Monday, August 29, 2016

Why Every Writer Needs a Vision

By Andrea Merrell

As writers—especially Christian writers—we need to know the Bible is filled with Scriptures that talk about God speaking to His children through dreams and visions. In fact, Proverbs 29:18 (KJV) says, Where there is no vision, the people perish.



Let’s look a little closer and find out what that means for us as writers.

Vision
Some people look at this as mysterious, something that doesn’t happen in our modern society. Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary says it can be something seen in a dream or trance; a thought or concept formed in the imagination. But vision, simply put, is what can be rather than what is. Without vision—like that of Thomas Edison, Albert Schweitzer, Benjamin Franklin, and many others—we would not have advanced as a society to where we are today.

But what happens when you have a vision? You create a plan … a mission.

Mission

Webster’s defines mission as a pre-established and often self-imposed objective or purpose. Basically, your mission is a set of small, achievable goals that will propel you toward your vision. These goals are generally specific and measurable.


Setting Your Goals
The first step is knowing and being confident in your vision. What has God placed in your heart? What do you see yourself doing next year? Five years from now?

Once you’re confident in your vision, create your mission statement. Write the vision and make it plain (Habakkuk 2:2 NKJV). Sometimes, writing things down will solidify what’s in your mind and heart and give you a benchmark to focus on.

Do you have a vision? Maybe it’s:
  • Writing a devotion
  • Writing a best-selling novel
  • Winning a writing contest
  • Teaching a writing class
  • Attending a writers’ conference
  • Designing your own website
  • Speaking to students about writing
  • Traveling the world for inspiration

Whatever your vision—no matter how small or large—do you have a mission? Have you broken it down and created a set of bite-sized, achievable goals to get you there? If not, why not begin today.


If you don’t have a vision for your writing career, ask God to give you one. He will, I promise. And when He does, He will give you the wisdom, resources, and connections to get you to your God-given destiny.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Stuart Miles/Sattva.) 

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Critique Groups - How to Find the Perfect One for You

This month we welcome DiAnn Mills as our guest on The Write Editing. Thanks for joining us!

by DiAnn Mills     @DiAnnMills

Writers search for the best ways to receive helpful feedback for their manuscripts. We all desire to develop new skills by learning from those who know the craft. Face to face meetings offer an opportunity for the writer to reach professional goals. Meeting with a select group of writers who share the same joys and challenges inspires us to continue toward our goals.

Critique partners can help us define our manuscripts. But finding the personality and expertise with other writers is like searching for a new doctor. Not everyone is a good fit. A writer seeks those special people who have the same or advanced skills. To some writers, a critique group who writes in the same genre is helpful.

Critique partners who meet in person develop trust and share social time. Online critiquing help battle the time crunch. I’ve done both and understand the advantages and —the disadvantages.

If a situation no longer works for whatever reason, graciously resign from your commitment. A sense of responsibility is not a reason to continue in a relationship that no longer has value.

Establish a few ground rules with a potential critique group or partner so writers understand the expectations. Each member must be committed to the group and willing to give back.

Here are a few considerations:

• Will you and your partner(s) meet online or in a physical place?

• How many pages will be exchanged?

• How many writers will be in the group?

• Will the critiques be a line edit or a content edit?

• What will be the turnaround time?

• How will you handle a critique partner who fails to submit her work on a consistent basis

These guidelines will help ensure success for any critique groups. Merely tweak for the format that best suits the writers’ needs.

1. Determine how many writers in the group.

2. Establish a meeting place.

3. Establish manuscript format. 1-inch margins, Double Spacing, 12-point Times New Roman or New  Courier Font, Header with automatic page numbering

4. Establish length of submitted manuscript.

5. Automatically format the manuscript to number lines.

6. Members understand the manuscript’s contents and genre.

7. Submit polished writing as though each member is an editor.

8. Writer brings copies of manuscript for each participant.

9. Someone other than the writer reads the work aloud.

10. Writer is permitted two minute lead-in before work is read.

11. Writer does not speak during the reading.

12. Each writer is given 15 minutes of critique time.

13. It is inappropriate to interrupt.

14. Always thank the person who has given the critique.

15. Don’t take suggestions personally.

16. Ground rules for constructive criticism. Use the Oreo method. Begin with a compliment, make appropriate suggestions, close the critique with encouragement. Honesty is critical, but unkind remarks are forbidden. Harshness does not make a better writer.

17. Make specific suggestions. General comments do not help the writer.

18. Address punctuation, flow, content, and credibility.

19. Critique according to writer’s ability/level of expertise.

20. Each member of the group is responsible for adhering to guidelines.

21. If a writer doesn’t submit her own writing, she shouldn’t critique another’s work.

22. Enjoy the experience! This is a time to admire and respect your peers.

I treasure the friendship of my critique partners. We pray and play together, which ensures our friendships are mentally and spiritually rewarding.

What tips can you offer for a successful critique group? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Tweetables:

How to Find the Perfect Critique Group for You via @DiAnnMills {Click to Tweet}

22 Critique Group Pointers from @DiAnnMills {Click to Tweet}

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. 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. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Suspense Sister, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and The Author Roadmap with social media specialist Edie Melson. She teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com.

Be sure to check out her newest title, Deadly Encounter. Available now.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The More You Know, The More You'll Save: Part VII ~ Transitions

by Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

As authors, we're always looking for ways to save money and time. This is the seventh post in a series that is meant to help you save both. On the front end, putting forth the effort to learn these points will cost you some time, but in the long run, it will save you money on professional edits.

Last week, we went over creating an accurate timeline. This week, we'll take a look at transitions.

There are four reasons for a break in your story. These are chapter breaks (when you start a new chapter), a change of scene, gap in time, and a change in point of view.

When creating a chapter break, you would start a new page with the word "chapter" and the number at the top of the page (or seven double spaces/14 single spaces down the page, if the publisher prefers it). You will want to be sure your previous chapter ends with something that will cause the reader to turn the page, and you will want to be sure your new chapter starts with a hook that will keep the reader reading.

When changing scenes or time frames (like going from Friday night to Wednesday morning), you will need a hard break. Hard breaks look like this:
***
They are centered on the page and consist of one to three webdings, such as an asterisk or a pound sign (also now known as a hashtag). You would do the same for a change in POV, switching from one character to another.

This hard break lets the publishing house editor know that there is a change happening. Once the novel goes to print, there may be a blank line space between these changes. Your hard break marks will tell them where to put those line breaks. Some publishers leave the hash tags in place.

When changing from scene to scene, be aware that your reader needs to know the new location. It's best to introduce a place by putting the character within it and letting the reader experience that place through the character's eyes. Don't just start a new scene with a conversation or the character's action. Show us through his or her five senses where we are. What do they see? What do they hear? Smell? Can they taste something, such as when in a restaurant? How about touch? Is the bedding soft and they don't want to crawl out in the morning? You may need to name the location, such as "He pulled into the hospital ER parking lot and almost forgot to put the car in park before dashing through the doors."

When changing point of view, we need to know which character we're reading. Don't forget to name them at the start of the change. Otherwise, your reader will be trying to figure out who he or she is.

Now let's talk about another kind of transition. What is the proper way to transition from paragraph to paragraph?

When a character is doing something or talking, don't switch paragraphs until they are finished. When another character acts or speaks, they need a new paragraph. Even if it's just one, two-word sentence. I often see authors write a paragraph of one character's actions and conversation, and they'll insert one sentence of another character's dialogue in the middle of the paragraph. Don't be lazy about hitting the enter/return key. Each character needs their space.

What questions do you have about transitions? Feel free to leave them in the comments. We'd be happy to respond!

Tweetables:


Monday, July 25, 2016

Speaker Beats That Can Ruin a Manuscript

By Andrea Merrell

We’re taught the concept at writers’ conferences, read about it in helpful blog posts, and hear it consistently from our critique group and editors: show—don’t tell. This key to writing well can make or break an otherwise good story. There are many ways to describe this key element, but today we’re going to talk about speaker beats that are not only telling, but redundant and, well … flat.

Here are a few of the most common:
  • She smiled.
  • He laughed.
  • She cried.
  • He shrugged.
  • She nodded.
  • He cleared his throat.
  • She blushed.
  • He flexed his jaw.
  • She sighed.
  • He winked.
Am I saying it’s never okay to use these beats? Yes and no. (I recently edited a manuscript that used "he nodded" over forty times.) An occasional “she smiled” or “he shrugged” might be acceptable, but not just as a filler. And not if you want the reader to relate to your characters and feel like they are watching them on the big screen. (Check out Deb Raney’s post on Writing Cinematically.) As writers, we need to show the emotions and inner conflict of our characters. Let’s look at an example.

Flat Speaker Beats
“It won’t be long before I’m home,” Steve said. “Sorry, I forgot about the party.” He laughed.

Julie sighed. “You don’t listen to anything I say, do you?”

“Sure I do.” Steve shrugged. “I just don’t have the best memory.”

“You don’t care about my feelings. That’s the problem.” Julie cried.

What do you get from this section of dialogue? Not much. We don’t even know whose point of view we’re in. Let’s see if we can set the scene a little better.

Speaker Beats that Tell a Story
“It won’t be long before I’m home,” Steve said with a nervous laugh, wishing for the hundredth time he had put the event on his mobile calendar. He would have a hard time talking himself out of this one.

Julie’s weary sigh cut through the phone like a knife and reminded him of all the other important things he had forgotten. “You don’t listen to anything I say, do you?”

Steve shrugged his shoulders in a nervous gesture as he always did when he knew he was wrong, even though no one could see him. “Sure I do. I just don’t have the best memory.” Well, that was at least partially true.

“You don’t care about my feelings.” As usual, the sound of crying replaced the sigh. “That’s the problem,” Julie said between sobs. “You’ve never cared.”

Do you see the difference? Can you feel the conflict and tension between the two?

Another bad habit we have as writers is overusing our pet words and phrases. The list is endless, but here are some of the most common:
  • That
  • Just
  • Really
  • Seriously
  • Slowly
  • Gently
  • Silently
  • Softly
  • Carefully
  • Began to
  • Determined jaws
  • Lips twisting
  • Color rising to the face
  • Running hands through hair
Anything overused in a story will wear on the reader. If you are aware of redundancies in your manuscript, do a word search and see how many times you have used a certain word or phrase. Then get creative and do some rewriting. Make your words count. Be sure they show what’s going on in the scene and drive your story forward.

What about you? Do you struggle with overusing certain words and phrases? Can you add to the list? We would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Master Isolated Images/Idea Go.)

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The More You Know, The More You'll Save: Part VI ~ Chronological Order

by Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

As authors, we're always looking for ways to save money and time. This is the sixth post in a series that is meant to help you save both. On the front end, putting forth the effort to learn these points will cost you some time, but in the long run, it will save you money on professional edits.

Last time, we continued discussing character development and went over Point of View. This week, we'll take a look at creating an accurate timeline.

It would seem obvious, but our stories need to be in chronological order. 

You may be writing a novel where your characters are traveling in time from one era to the next. For example, in the movie Midnight in Paris, Gil travels to Paris with his fiance in modern times, but when he takes a walk at midnight he finds himself in Paris in the 20s, hanging out with the likes of Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway, to name a few.

Sure, the scenes may not happen in chronological order on the dated timeline, but when your character shows up again in 2016, he or she should be picking up where they left off, not jumping ahead two years or falling back three days or even three hours. If they do, your timeline is out of order and you'll need to rearrange it.

Unless your character is Dr. Who and your reader knows he will show up months after he departed with Rose. In this case, he has control of the timeline. He can go back in time to fix things or forward because time has passed since he left. In which case, Rose's life will look different on earth. Her mother is aging, times are changing, and the story continues.

When editing, I have often found that authors struggle with keeping the timeline in order when switching points of view. This is the area where I would caution you to be careful. It looks like this:

Character A is going through the motions and having conversations and moving the story forward.

Author switches POV to Character B. Only, instead of picking up where Character A's timeline left off, the author moves Character B back several minutes or hours or days in the timeline and starts telling Character B's story there.

The two characters' stories should not be happening side-by-side like that. Where one leaves off, the other picks up and vice versa. Otherwise, you're doing what I like to call "time hopping." It's very similar to head hopping. The reader will find themselves all over the place in time and end up confused.

The fix is easy: Keep the stories fluent. When you switch Point of View, don't switch time. Pick up where Character A left off when you start writing Character B's POV. Your readers will thank you.

One way to keep track of timelines is to keep it on paper. Make yourself a timeline like we did when we were in history class. Write down what your characters are doing. If you make two side by side, you can easily track where the characters are in their timelines and where you need to leave off with one and pick up with the other.

Another way is to create that timeline with sticky notes and keep them in front of you. You could even move them around if you found yourself wanting to change the timeline. This method would also help you find gaps in your timeline and easily fill them in by adding another sticky note. No need for erasers or starting over here.

What other struggles do you have with timelines? We'd love to know. Feel free to leave us a comment below!

Tweetables: 

Tips for Keeping Your Timeline in Tact via @AlyciaMorales {Click to Tweet}

Are your characters time hopping? A few pointers on chronological order. {Click to Tweet}