Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Best of Seekerville from the Archives and First Five Pages Critique

ABCs with Mary Connealy

I’ve noticed the last few days that we’ve got quite a few new authors reading our blog. Including a few who are still thinking about typing… "It was a dark and stormy night…” for the first time.

So, I’m going to try and go over a few basics. And the other Seekers are going to yell at me and tell me I’m missing about 90% of the basics…which isn’t just me writing a bad column, it’s also probably true of my work.


Set the Scene:
When you’re writing, you’ve got to Set the Scene. This is something I had trouble with. I have always enjoyed dialogue. I like my characters moving, talking, sassing each other. That’s fun for me. But setting the scene was a weakness…as I was told many times in judge's comments.

I don’t know if you’re inside or outside’. ‘What are your characters wearing?’

‘What does the room look like?’ ‘are they standing or sitting?’ 'are they in Chicago or New Orleans or on a ranch in rural Texas?’

The scene descriptions are not allowed to drag on either. It slows the story. So you choose your words very carefully, insert them in bits. Tag dialogue with, ‘she shoved the sleeves of her favorite, black Harvard Law School sweatshirt up to her elbows’

The Five Senses.
This is amazingly important. While the scene setting needs to be subtle and quick, the senses are what really draw the reader in. If your heroine smells smoke, sure you’re going to mention that, but are the trees overhead rustling in the wind? Is traffic whizzing by? She inhaled the scent of fresh hot coffee and warmed her hands on the heavy white pottery mug. The touch, scent, vision, sound, taste bring a reader deeply into the book in a way that’s kind of hard to explain and is easy to skip as a writer, but it’s really effective. Use your sense, use the senses. (Hey, that’s like a novelist fortune cookie!)

POV = Point of View
This is something that is NEW, IMPORTANT and CONFUSING. Especially in a world where so many established authors break this rule.

POV is; Whose head you’re in?

One POV per scene. And no, Nora Roberts doesn’t obey this. But news flash: You’re not Nora. Obey this.

You’re in the heroine’s head, you can only KNOW what she’s thinking, feeling. There are ways to show what he’s thinking/feeling through her POV, though.
She saw his eyes brim with tears and knew he had never gotten over the death of his first love. A handy thing about this is she can ‘know’ what he’s thinking and be completely wrong…so you, as the author, need to let the reader know she’s wrong, and you can do that later when you’re in HIS POV. “He remembered the moment they’d talked of his first love and he’d had to fight back tears of relief that the battle-ax was dead.”

So now we’ve got the reader inside everybody’s head--but in their turn--one at a time. The characters can be mixed up but the readers can be clear.
POV is tricky. And one POV per scene is the rule.

Back Story Dump
Next comes Back Story Dump. This is just an almost uncontrollable urge every author on the planet--including me--has to tell the reader what brought the characters to where the story begins.

You’re supposed to begin your book with an explosion. Not always an actual explosion, an emotional one is fine…but honestly, I prefer if something really blows up. Bring on the dynamite. Well, we can’t be blowing things up now can we if we’re locked inside the heroine’s head while she’s driving along remembering her mother’s death and her fiancé’s betrayal and her boss firing her for not submitting to his disgusting advances and now she’s penniless and almost out of gas and there are wolves howling in the dark woods through which she is now driving.

NO! Stop thinking about the past and explode the story.

Here’s the thing with back story. You need it. You wouldn’t have made it up if you didn’t need it. So, you’ve got to assume you need it for a REASON. Therefore, that back story is going to wind it’s way into your story somehow.

Seriously, it makes its way in. You do NOT need to write a three page back story, certainly not. Not even a one paragraph back story. Try half a sentence per page for the whole book.

Dialogue…get OUT of her head. If she’s fighting for her life then, okay, she can not talk, but otherwise, get her a friend or a dog or a teddy bear or something so she can talk not think. Thinking is very slow.

Which brings us to action. Make her MOVE.


Make someone move. If your book starts with her driving along for ten pages, reflecting on her whole life up to this point—alone—with no five senses—in an omniscient POV, which I am not going to attempt to explain here…Google it…then you’re making a mistake and you need to fix it.

“Fighting the high wind and blinding lightning on the heavily wooded rural highway distracted Madeline Blodgett from plotting revenge.

Something dashed into the road ahead of her and she instinctively jammed on the brake and wrenched the wheel to avoid impact. The nose of her rusted out Chevy Cavalier slammed into a rock alongside the road. The hood of her car blasted straight up and flames shot skyward. The car went into a spin. Lightning revealed a cliff directly ahead. Fighting the handle, Maddy wrenched the door open and threw herself out rolling, sliding along on the heartless, frozen pavement.

The choking smoke from the car burned her lungs and sparks rained onto her head. The car launched into midair. Momentum carried her after the car. Clawing at the frozen ground she tore her fingernails to bloody stumps. A slender branch slapped her face and she snagged it, stopping her fall. She tasted her own blood as she …

blah, blah, blah… I’d have her dangle, fight her way back up (the word cliffhanger came from somewhere!). Some blood drip in her eyes, a wolf howl, I'm picturing sleet to wed the 'frozen' with the 'lightning'. You know, the regular opening for a sweet Christian romance novel….

Dragging herself back up onto the bridge, she raised her eyes and looked straight into the dripping fangs of the alpha male of a growling wolf pack.

He was going to tear her to shreds and eat her flesh. Even so Maddy knew the wolf would treat her ten times better than her back-stabbing, cheating, lying, slimeball ex-fiancé.

That’s it. That’s all the back story you get for this page. We need a hero to jump between her and the wolves about now, don’t you think? Although I'm a big fan of heroines saving themselves. Still, this is a really tight spot. I'm sure she had a shotgun but it went over the cliff with her car. The hero'd better show up and be tough but have a real bad attitude. Why the bad attitude? His own back story. But please, please, please don’t tell me about it yet. And you can’t anyway because we’re in her POV.

Anything about this you don’t understand you have to learn.

Have to.

Go look at your book. Are the senses there, the dialogue? Is the back story gone? Who’s POV are you in? Any questions that would make any of this more understandable?

Hit me with the opening couple of paragraphs of your book.

Let's see if you explode your story.

Mary Connealy
writes fun and lively "romantic comedy with cowboys" for the inspirational market. She is the author of the successful Lassoed in Texas, Montana Marriages, and Sophie's Daughters series, and her novel Calico Canyon was nominated for a Christy Award. She lives on a ranch in eastern Nebraska with her husband, Ivan, and has four grown daughters.

This post first appeared in Seekerville April 7, 2008

Don't forget...

Today is the last day to be considered for our weekly critique.


  1. Coffee's ready.

    This is LOADED, and just as good as the first time around.

    Thanks for stating it so well.

  2. First - I must cry to ya'll because ya'll'll understand...

    Was reading through a nearly completed MS and discovered that either I didn't write two scenes or I've lost them. I'm about 98% sure I've lost them b/c I can see them in my head [the widower finally taking off his wedding ring and the heroine finding it and a letter from her late hubby a few minutes later]. But I can't find them anywhere. And that makes me so want to cry. /CRY/

    Okay. There. It's out for now. I'll probably cry more later.

    Now, for Mary's stuff... I'd bet Maddy has a metal pipe up her sleeve. And she'll use it to beat off the wolves and then when Mr. Man shows up, he'll have nothing to do but ride off into the sunset with her - after a few mmore Mary Explosions.

    And since when do you like explosions, Mary? ;)

    Hmmm... I can't post two of my openings because they're Genesis... And my other one is so very very rough as to not count [that's the one from which I've lost stuff].

    I'm horrible at using the sense of smell. It always seems like it's added as an afterthought - probably because it is :p.

    POV I do okay at usually because I tend to write first person - it's harder [though not impossible ;)] to head hop in first person.

    I'd love a critique :).

    carol at carolmoncado dot com

  3. Oh - and breakfast!

    Went by a Cinnabon today so here's a bunch of them to go with Helen's coffee!

    [And Helen - I'm emailing you darlin'!]

  4. I learn so much from this blog!!! Love it, such a blessing =)

    Carol - So sorry. Said a prayer for you. I once spent HOURS writing my first summary only to have a breaker blow in the house and yep... kill my computer (too caught up to save and no autosave, since it's caused me problems with playing with chapters.) Drove to prayer mountain at my church and cried my EYES out to Daddy God about it. Came home, booted it up, and Word recovered it. That was a big PTL moment. I hope you have a similar one of your own, that's what I prayed for!

    Opening paragraph of Chasing the Lion (with some new sensory detail ;-):

    It was not every day a man found out he had a son he never knew existed. Cornelius poured himself another cup of wine and drained it dry for the second time that night. The burn in his throat as he did so was reassuring in its own way. His forced habit of moderation stood no chance against of the events of this day. It had begun routinely, Cornelius rising with the sun to a well prepared meal and an excess of worries. Worry was expected of anyone in Rome with wealth, status, or political office and Cornelius possessed all three in great quantity. The constant pressures of family, fortune, friends and enemies, distinguishing who was which he had learned to manage with good sleep, productive days, and pleasures in moderation. As the last of the light was fading from the room, and the sun set on this day however, he had a murdered colleague and another son. Therefore, more wine. And yet over all those concerns still loomed Caesar himself - the keystone on which all others depended.

  5. Well, got one section re/written. The more I got into it, the more I think I hadn't written it before. That's okay. It's written now.

    The other part [the widower taking off his ring] I think I already wrote, I really do, but since I can't find it... I get to write it tomorrow :).

    Thank you Nancy! The words flowed fairly easily - I'm quite certain the prayers helped :). About 1300 words total. Though, um, there was about 6 verses in there. I did have to go find them, but I didn't have to actually WRITE them...

  6. I loved this post! So funny! So hard to read... *sigh* My first book written i actually HAD the heroine in her car, driving and thinking long, dark thoughts. Haha! then i read Stein on Writing and he said if you have to start with a flashback, start further back. Ohhhhh, right.
    I would put in a few opening paragraphs but i think you've already read them. Your posts sounds suspiciously like my first five pages critique! *snort* Ah well, it was good then and it's good now. (I think you said you liked my title so I'll cling to that...)

  7. It feels go to know I've moved on from the ABCs and maybe I'm in the LMNOPs or beyond...but the next stretch of letters is pretty slow-going because who ever gets to Z? There's always something to learn and master.

    I definitely struggled with setting. I had those same questions. Where are they? Well, I knew where they were but um, not so my dear contest judges.

    Thank you Mary! I can't share my opening either know. that contest thing.

  8. Super post - great review, hopefully I've implemented ALL of this. (No, you're not Nora. Obey. HA!)

    Mary - you are awesome whether using dynamite or a horse. This is just good stuff. Thanks!

    CarolM - just so you know... I attended the SCBWI conference in Houston last year. They keynote speaker, a multi-published author who is also a lawyer (!) writes her entire manuscript, then she reads it over and DELETES THE ENTIRE THING.

    insert audible gasp - as we all did at the conference

    And she begins anew. She says her brain retains the important pieces and reworks the rest, so it makes her manuscripts much stronger. It must be working. But she's pretty gutsy, wouldn't you say?

    Off to the races today - y'all have a good one!

  9. Cinnabon (note how I go to FOOD first. It's a skill, a gift, I know...)


    Carol, we've all done that. Hit that delete button, or merged things that really, truly were never meant to be ummm...

    Overtaken by small alien cyber bots and whisked into the ever-increasing mystery of cyber space clouds. Sorry, dudette.

    Helen, loving coffee.

    Mary, I've noticed a lot of this basic stuff in critiques and contest entries. The simple things we all need to weave into our stories to set a time and place for the reader (remember, Melissa keeps reminding me that despite my urging, Harlequin will NOT pack a CD with my books explaining why my characters do what they do. They figure that's MY job as the author.

    Pshaw! ;)

    So slipping facts in among emotion-riddled pages is hugely important. Those tiny bits and bytes help a convoluted story make sense in the reader's mind.

    Great post. I have to be nice because yesterday Mary used this phrase (and I quote)...:

    "Ruthy was right."

    Oh mylanta, we were dancin' in the streets of Western NY, friends!



    Oh my stars, there's only so much you can do with a 47-year-old face.

    I decided '47' is my new go-to number. It's nondescript, it doesn't sound TOO old, and it looks good in any font:


    I'm there, probably for half a decade at least. Longer if they market that magic pill to add elasticity back to flaccid skin.

    Stupid depletion of hormones.

  10. Wonderful post, Mary!!! I love how you cover the basics--and biggies--with humor snd no-nonsense directness. Wonderful job!

    Speaking of explosions, you put a humdinger in Sharpshooter in Petticoats!

    Helen, thanks for the coffee!

    Someone's going to win a 5-page critique today!!! Bring on those comments.


  11. Important reminders in this post, especially the part where about using it sparingly. You need setting but not a page and a half of your hero/heroine driving so you can describe the location. BORING!

    And even more lose your reader.

    My weakness is the senses. I try to use them all but it seems only at the revisions stage. It doesn't come naturally to me to include smell and hearing in my rough drafts.

    I'd be up for a five page critque.

    RRossZediker at yahoo dot com

  12. {{{{Hugs, CarolM}}}

    I've been there, done, that! You poor thing. I hope you find the scenes.

    I have to be really careful about making copies of older versions my work, then working off the wrong copy, or emailing it to a different computer, and opening the attachment, work away, hit save, then go back later and can't find what I did....because I worked off the attachment that was attached to the email and didn't save it to the harddrive.

    Or, a friend sends an attachment to crit. Excited, you open it, and start reading...get so involved, you forget you never saved it to your harddrive, and then just hit save. And later can't find your comments to send back to your friend. Done that way too many times to count.

    Sometimes you can retrieve stuff like that from your temp folder, but not if you override it by opening another version with the same name. Aaarrgh

    I've worked a little off my alphasmart and get a little paranoid about not transferring all those scenes as well.

    It's a tangled web we weave for sure!

  13. KC - are you trying to send me into convulsions?!?!?!

    I lost the first... 10 pages or so of something in a hard drive crash once. What I recreated wasn't nearly as good :(.


    Got the one done last night - now to figure out where I meant to stick the other one in and do that...


    And I'm leaving Denver today. This is both good and bad. I miss my kids. I miss my bed. I do not miss housework. I will miss the giant soaker tub.

    /more sighs/

  14. Go Nancy!

    Now THAT made me smile.

    And, yes, I've had some of THOSE moments too where I praised the Lord I'd found the lost coin, as it were!

  15. Woohoo! Great post and full of cliffhangers ;-) Literally.
    Love it, Mary.
    Thanks for posting this recap, Tina.
    Oh CarolM - totally understand. I lost an entire ms that way because it was 10 years ago and I'd typed the entire thing on a typewriter. I was in the process of retyping it/editing it to put into my computer and the manuscript monster came...because it disappeared.
    Weeping & gnashing of teeth followed.
    The only upside - most of the story was securely formed in my head.

    Have a great weekend, Seekers.


    This made my heart just DROP in my chest. You know, metaphorically!



    The only thing that would make me that brave is to have 40 published books under my belt, the last 10 of them NYT bestsellers, two full-time maids, a paid off mortgage, a fat retirement portolio, a villa in Paris, wear a size, make that size 8, and the book I just typed and deleted due in...24 months.

    Yes, I could do that.

  17. Thanks so much Mary! Huge help:) I'm printing this off because it's just what I needed to hear. I'm normally getting only one of the senses in there...need to revamp!

    You said it all so clearly, thanks!

  18. Super post and full of great reminders. I need to go back through my current ms and make sure I've hit all the points.

    My weakness is setting the scene. I get so involved in my characters actions I forget to let people in on the scenery and what's going on around the characters.

  19. SUPER reminders.

    Yanno, before I heard about one POV per scene, reading "otherwise" didn't bother me. Now that I know? Drives me BONKERS!!!

    I think setting the scene is the hardest part for me too. Need to work on it!

    And enter me in the five page critique dealymabobber (LOVE that word LOL).


  20. good morning!
    ok I lost my cookies at the 'fingers to bloody stumps' part but the rest was ok - and the wolf can turn out to be a super hunk shapeshifter and turn into a hunky hero and pull her to safety!

    ok I've gotten over the bloody stumps stuff so what's for breakfast?! :-)


  21. you know seems like I've read a few books where the flashbacks and history stuff were better than the actual current story...


  22. This is so helpful! So glad you reposted it!

    I would like to be considered for the first five pages critique! I didn't realize you guys did this! Such a great opportunity!

    travelingstacey at bellsouth dot net

  23. Back story is my biggest enemy -- and my heroine thinking to herself even though she has a dog. Gotta change that too.

    Love the sage advice and since you seem to know what you're talking about I guess I'll follow it. :-)

    And hey -- guess what the mailcarrier delivered to my house yesterday? My eharlequin order...full of seekerville new releases. I'm in a swoon of ecstasy!!!!!

  24. Swoon ecstasy! I like that. Do you get the four pack or the six pack? Which titles were in it, Kav?

  25. Oh my stars, this is too fun.

    Losing stuff.

    Pam's computer to computer snafu-itis.


    Oh, YAY!!!!!

    Point of Wisdom here (having done the above way too many times):

    When I get a contest critique or an entry IN I put it in the folder marked CRITIQUES: Audra.... Or Sandra.... Or Kav..... Or Walt....

    Or Mary....(yeah, like anyone's going to believe THAT!!!)

    Then it's locked in. I can't lose it. I might try, and have tried, but it's there.

    Contest entries same thing:

    Pull down the e-mail attachment and drop it into CONTEST ENTRIES...

    (follow me here, I KNOW this is complicated, people...)

    And then I save each one with it's silly little number "I 17 J 42 M"


    But then when the coordinator e-mails me and says "Oh, they're due in three days, just a reminder!" I don't look as stupid as I usually do.

    Those two folders, holding all their little sub-folders, are a life saver.

    But you know what? The times I've lost something, I re-do and I know it's just as good. Maybe better. Really, we're way too hard on ourselves as if we can't recreate a great scene.

    Sure we can. It's our job. So be frustrated, that's okay, but you can re-create. Promise.

  26. Mary,

    What a way you have with words!! That is the clearest explanation of those concepts I've ever read.

    Maybe if I'd had it explained like that years ago, I would be a lot further ahead. So thank you for that.

    Carol, the only thing I can think of to help is to do a search (may be different if you're a MAC user), but I do an advanced search where you can put in some of the words used. If you can think of one or two unique words and search for them, you just might find the doc you saved it in. (This is a search for your whole hard drive, not just a search in one document). Give it a try! There's nothing to lose in any case. Hope you find it.

    Have a great weekend everyone!


  27. Ruthy,
    You look lovely btw.
    It's the smile.
    And my granny used to say "Mischevious people usually looked younger than they really were."
    Just sayin.

  28. Tina, I got Ruthy's and Janet's and Missy's hahaha! (2 of each) And I bought another one of yours Tina because we're having a Love Inspired giveaway on another blog. Oh -- and I got a Susan May Warren and...I forget the other one I selected on a whim.

    I closed my eyes and reached into the box this morning (didn't know how else to pick) and pulled out Ruthy's. I'm on page 31...soon to be 32 since I get to take lunch right now. Wooooohooooooo!

  29. Pepper who is that gorgeous diva in your picture?

  30. Oh, Kav, I didn't mean to scrutinize your personal purchases, lol. So sorry. I thought you meant the book club!

    But now I am even MORE impressed.

    Okay what blog does book giveaway??

  31. I found this post incredibly helpful, Mary, and I'm glad you decided to re-post. Loved the part about the "frozen, heartless" pavement.

    I guess I needed to know what exactly "backstory" is. I was assuming it would be stuff in Madeline's past---Why was she driving by herself at night? Where had she come from? Where was she going?---and not *telling* the stuff that is actually going on. Am I interpreting this right? If not, I blame it on having a head stopped up with spring allergies!

  32. Backstory

    Events previous to the start of the plot which are essential to an appreciation of present circumstances and understanding of character behavior.

    Taken from The Sticking Place

  33. WOW! Yet another keeper post from Seekerville - thank you Mary! ~ LOVE these comments too (and LOVE the coffee and Cinnabon!). Yes, guess I'm just full of LOVE today, teehee. ~ And Carol, I feel for you....lost almost an entire ms last year (that I thought I'd saved) *sigh* ~ Live and learn. ~ Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo :)

  34. I run out of things to say in the comments sections because these posts are always full of tips I find helpful, timely, insightful, etc. Thanks for all you do here, Seekers!

  35. MARE ... a keeper then and a keeper now. But then, quite frankly, so is everything you write ... books, blogs, e-mails, loops ... you're a virtual gold mine, darlin'!!

    CAROL!!! My heart (and stomach) are sick for you, losing those pages!! My husband has to medicate me after something like that happens, and I'm almost not joking!! Saying one for you because if you are anything like me, the rewrite is NEVER as good as the memory ... :/


  36. (snicker)
    Thanks, Tina.
    My daughter, Lydia, took that pic yesterday because she said I was having a 'good hair day.'

    Most days she doesn't say anything. So now I'm worried :-)

  37. CAROLM when you rewrite those missing scenes they will be BETTER than before. This is a GOOD thing. Dry your tears darlin;

    The best writing is re-writing. You've been blessed with that opportunity.

    (Okay, I'd be upset too, but still, what're'ya'gonna'do?)

    Rewrite them.

  38. Helen's coffee and Cinnabon?

    I have found my happy place.

  39. Great advice!
    I love a good explosion in the beginning!
    You have been be a busy blogger lately! I don't know how you find the time!


    You should've heard ME gasp audibly.


    Well, the one thing I learn is, there are a dozen 'right' ways to write a book.

    I hear someone with a new technique all the time and if it works for them, then it works for them, right?

    Still GASP!!!!!
    I used to write about 100 pages before I felt like I had discovered the characters of my hero and heroine. I'd often go back and work my way through the story to that point.

    Still, GASP!!!!

    I make up gasping in my sleep. Nightmare.
    Can you imagine if you LOST the whole book, you'd be devastated. Brave, interesting lady.

  41. 47


    yeah right

    you've got shoes older'n that, baby doll.

  42. Rose, we call adding the senses later, LAYERING.

    It's a widely accepted way to write. So many authors FORGET the first time through. But nothing, nothing, nothing is more IMMEDIATE, than the senses.

    If you say, "He smelled chocolate cake." This is something everyone on the planet can relate to.

    This brings the reader right along with you, brings them INTO the book.

  43. PS (a gloating moment) I just finished A Heart Revealed by Julie Lessmen.

    Yes, through a terrible abuse of power I managed to get my hands on an advance copy of it.

    Oh! My! Gosh!

    We have only begun to really see what Julie is capable of. Just brilliant.

  44. Susanna, nice recover. On to Cinnabon, huh?

    How about this, think about, "She drew her fingernails slowly down the blackboard."

    Okay, who can read that and NOT get goosebumps. This is universal. This is the senses. Incredibly important. It's the difference between a reader reading and LIVING a book.

    And yeah, I talk tough, but I need to go make sure I actually did it in my books. Easy to say, not so easy to do.

  45. Ruthy, I didn't understand a word of that contest critique comment.

    And, because once in a while you're interesting, I made the mistake of trying to read it.


  46. Mary Bailey, when ever possible I blame ragweed for all my troubles. Good call.

    You do want to know why she's alone of that frozen road, don't you? You want to know what brought her there. Okay, the whole point (well, not the WHOLE POINT) is that you're hooked. You want to know what the heck???

    So you'll read on. You need to know. If I front load all that stuff I take so much of the TENSION out of the book.

    RBD--what do you think? Can we co-opt this phrase.
    Maybe write a book?

  47. I've lost a half dozen manuscripts over the years.

    I wrote four books of a seven book series called Whiz Kids about a group of kid geniuses.

    A lost a book I envisioned as a Christian Harry Potter about a young angel in training. I loved that book. The angel, after years working as an Angel Unaware on earth finally achieved enough ??? points? To qualify for Cherub Academy where he learned ... it seems like there were seven skills and I was going to do one per book. angel. Heavenly host angel choir. Escorting dead people to heaven.
    Can't remember them all now.

    I'd've been so stinkin' RICH.

  48. FYI Julie's husband medicates her with a dart gun. Not safe to get to close.

    The radio collar she's wearing is adorable, though.

  49. mary - no fingers on blackboards either! geez! I'm sensitive 'bout fingers! one romance I was reading had the bad guy breaking the heroine's fingers..'course must not have been too bad 'cause she and the hero were um recovering nicely the next day(ok obviously lot a christian romance!) if my fingers were broken nobody better get within 10 foot of me without chocolate or pain meds.



  50. No WAY, Mary!
    You've read A Heart Revealed.
    Just don't tell Casey. shhhh!

    Oh I can't wait to read that book!

  51. Hey, Mary! This is a classic! I'll keep sending people to Seekerville, because this teaches!!!

    Hoping blogger doesn't eat my comment ...

  52. MELANIE!!!!
    You're back.

    I was afraid your spirit was broken when Blogger ate your comment the other day. Nice to see you back in her swinging. :)

    Julie's book is really excellent. I should have marked a bunch of places. Guess I'll just have to read it again.

  53. Just keep rubbin' it in, Mary.

  54. Ruthie had an anniversary not long ago. 37 years.

    She was a romance diva at a VERY young age.

  55. A nice reminder here, Mary. I would love to share the opening paragraphs of my WIP, and even enter for a chance to win the critique, but that is the problem area in my story. A book with no beginning. Haha. It kind of has one. Actually, it has several. When I finally get it panned out, I'll enter for that five page critique!

    Thanks again for some definite writing essentials!


  56. Thank you so much for breaking this down into easily digestible bites.

    Just when I think I've conquered one of these, it pops up again. My biggest problem is getting outside of my character's head. I give a lot of what he's thinking. That may come from the fact that I'm a natural introvert so I stay in his head. I've put a sticky note on my computer. In bold black letters it screams, GET OUT OF MY HEAD! It sometimes helps.

  57. Whitney, picking the right spot to begin a book is tricky for lots of people. Not so much for me, because I brainstorm the beginning of a book for months while I'm writing another one. Laying awake (lying awake? Oh, Grammar Queen?) I brainstorm book beginnings and it's not THAT tricky 'cuz I'm just looking for something I can blow up.

    And that's the start. Then I figure out how to tie a book to that.

    You really have that note? I love it.
    You should use that in a book. She could read the note, then something explodes.

    Seriously, you made me laugh out loud. Kinda embarrassing. My husband is looking at me funny.

  59. Mary - Glad you enjoyed that one. Yes, I have that stuck to my computer. Strangely enough, I find ways to ignore it.

    My family thinks I'm crazy anyway, so why not give them one more proof?

    I hadn't thought about using it in a story, but I can see a place it fits in the sequel to my mystery. The detective is closing in on the drug dealer, knows his every move. Yep, that could work! Thanks!

  60. Pepper that new picture is stunning. And a CHILD took it?

    Maybe that's my problem. I've been using adults.

  61. I greatly fear the quality of the picture has something to do with raw material and no one of any age is gonna be able to snap a picture of me with any of that.

  62. Mary,
    I'll be happy to send Lydia out there with camera in hand. Just let me know.
    I'll send her with a camera in one hand and a rifle in the other. Never know what she might meet in the direction of your imagination :-)
    But the rifle will HAVE to be pink

  63. Are you still taking the first few opening paragraphs? I have a new story I've been piddlin' with in between my wip :-)

  64. Sorry I haven't been around much this week. Been a weird week. I've been busy or tired or both.

    Mary, looks like a good post. I'm too tired to read it right now. Maybe later.

    Hugs to all,


  65. Ha. Thanks, Mary. This is the first story I've ever had a problem with the beginning. I wrote the beginning, but the first chapter has no dialogue-- just the heroine's thoughts and a letter. The second chapter sees her traveling and she meets a corner to the love traingle before she meets the hero, so I don't know how that would float.

  66. Thank you for this post! It inspires me and reminds me of a few things I tend to forget.

    And this is a little off topic, but I wanted to say that reading Seekerville always feels like hanging out with friends after a busy and tiring day. I always look forward to it.

    Thank you!! :)

  67. Thanks for the kind words on Seekerville, Widsith.

  68. Okay, Mary, this was so full of great stuff. Two years ago, I would only have "gotten" about 20 % of it, but now I GET IT!!!! That is so encouraging. And it's so heartening to know that backstory challenges happen to EVERY red-blooded authro-to-be. Sometimes I've felt so %$#$%& (bad word starting with st that I don't call myself any more, thanks to Seekervillites) when I fall into it AGAIN....and re-re-re edit only to find I did it STILL!!!!!

    But mostly, I'm having fun and making progress on this addictive journey. THAnk you so very much. And I would love to be considered for the free critique. Yes indeedy!!

    Bless you,

    Gail Kittleson

  69. I would like to be considered for the weekly critique drawing. Thank you.