Thursday, October 27, 2016

Deconstructing a Romance Novel

What does deconstructing even mean, you might ask.

It's simply an analysis. A breaking down of the parts.  

Why would we want to deconstruct a romance novel?

Actually, there are many good reasons to analyze a romance novel. 

1. To examine how an author utilizes the structural story elements.

2. To discover a "formula" for writing for a particular genre (sub-genre) or publisher.

3. To find out how an author is able to put words together to elicit a certain emotion and response.

4. To interpret the author's underlying message or theme.

As I was teetering on the brink of my first sale to Love Inspired, I deconstructed for the first time. I was already subscribed to the book club and received four books a month, which I devoured. The lesson there is to read widely in the genre you want to sell.

You will note a few authors who are most similar to your own style. These are the authors you will want to deconstruct. At that time, for me, it was Margaret Daley,  and Carol Steward. They wrote excellent books and were fan favorites as well.

When I wrote my first "secret baby" book, Oklahoma Reunion, I read every single secret baby book I could get my hands on.  In the end, I decided to have my hero act exactly opposite to the heroes in the books I read.  But I needed that deconstruction to discover how I would approach a topic I was completely unfamiliar with. BTW, I deconstructed Susan Mallery and Linda Goodnight books. 

Tools needed for basic deconstruction:

Keep it Simple.  You will need two copies of the book you are deconstructing. One for your library (print or ebook) and one in print to deconstruct.

Use colored pens or markers that do not bleed through the page. I also use colored tabs and a legal pad for notes. Generally, pink is used for the heroine, blue is for the hero. You can create your own coding system for everything else.

These are the books I will be mentioning today. They are not all CBA books. I am not recommending you read them, simply using them as tools to explain deconstruction. There are many fine (700) books on my Kindle I could deconstruct, but it's easier with print.

Let's discuss in detail, the reasons to deconstruct or analyze a novel in the order of the four above points mentioned. 
Reason 1. To examine how an author utilizes the structural story elements. Those pieces may include:
Six Stage Plot Structure
Internal Conflict
External Conflict
Scene Structure-Goal/Conflict/Disaster

 I recommend you focus on chapters 1-3 to start and give each of these most important chapters a deep scrutiny. Simply go through and mark the elements you see without over-thinking. 

Let's start with Safe in the Fireman's Arms, because chapter one is up on Amazon. 

Here's how I would deconstruct each page, looking for as many elements as I can. 

Think of deconstruction as a self-teaching tool. Deeply examine those structural elements that critique partners, Beta readers, editors and contest judges have pointed out as problematic in your own writing.

  • Romantic arc issues?
Let's review attraction. It's not easy  to show attraction without being overt or cheesy and cliched, especially when you're trying to show not tell and fit the parameters of inspirational romance. I find that using the steps of intimacy and the romantic arc helps develop romance realistically: The Romantic Arc 2.0 provides examplesTake note of how other authors do this as you deconstruct.  Still having problems? Pick up a copy of Julie Lessman's ROMANCE-ology 101: Writing Romantic Tension for the Inspirational and Sweet Markets.

  • Having problems with Six Stage Plot Structure? 
Find authors who utilize this and deconstruct, looking only for the Plot Stages and Turning Points in the novel. Michael Hauge has nicely deconstructed Kristan Higgins' The Next Best Thing in this video. If you are a Higgins fan you will want to listen and physically write on the pages of the novel. Once you understand Six Stage Plot Structure you can do this easily with most romance novels, including YOUR OWN.

  • Character problems? 
Did you first establish empathy by using two of these five traits for your protagonist/s?  From Michael Hauge's The Hero's Two Journeys.  Examine the book you are deconstructing for these traits.

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.

Mary Kay Andrews heroine in Save the Date is the perfect example! 

Cara Kryzik is a struggling florist. She's normal, she's sweet, she's funny. On the eve of the wedding that will make or break her career, her flower coolers go kaput, killing the inventory of flowers, then her father calls in her loan, and her dog is stolen by the hero. 

Note the synchronicity of the opening and ending of chapter one.

Opening line hook: Something was off. Cara Kryzik was no psychic, but the minute her bare feet hit the floor that morning, she sensed it.

End of chapter hook: At least, she thought wryly, she now knew what was off. Everything. Everything was off. "I'm screwed, she whispered.

  • The problems of scene structure may include episodic writing, no plot movement, backstory dump, excessive introspective that slows pacing, and lack of end of chapter hook.

Scenes are created using this formula based on Dwight Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writer:  Scene functions to create emotion, move the story forward and create interest. Think of them as units of conflict.

The Structure of Scenes: 
Goal-Character wants something
Conflict -2 characters with incompatible goals
Disaster-a hook, unexpected development, (can be an internal)

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."

Classified Christmas Mission by Lynette Eason provides crystal clear examples of quick pacing, weaving in of backstory elements and the Goal/Conflict and Disaster of Scene Structure. In fact, all her scenes end with a disaster hook. This is really impressive and reminiscent of Lee Child's Jack Reacher books. It's a true page-turner stylistically. 

I'll only share one example as her book is not available yet. End of chapter one:

Amber lifted her head, and he found himself staring down the barrel of a gun.

In many of our inspirational romances, unless we are writing suspense, we have low tension, so the disaster can simply be an internal that demonstrates an unexpected development or trouble brewing. It hooks us to turn the page.

Safe in the Fireman's Arms end of scene one: 

Reason 2. To discover a "formula" for writing a particular genre (sub-genre) or publisher.
Per RWA: 

  • Series or "category" romances: books issued under a common imprint/series name that are usually numbered sequentially and released at regular intervals, usually monthly, with the same number of releases each time.  

  • Single-title romances: longer romances released individually and not as part of a numbered series. Single-title romances may be released in hard cover, trade paperback, or mass-market paperback sizes.
In the old days (when dinosaurs roamed the earth) every publisher put out guidelines with word count and what they wanted to see. They handed them out at conferences like confetti, and they were readily available online. Those days are gone except for category romance. If you can even find word count you're doing good. You must read the books they publish to discover what the basic parameters are for their releases (yes, this is a formula, though a loose one.) Then you have to write a really good book. Period.

For category romance, not  only do you have to write a really good book, but, you must fit the specific guidelines of the particular line if you want to sell. Harlequin is the only category publisher anymore. 

Guidelines are available on the eHarlequin website. Google the editors to read interviews. Also, the editorial staff is available on social media to answer questions. Recently I asked a question on Editor Emily Rodmell's Facebook and she immediately responded. 
Tina Russo Radcliffe October 20 at 12:08pm
Question for the editor. LIS. Only United States or are international locals allowed-or maybe they are allowed briefly. Leave the country and come back? Asking for a friend. lololol 
 Emily Rodmell, Editor: Settings? U.S. preference. Wouldn't rule out an international setting but it's a harder sell.
As you are deconstructing you will want to look at the following (at very least), although some of these items can be author stylistic.
  • Presence of subplots
  • Number of characters in first three chapters
  • POV. Heroine only? Hero and Heroine. First person, third person?
  • Do any secondary characters get POV scenes?
  • The number of scenes per chapter.  
  • How long is the book? 
  • Compare the length of scenes. Of chapters.  
  • How many scenes are the hero and heroine apart in the course of the book?
  • When are the hero and heroine introduced?
  • How long before the internal and external GMC are introduced? 

Reason 3.To find out how an author is able to put words together to elicit a certain emotion and response.
  What to look for? Signals. A signal will mark when an emotion begins and ends.

What are signals?

Facial expression
Musculoskeletal response
Autonomic response
The impulse to make a noise

Get your marker ready and deconstruct how authors write emotions and emotional response.

The warm, timeless smell of Bunny's Hungarian Bakery wraps around me like a security blanket, sugar and yeast and steam, and I inhale deeply.-Kristan Higgins, The Next Best Thing.

Higgins in the master of emotion. Can you feel the oozing of emotional response? If not, seek medical attention immediately.

Another example. Remember: emotion on every page.

Reason 4. To interpret the author's underlying message or theme.
Author Jenny Crusie says this about theme:

"Theme is the central, underlying idea in a work of art. In the best novels, theme is not obvious, but it’s always present embedded in different aspects of the novel. Some of the aspects to consider when deciding on theme are
  • setting
  • the central plot question
  • the protagonist’s internal conflict
  • the protagonist’s character growth
  • the beginning and ending
  • and the title."
I am certain it was also Crusie who said that writers tend to write the same theme over and over again.
This is what I truly find fascinating about deconstruction!! You don't have to pay for therapy. Simply deconstruct your novels and figure out what your issues are.

And indeed in The Bestseller Code: Anatomy of the Blockbuster Novel by Jodie Archer & Matthew L. Jockers go so far as to say that repeated theme is a signature and a branding.

The theme of Kristan Higgins' books is discussed in an interview.  “…the theme of losing a great love and being afraid to risk such heartbreak again permeates many of Kristan’s books.” You can read the entire interview here.

Mary Kay Andrews (Hissy Fit, Save the Date, Savannah Blues, The Fixer Upper) writes  an underdog heroine theme. Typically Andrews heroines' situations go from awkward to bad, to awful, to worse.

Claire Cook (Must Love Dogs, Seven Year Switch, Life's a Beach) has a running theme of starting over or reinventing oneself.

Can you identify the theme of many of your favorite authors? Ruth Logan Herne? Julie Lessman? Mary Connealy?

And as an added bonus today, let me tell you a little more about The Bestseller Code: Anatomy of the Blockbuster Novel by Jodie Archer & Matthew L. Jockers.

It is the ultimate in novel deconstruction. A word of warning. This is not a how to be a best-seller book. It's simply interesting data and information.

From Amazon:

"Thanks to Jodie Archer and Matthew Jockers, the algorithm exists, the code has been cracked, and the results are stunning. Fine-tuned on over 20,000 contemporary novels, the system analyzes themes, plot, character, setting, and also the frequencies of tiny but amazingly significant markers of style. The “bestseller-ometer” then makes predictions, with fascinating detail, about which specific combinations of these features will resonate with readers. Somehow, in all genres, it is right over eighty percent of the time.

This book explains groundbreaking text mining research in accessible terms, but its real story is in what the algorithm reveals about reading and writing and how successful authorship works. It offers a new theory on the success of Fifty Shades of Grey. It explains why Gone Girl sold millions of copies. It reveals the most important theme in bestselling fiction and which topics just won’t sell. And then there’s “The One,” the single most paradigmatic bestseller of the past thirty years that a computer picked from among thousands. The result is surprising, a bit ironic, and delightfully unorthodox.

The project will be compelling and provocative for all book lovers and writers. It is an investigation into our intellectual and emotional responses to stories, as well as a big idea book about the relationship between creativity and technology. It turns conventional wisdom about book publishing on its head. The Bestseller Code will appeal to fiction lovers and data nerds."  


You can read a sample: Chapter Two for free here for Kindle. If you do not have Kindle you can download the Kindle app for your phone or your computer.  

"This sneak peek teaser - features literary giants John Grisham and Danielle Steele.
Although 55,000 novels are published every year, only about 200 hit the lists, a commercial success rate of less than half a percent. When the computer was asked to “blindly” select the most likely bestsellers out of 5,000 books published over the past thirty years based only on theme, it discovered two possible candidates: The Accident by Danielle Steel and The Associate by John Grisham. The computer recognized quantifiable patterns in their seemingly opposite, but undeniably successful writing careers with legal thrillers and romance. "
A final bonus! If you want to learn more about deconstructing a novel let me introduce you to a fantastic site-Better Novel Project. There is much to be gleaned here. Take advantage!

 Have you ever deconstructed a novel? Have I convinced you of the value? Share today, and let us know if you have any deconstruction tips to add to the discussion. Any themes you've discovered in books as a reader?

Comment today for a chance to win Classified Christmas Mission as soon as it is available (December 6, 2016), and Rocky Mountain Cowboy-yes, the first sightings! It is available NOW from the author. (ME!) 

Two pack. THREE winners. Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.

And for Seekerville Villagers only!!! A cover reveal!  I'm re-releasing three of my favorite Seekerville Collection novellas independently in November. 

Click on image to see enlarged for maximum enjoyment!

Tina Radcliffe writes for Love Inspired. Writing this post made her brain hurt. Please talk softly and only ask easy questions today. You can sign up for her newsletter to find out all the amazing and interesting things going on in her fabulous, and glamorous author life (in a cave in Arizona).

Sign up at And by the way, if you even come close to figuring out the theme of most of Tina's books she will happily send you a book, because you're smarter than the average bear.


  1. Hi, TINA (whispering) romance and cowboys? I cringed at the pictures. Really?! I know you bought two, one for your shelf and one to mark up, but really?

  2. Tina, my head is spinning! Thank you for a wonderful craft post. I need to reread the information when I'm not so tired. There are definitely areas I need to strengthen in my writing and deconstructing would be a great help?

    Also, your covers are amazing. Did you design those yourself? If you did then you are quite a clever girl. Play on words from Dr Who and Clara.

    Happy birthday, Seekerville!

  3. Okay, that books Bestseller code sounds like a Vince book if I ever saw one.

    Yes, I have deconstructed a few novels. Maid to Match by Gist just effortlessly made me turn the pages, so I had to deconstruct that one because it was so easy. I deconstructed Redeeming Love too, because who wouldn't want to know what makes the most bestselling CBA story *I think* tick. I think those are the only two I've done that to.

  4. You have to mark them up if you want to deconstruct, Marianne. And just think, the author made two sales!!

  5. Head Spinning! Exactly Terri. Mine is spinning too.

    Covers by Rogenna did my covers. I have many talents. Covers are not one. She is book through the new year and closed until January 1, when she will be taking March orders. I got on her schedule for these right before she filled up. THANK YOU, GOD.

    I've got notes all over to email her on January 1 to reserve appointments for March for several books I have planned for 2017.

  6. WOW. I am impressed, Melissa. Deconstructing Redeeming Love sounds totally daunting.

  7. WHOAAAAA...
    More to you than a pretty face isn't there?!

    This is pawmazing. No WONDER you continually final and win, and your books are enjoyed by so many.

    This post is most definitely printer-offer to review and review.

    (GREAT on the cover reveals too! Woot!)

    Nope. Haven't deconstructed. This sort of feels like those Martha Stewart calendars, those zillion things that would be too cool to do but there isn't a snowball's chance in AZ of it happening. Not any time soon anyway!

    I need chocolate. Perhaps some of these cupcakes left over from company this evening will do. There are not only chocolate but vanilla, with sprinkles. Plenty to share for any night crew stopping by. Dive in!

  8. I dream of cupcakes.

    Are you comparing me to Martha Stewart???? I'm not sure if I should be insulted or honored.

  9. How do you know all this stuff Tina?
    You're like the Einstein of Scribes.
    The Leonardo of Letters
    The Beethoven of Books.
    The Newton of Novels

    I am dead serious. This is crazy genius on a savant level and I am humbled.
    I'd write more but my lap is hot from my laptop.

  10. Well, unlike you and Ruthy, fiction is work for me. Non-fiction comes much easier. Who knew.


    I digress. So, because it is hard for me, I have to find ways to make it a little easier.

    This is one of those ways.

  11. I'm not a writer. This sounds like an exercise we had to carry out in English glass at school.

  12. Hi Tina! Thank you for this wonderful and informative post. It is definitely one I will print out and keep. The links, well they are definitely a bonus and I will be visiting them more this weekend when I have more time.

    Tina, when you deconstruct a book, do you just do the first three chapters or the entire book?

    I love your new cover art for your re-releases. Absolutely beautiful!

    Have a blessed day everyone and Happy Birthday Seekerville!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  13. Wow! This blew my mind, Tina. I'm printing this post and will deconstruct after more coffee. Great stuff here! Thank you!

  14. Exactly, Mary Preston.

    It's back to basics.


  15. Cindy, deconstruct whatever you need to deconstruct to fill in your knowledge gap.

    The first three are the most important.

    If you're having issues with the black moment, you can skip to that. If you are having issues with endings..yada yada.

  16. Thanks, Jill.

    Funny thing is you will find yourself deconstructing everything you read once you start.

    The hazards of being a writer.

  17. Hi Tina,

    This is definitely a keeper post!!! Thanks so much for sharing, and congratulations on your new LI and the three books coming out in November. That's next week. Whoohoo!

    Thanks again for sharing your process.

    Have a great day!

  18. This is GREAT, Tina! I did the very same thing before I wrote a manuscript for Love Inspired. Read a bunch and dissected the ones page by page that engaged me. Everything from how long scenes & chapters were to where the plot & character turning points fell. And it paid off--my first book written targeting LI sold!

  19. Wow, Tina! That is truly dedication to craft! What a fascinating and helpful post for those of us interested in delving deeper!! While I have read a ton of different authors and books in all kinds of genres, I've never make the effort to look so carefully at their structure or elements! Thanks for the guidance :). Best wishes for your continued success!!

  20. Tina- You know I know nothing of writing or deconstructing, but I keep thinking if I read a few thousand books I may pick something up through osmosis, lol!

    I just have to say your new indie covers are terrific! You did well choosing an expert, she sure came through for you big time!

    If a mere reader can sneak in and count as a commenter, please throw my name in the deconstructed cupcake box, I want your new book!

  21. Wow. Awesome post. I'll have to read it several times to get everything out of it. There is so much here. Thank you so much for putting this together! It makes sense now seeing it. Would love to win your new book, Tina! One of your comments said, "Funny thing is you will find yourself deconstructing everything once you start." So true! One thing I catch myself saying a lot is: "A lack of conversation does not a conflict make." Thanks for the great tips, Tina!

  22. Wow. Wow. Wow. TINA! I bookmarked this page because it's so jam-packed with amazing information, I'm going to need to go back to it a few times to absorb it all!

    I haven't deconstructed with highlighters but I have read countless books over the past several years and in the last 6 months began taking mental notes. Once I started writing, it changed how I read. That's good and bad as all writers know. Honestly, if I hadn't read so voraciously, I don't think I would have been able to write my first book or outline my second.

    Thank you for such an in-depth article! And those new covers are SO pretty!!

  23. Good Morning, Tina!

    Really great information here. I don't have time AM to follow you links...darned day job!...but I'll be back later to peruse.

  24. Thank you, Tina!! This is truly amazing. I've never officially deconstructed before but I have read and reread books that I couldn't put down, just to see how they did it. I'm a panster and an intuitive writer - learned both terms here at Seekerville :-) - so lessons like this are often over my head/out of my comfort zone. But I realize I might never write truly meaningful fiction if I don't step out of that zone more often. I've got the highlighters, I've got the coffee, all I need now is a book to sacrifice for the greater good. Thanks again!!

  25. Forgot to say how much I love those covers - truly awesome!! I can see why the lady is booked up!

  26. Tina, thank you so much for this detailed post. Deconstructing is something I've been aiming at for a while, but honestly didn't even know where to start. Not to mention I too am still cringing at the thought of actually marking up a book like that, LOL. I have analyzed a couple of books, but not in so much detail.
    This is very helpful, and I will be doing many deconstructions in future.

  27. Hi Tina, You knocked the column out of the park. Smile. When I first started writing I heard an author speak on this subject. She said a book is a skeleton and the pages flesh it out. She said study it. Use a color marker for each important character and highlight their dialogue. Break the book into quarters and see where the plot points are, etc. Your blog today, takes it much deeper and now after a few years of writing it makes a lot more sense to me. I'd vote this one of the best blogs in October, if we were voting. Thanks for the in depth information. It will help me in my novel immensely. Most importantly, thanks for all you do for Seekerville. Three cheers for Tina!!

  28. Hi Tina, this is fabulous. I have never heard of deconstructing a novel, much less done it, but I am going to try it. Fortunately, I don't write in same genre as you (I usually stick to historical), because I could never deconstruct one of your books. I would be so engrossed in the reading of the story I would forget all about deconstructing. I am so looking forward to Rocky Mountain Cowboy. December seems a long way off (unless the perspective is thinking about how close it's getting to Christmas). Thanks again Tina. This is a valuable lesson and a keeper for sure.

  29. Happy Ninth Birthday to Seekerville on this 27th day of October. I'm bringing apple crumble muffins to the table today and chocolate caramel coffee and some orange spice tea for our tea drinkers.

  30. TINA -- forgot to mention I love your novella covers! Makes me want to read them AGAIN! :)

  31. Oh, I CANNOT WAIT to try this.
    This is amazing.
    It's a college course in a blog. I should get a Pell grant and pay you.
    Please enter me in the drawing.

  32. OH, my goodness, Tina! You really knocked it out of the park with this post! So much meat here!I never really thought about deconstructing novels as you do, though I study and re-study favorite stories and authors and take pages of notes. And, too...I've sometimes scratched my head over blockbuster hits like one of the examples you mentioned. (*ahem*) Though I've not read FSOG, I can only deduce it must be the subject matter (dare I say "story"?), but I suspect, too, there are some seasons where topics just resonate more than others for whatever reason. In other words, I think timing is crucial, and yet--I don't feel we should pander to market trends because, as you know, trends come and go. (Vampires, anyone? ;) Though, I have to say--the music from THAT movie is quite beautiful.)

    I do have to say that the Harlequin editors seem very approachable and always so helpful. I often see tips and helps on social media and I'm impressed by the insight they give. Great stories, gorgeous covers!

    Your upcoming novella covers are beautiful BTW! We already know you're a wonderful writer--obviously, you're fast, too!

    Tina, THANK YOU so much for the tremendous effort you put into this post. I can only imagine how long it took. Going to have to print this out!

    Thanks for inspiring me this morning! *limbers fingers* :-)

  33. wow. You're a genius. I need to deconstruct your books. Trying to speak softly...but wow. I'm teaching a beginners track at the Montrose (PA) Writers Conference next July and want to use a lot of handouts. Can I get permission from you and Seekerville to use this post? Please?
    And please throw my name in the cupcake box. I need to deconstruct your latest release.

    Oh...and I LOVE your covers.

  34. See, Glynna. I am validated. It worked for both of us!!!

  35. Thanks, Fedora. Actually, I feared this post might be a huge spoiler for readers.

  36. Tracey, there is NOTHING MERE about you. You are in!

  37. Sally Shupe!!

    I must share once again that I have your quote on the wall over my desk.

    (God's too. God and Sally).

    "Where there is no vision, the people perish." Proverbs 29:18
    Do you have a vision? Work out a plan to make that come to pass. Remember, God is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than we could ask or imagine.

  38. For those of you squeamish at the sight of pen and marker touching books. Use the stickies and write on them.

  39. Thank you Tina :)

    May God bless you and all of Seekerville!

  40. Thank you, Josee.

    And thanks for the note on my re-releases. New covers make them special.

  41. Thank you, Rose. Have fun at the day job!

  42. "all I need now is a book to sacrifice for the greater good."

    This sounds like an episode of Startrek!

    Thanks on the covers.

  43. THIS IS EXCELLENT, TINA! Oops, sorry I shouted, but I'm so excited about deconstructing. I will devour this post...and do it! *whispering* thank you......

  44. AMBER!!!! Good to see you in Seekerville!

  45. I have not deconstructed a romance yet. I have printed off the post so when it is time I will know what to do. At the moment I am trying to get things done so I can do Nano. I am prepping my book. It's a story I have wanted to tell for years.

    I hope you are doing well. I am excited about the re relaease of your books from your collections. I will look for then and leave a review on the ones I have read. I loved the Seeker collections and I am still reading some of them.

    Mr. Vertigo decided to stop in for another visit today. I hope he doesn't overstay his welcome this time. I have much I want to accomplish today but perhaps he knows I need the extra rest. The Lord is so good.

  46. So let's talk about themes in some of our favorite Seeker books. My take on these authors.

    Mary Connealy themes often are about husbands and wives and children and that complex relationship.

    Ruth Logan Herne often writes thematic novels about protagonists who are on their face in the dirt after a hardship or often being wronged, and champions them to a HEA with lots of angst.

    Julie Lessman ...easiest one..she writes parallels of the passion in relationships and the passion in our relationship to Christ.

    Would you agree? Your thoughts?

  47. Wow, interesting stuff here, Tina! I've tried the colored-highlighter thing before in analyzing a novel from a line I wanted to write for. It's very . . . enlightening! ;)

    And I do think it's true that writers tend toward the same theme(s) in all their stories. I don't think we can help it. Mine always seem to boil down to forgiveness and family reconciliation in some form.

  48. Hi Tina
    This is a most wonderful post. Must bookmark this for deconstruction purposes. There are a few LIS books I want to deconstruct - probably with stickies, but who knows?
    I love your novella covers and will have to tell Rogenna this. Of course, her being fully booked might give her a clue about how wonderful her covers are. Yay for graphic designers/artists!!!
    I covet any Seeker book I can get, so name in the draw please. I especially love your books because they are mostly based in Colorado (home sweet home) or mountain type places. Well, that and the crazy family dynamic of Italian heritage. The food, to nosy mamas, the food...

  49. Laura, I am a panster for the most part. A pantser who struggles to plot, but this is probably the best way (along with Hauge) for me to tiptoe into plotting.

    I am intuitive yet very much literal in my thinking. How is that possible. It's like fairy dust sprinkled on the science guy.

  50. Jackie! I know November is next week and we have a synopsis to write, ma'am!!!


    Those are re-releases, remember.

  51. SUSAN B!!! Thanks for the kind words!! Give it a try sometime. Deconstruction can be good for your mental health.

  52. Jill, I missed you in my pre coffee blurrrrrr!! Now have one cup under my belt. Thanks for being so faithful to drop by before work daily. And with your schedule I know that is no easy feat. Hope this was helpful.

  53. The title of this post gave me a flashback to grad school and having to write papers analyzing the post-modern marxist semiotic deconstruction of post-colonial feminist poetry. (shudders)
    Then I read the post itself and felt much better :)
    I hate marking up books, it feels disrespectful, but it really does help. I've done this for different books to study how different authors handle GMC.
    Joanna Bourne wrote a blog post on how she deconstructed books:

    P.S. I'd compare you to Mary Stewart, not than Martha ;)

  54. My take on Mary: all about the family and the legacy they build
    My take on Ruthy: all about redemption after hitting rock bottom or a proverbial life wall moment
    My take on Julie: its all about Passion and the purity in that passion that carries over from God to relationships (in other words... what you said)

    I need to refresh my memory on my Seeker books. I'm slow on the brain today because I stayed up til wee hours of the morning finishing a Ruthy novella. Could. Not. Release. The. Book. Until. The End.

    Bleary eyed and brain fried at work. *sigh* But oh, so worth it!

  55. Wow, Tina. This is great. As a new writer, I know structure is an area I need to invest time learning and experimenting with. It can be overwhelming at times. So much to learn in this one blog. Thank you for sharing.


  56. TINA, your post is a workshop on the page, just packed full of valuable information and insight. Before I sold, I tried to deconstruct one of LaVyrle Spencer's books to see how she wrote emotion, conflict and attraction. I used colored markers. Wrote on the page. But I didn't delve as deeply as you suggest, probably because I didn't understand totally grasp story arc, turning points, themes. It would be fun to deconstruct a novel now that I'm a bit more savvy. I'd look at the Black Moment/Crisis/Climax section of the book.

    Love your new covers! Go you!!


  57. TINA, I am in AWE of your AWESOMENESS! As a reader, I appreciate those who are dedicated to their writing craft.

    Please enter me in the drawing.

    Have a wonderful day!

  58. Cindy R!!!! How's the writing going. You and all my close to publication friends are on my prayer hit list.

    December is a mere four and a half weeks away.

  59. On the floor laughing, Kathy Bailey. Pell Grants. I remember them.

    Too bad teachers make pennies huh? Just like writers. LOL.

  60. Great stuff, Tina! I've never deconstructed a book quite this thoroughly. I've used colored highlighters and sticky notes, though. But I love all your suggestions!

    Love those novella covers as well! Congrats on the upcoming novella releases!

  61. Cynthia Herron!!

    The Best Seller Code. The preview comments are actually from Amazon.

    It's a totally fascinating book, if you read non fic and like to analyze stuff. I do. Well not as much as Pam Hillman, but I am a respectable geek in many ways.

    Thanks for all the nice comments. I fear I will be trapped in my office all day as my head swells.

  62. Barbara Scott,

    We must chat about this talk you are doing. I'll email you when my dust settles. Preparing to teach a class on Saturday and then will email you.

    Cupcake box. Does that mean the cupcakes are gone?

    We need more.

    Specifically, chocolate with vanilla frosting drizzled with caramel and sprinkled with sea salt.

  63. Wow, I had no clue there could be that much info or work going into scenes! That is why I will leave the writing to all you authors and just be a faithful reader. ;)

  64. Great post, Tina. So which book was "The One"? Bet you're going to hold us in suspense. :)

    Early in my unpubbed days, I deconstructed a HQ Intrigue by Donna Ball. Can't remember the name of the story, but I marked the pages and read the story three times. Yes, I learned a lot through the deconstruction process!!!

  65. Okay... not fair. It's lunch time and Tina has mentioned a cupcake that sounds way too delicious to only be virtual :( Now I will be wanting one "for the reals" as the Gupster would say.

  66. I need to go and clarify that blurb. I didn't write it. The authors of the book did. I am only halfway through the book, so I don't know what THE ONE is.

  67. Edwina, thank you. Hope you find it helpful. How's the writing going. When does your book release?

  68. Sherida! Thank you, let me know how the deconstructing goes.

    Oh, and you guys can buy a used book to deconstruct. Less painful, maybe???

  69. See, Myra, cheaper than therapy. Deconstruct your own books.

    I tell you, it works.

  70. Oh goodness. There's just so much good information in this article. Pinned to Pinterest so I can read again under "Great Articles on Writing."
    When I first started writing, I wrote all over one of the Karen Kingsbury Redemption Series paperbacks. I didn't really know what I was doing, but it was a tiny semblance of what you're talking about. I underlined movement tags and emotions and hooks. I also read A Novel Idea: Best Advice on Writing Inspirational Fiction when I started writing.

    Thanks for the great article, Tina!

  71. "for graphic designers/artists!!!"

    Oh, I so agree DebH. You guys are geniuses.

    Thanks for the kind words. You are in the draw.

  72. Great post, Tina. I deconstructed a romance novel soon after I started writing. My highlighters really got a workout, and I learned a great deal about story structure.

  73. TINA! This helps me so much with romantic arc and scene structure. You're fantastic! Sending you virtual high fives.

    Really enjoying THE RANCHER'S REUNION. I want to hug Annie.

  74. Evelyn Hill, your comment cracked me up.

    So glad I am not giving you the heedie jeebies.

    Thanks so much for that article!!!

  75. Laura C from my self-editing class. Good to see you in the halls of Seekerville.

    Writing is overwhelming every day. Just write. Let that be your joy, and save the hard work for editing.

    :) Good for you for moving forward and learning!!

  76. Tina, I'm with your. Fiction is hard for me, too. Thus, I use all the tools too. :)

  77. Not to say it isn't hard work for all writers! Just that I think story comes easier to some than others. Some people receive/get stories fully formed. Others struggle through to put the story together. I've had it both ways, but more often I have no clue.

  78. Whoa, Tina, that's some deep writer stuff there... no wonder your head hurts! I'm glad you bought two copies but I still don't think I could make myself mar the pages of a book. I'll look the other way for you writers to do what you need to do though!
    Pretty covers on your novellas!!!

  79. Thanks, Janet.

    You're right, as we grow as writers, the onion peeling process changes and we look at things differently. This is why I re-read some craft books yearly.

    I remember first picking up Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain and wanting to cry because I could not understand it at all. Each year I learn a little more.

  80. Wilani, go you and NANO!!! So proud of you and how hard you work.

    And praying for you to feel better.

  81. This is excellent information. Your examples are wonderful. Thank you for selflessly sharing so much with your audience.

  82. Tracey, I think we do pick it up by osmosis! I truly think that's what got me started writing--trying to emulate what I'd read.

  83. TINA said: "It's a totally fascinating book, if you read non fic and like to analyze stuff."

    This stuff actually kind of makes my eyes glaze over. I think I may have to let you continue giving me the Cliff Notes version from your vast store of analyses!

  84. Susan P, thanks for dropping by. Your name is in the cupcake box.

    (I like saying that. Cupcake box. Cupcake box.)

  85. Josee, I agree about reading being a huge help!

  86. Tina, I can always count on coming away from your posts with a boatload of mind-bending information. Thank you so much for sharing all of this! I'm going to have to print this post out and use it to deconstruct novels. I've only really done this with one book. I need to do it some more. And your post shows me how.

    One thing I also look for when I deconstruct is the spiritual thread. This is something I have a hard time weaving into my stories in an organic manner, so I like to see how others do this.

    One theme that I've seen in a number of books lately, and that I enjoy reading is second chance at love stories. :)

    Loved this post!!!

  87. I'm smiling at how some can't bear the thought of marking up pages. :) I still fear y'all running me out of town for dog-earing my pages. :)

  88. Janet Ferguson! I was on the RT Bookreviews page yesterday and saw that Leaving Oxford was a 4 1/2 Star TOP PICK!!! WOOT! Congratulations.

    And thank you for the craft book tip. (A Novel Idea: Best Advice on Writing Inspirational Fiction)

  89. Keli,

    Another Deconstructor!!

    Deconstructors Unite. We can toast with highlighters.

  90. Speaking of our own personal themes (and therapy as we write LOL)... I found I tend to write stories of people being loved for who they are (finding that they're worthy of love), and also stories of opposites attracting.

  91. We're also both HUGE internal editor writers, Missy.

    That's the beauty of writing something on the side that know one knows about. You can write without self-censure. I have a few of those under construction.

  92. And there you go, Missy.

    Go ahead and lay down on the chaise and let's talk about your issues. lololol

  93. Jessica Baughman!!! Hugs to you. Thanks for the kind words. LOVE YOUR PROFILE PICTURE.

    Gosh, you're coming out of the lurker cave often these days. So excited to see your bravery!

    (Jessica is another of the sponge writers. The crew of Villagers that work so hard on their craft and soak it all up. I know I will be holding books by these sponge writers in my hand very soon. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!!)

  94. Thank you for the congrats! I was a little giddy about the RT rating! You and Seekerville have improved my writing soooo much! I still have the critique I won from you way back, LOL. I needed so much help, ha! Thank you!!

  95. Thanks, Beth Erin.

    Last night I just stared at those covers for about an hour. No lie. A sappy smile on my face. I love them. I called up the cover artist to ask if she had read my books or what? She nailed the H/H. She hadn't, simply used my information in the form she provides.

    Well, I was totally shocked and thrilled.

  96. Tina, you always amaze me. You are so talented and knowledgeable. Thanks for the great info. Where were you when I was starting out? LOL

    A cupcake box? Oh my. The names might get eaten. LOL

  97. hehehehe

    Myra, it's okay.

    I couldn't figure out Scrivener. So we are even.

    We are all geniuses, in different areas.

  98. Thanks, Renee McBride.

    No use reinventing the wheel, right?

    And Sandra Leesmith..on the same note. If I had learned this ten years before I sold it might not have taken me so long to sell. SIGH!!!

  99. Jeanne,

    I have to tell you that the faith element is really a stylistic (and very personal) thing, so keep that in mind when you deconstruct and go with what feels natural to you after you analyze how others do this.

    Write what works for you and your readers will sense that you and your characters are genuine.

    I could never pull off the deeper faith thread that Julie Lessman or Ruth Logan Herne write because that is not comfortable for me. And it would show as being disingenuous

  100. This is great! I've always been a bit intimidated by the idea of deconstructing a novel. I mean, novels are LONG and I just had no idea where to start! But you make it less daunting. I think I'll pick up a few and get started. Besides, I'm up for ANY excuse to buy school supplies--you had me at "highlighter" and "notepad."

    And I had never considered whether I have pet themes I keep returning to, but as I thought through my recent stories I realized one theme that runs through a lot of them... and I was kind of surprised by it. Betrayal and reconciliation.

    Hmmm... maybe I do need to see a therapist. I'll bring a few of my stories with me. LOL

  101. LOL, Megan Brummer.

    I am so with you on the notepads and highlighters. I keep my highlighters in a couple (okay like six) empty Talenti Gelato jars. Sea Salt Caramel. It wasn't easy emptying those containers for the storage. But I am really dedicated to my craft.

    So I forced myself to eat them. (Slowly)

  102. Someone's got to do it, but we all appreciate your suffering for your art ;)


  103. RIGHT????? hehehehe

    I'm open to other flavor recommendations.

  104. MISSY, I am appalled that you fold down the corners of pages--if that's what you meant by dog-earing pages--when you probably have hundreds of bookmarks in your house. I will use a Kleenex--clean of course :-)--or any scrap of paper before I'll fold down a page.

    My main themes are forgiveness and new beginnings. Bottom line: love of God and each other conquers all.


  105. Just saw your BookEnds post, Tina!! A four-book deal. :) Can it get any better than that? Congratulations!!

  106. I Love, Love, Love this post!! I have deconstructed a couple of novels. Not to the same degree as you, but I have highlighted pov (pink and blue), romance arc (green), faith arc (yellow), and suspense arc (orange). It was painful to mark in the first book, but as the R&Rs came in on my own story. It got easier. LOL. I figured sacrificing a few well written books to contribute to my education as a writer was a small price to pay.

  107. Janet, you passed Psych 101.Congratulations.

  108. Refuse to believe, dear writers, that we need therapy. Even our characters don't need time on the couch thanks to the trouble we give them that forces them to change and be happy in the end.


  109. Thank you, Barbara.

    I'm totally thrilled.

  110. Rhonda, we sacrifice them for the sake of our future. POSTERITY DEPENDS ON US!!!

  111. Janet Ferguson, congrats!! I hadn't seen that RT review yet. Thanks, Tina, for sharing that. There are also a bunch of great reviews on Amazon!

  112. I didn't add, but I meant to. Jim Rubart taught a class at ACFW a couple years ago, and he talked about something you mentioned, Tina. Most people write out of the themes of their own lives. I have looked at my stories, and all of them revolve around the theme of identity--who defines us, who we really are, and the like. :)

  113. Janet Dean, you're right! I have bookmarks all over the place. But if I don't have one handy, I'll fold down a corner!

  114. Oh, Janet, you sweet thing.

    Writers are the most neurotic of the creative artsy types.

    Show me a writer and I'll show you a person who is convinced someone will find out they are a fraud and will reveal that they really cannot write. Paranoia thy name is writer.

    Thank goodness I am a believer or I would be in sad shape.

  115. Exactly, Jeanne.

    Each new book we start with a blank chalk board and try to rewrite the story of our life.

  116. "Show me a writer and I'll show you a person who is convinced someone will find out they are a fraud and will reveal that they really cannot write. Paranoia thy name is writer."

    This is so true!

  117. TINA, thanks for your endorsement.

    I took another look at your covers. They're sophisticated and beautiful. Love the neutral tones and that touch of yellow/gold that connects them.


  118. LAURA, hmm. Forget what I said about therapy. You nailed me with this quote. Still I think many writers feel like this. So maybe it's normal in a shaky, weird way.


  119. I've always wanted to do something like glad I don't have to now! This is an awesome post! Pinning and printing for future ref.

  120. I've tried deconstructing when I didn't really know what it was. I especially liked noting ppaces that made me feel emotion.

  121. Hi Tina,
    This is not a skim-worthy post! It's going to required more than one serious read (and a save in my special Seekerville file). You always give us so much valuable information. Thank you.

  122. Janet! You are too cute. Laura was quoting me.

  123. THANK YOU, JENNY. I see several of you mention pinning articles to Pinterest to save. Interesting methodology. I should do this. Silly me. I bookmark them. Hmmm. Thanks for the idea. I learn so much in Seekerville.

  124. Yes, Christina.

    And suspense and thrillers...HOW DID THEY DO THAT??????

  125. Thank you, Barbara Fox.

    I am honored at your kind words.


  126. You know, Barb, it has occurred to me just now that you and I should barter. I bug you for horse information and you can send me stuff to critique.

    Or I can send you money. However I have no money. Chocolate I could do.

    We should chat.

  127. Tina, This is AH-MAZE-ING. Can you hear my printer spitting out the pages as I type? Giggle. Thank you, thank you! I have been searching for the Romantic Suspense Rules of Life and find many blog posts but no die hard / fast rules outside of LIS.

    UGH! I shall begin dissecting books immediately!!!

    LAURA SAID: "Show me a writer and I'll show you a person who is convinced someone will find out they are a fraud and will reveal that they really cannot write. Paranoia thy name is writer."

    LOVE this quote! I may need to print it also!

  128. woops, sorry Tina, I guess you said it first :) A fabulous quote nonethless

  129. Hey Missy, yes, osmosis, my only hope!

    Congratulations TINA, on the book deal, the publisher made a smart move giving you that 4 book deal!

    Btw Tina, instead of where's Waldo, where oh where are Abbi and Sam? Inquiring minds want to know! Are they moving to Timber?


  130. I have a plan for Abi and Sam. Trust me. Details coming soon.

  131. Aww, Tina. Thank you! I love that quote too.

  132. I trust you, I trust you! I was thinking about these two characters the other day, I know, I know, I'm soooo nosy! haha

  133. Jack Reacher writes romantic suspense? I didn't see any romance in the movie, only suspense, and terror, and fear, my fear. Maybe I should check out a book instead of just the movie?

  134. No. LOL, he doesn't write RS. The rules are the same without the romance. LOLOLOL.

    Hey, Tracey I am gearing up to deconstruct The Usual Suspects on DVD. Seen that one yet??

  135. Whew, I'm still in the recovery room, but for you I'll try and be brave and venture out.

  136. I'm kidding. You should probably go with Now You Me. A suspenseful but tame movie.

  137. Caryl, I am in awe of your reader awesomeness.

    You are in the cupcake box. Well, your name. No you.

  138. Oh My! Lots of good advice but also lots of work! Writing is not for sissies 😀

  139. TINA, now I know I need therapy. LOL Evidently JOSEE does, too, as she also thought the quote came from Laura.

    I brought Chocolate cream pie with whipped cream. I know that's not exactly birthday fare but it's comfort food for me.


  140. Hi Tina:

    This may be the best Seekerville post ever! Love the links. BTW, the link to "The Next Best Thing" analysis is not just a page where you can buy the DVD, it actually provides a free hour and a half audio on the topic. Be sure to look and listen!

    Also, about deconstructing: in philosophy we call this process a 'philosophical analysis' which also includes an analysis of those elements which make the topic existentially possible. For example: the necessary and sufficient conditions for there even being a romance genre. I think this is as deep as one can get. :) Indeed, a philosophical analysis of a concept, is one of the most useful tools in philosophy.

    In addition, along these lines, Lee Child has written that he learned to write fiction by reading every single John D. MacDonald novel over and over again. He did this instead of reading craft book. Important here, I believe, is that Child thought MacDonald was the best.

    I would strongly suggest deconstructing authors who you consider the best and the most successful. As Tony Robbins would advise in NLP, model from the best to quickly advance your skill levels.

    Question: Kindle says "Rocky Mountain Cowboy" will be delivered on 1 January 2017. Is there a way to get it sooner? I gobble up your books but then I have to wait 'forever' for the next one. You're a lot like Tony Hillerman in that respect! : ))


  141. You're the best Tina! I'm now reading the Five Things I Learned about Writing from Jack Reacher :)

  142. Vince, I am honored. I used to read MacDonald. Must do that again. Thank you.

    And you are very kind.

    That's it for Kindle. It's actually a January release but it comes out in print December 20th.


  143. Sharee! Welcome down the rabbit hole with me. I like company. We can have tea with the Mad Hatter.

  144. Janet. You brought pie. All is forgiven.

    Pass the pie.

  145. Amazing blog, Tina! You said it all in a nutshell. I've never deconstructed a book but I can see how useful that would be.

  146. Yeah Tina! I love the Rabbit Hole. Just for clarification, is it Disney Mad Hatter or Once Upon a Time? (I totally prefer the Once Upon a Time version, just for the record) :)

  147. I'll be taking advantage of all this info. :)

  148. Oh, I don't watch Once Upon a Time. Let me investigate and get back to you, but in honesty I had Johnny Depp on my brain.

  149. Aw, thanks, Cara.

    Do you know that I just looked up the definition of aw and awe.

    I having been spelling it wrong for a loooong time.

    See. Again, I learn something new in Seekerville.

  150. Hey, Megan.

    Girl on the edge....on publication.

    In the Army we called people like you short timers.

    You are so short you can sit on a dime and swing your legs. <-Army lingo.

    You should be off Unpublished Island any day.

    Okay, just remember who knew you BEFORE! and make sure you clean your hut before you go.

  151. Wow, Tina, this is a workshop in a blog for sure. I have only a few minutes to look today but definitely going to book mark and look in more depth later. I deconstruct short stories all the time to help with my writing and I have done it with novels. This will be helpful.

    Please enter me in the drawing. I would love to win those Christmas books.


  152. You are entered, Sandy. Good for you for being ahead of the curve.

  153. Thank you, Missy! Nice reviews were very exciting, too :)

  154. You guys really think I'm all about family and complex relationships?


  155. I will say that two things that always touch ME when I'm writing.
    I can't stand to kill off good people. (ask Ruthy about THAT!!!)
    And I love keeping family together.
    I still feel bad that I sent Kylie off to the east coast with her husband Aaron while Bailey stayed in the west and Shannon went with her husband to the mountains.
    Those were their stories and that was a reality of life back then, but I HATED IT!!
    And fyi, in the sequel written only in my head, Kylie and Aaron move BACK west after Kylie realizes her dreams of comfort and tea parties and a genteel life are really shallow and her love for her husband and her sisters and her wish to be with those she loves.

  156. I'm having heart palpitations over the pictures. My librarian sensibilities are all aflutter over all those marks on the pages. It might take me awhile to get over the shock before I can digest all the excellent points in your post. Exhaling on a shuddering sigh. :-)

    But seriously -- I have this reader sensibility that clashes with the writer and when I read I just want to live in the story. I don't want to analyze it or critique it. I just what it to be. Reading is pure escape for me -- especially these days. Lifts my spirits, distracts me. Just gets me through a lot of tough times. I honestly don't think I could cope without my story friends. So I just want to honour them by being the best bookish friend I can be. :-) Yes, I'm a little loopy. I do feel that I soak up a lot of good stuff from reading so much though.

    Okay -- second thought -- I'm not as attached to my movies so I bet I could pick one that really captivates me and deconstruct it. Might just try that with a murder mystery.

  157. Look away, Kav. Look away.

    I should have put a graphic pictures warning on this post.

    I am so sorry.

  158. Um, I could be wrong, but I think you just answered your own question, Mary Connealy. Therefore I will conclude that you were being rhetorical.

  159. I was so dizzy reading your post last night TINA, that I had to go lay down and read a book (without deconstructing it)! I had no idea what to say really so I came back to read the comments. I can see the value of deconstructing a novel to find out how to improve your craft or to find out what theme you usually write.

    Talking about themes you asked "any themes you've discovered in books as a reader?" I hope I'm answering the question correctly, but one of the themes I've noticed in recent books are reunion stories full of past hurts & misunderstandings that the hero/heroine must work through in order to move on in life (and love eventually). Also, hero and/or heroine dealing with PTSD due to overseas missions during their time in the military that has derailed their life. Again, they must work through this to be able to move ahead in their life. My favorite part of those? How the author portrays their reliance on God to help them through the difficulty. And also how the hero/heroine help each other....such as the heroine has been through something similar in her life, and is able to reach down to the heart of what the hero is going through and breaks the barriers keeping him back (or vise versa). Like God brought them together perfectly :-) I LOVE that!

    And I too, cringe at the markings on those books but I also realize two things like what you said: the author made two sales and you sacrifice (a book) for the greater good (or something like that). And posting a graphic picture that's funny!!!

  160. Wow, I never gave much thought to deconstructing my novels. My mother ingrained in me to love and respect books so much that the very thought of drawing in my books with a marker makes me shudder. However, this is an idea I will have to give a try sometime (not on my mom's books though- she would flay me alive!)

    Congratulations on your new releases! Please enter me into the drawing!

  161. I know this is hard for you readers..and I am actually probably causing you readers PTSD.

    So sorry.

  162. Deconstruction sounds like a valuable exercise for writers! I wonder how long it takes to do one book? I love themes in the books I read where the characters change over time- increasing in confidence or self-worth, realizing their own strength especially. I appreciate when it's a subtle progression and deconstruction would be a great way to pinpoint how the author is able to do that with showing instead of telling.

    Include me in the giveaway please! Thanks!


  163. Okay, great Heidi. I have only permanently caused a mental crisis for 10 readers, not 11. You have a toddler so not much can traumatize you.

    I am guessing this is right up there with clowns for the rest of the Seekerville readers.

    Heidi, you are in the giveaway.

  164. This comment has been removed by the author.

  165. LOLOL....mental crisis, that's a funny too Tina!!! Like I said, I realize sacrificing one book is for the greater good like you said. Sometimes we must do what we must do :-)

    And I forgot to ask, please add my name to the pot for your book giveaway chance, thanks so much!

    I still love you Tina even though you deface books...........HAHA! ;-) (((((Hugs)))))

    You know someone other than Mrs. Connealy must give you a hard time!

  166. Writing in books doesn't bother me at all, I guess because I grew up underlining and making notations in my Bible all the time. It's so worth it if there's something special I want to remember. I have dozens of my mom's books that she underlined and made comments in, now that she's gone on ahead to heaven, it's like she's talking directly to me when I find something she wrote down. Just my own sentimental perspective.

    I don't usually write in my fiction, but it wouldn't bother me to if need be, after all they're my books, whoever gets them next can either enjoy what I enjoyed or they can pass them by.

  167. Tina, I've heard the importance of analyzing your own WIP to make sure there is a good balance of emotion, dialogue, introspection, and action, and I know you're right to encourage de-construction of other authors' novels in your genre.

    I know you asked for no hard questions, and I hope this isn't too hard :) Any hints about deconstructing the last three chapters, especially in regards to climax and black moment. Is it the same as the first three chapters?

    What a great post. So much to digest. Fortunately, I just bought a pack of Sharpie highlighters.

  168. It's exactly the same, Tanya. Just go in and identify those structural things you recognize first.

    The only reason the last three chapters is different is because after Chapters 1-3 everything is pretty much stylistic. So every author winds things up differently.

    However, it is a good chance to see how authors handle the black moment and the resolution and in LI Contemporaries an epilogue.

  169. Tracey, I have notes in my Bible my kids would write while sitting in church-notes to me that is. I love looking back and reading those.

  170. Went through my many, many books, and found I have two copies of each of these books. So, I can sacrifice one for the greater good. I am armed with a supply of highlighters and a pen. Here I go! Safe in the Fireman's Arms by Tina Radcliffe, Doctor to the Rescue by Cheryl Wyatt (because the hero's name is Ian Shupe!-yes there is a story behind that lol), and Loving the Lawman by Ruth Logan Herne.

  171. Tina,
    One day, yes, my sails will be out. One day. :) For now, I'm busy swinging. ;)
    But How could I ever forget about you and for the cleaning of my hut, I choose to just go ahead and pay the 'clean out fee'. When my husband and I lived in many on-post base/post housing, we always picked this option prior to Move-out day. Made TDY's and PCS's a tad easier. :)

  172. I've noticed some of these things while I was reading, but I've never actually sat down to purposefully do it. I think I'd have a hard time defacing the book, though...

  173. Way to go Sally. First sale, coming up!!!

  174. Good plan, Megan.

    I left a perfectly good Volkswagon bug in Germany when I left the base. I still miss that baby.

  175. Are you are writer too, Becky Dempsey? If so, and it makes you squeamish, then there are other teaching tools. Cover your eyes.

  176. Wowzer!!! I'll be re-reading this post as well. And buying a book especially to deconstruct. And new highlighters. And tabs. Man, I love books--reading and writing them. And office supplies. I love those too. I'm getting giddy just thinking about it. Shiver!

  177. Susan Hollaway. This week's Woman's World star!! Congratulations.

    Okay, now you know you can't drive GIDDY, right?

  178. Wow, Tina - - you are sooo smart.
    This is a super-helpful post that is staying at the front of my Keeper File. I love how you explained deconstructing a romance novel - - I've analyzed and studied parts of novels I've enjoyed, but never *completely* deconstructed, so THANK YOU for this lesson!
    SO excited about your December release and can't wait to read it!!
    Hugs, Patti Jo :)

  179. The woman who put the Patti Jo in the Patti Jo's Cafe and Bakery. I salute you.

  180. Wow, this looks like such a wonderful way to analyze my work or someone else's, but I'm sorta cringing at marking up books. I know, I know, it's a great technique but I just have this mental block about doing it. I can't even hardly get used to the idea of those Bibles you draw in.

    I know what! I could take screenshots, then mark up those pages. Now that I could do without any qualms.

    PS... Tina, love the new covers for your novellas! :)

  181. I had to read this twice. I once tried deconstructing a book (other than one of my own). It didn't get very far. I wasn't sure what I was doing.

  182. Oh, I just saw Tina's comment about using stickies instead. Okay, THAT I can do! :)

  183. Thanks, Pam. Yes. Stickies work. I use both. I tend to use stickies for stuff that stands out to me.

    But you can use it for all of the deconstructing, just write on the sticky notes. Those little tab ones, like in the picture.

  184. Walt!! Well, it's not a technique that's for everyone. I'll admit that. But it works.

  185. Wow! This is one technical post. Thanks for sharing this TINA! and I love seeing Safe in a Fireman's Arms used as an example!

  186. You didn't get traumatized, Annie? lol

  187. Amazing! Thank you so much for the great ideas. I haven't deconstructed anything since I took apart a violin (so I could fix it). I may have done some literary deconstruction in school, but if so, I've forgotten what it taught me. I'm another who shudders at marking up books, but making notes elsewhere is no trouble. I'm currently working on a revision to submit to my editor (and it has taken months!). Wish I'd known about this earlier! Better late than never, though! :) Happy Birthday to Seekerville!

  188. Read this post early this morning, then spent the day proofing a book for my brother. It's hard to proofread with deconstructing stuck in your head. This is a great post. Printing it out so I'll have it with me as I put it into practice. Thanks, Tina.

  189. OH. MY. GOODNESS, TINA!! This is not just a WORKSHOP-IN-A-BLOG, this is a SEMESTER-IN-A-BLOG, my friend -- WOW!!

    First of all, my humble apologies for arriving so late -- it is now 1:35 AM St. Louis time, and this is the FIRST moment I've had to myself to read your fabulous blog, and you know the reason why! ;)

    Secondly, THANK YOU for the several shout-outs you gave me, you sweet thing -- I'm glad I've left an impression on you. Whether it's good or bad remains to be seen ... ;)

    MY FAVORITE THING YOU SAID ABOUT ME: "Julie Lessman ...easiest one..she writes parallels of the passion in relationships and the passion in our relationship to Christ."

    LOL ... well, I've certainly been called "easy" before ... ;) But, seriously, that has to be one of the nicest, most satisfying descriptions of my writing I have ever gotten -- THANK YOU!!!

    Tina, you said: "Write what works for you and your readers will sense that you and your characters are genuine. I could never pull off the deeper faith thread that Julie Lessman or Ruth Logan Herne write because that is not comfortable for me. And it would show as being disingenuous."

    I can't tell you HOW much your first line above means to me and how very true it is. I have had a number of people -- including my husband -- tell me I need to write secular books with the barest thread of spirituality in them, if any at all, and I do intend to step up to that challenge. But the truth is that it would be a VERY TOUGH challenge for me to do that because I am such a spiritually emotional being, that I'm not sure I can NOT write about God in a deeper context. As a person who wears her heart (and her soul) on her sleeve, I'm not even sure I COULD exclude most spirituality from my books because He IS the reason I write, so I'm not sure how I could take Him out of the literary equation and be true to myself.

    Excellent post, Tina, and I always marvel at the time, research, and wisdom you pour into your posts.

    Hugs and more hugs!

  190. Thanks, Marion Faith!

    Same principle of deconstruction works for both.

  191. Jan, did I tell you this post made my head hurt?

    Writing this was in effect deconstructing the deconstructing. LOL.

  192. Tina, you are a WONDERFUL teacher. This is an amazing post! (You are also amazing in person.)

    I wish you would do this post specific to cozy mysteries.