Monday, July 9, 2018

The Making of a Scene

by Eddie Jones     @EddieJonesTweet

WHAT IS A SCENE?
The power of a scene is derived from the slightly claustrophobic feeling you get when you focus on the characters. They seem somehow trapped in a place, unable to leave. They are forced to face a main issue in the scene. Through your writing, you pan across the scene and set the context, then move in for a close-up shot of the characters struggling. 

In order to engage the reader’s imagination, your scenes must do one or more of the following:
·      Move the story through action
·      Characterize through reaction
·      Set up essential scenes to come
·      Sprinkle in spice
·      Reveal information that moves the story forward with new goals, old secrets, and hidden motives
·      Show conflict between characters (this adds tension)
·      Deepen the character’s development
·      Create suspense (introduce a new wrinkle that leaves the reader hanging) 

ACTION!
Static settings will put your readers to sleep, so get your characters moving. Show the world around them spinning. It can be something as simple as snow falling on a patio railing or bullets piercing the sides of the limo, but you must show movement. Make sure the reader “sees” something is happening.

BACKGROUND
Open with action, then place the scene in context. Why are the characters in the scene? How did they arrive? What does your Lead want? Background IS NOT history. Background IS showing your Lead’s goal for that scene. Your character must want something. What is it? This is where you will state your Lead’s goal for this scene. In each scene ask “what is discovered?” ~ STEVEN JAMES

CONFLICT
Who or what stands in the way of your Lead reaching his goal? Present the barrier. Include conflict on every page. Never let your Lead relax. Show the struggle. Increase the risk of failure. Tension comes from unresolved conflict, so let the scene evolve into a mess.

DECISION
At the end of each scene, your Lead must choose. A scene moves from struggle, discovery, choice, and change. In each scene your Lead must find a clue or open door to thrust her forward. Present two paths and make your lead pick one.

SCENE SUMMARY
When you finish writing a scene:
·      Read the scenes before and after. Does what just happened deserve its own scene? If not, delete.
·      Could the information be placed in a neighboring scene? If so, combine.
·      Is the scene memorable?  Memorable scenes stand out because they catch the reader off guard. The emotion on the page speaks to the reader’s heart.   Memorable scenes are so powerful and poignant that readers will rush to tell their friends.  Strive to make each scene that good.

A scene is a story within a story. Picture the setting, the characters. Listen to them breathing. Hear the cadence of their speech. Study the thing they’re shielding behind their back. Force them to reveal it. Paint scenes in short strokes with vivid colors. Make sure the character’s goal is clear. Then film your characters as they act.

QUESTIONS TO ASK AT THE END OF EACH SCENE
1.     What was revealed?
2.     What/who was changed/transformed?
3.     What is the purpose of the scene?
4.     How should the reader feel after the scene?
5.     What should the reader think after the scene?
6.     What should the reader wonder after the scene?

Now go … and make a scene!

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What scene are you going to be working on? We'd love to hear about it in the comments below!

(Reprinted with permission from A Novel Idea: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1941103545/ )

Eddie is an award-winning author of middle-grade fiction with Harper Collins. He is also Senior Acquisitions Editor and CEO of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (lpcbooks.com) and co-founder of Christian Devotions Ministries (christiandevotions.us). Eddie teaches writing workshops and Amazon marketing at novel retreats, writing conferences, and to small groups. If you would like to book Eddie for your group contact him at eddie@eddiejones.org.

Monday, July 2, 2018

10 Pieces of Advice for Writers Conference Attendees

by Alycia W. Morales     @AlyciaMorales

The Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference is held annually in May, and I serve as the conference manager. That's a fancy title to designate that I work very closely with the conference director and co-director.

As we made it through the first evening of the conference, I heard a variety of comments from conferees. Some stated they felt unprepared because it was their first conference. Others said they felt unprepared because of a last-minute decision to attend. And, I heard that some felt unprepared because life happened and it left them no time to prepare.

It's always good to come to a writer's conference with your business cards, pitches, proposals, and professional attire. But what's one to do if life throws a curve ball and you run out of time to prepare?

Preparing for a Writers Conference When You Run Out of Time to Prepare - 10 Tips from @AlyciaMorales #writing #writers {Click to Tweet}

1. Don't panic. It's not the end of the world to come unprepared to a writer's conference. It's an opportunity to think outside of the box. You're a creative. Use it.

2. Pray. We make our plans, but it's the Lord who directs our steps. Instead of panicking, pray. Ask Father what He would have you do. If He made a way for you to attend last minute or caught that curve ball life threw at you, He can direct you in the way you should go at the conference. Stop and ask Holy Spirit what to do. He'll answer. If you let Him.

3. Ask the professionals. It can be intimidating to walk up to an agent, editor, well-known author, or conference leadership team member and admit you were unprepared and ask for help. But guess what? We've all been there. Done that. And we have answers that can help you succeed. So, don't be afraid to ask.

4. Don't compare yourself to others. Just because she's got her business cards in hand and you don't doesn't mean she's going to be more successful than you. It's all about your attitude. If you walk in confidence (not cockiness), you too have a chance at succeeding, business cards or no business cards. People remember confidence.

5. Network. It's possible to do so without something to hand over to someone. Again, people remember confidence in a person. They remember kindness. Encouragement. Prayer. Interesting stories. You can do all of these things without having a piece of paper in hand. Build relationships while you're at the conference. You can always send the proposal later.

6. Memorize your pitch. Keep it short and sweet. It doesn't take long to memorize a less-than-36-word pitch. Even if you don't have a word written, it's better to have something to offer than nothing at all. If you're attending the conference, you have something you're thinking of writing. Pitch that.

7. Try something new. Pay attention during class, take notes, and go back to your room or to the local coffeehouse and try something you learned that day. Apply a new method to your writing. Try a new technique. One year, I learned a formula for writing devotions, wrote one out on a legal pad (complete with scribbles and cross-outs and arrows to move things around), took it to the instructor, and landed my first publication on their website, which lead to publication in a devotional not long after.

8. Enjoy. There's nothing wrong with taking things in at your first conference. Or your second. Or third. Or twelfth. Sometimes it's best just to go with the flow, learn some things, and work on your writing. Meet a few new people. Have a conversation or two. And relax. There's really no need to stress yourself out because you're unprepared. You're more prepared than you may realize. And that will show itself in due time.

What advice would you have for a conferee who feels unprepared? We'd love to hear in the comments below!

Monday, June 18, 2018

A Prayer for Seeking God's Will


By Andrea Merrell

“Hello. Nice to meet you. What do you do?”

Sound familiar? Why is it we always want to know what a person does as soon as we meet them. Are we nosy? Looking for something to say apart from the weather? Maybe it’s because we know deep down that God has a plan and purpose for each of us.

Looking back over a lifetime of numerous jobs and endeavors, I can remember answering that question in a variety of ways: student, wife, mother, secretary. Then later I would say grandmother, administrative assistant, teacher, author, editor. But no matter what I said, the bottom line was always child of God. I believed God had a calling for me, but for so many years I struggled to find it. Even though I was happy, there was always something missing in my life until God revealed my purpose and set me on the path He had prepared for me. 

For so many Christians, the concept of knowing God’s will seems mysterious and unattainable. What we fail to realize is that God never withholds His plans for us. He wants to reveal Himself to us, direct our steps, and lead us to our God-given destiny. When we pray, seek, and believe, He shows us the direction we should go at the perfect time and in the perfect way. Knowing and fulfilling our purpose on this earth is what brings peace and contentment and makes our life meaningful and productive.

Whether you’re a newbie, seasoned writer, editor, speaker, blogger, poet, media guru, marketing genius, or anything in between, if you’re serious about seeking God’s perfect will for your life, pray this beautiful prayer by pastor and author Bob Gass:

Lord, You knew me completely before I was born, and you shaped me and destined me for a purpose. Give me a clear vision of all You want to do in and through my life. I desperately need to understand what the hope of my calling is and the exceeding greatness of Your power to enable me to fulfill Your purpose. Show me the gifts you have put in me and how I can develop and use them for Your glory. Help me to think big and pray with boldness. I want to be open and available for whatever You have for me and not miss Your blessings by being unprepared to receive them. Help me not to hold on to things or relationships that are not of You. I want to do Your will with my whole heart. Only You know who and what is right for me. Help me to hear Your voice, and give me the grace and courage to follow Your leading when I am afraid. May the desires of Your heart become the desires of my heart. Enlarge my capacity to believe that You can take what I have and multiply it beyond what I can imagine. In Jesus’ name, amen.

No matter where you are in your journey, God has a plan for you. He has placed gifts, talents, and abilities within you. Trust Him. Seek Him. Follow Him. He will light the way before you and direct your steps.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, imagerymajestic, and keerati.) 

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Monday, June 11, 2018

The Publishing Wheel


By Cindy Sproles


The writing industry is like a giant water wheel. It’s huge, filled with buckets, and turns constantly. Now you ask, “What is she talking about?” It was a somewhat lame attempt at vivid description, and if you’re willing to bear with me … you’ll see.

When I was a child, my cousin and I loved going to my grandmother’s house. She lived deep in the country. A mile from her house was a functioning grist mill.

We’d traipse through the creek, jump on rocks, and make our way to the mill. On the side of a barn-type building stood a huge wheel that turned at the speed of molasses. Water from the creek was forced through a trough, filling each bucket on the wheel and turning the wheel. When the water buckets made it to the top, they caught on a wooden bar that tipped and emptied them back into the creek. This wheel, attached to a gear inside the mill with two huge, round stones, turned as the farmer dumped scoops of dried corn kernels onto the wheel. As the stones turned, they crushed the corn into flour.

This wheel is a prime example of how the writing industry works. Once you get your head around the concept, rejection letters aren’t quite so bitter.

Let’s bring it into context. The industry is a huge wheel, loaded with buckets. As the wheel turns, tons of manuscripts drop into the buckets. It takes time—sometimes a long time—for that wheel to make a complete rotation.

Now that you have that picture in your head, think of each bucket as a specific genre or trend. Today, the top bucket is heavy with Amish fiction. Your genre bucket (rocket science thrillers) may just be filling. Remember, the wheel turns slowly. The bucket in front of yours will reach the top long before your bucket. It may even stop and teeter at the top while publishers are working their way through, but eventually the wheel begins to turn again, and your bucket will reach the top and dump.

Why this elaborate attempt at drawing a mental picture? Because it says volumes about the trends of publishing. What is popular today will soon begin the downward turn, and what was less popular yesterday (rocket science thrillers) slowly works its way to the top of the wheel to become the hottest new trend.

Listen when authors tell you about timing. They want you to learn patience in an industry that moves like molasses. Eventually, your genre will be on top, and folks will be clamoring for the newest novel from your bucket.


What do you do while you wait for the wheel to turn?
Learn the craft of writing. Spend quality time spinning and weaving words, studying techniques, and practicing what will make your story/stories better. Master the craft, and then study and practice some more. You may even find yourself digging through your bucket, trying to retrieve what you’ve written so you can make that better too.

Rejection letters do not necessarily mean your writing is bad.
Sometimes it’s just not time. Your bucket hasn’t reached the top yet. Publishers have slots and holes they must fill to meet the trends of the industry. As those needs fill and the trend changes, they dig into a new bucket looking for the nuggets that will set the newest trends. In the meantime, write articles. Build platform.

Trends in reading change quickly.
It’s important to keep up with those trends. You may possibly find a new niche for yourself as you follow what rises to the top.

There are times publishers rush to invest in trends that look as though they might become tidal waves they can ride for an extended time. Instead, the wave is only a small swell. This industry does not rush. If your rushing is the difference in self-publishing a work before it’s ready, then you may find yourself catching a swell and missing the wave.

There’s something to be said for patience in writing. Waiting. It’s good to learn how to handle rejection and how to refocus the disappointment into determination. Sometimes waiting on the wheel is well worth the time. The great writer Robert Benson said, "Determined is the proper posture for a writer. Hurried is NOT the proper posture for a writer."

Ride the wheel. Eventually, your bucket will reach the top.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Toa55/Stuart Miles.)

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Writer, ride the publishing wheel. Eventually, your bucket will reach the top. (Click to tweet.)


Cindy Sproles is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries. She’s an author, popular speaker and teacher at conferences, and a writing mentor. Cindy serves as the Executive Editor of ChristianDevotions.us, Inspire-A-Fire.com, and is the Managing Editor for SonRise Books and Straight Street Books with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is the author of New Sheets–Thirty Days to Refine You Into the Woman You Can Be, Mercy’s Rain–An Appalachian Novel, and Liar's Winter. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com.

 


Monday, May 28, 2018

Writer, Shift Your Focus


By Andrea Merrell

I’ve met with many, many wonderful people at writers’ conferences over the years. In fact, I just returned from an overnight trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference (BRMCWC) in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina, where I chatted with several ladies in the coffee shop.

One question that seems to pop up quite often is what these attendees hope to gain from the conference. The answers vary, but all seem to relate to doing.

  • I have a book in me, and I have to get it out.
  • I need the world to hear my story.
  • I entered a contest and hope to win.
  • I need to get a contract and get my book published.
  • I’m seeking an agent.
  • I’m trying to network and build my platform.
  • I’m trying to learn as much as I can.
  • I’m planning to meet with as many industry professionals as possible.

Each of these answers is important, but they’re all about doing. As I was driving up the mountain, a sermon on the radio caught my attention. The speaker was talking about how we are so tied to our to-do list that we forget to create a to-be list. He shared a few items on his to-do list, then admitted how difficult it was to examine his heart and come up with what he wanted to be instead of do.

Because my book, Marriage: Make It or Break It, was a finalist in the Selah contest, my drive to the conference was primarily to attend the awards ceremony. But even more exciting for me was the thought of seeing and spending time with so many of the wonderful friends I’ve made over the past ten years. As I continued to listen to the radio message, my thoughts turned to my career and how I could apply the man’s powerful words.

I prayed, Lord, there are so many things I want to do concerning my writing and editing. My list is long. But more importantly, what do I want to be? Here are a few of my thoughts:
  • I want to be a godly woman and good example.
  • I want to be a woman of integrity.
  • I want to be someone others can depend on.
  • I want to be a positive influence.
  • I want be an encourager.
  • I want to be generous.
  • I want to pray for others.
  • I want to be a person who helps others succeed and reach their God-given destiny.

If you’re a writer, especially one who is just starting out on this wonderful journey, allow God to mold you as you take one step at a time. There will always be many items on your to-do list, but maybe it’s time to shift your focus and concentrate on who you want to become as you travel this road.

I will always treasure the certificates and awards I’ve received, but above all, I will treasure the friends God has placed in my life and the wonderful way He continually works in my heart to make me who He created me to be.

Take delight in the Lord, 
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 34:7 NIV

What are the desires of your heart? Create your own to-be list. God will honor your efforts, and He will bless you in ways you can’t imagine.


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