Saturday, October 11, 2014

7 Things You Need to Stop Doing...NOW!

Happy Birthday Seekerville. After this scintillating post, I promise 7 giveaways and free chocolate cake for everyone, whether you like it or not.

So far in 2014 I have critiqued over 65 manuscripts. This would include, synopsis, first chapters, first pages, and full manuscripts. They are from contest entries, Seekerville prize wins and contests, my online Self-Editing class in April and from My Critique Partner.

What problems do I see over and over again in these pages? Sit down. Get comfortable and let's chat.  By the way, a few of the problems I note were mentioned by Editor Charlene Patterson yesterday.   So if you were waiting for a word from God about your manuscript pages, and you heard something yesterday that applied to your WIP, and now I'm mentioning it today...well, that's called confirmation!

 1. Don't  even think about opening your story with a heroine on a plane, train or automobile going back home for the first time since she left many years ago and having introspection about how much the town has or has not changed or about what she fears lies ahead.  Go ahead and skip all that-YES, HIT THE DELETE KEY!- and go immediately to the moment of change. Everything up to the moment of change is back story. We don't care about then, we care about NOW!

2.  Avoid opening with anyone sleeping. Yawn! The job of your opening is to pull your reader into the world of your protagonist. You have only so many pages to engage them and that is done by emotionally involving them. If they care they keep reading. We don't care about a sleeping person. 

These two problems are about the opening of your story. If you need help, review my post Gotcha!

3. Please don't end a scene with your hero or heroine falling asleep. This is one of the most basic rules we learn as writers. Don't give the reader a reason to put your book down. Force your reader to forgo food, and sleep because they MUST keep turning the pages. That's what end of chapter hooks are for. Scenes are created using this formula based on Dwight Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writer:

Let's repeat. Scenes do not end with the protagonist falling asleep, they end with disaster even if that disaster is simply worry.

4. Do not allow your heroine/hero to do any of the following multiple times.




We write fiction.  Our job as writers is to get the reader to connect with these heroes and heroines. In order for that to happen we must get emotionally involved. To get emotionally involved we must LIKE the character. Very few of us look up to whiny, crying, sniveling people.

I find it easiest to remember in terms of Michael Hauge's The Hero's Two Journeys. He tells us to first establish empathy by using two of these five traits for our protagonist. 

1. Make the character the victim of an undeserved misfortune.
2. Put the character in jeopardy.
3. Make the character liked by others.
4. Make the character funny.
5. Make the character powerful.

 THEN you can introduce character flaws. And sure they can cry maybe once, even twice in an epic novel. But then stop. JUST STOP. And absolutely no whining or sniveling. Snap out of it!

They are heroes!

5. All behavior, including internals must be motivated. What does that mean?

Motivation is the reason we do something. Enter Dwight Swain again, and his MRU or motivation, reaction units. Motivation causes an effect which causes a reaction.

The reader will believe anything that you properly set up. So if you want your hero or heroine to do something that stretches our common sense believability, simply lay the ground work from the beginning. 

This would include getting the reader to believe that two people can fall in love in two weeks for a novella. How would you do this? By carefully building the steps of intimacy. (You can Google Linda Howard's Steps of Intimacy if you need a refresher. I'm not posting a link, as it is not PG-rated.)

When you create a character with a belief system you are obligated to have that character act in the motivational manner you established for them.

So don't tell me your heroine hates the hero and then let her do something totally unmotivated that shows she doesn't hate him. It simply makes the reader cranky.

This goes along with too-dumb-to-live heroine syndrome. Sure they can go into the basement with a flashlight when the lights go out, but they better have a really strongly motivated reason.

6. Stop eating. No really. Just stop it. 

 We've had numerous posts in Seekerville on the topic (Janet Dean's recent one comes to mind) and yet this is something I did as a new writer and I continue to see over and over again.

In his DVD, Creating Powerful Movie Scenes, Michael Hauge calls this Momentum of the Scene.  

"At the end of the scene the hero must be somewhere different than he was at the beginning."

  • Closer to the goal.
  • Further from the goal.
  • Met another obstacle.
  • Revealed something.
  • Risked something. 
If there is no change then get rid of the scene.

 (We can all take a lesson from Mary Connealy. When the story is sagging DON'T eat dinner. Shoot someone instead.)

7. Don't make the mistake of qualifying all dialogue with internals.  
What does this mean?

A character says something, and then they clarify/explain what they said in an internal thought. Or a character says something and then they mull on what they said in an internal thought during a conversation.

Scenes are live and when two people are talking, sure there are internal thoughts, but it should be short and quick. BECAUSE:
  • You don't want to slow the pace of the story.
  • Your dialogue should be strong and crisp enough to do the work. 
  • It isn't necessary to spoon feed the reader.
  • If there is too much internal between bits of dialogue the reader forgets what was said last and is pulled out of the story as they scramble to re-read. 


Think of movies. You don't have the crutch of internals in a movie. EVERYTHING must be in dialogue or action.

That's it. Now promise me you will please stop doing these things. Right now!


Tina Radcliffe writes fun, inspirational romance for Love Inspired. She is a 2014 ACFW Carol Award winner in the short novel category, with her first Paradise book, Mending the Doctor’s Heart. Her latest Paradise book, Stranded with the Rancher released in September.   

As promised. Leave a comment to be one of SEVEN surprise package winners. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.

Now pass the chocolate cake.



  1. Ouch! I thought I'd check the new post before going to bed. I think it's time for some shooting in my current wip, but I can say my heroines never whine.

    Good stuff here, Tina. I'll reread it tomorrow when I'm more rested and have a thicker skin ;)

    Seriously, Seekerville is a gold mine of information for writers!

  2. This is a great post for our Self-editing class, Tina.
    Thank you, I'm keeping this one!

  3. Thanks, ladies. Take some cake with you or it will be all gone by the time you get back here.

  4. Great post, Tina!

    Except one thing. The characters in my books will eat. I write Amish stories, and if I leave the pie out, the story will be incomplete :)

  5. Well, yes. Pie is good. I write a character who is in all my Paradise books who is known for her peach pie. There is always pie.

    Just have to have pie that moves the story forward.

  6. I want cake!

    I don't think I have ever opened with any of those - though I do have one that opens with the phone ringing and jolting someone out of bed [at like 415 in the morning]. But not SLEEPING.

    And now I'm back to /shudder/ plotting the last few Fill-in-the-Blank scenes on this manuscript. Because it's going to be one of my indie releases next month... eep!

  7. Um... I do tend to have characters cry though. Usually well-motivated crying, I like to think. You know. Widowed. Heart-broken. Cancer. Etc.

    But I'll work on it.

    I promise.

  8. I can't imagine starting a book with someone sleeping....wait, wasn't Keanu Reeves sleeping through half the Matrix? :)

  9. Succinct. To the point. Thanks.

    I'm sure I've been guilty of all these--in the past. I do better now. All those craft lessons over the years have helped.

    There's coffee!

  10. blast.

    i happened to be up past midnight and came here in hopes of making the first comment, but no such luck. perhaps a sign that i should be sleeping.

    still, great stuff for my creative mind to mull as i drift off for the night/morning. i WILL get to that self-edit stuff eventually. i already know how pathetic my first draft is in places - but nice to have confirmation on what to fix. have a eating scene to remove... (bad newbie)

    almost woke hubby with the laugh that came out with the sagging story and the now legendary Mary Connealy solution line.

    yeah, i need to get to sleep...

    oh, and i'm all for surprise packages coming from Seekerville. other places? not so much. it's amazing what a curious four year old boy can find...

  11. Thank you. I think I get it. I will delete the eating scenes. It's hard. Because that's when our family talked. It was the only time we talked as a family. So it's a habit I have. Of characters talking and eating. Now they will just talk, out by the barn or under the porch or stuck in the mud...anything but eating.

  12. I'm actually early to the party today. Very interesting post to add to the good points of yesterday. I would love to be entered into the drawing for the surprise package!

  13. Oh, I am guilty of all of the seven sins.

  14. Love this. I had to slap my heroine to stop her from crying so much. Put me in for the drawing!
    Peace, Julie

  15. It's JHS checking in from the M & M conference!!

    Hi there all you Georgia Peaches.

  16. I naïvely did these things when I first started (and still have to edit out such stuff after my first draft). After learning 'when' to start a story, I went back to my first novel (unpublished) and cut the first chapter. Wow, what a difference. Lesson well learned. Thanks for the list.
    I'd love to be entered in the drawing, does it include chocolate cake or peach pie?

  17. I enjoyed your post, Tina - thank you!!

    Thanks for the opportunity to win some wonderful prizes - including those fabulous books!!


  18. listened!! But then, you always do! Great post explaining why your books are phe ominal! Thanks for the chocolate cake, I needed it.

  19. Wonderful post! My character is headed for a change in opening entrance (though she wasn't sleeping). She will also tame some emotions! This newbie is trying to soak in all the help I can. Thank you for the direction as well as opportunity for prizes... that's a win/win!

  20. There is nothing that gets me more than a whiney "heroine". I read a romance recently where the heroine whined THE WHOLE TIME. The only reason I finished it was because I was hoping the hero would choose someone else.

    In that vain - self pity. Heroines who spend chunks of a book feeling sorry for themselves make me want to throw stuff!

  21. An epic post!

    Wow, you had me at hello and the BOSSY TONE!!!!!


    Go get 'em, Tiger!

    What amazes me is that I still mess up sometimes. And I don't always see it until an editor says "Umm.... here's your revision letter, Schnookums!" :)

    Thank God for second chances!!!

  22. You know what's funny to me?

    When I critique someone, or they ask for help and I give them advice AND THEY ARGUE ABOUT WHY THEY DID WHAT THEY DID.

    Oh. My. Stars.

    I never care if folks take my advice, it's no biggie, but if you have to defend your manuscript (or worse, EXPLAIN IT) then that should tell you something.

    But the arguing the "whys" of what you did.... ouch. If folks don't get it on the first read, it really doesn't matter why you did it: You did it wrong.

    Melissa Endlich once told me, "Ruthy, darling, I'd love to be able to pack a CD with each of your books, explaining why the hero/heroine is doing what they're doing, but it would be so much easier if you would just WRITE IT THAT WAY!!!"

    It was funny. And true! :)

  23. Spew alert on Jamie's thicker skin!!!!

    Oh my gosh, LOLOLOLOLOLOL!!!!!

  24. So, what if my heroine is coming home on a train and that sets up a meeting with a new friend who will propels the story forward? Okay, she's still on a train coming home. I guess it is time for some major scene editing for me. Thank you so very much Tina. This is a keeper.

    I would love to win one of your surprise packages.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  25. Oh my goodness!!! LOL I have done ALL of those...time to tighten up my editing. Hahahaa, great post, Tina!

  26. Wow, Tina! Love your post! A keeper for sure. Terrific advice for any writer. Love that fiesty photo, almost as much as the chocolate cake. Go you!!


  27. Thanks, Tina, for another keeper article! :-)

    My files are bulging!!!:-)
    Chocolate cake with coffee—hmm, wonderful!

  28. Cindy W. You can do any or all of the STOP ITS if you can do them skillfully so you start at the point of change and the story moves forward. Okay except the sleeping. No sleeping still.

  29. Haha. Christy, I am still trying to figure out how to mail birthday cake to my kids.

  30. BTW, DebH the visual of you waking your hubby laughing over Seekerville gave me a smile. THANKS!

  31. Jessica Nelson. New profile photo. Love it.

  32. Oh, Marianne, you flatterer you. Thank you.

  33. "Ruthy, darling, I'd love to be able to pack a CD with each of your books, explaining why the hero/heroine is doing what they're doing, but it would be so much easier if you would just WRITE IT THAT WAY!!!"

    on the floor laughing....

  34. I'm with you, Kara. Which is also why I don't read books that are downers. Come on. I want to be encouraged, not depressed.

  35. Barbara you are such a good student.

    You may have two pieces of cake, dear.

  36. Thank you for such a wonderful post! Confirmation, yes, my journey has been all about that. Now, two days in a row of much needed advice. Will be adding this to the keeper file. Thank you so much! I like having lists: do this, don't do this, NEVER do this, ALWAYS do this, with just a little of this and that. These posts are so helpful. Now to go to my WIP and incorporate changes! Please put me in for the drawing. Happy birthday Seekerville and everyone have a great weekend! Now for lots of cake!

  37. Hmmm...when I first started reading this post I thought Ruthy wrote it.

    Tina, does Ruthy know you stole her voice? HA!

    Great, great, great advice.

    I'm guilty of writing dinner scenes. I think it's because most dates revolve around dinner? But I have learned to adjust. Rather than dwelling on their breakfast, lunch or dinner (or for this country girl, breakfast, dinner and supper)I do two or three telling sentences.

    'After dinner at a Italian restaurant, Jack thought it'd be nice to walk in the park. Now his strong hand engulfed hers as they strolled past towering oak trees.'

    With a transition like this I can get back into the action/dialogue of the story and my readers know my characters aren't super humans who don't have to eat to live. HA!

  38. Waking up to chocolate cake to go with my coffee? yum!

    Ruthy, I agree about the tone. It's sort of creepy that as I read this entire post, I was "hearing" it in Tina's voice.

    Now you've got me worrying that my heroine was too whiny. She sure has reason to be, and she is impatient with herself and tells herself to snap out of it. Hmmmm. Most of the time she's a cheerful, good sport despite all the people trying to kill her.

    More chocolate cake while I ponder.
    Thanks, Tina. And 7 giveaways!

    7 times thank you.

  39. Okay, I have a complaint.

    I am going to argue something, not as a writer but as a reader.

    I like when they're eating! I can't tell you how many times I've gone on food binges because of what characters in a book were eating.


    I just did a bunch of revisions on a story. THEY WERE MUCH NEEDED!!!

    I wrote the story about a young mother whose husband cheated on her multiple times, and having watched this happen several times recently, I WAS MADDER THAN HECK.

    And that came through in the story. So this was Melissa's suggestion: "Can we get her out of her self-pity rant and tone down the anger just a little? You have a five page anger scene in chapter seven.... I think we get it, honey."

    Rolling on floor, LOL, because I let my anger flow into the story. So while it was good therapy, I suppose, it was a two week revsion! Oh my stars, so don't let your own internalization make your heroines too WITCHY!!!!

    I use snark far more than tears. I get tears over lost children and cancer-stricken parents, and broken marriages. But Melissa was right, a little goes a long way.

    Think joy. I love joy. Readers love joy, they love hope. I really want joy to be painted through the sadness of situations, so I had to draw on that joy for "Healing the Lawman's Heart" and tone down the Club-Wielding Anger of the woman scorned.

    It is a better book now, LOL!

  41. Mary Curry, LOL!

    I've had to cut down eating scenes too, and with Tina's Cafe in Kirkwood Lake, and the Pelican's Nest restaurant, I had to curtail food even though I was in a food setting.

    Tina, I gave you a Vietnamese cook in "Her Holiday Family". His name is Han. And you LOVE working with him because he's a great guy.

    You're welcome.

  42. The only thing "Her Holiday Family" is missing is the recipe for Italian Chocolate Spice cookies.


    Otherwise I am sure it would be The Perfect Book.

  43. MARY CURRY! I agree. But I am certain that in those scenes you love they were not just eating. The writer had skillfully done her job. THAT'S WHAT WE STRIVE FOR.

    "At the end of the scene the hero must be somewhere different than he was at the beginning."


    Closer to the goal.
    Further from the goal.
    Met another obstacle.
    Revealed something.
    Risked something.

    That's what I strive for, because yes I have eating scenes too. But every single H/H scene is not eating. They would be fat by the time we said I love you.

  44. hahahah, Ruthy.

    The secret recipe.

    Guarded by ten Guidos.

    And my mother.

  45. Ruthy and I constantly argue about who gets to be the bossiest.

    Mostly, I LET her win.

  46. I love these posts with simple explanations, an example and a stern DON'T DO IT! That's how my brain works.

    Maybe dessert is the exception...and pancakes.
    They gotta have pancakes.
    Note to self, cut out the pancakes...

  47. This has been the most exciting birthday (7) for Seekers....YAY....loving it!
    Count me in for the surprise!
    Happy Weekend to all!

  48. Good morning.
    Glad I snagged a slice of cake last night... where'd it all go? There's way too much eating in my stories. Now I know where to cut the 5k :) I feel liberated. No more passing plates of made up food or finding multiple ways to say chair.
    I am glad to say in my current the heroine is awake, outdoors and not hungry :)

  49. You guys are hilarious. You are very attached to your food.



  50. Thank you, Jamie.

    More cake coming at noon.

  51. No whining, crying or sniveling! Got it! My husband will sometimes pick up one of the books I am reading, and read it (he's a romantic), and on more than one occasion, when I asked for his opinion, he has replied, "they cried too much"! It was interesting that you included it on the list!
    Oh, and the chocolate cake looks wonderful!

  52. Hey - I like some f those things I'm supposed to stop. But if Tina says stop, i will do my best. Great cake and thanks for the pep talk. Off to grow a thicker skin. One of those surprise packages sure would make me feel better. . .


    From a readers pov I can say you are SO RIGHT, although I'm with everyone who's said they don't mind a few eating scenes! After all, it's a part of everyday life :) Had to laugh at your comment they can't be eating all the time or they'd be fat by the time they said I love you, too funny!

    I can't stand whiners or nappers (yawn) If I wanted a nap I'd take my own, lol. I've read a book with a nap in almost every chapter and it bores the reader not propels the story forward.

    I know it's 7 things to stop doing now, but I have one to add that I see a lot and that's REPETITION! By this I mean books that use the same lines over and over without finding a new way to express a thought. I see this frequently in that dreaded sagging middle. Just my 2 cents.

    Thanks for a great post and I'd love to be entered in the drawing!

  54. So let me see if I have this right, Tina. Food is okay so long as it drives a bigger purpose and isn't too frequent.

    For example, in the book I'm currently writing, the hero takes the heroine out to lunch at a place they used to go when they were dating. He assumes she'll order what she always did, but now the mere sight of it makes her ill. (No, she's not pregnant). She doesn't realize it right away, but that reaction is a key in the suspense plot.

    So that's okay?

    Or not?

  55. I ended the scene I just wrote with the two characters falling asleep.


    I will go fix that now.

  56. Some great reminders! I am thinking I should print this out and place in the front of every notebook where I put a work in progress.

    Several of these I remember from the April course.

  57. You know one thing I almost never do in my books and I suppose it's I almost never describe clothing.

    Mostly my characters have boring clothing....sometimes even ONE SET ONLY.
    Or an everyday dress and a Sunday to go Meeting dress.

    I think I forget for chapters at a time to even say what they have on, and I kind of like it when authors describe clothing...

    I think it's a strong visual.

    But c'mon. Does it matter if his pants are black or brown?

    Does it matter that her dress is blue gingham or green calico?
    When it matters I explain, like in Tried and True with the sisters wearing pants. But even then the COLOR of pants doesn't matter much.

  58. Okay, I have a silly one to add in. I don't remember if it was Tina, my editor, or someone else who told me this, but don't have your characters YAWN too much. Yawns are contagious and make the reader sleepy.


    I went back to look at my scene and, yes they had been up for almost 48 hours, but they did a whole lot of yawning. I wasn't even conscious I'd done it.

    I was probably tired when I wrote it . LOL

  59. Food is also easy to skip.

    My characters pretty much eat roast beef and beef stew.
    Occasionally venison or fried chicken.

    But on the frontier the food has to COME FROM SOMEWHERE.

    I make mashed potatoes and then have to stop and wonder where the potatoes came from.

    I make an apple pie I have to wonder....where there apples?
    What's growing around there.

    When they go to diners 90% of the time the diner cook just hands them food.

    "Here's what I made today. Here's your coffee."

    That's it. So not a lot of time goes into food. They eat but usually something ELSE is going on. People meeting, people clashing. And rarely do they linger over a meal.....and that's usually because they have to keep moving because someone is trying to shoot them


  61. Y'all sure know how make a reader laugh. Lol

  62. Yes, Mary. Moving the plot forward is the key.

    No episodic eating. Even if they have tiramisu on the menu.

  63. Two characters falling asleep, Connealy. Not one, but two.

    I think you were tired and needing sleep when you wrote that.

    Get the gun out.

  64. Great post. This chocolate cake is yummy. Thanks.

  65. LOLOLOL. Must remember the yawning one.

    OH MY GOSH. I am editing a scene in my novella right now.

    The first line guessed it..YAWN.

    Chop. Chop.

  66. The word yawn is in the first sentence of my last book. . . I need another piece of cake. Emotional eater here. No wonder my characters eat so much :)

    Now that I'm alert this post is even better than I thought last night. A keeper for sure. Thanks, Tina.

  67. Ooh, great tips, Tina! I live reading all the comments about FOOD. I'm not so guilty of that one, although there is a retro coffee shop that the hero and heroine meet at all the time called Shot Through the Heart. I might have WAY too many cutesy names for the drinks that reference '80s songs. But they're not actually drinking them, so is that OK? Plus it let me use my favorite line thus far, as the heroine doesn't get half of them be ause she grew up as a classical musician: "her parents were more into Van Cliburn than Van Halen."

  68. Just keep that plot moving forward, Stephanie. You can do most anything if you do.

  69. Wonderful advice, Tina. Between this, and what I read yesterday from Dina Sleiman, there is no need for boring manuscripts. Ever. I think I heard at a conference last year that ending with a mad dash: must get to the airport now before hero/heroine gets on the plane and leaves forever - should also be avoided because it's so overused it's become a total cliche. Thank you! I'm bookmarking this.

  70. See, now we're all paranoid, Suzie. I had an airplane in a book. Uh, oh.

  71. LOL -- I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Love this line: "It simply makes the reader cranky." I was a cranky reader recently and I don't want to me one again. :-)

    I'm going to post key points of this all over my house. Maybe it will seep into my brain that way. Because as much as it all makes sense while I'm reading it my mind becomes a black void when I sit down to write.

    Re food -- I love food scenes too!!! Have y'all read All's Fair in Love and Cupcake by Betsy St. Amant? The opening sentence: "There was more to life than vanilla buttercream." The heroine is a baker and she takes her ingredients seriously -- especially when she ends up on a reality baking show. The food descriptions are sheer poetry even though I didn't understand half of it...just so decadent and rich and....sigh.

    Oh -- and I love food in Regencies. Ever notice how often the meal is described in those books?

    I'm beginning to sound obsessed, right? Just pass the chocolate cake please. I'm so glad it's permissible to write food scenes in blog posts. :-)

  72. This blog is so good....especially teamed with Charlene's makes me ashamed to call myself a writer.

    Excellent advice, Teenster. She's right we all must change and obey her instantly.

    I'm used to doing that, others may have more of a struggle but you will learn.

  73. Tina, you are utterly amazing! So many things to remember, so many things to forget. Most of it rattles around in my brain, but actually putting the concepts down in a orderly fashion??

    Way beyond my brain.

    I've written for YEARS, but the info in this post and the lessons in your self-editing class are priceless.

    Thanks, T!!!!!!!

  74. I agree, Mary. Tina has never given me bad advice. In face some great things have happened because I listened to her.

    I'm also glad to hear you don't care to describe clothing. I'm always at a loss. I write westerns ... she's wearing a dress and other than the make and model of his gun what does it matter what he has on?

    Enough playing. I have the house to myself and it's quite. Time to write some shooting scene... gotta wake those characters up :)

  75. LOL, I love the Matrix. I don't care if Keanu Reeves is sleeping...

  76. Mary Curry, I'm with you. There's a time and place for sustenance for your characters...I just need to chose a couple and let the rest go.

    No point in having to create a gym scene just so my heroine can fit into her jeans, LOL!!!!

  77. "Excellent advice, Teenster. She's right we all must change and obey her instantly.

    I'm used to doing that, others may have more of a struggle but you will learn."

    This is what I am printing out today.

    I AM THE BORG. You Will be Assimilated. Resistance is Futile.

  78. Um, Kav. See point 4. No crying.

    You may however laugh as much as you like.

  79. I think I've definitely got some things to cut in my WIP. Thanks for the great tips.

  80. Love this Tina. I hate to admit to how many of those seven things I've done. lol Oh wait, I should cry not laugh. But then you said no sniveling. Okay.

    Forward Ho

  81. Adore Seekerville celebration chocolate cake! YUMMO and so few calories!

    Thanks Tina. These step by step points are just what I need. Great reminders!

    Congratulations again, Seekerville. You ladies are da bestest!!!

  82. Mmmmm. Swallowing the last bite of chocolate cake. Thanks, Tina!

    And thanks for this great post! Such nice reminders. I'm the queen of eating scenes! And I think in my first manuscript, every scene ended with the character going to sleep. Don't they need time to reflect on their day????

    :) :)

  83. Tina, thanks -- this info is so good! I have to say, I originally started my MS with my protagonist waking up...Lol. Later I read somewhere that that is an absolute no-no, so I changed it.

    I also read a book this year where the characters ate, talked about food, or mentioned or drank coffee in EVERY SCENE except one! It just about drove me crazy. :)

  84. Glynis, what a great name. Welcome to Saturday in Seekerville

  85. Hehehe, Jennifer. We all start out that way.

  86. I DO PROMISE! I've been guilty of the train scenes, but have deleted them. No sleeping in my stories, but I do have eating.....or rather preparing food in the kitchen. Is that okay--if the scene serves a purpose? I love to include food---sight, smell, and taste. Speaking of food, thanks for the chocolate cake! And thank you for the SEVEN things to eliminate!

  87. All okay, Sherida. As long as the scene propels the plot forward and is not episodic or just a place holder.

  88. My heroine and her charge [aka the hero's daughter] just made cookies.

    Because the way to a man's heart and all, right?

    No. Mostly because the little girl wanted to make cookies for her daddy.

    That's okay right? Because they have a moment... I think it propels the story forward.

    Maybe I want Tina to come sit by me as I write and tell me if things work or not.

    Or not.

    She's bossy. Almost as bossy as Ruthy. Or maybe more. Maybe it depends on the day.

    Let's face it. I'm here for the cake. And the prizes. But mostly the cake.

    [And since I have a baby shower to go to, I get cake later ;)]

  89. These are superb tips, Tina! Thank you for sharing your expertise with us.

  90. Carol, go with your gut. Stranded with the Rancher has a cookie baking scene. It propels the story forward.

    Sounds like you nailed it as well.

  91. Sigh. So what do I do?

    Send my hero to a Beast Feast to "make new friends."

    Not the story reason why he's there but why he thinks he was made to go. Plus there's steak. That's almost as yummy as cake.

  92. Hi Tina,

    Boy, the seven deadly sins revisited! Thanks for this list. Will keep it beside me as I revise!


  93. Ruthy, I'm laughing at Melissa's comment!! I can just picture you slapping those keys as you typed. :)

  94. Great post, Tina. Going back through my current novels and making a mental checklist.

    I fell in love with Michael Hauge's hero's journey when I won them from Seekerville...several years ago. FANTASTIC information!!!

    Like this post.

    Thanks so much!!

  95. We have small town get-togethers where are is food, but there isn't a lot of talk about eating.
    And the food part doesn't last long.
    The purpose is to show 'family' to the outsider in my story and what better way to do that than a get-together (aka - big family after Sunday church meal)
    Is that still ok?

  96. Fantastic! Loving this post, Tina! This is the kind of post you read and then go all Emeril at the end and say "Bam!" 'cause it was just that good.

    I think I spy some chocolate cake crumbs left. I'm claiming them right now. Step away from the crumbs, everybody! I've run out of my favorite coffee creamer, so yucky old evaporated milk was my substitute. Blegh. I may be drinking nasty coffee, but by fudge, I'm having some of that chocolate cake! :D

  97. Motivation in a "I shouldn't be doing this, but I'm going to do it anyway" scene is tough! You know they're going to end poorly, and they often could have been circumvented with a little common sense. It's hard to convince the reader that it's the only feasible choice, and not that the character is an idiot!

  98. Thank you, Rachael! YOU GET IT!

    Don't treat the reader like they are dumb. Amen to that.

  99. Oh, all you paranoid eating scene writers. EAT ON...

    If the scene has a purpose it's great. Showing a sense of community or family is great. Just like a character sitting at a table alone with their cat over a frozen microwave dinner is okay. BOTH REVEAL CHARACTERIZATION and even INTERNAL CONFLICT.

  100. BAM. BAM. Thanks for the visual, Natalie.

  101. Just a super, super post, Tina! I've seen all these no-nos in mss. I've critiqued over the years (and I can remember committing these "crimes of authorship" more than once, myself!). To paraphrase a famouse TV commercial ...

    Just DON'T do it!

  102. And typing on iPad. That should be FAMOUS. Good grief.

  103. I kinda like famouse.

    Cheering for you Maggies finalist, Myra Johnson. Awards gala is tonight.

  104. Fabulous post!! I "pinned" the scene graphic. I need basic romance/fiction refreshers every six months!!

  105. I loaned my Mom one of the books I haven't had a chance to read yet. She commented that it is well written and the author is good but the book is so depressing. She had read a fourth of the book at that time. She told me that when I get a chance to read it to be sure and do it on a sunny day.

  106. Amazing post! Thank you for being so specific in your advice and examples!

  107. Hey, Wilani! Good to see you. Your mom sounds spot on.

  108. Okay, spent half the day editing and half the day moving furniture around to make a more efficient office area. Loving the new writing digs. BUT, I've discovered that I have upteen food scenes in the first eight chapters. Am realizing that I'm struggling with creating movement during dialogue. Is that called beats? Anyway, I need them to be doing something so they end up in the kitchen or eating. LOL. I'm really not that food obsessed.

    I think Tina needs to clone herself into bobble head dolls. Then we can sit her right smack in front of us and she can bobble up and down when we're on the right track and side to side when we are veering into those 7 things we need to stop doing!

  109. Jamie Adams LOL you know what? I actually DO spend time describing guns, now that you mention it.

  110. Sherida, can you possible arrange for the kitchen to EXPLODE?

  111. lololol. Mary Connealy. Perfect solution. Kav, are you listening?

    Make the kitchen explode.

  112. SUSAN ANN MASON.....EXCUSE ME???? The Seven Deadly Sins were in MY BLOG POST.

    Tina's rules, while very very good ... are NOT in the Bible.

    Remember the loaves and fishes? People eating alla time in the Bible. Sometimes they take a 40 day and 40 night break but mostly they eat regularly.

  113. Here's a tweak on Tina's 'don't eat' rule.

    Do NOT say that 'I developed character in that scene.'

    Nope that's not the same as propelling the story forward. You need to be moving the story forward and within that you can reveal character.

    A meal is very static.
    Most of the time my characters eat beef jerky on horseback (while either running after a gunman or being chased by one). Not much time to slow things down there. :)

  114. Kav it needs to be a bobble head doll is a taser.

    That could work.

  115. Wow, Natalie...yucky coffee and crumbs.


  116. Thank you, Mary. Getting lonely here defending my right to not include twenty eating scenes in each book.

    Propel the plot forward.

  117. Or show off a great recipe?
    Yeah, I get the 'propel the plot forward' part - instead of just describing delicious food and how the people feel about it.

    It's really hard to eat a page.

  118. Ruthy,
    I see I'm going to have the same problem with my little town and restaurants :-)

    Yummy hot chocolate in the first chapter of my new book.

    Food is I have to figure out how to make it purposeful food writing. Okay...that sounds weird ;-)

  119. Hi Tina,

    Great post. My next story will not have a character who likes to bake or cook. I promise. I also deleted some of the sit down eating scenes in my current story, but she's a baker. So I had some food scenes. I did have the bad guy smash a wedding cake two hours before the wedding. :)

    Thanks for sharing. I appreciate all you do for us.

  120. Hmm...I think I'm safe with my openings as far as that list goes. One in particular still needs tweaking though.

    And yet another great post to copy and paste into Word and then read again and again. Thank you, Tina!

    BTW, when do you find time to write? Or are you like Ruthy and Virginia who, I swear, do not sleep? ;-)

  121. Melanie, I think it's safe to say I go to bed early and get up way too early at the moment. Ruthy does that except she writes faster than I do. Much faster.

    Mary writes novels on bathroom breaks at her job.

    Now if you want to talk about sleep deprived women, let's talk about Melissa Jagears and Mary Virginia Carmichael Munoz.

    I do not envy their schedules.

  122. I love books about characters who bake and cook. I own a ton of those kinds of books.

    Don't feel you can't do that. Why Ruthy never wrote a book without food as far as I can tell. She makes the plot progress. The cake getting smashed. NOW THAT SOUNDS PROMISING, JACKIE!

  123. I'm working on my cowboy book today, so I took The Teenster's advice into the self-edit and it was AWESOME....

    I caught a few repeats (Tracey Hagwood, I know I do that, I'M TRYING TO STOP!!!!!) and I messed up a couple of names so I jotted them down (there were TWO TYLERS....) So now there's Brock and Tyler.

    But honestly, I LOVE THIS BOOK. I'm not bragging or patting myself on the back, it's just so much stinkin' fun to write!!!!!

  124. Okay, one thing I noticed...Mary pointed it out above. With my Idaho historical, I had to make sure these high-brow English ranchers who had enough money to purchase a stake of cattle and a cook stove... but I had to go and double check to see what was available. As always, once the railroad came through, most everything was available if you had cash money!

    My Barbour Homestead romance in the soddy????? Well, making a soddy romantic took some doing, but I had a ball with it!


  125. "Mostly I LET her win."

    AS IF.

    Teeeeeeena is way more bossy than me and I can prove it...


    Okay I can't prove it, AND people did think today's post was me....

    So I might be a little, tiny bit bossy.

    But for heavens sake, how many times do I have to tell youse something before you listen????


  126. First I want to point out a few things.

    1. Ruthy took my advice while writing today.

    2. Ruthy admitted she is bossier than me.

    3. Ruthy agreed with me that you peeps need to stop doing it NOW.

    This is a very good day in the neighborhood.

  127. Tina, I just love reading your post as a reader because it makes me think of the books I read and what makes a good book GOOD - what draws me in!!!! I will now put those 7 items you listed into "the test" - ha ha!!!! I so enjoy Seekerville as a reader because it makes me read better :)

  128. Yes, MARY, I might be able to work in an EXPLODING kitchen.....if I can't think of a way to SHOOT someone! Torches for flaming the creme brûlée? Shooting the chef's assistant who burned sugar crust? I love FOOD stories....but PROMISE to propel the plot forward! Is there any CHOCOLATE cake left?

  129. Yes. Sherida. We are all here waiting on the Maggie Award results and have brought out fresh cake.

  130. Great post, Tina! Incredibly helpful, especially the beginning of the novel stuff. :)

  131. learned a lot....from a reader's point of view...thanks for sharing, tina :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  132. I'm late, sure, but basically that's because I consider today's post "dessert," which always comes last, right? Uh ... unless you're French ...

    Tina said: "The reader will believe anything that you properly set up."

    Oh, AMEN AND AMEN!! I cannot tell you HOW many times I sit up, shake a book I'm reading and say out loud -- "are you freakin' kidding me???"

    Why? Because the author did NOT justify the action with a believable response. You can take the most implausible plot point and convince the reader it's possible if you think it through and buy it yourself. You are NOT going to pull one over the reader if you don't buy it yourself, so convince yourself first, and you will convince the reader.

    Mmmm ... this post is better than creme brulee ...


  133. Thanks, ladies.

    Creme Brulee. We had that Friday night in St. Louis. Salted Caramel Creme Brulee. Yummm.

  134. Okay, Tina - - I PROMISE I'll stop doing these things (the ones I'm "guilty" of).

    WOW!! EXCELLENT POST - - seriously - - this is a KEEPER for sure.

    Sorry I'm so late joining in - - been gone ALL day to a football game (that included lightning/rain delay) so I haven't even touched my computer until now. Soooo glad I saw this post (and the chocolate cake---YUM). :)
    Hugs, Patti Jo

  135. I have a question. Is NaNoWriMo similar to Speedbo? Is there a cost to sign up

  136. I love that sassy picture of you, Tina! :)

  137. Pass the chocolate cake. I need it. I actually had a book rejected where one of the editors comments were, "They drink too much coffee and eat too much." OUCH!!! So I'm revising said book and sending elsewhere. Never give up. Right?

  138. This comment has been removed by the author.

  139. Tina - let me add that in the first food scene the hero ordered tiramisu for dessert. Hanging head in shame that I actually wrote their orders in the pages of my manuscript.

    Now how much is the fee to have a bossy Seekerville lady stand behind me and crack the whip to make me finish editing?

  140. Blogger Tina Radcliffe said...
    No episodic eating. Even if they have tiramisu on the menu.

    Okay, Tina. My characters are strong. They can survive not going home again and not mulling over what they just said. They don't cry or yawn, and by golly they don't even sleep. But they will never give up their tiramisu.


    Nancy C

  141. Dear Tina,

    Thank you so much for this post. I hung my head down as I realized I had started my book with my hero in his rental car arriving back in his hometown. My next book will not have that!

    And this is a great personal post for me as well. It's a reminder-no whining, no crying. Excellent personal motivation.

    Have a great rest of the weekend.

  142. Great post thank you. Chocolate cake is well deserved.

  143. Tina,
    Thanks for the excellent tips! This post is a keeper!

  144. Ruthy SPEWED coffee when she read Tina's summation and is now cleaning her KEYBOARD!!!! :)

  145. Terri Weldon, my love, I've had the same thing happen!

    So instead of eating, I started a fire.

    Instead of coffee, a kid on drugs needs help in the dark of night.

    Instead of dessert, a kid sneaks onto a still-saddled horse and gets a concussion..... So they THINK about eating (because that's the normal progression of the day) but then life interrupts and OOPS!

    That might be how heroines stay skinny.

    I hate them a little right now.

  146. I'll have a scoop of vanilla ice cream with my cake, please. Thanks for being blunt. Sometimes I need to be hit up side the head to get the idea. Got it.

  147. This is great stuff, Tina! Thank you so much. :)

  148. Wow, these are great tips! I'm also ready for that chocolate cake!

  149. Thanks, Tina! You may have saved my next manuscript (I had a woman returning home after 23 years...pulling up in the driveway and staring at her childhood home). I'll be scrapping that now!

    1. Jessica, I wouldn't take it out. I would like to see a woman coming back AFTER 23 YEARS. It raises all kinds of questions. It's a moment of change! You hooked me right here. I don't agree with Tina on that one. It's not cliche. If it is, then know nothing is new under the sun. Romance plots are overdone then. :) It's all about how it's handled. Some writers believe you don't sink a ship before getting to know your characters. You do need backstory, but you need to sprinkle it.

  150. Thank you for the great info. I agree with everyone who said this post is a keeper. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with newbies like me. :)

  151. Thank you - this is an invaluable resource. As I work on my memoir these points also apply. I appreciate having them all in one place. Looking forward to future suggestions.

  152. I'm shaking my head after I read your first rule. :) If a character is coming back after being gone for a long time, it's already a moment of change. If a character is afraid, I'm afraid with my character. Other writers believe you don't sink a ship before you get to know people on board. So it all depends how is it handled.

  153. Considering I've not written a book yet, it is still on my bucket list. I learned so much in these seven steps and putting it at the front of all the writing advice I've collected in my writing advice notebook. I've read and reviewed hundreds of books and tiring of that. Thank you, this helps! I think I'll start my first book now!

  154. I love deep convos!!!!

    Jessica Johnson, this is one of those great controversies, like which came first, the chicken or the egg???


    But when editor after editor tells me (Check Bethany House editor Charlene Patterson yesterday) that they want to be dropped into the action.... and I want a sale!!!... I listen.

    Now it wasn't always this way, and you'll find literary styled books that might allow that step-by-step creeping into the story but today's clientele is different. Frankly the bottom line is "Will this hook a reader?" Because that's what the editor is asking him/herself.

    It works in a romance if HERO is there and they come face to face. I used it in "Running on Empty", my top selling indie novel, but she walks into her moment of change, which is her ex-husband's police headquarters to see him.

    Anna makes a good point, the moment of change is important, but the emotion of the change should be driving the moment.

    And that's a big difference.

    Now, if you're writing Women's Fiction, some publishers will allow you to dally in the depths but in romance? Every editor I've worked with wants a quick gut-clench of some sort on those opening pages.

    You might get two pages to hook an editor or agent. You don't want to waste that chance.

  155. Barbara!!!! DO IT! DO IT! DO IT!

    You've read so many! Time to jump in, girlfriend. The water's fine!!!

  156. Heather! Haven't seen you since Speedbo. Welcome back.

  157. Dear Anna,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Of course hundreds of successful romances start with the going home premise.

    But to clarify my point was stated with these words " having introspection."

    When you open with thinking and internal monologue you are not in the moment of change, media res or the action.

    See my Gotcha post.There is a link above.

    And here is what Bethany House editor, Charlene Patterson said "I get so tired of stories that start with a character arriving on a train or stagecoach, or returning to her hometown, or receiving an inheritance. Think of a more original situation"

    On the other hand there are two kinds of books to write. Those that sell in this market and those that don't but you still feel led to write. The book of your heart.

    Write what you are led to write.

    I am sharing what 65 critiques have shown me about writers who are writing with a goal of selling or independently publishing in today's market.

  158. Now wait a minute, Becky Avella. Did you just sell to LI? Or am I dreaming?

    Congrats and you are no longer a newbie.

  159. Hi Tina,

    I might not belong to majority of readers. Since I do like literary fiction (dying breed) and women's fiction.

    When I was reading your post, I thought you applied it to all writers. Since I don't write romances, writers who do should take your advice seriously. :)

    (I love trains and stagecoaches. I wouldn't mind if a story started that way if it's well written.)

    Anything will work if handled with a lot of skill.


  160. Yes. We're inspirational and sweet romance writers here with one or two women's fiction writers thrown in as well.

    And let me reiterate what I should probably say every post. If a reader in Seekerville doesn't agree, just put that info in a jar on the shelf. We aren't-I'm not- the keeper of or the writer of the rules.

    But I do share insights that in my opinion can help on the way to publication. That's our motto here.

  161. I love your get tough attitude. Great advice.