Monday, April 28, 2008

The Art of Styling Sentences: 20 Patterns for Success

I am excited about The Art of Styling Sentences: 20 Patterns for Success-Third Edition by
Marie L. Waddell, Robert M. Esch, and Roberta R. Walker.

My Christian Writers' Guild assignment is to analyze sentences as one of the projects. When I was looking for a book to write about, I spotted this one on the shelf. The Table of Contents lists such topics as Compound Sentences, Sentences with series, Repetitions, Modifiers, Inversions, Sentences Grow and Figurative Language in Sentences.

I noticed there are opportunities to practice in a workbook fashion throughout the book. We are going on vacation to Florida for two weeks. Since there are 20 patterns, I'm planning on studying at least one a day. When I return, I will have reviewed what I learned in Miss Helen Kay's English classes and learned a lot more.

I believe I can recommend this book as a good learning tool as well as a great reference book for any questions a writer might have about sentences.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Today-not a book, but a workshop

Like any business, a writing career costs money before you make money. We each have outgo to learn the craft and improve our product (writing) with the risk of no income. With that said, where a writer puts the expense money is their decision. My friends on this blog have learned books make up a less costly investment in our business, so we've set out to give advice on which books help the most.

Today I'd like to focus, not on a book, but on a workshop. If you've read my individual blog, you know about my recent trip to Tulsa to take DiAnn Mill's fiction mentoring clinic. Yes, it costs more than a book and involves gas, hotel and meals, but compared to other helps I've received, the value is what's important.

DiAnn presented three packed days of instruction from determining the best title to preparing your proposal.

An example of what was studied comes on the second day. DiAnn loves to give exercises and homework. Writing from your antagonist's POV opens new visions to your story. Writing your most painful life experience made me cry while I wrote, but deepened the emotion when I transferred that to my protagonist.

Nine people discussed my first line hook and my story hook. Do you think that doesn't help? Then I learned by helping others decide their best beginning line.

In the "Plots that Dance" segment, DiAnn taught me the difference between conflict and tension. One or the other should be on each page of the manuscript.

DiAnn gave us this guideline. "No backstory on the first fifty pages." What a difference that makes in grabbing the reader. We built power into the first five pages of our manuscript while we shared together.

For those considering a little bit more outlay to invest in your business, go to DiAnn Mill's website and find out when and where her next workshop will be. I guarantee no disappointment. The cost is minimal, but the value is immense.
Happy writing,

Monday, April 14, 2008

Now Write!

This week is actually our co-contributor, Shirley Harkins week to blog, however, she has been diagnosed with cancer. Would you mind stopping right now and pray for her healing?

Today, I want to recommend to you, Now Write edited by Sherry Ellis. Here is the blurb from the back of the book:

What's the secret behind the successful and prolific careers of critically acclaimed novelists and short story writers Amy Bloom, Steve Almond, Jayne Anne Phillips, Alison Lurie, and others? Divine assistance? Otherworldly talent? An unsettlingly close relationship with the Muse? While the rest of us are staring at blank sheets of paper, struggling to come up with a first sentence, these writers are busy polishing off story after story and novel after novel. Despite producing work that may seem effortless, all of them have a simple technique for fending off writer's block: the writing exercise. In Now Write!, Sherry Ellis collects the personal writing exercises of today's best writers and lays bare the secret to their success.

I have noticed when I cold write my prose isn't half as good as when I've taken the opportunity to warm-up. What better way to get those brain juices flowing than to exercise? I know, exercise is a nasty word, however everyone truly benefits from it.

I was telling someone the other day you can read many books on the subject of point of view and learn from it, but when you apply what you've learned to paper and pencil...that's when it sinks in. Which is why I'm recommending this book.

From cover to cover, it is one exercise after another in many different subjects. For example take a look at these topics: Get Writing, Point of View, Character Development, Dialogue, Plot and Pacing, Setting and Description, Craft, and Revision. Each chapter is filled with published author's insights and an exercise to help get you motivated and warmed-up to write.

On your mark...get set...Now Write!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell

James Scott Bell is the best-selling author of Breach of Promise, Deadlock, A Greater Glory, and several other thrillers. He is a winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in inspirational fiction, and is a columnist for Writer's Digest. A former trial lawyer, Jim now writes and speaks full time. You can visit him on-line at

At least that is what Writer's Digest says about him in the front matter of the book. What it doesn't say and what I would add is that Plot & Structure should be on the shelf of every serious fiction writer. It is without a doubt a staple among how-to books. (My goal with my portion of this blog is to recommend the best staple writing books.)

Mr. Bell begins this book with some fundamentals on plot. He then breaks down a device he has seen in hundreds of plots, called the LOCK system.

L is for lead
O is for objective
C is for confrontation
K is for knockout

He says this system can be coupled with many varieties of plot patterns. For example, the Quest is the oldest form of plot.

Rudiments of the Quest

*The Lead is someone who is incomplete in his ordinary world
*The thing searched for must be of vital importance.
*There must be huge obstacles preventing the Lead from gaining it.
*The quest should result in the Lead becoming a different (usually better) person at the end; a fruitless quest, however, may end in tragedy for the lead.

Other examples of plot patterns that he expounds on, are love, revenge, adventure, chase, one against, one apart, power, and allegory. There are different variations of these patterns and you can make them your own or combine any of them.

There were three things, which made me love this book: one, his voice is easy to understand. Mr. Bell's instructional writing doesn't have that uppity-professor-you-need-a-dictionary-to-understand-me type of writing. His book reads just as I heard him speak. Two, through out the book I got the feeling he was my champion, pushing me toward the prize of publication. Three, I love the exercises at the end of each chapter and the checklist at the end of the book. If you don't know how to construct a blurb or a page 230, the last page of the book.

On a five star system of rating, I'd give this book a solid five stars. I look forward to reading any other how-to books by this author, which I understand isn't too far off. His website shows Writer's Digest is publishing another book by him entitled, Revision & Self-Editing. I'll let you know what I think in the coming months.

Writing Tip of the Day