Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Cate's Favorite Writing Books Series - #1

 Hello my Seekerville friends. Cate back again. These months just fly by, and suddenly it's my turn to post again. Honestly, it feels like just yesterday that I was chatting with you all about your feelings about craft books.

There was a wide range of thought on the value of craft books for a writer. No surprise there. Our thoughts are as varied as our personalities and our writing styles. One refrain that was oft repeated though was people, who like me, use craft books as a jumping off point to take a new skill and then practice it with our own writing.

After that discussion, I decided to devote some time to discussing some individual books that I love. I can share them with you, and you can tell me if they're new to you or if you know them and have thoughts of your own to share.


As I mentioned above (and in the previous post), I tend to use writing/craft books more as a jumpstart than as something to read through all at once. There is however, one notable exception to that pattern.

This is the old faithful one I have. 
I've been through multiple copies.



This is the new version.


Bird by Bird was one of the very first books on writing that I ever bought. It is also the only one that I have read and reread completely. It was really life-changing for me because reading Anne LaMott's witty, somewhat irreverent, brutally honest reflections on the writing life allowed me to acknowledge that I could still be a writer even if I was not always in love with the process. 

Writing is hard work, and Anne LaMott doesn't flinch from that. 

But she also gives you ways to help cope when it all seems overwhelming.

One of the best pieces of advice in the book refers to a story from when Anne and her brother were young. He was totally overwhelmed by a school project on birds. She describes how he was sitting at the table, surrounded by piles of books and paper and pencils. Her father came and sat beside him, put his arm around him and said, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird."

It seems so simple, but for the struggling writer or student, Maybe that struck such a chord because I remembered a similar project when my daughter was in 5th grade. We were up until 5 o'clock in the morning because the project was so massive that it overwhelmed her to the point she had no idea where to even begin.

I have quoted that bird by bird solution to many people over the years. In fact, I just offered it to my daughter the other day when she was again feeling overwhelmed with a big project she has to deal with.


Hand in hand with the 'bird by bird" strategy of writing comes advice to write in "one inch picture frames" - another strategy to help the overwhelmed writer's brain.

Have you ever sat down to write but felt totally overwhelmed by the size of the project? Do you find attempting a full length novel to be daunting? If so, this strategy may help you. To quote Anne Lamott, all you have to do is "write down as much as you can see through a one-inch picture frame."

I remember a tweet from my editor Emily Rodmell that went like this:

"How do you write three books a year?

One book at a time, one chapter at a time, one page at a time, one word at a time."

In the same vein, Anne Lamott quotes E.L. Doctorow. "Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."

This reminds me very much of how writers rave about typing on an AlphaSmart because they could only see a very small rectangle of text. The temptation to fiddle was not as great.



Those two pieces of writing advice are in just one chapter of the book. They're the two that have stuck with me even though it's been decades since I first read the book. There is plenty more to keep you inspired. 

Because I like to share books I love, I'm offering to give away a copy of Bird by Bird to some lucky reader who is interested. Be sure to let me know in the comments if that is you!


So have you read this book (or any of the author's other books)? Share your thoughts on the book, the advice, or anything else you feel like talking about.


Coffee's on. Let's chat!



Free photos thanks to Pixabay


Monday, February 22, 2021

The Beauty of Collaboration

Happy Monday, SeekerVillagers! For those of you in parts of the country where bitter cold was an unexpected and unpleasant guest, I hope things have warmed up, that you have power and water at your house, and that you didn't suffer too much damage. For those of you like me, who live in the frozen tundra of the north, it's nearing the end of February, and spring will come! Who was it who said, "Winter doesn't last forever, no spring misses its turn."? 

Or better yet: 

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, 

cold and heat, summer and winter, 

day and night will never cease.” Genesis 8:22

During the rough weather in the middle of February, you should have read the emails flying back and forth amongst the Seeker-sisters. Reporting in safe, inquiring as to conditions, giving advice, prayers, information. With Seekers scattered from New York to Georgia, Mississippi, Nebraska, Colorado, South Dakota, Texas, Minnesota, DC, Arizona, Indiana...who am I missing? there were lots of varied experiences with the weather. And each SeekerSister was right on the ball with doing what they could via prayer and advice to help.

Which got me to thinking about our writing communities and how we need each other.  We are not alone in our triumphs or troubles when we have a strong writing community of friends. (Wouldn't that make a great tweet?)

I've been noodling this idea of collaboration and community recently. I have taken part in several collaborations throughout my writing career. Sometimes I've collaborated on a writing project, like the Seven Brides for Seven Texans novella collection. Seven authors, writing about one family of seven brothers, the stories all taking place over one calendar year. That was a lot of collaboration! 


Then there is the Seekerville collaboration. As mentioned above, it's more than the blog, it's the community we've created, both with each other and with our faithful readers. (That's YOU, by the way!) Collaborating on the blog means that no one person has to provide the content every day. It means we share responsibilities both on the blog and behind the scenes. We also share ideas, guest posts, and more. We also promote the blog posts on our various platforms. I love that we support and care for each other, that there is always someone available with writing advice, life advice, and the occasional "Pull yourself together and get on with the job" advice that I need. (Looking at you, Ruthy, on that last one!)

There is also the marketing aspect of collaboration with other authors. As you know, authors are called upon more and more to do some of the heavy lifting when it comes to marketing their books. Which can get tough, especially on a budget. But when you collaborate with other authors to promote your work, it suddenly can become much easier. And here's why:

1. Shared cost. Marketing can cost you some dough. Whether it's placing ads, running giveaways, acquiring swag, the costs can add up. However, if you join with other authors who write the same sorts of things you do, you can share costs. I recently collaborated with a group of Christian fiction authors in a Love Through The Ages promotion where the prize was a set of EIGHTEEN books. And there were TWO Winners. My portion of the prize is two copies of one of my books. If I was to run a contest where I had to provide and mail THIRTY-SIX books, that would be cost-prohibitive, but I can provide and mail two books, no problem.




2. Shared work. Not all authors have the same strengths. Some are great at making graphics. (Looking at you, Pam Hillman.) Some are great at coming up with unique marketing ideas. Some are great with spreadsheets. Some are great at putting together ad copy. Some are great at coming up with just the right prize that will have readers eager to jump onboard. There are a lot of details to consider when you want to do a promotion, and no author is an expert in all of them. When you pool your abilities, more aspects can be covered that you might not have thought of on your own, and no one author has to be in charge of everything. You are all links in a chain that stretches farther (further? Farther? Sigh. My constant struggle.) than a single link could on its own.





3. Shared information. Did you know that Mary Connealy is possibly the best in the world at finding useful book swag? Hairbrushes, jar openers, cutting boards, letter openers, chip clips...these are just a FEW of the amazing things she has found for reasonable prices that enable her to promote her books on something that readers will keep and use. She lets us know her sources and we kick around ideas for what would be good to purchase in the future. Some authors are more up to date than I am on where good places to advertise might be. How to promote posts on FB, or buy ad space on amazon or get a post in a magazine publication. We each possess bits of information that can and would be useful to our collaborating authors, and sharing it means more people hear about your work.



4. Shared reach. The number of people in your newsletter list, your FB friends list, your Instagram friends, etc. is known as your "Warm Reach." These are the people to whom you have access, and that you can inform fairly easily about your books. But here's the thing, Winnie Griggs has people in her 'warm reach' that I do not. The same with Mindy Obenhaus, Missy Tippens, Debby Giusti, and Beth Erin. When we collaborate on a promotion, marketing, giveaway, whatever, the information about their books and services reaches people on my list that otherwise wouldn't know about it, and vice versa. I call it 'cross-pollination.' The above Love Through The Ages collaboration resulted in several HUNDRED new email subscribers for me that I would have had no way to reach otherwise, and those new newsletter friends came as a result of the seventeen other authors promoting the giveaway to their 'warm reach.' 



5. Shared fun. Face it, writers like to talk to other writers, and to brainstorm, and to be creative. Twice last year, author friends Julie Klassen and Michelle Griep and I collaborated on a fun promotion called Regency Bingo. We invited folks to choose Regency-themed words from a list, email their chosen words to a third party, and then Julie, Michelle and I filmed ourselves drawing words from the Top Hat of Awesomeness, three words each day until all the words were drawn. The first person to have their chosen words pulled from the hat, emailed the third party with a BINGO, and won a prize. The response to the game has been phenomenal. Everyone has a great time, including us. If you could see us behind the scenes when we're filming...it's a load of fun! We'll do the promotion again, and each time we'll add a new twist to keep it fresh. 





Now, not all collaborations are created equally, and you need to evaluate the ROI. Return on Investment. Some collaborations will cost you very little, but they might bring you a nice return. Ultimately, you're looking for each promotion you do to result in a wider audience for your books. Whether that is through newsletter contacts, social media reach, or even better, new friends, you are hoping for some return on the investment you're making. Some collaborations might cost you a lot in time. You must choose whether you feel the time invested in the collaboration will give you a decent return, or if your time might be better spent another way. 

You'll learn from each collaboration, and you'll teach others, too. And you'll find that working with others toward a similar goal means you will be 'greater than the sum of your parts.' 


Have you collaborated with others to increase the effectiveness of your efforts? Do you feel it was successful? Did you learn a lot?




Best-selling, award-winning author Erica Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. She’s a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota, and she is married to her total opposite and soul mate! When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks. You can connect with her at her website, www.ericavetsch.com where you can read about her books and sign up for her newsletter, and you can find her online at https://www.facebook.com/EricaVetschAuthor/ where she spends way too much time!

 FYI, Book 3 in the Serendipity & Secrets series drops in just about one month! Do you have your copy pre-ordered?


Can Captain Wyvern keep his new marriage of convenience all business--or will it turn into something more?

Captain Charles Wyvern owes a great debt to the man who saved his life--especially since Major Richardson lost his own life in the process. The best way to honor that hero's dying wish is for Wyvern to escort the man’s grieving fiancĂ©e and mother safely to a new cottage home by the sea. But along the way, he learns of another obligation that has fallen on his shoulders: his uncle has died and the captain is now the Earl of Rothwell.

When he and the ladies arrive at his new manor house in Devon, they discover an estate in need of a leader and a gaggle of girls, all wards of the former earl. War the new earl knows; young ladies and properties he does not. Still wishing to provide for the bereaved Lady Sophia Haverly, Charles proposes a marriage of convenience.

Sophie is surprised to find she isn't opposed to the idea. It will help her care for her betrothed's elderly mother, and she's already fallen in love with the wayward girls on the Rothwell estate. This alliance is a chance to repay the captain who has done so much for her care, as well as divert her attention from her grief. When Wyvern returns to his sea commission, she'll stay behind to oversee his property and wards.

It sounds so simple. Until the stalwart captain is arrested on suspicion of smuggling, and Sophie realizes how much he's come to mean to her. Now she'll have to learn to fight, not only for his freedom but also for his love.



Pre-order today at: amazon  or ChristianBook or B&N or ChristosBookCenter (This last one is the local Christian bookstore in my town. If you're wanting to support local, but you don't have a local bookstore, give Erika Kelly a call at Christos. She will lovingly serve and get you just what you need!)


Sunday, February 21, 2021

Sunday Scripture & Prayer Requests

First Sunday in Lent

Christ in the Wilderness, Ivan Kramskoi, 1872,
Tretyakov Gallery, Russia. [PD-US]


The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, 
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested, 
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Mark 1:12-15

The Seekerville bloggers are praying for YOU and for our entire blog community. If you have any special intentions that need additional prayer coverage, leave a request for prayer in the comment section below. 

Please join us in praying for the United States--and the world--during the current rise in Coronavirus cases. Pray for the sick and suffering, for businesses and schools to remain open, for people to be able to work and for our economy to prosper.

We are so grateful for all of you—for your friendship and your support! 

May the Lord bless you and your families and keep you safe.     

Let us know if you've been impacted by the recent storms. We've been praying for all who have been without power and water...and for the entire state of Texas!  Also we've been praying for those blanketed with snow and for the areas devastated by tornadoes. 

Stay safe, dear friends!

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Weekend Edition


  






If you are not familiar with our giveaway rules, take a minute to read them here. It keeps us all happy! All winners should send their name, address, and phone number to claim prizes.  Please send to Seekerville2@gmail.com. If the winner does not contact us within two weeks, another winner may be selected.


Monday: Jan Drexler

Wednesday: Debby Giusti blogged on Ash Wednesday about "Writing & the Lenten Journey!" Thanks, everyone, for stopping by and joining in the discussion.

Friday: Winnie Griggs discussed tips and considerations for adding subplots to your story. The winner of  a copy of one of Winnie's backlist books is Anne Rightler.



Monday:  Erica Vetsch will talk about the beauty of collaborating with others in our marketing endeavors. 

Wednesday:  Cate Nolan will be here talking about one of her favorite writing books - but you'll have to come by on Wednesday to find out what it is and have a chance to win a copy.
  
  
Friday: Pam Hillman







Releases Tuesday!

A BROTHER'S PROMISE

He didn’t realize he wanted a family… Until he suddenly became a single dad. 

After his sister’s death, rancher Mick Ashford’s determined to ensure his orphaned niece, Sadie, feels at home. And accepting guidance from Christa Slocum is his first step. But just as Christa and Sadie begin to settle into Mick’s heart, Sadie’s paternal grandparents sue for custody. Now Mick must fight to keep them together…or risk losing the makeshift family he’s come to love.

Available for preorder HERE!
Read the first chapter here.



HIDDEN AMISH SECRETS
 Her temporary Amish homecoming 
could get her killed. 
Julianne Graber left her Amish life behind after a family tragedy, but now she’s back to sell the family home— and someone’s dead set on getting rid of her. With her neighbor William Lavy by her side, Julianne must uncover dangerous secrets to make sense of the past and present. Can she find justice for her family—and a future with Will—before the killer hits his target?
March 2021
Available for Pre-Order HERE!









8 Ways to Defeat Writer's Block by LA Sartor at Book Brush Blog

6 BookBub Ad Features You May Not Know About by Carlyn Robertson at BookBub Partners

Get Reader Reviews Now to Drive Sales Later by Mike O'Mary at Jane Friedman

Backstory: Dodging the Info Dump by Lori Freeman at Writers In The Storm 

Tips on Brainstorming by Susan May Warren at Learn How To Write A Novel

Why Rescuing Your Protagonist Might be a Terrible Idea by Janice Hardy at Fiction University

Using Instagram Stories to Grow Your Reader Audience by Christina Kaye at Book Brush Blog



Archetypal Character Arcs, Pt 2: The Maiden Arc by KM Weiland at Helping Writers Become Authors

Finally...Don't miss this month's Inside Edition by Tina Radcliffe! Filled with information for writers including Twitter Pitch opportunities, monthly agent spotlights, contest, conference, workshop listings and so much more. Join the newsletter now.




Friday, February 19, 2021

Writing Subplots

.


Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Today I wanted to talk a little bit about subplots.

First, let’s define what a subplot is.

According to the Cambridge dictionary a subplot is “a part of the story of a book or play that develops separately from the main story” Some call it the B Story, the minor story or the secondary story line. But whatever you call them, they are minor story and/or character arcs that support and enhance your main story line by adding texture, context, complexity and richness to it.

 

So why use subplots?

Subplots, when done effectively, add additional depth, texture, richness and dimension to your story. They do this by adding conflict, romance, tragedy, mystery, tension, additional worldbuilding and other elements. In some cases they can add critical information your protagonists in the main story thread may be unaware of.

Some of the ways subplots do this:

  • They add another layer of verisimilitude to your story. After all, people don’t live in a vacuum, they have more than one thing going on in their lives and more than one person/team of people tugging at their attention.  Sub plots can help show that interaction for your protagonists.
  • They help add page count without your story feeling padded or episodic.
  • They can help illustrate or up the stakes.
  • They can improve characterization by allowing the reader to see your protagonist through another set of eyes
  • If you’re writing a series, they can help bring in beloved characters from previous books, or introduce characters that will appear in future books.
  • For mysteries or stories from other genres with a touch of mystery, they can introduce red herrings or obfuscate clues.
  • They can help fine tune the pace of your story, inserting lighter moments into a tense main plot or vice versa, providing your reader with a breather between high octane scenes or add a reminder of the stakes in quieter moments
  • They can serve to temporarily detour, delay or change your protagonists' goals

There are others but we’ll leave it there for now.  By the way, if you can make one subplot perform two or more of these functions it will make your subplot's reason for existence even stronger.

 


Does every story need a subplot?

Of course short stories don’t. As for longer works, while there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to writing, the truth is that even stories that manage to stand alone with one main plotline can benefit from having a subplot or two, for all the reasons listed above.

 

So let’s dig into the various Types of Subplots

  • Romantic Subplots
    If you’re writing a romance, you can add a secondary romance between Secondary characters. This is often seen in Hallmark movies, the heroine’s best friend finds love while the main characters are still dancing around the issue.
    If you’re writing any other genre, adding a love interest for your protagonist as a subplot can add interest and complications to your main plot

  • Mirror Subplots
    These are subplots that are similar to or ‘mirror’ some aspect of the protagonists story arc. This is one way to show the stakes. For instance perhaps you have a protagonist who is standing up to a corrupt land developer as is his neighbor. If his neighbor has his home burned to the ground, that graphically illustrates the kind of stakes the protagonist is facing

  • Contrast Subplots
    The opposite of Mirror Subplots, these show what happens when a secondary character makes different choices than your main character. For instance, your protagonist might have chosen to go into the family business after high school, while his brother chose to head to college across the country. Your subplot could illustrate the consequences, positive and/or negative, of those choices.

  • Complicative Subplots
    Subplots that get in the way of your protagonists achieving their goals are a great way to keep the tension and conflict high and the reader turning the pages.

  • Comedic Subplot
    This is a subplot that is intended to lighten the mood and give the reader a chance to smile or take a breath from whatever is happening in the main storyline. Take care when crafting this type of subplot – the timing, genre and overall tone of the story needs to be carefully considered when deciding if your comedic element is appropriate.

  • Character Revelation
    These subplots reveal additional attributes of your story’s protagonists. They can show
    • Character Flaws
    • Character Strengths
    • Character Backstory

 


How to craft your subplot

The number one thing to remember is that the subplot is just that – subordinate to the main plot. Its sole purpose is to enhance some aspect of the main plot. There should never be any confusion as to which is the main plot and you will want to wrap up all of your subplot threads before the main plot. The only exception to this is the subplot that is going to arc over several books in a series.

Craft your subplot as a mini-story in its own right with an arc of its own – it should have a beginning, middle and end of its own.

Make certain you know how your subplot ties into your  main plot. It can run parallel to it, weave in and out of it or be plopped in in one chunk. Any of these methods can work as long as it does its job of enhancing the main story line.

The timing of introducing and ending your subplots are important to the pacing of your story. You want to maintain the momentum and page turning aspect as much as possible. When the main plot line slows or lags, introducing or returning to a subplot can propel your reader forward.

Make sure you understand the purpose of your subplot. How will it relate to and enhance your main plot. What questions will it raise and/or answer for your protagonists and their goals.

Also make certain the subplot is necessary. Does the function it performs require a subplot or could it b handled more effectively in a different way?

 

As for the mechanics, as I was researching tis topic, I discover that some writers plot (at a high level) the main plot and each subplot separately, treating each subplot as a separate, simpler story. Once that’s done then they take each subplot, break it into scenes and then see where those scenes fit within the main story. I’ve never actually approached plotting this way, but I find the idea intriguing and may just try it next time I begin plotting a story.

 

Final Thoughts

There’s a whole lot more than can be said about subplots but I’ll leave it there.

I’ve heard subplots described as connective tissue for your story and  I like that description. If you look up the medical aspects of connective tissue  you’ll find this: The five major functions of connective tissue include: 

  • binding and supporting other tissue in the body, 
  • protecting, 
  • insulating, 
  • storing reserve fuel, and 
  • transporting substances within the body. 

If you replace the word body with the word story you’ll see that subplots can do all of those things.

So when planning your next story, give some careful consideration to what subplots can do if you deliberately and effectively weave them into the fabric of your story (and yes, I know I missed my metaphors)

 


So let's hear from you. Do you like having subplots in a story?. Can you think of other functions subplots perform or other tips and tricks for crafting them? Do you have a favorite kind of subplot?

Comment to get your name in the hat for your selection of any book in my backlist.


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Writing & the Lenten Journey

By Debby Giusti

Today marks the beginning of Lent, a special time for Christians to draw closer to God. When we deny ourselves through fasting, when we turn our hearts more fully to the Lord through prayer, and when we put the needs of our brothers and sisters before our own wants through almsgiving, we are able to more fully enter into the Paschal Mystery. As many of us can attest, a well-lived Lent leads to a joyous Easter.

Incorporating fasting, prayer and almsgiving into our daily lives unites us more intimately with Christ who spent forty days in the desert to prepare for his public ministry. Giving up a favorite food or beverage is a sacrifice that reminds us of our human nature and the creature comforts that sometimes steer us off track. By denying ourselves, we turn our focus from the earthly realm to the spiritual.

Fasts can take many forms. Some folks fast from a favorite television show, from online games, or even from Facebook, Twitter or other social media. Filling that freed up time with prayer, scripture, or other spiritual readings, helps us deepen our personal relationship with Christ. As we come to know him better, we can love him more.

The church has always talked about a preferential option for the poor that is so clearly defined in the Gospels. Christ reached out to the poor and needy, and we are called to do the same. Giving to charities, stocking food pantries, feeding and clothing the homeless and aiding neighbors in need are some of the many ways we can help the poor and marginalized. Habits we start in Lent often continue as life-long ministries that spread God’s love and allow us be the hands and feet of Christ.

Since this is a Christian blog, I’m sure many of us embrace some type of Lenten practice, so you might be asking, what does this have to do with writing?

Writing takes determination and perseverance. Creating stories is exciting, but the day-to-day battle to get words on the page can be a challenge. If you’re having trouble completing a project, I suggest setting a Lenten goal. Perhaps increase your daily word count and offer that to the Lord. If we believe he has called us to write, then our writing can be offered up as a gift to him.

The COVID outbreak has isolated so many folks, especially the infirmed and the elderly. Think about sending a cheery note to a shut-in or a card of encouragement to a homebound mom who’s struggling to help her children with their virtual learning. Words of comfort mailed to grieving families who, because of the pandemic, weren’t able to be with loved ones when they passed is another way of spreading Christ’s light and can be a meaningful Lenten practice.

Have you heard a little voice encouraging you to write something outside the box? Something different from your usual genre? Could that voice be God prompting you in a new direction? What better time than Lent to offer a new endeavor to the Lord. When we invite him into our world and into our writing, we often find new blessings as we follow his inspiration.

So much has changed over the last year. Early in 2020, we realized a strange and virulent virus was making its way around the world. We hunkered down in our homes, we donned masks, we feared contact with other people and we waited to see how devastating the pandemic would be. We’ve learned a lot in the last twelve months and, thankfully, have a clearer understanding of the pathogenicity of the virus and better protocols for treatment of the sick.

Yet, negative side effects from the pandemic occurred as we sheltered at home and relied on others to make decisions for our wellbeing. Perhaps you’re questioning some of the decisions that have altered our way of life. Are you a parent wondering when your children will go back to school? Are you a small business owner trying to keep your company afloat or a restaurateur who had to shut down because of dining restrictions? Are you seeing those who make the rules break the rules? Does that disparity upset you? If so, are you being called to voice your concerns? The Lord may be asking you to use your writing ability to call out some of the hypocrisy that continues to prevail.

I’m concerned about the attack on our Freedom of Speech. Big Tech has turned into a truth regulator that silences ideas that do not align with what they believe. With a background in clinical science, I try to stay current on the virus, treatment, vaccines and the truth about mask wearing. Too often, voices—even well-established medical professionals—are removed from public forums if their message differs from those tasked to guide our nation. Why are those scientific videos and reports taken offline?

Does anyone remember the McCarthy witch hunt in the 1950s? Have you read George Orwell’s 1984? Remember Big Brother in that story?  As a writer who deals in words, I am concerned by censorship that limits free speech, whether I espouse the ideas removed from the public domain or not. If medical information is censored today, what will be censored tomorrow? Our Freedom of Religion is also under attack. Will those attacks increase in the days ahead, and if so, will Christian fiction be targeted in the future?

This Lent, I’m prayerfully reflecting on ways I can stand up for Freedom of Speech. I’m only one person, but if everyone spoke up when they saw something that was wrong, the world would be a better place.

Is the Lord calling you to write for him this Lent? To write something that will spread his message of love and mercy? Is he asking you to reach out to someone in need or to speak truth to power or to take a stand against some form of evil?

Grab a cup of coffee and let’s discuss Lent and the ways we can serve the Lord during our Lenten journey.

Wishing you a blessed Ash Wednesday!

Debby Giusti

www.DebbyGiusti.com


Hidden Amish Secrets

Her temporary Amish homecoming

could get her killed.

Julianne Graber left her Amish life behind after a family tragedy, but now she’s back to sell the family home— and someone’s dead set on getting rid of her. With her neighbor William Lavy by her side, Julianne must uncover dangerous secrets to make sense of the past and present. Can she find justice for her family—and a future with Will—before the killer hits his target?

 

Pre-Order on Amazon!


Monday, February 15, 2021

Writing Scenes that Match Your Genre

 by Jan Drexler


One of the first things I learned when I became a Seekervillager ten years ago was that the scene is the building block of the book. A writer uses scenes to progress through the story, building tension and raising the stakes along the way. 


For my first several books, I used a method for writing scenes that worked very well. But then I started writing in a new genre and a new point of view. Those major changes made me realize that the way I had been writing scenes wasn’t a “one size fits all” method!

Let me explain…

Writing Historical Romance

In my historical romances, I change the point of view character with every scene. In my Love Inspired books, I use two POV characters, and in my longer, trade-length stories I use multiple POVs (the hero, heroine, and two or three secondary characters.) 




I structure my scenes like a mini book, with a beginning, middle, and an end. I plot the scene with a Goal, Motivation, and Conflict for the POV character, and create the scene with rising tension that comes to a resolution (although not a complete resolution) at the end of the scene. (You can click on the graphic to enlarge it.)



This works well in a romance. The POV characters grow and change in each of their scenes as they interact with the other characters and encounter conflict. 



Writing a Cozy Mystery

When I tried using my scene-building technique in my cozy mystery, I ran up against a brick wall! What was wrong? Why didn’t it work?

I think the main reason was because of the mystery genre. A mystery requires a limited point of view to keep the reader in the sleuth’s mind. For the first time, I decided to write in first person instead of third person.

When we write in first person, the POV character never changes. We are in Emma’s POV all through the book. This limits the amount of information the reader receives, but it also limits the number of characters we can use to tell the story. I was accustomed to letting my POV characters react to each other as I switched scenes, but with a single POV, I only have Emma’s experiences and reactions to work with.

So, I went to my craft books for help.

I decided to try a method that Dwight Swain recommends in his book, “Techniques of the Selling Writer,” the scene/sequence method. According to Swain, the scene contains the conflict, and the sequel is the transition between the scenes.


 

But then I saw this in Donald Maass’s “The Breakout Novelist:” 

“There was a time when aftermath passages were considered essential to a novel. Even today, some fiction instructors preach the pattern of scene-sequel-scene. I do not believe in aftermath…I find that most aftermath is the easiest material in any manuscript to skim. It lacks tension.”

 


Hmm…. 

I decided to try it out and see what happens.

The result? I disagree with Maass’s opinion – at least in this case.


The way the scene-sequel-scene pattern works is straight forward.

The Scene is full of action, rising tension, and conflict. It moves the story along with big things happening – things that cause the character to fight for what she believes. 




The sequel follows with Reaction, Dilemma, and Decision.



 
The Reaction is the part that Maass doesn’t like, because he thinks it’s too easy for the tension to sag. Well, I do agree with him on that point, but it doesn’t have to be that way! A clever, talented author (like all of us, right?) can keep the tension high, even in an aftermath.


So, how do we keep the tension high in an aftermath or reaction scene?

Let me show you with this example from my cozy mystery. The setting is a B&B where Emma is working for her Aunt Rose. It is the first day of the season, and the inn is full of guests.

I end one of the early scenes with this disaster:

A man was sleeping on the floor, on his side, facing the wall.

“Hey!”

He didn’t move. Was he passed out? Drunk? And why was he in my room?

I circled the sectional thinking I would shake him awake, but when I touched his shoulder he rolled from his side onto his back, his eyes open and staring at the ceiling. I leaned over him.

“Are you all right?” I said it again, louder. “Hey, are you all right? Sir?”

That’s when it struck me. He wasn’t asleep.


The challenge is to keep the tension high in the reaction. The next chapter starts with the sequel and Emma’s reaction to the disaster.

“Rose.” I put my hand on her arm. “I have something to tell you.”

As she turned toward me, Sam and Nora came down the stairs dressed as if they were planning to party the night away. Annie and Roger were behind them, their casual clothes a contrast to the other couple’s. Finally, Montgomery descended the stairs, pulling on leather driving gloves.

“Good night, ladies,” he said.

“That’s all of them,” Rose said as Clara joined us. “It was a successful first afternoon, don’t you think?”

“Except for one thing.”

“What’s that, dear?”

I took a deep breath.

“There’s a man in my room. He might be dead. I think.”

The police come, Emma becomes the prime suspect, and the mystery is on its way.



This scene-sequel-scene method won’t work for every genre. 

Think of a suspense novel, where the stakes and tension need to be raised in every scene.

Or a romance, where the stakes need to continue to rise, but there also needs to be a scene here and there where the tension is released, and your characters have a chance to fall in love with each other.

But for the cozy mystery (and other stories with a single main character,) this scene-sequel-scene is perfect. The stakes and tension are raised in the scene, the tension remains high in the sequel, then raise again in the next scene.



What do you think? Let us know your favorite method for writing scenes in the comments!