Monday, October 8, 2018

Simplifying Writer Research


Be sure to check out DiAnn's new release, Burden of Proof.

By DiAnn Mills

Writing and research go hand in hand. Every topic in a novel needs an element of research. If the manuscript isn’t accurate, the reader will recognize the flaw and toss our work aside. If a writer is spot-on, she will be rewarded with good reviews and more readers. 

Sort of a no-brainer for us writers.

How do we conduct the process effectively and efficiently?

Focus: List what is needed for the writing project in chronological order. This includes plot, culture, setting, dialogue, and characterization.

Develop: What specialty people need to be contacted to ensure reliable information? Determine if an email or phone contact is sufficient or if they can accommodate a face-to-face meeting.

Map: Where does the writer need to visit for experience and sensory perception? Can the setting be visited at the same time of year as the story?

The following questions and suggestions will help the writer focus, develop, and map out a strategic plan and enhance your story for readers.



  • Visit the area’s chamber of commerce.
  • Conduct a web search of the area. Some apps will help with this: Google Maps, Google Earth, Weather Bug, or travel sites that can be found via apps or websites.
  • Take or download more pictures than will ever be needed.
  • Interview people living in the area. For a historical setting, this also means reading diaries and journals. How has history affected the community?
  • Listen to how local people talk. Do they use a distinct vocabulary?
  • What are the community’s values and expectations for life and each other?
  • What is their diet? How much of their food supply is local?
  • How is the area governed?
  • What are the local hotels? Restaurants? What’s featured on the menus? Any daily specials
  • What are the sources of entertainment?
  • How do the residents celebrate holidays?
  • Does the community have special festivals?
  • How does the area experience the seasons, and what are average temperatures?
  • What are the medical concerns? What kind of medical care is available?
  • In what kinds of homes do they live?
  • Where do they shop?
  • How do the people dress?
  • Do the arts play a vital role in the community?
  • How do the people view education, sports teams, and favorite colleges?How do they earn a living?

Other Considerations
  • If the area is near a national or state park, look for research material in the visitor's section.
  • Discover the wildlife and birds of the region.
  • Locate a map of the area.
  • Visit the local library. View newspaper archives.
  • Look for documentaries on the area.
  • Visit themed or local museums.
When a writer is cognizant of what is needed to make a manuscript zip with authenticity, readers clamor for more.

How do you conduct writing research?

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Stuart Miles, and Master Isolated Images.)

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DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a storyteller and creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and The Mountainside Marketing Conference with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. 
Connect with DiAnn here: www.diannmills.com



Monday, October 1, 2018

Time to Slay the Giants


By Andrea Merrell

Giants come in all shapes and sizes. They’re always lurking in the shadows, tangible or intangible. Some are more obvious than others.

Who and what are these giants? Do they have a name? Pastor and author Bob Gass says:

Giants can be internal or external, real or imagined, physical or emotional. A giant could be an attitude, a habit, a belief, a philosophy, or a memory. It could be a person who stands between you and God, between who you are and who God wants you to be, between where you are and where God wants you to go, between what you believe and what God wants you to believe. Giants have one goal: to stop your progress and prevent you from reaching your destiny.

The giants in our lives are out to stop us in our tracks. To intimidate us and cause us to retreat in fear. But just like David, God sees us as giant-killers. Our “stone” is His Word, which can turn any negative into a positive.

When conflict arises—and it most certainly will—we can see it as a growth opportunity, pull out our stone, and slay the giant standing in our way. Gass also says, “giant-killers see opportunity in opposition, potential in problems, and victory in the shadow of defeat.”

What is it that’s keeping you from reaching your God-given destiny? What giants are standing in the way of your writing goals and dreams? Once you define them, face them boldly with God’s Word and cast that stone.

Writer, it’s time to slay the giants.

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Sira Anamwong, and Pazham.)


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Monday, September 17, 2018

Use Speaker Tags and Beats Correctly


By Andrea Merrell

Dialogue can make or break a story—too much, too little, too stilted, or too corny.
 
When we read, we want to see the characters interacting with each other. We want to know what’s going on in the scene and/or what the POV character is thinking or feeling. The communication should be real and flow in such a way that we get pulled into the story.

Using speaker tags and beats correctly will enhance your dialogue. Let’s look at the difference.

Speaker Tags
A speaker tag shows the speaker’s name and a speech-related verb (said, asked, shouted). This is generally the best way to show which of your characters is speaking, but sometimes we tend to overuse tags. They’re not necessary each time someone speaks, especially in a long section of dialogue. Notice that tags require a comma, not a period.

Example: 
“That’s a lovely dress you’re wearing,” Wendy said.

“Thank you so much,” Beverly replied.

“Where did you get it?” Wendy asked.

“It came from Dillard’s,” Beverly answered.

“Oh, that’s my favorite department store,” Wendy said.

Do you see how annoying—and boring—that is? Let’s try it again adding beats.

Speaker Beats
A speaker beat is the action that accompanies what the speaker is saying. It also indicates to the reader who is doing the speaking.

Example: 
“That’s a lovely dress you’re wearing,” Wendy said, wishing she had worn something besides jeans to the party.

Beverly’s face lit up. “Thank you so much.”

“Where did you get it?” Wendy hoped she wasn’t being too forward.

“It came from Dillard’s.”
                    
“Oh, that’s my favorite department store.”

“Mine too.” Beverly lowered her voice to a whisper. “Especially when they’re having a big sale. I got this for only twenty dollars."

Both girls laughed and went to the party arm in arm.

Just like speaker tags, don’t overuse beats. Too many will interrupt the flow of dialogue. They’re not necessary every time, but they work well to help set the scene when used correctly. You can use them at the beginning of the sentence or the end. Mix it up.

Side Note: This is a common error when using speaker tags: “That’s a pretty scrawny dog,” Jim laughed. Since Jim can’t laugh that comment, the proper way would be: “That’s a pretty scrawny dog.” Jim laughed. This now becomes a speaker beat instead of a tag.

What can you add about using speaker tags and beats? We would love to hear from you.

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Master Isolated Images.)

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Monday, September 10, 2018

Four Tips to Distract Your Internal Editor


by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

I’ve spoken with a lot of writers who have trouble disconnecting their INTERNAL EDITOR when they're working on an early draft of a manuscript. 

This overly helpful person lives inside most of us and comes in handy when we’re putting the finishing touches on our manuscript. But when we’re in the midst of a creative surge, that same
person can short circuit our progress.

Today's post will give you the tips you need to turn off your internal editor.

First you should know there’s a scientific reason for that roadblock. The creative act of writing your first draft stems from the right side—or creative side—of the brain. Later in the process, when polishing begins, the left side takes over. Here are some of the characteristics of each side.

Right Brain
  • Visual in process, focusing more on patterns and images.
  • Generally intuitive, led by feelings.
  • Is the epitome of multi-tasking, able to process ideas simultaneously.
  • Progresses from the big picture to the details.
  • Lacks organization, utilizes free association.
Left Brain
  • More verbal, needs to find specific words to express ideas.
  • Analytical, led by logic.
  • Takes things step by step, one idea at a time.
  • Organizes details first before moving to the big picture.
  • Very organized, utilizing lists and detailed plans.
Mixing up the process—trying to use both sides of the brain at the same time—can lead to a tangled mess and a major roadblock. All of this information is good to know, but what if our left-brained, Internal Editor won’t go away? How do we make her be quiet?

Unfortunately, there isn’t one way that works for everyone, but here are some tips that should help.

Tips

1. Don’t give in to temptation. Our Internal Editor gets stronger the more frequently we give in to her demands. If she thinks you need a certain word before you can finish that sentence, stay strong. Type XXX and go on. Later, during the rewriting process, you’ll have plenty of time to find the right word. This goes for anything that demands you slow the creative process. At this point in your manuscript speed is your best friend.

2. Set a daily and weekly word count goal. This can often sidetrack the Internal Editor because of her need to meet a goal. Sometimes, in her drive to succeed, she can even become an ally.

3. Make lists in a separate notebook. Use your computer for the story, but if the need for details overshadows the creative urge, make a quick note in a notebook. Don’t let yourself get bogged down, but let the free association part of your right brain give you ideas to explore later with your more logical left side.

4. Don’t give in to fear. Many times our Internal Editor is driven by fear. Fear that this draft isn’t good, won’t work, or just doesn’t make sense. Remind yourself that this version isn’t written in stone. Sometimes just giving ourselves permission to write what Anne Lamott calls the sh*%&# first draft is all we need to derail our Internal Editor.

All of these can help, but I’d like to know what tricks you use to keep that INNER EDITOR quiet.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Ambro, and Stuart Miles.)


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Find your voice, live your story…is the foundation of Edie Melson’s message, no matter if she’s writing for fiction readers, parents, or writers. As an author, blogger, and speaker she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her numerous books reflect her passion to help others develop the strength of their God-given gifts and apply them to their lives.

She’s a leading professional within the publishing industry and travels to numerous conferences as a popular keynote, writing instructor and mentor. Her blog for writers, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month and is a Writer’s Digest Top 101 Websites for Writers. She’s the Director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, the Mountainside Marketing Conference and Soul Care, as well as Vice President of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and the Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine. In addition, she's a regular columnist for Just18Summers.comPuttingOnTheNew.com and http://www.soulfulink.com. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Writer, Don't Forget the Basics (Part 2)

By Andrea Merrell

In my last post, we talked about a few basics that all writers need to know. This week, let’s look at a subject all writers struggle with: punctuation (especially commas).

Comma Usage

  • When a conjunction joins the last two elements in a series of three or more, a comma—known as the serial (series) comma or the Oxford comma—should appear before the conjunction. Example: Be sure to bring your laptop, manuscript, and proposal to the conference.

  • Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction when it joins independent clauses. Example: Mary wanted to be a writer, but she lacked the discipline to write daily.                

  • Use a comma before then when and or but is omitted but implied. Example: Susie grabbed her purse, then ran out of the room without a word.

  • No comma after But or And at the beginning of a sentence. Example: But I don’t want to go back and rewrite my novel.

  • Use a comma with the word too at the end of a sentence only when you want to emphasize an abrupt change of thought. The comma is generally not needed. Example: Attending a critique group is a way to get feedback on your writing too.

  • Limit comma splices (except in rare instances, as in the case of this famous example: "I came, I saw, I conquered"). Change to two sentences, add a conjunction, or use a semicolon. Incorrect: Adam submitted his manuscript, the publisher    did not accept poetry. Correct: Adam submitted his manuscript. The publisher did not accept poetry. Correct: Adam submitted his manuscript; the publisher did not accept poetry. Correct: Adam submitted his manuscript, but the publisher did not accept poetry.

  • Periods and commas always precede closing quotation marks, whether double or single. Example: Nate has always said, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t.” Incorrect: Nate has always said, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t”.

Em and En Dash
Most publishers prefer the em dash (—) as opposed to the en dash (–). No spaces should be added on either side of the em dash.

Example: Joe submitted a devotion without proofreading it—a mistake he regretted.

Ellipsis
An ellipsis is always a series of three dots. Do not end a sentence with …… or …? The end of the ellipsis will be the end of the sentence. Most publishers are going with the AP style:  space … space. This works best with e-books and online venues.

Example: “How did you do that so … so quickly?”

In future posts, we’ll look at the difference between speaker tags and speaker beats, point of view (POV), crafting dialogue, creating memorable characters, writing tight, and showing, not telling.

If you have something specific you would like us to address in one of our posts, please share in the comment section. We would love to hear from you.

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