, but you’re wading through it. You’re still processing what has been said. Jot down questions you have for the critiquer.

LISTEN:
This is so vital. Don’t throw it away. Don’t fistfight your critiquer. Just listen. Hear what they’re saying. Take sides against your draft and see if they’re actually right. A lot of times they are. But you’re not going to think they’re right the first time you hear what they’ve said. It’ll be later when you begin to see things differently. That’s why taking a break is so vital.

Look for common comments:
Ideally, you’re working with more than 1 critiquer. Look for those common threads. If everyone points to your heroine in some way or another, you know you have a problem. They may say something different but if your attention is drawn again and again to something, it’s a clear trouble area.

Separate minor and major comments:
Minor comments would be something that can be cleared up in a single line or single paragraph. It might be missing a detail or confusing line. Maybe a telling line that can be shown instead.
Major comments will require larger widespread rewrites. You’ll have to dig deeper into your character development and weave more detail throughout the story. You might have to cut or add chapters. You might be adjusting your plot and outline.
After you’ve read it a couple times, read through it again and start separating the comments. Make a list for major and minor revisions. Pending on the major revisions, you might want to start there if you have a lot of rewriting to do. But sometimes getting the quicker list done is a confidence boost. There’s no wrong way. Both need to be done, so whatever works best for you and your draft is acceptable.
Personally, when critiquing I like to highlight and comment directly on the draft. This is a great way to pinpoint exactly where the problem is. Consider the difference in getting only a summary letting you know that you need more tension compared to finding notes inside the story pointing out various places where tension was lacking.
But when I’m finished reading, the big picture problems are standing out to me, so while I have some notes on the subject sprinkled throughout the draft, I’ll also summarize the problems and praise in an email as I send it back. I’ll let them know that there’s a tension problem and add more detailed information if it isn’t already in one of the comments in the document. I also take the time to leave praises throughout the document as I come it and I’ll summarize some of their strengths in the email too.
My critique partners follow the same pattern. That’s a freebie for anyone who isn’t sure what to expect from a great critique partner or who is attempting to be a critique partner for the first time and aren’t sure how best to help out.

Posted in For Authors

Critique Partners: Part 1

Critique 1This month in the Christian Fiction Writers’ Clinic we’re focusing on critique partners. I want to share some things that I’ve gleaned over the years.
Note: I’m using the phrase critique partner but this applies to beta readers or whoever else reads and offers feedback to an unfinished work with the intent on shaping the draft. This does not include grammar or line editors.

The Critique Partner series will be broken into 3 parts.
Part 1: How to find a critique partner and how to be a good critique partner
Part 2: Preparing yourself for feedback and what to do with the feedback once it arrives
Part 3: Dealing with hard to swallow feedback and conflicting feedback


How to Find the Right Partner:

Fast and Free Tips:
~ Look within your genre for readers
~ Look within reader groups online
~ Work with a mix of readers and writers
~ Don’t work with people who are easily offended
~ When working with a writer, preview their writing first
~ If your critique partners are not challenging you, find someone new!

Work with a mix of readers and writers:
I think it’s normal to start out on the writing journey and have your mom, granny, or other close friend or relative read your work and offer feedback. And that’s not a bad place to start! But it’s not the best place to end. It doesn’t matter how blunt honest your momma can be, unless she’s an author, she’s not going to know the finer details of the craft, and you’re going to need the experience of other authors picking and prodding at your work.
Any author who has had their work brutally revised will become sensitive to the very things they correct in their own work. It’s why authors struggle to simply read a book once they begin revising their own. Once you’ve been taught that something is wrong, you can’t help but trip over it when you see it again later. So when you consult with another author, they bring to you their previous lessons to bear down on your work. They’ll call out what they would correct in themselves.
But a mixture of authors and readers can come in handy. The avid reader is still a devoted reader and will have something to offer. It’s a great first test for your novel to see how it’s connected with readers.

When working with a writer, preview their writing first:
Because we can’t help but point out our own flaws in someone else’s writing, it’s a good idea to make sure you like the author’s work before asking them to look at your draft. Even if you don’t like their writing, they may still have something to teach you, so don’t turn your nose up at them just yet, but it stands to reason that you’ll learn best from authors who write what you’d like to read.
Again, this advice is contradictory because we should be challenged outside of our comfort zone. It’s how we learn to write better. BUT if their style grates against you when you read it, you wouldn’t want to mimic their style. And chances are their feedback in some way or another will steer you in that direction.

Don’t work with easily offended people:
There’s a strange balance with critique partners. They offer their best, honest advice but you’re not required to follow it. It’s best when both the author and the critiquer understands that you’re not obligated to blindly follow their advice. And if the critiquer finds it offensive that you ignored their advice, it’s best not to work with them again in the future.
That being said, if you have a critique partner who you ignore large portions of their advice, you should stop and consider why that is. Do you have an unteachable spirit? If so, look for tips on this in Part 2 of the series. If the critiquer is constantly offering you advice that moves your story away from where you had envisioned it, you’ll have to ask yourself why. There are likely 2 reasons: 1) Their vision is not your vision and you’ll need to drop them. 2) You need to strongly consider some solid changes in your story. They may be pointing out major flaws that you’re unwilling to listen to.  Part 2 and 3 of this series will address these areas.

Where should you find a critique partner:
You’ve decided that you need more than your granny, but you don’t know where to look. Here are some ideas.
Writer or critique groups. You may find a local group or an online group.
Mingle online in reader groups. You’ll find authors and readers there.
The key is to look within your genre. If you find a suspense author to read your women’s fiction, she may have some things to teach you but she’ll have some expectations that your story should not live up to. So it’s important to work with someone who understands the expectations of that genre.
Goodreads and Facebook have active reader groups where you can find someone.

How to fish for critiquers:
It’s best if you’re already mingling in these groups and chatting up books that you love that have nothing to do with your own work. This will create a friendly image. Someone the people in the group already recognize and maybe even relate to.
When it’s time to ask for readers, simply throw a line out there! Make sure it’s within the group’s laws to seek critiquers in the group. Each group has different rules. You can ask the admins if you’re unsure.
Start a post. Let people know what you’re needing. Something similar to:
I have a Christian Suspense novel that I’d love some feedback on. It is 78,000 words long. It’s about a mouse outrunning a cat. And a cat who is outrunning a fox. …
And when people start responding, check them out!! Make sure they actually read suspense. Check to find out how many books they typically read in a month. Some people just want a free story. If the person reads 4 or more books a month, they’re likely fast readers and will get to it and get back to you. If they read 1 book every other month, they’re not fast readers and may not get back to you at all.
Be sure to let them know when you’d hope to hear back from them. And then go check up on them! Generally, you should probably give them a month to read and get back to you.
But understand that readers are looking for a good time. So while they can be a help, you’re likely to hear vague feedback from them. While an author is most likely to offer detailed feedback. They’ll likely tell you which technique you’re not applying in your work.

Personally, I work with a variety of critiquers and I do it in 2 stages.
Stage 1: My toughest critic. I start off holding nothing back. I have a writing partner who can analyze the draft in great detail. She’ll help me see my plot holes or other inconsistencies.
Stage 2: I use a mix of readers and writers. If there were any conflicting ideas from stage 1, now is the time to test them out. These readers help clean the story up even further, but the biggest part of the work is behind me.
Once I’ve revised the draft based on their feedback, I send it off to grammar/line editing. My critique partners might point out a few grammar errors but it’s not their main focus.
Note: It’s not recommended to spend a lot of time on grammar while the bulk of the story is still subject to change. Correct things as you find them, but NEVER pay for a grammar editor until you’ve made all the changes you intend to make. This process is meant to cut out or add in new scenes and characters. You may be rewriting an entire section of your story. So focus on the big stuff here then focus on the little stuff later.

 

How to be a good critique partner:

Fast and Free Tips:
~ Begin with praise, offer feedback, and end with praise
~ Keep in mind the genre you’re reading
~ Be as detailed as possible
~ Don’t be easily offended
~ Be available to troubleshoot or further explain
~ Don’t work with someone who argues or is easily offended

The Key:
Remember that you’re also an author! Treat people how you would want to be treated! If you can stick to this guideline, you’ll be just fine.

Sandwiching Criticism:
Feedback is going to hurt. It’s just part of the process. But you don’t have to make it hurt any more than necessary. So drop compliments throughout the draft. If you like a line, TELL THE AUTHOR! The same way you’d highlight a remark and tell them it stunk, tell them you loved it! Those compliments will go a long way when they hear your feedback and question whether they should continue writing.
When offering feedback in paragraph form, compliment them first, then offer the hard facts, then follow up with another compliment. And don’t lie to them, either! Take time to examine what they did do right. Maybe their characters are weak but they have a good handle on the setting or description. Be sure to tell them that.

Keep in mind the genre you’re reading:
We’re not experts in all genres, so keep that in mind. If you’re reading slightly out of your norm, consider what the norm is for that genre. YA is different from Historical fiction. If you’re not certain, be honest. Don’t make your comment sound like an unbreakable rule.

Be as detailed as possible:
Sometimes we don’t know what to say or how to say it. But other times we know exactly what the problem is, we just don’t take the time to embellish it. Don’t just tell them that this line is weak, tell them WHY it’s weak. How could they change it to make it stronger? If they have a reoccurring problem, stop and talk to them about how to fix it. YOU might know what to do, but they likely don’t or they wouldn’t have written it that way.

Be available:
Again, how would you want to be treated? If someone gave you vague feedback and you needed to hash some things out with them, wouldn’t you appreciate being able to talk with them? Don’t drop your feedback in their lap then disappear. Be willing to talk or just let them talk. Sometimes they have to verbalize some things before coming to a conclusion.

Don’t be offended:
You’ve offered your advice but it’s their name on the cover. If they choose to ignore you, don’t take it to heart. Hopefully, they thought long and hard about that decision before making it, but either way, it’s not on you. You’ve done your duty.

Don’t work with someone who argues:
Now, every author is prone to getting their feelings hurt at some time or another. I admit that I cling to certain ideas more than I should and have to be talked down step by step. But there’s a difference in someone who is willing to learn and just needs time to process and someone who will fight you over offending their precious messy baby. You can’t work with someone who doesn’t want to learn. It’s sad but true. Some people only want to be told that they’re right and never wrong. They aren’t willing to wrestle with plot points in the trenches. They just want to rush through their story and see it printed.
So step out of their way! It’s hard and it hurts to watch them ruin themselves but it’s not worth it to try to change them. If they have an argumentative spirit, let them go.
For the most part, people will be wounded but willing to grow. They will accept 90% of your feedback but cling to that one thing. There’s still hope for a working relationship there as long as they aren’t lashing out at you for your comments. And that’s really the key. If they’re lashing out, it’s not worth your time.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Author Opportunity: Writing Together; Courses by Krista Noorman

Krista Noorman is one of the first author friends I made when I started the journey to publication. She’s become a good friend to me over the years and we’ve worked together on several projects. She’s had her hand in my cover art and she helps to grammar edit my novels.

So I’m thrilled to be able to share this opportunity with you. Krista’s heart is to coach and train other authors, and she is opening up her knowledge on self-publishing, cover design, writing, editing, and marketing in her Writing Together Courses. Here’s what she has to say about it:

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Are you just starting on your novel writing journey and wish you had a little support along the way? Or have you already written a novel and are thinking about publishing, but have no idea what to do next? Need a little guidance, but don’t know who to ask or are just too afraid to?

If that’s you, then you’re in the right place.

I was all alone in the writing world when I wrote my first novel, and that story sat on my computer for six years before I did anything with it, partly because I was intimidated by the process and didn’t have someone encouraging and helping me along the way. And when I finally decided to work on it again, I spent hour upon hour browsing the internet, researching my options, figuring out how to edit and publish and do all the things on my own.

If I’d had someone there to ask my specific questions, someone to teach me how to do some of those things and get where I wanted to go faster, it would have saved me so much time.

I want to be that someone for you!

Our time is valuable. We have a million things going on in life and not a lot of time to get things done. Let this group save you precious time and get you to your writing goals faster.

You and your story are worth it!

If you’re interested, you can check out her site here.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Writing from the Trenches: Tips and Techniques from Ten Award-Winning Authors

400YOU … and an Army of Ten!

TEN-HUT! Gear up for your writing with tried-and-true tips from the trenches. Ten award-winning authors share invaluable tips and secrets they’ve gleaned the hard way, offering a broad range of insights and opinions on the best way to tackle subjects such as the following:

Plotting Techniques
Research
Characterization
Villains We Love to Hate
Dynamic Dialogue
Sigh-Worthy Heroes
The Right Heroine for the Job
Hooking Your Reader in the First Chapter
Scene Endings to Lead Your Readers On
Creating a Movie Set
Making your Readers Cry
Deep POV
Copyediting your Manuscript
Indie Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing
Marketing for Those Who Hate Marketing

At last … a writer’s tool that provides the experience and expertise of ten authors who’ve been on the front lines of publishing and lived to teach about it: Connie Almony, Lynnette Bonner, Hallee Bridgeman, Louise Gouge, Michelle Griep, Julie Lessman, Elizabeth Ludwig, Ane Mulligan, MaryLu Tyndall, and Erica Vetsch.

My Thoughts: This was a terrific overview of writing. There were so many sections covered that it’s a must-read for aspiring authors. The beauty of it was that it was compiled together by ten different authors so you’re getting the strengths from each author. I found it so helpful that I immediately offered to buy a copy for the aspiring author that I’m coaching.
As a published author, I didn’t really find “new” information but rather a new way of explaining old information which I found really helpful. I kept finding myself quoting something from this book as I pulled my notes together for the aspiring author I was critiquing.
The layout was perfectly arranged so that one point naturally flowed into the next. The beginning opened with all ten authors sharing how they plot their novel. While it did start to feel a tad repetitive with each author giving nearly the same intro, all ten authors had vastly different styles of plotting. I found this section really interesting and I didn’t find any one author who did it exactly like myself, so I certainly walked away with some ideas for things I could try in the future.
I do feel obligated to share a warning for more conservative writers. There’s a section on how to create a great hero which was extremely well thought out and packed full of outstanding material. The author even shares a vast selection of examples from her writing. I’m the sort who learns best by example so I double appreciate that sort of effort. But in this particular case, I found the majority of the examples a bit steamier for my personal tastes. While I wholeheartedly stand by the information, for more conservative writers, I would just caution you that may find yourself skimming. But the information itself should NOT be skimmed over but soaked up instead.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving it 5 stars and highly recommending it to aspiring authors looking for a solid overview and to published authors looking to finetune some areas or seeking a great teaching aid.

~ I received a copy from the authors. I was not compensated for my review. All thoughts are my own.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: English Through the Ages

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Lists words, grouped by subject, that were in use in different time periods, including prior to 1150, and in increasingly smaller ranges to the present.

They didn’t offer much of a description, so let me help you out:

This is one of those gems that, as a historical author, I wish someone had told me about sooner. Not only is it helpful, but it’s flat-out fun to read. Ok, I just admitted to having fun reading a dictionary. I’m aware of how that makes me look, but I don’t care. Lol Did you know they were using the word “kicks” for shoes by 1905?! Or “rock” as another word for diamond? Or that “groovy” was in use by 1945?

As with any book, there could always be more information or more words added, but this is a great overview of a wide variety of words, subjects, and eras. Here’s the breakdown:

Eras:
1150
1350
1470
1500
1550
1600
1650
1700
1750
1800
1825
1850
1875
1900
1910
1920
1930
1940
1950
1960
1970
1980
1990
The way the eras work, is they’re showing you words that were in use BY that particular era. So if you wanted to know what new words were commonly used in 1955, you’ll look under 1960.

And here are the categories they cover in each era: 
Geography/Places
Natural Things
Plants
Animals
Weather
Heaven/Sky
Energy
Time
Age/Aging
Mathematics
Measurement
The Body
Physical Description
Medicine
Everday Life
Shelter/House
Drink
Food
Agriculture/Food-Gathering
Cloth/Clothing
Fashion/Style
Tools
Travel/Transportation
Emotions/Characteristics
Thoughts/Perception/The Mind
Love/Romance/Sex
Family/Relations/Friends
Holidays
Games/Fun/Leisure
Sports
Professions/Duties
Business/Commerce/Selling
The Workplace
Fiances/Money
Language and Speaking
Contractions
Literature/Writing
Performing Arts
Music
Education
Religion
Society/Mores/Culture
Government
Politics
Life
Death
War/Military/Violence
Crime/Punishment/Enforcement
The Law
The Fantastic/Paranormal
Magic
Interjections
Slang
Insults
Phrases
General/Miscellaneous
Things
Description
Colors
Actions/Verbs
Archaisms

There’s an Index in the back where you can look up a word and find where it falls in the timeline. They tell you if the word is a noun, verb, adjective. With some words, they offer a brief explanation and other words, they believe to be self-explanatory (although, I’ve found some that I would have liked an explanation for.)
The book is helpful in showing you when a word is first documented, but it doesn’t show you how it faded from use or reappeared years later. Take the word “groovy” for example. They claim it was in use by 1945 and yet we know it as a word from the 1970s.
Overall, this a great book to have on hand. Even if it doesn’t address ALL your questions, it’ll address many and/or make for a great conversational piece later.

 

Posted in History

Getting Dressed: A Collection of Historical Dressing Videos

I enjoy learning about historical fashion and have taken you on tours in the past. But there is something that videos can teach us that simple text cannot. I thought it would be interesting and even handy to collect some videos together for your enjoyment.
I do not own any of these videos so refer to the video itself for ownership and credit.

First, we’re going to look at the late 1700s, also known as Georgian, American Colonial, or American Revolutionary War eras.

This video does the best job explaining the various pieces and shows more detail into how they were actually layered on. This is an example of a wealthy woman of the day.
**Be sure to watch this video. Some of the other videos on the page rush through many of the details, so this one becomes a sort of foundation that will allow you to fill in the gaps in the other videos.

 

And here is an example of a working woman of the same era. You’ll notice some differences in the clothing as well as the stays, which can be laced in front since she didn’t have a maid to assist her.

 

And here is an example of a soldier’s layering, also from the same era. Now we can imagine that while the average man wore different clothing, there’d be some similarities as well.

 

And next, we move on to Regency. In America, this would be around the War of 1812. This video is a little bit quicker and doesn’t explain things as nicely as that first one did. But after watching the first one, it’s easier to grasp what’s happening here.

 

And if you’re as curious as I am about how men wore their ties here’s a look at how it’s done. This video covers some of the simpler styles, which is great news for reenactors looking for a new look, as well as curious readers. 😉

 

The first half of this video is from the Civil War. The Civil War was in the 1860s. The bulk of the 18th century is often referred to as the Victorian Era.
Before the 1850’s women wore a layer of petticoats. Here we see the introduction of the hoop skirt.
This is a two in one video. She’ll also show us how to put on another style of dress. While we’re still in the Victorian Era, Americans often refer to the last half of the 1800s as the Gilded or Progressive Era, pending on the actual year. The biggest change in the style is that the hoop skirt is out and the bustle is in.

 

I hope you enjoyed this look at historical fashion. I’d love to hear from you!

Which part of the process surprised you the most? Which style do you like the best? Have you ever worn a gown like these before?

 

 

Posted in History

The History Lover’s Playground: Digitized Newspapers

I want to share a website that I ran across during my research. This is for the author, history buff, or those who are bored and looking for something new to read. 😉
 It’s called: Chronicling America, Historic American Newspapers

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I found this website when I was searching up headline news during the year 1885. As it turns out, I wasn’t finding much…until I opened this site. 

Here are some of the perks: 
Over 2,000 newspapers (as in titles) to view on the site
Papers from most of the states across the nation
Dates range from 1789-1924
They have a newspaper directory where you can search for a paper they didn’t have on the site that was printed between the years 1690-present.
The site is part of the Library of Congress.
Narrow down your search to a particular year or section of years
Narrow down your search by state
You can view the full paper or just the front page.
Easy to navigate
Great zoom
You can “clip” out images and save them straight to your computer.
It’s FREE!
What better way to find out about the people of another generation than to read their newspaper!!

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I clipped out the sports section of the Memphis, TN paper from 1885. Enjoy!

Now it’s your turn! Go check the page out for yourself if you haven’t already. Make sure to bookmark it so you can return as often as you like!

I’ll be bringing you some of the interesting things I had uncovered during my search in a later post, but for today, I’d love for you to share something interesting with me that you found from one of these newspapers. Happy Reading!!