Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tanya Stowe: Ten Time-Saving Tips for Writers

Tanya Stowe

Several years ago I gave a talk. Afterwards, a member of the audience suggested I speak on time management. I had to laugh. Time is a constant topic for me because I always have so little of it. It wasn’t until I started working a thirty-hour-a-week job that I learned how to manage my time.

I used to rise at 4:30 am, write for three hours, go to work for six hours, run errands, do household chores and chauffeur the kids. Between 5—8 p.m., I did dinner and homework and then fell into bed. It was a very tight schedule and many things went by the wayside, but in that time I completed two books—double what I’d accomplished in the previous two years.

No, I’m not Superwoman. There were frequent crash-and-burn sessions where I turned into Jell-O for days at a time. But I learned to prioritize, to write on demand and to make the best use of the time given to me.

Below are a few of the things I learned:

Start your day with prayer
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

Eat Well
Diet impacts everything—your energy level, your  mental acuity, even the texture of your skin and  hair. Eating a well-balanced diet and using  supplements keeps everything at peak performance.

Writing is a mental drain. It’s as if you open your   brain and pour it onto the page. When you’re finished, there’s nothing left. A twenty-minute walk, a turn on the exercise bike or laps in the pool gets the blood pumping to the brain and clears out the cobwebs. Plain and simply, exercise is essential to keep up with today’s hectic pace.

Get Plenty of Rest

      Studies show that we are most susceptible to  
      viruses when we’re tired. Getting the rest your body
      requires will help you fend off the bugs constantly
      coming your way.

Organize Whenever Possible
    • Sort drawers so you can always find scissors, pens and pads, or recipes. Don’t waste time hunting.
    • Use a carrier with a handle for all the cleaning supplies you’ll need and carry it from room to room as you work. Don’t waste time fetching.
    • Create a 3-ring notebook with packet folders for all your research and notes for your latest book so it’s in one central, easy-to-find place.
    • Create files for PR, characterization, plotting. If you receive a handout you want to keep, toss it in the appropriate file. If you see an article you want, tear it out, staple it and drop in the file for easy access.

There’s Nothing to It but to Do It
    • Don’t procrastinate. When you bring in the mail, take five minutes to sort it. Junk mail in the trash, bills in a file.
    • Unload the dishwasher first thing in the morning so dishes don’t pile up in the sink during the day.
    • Take a few extra minutes to put things away. Hang up your jacket, don’t throw it over the chair. Put your briefcase in the closet by the door. Things won’t pile up on you and once-a-week clean-up will be shorter.

Put that Smart Phone to Good Use

    • Make sure your scheduler will coordinate between all your devices. You don’t want to hunt dates created on your phone to add to your computer.
    • Listen to a seminar on the way to work, while on the exercise bike during lunch and ten minutes on the way home. That’s a half-hour’s worth of a seminar conference session in one day.
    • I’ve pre-programmed birthdays and anniversaries into my scheduler so it will remind me in plenty of time to purchase presents or cards, and I have it when I’m out and about.
    • I even have an app to plan menus and create my grocery lists…again, one that syncs between my devices. My personal favorite is Big Oven.
    • There are also apps for prayers, Christian music and scripture…reminders throughout the day to rely on and turn to the Ultimate Organizer. 

Be Good to Yourself
Take time to smell the roses or watch the sunset. Surround yourself with the things you love.
    • I love paintings. Every morning when I turn on my computer, my screensaver comes up with a painting and a quote. I savor the quote and the picture in the quiet moments before I begin my day.
    • On my desk I have a flip calendar with daily quotes and lots of flowers. I try to take a few quiet moments every day to read and study the picture. It’s a beautiful, positive thing in a strung-out day.

Create an “I Love Me Book”
Get another 3-ring binder with pockets and plastic inserts. (There are apps for this, as well!) Inside the binder put letters, photos of friends at talks and conferences, awards, contest wins, book covers—anything positive. Then when you get that next rejection letter, you can pull out your book and flip through the pages. You’ll feel better. You’ll even remember how really good you are and that will remind you why you keep this insane schedule.

   About Tanya:

Tanya Stowe is an author of Christian Fiction with an unexpected edge. She fills her stories with the unusual…gifts of the spirit and miracles, mysteries and exotic travel, even an angel or two. No matter where Tanya takes you…on a journey to the Old West or to contemporary adventures in foreign lands…be prepared for the extraordinary. www.tanyastowe.com 

Tanya's latest release:

(Heart's Haven Easter Collection, Book 2)

Madison Harper is glad to be alive after a devastating auto accident. She loves her new community, too. There's something peaceful about the Heart's Haven cottages. Madison wakes up every morning, praising the Lord and basking in constant sunshine--until the day Andrew Hart collapses from a massive heart attack and dies.

When widower Vance Mallory arrives to help his sister bury her husband, he and Madison agree to bury the hatchet from their turbulent past. But no matter how hard they try, they seem to bring out the worst in each other. Their verbal battles uncover too many old hurts, mistaken paths, and hidden feelings.

Can these two embittered souls ever hope to find peace and healing or has the healing peace of Heart's Haven died with Mr. Hart?

Want to tweet this article? Here's a ready-to-go tweet:
Not enough time to write? Get Time-Saving Tips for Writers at Write Right! hhttp://ow.ly/wgHSm  @DeliaLatham @TanyaStowe1

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Heidi Glick - Six is a Crowd: Limiting the Number of POV Characters

Heidi Glick

Although a fictional story may contain multiple characters, generally, when writing using third person limited POV, you should limit the number of POV characters to a total of five. The reasons for the limitation are because of genre norms and publishing standards, and to allow readers to connect better with characters.

How is a POV character different from a regular character? Using third-person limited POV, authors focus on one POV character per scene, through whose consciousness, events are relayed. A scene includes whatever the POV character hears, smells, sees, etc. A scene may contain any number of regular characters but should only contain one POV character.

So what should you do if your current work in progress contains more than five POV characters?

·              Check out the norms for your genre. If you are unsure, read several books in your genre and see how many POV characters are used in those stories. For example, romance novels typically contain two POV characters: the hero and the heroine. Suspense novels or thrillers might contain three or more POV characters (the villain, the hero, and the heroine). Also, if you have a publisher in mind, check the publisher’s guidelines to see what they prefer or read several books released by the publisher to see how many POV characters are used.
·              Decide on the most important characters in the story (but no more than five). Tell the story through their eyes. When choosing POV characters, keep in mind that not all characters will be present in every scene. So if your hero and heroine are not in a scene, but your villain is, then you will need to include a scene with the villain or find another way to relay the information from that scene later in the story.
·              Make sure that the POV characters are connected. If you introduce a different character per chapter, readers will want to know how the characters are related. Failure to connect the dots might cause a reader to stop reading. Gone to Ground by Brandilyn Collins is a good example of how different POV characters can be introduced properly.

So are you still not convinced that you should use less than five POV characters?

·              Read a book with two POV characters and then a book with five or more POV characters to see what works best for your story and your writing style. I’ve found that if I read a book with more than five POV characters, I tend to lose interest. Even with five POV characters, you run the risk of readers becoming disinterested, which is why I lean toward using the fewest number of POV characters possible.

POV revisions can take time. I’ve done them myself. However, the end result is worth it.

Heidi Glick has a B.A. in biology, a minor in Bible from Cedarville University, and a passion for writing Christian fiction. Additionally, she is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and has written two articles for Intercom. Heidi’s debut suspense novel, Dog Tags, was released in June 2013. Readers can learn more about Heidi by visiting her Website and can connect with her via Facebook and Twitter.

Dog Tags Blurb
When disabled ex-Marine Mark Graham reconnects with his best friend’s sister, he finds himself falling in love. But Beth Martindale’s presence is a constant reminder of events he’d rather forget. Mark wants to move forward, but the secrets surrounding her brother’s death as well as his own confinement to a wheelchair threaten to tear them apart. 

When a psychopath who calls himself The Knight fixates on Beth, Mark is determined to give her the protection he failed to give her brother on the battlefield, yet he discovers that a wheelchair isn’t the only impediment he has to keeping Beth safe. Will terror win or can Mark find the strength of mind and body to rescue Beth and find his own redemption?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Delia Latham: Time Benders

One of the most common complaints from writers is the difficulty in finding time to write. Most of us could use a few extra hours in our day. Most weeks are gone almost before we realize they’ve started. And it’s not that hard to understand. Think about it:

In the 24 hours we’re allotted per day, most of us spend 8 sleeping and 8 working. That leaves only 8 hours for other pursuits. Factor in at least a couple of hours eating (no “vehicle” goes far without fuel), and there are 6 hours left. Most of us use most of that time cooking, cleaning, gardening…and a thousand other things that absolutely must be done. Clearly, “free time” is a rare gift.

What’s a writer to do, then? Just forget it and give up? Some do. You know who they are…they’re the ones who never get a book published. If you want to be a real writer, however, the answer is a resounding, “NO!” Never, never, never give up.

You’re creative. Of course you are, or you wouldn’t want to write. So create time.

OK…I get it. Only God could add more hours to a day, and He’s not likely to do that. Which means the only way to “create time” is to be innovative with our use of it. Bend time, if you will. Multi-task. Make use of every…single…moment.

Here are a few “for instances.”

·         Stopped in traffic or waiting in line at the grocery store? Write a scene in your head. You can jot it all down later.
·         Eating alone? No need to be lonely. Spend that time with your characters. Work out the details of your hero’s past, or your heroine’s secret angst, or your villain’s sad childhood.
·         Making beds? Washing dishes? Vacuuming? Those are perfect times to mentally write your next scene, or plan your next chapter.
·         Got a long drive ahead of you? Wonderful! Use the alone time to come up with scenes, events, plot twists, etc. Why listen to music or audio books when you could be “writing”?
·         Sitting in your doctor’s/dentist’s waiting room? Pull out your notebook—you know, the one you never go anywhere without—and write. You can feed it all into your manuscript later, when you find some real writing time.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Pardon the cliché, but it’s true. We find time for the things that matter most to us. If writing is a priority, you will find opportunities to make it happen—or create them.

The bullet points above deal mostly with existing timeframes that sometimes we simply don’t think to use as writing opportunities. Sometimes, however, writing requires a sacrifice of other activities…some of which might be hard to relinquish. Again, this is where it gets right down to the nitty-gritty and forces a writer to decide how badly she wants to be an author.

Available: Unclaimed Writing Time!

Any one of us who spotted an ad with the above words in large, inviting letters would absolutely take a second look. (Come on, you know you would!) But the sad truth is, we fail to claim available writing time every day.

Think about the following time slots that most of us fill with unnecessary things that could easily be writing time instead:

    •          Television. Are you willing to sacrifice any of the dozen different shows you watch during week-day evenings in order to claim writing time? Seriously…is it absolutely necessary to watch “(fill in whatever show fits for you”) reruns you’ve already seen who-knows-how-many times already?
      Harder to accept, but just as true, is that even new shows—some of which sound amazing and you’re dying to see what they’re all about—might have to be sacrificed to “create time” for writing. It isn’t always an easy choice. When push comes to shove, what’s most important to you—entertaining your readers with amazing stories…or being entertained by visual storylines someone else made the sacrifice to write?
    •          Shopping. This is a major culprit for many writers—especially women. What’s meant to be a couple hours of mall time can turn into an all-day, marathon shopping spree. Oops…completely forgot about that story you’re working on…and another day is gone, never to be reclaimed.

      While it is admittedly not as much fun, shopping is no longer a valid reason to abandon your manuscript. Almost anything can be purchased online, and in a mere fraction of the time it takes to wander the mall.
      •          Social networking sites. Speaking of being online…

        Even that—sometimes
        especially that—can be a time thief. Facebook, Twitter, Google…and any number of other sites…can be amazing marketing tools. And yes, it’s fun to connect with friends and family through these venues. But be careful! Many, many hours that might have been productive writing time are whiled away shooting the breeze online. If you use these sites, manage your time on them with unyielding control. Otherwise, you’ll find you are being controlled by them. And your writing time will suddenly be non-existent. Again, it’s a simple matter of priorities.
      •          Games. They’re a great way to relax…and a great way to waste a tremendous amount of time. I discovered a couple of years back that I had lost an unbelievable number of hours of writing time to a silly little pretend farm on Facebook. Was it worth it? No. A thousand times no! When I realized how close I had come to missing a writing deadline because I’d gotten mentally lost in Farm Town, I shut my virtual farm down in a heartbeat. Why? Because writing holds a far greater importance to me than planting fake wheat and harvesting pretend carrots. Any game holds that same danger. Play them if you must, but do so on a timer and then return to your manuscript. Time’s a-wastin’!
      •          Sleep. Oh, how I love my sleep time! But the cold, hard fact is this: A writer who seriously cannot make any of the above time benders work, does have the option of bending this period of time to their benefit. I know an amazing writer who works all day, spends quality time with her family in the evenings, and crawls out of bed at about 3:30 every single morning to write. Because writing is important to her, enough so that she’s willing to get less shut-eye than most of us insist on. The results are obvious in the proliferation of wonderful, heart-warming novels she consistently produces.

    The fact is, no matter how much we want to argue the point, we do have time to write if we really, truly want to write. Time can be bent to our will—if our will is strong enough.

    Is yours?

    Delia Latham
    © 2014

    Thursday, April 10, 2014

    Marianne Evans: Be Still...and Know...

    Marianne Evans

    Some days, my inbox just swirls, a never-ending delivery system of opportunities good and bad. A lot of the junk mail is easy to toss—those winning lottery notifications from Nigeria, the ads for hair care, medications, dating sites. But along come the ones worth exploring: invitations to book launches for authors I love, invitations to speak at events, invitations from supportive booksellers who want to host signings.

    One missive in particular ended my scrolling. It originated from my home church in Southeast Michigan. ‘Come to our three-day Lenten retreat and get in touch with the stillness of God’s presence!’

    The message made me think. God. Stillness. How can I make them blend and harmonize in the midst of a world bent on supersonic speed, instant gratification, instant and quantifiable results?

    I read through the registration information, and there came no twitches of excitement and eagerness. Rather, I sighed—and wilted at the keyboard. Defeat seeped in. I wanted to go, certainly. The offering was meaningful. But along came a spike in anxiety, a never ending battle to reconcile what I can do with what I can’t—no matter how enriching.

    I’m ashamed to say my first thought was this: If I give up three nights during my overcrowded work week to attend this mission, how would I find the time and energy to pay attention to everything else that needed ‘doing’ in my life?

    To be blunt, and perfectly honest, stillness is a precious commodity in my life. Professional obligations crowd in against my family life, my writing ministry, time spent with friends. Additionally, I find technology and its outpouring of information to be a blessing and a curse. So many wonderful opportunities vie for my attention. There are days I drink it in and find myself graced with spiritual growth. Other days, I just drown. So much to do, so little time. So many worthwhile endeavors, so spare my ability to spread thin and do it all.

    When I become overwhelmed, prayer life suffers. Meditation suffers. Stillness and relationship with God suffers. None of that can stand. First of all, how could I have ever looked at this mission as ‘giving up’ time? That revised attitude followed me into the mission, which I gratefully attended. After all, nothing is ‘given up’ when I immerse myself in worship, in thanksgiving, in the restorative energy and vitality of God’s Word.

    Attending the retreat at my church was a treat—an illuminating trio of evenings where I laughed, was touched, and grew in my faith. I was refreshed and renewed. Why? Because I stopped. I went still. I prayed. I focused—focused on the God who loves me, and provides for me always.

    I needed that Lenten lesson, very much.

    Scriptural Reflection and Prayer:

    Psalm 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

    Let the words sink in. Absorb them. When life overwhelms, the most effective solution is often times the most difficult: Step back. Breathe.  Pray. Don’t be afraid to rest and reflect.

    Lord, the assurance of Your provision is founded in the truth of Your Word. Help us always to know that You are watching over us, You are guiding our very footsteps toward greater life, and love, in You.

    Marianne Evans is a multi-award-winning author of Christian romance and fiction. Her hope is to spread the faith-affirming message of God’s love through the stories He prompts her to create. Readers laud her work as: ‘Riveting.’ ‘Realistic and true to heart.’ ‘Compelling.’

    Marianne’s novel, Devotion earned the prestigious Bookseller’s Best Award from Greater Detroit Romance Writers of America as well as Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements from the ACRA, a chapter of RWA.  Hearts Communion earned Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year honors in the Romance category as well as Best Inspirational Romance from ACRA. Her novella Finding Home earned the Selah Award for excellence in Christian fiction and Evans has also earned acclaim in such RWA contests as The International Digital Awards, The Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence where she has been a finalist twice, and the Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence contest.

    Happily married and the mother of two, Marianne is a lifelong resident of Michigan who is active in a number of a number of Romance Writers of America chapters, most notably the Greater Detroit Chapter where she served two terms as President. She’s also active in American Christian Fiction Writers and the Michigan Literary Network.

    Connect at:

    Marianne's upcoming release,
    coming April 14th:

    Nothing fills Jodie Cunningham's spirit like sharing contemporary Christian music and scriptural insights on her morning drive radio show at KWJD. But lately, she’s overwhelmed and depleted by family circumstances that have led her from Dallas to Angel Falls, Texas and Heart's Haven apartment complex.

    Kevin Mitchell is the groundskeeper at Heart's Haven—a place famous for angelic intercession and loving connections. His uncle owns the facility, but he's ailing. Kevin eagerly chips in, and as he prepares the grounds for a spring wedding, he meets Jodie. They begin to work together to make Heart's Haven sparkle.

    But just as Kevin succeeds at coaxing Jodie's heart to bloom, tragedy strikes in a double dose that tests both their strength of faith and the love they've found.

    Purchase Link:

    Pelican Book Group

    Tuesday, April 8, 2014

    Delia Latham: A Dozen Ways to Avoid Writing Your Novel

    Writing Tip: It does not matter whether or not you assign yourself writing time each day.

    Ouch! I already feel the outrage of veteran writers who adhere to rigid rules of time apportionment. I’ve heard it too: “You must allow yourself a certain number of hours to write — every day.”

    The thing is, I agree. As a writer, you must carve out a set amount of time every day for writing. It’s also good to have a realistic word count goal, and not stop until you’ve reached it.

    So now I’ve executed a complete 180, haven’t I?

    No, I have not. I stick with my initial statement: It does not matter that you assign yourself writing time each day, unless you write during that time.

    It’s easy to allot a slice of hours and minutes for any given action. It’s harder to use that chunk of time for the purpose designated. If I give myself four hours to write every Monday through Friday, but spend three hours and ten minutes of the alloted time doing something else – even something “writing related” – I haven’t accomplished what I set out to do.

    I’ve come up with a list of ways to sabotage writing time. If they’re not familiar, you’re probably one of the few authors who have learned to avoid procrastination. Good for you! I’m impressed. But I’m not quite there yet, and I have a feeling I’m not alone. Thus this list. Hope it helps someone avoid the detours.

    Novel Detours

    1. Check e-mail. It must be done, but not during writing time. Checking leads to answering. Answering leads to chatting. Chatting lead to lots and lots of lost time.

    2. Visit a Social Networking Site. Facebook, Shoutlife, Twitter…to mention just a few. Networking is important, even crucial to building a platform. But writing time is exactly that: time for writing. Networking is not writing, and is incredibly time consuming. Find another time slot for it.

    3. Research. It’s unavoidable if you want to make a novel accurate and true-to-life. But it is not writing. It’s easy to feel self-righteous about two hours spent finding out whether plastic tea pitchers existed in 1936. Trouble is, research gets out of hand so easily. While digging into information regarding an intended subject, tidbits of data about a gazillion other topics show up – and before you know it, you’re looking at those as well. I’ve found, through uncomfortable experience, that it’s good to specify a limited amount of time for research. “Writing Time, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., to include no more than one hour of research.” (Better yet, save yourself a headache and just make the pitcher a pitcher – must it be plastic?)

    4. Write other things. Like I’m doing right now. Instead of plowing ahead on my current WIP – an inspirational novel – I’m procrastinating by writing about procrastination. Between projects, this article would be an excellent way to fill my fiercely guarded writing time. But until that novel is finished, I’ll simply find myself another hour or so closer to my deadline, while my characters remain frozen in time, right where I left them yesterday. Articles, short stories, fillers, greeting card verse…they’re all commendable projects. But none get a novel written. Unless and until the author develops an iron will and rigid self-discipline, it’s a good idea to work on the novel to the exclusion of everything else. Once you’ve mastered the ability to park yourself in your writing spot at the same time every day, for the same length of time, who knows? You may be fine with adding other writing projects to the mix.
    Or maybe not.

    5. Edit what you’ve already written. I wish I could reclaim all the time I spent editing Goldeneyes. To avoid dealing with a rock wall of writer’s block, I edited the first four existing chapters over and over – and over – for nearly a year. When I finally forbade myself the right to change a single word until the book was finished, I broke through that stubborn wall and started writing. It wasn’t necessarily good writing at first. But I was putting words together and making sentences about the characters and situations in that novel. I had plenty of opportunity to cull out the awful stuff later…when the story was told.

    6. Critique a friend’s work. I love working with critique partners. I’ve learned as much about my craft by critiquing and being critiqued as I have by reading books and attending classes. But critiquing is not writing. Enjoy someone else’s work on your own time. (Writing hours belong to your novel, not you.)

    7. Blog. This particular form of online presence has become almost a frenzy. And there’s no doubt that it provides a good medium for staying in touch with readers…friends…family…or simply as a personal journal. (Though I have to admit, the idea of journaling in such a public forum makes me break out in hives.) But posting to a blog, whatever your reason for having one, doesn’t add a thing to your work-in-progress. Blog if you must – just keep it to its own time slot.

    Note: The above applies to newsletters, as well. Whether you’re creating, writing, or posting news items, don’t steal from your writing time. If you really want to pursue these activities, schedule a time slot just for them. You might think about writing four days a week and working on your blog and/or newsletter on the fifth day. The point is, keep your writing time pure. Mixing it with other “writing-related” pursuits will eventually whittle it down to far less than you started out with.

    8. Write a review. It consists of more than putting words on paper…first you have to read the book. And writers should read. But believe me when I say reviewing can quickly get out of hand. Be careful how many you agree to do. It involves reading, writing, and usually posting to several different online venues. I also like to take time to e-mail the contact with a copy of the review and information on where I’ve posted or plan to post–and this costs another minute or two. Last but not least, writing a review is “writing-related.” At the risk of nagging, I’ll say it again: It adds not one jot or tittle to your novel. Consider including review activities on your to-do list for “the fifth day,” right along with maintaining your blog and/or newsletter.

    9. Surf the Web. I’m beyond glad to be rid of my old typewriter with its correction tape and smeary ink cartridge. But that trusty machine had one massive benefit: All it was capable of doing was getting my words onto paper. When I sat down to write, I wrote. Now, my writing instrument has become a time bandit, robbing me of precious seconds, minutes and hours. Writers, beware the virtual time warp! You sit down to write, fire up the Web, and ten minutes later your clock has moved forward three hours! Amazing, isn’t it?

    10. Play Online Games. I used to visit games.com on a regular basis. After all, even writers deserve a break now and then! I can’t even venture a guess as to how many times I entered a Boggle game room for “one or two rounds” and came out only when the phone rang, my honey hollered “hungry,” or I realized I needed to visit the restroom–badly–two hours later. Games are enjoyable pastimes, but even word fun like Boggle and Scrabble doesn’t qualify as writing. Play when you’re not supposed to be creating a novel.

    11. Make a phone call. About the time you start to really get into the next chapter, a mental alarm goes off. You intended to call someone today–a friend or family member, a business associate, a bill collector, the winner of your latest blog contest…someone. Immediate instinct is to reach for the telephone, but don’t. Keep a notepad beside your computer. When you remember something you need to do, jot it down. Now you’ve lost ten seconds, rather than the five minutes to half an hour you’d forfeit if you made that call. It’s also helpful to keep a to-do list. Lay it out the
    night before. Include those calls you need to make, and slide them into their proper time slot – which is not in the middle of your writing time.

    12. Take a phone call. Here’s the deal: Ignore the telephone during writing hours. Let your answering machine do what it’s there for. Return calls after you’ve written those 1,500 words or when the clock strikes whatever time you’ve set as “quitting time.” If you’re a worry wart who will be absolutely certain that last call was the local hospital with news that your 25-year-old baby finally crashed his souped-up Mustang, then do yourself a favor and put the answering machine within hearing distance. You’ll actually hear that overgrown infant asking to borrow another hundred bucks, and you can ignore him and go back to work. Most calls can wait—let them.

    That’s it—my one dozen little bites of writing sustenance. I hope it’s been beneficial. But why, oh why, are you reading this rather lengthy example of procrastination instead of starting that next chapter?

    It’s only a matter of time….

    Delia Latham
    (c) 2009

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

    Jayna Morrow: Kind Words for Authors

    Jayna Morrow

    A wholesome tongue is a tree of life. - Proverbs 15:4

    I recently watched a video on YouTube, a compilation of advice for authors by some of the most well-known authors of today. Write for yourself, write every day, write what you know, and be persistent. These ideas are nothing new, but to hear them from the best in the business makes it that much more powerful.

    And therein lies the critical component—inspiration. Our brains know many things, but sometimes it takes an outside source to get the message to our hearts. We can learn a lot from those who've traveled the path before us. Action is only half of what it takes. Motivation makes up the other half. Writing is as much a mental game as it is a physical one. Putting your bottom in the seat is the easy part, but wrapping your head around the task at hand is more difficult. That's why many authors post daily mantras to get the creative juices flowing. For Christian authors, scripture works well as the mantra of choice.

    There is no denying the power of encouragement from others. It's a driving force that fuels all sorts of things from academics to athletics to art. Thoughtful words of kindness from professional authors in the business can give us the boost we need to make our daily word count. The book of Proverbs talks about this power to encourage in a positive way. "A wholesome tongue is a tree of life." (Proverbs 15:4)

    Let's show Christ-like encouragement to our fellow authors, building each other up with joyful and positive words. Take a moment to call, text, write, or message some of your writer friends (or strangers) right now and encourage them today!

    Jayna Morrow’s debut novel and a resource for writers have spent time on the Amazon Top 10 lists. Morrow brings to life heartwarming stories that embody realistic plots with an uplifting message, giving readers a sweet and warmly satisfying sense of love and hope.

    Morrow is the author of the Sweet Home, Texas series, starting with her debut novel Garrett; numerous sweet contemporary and inspirational works; a short read with several other Prism Book Group authors, A Blizzard Wedding; a resource for writers, Layers Upon Layers, a book of devotionals for writers, Positive Thoughts for Writers, and several children’s books. She has been featured at eReader News Today, Daily Cheap Reads, Working Writers and Bloggers, Books for Book Lovers, The Old Stone Wall, Lilly’s Book Club, Book Goodies, Nearly Brilliant, Goodreads, and Christian eBooks Today. She is an active member of the East Texas Writers Association and is a regular guest speaker, presenting mini-workshops on plotting structure, drafting a novel in 30 days, and the layering process.

    The Sweet Home, Texas series is now available at all online book retailers.  

    In addition to writing novels, Morrow is an elementary school reading teacher. She and her husband, Chip, are patrons of the arts, especially fine arts and music. They also enjoy the outdoors and frequently go off-roading, canoeing, barge riding on Caddo Lake, and camping.

    She is a devoted mother to two precious little girls, Rebekah and Ella, and spends a majority of her time creating memories with them. Jayna, Chip, and the girls live in East Texas, near the Lousiana border. You can find out all about the writer and her books at www.jaynamorrow.com.

    Tuesday, April 1, 2014

    Delia Latham: Over-explanation

    As a reader, nothing gets on my last nerve faster than having to work my way through every…single…tiny…detail of a scene’s progression. I am at least semi-intelligent. I can figure out a few things on my own. I want to do that.

    On the other side of the reading scale, nothing marks an author as an amateur faster than subjecting readers to page after page of over-explanation.

    Two very good reasons not to allow yourself the luxury of over-telling your story.

    What is over-explanation? Exactly what it sounds like: over-explaining, often to the point of talking down to a reader.

    Hint: Difficulty in staying within a word count limit is usually a sign that you’ve explained too much.

    Let’s start with an example:

    Cindy 1pulled into the driveway, 2brought the car to a stop and 3turned off the ignition. She puffed out her cheeks and huffed a breath, allowing her head to fall back against the headrest. It felt good to be home. For a moment, she sat with her eyes closed, absorbing the quiet after an overly hectic day at work.

    But she couldn’t stay in the car all night. With a tired sigh, she 4grabbed her purse with one hand, 5opened the door with the other and 6hauled her weary body up and out of the vehicle. She 7stooped to pick up the newspaper on the way to the door, 8inserted her key in the lock and 9let herself into the house.

    Cool air caressed her face, and she heaved a sigh of relief. Surely Heaven couldn’t be any better than home on a Friday night. (145 words)

    The above is a prime example of an author taking a reader by the hand and dragging her through nine steps of unnecessary explanation. Let’s try it again.

          Cindy leaned against the headrest and closed her eyes. Home at last. She heard…nothing, and the silence felt good after the hectic, end-of-week atmosphere at the office. But she couldn’t sit in the car forever. With a moan, she hauled her weary body out of the vehicle.

          Inside the house, cool air caressed her face, and a light lavender scent teased her nostrils. She’d grabbed the newspaper on her way in. Now she tossed it onto the sofa along with her purse and heaved a sigh of relief. Heaven couldn’t be any more welcoming than home on a Friday night. (100 words)

    Less wordy, and you’ve figured out everything you need to know. Cindy just arrived home from work, she’s had a hard day and she’s tired. Without my saying so, you assume she turned off the ignition when she parked her vehicle, that she somehow got out of the car, and that she brought her purse with her. And you don’t really need to be told that she unlocked the door before she entered the house.

    As a writer, all you need to do is provide the scenario in a realistic, believable manner. Avid readers are quite adept at figuring out a great many of the details on their own. So what if the “scene” in their heads differs from the one in yours. They will still arrive at the destination you intended.

    Let’s visit Cindy’s homecoming one last time.

    Cindy parked in the driveway and took a moment to appreciate the quiet of the evening before hauling her weary body out of the car. On the doorstep, she stooped to pick up the newspaper. Inside, cool air caressed her face, and a light lavender scent teased her nostrils. After the hectic day she’d had, her little living room felt like Heaven—or as close as she was likely to get on a Friday night. (75 words)

    That’s about half the original word count. It’s pretty barebones, and some writers will prefer the second example. But on a tight word limit, the last version works. It clues the reader in without making her feel she’s being led by the hand.

    Most readers do not lack imagination. If they did, they wouldn’t be reading fiction. Furthermore, they’re smart enough to pick up on it when someone insults their intelligence.

    Ever had a friend recount her day in painful, excruciating detail? A trip to the grocery store becomes an epic tale of fortitude and stamina, and you’re forced to “ride along” as she describes every car she saw on the way and who was driving it, every turn she took to get there, and every item on every shelf she walked by once she arrived. You “watch” her dig out her money at the cash register, one crumpled bill at a time, while being treated to an itemized description of the contents of her purse. By the time she arrives back in her car, you’re bracing yourself for the ride home—because you know you’re going to feel every bump in the road.

    And you’re exhausted!

    Had your friend told you she went to XYZ Market and bought $100 worth of groceries, you’d have gotten the picture. You know where she lives (she is your friend). You’re pretty clear on the route she takes to XYZ Market, which will most likely be the same route she takes home. As for all the cars she passed on the way, who cares? (You don’t…do you?)

    That’s what we do to our readers when we over-state a point.

    RUE—Resist the Urge to Explain

    Getting a firm grip on a handful of dos and don’ts will make over-explanation a non-issue in your writing.

    1.        Show, don’t tell.

    What does that have to do with our subject? Everything. Passive writing breeds over-explanation.

    Ex. 1: “I can’t even look at you right now,” she said in an angry voice. (She’s mad. We know that by her statement alone…and then the writer makes certain we know by telling us!)

    Ex. 2:  “Get. Out. Of my sight.” (Now the reader sees the character’s anger and feels the implied iciness of tone…without the need to be told she’s fuming mad.)

    Showing eliminates the need to explain, and gives the reader an opportunity to use her imagination. She can attribute the speaker with a deadly cold tone of voice, or make it hot-to-the-point-of-combustion. As mentioned earlier, her mental scenario may not be the same one you see as you write, but it will lead her to the same ultimate destination.

    2.         Don’t state the obvious.

    We all do state the obvious, many times without realizing we’ve done so. I’ll provide three examples. You come up with three more.

    He looked about with a puzzled expression on his face. (Where else would his expression be?

    She fell down. (It would be difficult to fall up.)

    They studied three different species. (A species is, by definition, different from all others.)

    3.         Don’t talk down to your reader.

                Yes, you do. We all do. Not intentionally, of course,
                 but we do it nonetheless.
    Read your work out loud, and really listen to what you’ve written. If you find yourself speaking as if to a slightly obtuse child, then count on it—you’re talking down to your reader. Find another way to say it.

    4.         Do. Not. Explain.

    News articles often require a certain amount of explanation. Technical documents demand it. Fiction does not. Assume your reader is on an equal intelligence level with you, and write to that intelligence.

    Over-explanation? It’s a trap a wary writer won’t fall into.