Sunday, December 5, 2010

Partnering for Greater Writing by Judy Vandiver and Babara Oden

Here on the--books to write by---blog, we try to give good advice on books, webpages, and other avenues in which to improve your writing knowledge and abilities. Recently, I purchased a book written by two newer authors, Judy Vandiver and Barbara Oden, called "Partnering for Greater Writing." This small book, though an easy-read, is chock-full of interesting ideas to turn your want-to into finished products.
These two ladies turn partnering into an art form. Though the team work includes writing this book together, the duo transforms separate avenues and interests in the world of writing into a bond for encouragement, accountability and guidance. Examples abound of day-by-day calendars and goal setting lists actually used to upgrade their endeavors.
Since we're all individuals in our approaches to anything, seeing how two different personalities and styles provide momentum and motivation for each other inspired me. I have three critique partners (Debra, Stephanie and Moonine who write on this blog with me), and we do read each other's work and encourage when one is down. However, reading this book showed me the importance of perhaps choosing one writer with whom I could share goals set and met each week so that I might take my writing to a higher level in 2011.
Thank you, Judy and Barbara for this well laid-out plan. I highly recommend the book if you're looking for a unique way to spur yourself into action and keep you sailing to new writing pursuits.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Describing Your Setting

Like many of you, I have found myself in a place where I struggled with a specific aspect of writing. My first stumbling block was point-of-view, not the first-person, second-person, third-person part. I struggled with head-hopping. Then my next obstacle was learning plot. I'm a emotions-first writer. I can write goals, motivations, and conflicts with a heap of emotions all day, but by the end of my work day my characters have not moved in the story. I have grown as a writer by learning everything I can about my writing struggles. As of today, my new writing conflict is setting. I never thought much about it before meeting my mentor. But as she reads my work she diligently points out that she can not see where my characters are coming from and going to and what the environment is around them. To help me learn more about the subject of setting, I spent the summer learning more about the area I have set my novel in. I also took pictures and bought books along the way. 

My first trip this summer was to the Wichita Mountains located in southern Oklahoma. I snapped many pictures of my kids and their friends at the Holy City, Mount Scott, and near a little lake (which I can't remember it's name). My second trip was on Father's Day. My husband drove me and our kids out to Lake Diversion. This is the exact location of my setting for my novel. I discovered an ancient map online and found the path of the old Wichita River which used to run near Lake Diversion. I also found that path of the river which still has a faint trail today. Using that faint trail, I discovered the town for my novel. I burned up the camera snapping pictures of native grasses, buttes, shelves, and farm lands. I discovered a part of the country I didn't know existed in these parts. Even though I snapped a lot of pictures of that area I will not post those because the images are too specific for what I want to accomplish with this blog post. My last trip was to Fort Worth and Decatur. In Fort Worth, we visited the Log Cabin  and saw a-hands-on 19th century village. We also visited Thistle Hill, but they wouldn't let me take pictures. In Decatur, we visited a 19th century museum (which used to be a Christian college in the 1800's). I took pictures of artifacts that were specifically from the Decatur area during the 19th century. I thought I'd share with y'all some of my findings.

 I can't remember this lake's name. But I thought the landscape was beautiful. I love the boulders and the tall grass against the backdrop of the lake and hill.

We are visiting the Holy City at the Wichita Mountains. This is the inside of the chapel. To this day they still hold services and wedding ceremonies inside the chapel. The art work on the ceiling is breathtaking. During the Easter holidays, they hold a Passion Service during sunrise.

Prairie dogs populate the Wichita Mountains. Though contact with the animals is strongly discouraged, I do have a photo of my son playing with a baby prairie dog.

We are driving up Mount Scott. We are not to the top, yet. About half way up, I became mesmerized by this view and made my husband stop the vehicle.

We visited the Visitor's Center at the Wichita Mountains. They have a movie room where visitors can watch a documentary about how the refuge began. There are exhibits of native animals, grasses, and insects. They also have a souvenir shop where I bought this book. I was pleasantly surprised with this book because it has pictures of local prostitutes in it. (There is a prostitute in my novel. I almost described her like I see in the movies with a corset, shawl, and skirt. The prostitutes in this book were dressed modestly.)

This photo is from the Log Cabin Village in Fort Worth, Texas. We see how early pioneers cooked on a hearth. The Village has many on hand volunteers who dress in 19th century costumes and work in the village, sewing, cooking, and performing certain crafts, such as candle making, spinning, weaving, and more. Two of these log cabins are Fort Worth cabins, but the other seven are historic Texas structures which were carefully dissembled and moved to the present site. All nine structures are actual mid-1800's cabins. The park has authentic log homes and artifacts, blacksmith shop, one-room schoolhouse, smokehouse, water powered gristmill, and a herb garden.

This log cabin only had one room, one bed, one table, and a cradle. I can't help but think how crowded families were in the home.

This is me grinding corn into meal. It was hard. I can't imagine how long it must've taken the average wife to grind enough corn into meal for the day's cornbread.
 I think I understand the old saying now, "Half past cornbread and goin' on biscuits." (Even though the process of baking bread took longer, grinding the wheat was easier and sometimes the flour could be bought locally.)

This is one of the volunteers who before we arrived was knitting. She taught me how to work the hand pump on the water spigot. I must remember for my novel to always prime the pump before attempting to get water.

I love this picture! I have a scene where my heroine is baking in the kitchen with her grandma. I have already used this image countless times. I also enjoyed showing my children the toaster hanging on the wall. Can you see it? It is hanging between the hearth and the iron skillet. The contraption already has two pieces of bread in it.

I could've watched this man work all day. I was fascinated with his skill working wood. While standing there, he made four legs to a table. They were beautifully crafted with curves and etching. Even though the machinery is all manual, the man worked very fast.

This is a one-room schoolhouse. The walls are white-washed. The black board was quite large. The seating didn't have desks. Lanterns hung from the ceiling for light. There was also a wash stand at the back of the room near a closet.

 I bought these books from the Log Cabin Village Store. The store clerks were dressed in time period clothing. They also had artifacts and old-fashioned candy in the store. In Bowie, Texas at a antique store/tea room called, Nostalgia...I bought real cakes of lye soap. The owners make it often to sell. If you drop by you have to try an ice cream soda  from their old-timey soda fountain.

I found some very useful information in this book, such as why mothers dressed their toddler sons in dresses. Did you ever want to know why? The book says 19th century mothers didn't have diapers so to keep pants from soiling they put the boys in dresses until they were properly potty-trained.

I also discovered there were a lot of superstitions back in the day. Have you ever lost something and couldn't find it? The book has your remedy...The person who has lost the object SPITS into his right hand and hits the spittle with his left forefinger. The spittle will splatter in the direction of the lost object...Happy hunting, y'all!

This books shows how mothers taught daughters to cook by memorizing rhymes. (Johnny Cake in Rhyme)  "Two cups Indian, one cup wheat; One cup good eggs that you can eat. One-half cup molasses too, One big spoon sugar added thereto: Salt and soda, each a small spoon. Mix up quickly and bake it soon." The book also has food insults, "He's as helpless as spilled beans on a dresser." And here's my favorite, remedy for being struck by lightening, "For a couple of hours shower in cold water. In case there is still no sign of life, add a cupful of salt and continue for another hour." Ha!!! Salt won't help the dead!!! LOL

This is a hearse located at the museum in Decatur. It boasts, "1886 Model Air-conditioned Front Seat" (Shameful to stay I stood there wondering if that was a joke!)

This is the top to a wedding dress. It is charcoal gray, almost black with matching brocade trim. The caption reads, "Top to My Mother's Wedding Dress. Emma P. Butterfield and William B. Towles were married in Sulphur Springs, Texas in 1892. The skirt for some reason got away from me." ~Ethel Towles Alvord, Texas

I have discovered when planning my book that I need to take some time and visited local places where my novel is set. Take lots of pictures and never trust my memory because I'm forgetful. Even though you don't want to fill up pages of setting, adding the right descriptive sentences will add detail for the reader to see your story more clearly. Happy Writing! ~Debra Calloway

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Woman Called Sage by DiAnn Mills

When you see the slogan, "expect an adventure," chances are you're talking about my friend and mentor, DiAnn Mills. With more than forty books to her credit, DiAnn provides both fans and first time readers an exciting journey with every book.

Ms. Mills writes both historical romance and romantic suspense. In both genres, conflict rampages on every page tantilizing, enticing and drawing us in deeper and deeper until the book finishes. Then, we are disappointed that it's over.

Last year, I told about one of her romantic suspense books "Breach of Trust." Earlier this year, Sue Watson blogged here about the second in that series, "Sworn to Protect." Today, I'd like to choose her latest historical fiction, "A Woman Called Sage."

This is a story of redemption, second chances and God using bad to make good. Sage Morrow, a happily-married expectant mother in the late 1800s turns into a lonely, driven bounty hunter because of a murdering gang. Her life fills with danger and decision, but God works behind the scenes to heal many people hurt by the gang's evil doings.

If you think we have our favorite authors on this blog, you're right. DiAnn Mills teaches fiction mentoring clinics and remains willing to help young writers, two of which write on this blog. Thank you, Diann, for your wisdom and help to Moonine Sue Watson and Janet K Brown and a host of others, and thanks for another book to satisfy our thirst for your particular brand of adventure.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Organizing Writing Stuff

I am one of Office Depot's favorite customers because I make monthly purchases of paper and ink.

Why? It's not because I'm churning out novels on a monthly basis.

Why? It's because I make copies of things I want to keep. I could make files and keep them on my computer, but I worry that the computer might crash and take my files with them. I also use the flash drive and have an attachment that continually saves my things. I'm thinking about investing in that program they advertise on tv that will save everything in case of fire or floods. The trouble with that is I might lose the password like I have for my identity theft program.

I am drowning in stacks of papers and articles I've cut out with advice about things I might need to know. I'm trying to organize the stacks into files to fit in one of my six overflowing file cabinets.

I have cautiously set up files on my computer for new files from now on, but I have all those cut outs from the past. I'd like to close my eyes and throw them away, but there might be a nugget of truth I'd need later. Do you suppose the quaint restaurant in New Hampshire advertised in 1985 is still there? I have the article in case we decide to take a trip that way.

I see pictures of neat tidy offices. I would really like my office to look that way. I also have binders by topics which are partially full and waiting for more items to nestle inside. The binders can go in one of my eight book shelves where they'd share space with all the favorite books, books to be read, and how to books already occupying the shelves.

What's your system for organizing your materials from magazines, newspapers, workshops, and conventions? I'd really like to know.

And by the way, if you want to know the many ways you can use vinegar or baking soda in your house, you can contact me. I have an article about it....somewhere.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Seen Any Good Book Trailers Today???

Today, I'm going to start a series of posts on book trailers. They seem to be all over the net now. Homemade, professionally made, long, short, and yeah, some just right. I, myself, have found them to be fun and useful, but somewhat mystified by how affective they really are. The jury seems to be still out on that one. Still, they seem to have definitely risen in popularity, and I for one, being a visual/audio type person, enjoy a good book trailer. How about you?

For this first post, I'm going to talk about different kinds of book trailers. In each post, I want to showcase different book trailers, so I welcome any links of favorite ones you wish to share.

So, the question is for you today? Have you seen any good book trailers that you've had to press the replay button on YouTube? Any that made you want to buy the book, or at least check it out at your bookstore or library? I'd love to hear about it.

So here's some book trailers I found while either trolling on YouTube or being given a link.

The first kind is the ones with video and voiceovers.

Here's a great one called The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson, a new YA medieval romance from Zondervan.

This second one is called The Found by Margaret Haddix. It uses videos, sound effects and words, but no voiceovers.

The third is done with pictures and word frames. It's called Refuge, a YA mystery/suspense. And yeah, it's mine. :0)

So tell me about your favorite book trailers on the net. What do you like about book trailers or not like about book trailers in general?

(A footnote... I hope you can see them full screen. The embedding seems to cut part of the trailer screen off on my computer.)

Until next time….

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A New Book By Mary E. DeMuth: Life In Defiance

Life In Defiance is the final novel in the Defiance Texas Trilogy. In book one, a young girl named Daisy Chance disappears and is found dead. In book two, we focus on the dead girl's mother. In book three, we focus on the preacher's wife, Ouisie Pepper, who is keeping a terrible secret. She knows who the murderer is, but she hasn't told anyone.

Since Book One, I have speculated on who the murderer might be. I wanted this terrible crime solved and justice dealt to the murderer. Author DeMuth writes with such depth of emotion about the murder and the reactions of the town's people. My heart ached for Ouisie as she tries to please a husband who won't be pleased while her children suffer emotionally and physically over the abuse of their mother.

We experience the indecision of a woman who is torn between protecting herself and her children and obeying the tenets of a book on womanhood.

Take the time to read the first two books so you can fully enjoy the solution to the crime. I was wrong in my guess. Read the books and see if you can figure out who the killer was.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Anonymous Bride by Vickie McDonough

Calling all would-be fiction writers--especially historical fiction writers. Stephen King's famous quote tell us, "if you don't have time to read, you don't have time or the tools to write." Here on Books to Write blog, we usually tell about craft books, but today I'd like to tell you of a fiction book called "The Anonymous Bride." I met author Vickie McDonough a couple years ago in Tulsa. She's a quiet, unassuming, talented lady, and her new book catches your attention with the first line and holds on to the last sentence.
In craft books, fiction workshops and online courses, I repeatedly hear to grab them at the beginning. McDonough starts with "Sometimes God asked difficult things of a man, and for Luke Davis, what he was fixing to do was the hardest task ever." Yep, my thoughts exactly. I wanted to read more. This book is the first in the Texas Boardinghouse Brides Series by Barbour which came out in April this year. I fell in love with the characters, not only the hero and heroine, but the hero's two cousins and four (count them-four) mail order brides.
Humor tantalizes the reader, but the book overflows with drama and suspense and a little "who done it," besides. The thing I liked best was there was no draggy downtime at the end. McDonough kept the reader eager for more until the end.
A question put to Vickie McDonough was how she got her start in writing. Here's her answer, "I have always been an avid reader, so I'm sure that influenced me to become a writer, even though I'd never planned to be one. A story started going through my head, and it got to the point where I wasn't sleeping at nights because of it. I decided to write it down, hoping it would go away and leave me alone. As soon as I finished that book, another one starting running through my mind. At this point I took a step back and started praying about my writing, and that's when I felt God leading me into the writing field."
I, for one, am glad Vickie couldn't sleep until she started writing them down for the rest of us to read. I got this book free but plan on passing it on to a writing friend specializing in historical romance. Then, I'll buy Vickie's next book.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sworn to Protect by DiAnn Mills

I met DiAnn Mills when I stepped "out of the box" and signed up for her Mentoring Class. I've been a fan since that time.

Her latest book is Sworn to Protect which is book #2 in her Call of Duty series. Janet Brown, who took the Mentoring Class at my suggestion, wrote about the first book, Breach of Trust .

Sworn to Protect features a female Border Patrol Agent whose husband's unsolved murder haunts her. Her life is complicated by threats against her own life and her brother-in-law's resentment.

DiAnn states she rode with the Border Patrol to get a feel for the job. I feel like I have a greater appreciation for the dangers the Border Patrol agents face as part of their daily routine.

DiAnn also presents the plight of the illegals who are preyed upon by individuals who take advantage of them and exposes the tactics of those who traffic in humans and drugs.

The problems of the border are front page news. This work of fiction gives a glimpse of both sides of the situation without taking sides while weaving a story you won't want to put down.

I enjoyed this book as well as the first one and will be anxiously waiting book three in the series.

I ordered the book from my local bookstore and received no compensation from DiAnn Mills for writing this review.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Brainstorming Weekend

Our local writers group recently had a weekend retreat at the country home of one of our members. We met for dinner in town on Friday night before convoying to her home. Once we carried all our blankets, pillows, air mattresses, and items for the weekend, we shared the bare bones of our work in progress.

The next morning after breakfast we started in with each member introducing their main character. Other members could ask questions for clarification. Several members brought copies of character questions to share.

After lunch, we took a short country walk and resumed with our one sentence log line, which we helped each other refine.

We decided that each member should go ahead and describe the plot, conflict, and elements of their stories. After stopping for supper, we worked until bedtime.

On Sunday morning, we finished helping plot the remaining members stories. We ended our time together, agreeing we all were leaving with enough ideas to finish our projects. We decided two issues: 1. We all needed to diet after all the food we'd eaten this past weekend. 2. We definitely wanted to make this an annual affair.

So, I would strongly suggest that any writer get together with at least one other writer and devote some time so brainstorming your ideas for a story. Bring things you've learned from workshops, books, and articles to help with plotting. You'll be glad you did.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Narrow Path by Gail Sattler

During a brief time with Ms. Sattler in a critique group, I received good advice on writing an interesting story with a clear, strong Christian message. Since I had never read a book by her, she sent me online an advanced copy of her newest book "The Narrow Path." Never before had I read a Mennonite book, so I found Gail's book not only a good read, but informative as well. This delightful romance pits the old, traditional sect with a modernized version of the same values which gave me a well-rounded view. Sattler gives insight into a different way of life, and colorful characters dot the pages. I found some of those characters in a work I was critiquing for her. I'm sure that will make an interesting sequel. I asked Gail a few questions to probe her mind.

1. List your 5 top favorite activities.

Number 1 music. Number 2. music. I say that because I'm in 2 different bands, a jazz band where I play my electric jazz bass and a concert band where I play my double bass with a bow because there is no electricity allowed with a concert band. I can't count the worship team for church, because I've played both basses and piano for that, so it's kind of a rerun. Number 3, reading; Number 4, walking my dogs: Number 5 I'd say after all that, sleeping.

2. Do you write in other genres as well as romance?

Yes, but I'm not published in them yet. I'm working on a woman's fiction that has a touch of romance, a cozy mystery, and the most fun, a supernatural thriller that I'm writing with my husband.

3. What does a typical writing day look like for you?

I don't have a typical writing day. I have a day job, so that takes my day. I write when I can on the evenings and do editing in the mornings before work, and I do a lot of writing on the weekends.

4. What 1 piece of advice would you give a beginning writer?

Best advice. Write and keep writing, and while you kep writing, keep learning the craft. If you think you know it all and think you can stop learning, you might as well stop writing. Write because you love to write, not because you want to sell. Selling is a bonus. I guess that's more than one piece of advise, but I write. I don't do math.

For more information about this good author, go to

"The Narrow Path" will be out in May, 2010. I would recommend buying a copy.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

As writers, we are always searching for new books, articles, magazines, courses… anything to help us become more effective writers. Oftentimes, those pursuits can get expensive. Today, however, I want to share a resource that is completely free and yet one of the best online magazines for writers.

This monthly online magazine is called Christian Fiction Online Magazine. It is filled not only with articles on helping your craft but also current industry news that will help you stay abreast of market changes.

Check out this months issue HERE.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Top Five Best Craft of Writing Books

In all of the conferences, workshops, and meetings I've ever attended, I've heard the same titles touted amongst the masses as the best books to learn to write by. We here at Bookstowriteby strive to bring you such books to cultivate your craft. I thought today we would review, in my opinion, five books which I believe should be on every writer's bookshelf.

In no particular order, here are the five:

Dwight Swain
Techniques of the Best Selling Writer

Donald Maass
Writing the Breakout Novel

James Scott Bell
Plot and Structure

Jack Bickham
Scene and Structure

Margie Lawson
Empowering Charactions' Emotions

Granted this last one is not a book, but you can go to her website and order her lecture packet. I have the packet, plus I have had the honor sitting through one of her workshops as well as enrolling in her online courses. The content of her lectures are outstanding. I learned more about characterization through her workshop then I have reading books on the subject.

If you are in the market for buying books, add these to your shelf. If you are in a money crunch, then look at local library annual book sales,, to see if you can buy a used book. If you just want to borrow a book check them out at your library or borrow from a friend. You won't be sorry.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Creating Characters: How to Build Story People by Dwight V. Swain

Creating Characters: How to Build Story People by Dwight V. Swain is a book a fiction writer would definitely want to add to his/her permanent library.

When I saw this book available for purchase on, I knew I wanted to order it. I am not sorry I decided to purchase this book. The book is divided into seventeen chapters. In the preface Mr. Swain recommends selecting a chapter that addresses a particular problem area you need.

Since I planned to review the book for this blog, I read them all. My favorite chapter was "Fleshing Out" since one critique of my last manuscript was "Your characters are two dimensional". This chapter provided some good suggestions on how to give my characters depth.

Chapter Twelve talked about character descriptions and how choosing the right words to describe the characters was essential.

Chapter Thirteen revealed some techniques for writing good dialogue that would move the story along and show who the character was instead of telling.

Chapter Seventeen was "The Search for Zest", which addressed how to keep on writing and not lose the motivation to write.

I feel more confident that I can write better characters in my next book based on what I learned from Dwight Swain's book. If I have any questions, I know which book to pull off the shelf. The combination of notes I took and underlinings throughout the book should help me overcome difficulties I might experience at the time.

This is one more book I will keep close at hand because I know I will be rereading selected chapters many times in the future.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass

Would you love to go to a writing conference or workshop this year but can't afford it? I have the answer. Buy "Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook" by Donald Maass and do every assignment.
Previously, we recommended "Writing the Breakout Novel," and I'm sure many of you have purchased it. It's a good read. However, if you didn't get the corresponding workbook, you missed a treasure. For every chapter of three to five pages, Mr. Maass challenges us with the same assignments he gives to those who attend his workshops across the country. I guarantee your manuscript will be strengthened and improved if you not only read this book, but do the homework. Granted, you must be self-disciplined because the highly-acclaimed literary agent won't be looking over your shoulder.
My young adult heroine in my present work in progress took on heroic qualities from the first chapter of Donald Maass' book. In chapter six, by listing as many possible motives for different actions by my protagonist as I could think of, I found new and surprising twists and turns. I found new problems for my young character by raising the stakes, then raising them again, and then again.
With Mr. Maass direction, I listed all main characters and dreamed up new motives, new reactions, higher stakes, a recommitment. I thought through inner turning points. I dreamed up new layers and extra subplots. I learned to measure the inner growth of my protagonist by finding scenes or inserting new scenes that prove my point. Low tension spots waved at me as I studied my words.
By the end of Maass' book, my mind popped with rewritten scenes and added tension to be woven in. This workbook was a purchase well worth my money and the next best thing to going to a writing workshop or conference.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Noah Lukeman The First Five Pages

Ahhh… the joy, the ultimate blissful feeling that envelopes you once you have that finished manuscript. But now you want to make sure it’s ready before you send it to an agent. But what things do you check for?

Like a pilot getting ready for takeoff, Noah Lukeman in his book, The First Five Pages, gives us a pre-flight checklist for our manuscripts. A literary agent himself, he shares with us about things he sees in submissions everyday, things that could potentially send your otherwise wonderful manuscript into the slush pile of no return.

In this easy to read book, you’ll find wonderful suggestions and pointed tips to make your manuscript shine, especially those all important first five pages. From preliminary problems such as presentation and style to problems in the ‘bigger picture’ such as showing versus telling, pacing, and hooks, Mr. Lukeman’s book is sure to help you take your writing to a higher level.
Link to website and excerpt to Mr. Lukeman’s book: First Five Pages

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Five Christian Sites for Aspiring Writers

It's my turn again and this week I want to do something different. We haven't done anything like this before, so it is quite new. Instead of describing a how-to-write book, which I've read recently, I've decided to list some great sites for you to go visit. While surfing the web this week, go bask in the rays of knowledge of these capable writers and the articles they've written.

(These sites are listed in alphabetical order of the author's last name)

James Scott Bell

Website address:

Mr. Bell has twelve different articles written for writers on this page. Some of the topics deal with dialogue, plot, scenes, structure, and agents.

Also, this author has written a wonderful book called, Plot & Structure, which I reviewed on this blog previously. If you haven't read it...then go buy, beg, borrow, or well, whatever your conscience will allow you to do.

Mary DeMuth

Blog address:

Ms. DeMuth has a blog dedicated for writers. She hosts editors, agents, published authors to visit her blog and talk about the craft of writing and the journey to publication. She also has articles posted on her blog with an example of an excellent written non-fiction query letter.

Jeff Gerke

Website address:

Oh, my word. Mr. Gerke has 96 articles written for writers on the page of the link I posted above. I had a hard time making myself leave his site to write this post. I was captivated by all the content this editor has written.

If you don't feel like reading each article and having to return to the website to read more, Mr. Gerke has compiled all the information from these article into a book for easier reading. Mr. Gerke also has written e-books you can buy and download to your computer. I have done this in the past and have reviewed them on this blog. I love his books.

Randy Ingermanson

Blog address:

Mr. Ingermanson's blog has two free articles for viewing, his popular Snowflake Method article, and Writing the Perfect Scene. He also has the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, which is free and is very helpful for instructing writers on how market their work. He has many other useful items for sale on his blog. A few weeks ago, I reviewed his Snowflake Pro, which is a computer software for plotting a novel and constructing a proposal. This software is so incredibly awesome! I plugged in all my information of my novel into it and oh, my goodness...I clicked a button and my almost complete proposal popped up in a Word Document. I couldn't believe my eyes.

Camy Tang

Blog address:

Ms. Tang's blog is written especially for the writer. She has many, many articles for the aspiring writer, all of which is excellent content. Her articles and Mr. Ingermanson's work has helped me forged through the complicated text of Dwight Swain. The Story Sensei list articles from deep point of view to how to network at conference. She also has online classes, which individuals can enroll and learn more about the craft of writing.

I hope you enjoy visiting these sites as much as I have and that you can learn more about writing. Don't forget that some of the authors mentioned above also have newsletters you can sign up to receive.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Saving Money on Writing Books

I was looking through my bookshelf full of writing books I've purchased over the years. Many are on my to read list. Where did I get these books with such interesting titles as Cowboy Slang?

The source for that one and several others was the local annual Friends of the Library book sale. Each year our group, which supports the library, hosts a three day sale of books. Local community members donate books they no longer need for the sale. The proceeds help fund projects such as new computers.

I've been able to find books about many subjects including the art of writing. I won't go into how many fiction books I find. For the price of $1.00 for a hardcover book and 50 cents for a paperback, I've brought home books I can use as resources for my own writing.

Our local library also has a section where books are sold monthly for the same low price. If you don't want to purchase a book, you can check out books on the topics you need. Another valuable service is inter library loan, which allows you to borrow a book from another library through your local library. Librarians also accept requests for books you think might be valuable for purchase for their permanent collection.

Other organizations such as the Adult Literacy Council often have book sales. Finally, if you have books about writing in good condition, donate them to your local library book sale. Someone like me might need the book for her next writing project.

Support your local library.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

the Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction by Jeff Gerke

I would like to recommend Jeff Gerke's book "the Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction" as a spiritual lesson. No, that's not a misprint. I've felt the conviction of the Lord on me for months. Finally, two weeks ago, God impressed me to stop writing altogether. It was the hardest thing I ever did. Two days after I agreed to follow the Lord's direction, I received in the mail Gerke's book which I'd ordered. With today's blog in mind, I began reading.

Thank you, Jeff, for writing about examining your reasons for writing. God dealt with me through this wonderful writer's words about making an idol of becoming published. I lacked contentment in what God wanted to say through me. I lost motivation to write, as Gerke calls it, like an invisible novelist. I wanted recognition for my stories, and I wanted it soon. This writing craft book first and foremost called me to submit to God's will for my life.

I should go on to tell you that Gerke provides excellent, practical education on our craft. I've never seen a better explanation of how to spot telling sentences. If God directs me to write more, I will definitely use Gerke's "dumb puppet trick" to best advantage and "become the filmmaker" for my characters.

Yet, all this good help pales in comparison to God's healing and guidance from the pages of a writing craft book. Thank you, Jeff, for writing for an audience of one and letting me in on it.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Plot Thickens 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life by Noah Lukeman

I found it interesting I bought a book on plot, hoping to help me plan my pathway from beginning a novel to the end. However, what I found was a book, which devoted a good portion of text to characterization. Granted, at first, I was disappointed because as I mentioned I wanted to strengthen my plotting skills. What I received was a book with valuable information, containing many ways to layer plots and make plots more interesting.

The Plot Thickens 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Live by Noah Lukeman is great for writers who have a basic plot formation, but want to take their carboard-cut-out-plain-Jane-plot and rocket it to the next level.

The first chapter, Characterization: The Outer Life, helps the writer develop  the many outer layers and use these traits for plot points.

The second chapter, Characterization: The Inner Life, focuses on character's emotional and physical state.

Chapter three, Applied Characterization, teaches how to apply the outer and inner characterization traits to your characters.

In chapter four, The Journey, we learn about three profound journeys, focusing on realization. The next journey teaches about seven different surface journeys to strengthen the character's plot.

Chapter five, Suspense, list twelve ways to create suspense and then details how to prolong the suspense.

Chapter Six, Conflict, lists thirteen ways of creating and intensifying conflict among the cast of characters.

Chapter Seven, Context, teaches writers how to focus on a macro-look at their novel to see the big picture.

Chapter Eight, Transcendency, this chapter gives ideas on how to make a novel timeless for all generations.

At the end of each chapter, Mr. Lukeman presents exercises to strengthen the writer's grasp of the material presented.

I liked this quote from Page 120, "Suspense, ultimately, is about anticipation. It is about what we do not have, what has not happened. It's about the process of watching events unfold."

From the book blurb:

Noah Lukeman is a New York literary agent whose clients include multiple winners of the Pulitzer Prize and American Book Award, National Book Award finalists, Edgar Award finalist, New York Times bestselling authors, and the faculty of esteemed universities. He has worked as a manager in Artists Management Group, and is currently president of Lukeman Literary Management, Ltd. He is also author of the bestselling The First Five Pages, now part of the curriculum in many universities.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Things I've Learned Reading as a Writer

Many speakers at workshops recommend reading books as a must for aspiring writer so this winter I've been reading through my stack of books.

One area I've been struggling with is how to handle a scene when the two characters in the scene are of the same gender. In a recent book I noticed how skillfully the author accomplished that task by alternating the names and the pronoun he.

In another book, a secondary character, was introduced, I noticed how the author used key phrases, dialogue, and action to create a picture for me. As I continued reading, she skillfully did this to create individuality for each new character.

The research and sources one author credited in the Forward of her book blended seamlessly so I never stopped to question any details in the book.

I also noticed how one author recorded events happening to different characters in separate scenes so I never felt confused about the sequence of events time wise.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the books even while stopping to take notes on examples of techniques I observed as I read.

I recommend taking the time to observe how authors handle areas that you might be struggling with in your own writing. In other words, follow the advice of published authors to read in order to be a better writer.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

from First Draft to Finished Novel by Karen S. Wiesner

Wiesner's book, First Draft in 30 Days, helped me learn the craft of writing. Still today, every time I start a manuscript, I use a research list,a formatted outline and a "lay it aside" mindset. Along came her second writer-self-help book. I began reading at first with disappointment. This stuff was deep. It didn't help. On page thirty, I discovered a great fill-in-the-blank formula for a high concept blurb.
After that, I pressed on and found other gems throughout the book. Layering my characters became easier with Wiesner's idea of enhancement and contrast. Great examples using her own fiction displayed suggestions in the multiple appendices at the end. I learned through this book to list a symbol for my main character. This and other ideas, according to Wiesner, should be added to an outline for strengthening the foundation of my book.
Wiesner uses a symbol of building a story like a contractor frames a structure. She suggests we start with a blueprint and end with decorating the finished building. One decorating tip I found beneficial was about combining description with actions and thoughts.
By the way, for those as blind as me, a tip to the publisher of this book: I first thought the book had no page numbers, and I looked several times before I found one. Page numbers are listed in black at the bottom of each page on top of a dark gray stripe, but they are there.
My take-away "from First Draft to Finished Novel" mounted higher than I'd hoped. Thanks, Ms. Wiesner, yet again for true, practical assistance.
Due to recent rulings, I confess I purchased this book and wasn't compensated for telling our blog readers about it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

If You Build It, They Will Come...

Wow… Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But does it really work that way?

It reminds me of the story of a man who wanted to be a famous artist. Get his paintings into every house. But he wanted to paint something big, let his inner artist free. So, he began at one end of a two-mile wall and painted a mural all the way to the other end. Only one problem. What the aspiring artist failed to realize was that in order to have his paintings in every home and store, he was going to have to figure out a way to paint within the confines of a frame.

As authors, we too must—at least during the editing process—fit our books within the confines of a frame—a structure. To some, it might seem frustrating. But that framework is there to showcase your story and make those plot points stand out, where before they may have been hidden alongside random episodic scenes. It gives your story direction, purpose.

One book I’ve recently found is called Story Structure—Demystified by Larry Brooks. Although an ebook, this 126 page manual is an excellent resource that will guide you through the oftentimes frustrating process of plotting an effective storyline. Not only does it break it down into four critical parts, it defines when you should have major turning points, and gives examples from best-selling novels.

Interested but not sure if this is something that will really impact your writing? I’m the same way. Too many books and not enough money to buy them all. But on his website archives,, Mr. Brooks wrote a ten-part condensed version of his book. A great way to “test-drive” what’s in the book. Happy Building!

Storyfix--Post One

(As a footnote, I did purchase the ebook and have not been paid to blog on this. :0) )

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Christian Writer's Guild - Apprentice Level

For the past two years, fellow contributing blogger, Sue Watson and myself has been enrolled in Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild.

Come March, I will have successfully completed this two-year course. I have finished each lesson (two per month) on time (mostly) and have stayed to my estimated completion date.

Would I recommend this course for the aspiring writer? Yes, yes, and an emphatic yes!

What I love about this course is that it takes a writer with basic knowledge about the craft of writing and teaches him/her how to make money by writing articles and non-fiction items. By month five, I was submitting several pieces to different magazines and had several editors request to see my work from my query letters. I didn't get any of my pieces published but it was good experience for me to see how the process works.

Another thing I love is the fiction section of the course. I wished five years ago when I first started writing that I would have taken this course first before joining any other clubs or national organizations. Why? I had such a hard time understanding point of view when I first began writing. In this course, it explains with such clarity what point of view is and how to write different point of views. This fiction section covers plot, dialogue, point of view, scenes, characterization, emotions, and self-editing.

I saved what I love most for the last part, I love my mentor!!! Judy Bodmer is a doll and the best mentor anyone can have. She is such an encourager and is gentle with her critiques. I have learned so much by being paired with her.

The Christian Writers Guild matches each student with a published mentor. The mentors guide each student through the lessons and assignments.

Is this course for you? A resounding yes! This course is beneficial for the beginning writer to the intermediate writer. There is much knowledge to be gained from taking this course.

If you are interested in more information try this link:

From the website:

Our Apprentice Level course covers the gamut of writing from fiction to nonfiction. After you register, you’ll receive an introduction to your mentor, a lesson schedule to help you stay on pace, and the course notebook containing all 50 lessons.

As soon as you’ve finished the first assignment, E-mail your work to your assignedMaster Craftsman mentor. All our mentors have been personally approved by Jerry Jenkins, based on their experience and expertise.

Within one week, your mentor will return your work to you with comments and suggestions, and often even a bit of the kind of editing you might expect from an editor. But don’t wait for that evaluation before beginning the next lesson, so you can keep up with your one-lesson-every-two-weeks pace.

Each lesson is designed to build upon what you’ve learned in previous lessons. And move you closer to realizing your dream of becoming a writer. Who knows? You may be one who begins selling and publishing by the time you’ve finished the Apprentice course and move up to Journeyman.

All of us at the Christian Writers Guild look forward to the day we can say, “We knew you when.”

Writing Tip of the Day