Thursday, August 25, 2016

AFTER THE FIRST DRAFT, WHAT? By Bonnie Toews

You type THE END and heave a great sigh of relief. DONE. You pat yourself on the back.
But wait! In today’s world, this is only YOUR FIRST DRAFT. Now the hard work begins.
Revising and editing are a writer’s most important functions in the telling of your story. In the rewriting stage, you have to move away from the subjective author who loves every sentence you’ve produced and become the tough critic. Switching hats is very difficult.
This is why most successful novelists belong to reading groups who serve to critique each other’s work. But before you expose your baby to a third, fourth or even fifth “eye,” you need to produce your best effort. That means stripping down your baby and redressing it.
Where do you start? Frankly, one rewrite won’t work. You can’t fix everything with one shot.

THE STRATEGIC APPROACH TO REVIEWING YOUR FIRST DRAFT

When you reread your manuscript, you need to examine NINE concerns. Focus on one at a time for each revision you write.

      1.       What is the spine of your story? Some authors refer to this as their THEME. This is a harder question than you think. You may assume it is simply what the story is about, but it isn’t. Your spine serves the same purpose as your backbone does for your body. It holds your story together. In my novel, THE CONSUMMATE TRAITOR, the obvious theme is treason.  When I reread my first draft, I had to measure every character‘s thoughts, feelings, motives and actions against this underlying theme. Yes, it was a gruelling exercise, but it was worth it because readers say I succeeded in suspending their disbelief. They could not figure out who the traitor was until the end.

      2.       Are your protagonist and main characters well-rounded and believable? Have you explored their conscious and unconscious desires, their strengths and weaknesses? Does your protagonist have a “fatal flaw” she or he must overcome to achieve a heroic or extraordinary outcome? In my novel, one of my heroines does not recognize her own self-worth. She strives to please and over compensates to prove her value.
  
      3.       What is the overall conflict driving your suspense? What rival or adversarial force must your protagonist beat? This is the challenge that drives your plot, and as the story continues, this conflict elevates the tension. It can be a person, group, force of nature or aspect of the protagonist’s own character that stands in the way of achieving a desired goal. Conflict leads the hero or heroine to make a critical decision, one that embraces either victory or defeat, and forces the individual to face the truth:  Who am I and what do I really want?

      4.       Is the development of your plot logical? I remember reading a spy story in which the two protagonists reminded each other that their hotel room may be bugged, and then, while in bed, they go ahead and discuss their plan to reveal the villain. I read on hoping this was a decoy to suspend the reader’s disbelief until the surprise “twist” resolution. If the room is bugged, why are they telling the enemy what he needs to know to intercept them?  Maybe it’s deliberate and we’ll find that out later. Alas, no. The author never caught this flaw, and for me the story imploded.

      5.       Is the structure of your story progressive? This even relates to individual paragraphs and sentences. Does your character react before an action even happens? For example, there is an explosion. Does your character dive for cover before the sound or after?  You can’t react to something that hasn’t happened yet. The character must duck AFTER he or she hears the bang. This also refers to the order of your information. Your characters need to move forward with new insights or conclusions, not rehash what is already known.

      6.      Does your opening sentence immediately grab your readers’ interest? If it doesn’t, does the first paragraph? If it doesn’t, will readers even read your first chapter?  Let’s look at the first sentence of my new novel, COVERT DENIAL:  Rhys Jamieson froze. Do you want to know why? Then you have to read on.

      7.      Do you ‘tell” more than you “show?” Some authors introduce a new character by writing what amounts to a biography including appearance and background. Today’s readers don’t like feeling overwhelmed with such description. It’s better to weave in the details as needed, when your reader wants to know, for instance, or when it is critical to the story. This way the reader becomes a part of what is going on rather than an observer.

      8.      How do you treat your dialogue? You’ve seen it – one line after another of conversation until you no longer know who the speakers are. This stems from a need to speed up pacing, but it can be taken too far. Dialogue serves two things: to reveal what distinguishes your characters from one another through quirks in their speech and to convey information. Good dialogue presents a balance that magnifies what your characters are doing, thinking, noticing, and feeling as well as where they are located when they speak. What your dialogue should NOT DO is be a short-cut to adding information crucial to your story. Too often you end up with an unnatural conversation that is awkward and off-putting for your reader.

      9.     I leave line editing and proof-reading to my last draft, and I have a few tricks to make it easier. First, I search and replace a list of “boring” words with stronger action words or adjectives. This short list causes agents and book editors to wince: was (passive), by the fact that, very, so, then, felt, great, big, would, could, or against. Suppose you wrote, felt angry. What action can your character do that shows he is irked? Barry’s eyes flashed. He slammed his fist on the desk. “Are you crazy?” That is a stronger picture. Second, be careful with words ending in “ing.” Often it signals an imperfect past tense (was working) that is easily corrected with the simple past tense (worked). Keep your text active. Avoid passive verbs.


A retired Canadian journalist, Bonnie Toews is a veterans’ advocate, who uses fiction to bring attention to conditions she has found at the “crossroads of humanity.” In novels of wartime intrigue and suspense, she expands on true events to reveal the political betrayal of our military veterans. The first novel in her “Trilogy of Treason” – THE CONSUMMATE TRAITOR – is available at amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Consummate-Traitor-Bonnie-Toews/dp/1461015383 and on her web site


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Technical Side of Creative Writing


I had shoulder surgery 4 weeks ago. Arthroscopic Sub-acromial Decompression. That basically means keyhole surgery. Three holes were made in my left shoulder and part of my acromial bone that impinged on muscle in my shoulder was removed. So I’ve been in a sling on and off all day over the past few weeks. This (the surgery, not the sling) has limited the things I can do. I’m back at work, but it has been challenging using a computer and I’ve typically had to pay for using my arm at night. Not fun. Not surprising I haven’t done much writing, apart from work.

In my day job, I am a Software Trainer/Technical Writer and I had a coaching session today, where the coach asked me what goal I wanted to work on. Seeing as I recently had surgery and am slowly recovering, I am not as busy in the evenings as I normally am. I can’t go to the gym or Pilates studio. I can't drive far as you don’t realise how much your shoulders are involved in practically every movement you make until you’re not really able to use it. I mean, who knew that your shoulders take part in your sneezing and yawning?!

So with some free time in the evenings I want to get back to more consistent writing. But the point I’m at in one of my writing ‘projects’ is the editing phase. When I first started writing I absolutely loved the wonder of writing, getting to know the characters and learning their voices. I was so in love with the creative process that it didn’t even occur to me that there is a technical side to creative writing until I went to my first writers’ conference.

Learning about the various aspects of editing has been a long journey and I am still struggling to edit my massive manuscript. Recently, and I don’t know why this did not occur to me sooner, I thought about using my experience as a technical writer to help me with this technical side of creative writing. But what could the 2 possible have in common? After all, one is fiction and the other is about telling people how to use software!

• When designing or planning any piece of documentation, one of the first things I do is think about the audience or users. What is their skill level? Do they need some background conceptual information in order to understand any procedural information? What assumptions can I make?

This makes me think of fiction genres. As writers, we have to be clear in our minds what genre we want to write in. In order to be successful, we also need to understand some things about readers of our chosen genre. What motivates them to buy the books they do? What other writers do they read?

• Voice. This is especially important when working in a technical writing team. Although a lot of people tend to write as they speak, when writing user manuals we all have to use one voice, to meet company standards. Understanding voice is important and is critical to the authenticity of both the writer and the characters in a novel.

• Continuity. A good technical writer knows that you do not introduce new concepts or terms without first defining them. You build on previous knowledge and that is no different in fiction writing. To some degree. The story has to flow, yes there can be flashbacks, but things have to make sense

• Facts. You can’t make things up in technical writing. Everything has to be accurate and true. Fiction is based on making things up, but there are certain areas where you have to be factual. For example, if you’re writing about actual events like wars, there is a fine line between making up the lives of your characters and the documented historical facts of the era.

The more I think about it, the more I feel I can really use my strengths as a technical writer, to help bolster my creative writing. I wonder if there are areas of your life that have made you a stronger writer.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Problem with Perfection

By Lorraine Hossington


None of us are perfect. We all have our roads to travel and we all have flaws to deal with. And those closest to us see them more than anyone else. Yet despite them we can still be loved.
When I first started writing, my characters just didn’t seem to come to life for me. They were wooden people and had no voice of their own. With me pulling the strings, yet still lifeless. They had no emotions or feelings. And to be honest they were boring and even I began to get fed up with writing about them!

Then I asked myself what am I doing wrong? Then the answer came to me. I was trying to create perfect people with perfect lives. And I began to reflect on why I had been doing this. I have to confess I come from a dysfunctional family. And for many years life was never easy for me. And there weren’t a lot of happy times.

Secrets had been kept from me for many years by my parents. Which I didn’t find out until my late 20’s and these rocked my world. So much happened in my own life by this time that I tried to make my characters completely opposite to the life I had led. And this clearly didn’t work.

So now I decided to start putting more emotion into my characters lives. The weaknesses and the pain and struggles they had to live with. I put them through rejection and shame and hidden guilt. Then slowly they began to become real flesh and blood people with lives that were being lived.

I was thirty-one years old when I became a Christian and I had a lot from my past to deal with. And a few years ago I began suffering with depression. It was a hard time for me. Yet with help from the right people I came through it. This is real life and it can be messy at times. And I confess that at one time I wanted to hide away and forget that life can be difficult. That it can hurt us in different ways. 
Yet the difficult times can build character, strength and perseverance. And whilst we go through these times God is always with us.

My characters have their own issues to deal with now. And I enjoy making them face hard decisions and watching how the journey they’re on unfolds. And I know that in each of them somewhere is a piece of me.  The beauty of writing is that you can create your own path for the hero and heroine to walk. You make the decisions about how their lives work out, and what happens at the end of your novel.

I sometimes believe that the characters start writing their own story and go off in a completely different direction than the one you wanted them to go in. Even in the most unlikely places pieces of dialogue will be in my mind and my characters are talking amongst themselves, this happened on a bus a few months ago. I was so interested in what they were saying, that I forgot to get off at my stop! Am I the only one that has had something like this happen to them?


I suspect not. And I know that I’m doing something right because the dialogue inside is still flowing. I’m writing with a freedom that at one time I never had and it’s a wonderful feeling to be able to do this. When we write it’s a journey and an adventure and it’s well worth taking the trip, until we reach the end.

About Lorraine Hossington

I write contemporary romance and historical romance (as yet unpublished). I'm single, and live in Cardiff in the U.K, where I love to read and write letting my imagination run free.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Stand

a repeat from awhile ago...and it still stands true today...




“…and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13

After you have done everything. 
I guess that means everything. 
Everything you can possibly think of,
Everything you can physically do,
Everything that anyone can suggest to you.
Everything that GOD has asked you to do.
To stand.

Just stand there. 
Do nothing.
Don’t think
Don’t act
Don’t worry
Don’t complain
Don’t argue
Don’t do anything.
Just stand.

Stand and wait.
Stand and pray.
Stand and trust.
Stand and have peace.
Stand and rest.

Let GOD take care of it. 

Let Him do what He needs to do.
Let Him take control of the situation.
Let Him tell you what to do.
Let Him make you wait.

Just stand.

“The LORD will fight for you; you need only be still.” Exodus 14:14



Jenn Kelly is an author/farmer/gardener/wife/mom/care-taker... figuring it all out, just like you. Be strong; be brave; trust GOD. He has this.  

Sunday, August 21, 2016

SUNDAY EDITION


Coming Up This Week

Monday

Jenn Kelly

Tuesday

Lorraine Hossington: The Problem with Perfection

Wednesday

Daniella Ojo

Thursday

Angela Couch: After the First Draft, What? By Bonnie Toews

Friday Devotion

Leila Halawe

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New Releases

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Butterflies on Breezes, Book 2 in the Urban Farm Fresh Romance series, releases independently in August 2016.


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Upcoming Releases

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, More Than a Tiara, Book 1 in the Christmas in Montana Romance series, releases independently in September 2016. More Than a Tiara was formerly part of Snowflake Tiara.

Marion Ueckermann's contemporary romance set in England, A Romance for Rose, Book 2 in the Seven Suitors for Seven Sisters Series, releases independently in September 2016. 

Marion Ueckermann's contemporary romance set in England, A Hero for Heather, Book 3 in the Seven Suitors for Seven Sisters, releases independently in September 2016 in the Falling for You box set. 

Marion Ueckermann's contemporary romance set in England, A Husband for Holly, Book 4 in the Seven Suitors for Seven Sisters releases independently in September 2016 in the Candy Cane Kisses box set.

Book 2 in Sandra Orchard’s Serena Jones Mysteries series set in St. Louis, USA, Another Day, Another Dali, will be an October 2016 release from Revell Publishing.

Kara Isaac's contemporary romantic comedy set in England, Can't Help Falling, will be an October 2016 release from Howard Books.

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense, Desert Secrets, will be a February 2017 release from Love Inspired Suspense.

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense, Pursued, will be an April 2017 release from Revell.

Patricia Beal's debut contemporary women’s fiction set in Germany and in the United States, A Season to Dance, will be a May 2017 release from Bling! Romance / Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.

To find more International Christian Fiction books, please visit our 2013 - 2016 Book Releases page and Backlist Titles.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Bitter? Or Better?~ by Shirley Corder

"Don't call me Naomi (pleasant)," Naomi said sharply. "Call me Mara (bitter)."


For those of you who don't know this lady well, you'll find her story in the book of Ruth in the Old Testament.

Naomi's husband, Elimelech, took her and their two sickly sons, away from Bethlehem to the country of Moab. While living there, first Naomi's husband died, then both her sons. 

Naomi eventually returned to Bethlehem accompanied by Ruth, her daughter-in-law, the one after whom the Bible book is named.

I found it intriguing that the book was called Ruth. After all, the opening verse, Ruth 1:1, mentions Naomi. Ruth only enters the picture years later. And the story ends with Naomi as she receives her newborn grandson. In between we have the tender love story of two unlikely characters. 

We have Ruth, the Moabitess, a widow whose only means of an income involved walking behind the reapers in the fields, picking up the stalks they dropped on the ground. And we have Boaz, a rich landowner considerably older than Ruth, who was highly esteemed in the little town of Bethlehem. The couple fall in love and . . . but you must read it for yourself! It's a lovely story. 

We soon see Naomi to be a courageous woman who faces some difficult decisions. Our first impressions are of a spunky lady who copes well with all the tragedy that is seemingly thrown at her. Yet in the words above we catch a glimmer of how depression stalks her life. She becomes bitter in her heart. Bitter against God. Despite her emotional low, Naomi never allows it to turn her from her God, and gradually she begins to see His hand at work in her life. 

As I pondered the life of this Israeli woman and all she went through, I found myself drawn into her story. Despite all she went through,and her brief spell of depression, Naomi clung to God, even when she didn't feel His love. She rose beyond her hardships to play an important role in the ancestry of King David, and ultimately of Jesus Christ.

Are you facing a difficult period in your life right now? Are things threatening to get you down? Have you recently lost someone special from your life? I urge you to tell God how you feel. Don't try to live behind a mask. Be honest with Him, and trust Him to bring you through. You can allow your hard times to make you bitter, or you can rise above the bitterness and become better.  

Make sure that no one misses out on God’s wonderful kindness. Don’t let anyone become bitter and cause trouble for the rest of you Hebrews 12:15 CEV.


SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast of South Africa with her husband, Rob. She has recently embarked on a series of eBooks titled, Out of the Shadow. Book 1 is Naomi, Beloved Mother-in-Law. 

Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer contains 90 meditations based on her time in the cancer valley.

Sign up here to receive a short devotional message from Shirley in your inbox once a week.

Please visit Shirley through ShirleyCorder.com, where she encourages writers, or at  RiseAndSoar.com, where she encourages those in the cancer valley. You can also meet with her on Twitter or FaceBook 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Changing the World by Marcia Lee Laycock



“If you have changed a life you have changed the world.”

My head jerked up when I heard that sentence. It was at Inscribe’s Fall Conference and our speaker, Kathleen Gibson, was doing a great job of speaking to the hearts of all the writers there. But that one sentence really hit me.

I’d thought about changing lives before. I’ve had emails and letters and even phone calls telling me that God has done it through the words I’ve put on paper.

But changing the world? Really?

Then I thought about another speaker we’d had at one of our conferences. He told us that not very far back in his family line, someone read a book and became a believer in Christ. He told us that now there are many branches to his family, many are preachers of God’s word, there are missionaries and others serving in their churches across North America. None of it would have happened but for one book.

I began to consider all the ripple effects that one book has had – not just in the lives of his family members but in all the lives they have touched. I thought about the book I was given just as God was softening my heart toward him. It was a copy of Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict. It was put into my hands at exactly the perfect time. It convinced my head that Jesus was who He claimed to be – the Son of God, a man who came to earth to change the world by changing each one of us.

And I was stunned into awe and gratitude for what the Holy Spirit did in my life through that book. Words are such small things. They can be simple or profound, plain or eloquent. But when God takes them and bends them to His purposes, He changes hearts with them and those hearts change the lives of others and those touch others and on and on.

Who knows how far our words will go. If you have changed a life, you have changed the world.

Yes. Really. 

****

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor's wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was short listed in The Word Awards. Marcia also has three devotional books in print and has contributed to several anthologies, including the Hot Apple Cider books. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. 

Abundant Rain, an ebook devotional for writers can be downloaded on Smashwords or on Amazon. It is also now available in Journal format on Amazon. 







Her most recent release is A Traveler’s Advisory, Stories of God’s Grace Along the Way.


Sign up to receive her devotional column, The Spur