Monday, March 20, 2017

Lessons Learned in Fiction Writing

Guest Post by Alexis A. Goring

Hi everyone! My friend and fellow journalist, Alexis A. Goring, is visiting our blog today as my guest and sharing some really great lessons she’s learned in writing fiction. Thanks for joining us, Alexis! – Morgan Tarpley Smith

I’m a new author whose first book was self-published by Crossbooks in September 2013. Four years later, my second book was traditionally published by Forget Me Not Romances and in that four-year gap, I learned a lot of lessons in fiction writing. As a result, I’ve grown as a writer.

This guest post is for aspiring authors who would like to take a page from my lessons learned so that they too can grow as a writer.

So here are a few of the main points from my lessons learned after working with my God-sent editor Liz Tolsma:

#1: When writing romance for the CBA market, your hero and heroine should meet in the first chapter. It took me a few times to get this one right because I struggled with what I thought was ruining the flow of my story because with the original draft of my most recent story, the hero and heroine did not meet until Chapter 3. I held fast to the thought that everything that happened before Chapter 3 was important and needed to be there. But I was wrong and after I followed this rule, my story (to my surprise) flowed better.

#2: Before you start writing a story, take time to determine the emotional/physical/spiritual GMC (Goal/Motivation/Conflict) of your main characters. I used to simply create a few “character sketches” for each my story’s main characters and then dive into writing the story. The character sketches included a brief overview of details like my characters’ age, role in the story, background, strengths, weaknesses and ethnicity. Each sketch only spanned one page. But my editor sent a GMC chart to me and informed me that after I filled out the chart for each character, I would have a better handle on who they are and how to use them in my story. She also told me that their goal cannot “only be to fall in love.” She challenged me to delve deeper into their psyche and discover their innermost motivations and desires. She said that my story would be more solid as a result of this. She was right!

#3: Don’t make your characters too perfect. They need to have at least one character flaw. This is actually the challenge I faced after filling out the GMC chart and character profiles for my third book that I’m working on now. My editor reminded me that imperfect people make a more interesting story. You’ll have to wait until my next book is published to see the result of that advice!

#4: Know what makes your character tick and use it. Conflict makes the story. Don’t allow your characters to have smooth sailing in every scene. I applied this concept in A Second Chance in the scene where the hero gets mad at the heroine because she broke his trust by keeping a secret that affected him, from him. He had issues with honesty in his relationships so this discovery of her secret really threw him for a loop and created a rift in their romance.

#5: Every scene should build the tension. I had to learn how to “write tight” in a whole new way. As a trained print journalist, I already knew how to write news and feature stories that were “precise and concise.” But I learned that when writing fiction, I needed to really tap into the emotions of my characters and draw out their desires in a way that makes the plot thicken.

#6: Always end every scene in a way that makes the reader want to know what happens next. Use “cliffhangers.” My editor told me that I don’t want my readers to stop reading halfway through the story because the way that I ended the previous chapter led the reader to infer that everything would work out perfectly and have a happy ending. So she taught me how to write in a way that left the reader at the edge of metaphorical cliff when they reached the end of each chapter, leaving them with no choice but to continue to the next chapter to satisfy their curiosity.

#7: Invest in an emotional thesaurus. So I bought this book, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression, and it was worth my investment! This book provided in-depth guides covering how to write deep emotions in a creative way. So instead of just saying, “She was astonished”, I can say “her eyes widened” (physical expression), “her heart seemed to freeze, then pound” (internal sensation), “Her mind momentarily forgot everything else” (mental response). After reading that, your mind can paint a picture of her being astonished, right?

I could go on for a while, but those seven points were some of my most important lessons to learn that once applied, helped me to grow as a fiction writer. So my closing message to aspiring authors is this: Be encouraged in your writing journey! Never give up. Keep learning, growing, and writing books. God bless your dear hearts!

Alexis A. Goring is a passionate writer with a degree in Print Journalism and an MFA in Creative Writing. She loves the art of storytelling and hopes that her stories will connect readers with the enduring, forever love of Jesus Christ. For more information, visit her website at and her “God is Love” blog, or through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Goodreads. Her novella, A Second Chance, can be found here.

Newly single food critic and newspaper reporter Traci Hightower is done with dating. After the man of her dreams left her at the altar on their wedding day and ran off with the woman she thought was her best friend, Traci resolves to focus on work and resigns herself to being a bachelorette for life.

Marc Roberts is a political reporter who is known as Mr. Nice Guy, the one who always finishes last. However, Marc’s compassion and kindness are of invaluable help to his newly widowed sister Gina Braxton who is trying to raise her two kids in the wake of her firefighter husband’s death.

Traci and Marc may be the perfect match, but they don’t know it yet. With God’s guidance and the help of Gina’s matchmaking skills honed by her career as a bestselling romance novelist, there is hope for a happily ever after for these two broken hearts.


  1. Thanks so much for being our guest, Alexis! I enjoyed reading your lessons learned, and I plan to utilize them in my own writing! :)

  2. You're welcome, Morgan! Thanks for inviting me to be one of your guests! :)

    So happy that my lessons learned in fiction writing are helping you. God bless you and your writer heart! :)

  3. This was such an informative blog post!!! Thanks Alexis for these amazing tips! I am saving this link for future reference. Each point made perfect sense and the examples were spot on.

    1. Hey PhDMama! I'm happy that you thought my advice was informative and amazing! :)

      Thanks for reading my guest post here on Morgan's blog. Take care and God bless you and your writing endeavors! :)

  4. Alexis, thanks so much for your tips! It was such a pleasure meeting you at the ACFW Conference in Dallas a couple of years ago. Happy writing!

    1. Hi Carole! You are welcome. Happy to share the writing tips! :)

      So glad that I met you at ACFW 2015! :) God bless you and your writing career!

  5. Very useful advice, Alexis. Hope you don't mind but I'm going to share this on the (British) Association of Christian Writers Facebook group.

    1. Thanks, Rosemary! :) Feel free to share my writing advice everywhere, with everyone! :) God bless you.