Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Remembering Jackie

I planned a clever little post about how wonderful it is to be a writer. It is—but I’ll save all the good stuff about how a writer can work at home in jammies for later. But then there was yesterday. Yesterday, was a much more somber day. Yesterday, we buried my precious sister-in-law, Jackie. She lost her battle with cancer but won a crown in heaven.

Ron and Jackie
Forty-five years ago Jackie served as matron of honor at my wedding. That was the day she became my sister…officially. She was already a believer as was I, so we were already part of the same family.

I have some sweet memories of my sis. Like the spring we were both expecting our firstborn children. They were born three months apart. Sharing that time with a sister is special. We compared notes and shared dreams.

And there was the day our husbands were across the Florida lake fishing. We decided to clean up the beach since Easter was right around the corner. We picked up branches and debris from the area. We lifted an old deflated inner tube, revealing a mass of squiggly baby snakes. Our screams could be heard throughout the neighborhood as we made a mad dash for the dock.

We yelled for help from our husbands, telling them there were baby snakes on the beach. They yelled back for us to kill the snakes. They kept fishing.

“ Kill them?”  We looked at each other. I know the men probably intended for us to get a hoe and chop off little snake heads or something, but that would put us well within the ten-foot-pole range we wouldn’t touch.

We were problem solvers though. We went into the house and got our father-in-law’s loaded revolver. We stood on the dock and took turns aiming and shooting at those baby snakes.

I can honestly say there was not one snake left alive under that inner tube. They all managed to squiggle away. The inner tube didn’t make it and I’m quite sure neither of us ventured into that water until late summer.

Jackie with 2 of her Grands
When Tom and I retired to Florida we lived next door to Ron and Jackie. They, too, were retired so we were able to enjoy each other’s company in a new way. Now the talk was about camping and playing with our grandchildren.

One night when the electric went out in the neighborhood, Ron and Jackie walked over to our house for dinner. We grilled out and made a salad. The four of us talked around the table until sunset when we decided to head out for dessert. We found a McDonald’s a few miles away that still had electricity so we ducked in for ice cream and coffee. Memories like that are meaningless to most, but that quiet night of conversation, good food, and ice cream is a moment I will forever treasure.

The first day of this New Year Jackie and I sat in her living room and talked. Yes, we talked about the cancer. But we also we talked about our children and grandchildren. And we prayed. I’ve been thinking about that sun soaked day. It was my last time to hold her hand and talk and laugh.

I prayed for God to heal her. And he did.

It is because of her relationship with Christ I can find peace in all of this. I’ve studied God’s words. Jackie has a new body; one that is not riddled with that terrible disease. The illness and treatments for it had depleted her strength. Now, I know, she is stronger than ever.

I’m ending this post with a call to action.
First, please hug the people you love and spend time making memories.
Second, join with me in the fight against cancer.
Third, and this may be the most important: seek a relationship with God through His son, Jesus.
Finally, live a life as Jackie did. A life that reflects God’s incredible love for you.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Six Obvious Signs of an Amateur Writer (and Four Novice Mistakes)

Meet Karin Beery! Karin and I met at the Breathe Conference for Writers in Michigan last fall. She is a bright, high energy editor and writer. If you have a manuscript in the works and need another set of eyes on it...she's your girl! I asked Karin to offer some of her best advice for new writers. This is one post you will want to bookmark. Be sure to add Karin to your list of professionals.

Owner of Write Now Editing and Copywriting Services, Karin Beery specializes in fiction and professional business copy. She is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the American Christian Writers Association. A Christian Proofreaders and Editors Network member, she is the Substantive Editing for Fiction instructor for the PEN Institute. Karin is represented by literary agent Steve Hutson at Word Wise Media. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website,

Six Obvious Signs of an Amateur Writer (and Four Novice Mistakes) 
by Karin Beery

I’ve read many levels of manuscripts, and, regardless of genre, there are several signs that scream “Amateur!” When I say “amateur,” I’m not talking about unpublished authors – there are many great authors out there who have yet to publish a book. The amateur writers are those who still need to learn the most fundamental rules of writing fiction.

Here are six of the most obvious signs of an amateur writer (and tips for correcting them):

1.    Formatting. Times New Roman, 12-point font, double-spaced, no extra spaces between paragraphs, auto-indent on the first line of a paragraph, 1-inch margins. That’s the industry standard. Anything else turns on that big ol’ amateur sign.
2.    Bold. ALL CAPS. Underlining. There’s no reason for bold, ALL CAPS, or underlined words in a novel. There are a few instances when italics are acceptable, but sparingly (a few times per novel, not per page). Stop trying to give your words emphasis; let your story do it.
3.    Exclamation points!!!!! In a novel, use an exclamation point in dialogue to show when a character is yelling. That’s it. If you want to show excitement, use actions. Leave the exclamation points on the keyboard.
4.    Bellowing, cackling, etc. There are only three dialogue tags you should ever use: said, whispered, and questioned (and some will argue that the only acceptable tag is “said”). Any other tags are telling. Let your characters’ actions show what else is happening.
5.    Starting with back story. Every character has a past, but that’s exactly what it is – the past. You’re starting in the middle of that character’s story, so start there. Reveal past details as (if) needed throughout the book.
6.    Large info dumps. The dialogue starts, then runs into a paragraph (or more) of information. That’s an info dump, and it stalls the action. Stay in the scene and reveal that information when (and if) necessary.
Most of these amateur mistakes can be spotted without having to pay close attention to the manuscript. These are what every writer should know and include in his/her manuscript, yet more often than not I see new writers committing these easy-to-fix mistakes. Take some time to clean these things up and you can shake that amateur label.

If you’ve already started to recognize and correct these mistakes, you could probably consider yourself a novice. The novice writer is a little more advanced, but there are still some signs that the writer is new.

·      Telling words. She thought; she heard; she observed. Any word that tells us what your character is doing is a telling word. Instead of, “She heard the door close,” just show it: “The door slammed shut.”
·      Head hopping. Each scene includes only one point-of-view. There may be more than one character in the scene, but the reader can only see/hear/know what one character sees/hears/knows. You can change points-of-view between scenes, but stick with one per scene.
·      To-be verbs. Another form of telling, was and were tell the reader what’s going on instead of showing it: She was happy. Instead, show me: She bounced up and down, unable to control her giggling.
·      Transitions. A character walks into a room, then she’s sitting at the table eating, but nothing ever showed her going to the refrigerator to get some food or sit down at the table. Often novice writers will skip these because they think it’s telling, but it’s necessary to see how characters get from place to place, scene to scene.

These ten items are the most obvious signs of amateur and novice writers. Once you have a good understanding of how to avoid and eliminate these things, you’ll start seeing different responses to your manuscripts.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Most Important Sentence You May Write

If you have a dream to write, this is the year. Why? Well, to quote my mother, “There’s no time like the present.” I have a couple of other reasons as well. First, I’m here to help you. And second, I’ve dedicated this blog to help you create the novel you always wanted to write. Remember, I have a schedule for A Novel Creation:

·      The first Wednesday is dedicated to the business side of writing. To that end, I developed three handbooks to help writers become authors. The series is called Writing to Publish. Last week I wrote about the first book in that series, Designing a Business Plan for Your Writing. If you missed that post, I’ve linked it HERE.
·      The second Wednesday of each month is dedicated to the craft of drafting a novel. More about that later.
·      The third Wednesday I try to feature a guest author with either a post or an interview. These prove to be insightful and allow readers to see a bit behind the scenes of a variety of writers. Next week Karin Beery, a professional editor offers great suggestions for all of us before as we write and before we present to an agent or publisher.
·      The fourth Wednesday I usually reserve for whatever is on my mind. And on my mind right now is YOU. I want this to be the year you succeed.

A Novel Creation is a roadmap for you to follow as you write that book that keeps rolling around in your head. Will it sell? Maybe. Maybe it will be a gift for your children or grandchildren. Maybe that first book will be a way for you to launch another idea, to get your creative juices flowing, or to develop your writing ability. Whatever you do with the book, finishing it will be your first measure of success. 

Today I'm going to talk about where to start that novel: The Most Important Sentence You May Write.

There is homework. This week I want you to draft your premise statement. What is your book about? The premise statement will include a hint of the trouble a hint of the characters and may offer a suggestion of how the characters will overcome the problem. Let's take a couple of examples you may be familiar with. We’ll start with a simple version.

Forced to live under evil oppression a small band of rebels rally to overcome an evil being whose new weapon threatens their very existence.

You can see from this premise there is not a ton of information. This story could go anywhere. Small band of rebels? That could be the French resistance or the Star Wars rebellion. A new weapon? Could it be a new rocket or the Death Star? Let's try to flesh it out a little bit.

A small band of rebels led by a feisty Princess rally to overcome an evil oppressor empowered with a force beyond understanding who has captured the princess and has control of a new weapon that threatens all that is good.

Now we have at least two characters. We have a feisty Princess who we know is good because she is leading people to overcome an evil oppressor. We also have the evil oppressor who has a force (we could even say a mystical force) and a new weapon. Let's refine a little more.

A small band of unlikely rebels set out to rescue a feisty Princess from an evil oppressor who not only is empowered with a mystical force but who also has control over a new weapon that threatens all that is good in the universe.

It helps to pack as much into your premise statement as possible. However, here are a few more examples I took from movie descriptors. I randomly selected these from movie stations on cable. You’ll see the premise here is simple. I tried to find a few from differing genres.

“Colorado teens fight back after Soviet troops drop into town for WWIII.”

Note that although this descriptor is short it is full of tension. Who are the teens? How do they fight back? How did the Soviet troops “drop into town” and why? WWIII? What does that look like?

Here is another one. And hey, it was old movie day. What can I say?

“A boy and a girl from different backgrounds fall in love regardless of their upbringing - and then tragedy strikes.”

Who is the boy? What is his background? Who is the girl? What tragedy strikes? If you guessed Romeo and Juliet, you would be wrong. Try a movie from the 70’s. However, some themes play out over and over with great success.

Take a look at this one. It is a fairly recent comedy.

“Four friends conspire to turn the tables on their women when they discover the ladies have been using Steve Harvey's relationship advice against them.”

This one begs us to wonder what relationship advice Steve Harvey has dished out and how? And we know we have at least eight characters in this movie: Four men and four women.

I think you get the idea. You are ready to write the one sentence that captures the essence of your story. It should hint at the characters and the trouble brewing.

And just for kicks, here is the official Star Wars premise.

Luke Skywalker joins forces with a Jedi Knight, a cocky pilot, a wookiee and two droids to save the galaxy from the Empire's world-destroying battle-station, while also attempting to rescue Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader.”

Book 1 in the Writing to Publish Series, Designing a Business Plan for Your writing is now available for $2.99 on Amazon.

Click HERE to view the book or order your copy.