Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Read like a writer . . . then write like a reader!


Myra Johnson
Believe me, I understand. If you’ve been at this writing gig for very long, reading for pleasure is no longer just about reading for pleasure. You see everything differently. Even in a novel that totally absorbs us, it can be hard to turn off the part of our brain that wants to critique every twist and turn of the plot and even mentally rewrite the author’s words.

Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. Because, even when we’re doing this subconsciously, we’re still learning.

But if we really can’t help being critical readers, let’s occasionally get proactive about it.

Read like a writer.

Viewpoint. How is this author handling point of view? Is the story in first person or third? Does the choice work for you? Why or why not? Does the narrative viewpoint draw you in, or does it feel like the author holds you at a distance? How many viewpoints are used in the course of the story? Do the other viewpoints seem like tangents, or do they directly affect the main characters and plot?

Conflict. Does the author include conflict in every scene? Too much, or too little? Do the problems seem contrived, or do they evolve as a natural result of the character’s actions or decisions? Does the author effectively balance high-tension scenes with more relaxed passages? Does each plot twist lead inexorably toward the dramatic climax? Is the conclusion both believable and satisfying?

Characterization.
Are the characters’ thoughts and actions consistent with their personalities? Did the author do a good job of blending backstory into the forward plot movement? Why do you like or dislike a particular character? Do you easily grasp the characters’ goals and motivation? Did the author make you care about these people?

Dialogue. Can you “hear” the characters’ individual voices in their speech or internalizations? Does each character’s expression sound natural for the era and setting? Does it suit their personalities and educational background? Is there a good balance between dialogue and narration? Do beats and tags enhance or detract?

Description.
Does the author blend description naturally into the flow of the story, or is it dumped in large chunks that interrupt the action? How easy is it for you to picture the characters and setting? Based on the genre, is there too much or too little description? Is it relevant, drawing you deeper into the plot? Or does the description seem extraneous or overwritten?

Some writers go to great lengths to analyze novels, including using colored pens and highlighters to mark different types of passages. When you see the “rainbow” spread across the pages, you can easily see which colors dominate and which areas received the least attention.

Now that you’ve thoroughly analyzed a few novels, it’s time to . . .

Write like a reader.


You know what you like, and in each book you read, you’re learning to identify what works and what doesn’t. You should also be gaining a sense of publishing house tastes and preferences.

So as a writer, your job is to create the most enjoyable reading experience possible within the parameters set by your genre and target market.

Characters and POV.
Do readers in your genre prefer third-person point of view, or is first person equally popular? Will they expect a single viewpoint, or alternating viewpoints between hero and heroine? Is there room in the book for relevant scenes in supporting characters’ viewpoints?

Action vs. Introspection.
Is your genre typically character driven or plot driven? Suspense readers expect more faced-paced action scenes and fewer thinking/reacting scenes. Readers of pure romance and women’s fiction look for the opposite. Also think about what’s appropriate for your characters. For example, is your hero dwelling too much on his feelings?

Emotional impact. Readers of every genre seek some kind of emotional connection with the story, so make sure you give them the type and amount they expect. Romance, women’s fiction, and coming-of-age stories touch the heart. Action and suspense novels must deliver a steady flow of thrills and chills. Mysteries may also contain an element of danger, but even more important is challenging the reader’s sleuthing skills. Have you dropped enough clues without giving too much away?

Description and narrative. Too much descriptive detail in a suspense novel and your readers will start skimming. Fail to fully engage your reader’s five senses in a romance and you’ve cut the heart out of your story. If you’re writing a historical, what balance of fact-vs-fiction will satisfy discerning readers?

When your draft is finished, give it a week or two before you reread for edits and revisions. Then, once again, read like a writer!

Let’s talk! Have you ever intentionally analyzed a novel to understand why it does or doesn’t work? What did you learn that helped you in your own writing? Is there an author or particular novel that, for you, represents the “ideal” of your genre and the quality of writing you aspire to?

Today I’m giving away a copy of my novel When the Clouds Roll By (book 1, Till We Meet Again, Abingdon Press). To be entered in the drawing, join the conversation and mention your interest in the book!

About the book: Annemarie Kendall is overjoyed when the armistice is signed and the Great War comes to an end. Her fiancé, Lieutenant Gilbert Ballard, is coming home, and though he is wounded, she is excited to start their life together. But when he arrives, her dreams are dashed when she learns Gilbert is suffering from headaches, depression, and an addiction to pain killers. This is not the man she had planned to marry.

After serving in the trenches, Army Chaplain Samuel Vickary is barely holding onto his faith. Putting up a brave front as he ministers to the injured soldiers at the hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas, he befriends Gilbert and eventually falls for Annemarie.

While Annemarie tries to sort out her confused feelings about the two men in her life, she witnesses firsthand the bitterness and hurt they both hold within. Who will she choose? Will she have the courage to follow her heart and become the woman God intended her to be? As
the world emerges from the shadow of war, Annemarie clings to her faith as she wonders if her future holds the hope, happiness, and love for which she so desperately longs.

Watch for book 2, Whisper Goodbye, coming this spring!

115 comments :

  1. Myra, I understand when you say that reading for pleasure is not always what it sounds like. I read for reviews, and yes, I still LOVE to read, I am always thinking about that review! You do an awesome job of involving me as a reader, and I would love to be metered to win your book. Thanks...
    Still have chocolate left from the Glendale Chocolate Affair! Enjoy!

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  2. No matter how much I'm into a book I am CONSTANTLY rewriting phrases and editing as I read. I don't let it slow me down much, but it's always there. Also I so easily start to skim.
    And I try and remember that when I'm writing. Is this stretch boring? Is this stretch full of 'stuff' that in now way advances the plot?

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  3. Wonderful insightful post this morning Myra. I find that as I read I tend to dissect a little. It's almost like I'm reading to be tested later on so I want to make sure I get everything right. Since I read more for review than just pleasure these days I do find that while I am reading I am learning a lot as well.

    I would LOVE to be entered to win your book When the Clouds Roll By. I love the cover!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

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  4. Marianne. Last year I got to the point I was burning out and also reading was not as easy. I found I had take a step back and just read for fun. The pressure to review was getting to much. Sometimes I like just to read for fun.

    Myra I think I am glad I am not a writer so I can just read for fun with no thinking. Although knowing more about what makes a book tick sometimes I do notices things like to much head jumping etc.

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  5. Hi Myra,

    I've never analyzed an entire novel, but I've dog-eared sections I thought were really good.

    I like your suggestion to highlight with different colors and look for the rainbow.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  6. Good morning, Myra. Such an excellent post!

    I find I read like a writer more wheni'm reading within my genre. I'm much more conscious of craft then. Fortunately, ifi'm reading something I would never write,it's easier to subdue the critic in me.

    I'm "trying" to read for enjoyment first. I don't want to mentally critique every book I read. I used to do that and it was turning me off reading because I couldn't concentration the story. Now I have sort of a deal with myself that I'll read for fun and then if I have strong feelings about the book, I'll go back through it to analyze how/why it made me feel.

    I'd love to be entered. Your book sounds amazing (and I'm sorry I didn't get to it yet.)

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  7. "Have you ever intentionally analyzed a novel to understand why it does or doesn’t work? What did you learn that helped you in your own writing? Is there an author or particular novel that, for you, represents the “ideal” of your genre and the quality of writing you aspire to?"

    Um, well, yeah.

    I wrote my first sold manuscript with Ruthy's Small-Town Hearts in one hand. I even broke it down by scene, characters, length of conversations, where she dropped the first hints of love, how she did the first kiss, how long the black moment lasted, and all the POVs of each.

    My plot was completely different, but the story was originally 78K, and that was too long for a contemporary LI. So, I had to cut scenes, plot lines, and characters. I looked at Ruthy's story for how many people on the story stage, the pacing, the roles, and how fast the romance progressed (and how long the romance was supposed to take, time-wise).

    There's a formula to an LI and the story has to follow the arc, or it will feel too short or too long or too deep or too shallow or... You get it.

    I still pull that book out and flip through it, just to see how she hints at character emotions or back story.

    Who needs a writing manual when you've got a Ruthy book??

    (Now, don't tell her I said any of this or I will DENY, DENY, DENY.)

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  8. Thank you, Myra, you've given lots of good information to 'chew' on. I enjoy reading for the sake of reading, but now that I'm studying writing, I read with an eye as to why I like certain books and not others.

    I notice when I start skimming and when I'm jerked out of the story.

    I hate it when something stops me and I say, "Huh." :-)

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  9. I especially 'rewrite' while I'm reading if there is paragraph after paragraph of description. All the while I'm reading it, I'm thinking how could this have been woven in to the action or dialogue of the story?

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  10. Good morning Myra,
    Call me crazy, but I find pleasure IN analyzing other people's work. I tend to think more like a reviewer than a writer (I review books for my Web site and the Christianity section of about.com), but as I think how I'm going to review a book I am also picking up tips and techniques for my own writing. For me it's impossible to separate the three strands.
    I would love to be entered into the drawing. The Great War and the period immediately after is one of my favorite time periods. I have an historical I'm shopping around that is based in 1918-19. Would love to read yours -- for review, for my own training, and for FUN!
    Kathy Bailey
    Pre-pubbed in New Hampshire
    www.kathleendbailey.weebly.com

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  11. I'm always analyzing technique when I read a book. I can't help it anymore. How did the author get this point across, how did they engage my emotions, how did they weave their threads seamlessly through the story. When I pick up a romance, I look for all the elements.

    I not saying I don't enjoy the books I read, I just can't read them without looking for helpful hints.

    So, if I want to completely turn off my internal editor, I turn to romantic suspense. I can't write suspense to save my life. Authors who can -- Debby Giusti!!! -- have a very special talent. Me? I want to make nice at all the wrong points, LOL!

    Great post, Myra.

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  12. Ooooo, good subject, Myra!!

    I try really hard to read for pleasure when I'm endorsing or judging because I am looking for the reader's experience, but the things that ALWAYS pull me out are repetitions. For instance, I'm judging Rita books right now, and I'm seeing a LOT of "lifts of shoulders" instead of "shrugs" and the smile not quite reaching the eyes (which I think is the #1 phrase I see in 7 out of 10 books). I think I might notice this because my copy editor generally has to slap my hands on a different repetitive word each book, so it's a weakness of mine.

    Head-hopping (POV) is another thing that jerks me out of story, and it really shocks me just how prevalent this is in the secular market versus the Christian market. Ironically, that was the first thing someone told me in my first professional critique of A Passion Most Pure -- I knew nothing about POV, so I was hopping heads all over the place.

    So in my case, I think I tend to notice the things I already learned the hard way, but now since I read your post, I'm going to be looking for things I really do or don't like.

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  13. Oh, the simplest of premise, Read like a writer (which for me means I'm WAY TOO CRITICAL, I'M AN OLD SNARK-BUTT!!!!)

    And write like a reader (which for me means cut the long, long, long internal nonsense and get to the story, Ruthy!!!!)

    Oy, Myra, so much to do! So much to CHANGE, LOL!!!!!

    I have a BIG, LONG MIRROR to my face right now and I'm scowling into it.

    Great idea, great tasks, great insight, and I just KNOW you're cringing every time I slide in ubiquitous POV (my way of not showing whose pov it is because the players should make it non-essential. Not everyone agrees with this technique, note the scars on the backs of my hands!!!)

    Hey, it's snowing like crazy here, Lake Effect off of Lake Ontario and it's hysterical how much snow is piling up!

    I made a ton of Valentine cookies to send to kids who live far, far away from upstate (they think they're the smart ones!!!) but I have plenty to share! Chocolate chip/big chocolate chip/M&M pink/red/white Valentine mix cookies.

    Because I love youse!!!!

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  14. I like what Jenny said. It's good to remind ourselves to read for pleasure. I find myself thinking too hard sometimes and I miss the pure joy of reading :)

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  15. Generally I think of Vince's "Rewards per page" and then I picture Mary Connealy's long, boring diatribes and I run back to fix mine.

    Thanks, Mare. :)

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  16. RUTHY, your cookies sound delicious. Unfortunately I have an appt. with the diabetes doctor at 11 today. If she says I'm doing well, I may indulge in something.
    Did you know you can get special heart-shaped Junior Mints filled with pink instead of white? I made chocolate chip cookies last week and popped a Junior Mint on each one in the last two minutes of baking. Fun. I also have some heart-shaped sugar cookies that I have to frost and sprinkle soon.
    I am so hungry...
    Kathy Bailey
    Watching carbs in New Hampshire

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  17. Great post, Myra. :) I loved the way you broke things down for what writers might be looking for when reading and what readers look for and need from a well-written story.

    I analyzed The Wedding Dress, by Rachel Hauck after it came out. I loved the story so much, the gentle way it moved between eras. I need to go back and read my notes and read the book again. :)

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  18. Good morning, Seekerville! Finished my morning pot of Earl Grey Green and (sort of) got dressed for work (do sweats count?). Got the computer fired up so here I am at last. Have I mentioned I'm not a morning person???

    MARIANNE, I can just imagine what it's like for book reviewers, one part of your brain always thinking objectively (or trying to) about how the book affects you, what you do and don't like and why, how to give a fair and honest review. Thanks so much for your kind words--and pass the chocolate! (Never too early for chocolate!)

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  19. Interesting post, Myra. With a book I fall into I do this analysis after I finish the book. Because I am too lost in the book to do it while I read.

    When I am not into a book, I do it as I am reading and often put the book down.

    Mary is right. Even with my favorite books there is some skim going on.

    Must remember that when writing.

    Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing is flashing before my eyes.



    1. Never open a book with weather.
    2. Avoid prologues.
    3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
    4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”…he admonished gravely.
    5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
    6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
    7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
    8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
    9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
    10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

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  20. Hi MYRA, yes they said you wouldn't read as much after becoming a writer and its true. I have to force myself to read now because I don't really "read" anymore. It is all analytical. I have discovered though if I get a book totally out of my genre I can enjoy it more if it is well written. Or if I read ina total different way like listening to audio books. I can enjoy those because its impossible to critique while you read. lol

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  21. MARY, I know what you mean. Many of us here are currently engaged in reading and judging novels for the RITA contest, which can be extremely enlightening (in more ways than one!). I know I've come across a good one when I stop thinking so much about the writing and am able to really enjoy the characters and plot!

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  22. MARRIANE you still have chocolate??? Oh my. Mine is almost all gone. It was great seeing you and your mom at the Chocolate Affair. That was sweeter than all the chocolate there. smile

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  23. Hi, CINDY! Oh, my, you brought back memories of high school, when I had to remember what I read! It can be fun to learn something from fiction, though--especially about careers or eras or locations I'm interested in. I love it when I feel I'm in capable hands with an author's research and/or personal knowledge.

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  24. JENNY, every once in a while I like to choose a book that is totally outside my normal genre interests. I'll pick up one of my husband's techno-suspense novels (Clive Cussler, for example), or reread my old favorites by J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis. Then once again I'm getting lost in the story!

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  25. JACKIE, I've tried the highlighter method a couple of times. The hard part is constantly changing pens while trying to keep reading! But if you can get through a chapter or two, you can see a pattern emerging. This is also a good trick to use on your own printed-out manuscript.

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  26. I agree, MARY CURRY. Lots easier to just read for pleasure outside my genre. And it also makes sense to let yourself get involved in the story and read all the way through, then afterward ponder the overall effect--what worked, what didn't, what your lasting impressions are.

    Of course, it can be really hard to keep from making mental notes along the way . . .

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  27. Sorry, VIRGINIA, your words about Ruthy are forever emblazoned upon the comments section of this post--unless you ever go back and personally delete them! But better hurry before Ruthy gets here!!!

    Seriously, a Ruthy book sounds like the ideal model for a successful Love Inspired novel. Glad you took the time to study it so thoroughly!

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  28. MARY HICKS, I'm the same way. It's no fun when something in a story pulls me out and I think, "Seriously??? This would NEVER happen this way!" I used to always plow through a novel to the bitter end, hoping it would get better. Now, with so many good books on my shelf and so little quality reading time, I much more easily slam a poorly written book shut and toss it aside.

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  29. ROSE, good point about description. Modern readers get bored quickly with long passages of no action. You can't get away with detailed description in story openings like they did in the "olden days." Readers want excitement and interest from the very first words.

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  30. KATHY, I learned so much about the WWI era as I did research for these novels--fascinating stuff! Also heartbreaking to read the soldiers' stories. I love it that you can weave all those aspects of reading together. It's sure to pay off for you soon!

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  31. AUDRA, I'm the same way about romantic suspense. It's a great escape and lots of fun! However, I still have a hard time turning off my internal analyzer. How is the dialogue working? What's the balance of action/reflection? Too much or too little description?

    However, I must say Debby Giusti always gets it right!

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  32. JULIE, those RITA books are quite a learning experience, aren't they???

    Okay, I'm going to state my biggest romance novel pet peeve: "He deepened the kiss." I read that in just about every romance I ever pick up!

    But I do know what you mean about repetitive phrases. Seems I come up with a new one in each book I write and have to be slapped down for it.

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  33. Seekerville, you heard it from RUTHY's own lips (er, keyboard):

    "I'M AN OLD SNARK-BUTT!!!!"

    But you're a lovable old snark-butt, Ruthy dear! We don't want you to change a thing!

    Do you need my mailing address for the cookies?

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  34. SHERRI, I agree! I do miss the days when reading for pleasure came naturally. There are times when thinking is highly overrated.

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  35. Excuse me, RUTHY--Mary's "long, boring diatribes"??????

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  36. Wait--KATHY!!! Send those cookies here!!!! I love Junior Mints!!!

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  37. JEANNE, it's good to know when to change "hats" between reading like a writer and writing like a reader, but not always as easy as it sounds. As writers, we can get really, really attached to our own words and forget to incorporate everything we've learned as readers.

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  38. TINA, love those 10 tips!!! I know I am guilty of a few of those points. "Suddenly" is one of them.

    I do agree it's better to give only the simplest character descriptions, because readers are already forming their mental images at page 1. If an author starts telling me in chapter 2 that the character I already picture as tall, willowy, and brunette is really a petite redhead, I find it impossible to change my vision of her. So for the rest of the book, when the author is writing "red hair," I'm mentally revising it to say "brown."

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  39. SANDRA, it makes sense to me that it would be harder to mentally critique an audio book. I've been in a few critique groups where members read their manuscripts aloud and then we critiqued on the spot. I always had a very hard time with those. I need to see the words on paper in order to think through the comments I want to make.

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  40. MYRA!!!! DID I SAY THAT OUT LOUD??????

    Gadzooks, I should go DELETE that, ASAP!!!!

    Bwahahahahahahah!

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  41. Myra, I do this w/books and movies. I wished I could stop my mind from critiquing. I do try to ask myself when something sticks out to me, would I have noticed that if I wasn't a writer?

    "There are times when thinking is highly overrated." This is so true...

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  42. CONNIE, I do it with movies, too. Especially romantic comedies. The cute-meet. The adorable/klutzy/nerdy sidekick. The horrible misunderstanding that, IF ONLY THEY WOULD TALK, they could easily clear up!!!

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  43. Too late, RUTHY! I have used my top-secret spy code to mark that comment permanently undeletable!

    Bwahahahahahahah back at ya!!!

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  44. Ruthy....ahem ... my LONG BORING DIATRIBES???

    You mean that I write to you personally? Or in my books?

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  45. KAYBEE!!! I just checked the heart shaped Junior Mints...for which I am now STARVING!!!!!!!!
    They cost about ten dollars on Amazon WITH TEN DOLLARS SHIPPING!

    A diet incentive there!

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  46. MYRA! I too have learned things from my Rita books.

    Most of them unfortunate. And involving extremely questionable misuse of electronic devices I've never heard of.

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  47. MARY, I was trying to be tactful about certain RITA books.

    Now I must go wash my brain out with soap.

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  48. WHAT I WANT TO KNOW IS....Is Ruthy rushing to delete the comment about my long boring diatribes?

    Or the one about her being a SNARK-BUTT

    (Extremely rough language, Madam Herne!)

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  49. I now have to leave, to drive to a store and buy Junior Mints with red mint centers.

    These are NOT on my diet btw. Maybe I can buy them as a gift.

    Do you think my grandchildren will mind if they get a box of chocolates for Valentine's day that has been opened?

    And is half empty?

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  50. You know what's really yummy? Dark chocolate drops with pomegranate centers! We picked some up at Costco several days ago.

    OH MY GOODNESS!!!!!!

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  51. Oh my,
    I completely know what you're talking about, Myra! I, too, cannot read a book without my brain going into critique mode. I rewrite scenes as I read them.
    And about character description, YES! With every book I pick up, in my mind the hero has black hair and blue eyes. So when I read a description about this blond headed gray eyed man, I automatically change it.
    Wonderful post!

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  52. CRYSTAL! You understand! Sometimes cover images help me get a mental picture of the character if the author doesn't right away.

    But the other thing I dislike is when the author gives TOO MANY details, like "She had a longish nose, full lips, and wide-set eyes." So what does my brain do? It exaggerates everything until I've got this clownish image in my head.

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  53. Myra, it's true I can't read an LI book the same way now! Here's a funny experiment: open one to the blow card or the ad in the middle. The first kiss is ten pages in either direction (or sometimes on that page)! Now go 100 pages forward and you've got kiss #2 somewhere there. Soooo funny! Once you follow the map, it's a lot easier to sell to them. Of course... no branching out or you're on your own. But that's not always bad thing.

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  54. Hi Myra,

    I have done this with one book: "Wishing on Willows" by Katie Ganshert. Her book had every element just right and so I went back scene by scene through most of the story to determine how Katie wove all the aspects together so well.

    Hopefully some of her techniques rubbed off on me!

    And of course I've studied Julie's books quite a lot. They all those little flags sticking out to mark a particular scene I found great. Usually a kissing scene! LOL or a very emotional one. I love seeing how authors evoke emotion in their readers!

    May I say that your new cover is just beautiful! Even nicer than the first one, I think. In analyzing why (see what you started!), it's because the heroine seems much more natural looking on the second cover. But both are lovely! I'd love to be in your draw!

    GOOD NEWS! My son has gone back to school for 2 days now! The naturopath determined he has an extreme sensitivity to all grains. So in a matter of 4 days going grain-free, he is SO MUCH BETTER! Thank you, Lord - and thank you everyone for your prayers. Now just hoping we can keep it up! It is a challenge learning how to feed him (all 6 ft 2 in) without any bread, pasta, rice, cookies, etc. Today I will attempt Paleo bread which is made with almond and coconut flour.

    God has a wicked sense of humour, let me tell you, since I am the one who does not like cooking or baking and now it looks like I'll be doing it every day!! LOL.

    Cheers,
    Sue

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  55. Interesting, VIRGINIA! I would never have noticed that! Now I'm wondering how often it holds true.

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  56. Love this post, Myra, and your books look wonderful! The covers are smashing!

    Since I started writing, I've discovered that my reading pace has slowed because I'm analyzing and learning as I read. Like Connie and you, I also analyze movies. I even have my family analyzing..."Okay, Mom, there's the point of no return." "See? They have to say up front that Lucy's warm hugs are magical so that it'll make sense later when her hug melts Jack Frost." (from the third Santa Clause movie) :-)

    Would love to be entered to win your book. Thanks!

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  57. Myra, this is a brilliant teaching post! Your points are great reminders writers need during the writing and revision processes. I'm printing this off!

    When I sit down to read and have that sense of anticipation, I know I'm holding a book by a writer I trust to provide a gripping story, characters I love, an emotional read. But that writer still needs a good handle on craft. Without that I'm jerked out of the story. Rolling eyes may fly once, but too many and I'm exasperated.

    The comments on Rita books makes me realize that writing is a huge responsibility, even scary. LOL

    Janet

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  58. Hi, SUE! Well, one reason the second cover may look more natural is because we couldn't find exactly the right stock image, so the Abingdon art department did a live model shoot! I love-love-love the girl they found! She totally captures my image of the heroine!

    So glad they found the root of your son's issues. One of my daughters and two of her sons (one a strapping 19-year-old) have gluten intolerance plus other dietary issues, so I understand what you mean about learning to cook differently. And I'm also one who stays out of the kitchen as much as possible!

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  59. MEGHAN, isn't it fun with our "crazy writer" tendencies start rubbing off on our family? How cute that your kids are now analyzing movies with you!

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  60. JANET, you nailed me on the "rolling eyes" thing. Too many of my characters have that habit. ;-)

    Yes, a good story without equally good craft supporting it just doesn't hold up.

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  61. Myra
    I must still be so newbie to writing that I don't find myself doing those things you do when reading. I tend to get lost in the story (especially the Seeker's books). I am really poor at remembering even the hero or heroine's names (I'm terrible at remembering people's names in real life, let alone fiction). this does pose problems on my Kindle when I love a book so much I want to do the review right away as it pops up on the Kindle.
    I cannot write I LOVE THIS BOOK, and then not be able to write the hero/heroine's name... but it happens to me *sigh*

    On the other hand, I do understand you very well. I do the assessment thing with animation stuff (since I'm an animator...natch). This is a wonderful list post for me.

    I'm such a newbie *shaking head at self*

    to RUTHY and MARY: you ladies crack me up. reading your comments is the best entertainment for my daily lunch break Seeker fix.

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  62. Great post, Myra. I love this!

    And yes, I can't read a book without critiquing it - often out loud to my long-suffering husband. He hears all about how wonderfully the author did this or how terribly she did that.

    Virginia - I did the same thing with a Ruthy book when I revised my first LIH, although I had devoured many, many LIH books and other Seeker books, also!

    It was a technique I learned in college - imitate the best writers to learn to write well :) And in this case, I zeroed in on a specific genre.

    Don't put me in for the drawing - I already won your beautiful book (thanks, Myra!).

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  63. DEB H, I am terrible at remembering names, too! (Not good when I occasionally forget my own story characters' names!) Last weekend I did a book signing at my church, and a lady I know fairly well from the group we used to belong to together asked me to sign her book, and . . .

    MY BRAIN WENT TOTALLY BLANK!!!!

    I was so embarrassed I had to ask her for her name. I was afraid to even pretend I wasn't sure how to spell it in case it was something simple like Mary or Ruth (no offense, gals!!).

    And yes, I agree--Mary and Ruthy totally crack me up, too!

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  64. JAN, I do the same thing with my hubby. And it's getting to where he starts making comments to me about the books he's reading.

    Of course, the OTHER bane of my existence is Grammar Queen, who is constantly reading over my shoulder and pointing stuff out! Can't even make it through a Sunday church bulletin without hearing from her!

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  65. I think the red mints should not deign to take the place of beloved Peppermint Patties....

    Although Mare, you and I can WOLF down a big, Sam's-club-sized box of mints in less time than it took me to put those hyphens in place.

    I LOVE CHOCOLATE AND MINT. ♥♥♥♥♥

    And I meant BOTH diatribes, darling.

    The private ones via e-mail.

    And the published ones.

    :)

    (Of course youse all know I'm KIDDING, Mary's about the least boring author and (SIGH) the least boring Seeker. And you do not have a clue how it pains me to admit that!!!!)

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  66. You know it's funny, when you write category romances (which I LOVE!!!!!) there is a loose "formula" and within those confines you develop a story.

    So that can be thought of as constricting or just a good, old-fashioned challenge!

    I LOVE A CHALLENGE.

    So writing within confines or stricture isn't a problem for me because if I want to jump out of the box, I can do sweet inspies for independent publication and that's a different kind of "release".

    And I LOVE that my readers are buying/reading/loving BOTH!!!!

    Oh, happy day!

    So Jan, I love that you did that, that's such an honor to have that said, you just made my day!

    And it's an occupational hazard to critique other authors, but what I've learned is that I'm not nearly as smart as I thought I was because even though something isn't my cup of tea, doesn't make it bad.

    It just makes it different.

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  67. DEB H!!!! WE NEED TO TALK!!!!

    Poor thing is probably thinking I forgot her, but I didn't....

    (Tina is laughing right now because I'd forget my shoes if they aren't pre-tied onto my feet.)

    I can't wait to talk to you!!!! I will e-mail you.

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  68. Hey, most of my LI kisses are after page 110.....

    But here's a funny story! I LOBBIED for my summer Montana Big Sky Centennial couple to have several kisses because it was a reunion romance... and... well... they'd kissed before!!!!

    And the editors approved it, patted my head and sent me on my merry way... and you know what???

    ONE KISS.

    ONE KISS!!!!!!

    Julie Lessman is having hissy fits right now, thinking of me having the go ahead and not leaping all over that thing!!!!!

    But the one kiss was JUST RIGHT for that book.

    Well, wait, there is a kiss at the end, but that doesn't count, youse know what I mean.

    The one kiss was perfectly timed and the writer of the outline for the continuity was right... a good kiss, nay a GREAT KISS...

    Can send a girl's head spinnin' in all kinds of crazy directions!!!

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  69. All this talk about candy and kissing has me thinking of Valentine's Day. LOL!

    Loved your post, Myra! When I took an evening creative writing class many, many years ago, the instructor said we would start reading like an editor! Even worse than reading like a writer! And he was right. And you're right, Myra. It does take some of the fun out of reading. Of course, I love-love-love when a story pulls me in and hooks me so I'm not analyzing and only enjoying. A special treat for sure!

    Virginia, I didn't get the memo about the kissing scenes in LI. :)

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  70. Do we need to separate Mary and Ruthy for the rest of the day?

    Wait, Mary wasn't doing anything except craving candy. Ruthy, are you causing trouble again? :)

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  71. I'd love to win your wonderful book. :) LMarshall.Writer@Yahoo.com
    Thanks! Loved the article. I'll be sharing.

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  72. Hi Myra! You know, I DON'T find myself analyzing books all that much, unless it's a genre I want to write. I've always viewed reading as my escape, so I don't tend to analyze them too often, unless I make a mental effort to. Maybe I should now?

    Of course, I read a large variety of genres: murder mystery, romance, literary, suspense, historical fiction. I DO analyze murder mysteries and YA, since those are the two genres I've written in. With mysteries, I've tried to find the red herrings, and what makes them such. I've tried to analyze whether the story points to the real killer all along without the reader knowing it (Agatha Christie was QUEEN at this), or if the killer was obvious from the beginnig. I also like the small romances included in many of them, and how the writer incorporated the romance without making it the focus of the story.

    Love the cover of "Clouds" and would love to read it!

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  73. DEBBY, I agree--reading like an editor can be even more frustrating than reading like a writer! I do love those stories that draw me in and make me forget everything else!

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  74. Years ago, I read and re-read a suspense by Donna Ball. She was a noted GRW author. I underlined, highlighted and marked with sticky notes. Learned a lot about suspense and still remember that story with fondness.

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  75. Thanks for visiting, LAURA! Welcome back anytime!

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  76. Thanks, STEPHANIE! I enjoy trying to pick up the clues and red herrings in mysteries, too. I especially have fun watching shows like Castle and Bones and seeing if I'm right about whom I picked out as the killer from the start.

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  77. I read an Agatha Christie mystery years ago (the title escapes me right now), in which the killer ended up being the first person narrator, an EXTRMELY unreliable narrator. It was such a shock when I read the ending, and then I went back through and realized that Christie relied on the reader believing the narrator is the "hero" of the story. It was brilliantly done, and I've never quite read a first-person narrative mystery the same ever since. Unless it's a series, in which case making the narrator/sleuth the killer would most likely "kill" (sorry, that was SUCH a bad pun!) the series.

    I, too, enjoy Castle, and also Psych. I like a dash, or sometimes a dollop, of humor to go with my murder mysteries :)

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  78. oooo MYRA, I forgot to tell you how much your book covers make this artist smile (LOVE 'EM!!!). and, i'd like to be in the draw for your book.

    i'm horrible at names, great with faces. too many times i see someone and think "I know you, just PLEASE, don't ask me to greet you by name." And then so many people remember my name and I feel like a horrid person. It's not that I don't care about you, my brain just wants to keep the visual data, not the non-viz data...

    RUTHY - I know you didn't forget me. I just figured you were uber busy - more so than usual because of your brilliant course being taught at present (which I'm not taking 'cuz I'm so not ready yet *heavy sigh*).

    As for V-day... hubby has already gotten something. A little guppy told me so when I asked him what he and daddy did during the day yesterday. He was so excited to tell momma about getting presents. Yeah... no secrets in this household *heh*.

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  79. Hi Myra...Really enjoyed your post! I always think to myself that even if I'm not working on writing anything, at least I'm reading a lot and that will help. But...this post helped me realize that I'm not reading like a writer. Great tips on how to do that better, as well as the writing like a reader.

    Your books sounds fantastic! First, the cover is beautiful. It really piques my interest, too, because the kids and I have been studying WWI last week and this week and will be moving on to WWII next week. It's very interesting. I think I'm learning more as I homeschool my kids than I did when I was a student! Your books seem to go right along with some of the things I've been researching. I typically get into the info then break it down for my young ones. I would be very interested in being in the drawing!

    Blessings~
    Stacey
    (travelingstacey[at]bellsouth[dot]net)

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  80. Thanks, DEB H! And so glad I'm not the only one bad with names and faces! And then . . . when I run into someone out of context, like a church friend in the supermarket--forget it!

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  81. STACEY, there's something about good historical fiction that makes learning about history so much more fun. Both my daughters are currently homeschooling their kids, so I'm sure they could relate to your experiences! Personally, I don't think I would ever have had the patience, so I admire all you homeschooling moms!

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  82. HI Myra! Interesting post.

    To counter my dyslexia, I learned early on to do what I call 'study reading.' That means I read slowly and deliberately. I wish I could breeze through a book a week, but often 45,000 words takes me three weeks. As a result, I can just about tell you every nuance that happens. It's both a trial and a blessing, but either way, each book is an interesting learning experience.

    Congrats on the new title coming soon. I would love to be in the cat dish for your other book.

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  83. HI Myra! Interesting post.

    To counter my dyslexia, I learned early on to do what I call 'study reading.' That means I read slowly and deliberately. I wish I could breeze through a book a week, but often 45,000 words takes me three weeks. As a result, I can just about tell you every nuance that happens. It's both a trial and a blessing, but either way, each book is an interesting learning experience.

    Congrats on the new title coming soon. I would love to be in the cat dish for your other book.

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  84. Hi, LYNDEE! Reading slowly and deliberately can be a good thing, because you certainly get more out of what you're reading.

    I see the downside, too, though. I've been trying to train myself to read faster because there are too many good books I want to get to and not enough reading hours in the day!

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  85. I have tried analyzing my all-time favorite book many times. It's a little story called To Kill a Mockingbird. I have yet to get past page 1 with my analysis ... I get lost in the story.

    For better or worse, I was a non-fiction editor. So not only is the writer in me analyzing, but the editor in me is ... well ... my own little Grammar Queen.

    As a contest judge, I know I'm reading a good entry when I forget to make comments and have to go back to do so. When I read, I know I've found a good book when I lose track of time (and the editor and writer have fallen asleep).

    Fun post, Myra. Those questions would make a great contest score sheet!

    Nancy C

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  86. P.S. Don't enter me in the drawing -- already have When the Clouds Roll By :-)

    Nancy C

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  87. Myra, I have been looking forward to this post. I knew it was going to be interesting!

    The few times I tried to dissect a book, I ended up getting sucked into the story and forgot all about learning from the author's expertise. Each time it was a book I'd already read. I think I will try it again with highlighters and sticky notes. Maybe the paraphernalia will help.

    Lyndee, Henry Winkler was on the Today Show this morning and mentioned a font that helped people with dyslexia. He didn't say the name of it but I thought it was interesting.

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  89. Good post, Myra.
    I honestly thought to elaborate more on the awesomeness of your words, but all the references to Snarky Butts and diatribes has left me afraid to add further comment.

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  90. NANCY, it's a curse and a blessing to have your own personal Grammar Queen living inside your head! Good point about the contest score sheet--definitely important items for a judge to be watching for!

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  91. DONNA, it does take concentration to thoroughly dissect a book. You sure can't read as fast as you normally would!

    But even just reading with an open mind for what grabs you and what turns you off can be very enlightening.

    Interesting about the font you said Henry Winkler mentioned. If you think of it, let us know!

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  92. TINA P, I don't blame you! I would never in a million years try to interfere with whatever Mary and Ruthy have going on!

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  93. Oh, Tina P......

    I will retract my snarkyness in favor of CatMom's peachiness but she's not here....

    And I'm kind of lost and alone without her!!!! (Sobs out loud!!!)

    TINA RADCLIFFE SAID PATOIS!!!!

    Ruthy runs to find out what it is!!!!

    Patois?????

    It was in a sentence with DIALECTS....

    Now, dagnabbit, lil' Missy, I don' be thinkin' you're agin' all types of speach hear 'bouts, ye ken?

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  94. GOT IT!!!

    PATOIS!!!!!!

    And dagnabbit, I do use them.

    Okay, but I save all my exclamation points for SEEEKERVILLEE!!!!!!

    If you find an exclamation point in a Ruthy book it is either a small child, an old woman, or inserted by a copy editor.

    Because I will guaran-darn-tee youse I didn't do it!

    So many rules, so little time!!!!

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  95. I have heard good things about this book. Please enter me. Thanks.

    sweetdarknectar at gmail dot com

    Your next book looks good too.

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  96. I usually read as a writer and sometimes I wish I didn't because I'm too critical and don't enjoy a book as much as I should. But I hope I'm learning things that improve my own writing.

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  97. Myra, what an interesting concept! I hadn't thought about writing as a reader.

    If I'm reading a book that totally absorbs me (making me forget I'm a writer) then I know it's really, REALLY good. Those are the books I take apart later, trying to figure out what it was about the story that I loved. It's fun to do this! But then I feel like I'm lacking, because I can't write quite like that. :)

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  98. Virginia, that's so cool that you used a Ruthy book to analyze and break down an LI!

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  99. Sue, I'm so glad to hear the news about your son! If you like the bread, I'd love it if you'd send me the recipe or a link. If you see this, could you email me at missytippens [at] aol.com?

    Thanks!

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  100. Heh heh, TINA found a word RUTHY didn't know!!!

    And !!!! are always welcome in Seekerville!!!!!

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  101. Thank you for visiting, BOOS MUM! Are you a writer or a reader?

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  102. CARA, I know what you mean. And I think you write beautifully!!!

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  103. MISSY, it can be intimidating to read a really good book and think we'd never be able to write that well. But we're always learning and improving. And isn't it wonderful to have those great authors to inspire us to greater heights?

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  104. Great post! I know a book is really great when I can take off my writers cap.

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  105. I do the same thing when I'm reading. I guess that's an excuse to call reading "research." Works for me!
    Please enter me.

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  106. Yikes! I'm super late today, but LOVED your post, Myra---very insightful and thorough--thank you!
    As you already know, I LOVED LOVED LOVED your book, When the Clouds Roll By - - oh my, that's your best one yet (imho) even though I've enjoyed your other books too.
    We're bracing for a major ice store here, so I'm hoping to get lots of reading done tomorrow (if I could just turn off that internal editor *sigh*).
    Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo

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  107. p.s. OOOPS!! We're bracing for an ice STORM, not an ice STORE, LOL!! Time for bed...zzzzzz....PJ

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  108. COURTNEY, you're in! And nothing beats research that's also fun!

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  109. PATTI JO, I'm so glad you enjoyed my book! Hope you're staying warm down there. This morning I'm watching snow flurries outside my window. Looks like we're in for it all day and into tomorrow. Fun, fun! At least the grandkids will enjoy it!

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  110. Hi Myra! Your book sounds very interesting. And I enjoyed this post. Sometimes I see things I absolutely love in novels, and sometimes I pause and go "What? Why did she say it like that?" LOL. Thanks for sharing!

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  111. JEN, I've done the same thing. Sometimes a character's dialogue just doesn't sound natural in context, or the action isn't realistic for the situation or character . . .

    Good to take time to think about why something works in a story or doesn't. It can only make our own writing better.

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  112. I am a reader. Not sure I would have the patience or the stick to it to write a whole book. Though my 15 year old daughter has written a three book series. We will be looking into indie publishing this year.

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  113. BOOS MUM, we have several readers who enjoy hanging out with us here in Seekerville. And how exciting that your daughter is writing novels! Seekerville is a great place for learning, encouragement, and fellowship, so have her drop by sometime!

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