Thursday, March 7, 2013

Welcome Guest Blogger, Alan Schleimer

Remember the ACFW conference in Dallas last year? I do. I loved seeing so many of you, exchanging hugs and catching up on all the important info of our lives. Ahhhh, good times. 

At the awards ceremony, I had the good fortune to share a table with Alan Schleimer and we chatted about our respective writing careers. I found his story fascinating and invited him share with Seekerville. Enjoy!

Quick note: Alan plans on visiting in Seekerville as much as possible. His wife is ill and her comfort is most important. Your prayers are appreciated!!

My Rookie Season: Three Lessons from the Road to Being Published

Welcome to today’s topic: The top 147 inviolable rules to remember simultaneously while being creative. Why are you staring at your computer screen like that? Sure, you’ve never heard it put that way before, but isn’t that what we have to do? To paraphrase the perennially inept secret agent Maxwell Smart, “Is 147 too many, Chief? How about 87? Would you believe 27?”

I think writing is like learning to drive. At first, we have to monitor our mirrors plus the speedometer, while also keeping our eyes on the road “at all times.” Obviously, something has to give, but without the benefit of experience, how do you know which? The good news is if you make a mistake writing, you won’t run into any brick walls. At least not literally. If you focus on 147 things, you haven’t concentrated on any. So what is really important in the process of becoming a published writer? What is most important to concentrate on, and what can wait as we mature?

To answer those questions, I’ve boiled down those 147 rules (I didn’t really count them) to three lessons.

Lesson 1: Don’t rush it. Consider it an eleventh commandment to get the storyline right. Invent your story like you would pass a police car; take it slow. Don’t settle for the first idea. It takes a long time to write a book. Why spend all that time on a rushed, flawed, uninspiring concept? I’ve read some mediocre books by some of my favorite authors. Readers will cut an established writer some slack, but most of us don’t have that luxury. How do you know when the story’s main concept is outstanding? When you give a short pitch to someone, and they say, Wow—I want to read that book. It’s what’s called a high-concept. Without it we’ll struggle to get the book query read.

Like the story’s concept, don’t rush the story’s development. You started with a great idea, let it percolate before you commit to writing. You can’t be creative trying to implement all 147 rules. Leave them for the editing stage. Even then, you don’t have to do one hundred plus things at once because you can make multiple passes. I battle the tendency to scrub everything squeaky clean in the first draft of a scene. The trouble comes later when you have to shoehorn in a truly cool idea into scenes that were already polished. It wastes time. So don’t rush into editing, and don’t accept the first ho-hum storyline that comes to mind.

Surprise even your characters, and they’ll surprise your readers. Don’t rush your development as a writer. I’m going to cover ways to do this below, but accept the fact that perfecting your skills will not happen overnight. Even the highest high-concept storyline has to be well written. Convince yourself that if you aren’t ready to write your story superbly yet, then developing it at a snail’s pace isn’t a problem. The corollary is: don’t rush your submission.

One final thought on not rushing it. Don’t let negative thoughts get you down and force you into accepting mediocrity for the sake of time. Psychologists call it negative self-talk. When you hear yourself whining something like: I’m too slow, or I stink at this, or worse. Challenge those thoughts as if they came from someone you don’t like very much. I know. I know. We are supposed to love everybody, but you wouldn’t accept their grossly generalized negative opinion of your writing, right? You’d prove them wrong. So find evidence of a brilliant sentence or paragraph or scene and present it to yourself. Keep a positive attitude.

Lesson 2: Soak up all the help you can (afford) and use it. Let’s start with criticism, since I appeared to have belittled that just above. I didn’t condemn all critiques. Generalized negativity is less than useless, but pinpointing specific needs give us areas to concentrate on. We all have weaknesses requiring work, but they are hard to find on our own. Join a critique group or get a partner or ask a friend to read your scenes. Personally I like group critiques where multiple people comment on the same passage. It’s amazing how many times, what one person loves, another will tear apart. Your job is to take all their comments to heart and evaluate their applicability. There is typically a kernel of wisdom in every comment you receive. My rule of thumb is the more the critique pains me, the more it is probably on target. Another avenue is contests. Get your work out there, and get your ego bruised. The ACFW has contests where each submission gets feedback. It’s inexpensive and invaluable.

Speaking of cost, some instruction can be acquired for as little as the price of a book. There are great craft books on every aspect of writing. Get some recommendations and pick a book based on your greatest need whether it’s plot, structure, flat dialogue, or cardboard characters. Devour craft books in detail, but don’t just read them. Pick a few favorite novels in your genre and analyze those books against the instructions from the craft book. I have done spreadsheets analyzing every scene in novels looking for the advice I found in craft books. But don’t stop there either. Now analyze your wip, and apply what you learned. Here’s an example. One book on craft described a scene as having three critical jobs. I re-read a favorite book and listed each scene, then wrote out exactly how the author did each of those three things for every scene. I really learned a lot doing that. It can be done with movies, too. Watch a scene, pause the DVD, then make notes.

Finally, there’s the big kahuna of learning. Be sure to attend a respected conference (or two or three or more over time). They will speed up your development in innumerable ways. Yeah, they’re expensive, but you get to ask questions in the seminars. Most books on craft don’t give us that opportunity. At least not yet. And here’s a tip on picking sessions to attend. Obviously you want to listen to the topics of your greatest need geared to your level of proficiency, but you will always learn more from the person who is the better teacher. Gifted teachers have a way of imparting wisdom with every word, even if you’ve heard it before. Also, choose conferences that provide exposure to editors and agents. When they recognize you have been putting in the time and treasure to learn, they’re more apt to read your material. Even if your writing isn’t ready in their opinion, if you handle yourself professionally in their presence, there is a high chance you will make a potential friend who will follow your improvement over time. Remember don’t rush it?

Two more things on conferences; if you can’t go, buy selected CDs of the sessions. And then schedule listening time. If you do attend a conference, take advantage of what the ACFW calls a Paid Critique. I submitted work three times to seasoned pros, and aside from receiving excellent advice during the critique meeting, check out what else happened. The first became a good friend and is a super encourager. The second insisted an agent read my submission. A few months later, I signed with that agent. The third Paid Critique occurred after I received a contract, but the critiquer forced her editor at a major house to read my twenty-page submission for future reference. That’s the power of networking at conferences.

My third lesson is: Make it count. That could be said about paid critiques, conferences and everything else I’ve listed so far, but here I mean every page, every scene, every character. I’ll explain with an example that demonstrates making every character and scene count, the sin of rushing it, and the importance of critique groups. You have probably heard that you need an objective for every scene. (It’s one of the 147 rules.) I don’t think that is complete. My advice is every character needs an objective in every scene. Here’s how I learned that. In my current book, I have a scene where my objective was to have a major character (Sarah, a cop) transferred to another case so she’d meet the hero.

I wrote the scene pretty fast because I knew exactly where I wanted it to go. I submitted the scene at a group critique and three of four people said it was nicely written. All the grammar was correct, the description achieved a nice balance, and the dialogue was snappy. I was happy because my objective for the scene was met; Sarah was transferred to the right case. However, one lady in the group said, “Sarah gave in kind of easy. I think she’d have fought harder to stay on her previous case.” My first reaction was 3 out of four liked it. But then I realized the fourth critique person was right. See, Sarah’s fiancĂ© was killed on that original case, and she’d worked unsuccessfully all weekend without sleep to catch the killer. Sarah’s objective would be to stay on that case no matter what. I rewrote the scene making her resist harder, and also strengthened her boss’s conflicting motivation to reassign her. The scene sizzled with tension. It made her character and that scene count.

So don’t rush over speed bumps, listen to your GPS, and make every gallon count.


Make sure you leave a comment today. Alan is offering an E-copy of his debut book, The Q Manifesto. Check out the Weekend Edition for the winner!

Bio Alan Schleimer writes suspense thrillers. His debut novel is the first in the Ezra Chronicles series and features former Wall Street whiz-kid and desert survivalist Jay Hunt. The Q Manifesto is an ACFW Genesis winner and was selected the #1 inspirational novel for 2012 by Daily Cheap Reads. Graced with expert writing advice from today’s top Christian Fiction writers, The Q Manifesto weaves a spell-binding plot around the ultimate what-if question. Alan believes good stories entertain, but great stories can change lives. He strives to only tell great stories. A former analyst, commodity trader, and entrepreneur, Alan infuses his high-stakes fiction with real world implications. Like an actor who does his own stunts, he has studied martial arts, finance, police work, and the divine source of all truth. He is married and lives in Houston.

The Q Manifesto Disenchanted with his profession, Jay Hunt gave up a lucrative Wall Street career to become a backcountry tour guide. Soon after, an ancient manuscript is uncovered that reveals the Gospels were an orchestrated fiction written by a first-century sect at Qumran. Though its revelation stuns the world, Jay ignores it until his father, a retired Dead Sea Scrolls expert, gets in over his head investigating the scroll. Suspicious of numerous accidents, Jay follows a trail of clues that uncovers evidence of a grand plot that will tip the balance of world power. Marked for death by unknown assailants, Jay soon learns that the world’s only chance to survive Armageddon depends on him deciphering cryptic messages in his quest for the truth.

An award-winning thriller that sprints from Arizona to Jerusalem, Paris to the Caribbean, and Houston to Amman. Your fingernails don’t stand a chance. 

Comment today for a Speedbo Prize


  1. Don't rush it. Except in SpeedBo?? :)

    Thanks for the insights.

    Okay, everyone, have a cuppa java from my newly fixed coffee pot and keep writing.


  2. Welcome Alan, and thank you for this wise advice. Congrats on your book! Prayers for your wife, and thanks again for taking time to share with us.
    Blessings from Georgia,
    Patti Jo
    p.s. Helen, I'd love some coffee!

  3. Boy am I glad there were three points and not 147. Although I will have to read through them again because there's a bit to glean.

    Thanks, Alan.

    Praying for your wife and you as well

    God bless,

    Tina P.

  4. I like your advice to make sure your storyline is a good one before rushing to write it. My problem is that I have a tendency to deliberate too long on it, afraid it's not good enough, and the result is that I end up staying in the dreaming stage.

    The Book in a Week class I take periodically helps with that. Using index cards to figure out my scenes, making sure the idea will fill out a book, and that it hangs together, works best for me.

    I value instruction, both in books and workshops, like the feedback of critique partners and contests, and loved the one conference I was fortunate enough to attend.

    Thanks for sharing your insights and prayers for you and your wife.

  5. It's great to see you in Seekerville, Alan and I like this cover better than the original one I saw in November. Best wishes and as I read your post I kept nodding, remembering the first three years of my own writing journey. Great stuff.

  6. Um, now you left me hanging....which book is this?

    "One book on craft described a scene as having three critical jobs"


    Very good advice, prayers for your wife.

  7. Alan, good morning! I hope your wife is on the mend, and I feel almost guilty partying here... Oh, wait...

    WORKING HERE!!!! :) (mutters to self, writing is hard work, writing is hard work, writing is hard work!!!) I love writing. So much, it's almost ridiculous!

    You've got some deep insight going on there. Wowza.

    I will say that the writing process is individual... and I often jump into a book with little more than a spirit-fed idea and then let it grow as I write. That process isn't for everyone, but for some of us it works, so waiting.... waiting doesn't work for us necessarily. I often find that character development comes from jumping in and writing FIRST... and then sorting out what I like and don't like about the characters/setting/plot.

    When I was young, working multiple jobs and raising six children, I heard a wonderful speaker talk about the jobs that didn't require a college education... broadcasting, art and writing.

    I was totally psyched!!!! I went to work straight out of high school so there are no fancy letters after my name... Well, unless W.A.I.T.R.E.S.S., M.O.M. is a new PhD.

    He went on to say that if you have the talent and the perseverance to work from the ground up, you can be successful at those three things without laying out a dime. (Very "Good Will Hunting", right?)

    I clung to that radio talk show speaker for years... Writing books may help some people study craft.... Reading books should help everyone... but I'm convinced that you don't need to go to expensive conferences or take pricey classes to succeed. I think hard work, willingness to change/edit and re-write puts us on the path to success. I've gotten more inspiration from simple blogs and talks with other authors via e-mail than I ever got from a conference.

    I love meeting folks at conferences. But I don't see conferences as being the wealth of applied knowledge they could be. And for aspiring writers who can't afford the rising price tags of conferences, trust me... you have everything you need in the brain God gave you and your willingness to work. It's all there... tap into it. Believe.

    Alan, I read an excerpt from your book on Amazon and I love the fast pace of an action thriller. Best of luck with this book and your future endeavors.

  8. okay. Alan's book blurb proved his post. "High concept" duly noted!

    I like the driving analogy. I think my writing process is like one of those decadent 'taco dip' salads. I can only do one layer at a time. No sense trying to look at the speedometer, and in the mirrors and on the road at the same time.

    Texting? I can't even do that sitting in an empty room, fully attentive.

    Helen Gray do you have electric now or not?

  9. Goodbye Dan Brown. Hello Alan Shleimer.

    Alan, your book sounds oh so good! Congrats on your success.

    Great advice this morning. I'd add "join a local writing chapter" to the list of what writers need on the road to publication. My GRW chapter was like a college-level class on creative writing with encouragement and support thrown in free of charge.

    Of course, back then, I didn't have Seekerville. :)

    Grabbing a cup of coffeee. Thanks, Helen.

    Prayers for your wife's return to good health, Alan.

  10. #4: Visit Seekerville daily


    Praying for your wife. Of course she comes first.

    It does seem like there's 147 rules to follow all at once. Every time I even THINK about typing the word "was" I stop and try to reword. It results in some pretty convoluted sentences and take it back to "She was sad" or whatever.

    Back to work while the kids get ready, then I have a couple hours before work and maybe an hour after before MIL gets here to go to the music deal for 2 of the kids tonight.

    SpeedBo Day 6:
    Today: 10036
    Total: 25119

  11. Ahh, gals after my own heart. Helen and Patti Jo, it's the middle of the night and you're still drinking coffee.


    Keep those Speedbo words coming!

  12. Gotta agree with you, Tina. Lots of stuff packed into 3 points.

    I'll be going back and reading it again and again, too!

  13. Alan, welcome to Seekerville. Your book sounds very interesting. I've placed it in my TBR file.

    But seriously, if I waited until I had every plot twist unraveled, to write the first draft, I'd explode. haha! j/k

    I agree with not rushing the editing and submission policy. We writers are strange creatures.

    And yes Ruthy, I love those spirit-fed ideas. :)

    I'm off to Speedbo!!!

  14. Some very good points Alan, thank you.
    Kathy Bailey
    Pre-pubbed in New Hampshire

  15. Appreciated Ruthy's comments...Writing really is a level playing field whether you've got an MFA or an MOM. It's also something that doesn't have an AGE CUTOFF -- we can do it as long as we can type. Which is my intent.
    Kathy Bailey

  16. Laurie, I fall into that same trap. I develope a storyline then as I "improve" it, I find my tangents no longer flow together and I have to start all over again.

    Ah, the woes of creativity!

  17. Hi Nancy! I love the cover of The Q Manifesto. And the blurb. Definitely not a book to dawdle through, LOL!

    Alan said it's been free on Amazon page for the last two days. Too bad it didn't extend over into today.

    But hey, there's always the alternative--BUY IT, LOL!

  18. Good morning Alan! Welcome to Seekerville and prayers for your wife. Congratulations on your Genesis win as well and your debut release.

  19. Melissa, if you knew what the 3 jobs were, it would probably scare you. Although if you ask real nice, he might share his secrets...

    Debra, I kinda like the taco salad approach. One layer at a time is about all I can manage, too. I'm definitely not speed demon down the highway of novel writing.

    Although I have been known to experience road rage when my scenes don't come together : )

  20. Well RUTHY I disagree with you. I think that conferences are gold. But it's a matter of matching the conference to the individual.

    I find RWA conferences to be an amazing tool, BUT one caveat, I am a visual learner.

    Having 5 tracks per hour you are sure to find at least one that meets you at the place you are in the learning curve.Plus it's really a huge bang for your buck.

    But I agree on one thing, today's publishing industry isn't buying you, they are buying a product so you don't have the luxury of taking as long to write book one as you do all your other books. So you have to learn techniques that work for you to develop that storyline faster and smarter.

    Faster also can mean forgoing a critique group. An eye opener for me was discovering just how different an editorial critique is from a personal critique. And so I have to go with what the editor says. She writes the checks. LOL.

  21. Ruthy, as always, you said a mouthful. I love the way your mind works, although at times it does scare and worry me too.

    You keep doing what you're doing because it definitely works.

    Kids, dogs, food.

    That's all you need, right? Works for me, too : )

  22. Kids, I have to get ready for work. Bummer. I want to stay and play.

    I'll be back later...

  23. How's everyone's Speedbo goals?

    We have prizes!!! Double the prizes this week so let us know if you are up for a critique.

  24. And don't forget to stop by the Cafe where Ruthy is cooking!

    10 Minute Chicken Veggie Bake

  25. Carol, way to go. Wow, a ten thousand word day.

  26. This is a post that makes me smile because I have this incredibly vivid memory of starting new books, before I was published, a long group of years into the process.
    I would lay my hands on the computer screen and pray and I'd think, "remember everything you know."

    I suppose that's 147 things, and Alan is right that it's impossible to remember it all, but I really TRY!!!!

    It's sort of Lion King-ish, Remember Who You Are!!!!

    Remember Everything You Know.

  27. Welcome to Seekerville, Alan. Thanks for your print worthy post that's stuffed with excellent advice!

    Praying for your wife's health.


  28. Ach, TEEEENA good point.... RWA is a huge bang for the buck. And there are lots of great courses/writing levels and each year the instructors are varied, so that's a plus... It's important to offer yourself a wide wealth of information in a business endeavor...

    Or trust your instincts and go for the gold.


    But I still contend that you can have a great career and not attend if you don't choose to.

    If you learn your craft... and pay the dues and don't cut corners (like that excellent post you had on the ACFW blog the other day, stellar information!)... and you're willing to pull up your big kid panties and move on... you don't need much besides a working brain, God-given talent and a work ethic.

    But that's my pull-'er-up-by-the-bootstraps mentality talking!

    I do think that connecting is a good thing, but in today's world, no one has to spend $1500-2000 to connect if you have a laptop and Internet access.

    Deb made a good point, though, that local chapters can be a HUGE and beneficial source of support. What I love about Seekerville and all youse, is that we can offer that support and networking from our home offices... or our Notebooks... or tablets.

    We're today's writers and we're in a whole new industry. I think it's good for us to recognize that and play it to our advantage. And of course, I'd rather write. But we all KNOW that!

    Money is not easy come by for so many.... I want each of those people to know that the gold ring is still there for them... ya' just can't give up. Stay in the trenches, work hard, submit, enter contests, take critiques with great thought and care, and keep writing.

    Write, write, write.

    That's my low-cost or no-cost advice of the day!

  29. Carol, I stand mouth agape, looking at that word count.


    Good job, my friend.

    I'd never be able to do it, but I'm so proud that you can!

    Hang in there.

  30. Wow, what a great post. I think the hardest thing is to remember to take it slow, make it good. When I read 147 points, I broke out into a sweat. I'm so glad you condensed into 3 great, points. Make it count. I like that one too.

    I have to remember, especially as one who is not yet published, that I have the time to make my work good, maybe even good enough to catch the eye of an agent. I can make my contest feedback count, my critique partners' comments count. Such great truths. Thank you, Alan.

    I'm praying for your wife and for you today.

  31. Oh, and I will correct myself again... NJRWA has a great conference. Their proximity to NYC lures great editors/agents and authors to come and teach.

    Really amazing. And M&M in Georgia is on my list to go to because they also vary things up to a point that you could go several times and learn new things each time, and the lessons are writer-geared.

    So okay, I have to agree with Teeeena, that matching the conference to the individual can be a help.


    But I'm glad I thought of that because I marveled at both of these conferences line-ups last year and that's a huge part of a successful conference.

    I think we need to set up a contest again soon.... it's time to think impromptu contest in Seekerville, so use your Speedbo to Finish the Book if possible, because we'll want finished book entries.... Keep that in mind as youse work this month.

  32. i don't do is this book available in paper? Love reading your comments as much as the post! Go, Seekervilles, Go! i know you will! Praying for you and your wife, Alan...that's my contribution, as well as praying for the rest of my friends here in their race with time! YOU ROCK


  33. Did it again...not enough coffee this morning, but it tastes great, Helen.

    i constantly mix up my email address
    it is


  34. 10K in one day, Carol?

    I think I'd go crazy if I tried. Not to mention, my elbows/ whole body would hurt.

    Alan, I agree learning to write takes patience. There's no need to get frustrated if everything doesn't come easy.

    Motivation I receive from meeting other authors at local conferences is invaluable. I don't recall learning much craft, but I met agents and lots of people just like me.

  35. Alan,

    Excellent WOW (words of wisdom) today! Thank you so much for your time. Prayers for you as you honor your wife in her time of need. Prayers for the Lord's healing touch in just the ways she needs it too.

    If we re-read your post today in several months, I suspect different things would grab our attention. Today was your line about "I'm too slow." Said that to myself just yesterday.

    Thought I'd begin the day with a Seekerville visit, and am so thrilled I did. Would totally enjoy winning a copy of your book. Not only because I LOVE the cover, but also because I'm from Houston (and you mention that city along with Paris, which my main character visited in her last book!) and I'm certain I could learn many things from your technique. may at maythek9spy dot com

    Thanks for being here in Seekerville today!

  36. Ruthy, my comment to you is...


  37. I heard once that Karen Kingsbury writes 10k a day. That's a full length novel every nine days. CAROL!!! We're expecting three finished books from you this month.

    anything less is a failure!!!

    (tormenting Carol to entertain myself, NOT good!!!)


  38. KC isn't it nice that May lets you travel with her? Thus making you an international traveler.

    Well someone has to carry the dog biscuits.

  39. Critique me... Ah no, critique my story. I believe my characters are up for, but I'm probably not. I just hope the fashion police don't ever swoop down on me.

    LOL... No, seriously.


    I did cut my hair, and asked hubby to straightened it for me. Which he did by cutting straight across taking off the curve and more hair than I hoped. Let's just say you really shouldn't't wake your husband up at midnight to straighten that last little clip of hair at the back of your head.

    You might get exactly what you asked for. ;-)

    Anyway put me in for a critique (no synops, or hooks)

  40. Welcome to Alan, we get to see his male point of view, congrats on the book.
    The coffee is great today and I needed it..where are the goodies?
    Today is the 7th, seven days into SpeedBo, Looks like a good beginning for many of you. today is also my son's 51st Birthday, hard to believe it has been that long since he was a Babe. Oh my time flies...and so it will for you writers so hurry-hurry and get those ideas on paper for your story.
    Happy writing for you makes Mappy reading for me....
    Paula O

  41. Mary -

    here's what I have to say about that.



    I can't keep that up that long! But oh if you could...

    Already have 2K in today and hoping for some more later but have to go to work. Hoping for 5K today but dunno if it's gonna happen... MIL is coming over and kids have their spring music deal tonight.

  42. Debra Marvin,

    Yes, we have electricity now. It was out 8 days, the TV and internet 11 days.

  43. Teeeeena's laughing at me!!!

    Of course.

    Hey, Tina P, that reminds me of the leaner years when I had my ten-year-old daughter cut my hair because it needed a trim.


    Oh, what was I thinking? Here, honey, I made cinnamon rolls.... with cream cheese frosting...

    I brought enough for the lot o' youse.

  44. OH LOOK!!! It's Debra Marvin! Where have you been hiding young lady??

  45. I keep happening upon this phrase... from youse guys, from TEEEEEENA, from church in a homily and from K-Love yesterday:

    What would you do if you weren't afraid to fail?

    I love that phrase because it makes me feel stronger when people say "You can't..."

    I never listen to the You Can't's.

    They're bothersome types.

    And then Virginia posted this on FB: "People who don't believe something can get done should move out of the way of those willing to do it."


    I think when you tiptoe into a career like this, you have to be big and brave and bold outside no matter how you feel inside.

    My boss used to say: "Fake it til you make it"....

    And a smile on our faces while someone rejects us, or tells us we'll never make the grade or rips our work to shreds....

    Shrug those off. The only person whose opinion matters professionally is the editor that signs the check.... And that can make critiquing kind of a time-waster. I love other people's thoughts, and brainstorming is fun for me (I know some folks hate it) but time is so precious that we've got to guard it.... I usually line up garden gnomes to scare folks away.

    They are frightening creatures, aren't they?????

  46. Alan, I love the book cover and story line. Praying for your wife, and caregivers, too. Thanks for sharing.
    I'm in for the drawing.

  47. Tina, interesting point about not having a critique group.

  48. Hi Alan:

    I pray that your wife is feeling better and that she will recover soon. Last year my wife had two knee replacements and I know what it is to be a caregiver.

    I wish we could meet at a conference. I’ve been fascinated by the Dead Sea Scrolls since they came out. Even as a little kid! This has been one long endless frustration. The delays in releasing translations is nothing short of criminal.

    I just have to ask this question. Is your title related to the “Q” document that many believe is a lost document on which Mathew and Luke based their Gospels? Some believe even Mark knew of it. If it is, then I have to read your book. There is so much mystery and ‘cloak and dagger’ involved with the Dead Sea Scrolls that anything you write would seem possible to me.

    BTW: I totally agree with your post today.. I think learning to write is like learning a language. It takes time. But the more you learn, the easier it is to learn more and the learning process seeds up. The rate of writing progress is not constant -- it is ever increasing. And about those 147 rules, I believe this: the experienced writer will do most of those rules by habit and without need of thinking about them. The goal then is to develop the right writing habits as soon as possible.

    I hope all is well.


    P.S. I’d love to win an e-book version of your book!!!

  49. Thank you all for the prayers and encouragement.

  50. Laurie, I flip back and forth between rushing and over-thinking so I find it necessary to remind to ask seek the sweet spot where Goldilocks would be pleased.

  51. Melissa, the three keys to scenes that I analyzed and practiced are from James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure. He calls the technique HIP: hook, intensity, and prompt. Instead of “prompt,” I like to call it “propel” as in propel the reader into the next scene and dare them to put your book down.

  52. Ruth, I agree that however fast or slow, hurried or contemplative we work; if it’s not Spirit-fed, our efforts are going nowhere.

  53. Debby, a local writing group is exactly where I participated in group critiques.

  54. Debby, a local writing group is exactly where I participated in group critiques.

  55. Bridgett, I don’t wait for the whole plot twist thing to develop before writing the first draft either, but the question is: What constitutes a first draft? For some a detailed “outline” or list of events IS the first draft. For others it’s many paragraph per scene and others it’s a shot at the actual scene. I agree it’s personal preference.

  56. Hi Ruth:

    About conferences: it’s not all about the cost-effectiveness of what you can learn or who you can meet. The biggest reward is how the experience can change you as a person and as a writer. (Expand the envelope).


  57. Marianne, The Q Manifesto is available in print on Amazon. Thanks for asking.

  58. May, thank you for kind words. There’s a great local chapter of ACFW that meets in the Woodlands called Writers on the Storm (gotta love that name).

  59. hi Alan
    thanks for sharing your wisdom with Seekerville. i like the HIP thing as well as likening writing to the driving process.

    those 147 rules could be overwhelming if we didn't just take 'em one at a time.

    i hope your wife is feeling better. thanks again for sharing here. i learn so much every time i visit.

    as for SPEEDBO...
    toddler remained napping when i got home so i got about 1K written before the little guy woke and wanted "momma, hold you me"

  60. Vince, the book is about the Q document. As to learning to write being like learning a foreign language, I couldn’t agree more. Someone once said, “I don’t know if writing can be taught, but it can be learned.” I like that quote for several reasons, but mostly because it puts the responsibility on us to expend the effort.

  61. Thanks for your wisdom on publication! Just curious, how long did you take to get published?

    I would love to win your book

    cathy underscore shouse at yahoo dot com

  62. WOW, Audra, where'd you get this guy -- he's GREAT!! ;)

    WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE, ALAN -- it's wonderful to have you here!!

    You said so many things that made me chuckle or stop and think that I'd be all day listing them, but here are the highlights for me:

    You said: "Invent your story like you would pass a police car; take it slow." LOL ... what a GREAT analogy because there is NO place where I slow down more than when I see a police car, so that really drove the point home for me -- THANK YOU!!

    Then you said, "My rule of thumb is the more the critique pains me, the more it is probably on target." OUCH ... there's more than a kernel of truth in that one, for darn sure!! As a Christian I discovered quickly that the bigger a problem I had with my Christian walk, the angrier I got when my prayer partner would gently point it out, so I truly believe it's the same with critiques for writers. EXCELLENT point!!

    Finally, your comment that "there is typically a kernel of wisdom in every comment you receive" is a real bulls-eye for me. I do believe we can glean good out of anything based on the Scripture that all things work together for good for those who love God, BUT ... I never applied that concept to opinions about my writing, so thank you for opening my eyes on that. I will never look at a 1-star review the same again ... :)


  63. You found a gem here, Audra! Thanks for inviting Alan to Seekerville!

    Alan, you had me at "Maxwell Smart." (Oh, dear, am I dating myself???) Great job of zeroing in on three of THE most important lessons for writers. There are plenty of rules on writing well--getting the prose right, the plot right, the characters right--but we ignore these three basic "rules of the publishing road" at our peril.

    It's been several years since I participated in an active critique group, but I have to agree with your thoughts about getting multiple comments on the same passage, especially if the group can talk face-to-face. What one person picked up on, someone else might restate in a more relatable way. And another person might have a completely different take that puts all the other comments in perspective or else gives you a new direction to try.

  64. I agree with Julie. Love the take it slow, like passing a police car. That caught my attention, Alan. :)

  65. RUTHY--just so you know, I LOVED talking story with you when we chatted. You totally opened up ideas for my new story.

    (Holds her hands up) Yes, I'm writing it. Slowly. I've discovered I make a miserable pantster. I can't write the scene unless I can see it first. I tend to see it best when I'm plotting out the story. :) So, I'm working on that. I've written just uner 5K of my 20K goal for the month. Still working as I catch glimpses of the scenes.

    And, I'm not writing in order (another big shift for this uber-plotter). :) All that to say, thanks for the phone call last month. It was invaluable. :)

  66. I love the HIP idea, Alan! Thanks for sharing that! Will add your wife to my prayers :)

  67. Julie, Myra, and Debby – Thanks for the warm welcome to Seekerville. The concept behind all of you pulling together to accomplish a goal is inspiring. Thank you for your great example and commitment to others.

  68. Julie, about passing a police car … glad you felt I DROVE the point home.

  69. Myra, Maxwell Smart doesn’t date us—there was a sequel not that long ago … that’s when we learned of him, right? Face-to-face is without a doubt the best way to give and receive critiques. Supposedly, non-verbal communication is 80% of communication. I think that is one reason why writing is so hard. We have to make up for the 80% of storytelling that’s missing in books.

  70. Cathy, ten years, but I had to start with spelling and grammar. I am truly the last person who should have become a writer. I used to struggle to write a two-paragraph business letter. When God calls us, he helps, but he doesn’t do the job for us. A finished, fully edited manuscript has yet to miraculously appear on my hard drive.

  71. Vince, I love experiential learning. I use it with my little peeps and it's a wonderful tack for grown-ups as well...

    But for so many Americans these days, cost factors are a huge consideration. In my lovely and successful town, part rural, part suburban, you can't go down a street or country road without seeing big red "Condemned" signs on homes that are deemed unliveable since 2008....

    And we're not in a hugely affected area.

    Add that to the number of Foreclosure signs I see, the big white signs on folks' homes.

    Harsh times for lots of folks, and that's a big part of why we started Seekerville... to help people at little or no cost learn the craft they love.

    But then I LOVED Good Will Hunting.... I'm big on the underdog!

  72. Ruth, I like the book’s cover too. Fortunately, the publisher paid absolutely no attention to my suggestions.

  73. Welcome Alan! I loved the line, "Your fingernails don't stand a chance." That says it all, doesn't it?

    Thank you for the advice. I can not find a writer's or critique group in my area. I've thought about trying to start one.

    Prying your wife feels better soon!

  74. Bookmarking today's post. As soon as I get my word count in, I'm settling in with a notebook, pen, a movie, and possibly chocolate to go over the "writing rules" I've learned thus far. Awesome idea!

    Speedbo words at present: 11,865

    It's so sunbright and lovely outside, I think I'm going to take my Alphasmart to the hammock today. Now THAT fuels my motivation. lol

  75. Jeannetakenaka, thanks for the kind words.

  76. Mary and Janet, thank you both for your Seekerville dedication.

  77. Hi Nancy. Thanks for the comments.

  78. Sorry, Alan, but I cannot tell a lie. I was a fan of the original Maxwell Smart and Agent 99.

    Entering my Cone of Silence now. Don't try calling me on my shoe phone. I'm having it resoled. KAOS trampled it.

  79. Welcome to Seekerville, Alan! Thanks for the great tips.Your book looks great. I'd like it and I'm sure my husband will to!

  80. Thank you for the wonderful advice Alan. I felt like I was in class. :) Also, thank you for consolidating from 147 to 3 as I would have ran out of time. :)

    Don't enter me for your book as I have already purchased it on Amazon.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  81. Hi Audra and Alan,
    Great post. Congrats on your book!!

    I'm sending prayers for your wife and for you.

    Lots to look at and think about in this post. Newbie or seasoned author can relate to all parts. And I love your example of not rushing, and that you followed your compass and rewrote the scene to make it stronger.


  82. Wow! So much good info in both the posts and the comments.

    Alas, no words from my keyboard today. Last night I had a reaction to a new medication I began taking last week. I had hives on various body parts and intense itching and burning on my palms and the soles of my feet. The hands and feet part woke me up at 3:30 AM and it was 7:00 before I got back to sleep only to have the phone ring at 8:00 with a reminder call about another doctor's appointment on Monday. The doc who prescribed the Rx is out of town but I did talk to the nurse. The standard treatment for hives is Benadryl, which is kinda like speed for me -- I get all hyper and hallucinate. So we decided on OTC Allegra. And Caladryl lotion. I'm hoping the drug has worked its way out of my system and I can sleep tonight. I really don't need to miss another day of work -- either the currently-paying job or the writing.

    Some days you're the windshield. And then there are days like today when you're the bug.


  83. ALAN SAID: "Julie, about passing a police car … glad you felt I DROVE the point home."

    LOL ... all that talent and funny too!! I pray God's abundant blessings on you and yours, Alan.


  84. Ooooh Marilyn,

    Hope you are better and REST tonight.

    Funny, or not, I have the same reaction to benadryl.

  85. Hi, Alan! I remember you from the ACFW Saturday night awards banquet! That was a fun night. :-)
    Congrats on your book.
    We learn all kinds of lessons from writing and the road to publication, don't we? God uses it all, if we let him.
    I wish you the best! And I hope your wife is doing better. God bless.

  86. Thanks Audra. I am working on that first layer on a story right now. It's called Speedbo and it's ugly.

    And slow.

    good thing I went for a nice low 20k. and THATS WHERE I AM MISS TINA. March is the month when my body collapses from lack of Vit D. I think we had sunshine like FIVE HOURS this week? blech.

    Thank you Helen for the update. I hope that's the first and last time you're that long without power.

    Oh, yes, and Alan, good reminder to read JSB's Plot and Structure again.

    Ruthy, how many times have you been to NJRW conf?

  87. Some wonderful advice and much appreciated. Your book sounds exciting I can't wait to read it. Prayers for healing for your wife.
    Thanks for your time.

    Buena Park, CA

  88. Myra, Cone of What? Sorry, I can’t hear you

  89. Donna, starting a critique group is a great idea. The group I was in disbanded, but had a super format that I recommend. About 10 to 15 of us met each month and split into groups of 4. Everyone brought 5 copies of their latest work up to 5 pages double spaced. Then one person read aloud what someone else brought to the meeting, and everyone critiqued it on the spot. We alternated until everyone’s piece was read and critiqued. You left with 3 or more critiques of your scene. Thinking about it makes me want to start one myself. Anyone live in SW Houston/Sugar Land/Richmond?

  90. Marylin, I hope you get relief from the hives. No sleep on top of everything else sounds horrible.

  91. Melanie, that was an awesome awards night. It was fun to be at your table vicariously enjoying your Carol Award!

  92. Patti Jo, thanks for the encouragement.

  93. Tina, sorry you have to go through the post twice, but glad you want to. I did kinda squeeze as much in as I could.

  94. Debra, thank you for saying my book sounded High Concept. I hope the actual book lives up to the cocept.

  95. Debby, speaking of a high concept, I’m flattered by your high praise, Goodbye (the other guy), Hello Alan.

  96. Carol, you’re “was” dilemma rings too true.

  97. Kathy B., I like the pre-pubbed signature (as opposed to un-pubbed). As a minister friend often says, That’ll preacher. So much of what we can achieve is lost if we don’t shoot high enough, pray hard enough, or believe strongly enough.

  98. Speaking of prayer, I am NOT EXAGGERATING when I tell everyone that God has heard your prayers for my wife who has felt better today than in many months! Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  99. Connie, you’re so right about the unexpected benefits of a conference.

  100. May, thanks for calling my post WOW (words of wisdom). I’ve never been accused of that before. But I like it.

  101. DebH, there’s that “wisdom” word again. Thanks for that. Also, I agree, HIP is good stuff.

  102. Eva Marie, you, DebH and I could start a HIP group, but the cudos go to JS Bell.

  103. Jamie, 3k words by 4:30. Now that’s wow territory.

  104. Natalie, I can vouch for the dvd, pen, and notebook. Let me know how the chocolate works out.

  105. LA, thanks for the nice comments. I appreciate your thought about rewriting to make a scene stronger. Sometimes I rewrite and it’s just different, not better or stronger. That’s something I hope to improve in the future.

  106. Jeri, I hope you enjoy the book. Thanks for joining us and commenting.

  107. Alan said: I think that is one reason why writing is so hard. We have to make up for the 80% of storytelling that’s missing in books.

    I'd never thought how much of our communciation is non-verbal. Tricky to write it fresh.

    Smiling that your wife is feeling better. Will put her in my prayer journal.


  108. Good gracious -- having just reread an article about 'stakes' in a story, I'm thinking The Q Manifesto must be chock full of them! What an interesting storyline. Wishing you the best with your book, Alan.

    CAROL!! I had to read that word count number twice. Totally fantastic accomplishment.

    No Speedbo writing for me today ... spent time with a dear friend, talked about our writing, and came away refreshed, filled to the brim with "I can do this."

    Go writers! And thanks cheerleader readers :-)

    Oh, and definitely put me in for that first chapter critique, pretty please?

    Nancy C

  109. Well everyone, I was a little slow out of the blocks this morning, and as we all know, catching up is hard to do, but I tried. If I missed anyone, I apologize. Know that I seriously appreciated every comment and every moment y’all took to read this post. I had a great time and want to thank Seekerville and especially Audra for so much fun today. Good writing and happy SpeedBo.

  110. Goodness, what a day! So many thoughts on critiques and conferences. Personally, I like socializing at conferences and purchasing the workshops on CD so I can relive the experience each evening while the dog and walk each other : )

    Tina, I went to the RWA conference the year it was in Denver. So many people! I don't know if I want to do that again!

  111. Alan, thanks for being my guest in Seekerville today! I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

    Come back again!!

  112. Excellent advice! I'm praying for your wife.

  113. Alan, In case you come back today, I'm sorry I missed you yesterday. Thank you for sharing with us in Seekerville. Prayers are going out for your wife.

    Blessings and happy writing. Love your books.

  114. I like your specific examples, Alan.

    Thank you for the insights.

    Gail Kittleson

  115. Chill N, I think increasing the stakes adds dimension and urgency to the story, so yeah, they’re in there. Glad you like the storyline.

  116. Sandra, I did come back, albeit a little late and missed you. I’m happy you enjoyed the post.

  117. Gail, I need specifics to learn, so that’s what I thought I would share. Glad you like it.

  118. Alan, I'm late to the party, but just dropped by to say hello and to encourage everyone to be quick to grab up The Q Manifesto. It is by far one of the best thrillers I've read to date.

    Alan, keep up the fantastic work at home and in your writing.

    Praying for V and for you.


  119. Audra, thanks for hosting Alan.

    Hugs all!