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