Wednesday, January 15, 2014

New Year, New Story

It may be January,
but Debby can't stop thinking about Christmas!
Debby Giusti here!

My editor, Emily Rodmell, recently invited me to be part of a Love Inspired Suspense anthology, featuring three, military-themed Christmas novellas. I was thrilled to be included and excited about writing a Christmas story. The only downside was the short deadline. The anthology is scheduled for an October 2014 release, and the completed manuscript is due Feb 1. No worries, I thought. With a 20,000 word count, the storyline should be easy to create.


I quickly realized that a submission--no matter the length--has to include all the elements that make a story work. Much as I tried to come up with a simple plot, the holes were too obvious. I needed a complete framework on which to hang my novella. No shortcuts allowed.

Creating the plot is always a challenge, and for the first few days after Emily contacted me, I ambled around the house, cooking meals and washing dishes while flipping through my mental notes on possible story ideas—think stream of consciousness that, for me, often produces the beginning trickle of a story. Regrettably, this time, my inner stream ran dry.

I had turned in a multi-book proposal shortly before receiving the invitation to write the novella and had pulled those ideas from my treasure chest of inspiration. This time, when I dug for something new, I came up empty handed. Surely, I thought, there must be a fragment of an idea, previously abandoned, that could be dusted off and cleaned up. Regrettably, nothing I retrieved seemed appropriate for a Christmas story.

In 2009, I had written Yule Die, a novella featured in an anthology entitled, CHRISTMAS PERIL, which included Margaret Daley’s Merry Mayhem. Yule Die deals with a medical hostage situation so anything involving captivity or hostages wasn’t an option. For the 2014 submission, I wanted something fresh and new and certainly not a rehash of a past story.

To prime my inspirational well, I noted elements that should be included, especially those that tug at the heartstrings. Naturally, children had to be in the story--little ones who love Baby Jesus. The children would to be old enough to express a simple faith, yet young enough to be totally enthralled with the magic of the season.
Twinkling lights, evergreen wreaths, snow and mistletoe would be included as well. I like Nativity scenes and added a crèche, with the Infant Babe, that would tie in with one or both characters coming to and/or deepening their faith.

Mary Grace's mother stitched a Nativity set, similar to this one,
for her daughter's first Christmas.
After mentally auditioning a lineup of little ones, I chose Mary Grace, a precocious 6 year old, and her younger, more reticent brother, Joey, age 4. Both children would be raised by their widower dad. They stole my heart, but the adorable duo and their father needed to be secondary characters related to the heroine, their Aunt Lizzie, a teacher at the local elementary school. Elizabeth, as she likes to be called, is twenty-eight and single and no longer the impressionable teen in love with her older brother’s best friend.

Location, location, location!

In my mind’s eyes, I saw a small town nestled in the Tennessee mountains. No military post in sight, yet my hero would be an army guy--big and strong but wounded in Afghanistan.

Enter Nick Fontaine, Captain, US Army, on convalescent leave and spending Christmas in his nearby mountain cabin. The heroine came from a prominent local family, while Nick was the bad boy in town. Thankfully, the military offered him a way to make something of his life. He’s changed for the better, but that troubled youth still stands between them.

The story would take place over a few days leading up to Christmas, which didn’t provide much time to fall in love. That’s precisely why I gave my characters a history. Not a good history, mind you, because if there’s one word I focus on when creating a story, it’s CONFLICT. I pit hero against heroine, or vice versa, and then make them struggle to rekindle the previously flawed relationship. When the ice starts to thaw, I add a black moment that destroys all their hard work and makes the reader wonder if they’ll ever get together again.

Pretty twinkling lights!

No matter the genre, the opening needs to grab the readers and pull them into the story. In a suspense, the inciting incident involves life and death issues. The heroine--or hero--faces danger almost immediately and remains in jeopardy for the duration of the story. Rachet up the intensity of the threats to keep the reader engaged. Add a run for your life element and a ticking time clock to build even more emotion and anticipation.  

So who is the antagonist and what’s the big dilemma—the external conflict—that needs to be overcome? I wanted a local problem that would have more far reaching consequences. But what?

Eventually a spark of an idea took hold and grew into a storyline that had me eager to start writing. Once again, I proved that, while my approach to plot creation may seem convoluted and lacks some of the nifty charts others use, the piecemeal process works for me.


Without giving too much away about my novella, I ended up with a military hero who needs to protect a woman he left ten years earlier. She’s moved on with her life but can’t forget her first and only love.
When two little ones need protection, the hero and heroine work together to keep the children safe. They’re on the run, but they’re not sure who’s after them and why. All that has to be revealed as the story unfolds. What they uncover ties in with mistakes made in the past that must be reconciled before they’re able to fall in love again. At the climax, they confront the antagonist in a fast-paced action scene before the resolution and happily ever after.

What are the threads you weave into your stories? What elements do you feel are essential? What differences do you find in writing long stories as compared to a shorter work, such as a novella? Which do you prefer to read and/or write?

Love Inspired is hosting their first Reader Luncheon in Tampa, Florida, on Thursday, Jan 30. (Click here for more details.) Let me know if you plan to attend. I’ll add your name to a drawing for a free luncheon ticket, my treat. (Any other expenses, transportation and hotel accommodations are the responsibility of the winner.)
A second drawing—again, please let me know if you’re interested—is for the first-ever giveaway of an advance copy of my March Love Inspired Suspense, THE AGENT’S SECRET PAST.    

Today’s breakfast buffet includes cooked-to-order eggs, country ham, biscuits and gravy, hash browns, assorted fruit, fresh baked muffins and, of course, grits. Enjoy! The coffee’s hot. The tea caddy is stocked with your favorite blends. Grab a cup and let’s start chatting about my favorite subject—WRITING!

Wishing you abundant success in the New Year!

Debby Giusti

By Debby Giusti


Eight years ago, a drifter destroyed Becca Miller's ties to her Amish community—and murdered her family. Now a special agent with Fort Rickman's criminal investigation department, Becca knows her past has caught up with her and doesn't want to relive it. She's convinced that the killer, who supposedly died years ago, is very much alive and after her. Special agent Colby Voss agrees to help her investigate. Yet the closer they get to the truth, the closer the killer gets to silencing her permanently. 

Available March 1, 2014. Click here to preorder.


  1. There's only one thing wrong, Debby....I want to pick up that Christmas novella NOW and you tell me I have to wait till October? That's okay...I can make do with the Agent's Secret Pass until then thanks, Debby for a look into your life. The breakfast looks good too

  2. Loved your post, Debby---but like Marianne said, I'm eager to read your Christmas novella NOW!
    Thank you for sharing the glimpse into how you came up with your characters and other details of your story. I so enjoy a peek into the writing life of my favorite authors!
    The photos you shared are lovely (especially you in front of the Christmas tree). And your breakfast sounds yummy--can't wait to eat a bowl of those grits. ;)
    Hugs, Patti Jo

  3. Hi Debby! Thanks for the post.

    I am working on a book right now that I've realized doesn't have much conflict in it.

    I think its pretty good but I don't know what readers would think or an editor. I'm almost through with the book, and the hero and heroine has had it good besides the heroines parents dying in a car crash.

    It was kinda a fast love story and it tells about their married life. They are so much in love and....

    It doesn't sound like much conflict in there... I don't know if it would hold a readers attention.

    I'm sorry this maybe way off topic... But here it is...


  4. Enjoyed your post this morning Debby. I must agree with Marianne and CatMom, you hooked me with your Christmas novella information and I want to read it NOW. But alas, I shall eagerly await it's release. Can you share who the other authors are that make up the anthology?

    I would love to have my name tossed in to win The Agent's Secret Past. Thank you for the chance to win.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

  5. Hi Marianne,
    You've got me laughing! If only the novella were written...

    You're in the drawing for THE AGENT'S SECRET PAST, which has a heroine who was raised Amish. I LOVED writing that story. Hope you enjoy it as well.

    Grabbing a cup of coffee! Just what I need this cold morning in Georgia.

  6. Hi Patti Jo!

    You're a true GRITS! :)
    (Girls Raised In The South)

    And a dear friend!

    Thanks for all your prayer coverage. That's probably why the storyline came together. :)


  7. Good morning Debby,

    You've got me pumped up this morning! Too bad I've got to go to work. :)

    Thanks for sharing how you pulled your story together and encouraging us to have plenty of conflict.

    I always look forward to reading your stories!

    Have a great day!

  8. Debby, there for a moment I wandered around in your house with you...I felt your struggle. :-) I felt relief when you began to put things together... whew!

    You helped me.

    In laying out all the elements you wanted, and needed to include in a compelling story, no matter the length of that story—sometimes I forget ... Thank you for this post! :-)

  9. Cortney,

    I'm sure you love your characters and don't want to hurt them. That's the way I was when I started writing. My hero and heroine were perfect. They handled every problem without a struggle. Of course, I doubt they had any problems. LOL!

    Good for you writing the story. Push through to THE END. You'll feel such a sense of satisfaction. Completing a manuscript is a huge accomplishment. Congrats!!!

    Once you're finished, consider that your first draft. Now go back and add the conflict. Make them work for every success. Don't let anything be easy. Maybe they HAD a good marriage, but something happened--or something from the past was revealed--and everything has changed. They're hurt, wounded, feel betrayed and it seems they'll never reconcile.

    By weaving in that conflict and making them work to achieve their happily ever after, you'll create a stronger story. Give it a try and then let us know what you think about your new, revised version. Remember, we all rework our stories, over and over again, until we're satisfied with the result.

    So glad you're in Seekerville!!!


  10. Hi Cindy, you're in the drawing!

    Glad you're excited about the Christmas novella. So am I!

    Not sure who the other two authors are. I've been focused on my story and haven't thought about my "partners in crime." LOL Must find out. Will let you know.

  11. Have a good day at work, Jackie! How nice of you to stop in before leaving the house. Come back later, if you have time.

    Did you get some breakfast?

    My process is piecemeal, as I mentioned. Perhaps I should create a chart and pull some of the bits and pieces together. Hmmmmm! Something to consider after the novella is finished. :)

  12. I'm laughing, Mary!

    That "wandering" process seems my pattern for coming up with an initial concept. Sometimes I worry that I'll never find the right idea, one that's strong enough to develop into a story. Luckily, the process has worked so far.

    I need to get back to reading the Metro Section of the Atlanta paper. Lots of fodder for stories there. Had long chats with my military son over the holidays. He shared some of the concerns facing the military today that I plan to weave into future stories so I'm slowly filling my treasure chest of inspiration.

  13. Thank you, Debby.
    I enjoy these insights into other writers' creative processes and the "sausage making." It makes me want to read the book more instead of less, as I try to spot their process.
    I agree with you about conflict. I will be going back to my WIP and working on "make it worse, make it worse, make it worse." And a more definable black moment.
    My "black moment" now is when the man Pace put in jail, plus the man who abused him, catch up with him 19 years later, kidnap him and leave him to die. He's lost Oona, the woman he loves, who is planning to go back to Ireland and avenge her family. When Pace disappears, she is charged with finding him and saving him, in the unfamiliar landscape of the American west. She doesn't think she can do it. (Hint, hint, we all know she can.)
    I'm not a suspense writer, but I learn from your posts because most writing, even the sweetest of romances, includes a suspense element, even if it's just "how are they going to get together."
    I am one of the few Northern women who likes grits.
    Kathy Bailey
    Pre-pubbed in New Hampshire

  14. I am in the car A LOT for my day job, and I use the time for plotting (or praying).

  15. Oh, WOW, Deb, that novella sounds AMAZING!! Give me a reformed bad boy ANY TIME, DAY OR NIGHT, and I am happy!! :)

    What differences do I find when writing a shorter story vs. a longer one? Uh, I'll let you know ... IF I ever try it ... ;)

    Actually, in a sense I have done that since my first five books were approximately each 160-175,000 words each. And, yes, you read that right, which is why Revell's legal department made me cut 50,000 words from my last O'Connor novel, making me stick to the contracted word length of 120,000 words for the first time ever. YIKES ... 50,000 words ... that's not far from being an HP or LI novel!!


  16. As to what threads I like to weave into my stories, since my books tend to be emotional roller-coasters with pretty serious subjects at times, I find I ALWAYS need to infuse them with an element of humor to break up the angst and drama a wee bit. Charity O'Connor did that for me in the O'Connor saga, and in the McClare family saga, I rely on a smart-alek parrot, a near deaf & dumb elderly butler, and a crotchety housekeeper who hates the subordinate hero. But I found that in book 3, the hero and heroine are both so serious, that I needed even more humor, so I introduced a best friend from Paris who misuses idioms kind of like Ziva did in NCIS, only with a French accent.

    Of course, the spiritual thread is absolutely essential, and I find, sometimes humor helps to drive it home more effectively than anything else. :)


  17. Wow. I don't know how you do it. I have never written 20k.

    I'm excited to read it however!@!

  18. All our decorations have been put away already and you make me want to pull them back out! Lovely tree and beautiful twinkle lights.

    Debby even though you say you didn't know where to begin, I see your well wasn't as dry as you thought it was. I love how you put together the story. And the way it came about is a lot like my plot muddles, only conflict is such a difficult thing for me to incorporate, LOL!

    I loved Yule Die. Now I can't wait for this novella! And we have a whole year inbetween!

    Thanks for breakfast. Hate to eat and run, but gotta get to work.

  19. Julie just said that what she kills as extra from her novels ARE MY NOVELS. 50K. OHMY!!

  20. First, I cannot wait to get my hands on that Amish suspense book!!!!

    The cover had me at "Hello."


    Deb, if anyone can pull together a last-minute state-of-the-art novella, it is you and I'm already loving the components you've detailed. Little kids, lost love, old times, old regrets, safe haven, King Herod, danger, dire straits, small town, mountain setting.

    OH MY STARS, that's a wonderful set up right there!!!

    And how wonderful to be asked to contribute, but not a surprise to your readers! Go, you!

    We've got a dark gray rain sky here today, but I'm hoping the rain holds off and gives Dave some time in the woods. It is supposed to be cold and hardscrabble when he goes into the woods to cut firewood.

    Last week it was.

    This week? January thaw and mud. So he'll be trekkin' to the woods, not trucking, so if anything goes wrong or breaks, it's a long walk back to the front of the farm.

    Deb, I'm leaving a BIG chocolate chip cookie cake for today! Complete with buttercream frosting and the words "To Everything There is a Season" as we muddle our way through the mixed bag of winter!

  21. Morning DEBBY, Loved hearing the process you go through for your stories. It fascinates me how we are all so different in our approach but end up with a story. So cool.

    I'm with the rest of the gang today. Not fair to tease us like that and then we have to wait till October.

    Have a great day. I"m headed for the breakfast goodies.

  22. Tina, I hear you! I'm dying laughing that Julie excises a complete novel!!!!

    You know, having just read "A Match Made in Texas" with 4 20K novellas (Mary Connealy, so fun!!!!) I have to say that it's a "drop into the action" kind of beginning, then barrel to the short story styled ending.

    Tina, it really felt like I was reading the final chapters of a novel... without missing a thing!!!

    Dagnabbit, that makes me think 35K of my books might prove unnecessary!!!!


    I can totally see publishing 20K independent novellas for a very low price because it's just the ticket for a quick read.

    I kinda sorta fell in love the concept!

    And wasn't our Julie's "novella" "A Light in the Window"??

    Great, great story but umm... Jules don't get mad.... not exactly a novella, LOL!

    But wonderful, nonetheless!

  23. ah, sigh, Christmas stories, Debby.

    So nice

    Love the look at the creative process, too.

  24. Amish + Army = Auto-buy.

    ♫♪♫♫♪♪“I’m dreaming of an olive drab Christmas in a one horse Amish buggy”. ♫♪♫♫♪♪

    That reminds me: when we wrote Christmas advertising in July we played Christmas music in the office. Did you do something like that to get into the mood for writing your Noel novella? It worked for us creative types even if it didn't work that well for the people in the other departments.

    I think “Yule Die” is the paradigm of the ideal novella. In Italy they might even say it was ‘una novella giusta’. And this makes me think of an Italian mama making a batch of marinara sauce and when she finally has it perfect, she says “giusta”. (And the household is happy.)

    Yet, I believe, “Yule Die” was much longer than 20,000 words. I think it had 13 chapters and just over 93 pages. That’s a novella grande! (I can’t be sure about this because the book was on my Sony Reader and it died. That was BK -- Before Kindle.)

    Does your new novella have as many chapters? And have you added a nature component to the conflict facing the hero and heroine? I just love it when both nature and the bad guys are trying to kill the hero and heroine. It’s like the forest primeval comes to the 21 Century. Nature was made for conflict.

    Please put me in the cat dish for the Amish. I can't wait for Christmas.


  25. I love getting glimpses of how other creative minds work. I think my brain sort of functions like yours Debby (perhaps it's in the name? *heh*) I tend to talk to myself, working out story ideas, so it's no wonder DH doesn't really pay attention to when I'm talking... he's never sure he's supposed to be listening. He just waits for the soft Gibbs slap from me. Then he pays attention.*heh*

    Please enter me in the running for a chance to win your book - but I'm tempted to say I'd rather have a chance to win your novella! What little teasers you've given us has really whet my appetite to read the story.

    Wounded Warriors appeal to me. Well, men in uniform (however they got there) appeal to me. Yep, married a NAVY boy, even after saying I never would. Just something about a person willing to sacrifice oneself for God and Country...
    (it doesn't hurt that they look so good in the uniform too)

  26. p.s.
    in awe that Julie must cut back the length of an entire book for her stories. i doubt i'd ever be that "long winded", so to speak. i think my brain is better wired for short stories. i think it's the animator in me (thirty drawings per second sort of begs for keeping things short if you're drawing all by your lonesome).

  27. Deb, I loved reading about how you go from barely a germ of an idea to a full-blown plot! The more I have to sell on proposal instead of writing a hefty part of the book first, the more I appreciate learning the process other writers go through.

    I also have to laugh (or cry) to myself when people ask me where I get my ideas, because most of the time I really don't know! One tiny particle of an idea just sort of . . . expands . . . and pretty soon there's the semblance of a story.

    Actually, it's kind of amazing!

  28. Love the cover, Debby, and would like to be in for your Amish book!! Will anxiously wait for the Christmas

  29. Hi, Debby!

    I live in Florida and would love to attend the luncheon, but I never turn down a free book either. Either one would be fine with me.

    As for my writing process, the essential things for me are the hero and heroine. I always start there. I can spend days to a week really getting to know them, their mannerisms, how they talk, and how they react to things. My basic little worksheet starts with who they are and what they do, the basic set up of how they know each other or how they meet, and then what happens that changes the tedium. Once I know what changes and what the complications are going to be, I lay out my plot (just what HAS to happen), then go over it and put my "fairy plot mothers" together--areas that were plot-holes or need explanation. I leave room for my characters to surprise me.

    HOWEVER, sometimes a story just grabs me and throws this (relatively new) system of writing out of the window. The story I'm working on now is the story of supporting characters in my previous manuscript, so I knew them well. I was having a hard time with a plot and gave up to think about the characters again, and they just started doing things. I'm still figuring it out as I go.

    I love short stories, but they are a lot harder for me to write. I have the same basic system, but I tighten the focus and they are more character driven and "literary," so the plotting isn't as heavy. They are a labor of love stuck in a very bottom drawer, along with my literary novel draft. :-)

  30. Sorry all...

    I was out of the house for a bit. Home now!

    Grabbing another cup of coffee and a muffin. Yummy!

  31. Good morning, awesome Debby!!! :-)
    I really like it when a plot just comes to me when I'm washing dishes, driving down the road, or doing other mundane, ordinary but necessary things. But when the ideas aren't coming to me, it sometimes helps to research the setting and time period, and when that fails, to read articles on plotting, listen to workshops on plotting, and to brainstorm with a friend.

    Your Christmas novella, it sounds like, really came together for you! It sounds like an awesome story. I love wounded hero stories!!! Beauty and the Beast? Yep, I love those stories.

  32. I'm feeling really good today! The sun is shining, and I just turned in my newest book to my editor THIS MORNING!!! Yay me!!!

    You know, I haven't read a lot of novellas, but I loved Mary's Christmas novella. I should probably read more. Sometimes when I read a short-ish historical romance, I am left wishing for more emotional depth, but with a novella, it's different. You know you're getting something short and sweet--short but satisfying. :-)

  33. Kathy, you like grits! YAY!!! Must be your Southern heart, sugar! LOL!!!

    Sounds like your story has lots of conflict. Good for you! And a strong, feisty heroine. An Irish lass. Great! Plus, you've put them both in difficult, if not dangerous, situations. Perfect!

    As for the black moment, in romance that usually refers to when something happens between the hero and heroine that destroys their relationship. Often it occurs just prior to the climax. He and she were falling in love and then -- BAM! -- an incident occurs, something is revealed, or the differences between them spin totally out of control. The promise of a happily ever after is destroyed, and it seems they will never come together again. sure to include that type of black moment in your story as well. You mentioned that Pace "lost" Oona so perhaps you have a romantic black moment already in place.

    So proud of you for what you're writing and for snatching any free time you can, even in the car, to work on your story!

    I agree with you about every genre needing a suspense element. Not a fight to the death, but the stakes need to be high, at least to your characters, and the reader has to question whether the hero and heroine will achieve their external goal as well as a happily ever after!

    Sending hugs for all your hard work!!!

  34. Debby, I'm always inspired when I read about an author feeling extreme pressure, things not coming together, and then working through it.

    I've never tried writing a novella, but maybe one of these days...

    LOL, Julie, I celebrate when I get 50k on my book. Almost there. I can't imagine having to cut that much.

  35. Julie, your stories are wonderful and so rich. Don't know how you do it! Love the detailed action beats you include almost with every line of dialogue. I'm always impressed...actually awed.

    I've told you before that I often read your books to prime my well. I tend to write short. Reading your prose inspires me to work harder. :)

    Being able to write humor is a gift, and as you know, requires the perfect pacing and word choice. Both you and Mary Connealy do it so well--in different ways, of course--but both of you understand how to use that humor to enhance your stories and satisfy the reader. No wonder everyone loves your books!


  36. Waving to Tina!

    I'll let you know how it goes once I've finished writing the story, Tina. :)

  37. Debby, I can identify with your struggle to come up with a story idea. I never have a bunch of stories rolling around in my head begging to come out like most writers. Nice to know I'm not alone.

    Thanks for the insiders look at your creative process. I love your plans for your Christmas novella! Now to write it. I'm praying for your deadline.

    Conflict is essential for every story. But thankfully, not always life and death struggles as in your and Marys novels.

    Besides giving the hero and heroine a past, another way to fit a believable romance into novella length is to use secondary characters from a previous novel. What I did in my novella, The Last Minute Bride.

    Breakfast's delicious! You always feed us well.


  38. Hi Audra,

    Have a good day at work. Glad you got some breakfast!

    Laughing about your mention of my Christmas decorations. Actually, we were at my daughter's house over the weekend babysitting three little ones while daughter and son-in-law ran their first marathon at Disney World. They survived...and so did Grandma and Grandpa (actually we're Mammaw and Papa). :) We had so much fun, but came home Monday to a house still decorated for Christmas. Although that's good for inspiration with the novella, I'm ready to tidy up and get back to normal. :)

    I wanted a twinkling lights picture for the blog so last night we plugged in the tree and the outside white lights, once again, while I snapped a few photos. Bet our neighbors thought we were crazy. No doubt, we're the last folks in our area to still be decorated!

    The tree comes down later today! Hopefully. :)

  39. Congratulations, Melanie!! A great feeling. Hope you celebrate!


  40. Julie, I so agree that humor is esential, especially with some heavy issues. Like you I invent secondary characters who can ease the angst. They are so much fun to write! I'm reading Love at Any Cost and loved the humorous inciting incident or cute meet!


  41. Debby, I loved reading your story behind the story. It's fun to hear how authors pull stories together, or how stories come to life for them. :)

    Your new book sounds wonderful! Please put me in the drawing for it.

  42. Blogger has hated me all week.

    This is a test to see if I can post.

    But there's coffee in case I'm successful.

  43. !!!!!!!! It posted.

    Sometimes old Blogger grabs the wrong email addresses, and then won't let me change it.

    Thanks for sharing your process, Debby. Finding some commonalities makes me feel good.

  44. Thanks for the yummy cookie cake, Ruthy. It's big enough to feed all of Seekerville! You're like God...providing more than we need. :)

    Glad you like the idea of an Amish suspense. I was thrilled when Emily gave me the go ahead and loved doing the research.

    Our own Jan D. told me about an area in Florida where Amish vacation that I included in the story.


    Janet Dean and her hubby actually went there while on a trip to Florida and reported back to me.


    I created an Amish community near Fort Rickman, the military post in my Military Investigations series, and plan to include it in future stories. Love the contrast between the plain life focused on God and the evil (think villain) that threatens their security.

    Praying the rain holds until Dave has his wood. A good man, providing for his family.

  45. Hi Sandra,

    You're right. We're all different, and we tackle stories in different ways.

    I've finally given myself permission to follow my own path to publication. I write in chunks that are very rough and then go back to rework. Would love be a slow, methodical writer who produces clean copy on the first draft, but it's not how I'm programmed. :)

    Accepting who we are and how we operate is important, IMHO.


  46. Ruthy, great points about novellas. For mine, I'm picking up the story at what could actually occur just prior to the climax. Except, of course, for the internal conflict that needs to be included and resolved.

    Doing a number of indie novellas might be fun...although the storyline needs a full development and that always takes time. Once I have that lengthy synopsis written, I'm more inclined to write a full-length novel, rather than the short novella. Unless, of course, if I've been invited to take part in an anthology by my editor! :)

  47. Smiling back at our own Mary C who can write a novella over a weekend.

    She is so prolific.

    If only...but then, I'm sure God gave me other gifts. :)

  48. Hi Debby!

    You are so right, Mary Connealy has provided great example to show how rich a 20k can be. I'm trying to figure out how to do it now (in response to a call), since novellas work well to entice people to try a new author. Thanks Mary!

    Your approach is so helpful to read about. When you are writing that short, it seems much easier when they've known each other before and they've done some great wrong to one another for the conflict. Not that it's easy, but just easier... *sigh* Thanks for putting yourself out there to show that it can be done! Stay warm on this cold day here in Georgia!

  49. I'm laughing with you, Vince!

    “I’m dreaming of an olive drab Christmas..." is too funny. And so creative!

    Love the Auto-buy, as well. If only! :)

    Yes, "Yule Die" was a two-in-one when the LIS word count was at 75,000. Dividing that word count in two gave me about 35,000 words with which to work.

    So this story, a 3-in-1, will be 15,000 words shorter. I'm making each scene a chapter and alternating point of view. (We had a guest on Seekerville who talked about doing that in her novella. Wish I could recall who it was. Can anyone remember?)

    Mother Nature will play a role, although not as much as in some of my stories. I haven't finished the novella yet, so perhaps I'll rachet up the inclement weather, Vince. In your honor, of course.

    Playing Christmas music is a great idea. Hate to admit that my decorations are still up, so I'm living Christmas. Although, as I mentioned earlier, I hope to clean out the holiday clutter later today.

    Love your screen photo. Are you still sitting in snow? Silly GA weatherman said we might get flurries this AM. No chance. We're overcast and cold, but no snow in sight.

    Also chuckling at una novella giusta. I need to do an Italian word search on giusta to get the exact meaning. LOL!

  50. Hi Deb,

    Nodding my head in agreement about military heroes! Love a guy in uniform. Love their courage. Love their willingness to serve.

    I can relate to your self-talk. Creative minds think alike, right?


  51. DebH, just saw your PS.

    I wrote short, slice of life pieces for magazines early on, and never thought I could manage a full-length novel. Now the normal LIS length of 55,000 words is so doable. Hopefully, cutting back to 20,000 will work as well.

    Yes, I'm sure your digital projects have programmed you to think tight and short. Actually, many say writing short is more difficult.

  52. Hi Myra,

    I tried to remember when the idea for the external plot took hold so I could include it in this blog. But, I couldn't remember how I came up with the bigger problem. It works, and I'm thrilled that I finally "found" my story...although I'm not sure how it happened.

    I failed to mention the amount of prayer that goes into my search for an idea. No doubt, God provided the inspiration. I just needed to be still and hear his voice.

  53. Debby, you're always so encouraging. I just finished a Christmas novella, wanted to finish at Christmas but it took six weeks and I struggled a lot more than I'd thought I would. I know my problem is the characters weren't as well developed as they should have been. I'll have to take care of that when I rewrite.

    Anyway, it's good to know seasoned authors come across similar problems.

    I have your Christmas novella on my to-buy list for next year.

    Pass the grits. I like mine with scrambled eggs mixed in.

  54. Great thoughts! My favorite part of reading a story, short or long, is connecting emotionally with the characters. I'd love to be entered to win your book! Thanks!

  55. Hello, Debby! Thanks for the brunch buffet. As others have said, I wish we could read your Christmas novella NOW. Anticipation!

    The insights into how you develop a story are so interesting, especially how to work suspense and romance into a short time line. This helps my current novella projects which need a touch of suspense. Your prayers help with inspiration. I keep your sparkling Writer's Prayer by my computer to begin my writing time with our Lord's help.

    Melanie, cheering you for turning in your latest work!

    Please enter me for The Agent's Secret Past. Thanks for your post and encouragement!

  56. Jackie Smith, you're in the drawing!

  57. Ok, I might be able to wait until October to read your novella, but it will be hard. I can use it as a carrot to dangle in front of me to inspire me to finish what I'm revising. I loved reading your process for putting your plot together. I often feel like I'm going about it all wrong, it is nice to be reminded we each have our own method. I would love an advance copy of The Agent's Secret Past.

  58. Waving to ZyZy in Florida! You're in the drawing for the luncheon and book. If you win, you can attend the lunch, right? It's in Tampa.

    Your stories must be very character driven. I'm reading between the lines, but sounds as if you've changed your writing process. If so, was that a tough switch?

    And you write literary short stories and a buried book of your heart? Do tell more!

  59. Zey, forgive the misspelling of your name.

    ZeyZey. I won't forget. :)

  60. Congrats, Mel!

    Celebrate your success. Sending a completed manuscript to the editor is huge! Take a deep breath. Relax. Eat chocolate and pat yourself on the back. :)

    What number is this for you?

    Like you, when a story idea eludes me, I search for anything to jumpstart my inspiration. Reminds me of the woman in scripture who lost the coin and swept her house to find it. I keep searching and mumbling (DebH can relate), "Where is that story? Where is that story?"

    LOL! Crazy writers. What silly things we do to be creative.

  61. Stray thought... for novellas, what would you say the word count per chapter might average? Just wondering as I take a gander at some of my idea files that have a tad of writing done. I'm sure someone has revealed that before, my brain just can't seem to retrieve that information today.

    And I agree: creative minds do think alike (again, it might be the power of our name too) ;)

  62. Hi again, Debby!

    No worries about misspelling the name. You can just call me Erica if that's easier. ;-) Yes, I could get to Tampa. I live in Orlando, a couple hours drive, not a terrible distance at all.

    I did change my process. I was a pantser, but the story would usually peter out somewhere in the sagging middle. So I tried plotting loosely, just what has to happen for the story to work, and REALLY getting to know the characters so they could tell their own stories. Doing outlines was difficult at first, but what helped was writing reviews (I review on Harlequin Junkie). It helps me look at the story critically and be honest with myself if I have more character than story, and my story is going to die in the desert of the middle.

    But this new one is only letting me see a little further than where I am, which is OK because it's a suspense. When I figure something out, I make a note so I can leave breadcrumbs for the reader to follow when I revise.

    I was an English literature major and imagined I'd be writing things worthy of being in the New Yorker or the New York Times Book Review section. I still go back and pick at those ideas every now and then, but working full time doesn't leave me the time I want to write--in any genre, really, but the literary work goes a LOT slower for me.

  63. Connie, don't fret! Julie is the exception. Most of us don't write tomes. We write 55,000 or 75,000 or 90,000 word novels. Every so often we add a short novella to the mix.

    Then there's Julie. As she mentioned, her first five books were 160-175,000 words each.

    She's a writing machine. Perhaps not even human.

  64. I liked the glimpse into your writing life.
    Mine has been brought to an abrupt halt. The battery cord for my laptop has decided to stop working. What an awful feeling, being forced to stop writing because your battery is dead.

    Your novella sounds intriguing,by the way.

  65. Janet, thanks for mentioning the use of secondary characters when writing shorter stories, as you did so beautifully in The Last Minute Bride.

    I used to have an excess of story ideas, but in late December, my treasure chest of inspiration hit rock bottom with only a few earlier rejects left to catch dust. Perhaps it was the busy Christmas season that wiped me out. Or maybe my Muse was on holiday break. :)

    Must restock...

    Perhaps a Seekerville Brainstorming Day would be fun!

  66. Hi Debby,

    Loved getting a glimpse into your process of plotting a new story! What fun!

    Your characters sound de-licious!

    Only problem is that the story will be so short. :( That's the main problem I have with novellas.

    I prefer LONG books so you can enjoy the story for longer.


  67. Do we have to wait til Oct! I want to read it now.
    I am hoping by then I will be reading much more.
    (getting eyes retested next week. my meds are causing issues)

    Love hearing how the story was developed.

  68. Jeanne T...just sent you a message about French Onion soup and gluten-free rolls available for lunch.

    Blogger ate the comment! Hope he/she didn't devour the soup as well.

    You're in the drawing!


  69. Hi Helen, glad Blogger let you comment. He/she just grabbed one of mine.

    Lunch is ready. Head to the kitchen for homemade French Onion soup. Chicken Noodle too. French bread and sweet tea.


  70. Piper, I find having a previous relationship works well in any romance. There's a built in conflict from whatever happened in the past that split them apart. Lot's of walking on eggshells as they try to ignore the elephant in the room. :)

    It is cold in GA! I thought it was supposed to snow, but the sun is shining through my window. Go figure!

    So it was Rogenna! Thank you! I need to thank her too.

  71. Waving to Elaine...another GRITS!

    I like mine with eggs, sunny-side up. So good to mix the yolk with the grits. Yum! Forget lunch. I'm heading back to the breakfast bar. :)

    Congrats on finishing your Christmas novella. In 6 weeks! That's fantastic. Are you going to send it out to various contests for feedback? Planning to e-pub the story or find a home with a brick and mortar publisher? Keep us posted.

  72. Waving to Heidi! You're in the drawing.


  73. Glad you gleaned something of value from the post, Sherida! Also glad you like The Writer's Prayer.

    You're in the drawing!

  74. I enjoyed reading about how you came to write your new Christmas novella, Debby!

    I love alternating novellas and full-length novels when I'm reading. I guess it shows I'm lazy, but sometimes I don't want to wait 400 pages for characters to reach Happily Ever After. Haha! So I read a novella to tide me over.

  75. Hi Terri,
    It's so easy to think we're doing something the WRONG way, when it's acutally the right way for us!

    This creative process is so varied and unique to each person. Finding what works is the hard part. Then we need to own the process and accept that it's the way we work best. No matter what others say and do.

  76. Kindred spirit DebH...

    My chapters for the novella are around 8 to 10 pages, give or take. Towards the end of the story, I'm sure they'll be shorter. As per word count, I've got a lot of dialogue and white space...maybe 1600-1800 words per chapter. But that's just an estimate.

  77. Erica, thanks for sharing how you changed writing habits. I'm a plotter and need to have a clear picture of the entire story before I write more than the first couple chapters. In my earlier days when I didn't plot, my middles sagged. Hated being stranded and not knowing where the story was going. Now I'm much happier and have an idea of where I am at all times. My synopsis is the map that keeps me on the right road and gets me to my destination without detours. That's not to say inspiration doesn't surprise me at times...but I usually stay on track.

    You mentioned that writing reviews has helped you. I can see how it would.

    Don't you think it's understanding story and how it should be shaped. Once we have a clear vision of the elements that need to be included in a satisfying story, we can add all those parts and usually come up with a workable manuscript.

    Seeing your work in The New Yorker is a worthy goal. Don't give up on your dream, and don't limit God. He wants to give you the desire of your heart. You just need to keep writing.

    So glad you're part of our Seekerville family!

  78. May I suggest paper and pen, Courtney. You might find the old way as a refreshing change of pace. When I need to come up with something short and tight or when I'm brainstorming, I revert to paper and pen. It's a different dynamic and somewhat freeing.

    Let me know if you give it a try.

    Hope your sick PC gets better soon. Would chicken soup help?

  79. Hi Sue!

    I remember when my children were young. I didn't have much time to read and turned to short stories for that reason. Perhaps some of the novella enthusiasts are those worn-out moms with only a few minutes each day to call their own.

    How's your writing coming?

  80. Hi Jenny!

    So good to see you today. Seems like only yesterday when we were meeting in Atlanta. Hope we can get together again. Would love to visit Australia. Maybe some day!!!

    You've had so many medical issues. Praying for a complete return to good health!

    How's your weather? Still warm?

  81. Natalie, good point about alternating long and short reads.

    For a writer, switching it up a bit helps too. We never want to get stagnant or tired of writing.

    A new challenge is always exciting!

  82. It's been awhile, but I do sometimes use pen and paper. Usually when I'm brainstorming. There is something freeing about leaving the computer screen!
    But my sweet BF pried open the adapter case and somehow fixed it!!! How's that for a hero, huh? ;)

  83. Hi Debby

    I have a question.....

    Even though there is not much conflict in the middle of the story....

    Maybe I can add something to the end, like maybe an accident to the hero that makes the heroine wonder if he will survive....

    Do you think it will work?

    (Shrugging my shoulders)

  84. " When the ice starts to thaw, I add a black moment that destroys all their hard work and makes the reader wonder if they’ll ever get together again."

    That's just mean. :-) I can't believe that smiling lady in the photo said that but I guess it explains the plotting twinkle in your eyes.

    The thing I have to guard against more than even backstory dumping is the urge to get the hero and heroine together too early in the story. Sigh, what can I say, I'm just a happily ever after kind of gal.

  85. hows the weather well warm would be one way to describe it but it would be a gross understatement. Its really hot. going for 116F today and its already hot. day 4 of heat about 107. tomorrow will be over 110 also.
    it will be a bit better for the weekend then back above 90. Which will feel so good. Although I must say the longer it goes the less energy I have. its just so draining.

  86. Dabby, I love hearing about your story process. It's interesting where we get our ideas, and how they come together to form an entire plot!

    As for novellas, I've only written one, and it was fun. I had never attempted anything that long up to that point, and the story absolutely fit the length (about 25K), because I planned it that way. The first novel-legnth story I wrote eneded up being 125K! Yikes!

    Love to be in the drawing for your new release.

  87. Kav

    I know what you mean... I like happily ever after's also....

    That is how my book has ended up..... But I think ive got to add some conflict in there somewhere.....

  88. Gulp! The idea of needing to write a novella in so short a time would make my imagination run dry as well, Debby. Kudos to you for coming up with such a wonderful story.

  89. Beautiful tree, Debby! I love how you puzzled out your story pieces to make it a whole.

    Did you know that Justin's honey is named Becca Miller? I don't think I ever mentioned her last name.

  90. Cortney,

    Consider adding the internal conflict for both hero and heroine. That can be woven in from the beginning of the story, through the middle and then lead into the black moment. Your action can probably remain as written, or perhaps tweaked a bit. After you've added the internal struggle, see if you're satisfied with the emotion and conflict that's so important in a story. If not, add a bit more or rework until you're satisfied.

    Does that make sense?

  91. Kav, I can so relate with wanting only good things for your characters. As I mentioned earlier, in my first few attempts at story creation, my hero and heroine were so content...and perfect. I realized the error of my ways when I wounded a hero and made him struggle to survive. From then on, I was hooked. Now I rachet up the danger and conflict whenever possible.


  92. Jenny, when does summer end for you? I'm sending cold air south. Lots of it. Maybe some of the gals in the northern states will send snow.

    Bundle up. A cold spell's on the way!

  93. Stephanie,

    Sounds like you've been listening to our Julie, with your 125K novel! :)

    You're in the drawing!

  94. Thanks, Naomi! Sending kudos back to you for your wonderful writing. :)

  95. Cara, tell Becca I used her name. :)

    My Becca grew up as Rebecca Meuller in the Amish community.

  96. Debby Summer ends the end of Feb but I dont want it to end. I don't like this heatwave but I like summer. Up to this week we have only had two other days over 100 and those two days I shivered through them with fevers and chills. that was just before I ended up in hospital.
    Its more I get cabin fever in this heat and it tired you out.

  97. Won't be long until your summer is over, Jenny. Do you have a fall or does cold weather hit rather quickly?

    You must have had a terrible fever, Jenny. Glad you've gotten over that bout of illness.

  98. we have a fall or autumn and will often get hot weather in March.

    Yes it was all part of the gall bladder. I have to say its improving but will be happy to have it out to eat more again. I should hear today if I have an appointment next week or in Feb. then out the following month hopefully.

    I can feel it, it's like I have a stitch and if I over do things it hurts. If I eat the wrong thing I feel it too. but I have more foods I can eat now. Next week looks like a good week weather wise which I am happy about.

  99. Let us know before your surgery so we can increase prayers!

  100. Sorry to check in so late, Debby, but wanted to let you know how interesting it was to read about your process. Thanks for the insight. However you get to the story, the end result is always good to read.

    Now to read all these comments you've generated ...

    Nancy C

  101. Debby,

    Yea I think it makes sense.... (Big smile)

    When I asked if you thought, if I added something at the end, if it would work, I couldn't come up with any kind of conflict to weave into the story from the beginning....

    But I think Ive gotta idea.... I will just have to see how it turns out....

    Thanks Debby

  102. The hand stitched Nativity is just beautiful.

    Please count me in for an advanced copy of THE AGENT’S SECRET PAST.

  103. Loved your post, Debby! Thanks!

    I'm a reader that has never had the pleasure of reading one of your books, and would love to rectify that by winning an advance copy of The Agent's Secret Past! I love the story line of your WIP - the Christmas novella - and look forward to it's release, also.

    I enjoy longer novels, in that there is, probably, more character development - but enjoy novellas, also, and will read anything a favored author writes (or on a favored topic)- long, or short. Julie is one author, whose every book, I will read - all those words haven't deterred me one iota (LOL). You cracked me up with the comment that she "is a writing machine, perhaps, not even human"! It absolutely "blows my mind" - thinking of writing a novel of the length of hers, and I would think it would be painful, to spend all that time writing, and then have to cut so many words!


  104. Loved your post, Debby! Thanks!

    I'm a reader that has never had the pleasure of reading one of your books, and would love to rectify that by winning an advance copy of The Agent's Secret Past! I love the story line of your WIP - the Christmas novella - and look forward to it's release, also.

    I enjoy longer novels, in that there is, probably, more character development - but enjoy novellas, also, and will read anything a favored author writes (or on a favored topic)- long, or short. Julie is one author, whose every book, I will read - all those words haven't deterred me one iota (LOL). You cracked me up with the comment that she "is a writing machine, perhaps, not even human"! It absolutely "blows my mind" - thinking of writing a novel of the length of hers, and I would think it would be painful, to spend all that time writing, and then have to cut so many words!


  105. Thanks, Nancy, for your kind words about my stories! Good "seeing" you, no matter when. :)

  106. Let me know how it turns out, Cortney.

  107. Mary P, I love the Nativity set too. It belongs to my grandchildren.

    You're in the drawing.

  108. Hi bonton!

    Always good to see a Julie Lessman fan here in Seekerville! :) Isn't her writing wonderful. I agree. Don't know how she does it! But I'm thanking God she does.

    You're in the drawing!

  109. I would love to have an advanced copy of your March Love Inspired Suspense Book "The Agent's Secret Past"! Amish fiction is the closest to my heart. I love it. I love Christmas books and read them year round. Some people only read Christmas novels at Christmas, I love Christmas novellas and novels anytime, especially since I've recently became disabled because of a medical error. I love to read and now since I'm home majority of the time, I try to win books to read and give a review or help promote. Christian and Amish fiction needs to be #1. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this giveaway.

  110. I'm sorry! I forgot to leave my email address.


    Barbara Thompson

  111. Thanks, Barbara! So glad to see you on Seekeerville!