Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Find Your Writing Sweet Spot! By Debby Giusti

How do you boil eggs?

I thought I knew. Then I did a Google search.

Some folks cover eggs with cold water, bring the water to a boil and then promptly turn off the heat. Others drop eggs into boiling water and cook for varying lengths of times. Some salt the water. Others add baking soda or vinegar.

Seems everyone has their own method. The same holds true for creating a story.

Browse through the Seekerville archives and you’ll find information on plotting, on creating detailed scene outlines, on using Scrivener or the Plot Doctor or any of the other tools available for purchase or online. Not interested in plotting or planning? Then write by the seat of your pants.

Some use a daily word count to create a manuscript. Others write a fast first draft that requires heavy revisions, while others rewrite as they go and end up with polished pages that are ready to submit.

My last few books have been difficult to piece together. Perhaps it’s because I’m searching for new and unique plots and creative ways to put my hero and heroine in danger. Perhaps it’s because I know more about crafting a story and am aware of holes and weaknesses at the onset.

Whatever the reason, my recent struggle has made me pause at times and question whether the well is dry and will ever fill again.

My frustration is compounded when I read comments from authors who giggle with glee as they create page after page of story seemingly without effort. They skip playfully through their pages like a child on the playground and eagerly anticipate their daily romp at the keyboard.

I, on the other hand, often pull out my hair coming up with fresh plots and red herrings and dangerous situations for my hero and heroine.  Having them fall in love while running for their lives is another hurdle to conquer, along with the need to keep them constantly in danger.

Are you still with me?

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I start with a detailed synopsis that outlines the story. The first three chapters are written methodically with lots of revising and tightening, adding and deleting until I’m satisfied that I’ve provided enough information but not too much. My goal is to give the reader a clear picture of where the story is headed so they can join me on the journey.

I use my AlphaSmart to get words on the page. That stream of consciousness writing, of sorts, moves me along quickly. I rely on my synopsis to direct my focus, but the actual telling of the tale comes in a rapid visual flow that I transcribe into text on my small word processor.

The middle section is a labor-intensive process of filling each 24-page AlphaSmart file with escalating danger. I end up with a first draft that requires extensive rewrites.

For the last two stories, I’ve reached a spot—usually as my deadline loomed—when I realized how much I love to write. Each time it came as a shock after my extended period of questioning whether I should or could ever craft another tale.

What I stumbled upon was my Writing Sweet Spot, the part of the process that brings joy to my heart and keeps me focused on writing.

My Sweet Spot is in the turn of phrase, the rewrites, the tightening and deleting. It includes adding emotion and action tags and subtle nuances that enhance the conflict and give meaning to the story.

I stumbled upon my Sweet Spot, but you can find yours by breaking down the writing process and evaluating each step in the journey from conception to submission. Use the 5-star review method to grade your progress.


Conception. Start with the initial spark of an idea and fan it into a story that lights your fire! This step can also include a general overview of the plot and characters.
Stars: «««««

First three chapters. Introduce your hero and heroine, and foreshadow the conflict, both internal and external. Give your reader an idea of the type of story you’ve written and what they can expect as the plot unfolds. Stars: «««««

Create the story outline or synopsis. Whether a detailed scene by scene outline or synopsis or a shorter overview, this phase provides the frame upon which you’ll build your story. Stars: «««««

The middle. Take the hero and heroine through a series of escalating problems, which entail danger in a suspense, attraction in a romance and/or self-realization in a character driven tale. Stars: «««««

Black Moment. All the forward progress seems for naught as the hero and heroine face a huge obstacle that appears insurmountable. Stars: «««««

Climax. Weave the threads together into a powerful fight to survive in a suspense or a last ditch effort for good to overcome evil or for love to conquer all so the story concludes with a satisfying ending and a happily ever after.
Stars: «««««

Rewrites. Tweak the pages to make them shine. Stars: «««««

Final Copy. The last look at the finished manuscript before you hit SEND. Stars: «««««

Some of the Seekers shared their Sweet Spots…

Mary Connealy: I love writing. I love everything about writing from the blank page to the start of a new book, to the revisions, to the catalogue copy and covers and galley edits.
But picking a sweet spot....I'd have to say to me, it's having an action scene all written, then bringing it to life, making it move. I usually dread writing those scenes the first time because I just know I can't do it right the first time, but then reworking it, cutting out anything that stops forward motion, upping the tension, adding humor or sass or intensity, I can feel it as it gets better, stronger. And no matter how many passes I make on a scene like that I can almost always improve it, because they're very complex, so I don't mind going over and over it because that's what makes it shine.
My sweet spot, revisions on action scenes.

Pam Hillman: I'm not sure I've found my sweet spot yet, but the one place that I feel like I have a story "licked" is when I have all the major plot points ironed out...not just plotted in my head or in a synopsis, but actually written down in the manuscript. Because sometimes the cool idea doesn't translate well to the actual page. :)

A couple of weeks ago, while working on This Land is Our Land for Barbour, I was struggling with a couple of plot twists that were important for my own peace of mind and that would make the reader keep turning pages. For several days I worked, re-read, edited, plotted and planned, and when I finally got those two areas worked out, it felt like the whole manuscript fell into place, like carefully place dominoes.

And you know that old saying about not seeing the forest for the trees? The more I write under deadline, the more I realize that I need to work toward getting those plot points firmly in place before I worry overmuch about the minor details like pet words, sentence structure, word choice, etc.

So, if I have a sweet spot, it's that. When I know the plot points of the story from beginning to end are solid and can hold the rest of the canvas up like carefully planted "tent poles", then it's su-weet, indeed.

Julie Lessman: Well, my physical “sweet spot” is down on my lower deck where I and my laptop spend most of our days, eight months of the year, rain or shine, spring-summer-fall. But as far as the actual writing process, the most addictive part for me—the thing that gives me that sweet adrenalin rush—is finding the perfect word to convey on paper what I see in my mind. I have an online thesaurus called OneLook Reverse Dictionary that is hands-down the best writer’s resource I’ve ever seen. Strange as it may sound, my heart literally jumps in my chest almost every time I use it, filling me with a rush of giddiness at the challenge of finding just the right word. But … when I’ve hit that writing wall where even my beloved thesaurus fails to skitter my pulse, I find that 20 minutes on the treadmill works wonders to loosen the logjam, causing the streams of passion and creativity to flow once again.

Missy Tippens: The part of writing a story that makes my heart sing is when I'm barreling toward the black moment. It's like everything I've been working toward is about to happen. Which probably sounds terrible since it's a crisis! :) But I think it's because I know the characters are ready to face this problem and will overcome. I know they'll earn their happy ending--which is also very fun to write. So my favorite part of a story is writing from the black moment to the happily ever after.

Myra Johnson: The part of writing I love most is when I get into the flow of a story and the words keep coming! This usually happens when I give the characters free rein and let them live out each scene on the page. Detailed outlines or synopses freeze my creative juices. If I'm too hung up on making the story fit the synopsis, it starts to feel like putting a puzzle together with all the wrong pieces. Nothing fits the way I envisioned! I've found that if I trust my characters, they usually know what's best for the story, and it all comes right in the end.

Janet Dean: My favorite part of writing the book is writing the first chapter! I get excited with my new hero and heroine, the new conflict, the back story that just seems to fall into place. I feel eager and optimistic, sure this will be my best book ever. The proposal phase goes pretty well, too, but by the middle I’m sagging as much as my story. Lots of writers love writing the ending, but I find it intimidating because I’m rarely satisfied. I want the HEA to feel bigger than life, to sing. Though revisions are fun and playing with words and finding ways to up the emotion is fun, I never feel the book is as great as I’d thought it would be when I penned that first chapter.

What’s your Sweet Spot?

Share a comment to be entered in a drawing for one of my books, winner’s choice, and a surprise gift.

I’ve boiled eggs for the breakfast buffet. My method?
Place eggs in pan and cover with water. Gently boil for 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Fill pan with cool water.

Along with dozens of hard boiled eggs, I’m serving fresh fruit, an assortment of pastries and bagels, and grits. The coffee’s hot. Thanks, Helen. Tea and soda are available also. Fill your mug and your plate and let’s talk about Sweet Spots and the writing process.

Wishing you abundant blessings,
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. 

Click here to buy.


Tina Radcliffe said...

I have no sweet spot. The end could be called a sweet spot.

I now write detailed synopsis and still there is that moment in the writing when I stop and think-WHAT IS GOING ON HERE? WHAT ARE THEY DOING HERE? WHY ARE THEY DOING THIS?

Then I must go lie down until my brain figures it out.

And because I write linearly usually and I really, channel my characters, I can get stuck for a bit until I figure it out.

Sometimes I write around these big question marks. But I don't like to. I like the story to unfold as it is happening.

Did you know that they shot the end of The Devil Wears Prada on the first day of shooting? I love to listen to the commentary of movies. You learn so much.

I digress.

No Sweet Spot.

Writing is hard work for me.

Hard work complicated by the fact that while you are working on your WIP, your brain tells you to go play and work on the other ten books in the back of your brain.

So you have to fight your brain too.

Loves To Read said...

I love your books Debby - you write some of my favorite LIS's. Please enter me in the drawing !

Tina Radcliffe said...

I'd also like to say that you look gorgeous in that photo, Debby!

More gorgeous than usual.

I write in a ratty T-shirt and scrub pants.

This may be my problem. Hmmm.

Marianne Barkman said...

Tina, you put such awesomeness into Seekerville posts and i think your books are, too. No matter where your sweet spot is. Thanks, Debbie for another look into a writer's world

Cindy W. said...

One thing that excites me is when a character jumps out and takes over a scene when I didn't anticipate it. If it works it is so sweet.

I'm just trying to work on my pacing and getting the words down and so when a character pulls me in and says 'this is what I need to do'...well I tend to listen and so far it is working.

Hope that makes sense.

Love your books Debby. Would love to win one.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Jackie said...

Morning Debby,

I wish I had a sweet spot. I'm still not published and trying to figure out the best process.

I'm glad to hear Tina has ten other stories in the back of her brain while working on a WIP.

This summer I'm trying to edit my WIP the first time before ACFW.

Have a great day, and thanks for sharing Debby!

cathyann40 said...

I love your books. I boil my eggs like you do. Never thought to Google for other ways. Interesting.

Piper Huguley said...

Sweet spot?? I think in the early parts when I'm still researching the story and it's all shiny exciting and new--and then I sit down to write it. It's a struggle getting it back to the sweet spot again,but that's what it is all about isn't it?

Great post, Debby and I like the writerly picture. I should get one. But that would mean I would have to clean up my desk, so...maybe not yet. Hope to see you next week!

Debby Giusti said...

Tina, I'm having lots of questions as I write. I used to wait until I had all the answer before I moved on with the story...but that wasted valuable time and made me have to jump through hoops as my deadline neared.

Now, I'm trying to push forward even if I don't have the answers. What I've recently found is that the answers come as the story unfolds.

I used to have all the answers at the onset. Now I have to trust they'll be revealed within the story.

Debby Giusti said...

Loves to Read...

Thank you! You'll never know how much I appreciate your support and encouragement. :)

Debby Giusti said...

Sipping coffee and laughing at Tina's comment about my picture!

I'm usually out of the house by 9 AM each morning, returning an hour or two later after I've run my errands. I rarely write in jammies. Usually you'll find me in comfy jeans and a T or blouse.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Cindy,

Your Sweet Spot is extra sweet. It is exciting when a character takes over a story.

Sometimes mine share a bit of info that I never expected. I always keep the "surprise" and usually find it very important as the story progresses.

Mary Curry said...

I think your last comment summarized my sweet spot, Debby. Those moments when the story reveals parts of itself I wasn't conscious of. It has consumed me. I'm in the zone, and the story has a life of its own.

Up til then, it's hard work and I'm not sure it's ever going to pull together.

Debby Giusti said...


Do you like the editing process? I'm not sure I did in the beginning. Now I love moving words around the page, tightening the pace, deleting the excess.

It takes time to find your Sweet Spot. Don't give up! Keep moving forward. Looking forward to seeing you at ACFW!

Debby Giusti said...


Thank you for mentioning my books! My heart is very happy this morning! :)

You're a twenty minute cold-water-to-boil person too? YAY!!!

I googled how to boil an egg because I was making a huge amount of potato salad for a church function, and my eggs (I use tons in my potato salad) were fresh, which would make them difficult to peel. I needed tips for easy peeling and found all the boiling info.

BTW, I now add vinegar to the water, and the eggs seem to peel more easily. Some say baking soda works, which I need to try.

Debby Giusti said...

Piper, looking forward to seeing you!!!

I remember reading a how-to writing book that mentioned the idea always seems better than what we get down on paper. Evidently all artists struggle with that same problem. The mental picture of the work is far superior to the finished product. Perhaps that's always the challenge.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Mary,
Another suspense writer. Do you find the run for your life aspect of the story to be challenging or easy peasy?

I sometimes sound negative about my writing. In reality, I think of it as a challenge, a puzzle that needs to be put together. It's a head game I have to play with each story. Can I come up with the right pieces to make this story work? The process is often difficult...but success is always sweet.

I should have mentioned that completing the manuscript is the ultimate Sweet Spot.

Of course, then the game starts again. LOL!

Audra Harders said...

My writing process continually reinvents itself. Lately, I've found My Sweet Spot at the end of the book. I write my book backwards--sort of. I've found that when I write those final scenes I discover all the little points I need to sprinkle throughout the book.

This method has done wonders for my psyche.

Also, for years I've scoffed and feared the OUTLINE. OMG, it is my best friend now. I'll write the last chapter and then make notes on the outline of little details to incorporate to make the whole process one big AHA.

Writing fiction is a dicey business. We work hard at it, don't we?

Audra Harders said...

Tina, those questions marks are burned into my brain. I'm with you. I have to get up and walk away - lie down out on the deck until my brain sorts things out.

Amazingly, this tends to work and I'm up and writing.

I hate it when ideas come to me in the shower. Where are you supposed to write them down???

Audra Harders said...

Janet, I love writing the end as much as you love writing the first chapter, LOL!!

Audra Harders said...

AND, I love your pic, too! Gorgeous all around!!

Sandra Leesmith said...

HI kDebby, I"m with you. I love the revisions much more than the first draft. I think its because I'm a left brain person. I prefer plotting than being a pantster.

Thanks for the goodies.

Julie Lessman said...

VERY COOL POST, Deb, and a concept I'd never really thought about until you asked.

Reading your response and those of the other Seekers, I realize that another sweet spot of mine is what my family affectionately have calls "the zombie zone," which is the last few chapters of the book. By that time I'm writing so hard and fast that I'm like a zombie about anything but the book, often responding to my family's questions with a glazed look instead of a coherent answer.

In fact, it's not unusual for me to write through the night, sometimes till 5:00 AM in the morning at this stage, but OH, the euphoria of those fingers flying and story careening to what I hope will be a crescendo conclusion!! Sooooooo fun and sooooooo sweet!!


Myra Johnson said...

Fun reading about other Seekers' sweet spots! Thanks for this great post, Debby!

You said in a comment: "What I've recently found is that the answers come as the story unfolds."

YES, exactly!!! That's the fun of discovery, when the characters tell me their own story.

Julie Lessman said...

TINA ... LOVE that tidbit about The Devil Wears Prada, which is one of my favorite movies AND my favorite Streep movie!!

And, DEB, I appreciate all the tips and directions for boiling eggs, which is something that I know I could do better. For deviled eggs, I boil eggs for 10 minutes, then cool them in cold water and peel right away. I have had pretty hit-and-miss luck with decent peeling of shells, so if anyone has any hard-and-fast tips for getting those shells off easily, I'll take them. I've tried putting oil in the water, rolling them, and using fresh eggs rather than older ones, but nothing is a sure thing. :(


Kav said...

Interesting to see how varied writers are in the process. I think my sweet spot would be the very beginning -- before plotting even. Just grabbing an idea and letting it flow on paper. I can tell you what my sweet spot isn't...editing. :-(

Kav said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amber Schamel said...

I've got my vanilla chia tea in hand and stopping by for a moment before work.

Great post, Debby.
I'll have to think about the sweet spot thing...I might be like Tina and don't have one.

Amber Schamel
Bringing HIStory to Life

Mary Hicks said...

I suppose everything has a sweet spot. When I first started hitting golf balls and heard other golfers referring to the sweet spot, I didn't have a clue what they were talking about.

But the first time I hit the sweet spot—I knew. Everything came together in perfection—my stance, my swing, the feel of the impact when my club connected with the ball... I watched the ball sore straight and far—so very sweet!

I like editing and tweaking—I'm sure that's where I'll find my sweet spot. :-)

Debby Giusti said...

Sorry to be away so long...

Came home to computer and wifi problems. If I disappear, you'll know everything shut down on me. I need a new laptop and Linkys...evidently today!


Helen Gray said...

Coffee's late, but it's here!!!

Finished a big editing project last night and took my headache to bed.

I love those revisions, tweaking and polishing. But there are smaller sweet spots along the way, when the hazy image of a scene becomes clear or a plot point that's been troublesome finally works.

Debby Giusti said...

Audra, so interesting that you write the ending first. I'm amazed...and impressed. Have you blogged about your technique?

CatMom said...

LOVED this post, Debby!!
I have to echo what Missy said about writing from the black moment to the happily-ever-after---that is definitely a sweet spot for me. :)

You are so talented and write such awesome books, Debby - - so I feel certain you've still got many more books yet to write (and I'll be watching for them!).

That photo of you is BEAUTIFUL!! Oh my, you should give framed copies of that one to your family members (I am very serious here).

Thanks again for sharing this today. Love and hugs, Patti Jo

Meghan Carver said...

Love this, Debby, and I appreciate your honesty about your writing struggles. Very encouraging! I'm still enough of a newbie that I'm not sure about a sweet spot, although I agree with Tina that when I write The End it's pretty sweet. :-) I would have to say that writing a detailed scene-by-scene outline is the best part of writing. I have the freedom to throw in bits of dialogue, description, etc., but since I'm telling myself it's just an outline, I can leave big blanks or suggestions and ignore my inner editor that demands that all be written properly.

Debby Giusti said...

So we're left brain folks if we plot? Interesting!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Such a good post, Debby! I love writing, but I know that our roads are all paved differently... And my sweet spot is in the re-write, layering, editing where I can go back in, flesh things out, change timing to suit the action/mood, layer emotion....

And really "see" the story before me.

Thank you for this clear post on putting it all together... Because that's a huge part of creating a book-long story.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Deb, I concur on the gorgeous!!!!


Sigh. ;)

Gorgeous is good!

kaybee said...

My Sweet Spot is Getting To Write with everything else that is going on. I'm sure that will change when I'm pubbed, have deadlines, etc. But for now it's all good because it's all so tricky to manage.

kaybee said...

I GUESS I like revision, when I know exactly what to do to make it better. There's nothing like taking a so-so (okay, bad) scene and making it what it's supposed to be.
Kathy B.

Debby Giusti said...

My laptop just died. Boo-hoo!

Working on my old one...bear with me.

Debby Giusti said...

Fun to hear about your "zombie zone" endings. I usually work almost non-stop the last week before a story is due. Up early (almost as early as Ruthy) and late to bed, but I'm driven and in the zone, as you mentioned. It's only after the book is sent that my body falls apart. :)

Debby Giusti said...

Myra, your characters tell you more than mine do. My characters hide their story and make me pry it from them. LOL!

It's often bloody! :)

Debby Giusti said...

Old eggs peel more easily. But sometimes we don't buy ahead! That's the problem.

I always try to stock up on eggs a couple weeks before the Bunny eggs will peel easily for the little ones who visit.

Lyndee H said...

Hi Debby!
You look so beautiful! On my FB feed advertising this blog, all I could see was the ruffle neckline of your blouse, lol, but I knew that was you before I read your name. You have such elegant style.

For me, writing is cathartic. The story is as much for me as it is for the characters and I feel like God is giving me these stories and situations to help me 'clean my own house' so to speak. So for me, the sweet spot is when I write the scene that makes me cry. Afterward, both the characters and I get to heal and close that painful chapter then move on to the happily ever after.

And, I also boil eggs like you, except I let it roll for 22 minutes. I don't know why 22, other than my Grandmother said that's how long it should be and she was a fabulous cook, so follow her rule!

Debby Giusti said...


Grabbing an idea is fun! So what idea are you working on?

BTW, I host a writing class at my church. Monday we brainstormed a story, which was so much fun. I saw light bulbs go off as folks realized how the parts needed to fit together. I should blog about the process. We need to understand story to see the big picture and know what to include and what can be discarded. Brainstorming can be a valuable learning tool.

Debby Giusti said...


Think about the part of the writing process you enjoy the most. Does something come more easily? Do you look forward to a certain section of the story?

Perhaps satisfying would be a better word than what satisfies you the most when you write? Does that help?

Debby Giusti said...

Good point about the golf sweet spot, Mary. The term is most often used in sports. When the batter hits the ball out of the park, when the basketball sinks through the hoop from mid-court, when the swimmer glides through the water almost without effort.

I like the editing and tweaking too. Does that make us more of a wordsmith than a storyteller? Something to ponder.

Debby Giusti said...

Sorry about the headache. Glad you got the editing done.

You mentioned when a troublesome plot point finally works. That is sweet!

I laugh about a small, very minor movement in one of my stories. THE COLONEL'S DAUGHTER opened with my heroine attending a pot luck. Her casserole was on the back seat of her car. I had so much trouble getting that casserole into the was storming...should my gal grab it first, come back for it later, place it on the table inside immediately, drop it off in the kitchen? I couldn't get it to work. The movement/action ended up as just a couple of lines, but it had me pulling out my hair. Who would think a casserole could be so hard to move?

Debby Giusti said...

Sorry about the headache. Glad you got the editing done.

You mentioned when a troublesome plot point finally works. That is sweet!

I laugh about a small, very minor movement in one of my stories. THE COLONEL'S DAUGHTER opened with my heroine attending a pot luck. Her casserole was on the back seat of her car. I had so much trouble getting that casserole into the was storming...should my gal grab it first, come back for it later, place it on the table inside immediately, drop it off in the kitchen? I couldn't get it to work. The movement/action ended up as just a couple of lines, but it had me pulling out my hair. Who would think a casserole could be so hard to move?

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Patti Jo,
The ending is always fun, IMHO! Usually the ending comes together so's the beginning and middle that need work. LOL!

Thanks for your sweet support, Patti Jo! And your prayers! I feel them.

Debby Giusti said...

Meghan! Thanks for sharing your love of the outline stage! I see your point about having more freedom and not having to listen to the internal editor.

Anyone else like outlines?

Since publishing, I have realized the value of a detailed synopsis, which Audra mentioned. I see the holes in my story at the synopsis stage, although recently, I've had to just start writing even when the synopsis isn't as fleshed out as I would like. That's a leap of faith for far it's worked.

Debby Giusti said...

Admit it, Ruthy. You like every part of the writing process.

IMHO, you and Mary are born storytellers.

I'm a wordsmith. I had so much to learn.

And I'm still learning...although I now understand story, which is a giant step forward. LOL!

Debby Giusti said...

At least, I THINK I understand story! LOL!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi KB...

Finding time to write is always sweet! Right?

I agree about taking a ho-hum scene and making it zing! That's icing on the cake, for sure!

Olivia said...

Thanks for the wonderful post. My sweet spot is sitting down to write and just writing right now. The housework is still an ever present threat to my creative juices! Thanks for encouraging this new writer that there are many ways to write. Please enter my name in the drawing.

Debby Giusti said...

Grandma is always right!

Love your 22 minute boil, Lyndee. We're close...only two minutes apart. My Mama boiled eggs for 20 minutes so you know I'm not going to change. LOL!

Thanks for sharing about your writing being cathartic. You must be digging deep to find so much emotion. Your readers will respond and cry with you. Hopefully, they'll heal too. Lovely. I know God is gracing your work.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Oliva,
So glad you're with us today...and glad you ignored the housework and are focusing on your writing. The housework will wait! The writing needs to get done first. LOL!

Actually, I had to give myself permission to write because being a wife and mom always came first. It still does, but I no longer feel guilty when I take time for my writing.

Most women put their family's needs before their own. Raise your hand if you agree. We need to find a balance that includes pursuing our own goals...then we're better wives and moms!

Elaine Manders said...

Hi Debby,

That picture is too cute, and all those books make me drool. I recently hit the sweet spot in editing. I've developed cadence ear and can clearly see where something can be improved. Making it better is as Tina says, hard work, but at least I know when it's needed.

I'm on vacation but can't get away from writing. I came up with a plot for a short suspense and one of the scenes takes place at the beach. The villain is trying to do her in by deadly animal.

Haven't read much suspense in a long time so I'll be reading all your books to get in the mood.

For the rest of the afternoon I'll be in my surf chair with my kindle reading 4 Weddings and a Kiss. Four of my favorite authors and waves crashing over my feet. What could be better?

Courtney Phillips said...

Sweet spot, huh? I'm working on my second novel now, and I think my favorite part will be the black moment. The emotional and mental intensity will surely be fun to write.
In my daily writing, my sweet spot is after I've written a couple hundred words and I'm "in" the scene. Writing the first sentence of a scene is usually the hardest part for me because I want it to be peeeerfect.
My physical sweet spot is on my bed with my laptop in front of me. :)

Debby Giusti said...

I'm with you on the the next chair. Love those waves and the sound of the surf. Be still my heart! Enjoy every minute!

Love your cadence ear. Beautiful! Truly a God-given gift! the tease of a deadly animal. Found on the beach perhaps? Or in the wild? I'm intrigued! You've hooked me, for sure! :)

Jan Drexler said...

Good morning, Debby!

So sorry about your laptop :(

My sweet spot is when I'm about 7/8 of the way through the story and the characters finally begin to cooperate! Suddenly, the tug of war between the plot and the characters is over and everyone is pulling in the same direction.

Up until then, writing time is one big wrestling contest. But somehow it works out.

And I bring my water and eggs to a boil, take the pan off the heat and let it sit for 20 minutes, and then rinse the eggs in cold water.

Is there a connection between boiling eggs and writing a novel? I hadn't thought so until I realized I often take my WIP off the burner and let it "cook" on its own.... Hmmm.

Debby Giusti said...


I can see you stretched out with the laptop. Glad you've found your physical as well as mental sweet spots.

Love being "in" the scene! Perfect!

Debby Giusti said...

Another method for boiling eggs. Thanks, Jan!

Wonder if there is a connection?

I know what you mean about the 7/8th mark.

I find the beginning conflict between the hero and heroine demands more effort. Once they've resolved some of their initial angst and are seemingly working together, the pages almost write themselves. Anytime they're at odds, the progress slows.

Does that dovetail with your sweet spot?

Jan Drexler said...

Actually, my sweet spot is when my characters stop arguing with me! LOL! And it takes almost the whole story to get to that point. :)

When there's conflict between the two main characters the story seems to write faster. Sweet romantic scenes are fun, but I just don't feel like the story is going anywhere when I'm writing them. But when the hero and heroine disagree about something, the words fly! :)

Jennifer Smith said...

Oh my goodness! I loved reading this...I think I can relate in some way to just about every "sweet spot" that was mentioned here.

Helen Gray said...

Debby, those "casserole" type problems are exactly the kind of things that can be a real drain on my time and brain power.

Debby Giusti said...

LOL at your feisty characters, Jan!

Jennifer, glad you like the blog!

Helen, I should have ditched the casserole and had her buy chips instead. :)

DebH said...

confession: haven't written enough long stories to know my sweet spot.

for all the short stuff i've written - it's the !!BOING!! idea that comes and the opening line that makes things flow. that's sort of what happened with my killer voice entry. the first page flowed from brain through the fingers. after that - once I found out the editors really liked what I'd written - it was a bit more work.

i want to find more sweet spots. i do know i can get into a "zone" occasionally and words flow, but i haven't figured out what triggers it. i think it's something different everytime, or, i should say, it's a line of dialogue or description that zaps me into the sweet spot (for the short/flash length stuff). now to find it for the longer length stuff.

love the sporting analogy since i'm a sports girl more than anything.

love your picture too Deb. the epitome of Southern grace imho. i'm always interested in reading any of your books, so into the bowl/hat/whatever, please place my name.

AUDRA I've heard of bathtub paints for kids. maybe if you had some in the shower you could write it down, then copy it to paper once you're done showering.

Vince said...

Hi Debby:

The difficulties you face in writing a novel remind me a the man who prayed each night to God complaining how hard his job was: “Dear Lord, this job is so hard. It takes great skill and knowledge and there is no room for error. It is a totally unforgiving job. The stress is ungodly!”

One night God answered, “Well, my child, it was not my idea that you become an underwater, war zone, demolition disarming technician.”

If you write a romance, that’s one level of difficulty. If it is an inspirational romance, as well, then that creates a second level of difficulty. Of course, if that is not enough (like a skater who adds two optional quads to his routine) then you can also make it a mystery, (a ‘who done it’ complete with clues and red herrings). This will take you to a third level of difficulty. Then again, if you really want to get masochistic, you can go whole hog and make the story a suspense (as when there is a constant worry on the part of the reader that the hero and heroine might be killed at any moment.) This brings the story endeavor up to the ‘why would anyone even try to do this’ level of difficulty.

The last level is the impossible: that's when you try to do all this totally by the seat of your pants! I would suggest avoiding this level of difficulty.

BTW: My sweet spot is when I read over something I wrote
a week ago and I wonder if I really wrote something that good and I start looking for quote marks. That’s my “Maybe there’s hope” sweet spot.

ALSO, my reading ‘sweet spot’ is when I read something that teaches me specifically how I can improve my own writing by doing the same thing. Right now I’m reading Mary’s “Over the Edge” and her cast of characters interplay in such a way that they all think the others are crazy or when two agree in their weirdness they wonder about each other. This adds a second dimension of reading enjoyment that really did not have to be there and would not be there in a typical author’s dialogue. This is like being able to hear the author's 'silent' voice. Sweet indeed.

I know.

I should be writing my rewards book. If only it were possible to add sugar and make any writing spot sweet!

Karen Collier said...

I'm finding it interesting to read what others' favorite parts of the writing process are. I tend to outline scene by scene before writing, so I know basically where I'm going and at least one way to get there, even if that's not the route I wind up taking in the end. When I get to a critical scene that I want to go a certain direction, but I haven't worked out all the details of how and why yet, it can be kind of scary. So when something clicks and the details fall into place better than I'd hoped they would? So sweet!

Debby, my WiFi's been having issues too. Trying to type on my cell phone until I can get a new router is frustrating! Best wishes with resolving your computer problems.

Stephanie Queen Ludwig said...

Hi Debby! I just want to add my compliments to rest-- you look absolutely STUNNING in that photo! Your eyes are gorgeous!

Well, I've only completed one FULL novel, a novella, and multiple shot stories, but when I think about how I write, I think My Sweet Spot is in the editing, tweaking and polishing. When I start each writing session, I read and edit over the last chapter or segment, polishing it to read better or add more action verbs, adjectives, details, etc. It is exciting to see the prose get better, plus it gets me back into the story and eager to write what happens next. As I edit my first novel, I am happy that most of the sections read so well (not to toot my own horn), and how BAD some are (I can tell those have seen NO revisions whatsoever!).

Have a wonderful day, Debby dear!

S. Trietsch said...

Having not completed my first wip the only sweet spot I have is my screened in back porch with coffee and computer!

Enjoyed this article!


Chill N said...

Where else can I find out about boiled eggs, dead laptops, and sweet spots for writers all in one place??

Debby, I read your post this morning, have been mulling over your question during the day, and have decided I may not have a writing sweet spot ... or maybe it varies with the day and where I am in the WIP and what I hope to accomplish that day?

Very scary about your laptop, Debby. Fingers crossed that you had your work backed up!

Nancy C

Pam Hillman said...

Hmmm, can I change my mind?

My sweet spot is seeing my book in bookstores! :)

Debby Giusti said...

DebH, sounds like the beginning is what you like. The middle is always a bit more tricky. Do you write a synopsis or are you more panster?

Debby Giusti said...

Vince, you have me laughing. I shouldn't complain, right? And I really don't...except in blogs! LOL!

Actually, I love the challenge and I wouldn't be happy if the writing gig were easy.

Reading a good story and learning from it is always sweet!

Sending sugar...

And hugs!

Anna Weaver Hurtt said...

What a fun post today!

I'm still figuring out how my brain works in regards to writing, but my consistent sweet spots tend to be:

1. Brainstorming at the very beginning.

2. That moment when you're a few chapters into the book and your characters decide to come to life. (Totally makes it worth muscling through those first few scenes.)

3. The black moment to the end is one of my favorite parts to write.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Karen,
Sorry about your wifi problems! I went shopping for a computer and it took me far longer than I thought it would. Found one that may work but haven't decided yet. Pounding away on my old faithful...

Good for you with the detailed outline of your scenes. I see the story in general movements but not each specific plot point ahead of time.

Debby Giusti said...

Stephanie, you're so sweet! :)

I believe Tina rewrites as she goes, which sounds like a good method. Plus, I like how it puts you back in the story. I'm trying to move to a specific daily page count so the daily revisions would tie in with that. Yet when I get pinched for time or stalled, I pick up my AlphaSmart and the words start to flow.

Debby Giusti said...

BTW, Stephanie, having completed a full-length manuscript, novella and short stories is HUGE!!! Good for you. Mega congrats!

You are a writer!!!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Steph T!

Your back porch sounds delightful. May we all come for a visit?

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Nancy,
LOL at your first line!

Yes, computer was backed up.

I see your point about changing sweet spots. When the writing works, it's always sweet, right? We won't talk about when the writing doesn't work...that's best left unsaid. :)


Debby Giusti said...

Love that sweet spot, Pam. Did you have a sighting today?

Debby Giusti said...

I'm nodding my head at your sweet spots. You're right...the characters do come to life at a certain point. I hadn't thought about that.

Also, I love to brainstorm!

And the ending is always fun!

Heidi Robbins said...

I loved reading about everyone's sweet spots! Thanks for sharing this article! Please enter me in your giveaway :)

Debby Giusti said...

You're in the drawing, Heidi!

Debra E. Marvin said...

I've been on writing hiatus for awhile but just reading all the sweet spots makes me long for that writing rush again.
and that is... when a carefully planned plot point that I think is great gets pushed aside by something better than I had never considered. that's the magic mix of a plotter and a pantster moment.

Thanks Debby!
I LOVE the premise of your new story and would like to be in the drawing!

Pam Hillman said...

Oh, no, Deb: no sighting today. I was speaking in general terms! lol

Sandy Smith said...

I certainly know what mine isn't and that's starting. I have so much trouble just sitting down and starting to write. The best part for me is revising.
Please enter me in the drawing.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Deb,
You're in the drawing. Love your sweet spot. Thanks for sharing. Will I see you at RWA or costume?

Debby Giusti said...

General is good, Pam! I want to see your book on the shelves too!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Sandy...

So you have to write to be able to revise. How much to do you have so far?

Cara Lynn James said...

I'm afraid I have no sweet spot.

Your picture is beautiful, Debby!

The worst part is writing the synopsis. I'm 100 pages into a story and I haven't written the synopsis yet! I do know where the story is going. Good thing.

Debby Giusti said...

Cara, synopses are always hard. I agree with you!

Mary Connealy said...

How about a SOUR spot? That point in every book where I start thinking, "I'm an idiot! I don't know how to write! This book is boring and lame and I'll never work again!!!"

Uh....tell me everyone has that spot. It's not just me, right?


Mary Connealy said...


I spend a LOT of time daydreaming the beginning of a book, long before I start writing it, while I'm still finishing the last book, I entertain myself by playing with ideas of how I'm going to blow up a bunch of lives with the beginning of my next book.

Debby Giusti said...

Mary, it's a relief to know even you have sour spots!

Tanya Agler said...

Debby, Thanks for the interesting question about our writing techniques.

First, I want to say that every Easter, either my husband or I Google how to boil eggs because it's been a year since we last boiled eggs.

Next, I agree with Tina that writing is real work.

I usually think about my books while I am exercising. There are certain scenes in my plotted outline that write themselves on the treadmill. When I type out those scenes, that's a sweet day for me.

Thanks for making me think about my writing process. Thanks to the writers who are sharing their tips and their favorite sweet spots.

Terri said...

No sweet spot for me. I hope I find mine someday. Hopefully someday I will.

Beautiful picture and I know you have many more books in you!

Terri said...

Oh, one question. Is it a bad sign if I like someone else to boil the eggs instead of me? I'm sure there is a deep wealth of meaning in there besides me being lazy.

Walt Mussell said...

My sweet spot is in the plot. I love making the plot as intricate as I can.

Sandy Smith said...

Debby, you are correct. I can't revise unless I write first. I haven't done anything yet on my novel but am currently working on a short story and I just can't seem to get started.

Sandy Smith said...

Hi Mary. I try to work on getting ideas well in advance of my writing. Sometimes it works and other times I'm ready to work on something and still have no idea what to write.

Mary Preston said...

As a reader my sweet spot is discovering a fantastic new to me author. All those books to catch up with - yay!!

Sandy Elzie said...

Hi Debbie, Enjoyed your post today.
My favorite (sweet) spots are the first chapter and the last. I enjoy starting a new journey with my characters and then I love bringing them to their HEA.

Missy Tippens said...

I'm sorry I missed the fun yesterday! I was out of town doing a college visit with my daughter.

What a great post! I was shocked to see each of us listed something different! I thought several would choose something similar. :)

Dee LeRoye said...

Let your eggs sit out at room temperature a couple days. They may peel easier. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil, cover pan and let set for 15 minutes. Cooling quickly seems to help prevent dark coloration. Our eggs go directly from the hen house into the refrigerator. Later we wash them, candle and grade and take to the grocery store. And they are definitely too fresh to peel well. Anyway, my sweet spot is being able to weave the gospel into the lives and discussions of at least two of my characters, usually more. I feel if I write a story and do not weave the gospel into it, I am wasting the reader's time, my time and God's time. If I'm going to read a Christian book, I want to find Christ in it. Believing God and following rules doesn't pay out eternally. Let's tell the rest of the story. Enjoyed your post very much. Thanks for letting me air out the laundry!

Amber Schamel said...

Mary, I totally have that sour spot too! It's usually near the middle.