Wednesday, September 28, 2016

5 Tips for Taking Your Writing to the Next Level

Whether you’re published or unpublished at this point in your writing journey, you’ve probably discovered by now that, as much as you wish you could, you can’t write a story that pleases everyone. Family, friends, critique partners, contest judges, reviewers and readers all have an opinion—sometimes a vastly differing opinion. If you don’t believe me, just go to Amazon and read the reviews of the works of bestselling authors.
An author must tell the story they need to tell, not a story that someone else wants them to tell, or that someone else might choose to tell differently had they been the author. As hard as we may try, for one reason or another we will miss the mark with some readers. That’s okay. It’s normal.
I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn, however, by stating that most of us, even the New York Times bestselling authors, have room to grow in the understanding of storytelling and skillful handling of the nuts and bolts of the craft of writing. That’s the beauty of being a writer—the opportunity to get better and better. To take our writing to the next level.

Tip #1: Perspective: See growth as a positive challenge. It hurts deeply when we’ve put our heart and soul into a story that is criticized. We don’t claim to be perfect or to write perfectly, yet sometimes we can lose our enjoyment of writing when someone feels we should have written a book the way they would have written it.
As a traditionally published author, I can’t go back and rewrite a story once it’s in print even if I totally agree with the inputter’s perspective. It is what it is. But remember, as I do, if you feel there’s merit in a “criticism” or there’s something that’s personally niggling at the back of your mind demanding growth attention, you can look ahead to the next book…!
Tip #2 - Evaluate: Where have you missed the mark? Maybe a contest judge or reviewer has pointed out an area for potential growth and you agree it warrants further exploration. Or maybe it’s an area you personally wish you’d had more time to explore in the last book, but time constraints or word count limitations or whatever, held you back from giving it the attention you felt it deserved.
Keep in mind that there may be MANY areas in which you’d like to grow in your mastery of the writing craft, but don’t bite off more than you can chew. Take one or two areas you feel mostly strongly need attention at this time and focus on those.

Tip #3 – Make a plan. Once you’ve settled on an area of your writing that you’d like to strengthen, decide how you’re going to move in the direction of that goal. Are you going to take an on-line class that addresses the topic? Download or attend a conference workshop? Maybe you’ll search out a writing craft book, articles or blogs on the subject. Pay a free-lance editor for input. Or perhaps you’ll read the works of fiction writers you admire with an eye to studying how they deal effectively with the area you’re most wanting to grow in. Make it a priority to work further development into your next book.
Tip #4 – Apply and assess. All the theoretical head knowledge in the world won’t make much difference until you make the effort to apply it to your own writing. Consciously evaluate as you revise. Read it aloud. Ask a friend or critique partner to read it and provide feedback on the area in particular that you’re stretching yourself in. Send it to another contest to see if scores and comments that previously sunk you improve in your targeted area. (This is something I did frequently as an unpublished writer to see if I was starting to “get it.”)

Tip # 5 - Commit: To never stop learning. Keep in mind that when you select an area for growth and begin to work toward it, that’s just a first step. You won’t master it immediately, but over time, by revisiting it again and again with each book you write, the techniques will gradually become a part of your instinctive writing style.
With every book I try to focus on at least one element of storytelling or craft that I’d like to get better at. Maybe dialogue. Or pacing. Or description. Perhaps a greater awareness of story arc or goal, motivation, and conflict. Relationship dynamics. But again, the trick to pursuing growth is persistence coupled with a recognition that it isn’t usually an overnight process. So be diligent in your efforts, but realistic and kind to yourself as well.

Share with us today which area or areas of the writing craft you’d like to take to the next level. How was it brought to your attention? What is your plan to pursue and apply this needed growth? How will you assess your progress? Is there an underlying fear you need to set aside in order to move ahead?
If you’d like to be entered in a drawing for a copy of my November Love Inspired release, “The Pastor’s Christmas Courtship,” mention it in the comment section, then check the Weekend Edition to see if you’re a winner!
GLYNNA KAYE treasures memories of growing up in small Midwestern towns--and vacations spent with the Texan side of the family. She traces her love of storytelling to the times a houseful of great-aunts and great-uncles gathered with her grandma to share candid, heartwarming, poignant and often humorous tales of their youth and young adulthood. Her Love Inspired books--Pine Country Cowboy and High Country Holiday--won first and second place, respectively, in the 2015 RWA Faith, Hope & Love Inspirational Reader’s Choice Awards. Her November 2016 release, The Pastor’s Christmas Courtship, is available for pre-order now (click here)!
Jodi Thorpe’s childhood vacation cabin seems the perfect place for her to heal her broken heart…and avoid Christmas cheer. After twelve years, nothing in Hunter Ridge has changed--except Garrett McCrae. The bad boy who was once her secret crush is now the town minister. And Garrett won’t let her miss out on all the hope and joy the holiday brings.  With every day he’s drawn to the vulnerable woman Jodi’s become, even as he’s about to leave for a mission halfway around the world.  But as they grow closer, their plans begin to change. Can Garrett make it a season to remember, with a love they can’t forget?


Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Glynna What a great post and one I needed to read after yesterday's post of mine. We all had more questions than answers about placing ads. But I love your quote"Commit to never stop learning." Actually all of your memes are really winners. They would make a great gift package framed to hand o your office wall. smile

Thanks for the pep talk. I sure do need it.

Trixi said...

Good evening Glynna!

I'm no writer, but your points can be valid for so many areas in life :-)

"See growth as a positive challenge"--whenever I feel God stretching me in an area of my life, I trust it's for a good purpose. Some area I need to grow and learn in. It's not always pleasant or easy, but He's there every step of the way. And then sometime down the road, I'll see the purpose for that challenge and see how far He's taken me in my walk!

"Evaluate: Where have you missed the mark"--Again, kind of the same principle. Whenever I feel resistance in some area or I'm trying to do something & not getting very far, I have to ask "are you trying to tell me something God" or "what did I miss Lord". Then when He shows me, I have to back up and start again. I also like where you say "Don't bite off more than you can chew"...sometimes I can do that, lol!

"Commit: To never stop learning"--I think we can all agree with this pretty self-explanatory statement! Amen & Amen :-)

Great post! Very insightful and I think it can apply to more than just writing as well :-) Please enter my name for a copy of your November release, thank you so much! Blessings

Jan Christiansen said...

Thanks for the nudge to keep learning the craft of writing, Glynna. My weak area at this point is plotting. (I'm new to fiction writing.) How do you plot your books?

Vince said...

Hi Glynna:

Your photos are very interesting. Where are they? One looks like a church in Santa Fe and the others seem like Anasazi ruins. I just love the desert southwest.

I'm looking forward to your next book. In fact even as I read the first two books I was most interested in Garrett's story. I like him the best.

As for my current improvement project, it's 'packing paragraphs' so that they do multiple jobs (achieve multiple objectives) in the same or less words. I've noticed that writers like Lee Child and David Baldacci have very dense paragraphs and scenes. If you can have a paragraph accomplish 6 to 8 goals instead of just 1 to 2, then the writing is far richer and you get a lot more story with your 75,000 words.

Of course, please enter me for your new book, "The Pastor's Christmas Courtship". I try to read only Christmas books in November and December each year. A 'feel good' romance feels even better set at Christmas time.


Cindy W. said...

Thank you for the great post Glynna. I too love the statement, Commit to never stop learning. To me that can be a motto for every area of life. I have a lot to learn in all areas of writing so everything I can learn now will help when I am released to write again.

I would love to be in your drawing for The Pastor's Christmas Courtship. I love to read books set during Christmas.

Many blessings to all today!

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Jill Weatherholt said...

Great post, Glynna! I agree with Trixi, your words not only apply to a writer's life. "Never stop learning" resonates with me. Now, if I can find the time to study my piles of craft books. :) I'm also striving to be open to new opportunities. I'd love to be entered into the drawing. Congratulations!

Mary Preston said...

An interesting post thank you.

Please count me in for a copy of “The Pastor’s Christmas Courtship”.

Jackie said...

Hi Glynna,

Thanks for challenging us to strive for the next level.

I love the cover on The Pastor's Christmas Courtship. Congratulations on your new release!

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, SANDRA! You certainly bit off a big chunk with that advertising topic of yours in yesterday's post! One that, in this market, doesn't have a "one size fits all" answer. But lots of ideas were generated and discussed, and that's SO helpful.

Whenever I can, I like to use my own "meme" photos. :)

Glynna Kaye said...

Hi, TRIXI! I'm glad that as a reader you found some applicable gems in the post!

You're so right, when faced with challenges in ANY area of our life, it's vital to uncover the "message" in our challenge--to ask ourselves what God is saying to us about it and how does He want us to address it.

Kelly Bridgewater said...

Hello Glynna, I really enjoy your post too. I have a hard time with Deep Point of View and getting into my character's skin. Like Susan May Warren said, "Stop playing with Barbie. Become Barbie." Easier said than done. I have read a lot on the subject and still can't understand it. I'll keep working on it and my novels. God bless!

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, JAN! Oh, WOW--how do I plot my books? Don't have enough room to cover that one here!

In summary, though, I make a point of developing a strong internal & external goal, motivation and conflict for my main characters. And give them a strong background for those GMC points. I like to know in advance how I want them to change during the story--then think of scenes (progress & setback) that not only illustrate their journey to the external goal, but illustrate that internal growth as well. Knowing overall "plot points" in advance also helps me--turning points in the story. A good black moment and resolution to be working toward as I write is always in the back of my mind.

A strong "moral premise" helps keep me focused, too. (Check in the Seeker archives...I believe there's a post on that topic written by Myra Johnson and/or Stanley Williams.)

Plotting is not something that comes easy to me--each book is a challenge--but it IS getting somewhat easier the more books that I write.

cathyann40 said...

I enjoyed reading this post. I'd love to be entered to win a copy of The Pastor's Christmas Courtship.

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, VINCE!

You're "spot on" with the Santa Fe church staircase! The next 3 are at the Grand Canyon and the final staircase one is in an historic government building across the street from the 2014 ACFW riverfront conference hotel in St. Louis.

That's definitely a good practice to "package" scenes to serve more than one purpose. Layering a scene adds more impact if it is woven in well and not done heavy-handedly.

I like reading Christmas stories as the holidays approach, too. And a month from now Garrett's story should be on the shelves!

Glynna Kaye said...

Hi, CINDY W!! Another Christmas story lover! :)

Never stop learning is definitely a lifelong pursuit! I hope I never come to the point where I sit back complacently and think I know all there is to know about writing.

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, JILL! You're right--as valuable as it is, learning isn't JUST book learning. Being open to new opportunities and experiences and having a deep curiosity to better understand so many things in life keeps us growing, stretches us, and makes us stronger, better people--and writers!

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning (I think) Mary P. I always get mixed up on the time difference. Whatever it is, it's probably TOMORROW in Australia right now. :)

Glynna Kaye said...

Thanks, JACKIE! I thought they did a good job on the cover, too --looks fun. :)

Glynna Kaye said...

Hi, KELLY! Ah, Deep POV! When first getting a handle on Deep Point of View, I found it helpful to write some FIRST PERSON "practice" scenes in the POV of my hero and heroine. That helped me get away from "What was he doing here, she wondered" to a Deep POV "What was he doing here?" From "She felt angry," to "She slammed the book on the table." Trying "being Barbie" in some first person writing to see if that helps you slip into your characters, then back out and rewrite the scene in third person Deep POV.

Glynna Kaye said...

Thanks for stopping by, Cathy Ann!

Janet Dean said...

GLYNNA, thanks for the push to look at the craft areas I could improve upon. My first thought was to pick all of them, but that stems from a bad case of perfectionism, which is nonproductive. I plan to focus on story arc. Not that I don't get there eventually but studying the process will make it come more easily. I always want to up the emotion of my stories. Two very different areas of storytelling. Thank you for saying that we writers need to be kind to ourselves. Our editors bought our stories, which means they saw their merit, and most of our readers bless us with good feedback. We can strive to improve, always growing in our craft, but shouldn't let a few one-star reviews stop us from what we've been called to do--write stories for God.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Love the graphics!!!! That's a lot of stairways, and a lot of opportunity, my friend!

I agree, taking anything to the next level is such an urge although I'm always careful to not let ambition own me... I want to own it.

And to me (honestly) the level of being published by royalty-paying publishers... that was clutch. If nothing else had happened, I would have been fine with that.

But I do love to keep busy, and if I have time on my hands, I'm creating something.

It might be an illness, right? :)

Glynna, what a wonderful outlook on all of this!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Kelly Bridgewater, I'm going to help you here and now.

Whatever Barbie you have as your heroine...

Don't think of how you would react.

Picture her.

Picture her past, her disappointments, her pain, her suffering, her joys and why she is the person she is RIGHT NOW....

And then THAT PERSON would react in one way that no one else would do. Not you, and not your other characters.

If Barbie had a traumatic childhood, that colors her worldview. She might be cynical or wounded or both. Or she might be a fighter, a pull-her-britches up and get on with it type... Whatever type of woman she is, THAT'S WHO REACTS to the situations in the book.

That's when you stop thinking about you, your reactions, your norm, and replace all that with "Barbie's' norm....

And you keep doing that throughout the story, but letting her relax a little as your build her confidence (until you CRUSH IT with sadness at the end, you meany pants, you!!!)

Does that help make it clearer?

Cindy Regnier said...

Hi Glynna - your book looks great and I would love to read The Pastor's Christmas Courtship. This was a great post because of it's truth. I can't please everybody so I try to stay faithful to my Audience of One. I think my biggest weakness is plotting. I am a pantser who wishes she could plot. I think it would kind of take some of the fun out of it to have everything planned before I wrote it (I'd know what was going to happen!) but it would sure make it easier to have that outline to follow.

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, JANET! So true--our direction is to write the stories God wants us to write for readers who will find a few hours enjoyment and encouragement in them. And it's important not to focus on too many "improvement" areas at one time and become overwhelmed. Each new book presents an opportunity to stretch ourselves a little bit more.

Glynna Kaye said...

Great way to explain Deep POV, Ruthy!

Camy Tang has some excellent posts on Deep POV on her website.

Marianne Barkman said...

Hi, Glynna. More and more I'm amazed at how so many of Seekerville's posts can apply to life in general, and I'm thinking it's because we are all in this together. I'd love a copy of your November release.

And TINA, I got Carrie's books safe and sound, in two packages! But breakfast at Cracker Barrel is still a date!

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, Cindy R. Plotting is tough for many of us -- but for many publishers, you either need to have the book completed or provide a proposal of 3 chapters and a full synopsis to get contracted.

The latter is what pushed me forward into doing more "preplanning" -- but except for the major turning points that you have to provide in the synopsis (you don't have to give blow-by-blow details of each scene/chapter), I have tons of room to "punster" the actual scenes, so that gives me a happy middle ground. A phrase in the synopsis of "As the weeks progress, heroine & heroine butt heads about XYZ, both denying an underlying attraction." gives me ALL sorts of freedom to develop scenes built around that simple, high-level sentence. I now find that a good synopsis that serves as my guideline keeps me moving ahead and I'm a LOT less likely to end up with another half-finished book under my bed. :)

Janet Dean said...

GLYNNA, stretching ourselves can elicit the image of gentle arm-raising stretches that produce flexibility or or being in traction, or being stretched on a rack. LOL I'm going with the gentle stuff.

Thanks for a terrific reminder to never stop growing our craft.


Glynna Kaye said...

I prefer the gentle stuff, too, Janet!! :)

Debby Giusti said...

Love this post, Glynna! And your photo of the Sante Fe staircase without support structure. Have you read the history of the staircase? So delightful. Some believe Saint Joseph was the craftsman.

I spoke to a group of Boy Scouts Monday night about being a writer. Another gentleman was there who does church music. He mentioned a quote, although he didn't know where it came from, but it applies...

"Everything you want in life is just outside your comfort zone."

Which is so true.

The last story I wrote--the first in my Amish trilogy--featured an Amish hero. It took me longer than usual to get into his mind and know who he was and how he thought and reacted. After completing the story, I realized the challenge had been a learning experience and had bumped me up a bit in my writing journey. I'll wait and see what readers think, but the story was "good" for me to write.

It goes back to the idea of how we learn from writing. The more we write, the better our writing becomes...or that should be the case if we're stretching in new ways as you mentioned.

Looking forward to reading the comments.


Megan Brummer said...

This was a great pep talk to wake up to this morning, Glynna! Thank you!

Two quick thoughts: I love your tip about reading the reviews for successful authors. Someone once gave me the advice to read the 1-star reviews of my favorite authors/books when I feel discouraged. I was flabbergasted!! There were mean and passionate tirades against the very things I loved about those books. You're right! You can't please everyone. That gave me the motivation to just write the story that I want to write.

Second, I love reading chronologically when I find a new author. That is, I like to find the very first book they had published, and read in order of what they had published. You can't miss how they grow and get better as writers when you do that. Often that first book is good, enjoyable, and entertaining... but by the time you reach their third, fourth, eighth, twelfth books - it's clear they've become talented artists. It helped me set my own realistic expectations: expect that my first book will be fine, but it won't be my best and that practice practice practice is what's going to make me better as a writer!

As for your question, I'm working on taking characterization to the next level. I love GMC and the posts on here about character, but I still feel like my characters don't often come across as "real" - so I'm devouring everything I can about how to deepen them. I'm thankful for Ruthy's advice about Barbie's POV above, and I can't wait for next month's online ACFW course!

Wow... Ok. I've written a book here. (Can I count this comment toward my word count today? Hehe)

Glynna Kaye said...

Good Morning, DEBBY! Yes, the story of the staircase is QUITE interesting!

I like that quote, too. So true.

I'm sure writing books set in Amish country have been a time of both writing and personal growth, to come to understand how someone of that background thinks, what their values & beliefs are, etc., in an un-stereotyped way.

Glynna Kaye said...

Hi, MEGAN! Yeah, some of those reviews are scary.

There are some excellent books and posts on characterization--and, as you mentioned, reading a favorite author from first book to most current can really lend insights to the growth of a writer and how they've developed their characters.

Glynna Kaye said...

Well, I have to step out for a bit, but shall return! Enjoy your day, Seekerville!

Missy Tippens said...

Glynna, this is a great post! And a good reminder that we always need to learn and grow. I love taking online writing classes and buying how-to books just for that reason. I want each new book to be better than the previous ones. Right now, I'm working on plotting (using a book you'll see recommended by one of my guest bloggers in her post next week).

Missy Tippens said...

Jan C., I see you're working on what I'm working on--plotting. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Kelly, I love that Barbie quote you shared! That's an excellent way to put it. :)

Myra Johnson said...

Such wise advice, Glynna! I have entire bookshelves devoted to craft books I've amassed over 30 years of writing. I have a few favorites--books by Swain, Bell, Williams, and others--that are definitely worth reviewing from time to time.

Equally helpful to me is reading novels by authors whose work I admire, and in a variety of genres. I think I learn a lot by osmosis as certain aspects of their style and technique seep in.

Jan Christiansen said...

Missy T. - Everything I've ever written has been as a pantser, however, that's probably why when I'm trying to write a novel, as opposed to a short story, I get several chapters in and get stuck. Not sure where to take the story from there, I put it on the proverbial shelf and start another story. Have to break that pattern and I'm sure plotting will help.

Chill N said...

Oh my gosh, Glynna, is that the staircase at Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe? What an absolute wonder to look at -- no matter who built it :-)

Of course, here you've written a super blog that has thumped my thoughts, and I remark about the photo :-) I would like to take all of my writing to the next level. Right now I'm focusing on writing tighter, on using stronger verbs. I have several lists I printed off, and whenver I find myself typing 'walked,' for example, I look at that list to help me show how the character walked. I find that the more I concentrate on one aspect at a time, the more that becomes a natural part of the writing so I can focus on the next thing I want to improve.

I can identify with these words: "An author must tell the story they need to tell, not a story that someone else wants them to tell, or that someone else might choose to tell differently had they been the author." A judge in the first writing contest I entered had me convinced I should step away from the keyboard and never write again. It took me about a week to realize the problem was that I hadn't written the story the way the judge would have written it -- not that there was anything wrong with the way I wrote my story. It was a long week realizing that, though.

This is such an encouraging, teaching post. Thanks!

Nancy C

Tina Radcliffe said...

And contests are a great way to find out what areas you need to focus on. Don't change things for one wild card judge. Look at the overview of comments from several judges before you change your work.

Once again! Wise words.
"An author must tell the story they need to tell, not a story that someone else wants them to tell, or that someone else might choose to tell differently had they been the author." A judge in the first writing contest I entered had me convinced I should step away from the keyboard and never write again. It took me about a week to realize the problem was that I hadn't written the story the way the judge would have written it -- not that there was anything wrong with the way I wrote my story. It was a long week realizing that, though.

Sandra Leesmith said...

HI Nancy I am in so agreement with Tina. When you get a discouraging review from a contest judge, you need to see if the other judges said the same thing. If not, then just mark it as "their opinion" If more than one judge comments on the same issue, then you need to look it over. But never change anything to the way the judge tells you. You will lose your voice that way. Just set it aside, think about it awhile and then fix it your own way.

Not all judges have been trained to judge. So please don't let that comment discourage you.

btw all of us have books that are published and doing well even though some editors and/or judges did not like them at all.

Hang in there and happy writing.

kaybee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kaybee said...

RUTHY, good advice on Deep POV.

kaybee said...

Right now I'm getting most of my education from articles on this site, judges and my crit partner, Don't have time to read an entire craft BOOK, sigh, but have been able to fit in articles here and there, and of course the Lesson of the Day here.
I've had very few snarky judges. What I'm noticing is as I get better, the judging gets tighter. Even though they don't "know" me, they know what I need and are challenging me more. It's like "Dancing With the Stars." The judges are tougher on the finalists and the better dancers, but it's a process. I guess. Anyway that's what I think...
Going to work, may be back later...

Myra Johnson said...

Great observation, KB!

Connie Queen said...

Something I struggle with...

I normally know the basics of my story, what the backstories are, the inciting incident, and how it's going to end. But somewhere in the middle of the story I fight for survival. The scenes lose their importance and I become satisfied w/mediocracy. I read other books for inspiration and begin to notice patterns. If I can just add romance, faith, and suspense I've succeeded. Writing a week or two like this I simply can go no further. I'm bored stiff!

So I have to stop and do the opposite of "...not a story that someone else wants them to tell..." I have to step back and ask, what would the editor really want to see or be surprised to see? Or what would a reader want to see? I do this because I get complacent knowing it will pick up 3 chapters from now and I'll get them w/the ending.

Does anyone else do this? I always wind up rewriting or deleting several scenes in the middle.

Thanks for post Glynna.

Julie Lessman said...

WOW, great post, Glynna!!

You asked: Share with us today which area or areas of the writing craft you’d like to take to the next level. How was it brought to your attention?

I've been told by a number of readers that I write in what I refer to as "movie mind," where the readers claim to see or feel the scene as if they are watching a movie. I did a post once on this called KEEPING IT “REEL” … Or A “NOVEL” Approach To Putting A Movie in Your Reader's Mind, which simply means that I strive to portray characters' actions/expressions/personalities through emotions expressed in the scene, primarily through facial expression or body language/actions.

The problem with that is I find myself so very limited in physical ways to show various emotions. I mean, there's only so many brows you can quirk or bunch before it gets old, and the same with a dry smile expressed with a slant of the mouth or nerves expressed with a chew of the lip. So I do try to replace repeated expressions with as many similar ones that I can to mix it up, but I think I could do better with this.

This was brought to my attention through several 1-star reviews that picked on this particular tendency of mine, so it made me very aware.

Very interesting post, Glynna, and one that has made me think and assess!


Pam Hillman said...

Ruthy, you need to write a Barbie blog with staged pictures... :)

Edwina said...

Great post Glynna!

I think my challenge will be to keep the story moving - especially at the mid-way point. And my second challenge will be to use more descriptive words and phrases and not the same, poor, tired ones!

Please enter my name in for the drawing.


Glynna Kaye said...

MISSY -- Taking on-line classes is really something that I miss and used to do a lot of -- until book deadlines took over! :) You should see my little bookcase filled with writing craft books--and I DO go back and read some of them or reference them for specific challenges I'm facing in a story. They kind of jumpstart the brain engine when I'm spinning my wheels with a particular craft issue.

Nicky Chapelway said...

Recently I had my dad (AKA my editor) read my book and he pointed out some flaws in my story, some were minor plot holes that were easily (and not so easily) fixed. But another thing that he pointed out was that I made the story too problematic for my characters (he said that they have got to be the most unlucky people in the world to have all this stuff happen to them). Whenever something good started happening, something bad happened instead. Whenever something bad was happening, something worse happened. Trying to make the story a little less problematic I had to write out a whole scene/chapter. Now I'm working on writing my books with fewer bad things happening to my characters (think monster attacks, natural disasters, &c) so that I can focus more on my character's arcs and relationships more.

Please enter my name for the drawing of The Pastor's Christmas Courtship

Glynna Kaye said...

Hi, MYRA! Another "writing craft" book collector! :) As you mentioned, re-reading favorite authors who do something in particular especially well really helps, too. You can see it "illustrated" not just discussed in theory.

Glynna Kaye said...

JAN -- Learning to plot at least the critical turning points has really helped me a lot. I used to get into a story by 3 chapters or so, maybe a bit farther, then CLUNK. Didn't know what to do or where to go next because I didn't have a book-length GMC figured out. Because the synopsis I write now is so high level, I still have wiggle room to enjoy lots of seat-of-the-pansting.

Glynna Kaye said...

HI NANCY -- Yes, that's the Loretto staircase in Santa Fe! Such a beautiful old church. So much amazing history in that old town area.

Great idea to make a list of STRONG words to use as a substitute. Sometimes when I'm reading I'll see an evocative word and think: "Why do I never use that?" And jot it down.

And a great idea, too, to concentrate on one aspect at a time. When you can focus on something, it does seem to more naturally integrate into your writing going forward.

I'm glad that you quickly recognized that the judge was judging your entry as he/she would have written it, not on its own merits.

So glad you found the post encouraging!

Glynna Kaye said...

TINA -- Good point about the contests and not giving in to a "wild card" unless you totally agree. Better to see if several judges point out the same issue. Sometimes, something a judge pointed out would immediately resonate with me and I'd think "Why did it take so long for me to recognize that? She's right!" Other times, other judges would praise something that a lone wolf would pick apart. So you have to take a deep breath and evaluate carefully.

Janet Dean said...

JULIE, I can identify with the difficulty portraying emotion without overusing facial expressions and body language! Thankfully we can use introspection and dialogue and setting to convey emotion. Of those three options, I've found that using setting is the freshest because it's unique to the story. It's easiest to compare or contrast the character's mood to the weather, for instance, but when something in the setting takes the character back to an emotional time in the past that's still impacting him or her, the reader will feel that emotion, have empathy. Or so I hope. I find it takes more thought and some stories work better than others, but it's one of the things I'm working on to up the emotion of my stories.


Glynna Kaye said...

Hi, SANDRA! Yes, there's lots of wisdom in not letting yourself get discouraged by negative opinions. Just be open to evaluating whether they are "legitimate" or not--and multiple contests and judges can help nail that down for you.

Tina Radcliffe said...

The most important takeaway is to keep learning. Success people continue to learn their craft!
There is no arrival moment. Either you move forward or backwards and successful writers keep learning.

Janet Dean said...

NICKY, you're blessed to have a dad who's interested in your stories. I think he gave you good advice. Not that I don't think things should get worse for your characters but if most of the hero and heroine's problems/troubles are random, not from the choices they make, they can look like victims. The characters should want something and go after it. Their actions should drive the story and cause many, if not most, of their troubles. Not always, of course. Does that make sense? Or is that way off base?


Glynna Kaye said...

Hi, KATHY B! It's fun to go back to earlier works and flesh them out, isn't I?Congrats on the contest final! Truly, though, you're right -- you can't predict who will like what as your contest experience just illustrated!

Often we forget a KEY factor -- that the READER brings a piece of themselves to the mix when they read a story. We all have diverse backgrounds and experiences, like & dislikes, and we take those with us when we read a book. I read a NY Times bestseller that friends raved about--but at first I couldn't understand why. But when I evaluated the differences in our life experiences, I could clearly see why the story resonated with them and not with me.

Glynna Kaye said...

KATHY B -- Good point that as you're getting better the judging bar is being raised.

Janet Dean said...

CONNIE, I ask those questions of myself, especially in the middle of the book. Wanting to keep readers turning pages is a good thing. When the hero or heroine have strong goals to work toward, the middle won't sag as easily, but still, we have to figure out what comes next, ways to surprise the readers. Writing involves a lot of thinking, at least for me.


Glynna Kaye said...

Hi, CONNIE! I imagine that classic "muddled middle" is a challenge for most of us. It's a LONG stretch of ocean out there that our little writing boat is bobbing on with no sign of land on either side.

I have to pause when I hit that "gee, this is boring to me so a reader probably will think so too" wall. I start typing a list of "options" in my writing journal that could light a fire in the next scene. Surprisingly, it's not TOO long and one of them jumps out at me. I slip it in there and write like crazy until I hit the next speed bump, then pause again. I have, at times, just had to pull an entire scene out that was a REAL YAWNER and replace it.

Glynna Kaye said...


UGH. 1-star reviews. :(

That's wonderful that readers see your stories playing out in their minds like a good movie!

Top notch actors, though, DO have so much more in their emotion repertoire than most writers can dream of. It's such a challenge to think up a fresh way to "show" an emotion. Which is why we often resort to "naming" it. It's not that we aren't aware that we're "naming"--and some would call that "lazy"--but there are only so many ways to SHOW it so we get a little paranoid over the fear of duplication.

Glynna Kaye said...

Hi, EDWINA! Your challenges are probably challenges for ALL of us -- to hold reader interest and keep the pace brisk throughout the middle so they keep turning the pages as fast as they can go. And to find fresh ways to describe things. I know for myself I finish up a book right on top of the deadline and so much long for just a few more days to "play" with fresh and stronger word choices.

Glynna Kaye said...

Hi, NICKY. You squeezed in there between my earlier "publish comments" and I missed you!!

So wonderful that you dad reads your stuff and provides feedback! I'm sure it's hard to know sometimes how much to escalate the conflict as the story progresses. A fine balance sometimes so that the new challenges grow organically from the book-length GMC and don't come out of nowhere. It sounds as if you're on the right track!

Glynna Kaye said...

Yep, TINA. Keep learning, keep learning, keep learning. One of the most beautiful parts about being a writer!

Glynna Kaye said...

Good points, JANET! We don't want our hero or heroine to be a victim, but to overcome challenges and setbacks that might very well be of their own doing.

Sharee S said...

Great points!!!

Jeanne Takenaka said...

I've been trying to get over here ALL day, but things like picking up sick kids from school, and errands have deterred me. But, I"m here. And I love your exhortations, Glynna. I can't master everything, at least not at once, and probably not ever.

What I've been working on is dialogue. I got some feedback from contests and from an author who read my first 50 pages that pointed tot he fact that my dialogue is weak. So, I'm mentoring with someone and reading about it, and practicing writing crisper, better dialogue. I've got a lot to learn on this front, but I'm taking steps to do so. :)

Laura Conner Kestner said...

Such a helpful post - thank you, GLYNNA! My biggest problem right now is that I wrote my book BEFORE I found Seekerville - and correcting it is so much harder than doing it right the first time. Thanks to y'all, my newer WIPs are in better shape than the first one :-) Learning something new everyday, and loving it!

Sandy Smith said...

This was a great post, Glynna. I am currently writing my first book, so I need improvement in just about everything. Pacing is probably one thing really bothering me right now. I just need to keep working at it.

Please enter me in the drawing. Your books always have such pretty covers.

Mary Connealy said...

Jeanne, sounds like you're focused and taking action, good for you.
I actually enjoy writing dialogue. My problem is setting. The hero/heroine get to squabbling, sassing each other, but where are they? Inside or out? Where are the other people in the scene, if they aren't there, where? What are they wearing, how are they moving?
I often write the dialogue then go back to add those other elements...and sometimes I can't tell who is saying what? So I know I need to do better at scene setting.

Mary Connealy said...

Laura the GREAT thing about looking back at an old book and seeing the weaknesses is the knowledge that YOU HAVE GOTTEN BETTER!!!!!
And this might not always be true....but is the STORY you wanted to tell in that book a good story? We look back at work like that and think, "It's dead, it's history."

I don't think so. In that older book is a good story you just need to tell better. And if revisions are onerous, there may come a time you decide you just need to toss it out, but unless the story is just unbearably bad, save the STORY you want to tell and tell it again with your new improved skillz!!!

Mary Connealy said...

Keep writing Sandy. You know of all the people in the world that say, "I think I've got a book in me." so so so few people ever sit down and write it!

You're way ahead of about 80% of the writers in the world if you just FINISH THE BOOK.

Mary Connealy said...

Hi Sharee! See you soon!

Mary Connealy said...

Julie, I really know what you mean about re-using favorite body language terms. I love saying "His shoulders slumped' or 'his shoulders squared'.
I think it really paints a visual emotional picture.
But I can't do it over and over. Grin, nodded, shrugged. I am always aware of my overuse of those things. Waaaaaay too much grinning!

Laura Conner Kestner said...

Thank you, MARY. You're right, I definitely see things differently as I'm learning - I don't always know how to fix them right away, but I can spot the problems easier. That's a big part of the process I guess :-)

Valri said...

Glynna, you KNOW how much I am looking forward to your new book coming out so please enter me in your drawing! I'm on vacation right now back East! It's a blast seeing the fall foliage in New England!

Boo Smelser said...

Such an encouraging post, especially since I'm pretty sure all authors have those moments when they utterly despair and look back at their hard work and think it's all wrong. Horrible moments. But when they pass, we can admire our work for what it is and also see where we can improve with future works.

Audra Harders said...

Hi Glynna! I love this encouraging post. Especially the "never stop learning." There's something new around every corner whether it's a writing technique, social media, broadening your vocabulary, and a world of other adventures. I think the day you stop having aha moments is the day your stories reflect the fact.

Great post, kiddo!

Glynna Kaye said...

Thanks for stopping by, SHAREE!

Glynna Kaye said...

Hi, JEANNE! Oh, dear, sick kids! I guess it's that time of year now for colds and flu to start spreading through the school systems. :(

It sounds as if you have a good plan for working on dialogue. I know in college I'd written a short story and my professor told me the dialogue was "wooden." I determined right then and there that I'd "give it all I've got" and started focusing on that area. By the time I was started entering RWA contests I was getting high scores for dialogue. Whew! :)

Glynna Kaye said...

Hi, LAURA! So happy to hear that Seekerville is playing a part in growing your writing to where you want it to be!

Glynna Kaye said...

Hello, SANDY! Pacing is tricky -- something that can be hard to recognize and pin down, which is where contests and /or a critique partner can sometimes help for feedback. Like everything else, though, different readers perceive pacing differently--something may seem "sleepy" to one and just fine to another.

Glynna Kaye said...

Hey, MARY! I totally agree that often the CORE of an "old" story is something that can be revived and rewritten as you acquire stronger skills. I have an historical romance that I started researching and writing in college. I still love the characters, setting and situation, but I DIDN'T HAVE A CLUE back then about how to write commercial fiction. I haven't thrown out the research or the manuscript and maybe SOME day I'll revisit it!

Glynna Kaye said...

Hi, VALRI! Oooh, New England in the fall! I've only been there once, but would love to go back again. It POURED record rainfalls the year I went--but I still had a great time. ENJOY!

Glynna Kaye said...

Hi, BOO! I think you're right--99% of authors probably reach a point where they wonder how they ever thought they could write a book. (I usually wonder that halfway through EVERY book! :) ) I look back at stories I wrote in highs school and college and now I can see that they had a surprisingly lot of good things going for them despite all their faults--that the essence of my writer "voice" was there even that early.

Glynna Kaye said...

AUDRA!!!! So good to see your smiling face! Good point -- "The day you stop having aha moments is the day your stories reflect the fact." So let's frame that as a reminder--and commit to living a lifetime of AHA! moments. :)

Nicky Chapelway said...

Thanks, for the advise Janet! I totally agree and looking back at my books I realize that I have my characters dealing with coincidental problems WAY too often. Though, I kind of have to say that my characters ARE the victims (at least in this stage of their story). They've become trapped and in their desperate attempt to get back home they kind of blunder their way through many trying obstacles which I guess means that they do cause some of their problems because they aren't cowering behind closed doors too afraid of the world to do anything about their circumstances. However, I still think I did a bit too many problems (a giant attack after being attacked by ravenous faeries, after barely escaping a rabid werewolf might be a bit too much).

But now I'm trying my best to make it so that my characters circumstances and their actions are the cause of most of their problems (for instance if you anger a crazy homicidal killer in the first book by not breaking him out of jail then of course he's going to hunt you down and try to kill you when he breaks out in the second book!)

And yes, it is great that my dad helps so much with my books. He's my publisher too (he's quite computer savvy) and without him I am certain that I never would have been able to publish my book.

Julie Lessman said...

GLYNNA SAID: "Which is why we often resort to "naming" it. It's not that we aren't aware that we're "naming"--and some would call that "lazy"--but there are only so many ways to SHOW it so we get a little paranoid over the fear of duplication."

SO TRUE, Glynna! I like to actually both name it and show action at the same time, which some people think is not good, but I think it's a double punch of emotion -- stating it and showing action with it.


Julie Lessman said...

JANET SAID: "Thankfully we can use introspection and dialogue and setting to convey emotion. Of those three options, I've found that using setting is the freshest because it's unique to the story. It's easiest to compare or contrast the character's mood to the weather, for instance, but when something in the setting takes the character back to an emotional time in the past that's still impacting him or her, the reader will feel that emotion, have empathy."

Oh, Janet, you are SO right on here, my friend -- I LOVE to compare setting to a character's mood!!

MARY SAID: "Julie, I really know what you mean about re-using favorite body language terms. I love saying "His shoulders slumped' or 'his shoulders squared'.
I think it really paints a visual emotional picture.
But I can't do it over and over. Grin, nodded, shrugged. I am always aware of my overuse of those things. Waaaaaay too much grinning!"

LOL ... SOOOOO true, Mare, and if there's another way to show slumped or squared shoulders, I'd like to know what it is ... ;)


Terri said...

Glynna, there are so many areas I need to grow in, but number one is plotting. I long for the day when plotting isn't a struggle for me.

Does that happen? Has anyone out there gone from being a horrible plotter to finding it to be a breeze?

Glynna Kaye said...

Hi, TERRI! While I've grown better at plotting over time, I can't say that it's "a breeze." I'll let you know how it's going 5-10 years from now. :)

Jeanette Hill said...

Thank you! Another great lesson in a post!

Rebecca McLafferty said...

Hi Glynna. I really enjoyed this lesson. My writers group encourages and nurtures ongoing improvement. I am currently utilizing "Structuring Your Novel" by K.M. Weiland and "Story Trumps Structure" by Steven James. They are both full of great information. I love the cover of your Love Inspired release, “The Pastor’s Christmas Courtship". I'm a big LI fan and would appreciate being included in your drawing. Many thanks for this great lesson!

Glynna Kaye said...

Thank you for stopping by, Jeannette!

Glynna Kaye said...

HI, REBECCA! So glad you enjoyed the post! I'm pretty sure I have K.M. Weiland's book, but I don't think I have Steven James'. I'll have to check that one out!

Phyllis Wheeler said...

Well done Glynna!

Please enter me in the drawing.

May God bless you and all of Seekerville!

Olivia said...

Dear Glynna,
I am printing this blog for"my read it and use it" file. Thank you for taking the time to give us ways to stretch ourselves as writers. Please enter my name in the drawing.