Monday, May 30, 2011
Friday, May 27, 2011
WRITING A COZY
Writing mysteries is a bit different than writing a romance or a historical, although a mystery can, and often does, contain romance.
I find it easier to come up with the crime before anything. Then my villain and why they chose to do what they do. I usually choose murder, but a cozy mystery can contain just about anything that requires solving. It’s like a puzzle where the reader finds all the pieces and lines them up correctly. Also, in a cozy, the crime takes place off scene.
Secondly, I plan my characters, heroine, hero, sidekicks, and suspects. This is the funnest part! Most heroines are quirky. Mine are definitely stepping to a different drummer, and my secondary characters are every bit as kooky.
Then, I plan out the red herrings. The false clues.
Although I call myself a seat of the pants writer, I’ve found that writing mysteries requires a lot more planning than my other stories. The writer can’t sit down and willy-nilly put words to paper. Your line from beginning to end can be wavy, and it should, but it must still be a line.
Often, my story veers a bit from my plot line, but that’s part of the fun. Have a quirky character with an unordinary job, put them in the middle of a puzzle, and throw everything you can at them to trip them up.
Cozies often contain an element of humor. Have fun! Spice it up with romance. Romance can add an additional conflict to keep the reader turning the pages.
What would your character never do? Have them do it. In my novel, Candy-Coated Secrets, the character Summer Meadows is coerced into walking an elephant a mile down the highway. Not only was this unexpected, but it led to great fun in the story. She also gets chased by a pig, cornered on a Ferris wheel, well, you get the idea.
Most of all, have fun writing that cozy and helping your character catch the bad guy.
Cynthia Hickey has been making up stories since she was a child. She's ecstatic to find an outlet for her storytelling. Cynthia lives in Arizona with her husband and two of their seven children, one dog, two cats, two birds, and a snake named Flash.
Monday, May 23, 2011
|Author Penny Zeller|
For years, orphan Hailee Annigan was just a ragamuffin, roaming the Cincinnati streets trying to keep food in the mouths of her two younger brothers and herself. This often meant thieving, which landed her in the Sanctuary of Promise, a home for delinquent youngsters, and at the same time, separated her from her brothers.
Years later, Hailee still has faith that she'll find her brothers again someday, but for now, she's ready to put the past behind her and accept a teaching position in Pine Haven, Montana. However, what will happen to Hailee's newly-made plans when her past is brought to light?
When Nate's and Hailee's paths converge in Pine Haven, their lives begin to overlap in ways they can't ignore. And they must discover if God intends for their destinies to converge, as well.
He has since healed me and I pray daily that the path I have chosen in life will glorify Him. I think that’s why Jeremiah 29:11, which says, “’For I know the plans I have for
But what if you knew for certain that today was your last day on earth? What would you do?
Write a story, essay or poem. If you want to share it...feel free to share via email@example.com. We'd love to post some of your responses. Watch for our weekly prompts...usually on Sunday (sorry, I'm late this week) and our monthly contest...winner will receive a $5 Starbuck coupon.
Guidelines and prompts are posted on both Pentalk Community and Pentalk Community Group Page. Have fun.
Owner and Founder
Pentalk and Pentalk Community
Friday, May 20, 2011
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
That's Deep, Man
3 Tips on Deep POV Part 2
by Michelle Massaro, COTT Assistant Editor
Earlier, we defined Deep Point Of View, and I shared 3 tips for using it in your writing:
Tip 1: Don't label emotions, describe them.
Tip 2: Pretend it's you (find realistic internal dialogue)
Tip 3: Add physiological responses
Today I'm going to answer a couple related questions and walk you through an example.
Let's get to it!
Q: What about scenes that aren't emotional? How does that work?
A: Every scene is emotional to an extent. That's what Deep POV is all about. Emotions come in many flavors. They aren't all as bold as terror or grief but they are always present.
Example: You character is finishing up in the office and looking forward to a special date with her boyfriend. Your scene intends to move her from her desk, out to the car, arriving at the restaurant. Not much action. You want to get her to the restaurant so you can write the next good scene. Right? So you might say:
Mary finished entering the final receipt into the accounts payable file. She was eager to get to the restaurant where Tom would be waiting. She was sure tonight was the night. She heard a knock on the door. Mr. Jenkins asked her to deliver a stack of envelopes to the mailroom on her way out. It would be a quick stop. Slightly irritated, she smiled at her boss. "Sure thing!" She hoped nothing else would pop up to delay her.
Or you could go deeper and make it more interesting:
Mary hit the enter key and sighed. Finally done! She glanced at the bouquet of roses on her desk, inhaled their sweet scent, and smiled. Just half an hour—twenty-five minutes if she hurried—and she'd be sitting with Tom at Le Cordon Bleu, watching his knee bounce and sweat bead on his forehead as he tried to conceal the velvet box in his pocket. Good thing she'd worn her best dress today. Thanks for the heads-up, Tina. She slipped her feet back into her red heels, reached for her matching Gucci clutch and stood. Her stomach fluttered with a thousand bees and she reigned in the squeal forming behind her grin. A rap sounded at the door, then Mr. Jenkins strode in with a pile of envelopes. Her smile fled. Crud.
"Mary, I need you to drop these off in the mailroom on your way out." He plopped them on the desk. Just great.
"Sure thing!" She forced a fake smile as she snatched up the stack.
She could do this in less than a minute—if she didn't get sucked into a conversation with Larry the mail guy. Her heels clacked down the hall as she power-walked to the elevators. After this, she better not run into any more delays between her and her car. Or her car and the restaurant. If she hit every red light on Buckner drive today she was going to have some serious words with the Man Upstairs.
You'll notice there were few physiological responses here (tip #3), because the emotions aren't as raw. But we are much deeper in her POV than in the first example and you can better imagine what it's like to be Mary, anxiously trying to get to the restaurant where you expect a marriage proposal.
I used tips #1 and #2 .
In the example passage, I showed Mary's eagerness (tip #1) with the line: Just half an hour—twenty-five minutes if she hurried—...
I showed her expectation by picturing Tom bouncing his knee, hiding the ring, etc. and hinted that someone had spilled the beans to her. (tip #1) All of this instead of "she was sure tonight was the night." I answered the question WHY is she sure, and WHAT does "the night" look like? How does this make her feel?
I demonstrated her hope that nothing else would slow her down by using realistic internal dialogue (tip #2) about Larry the mail guy, the red lights, and Who she'd blame (playfully) for them. So I accomplished tip #1 by employing tip #2, which is not uncommon.
I only added one quick physiological detail (tip #3) by describing the excitement like bees buzzing inside.
Q: If a writer must choose between deep POV and using a passive verb, which is better?
Ex: A knock sounded at the door, She heard a knock on the door, or There was a knock on the door.
A: The short answer is "it depends". I am not one to slash every passive verb. Not at all. Writing tips are only useful to the extent that they make the experience smooth and engaging to the reader. The moment a rule-following phrase becomes so odd that it causes the reader to stumble, that rule should be ignored.
Same thing applies with Deep POV. Depth can vary as needed. Think of it like a camera lens with a zoom function. We don't need to be zoomed all the way in for every paragraph of your novel. But don't pan out too far or you'll lose that Deep POV feel. Stay in your character's head, but the reader doesn't always need to read about every synapse that fires. Reserve those meticulous details for the tenser moments.
So if you are zoomed way in on a character during an intense moment, the first choice (A knock sounded at the door) is probably better. But if the moment isn't quite so personal, the third choice (there was a knock on the door) might work just fine. Or you might choose an in-between feel (She heard a knock at the door). Once you've assessed the depth needed for the scene, it's your call. As long as you understand the techniques you are using and why.
Deep POV is only one tool in a writer's box. It's not a strict rule like punctuation. As the author, you choose when and how often to embrace this style. But you must understand the techniques you are using and why. I hope these tips help you the way they've helped me. If you have a question, feel free to comment or send me an email. I'd love to hear from you!
Monday, May 16, 2011
Thanks to Michelle Massaro for her tips on Deep POV! Be sure to join us Friday when we'll post some examples that need work and let you fix them! Have suggestions? Be sure to send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
That's Deep, Man--3 Tips on Deep POV
by Michelle Massaro, COTT Assistant Editor
A lot of people are talking about Deep Point Of View these days. Seems every writer wants to "go deeper", but many aren't clear on what that means or how to do it. Where did this trend come from? Think about it. Our culture is immersed in experiential pastimes. We can fly to exotic locations within hours. Surround-sound, HD, and Digital 3D bring everything to life. The Wii lets us "experience" playing sports. With increased sensory-engaging technology, it takes more to help us escape than it did in generations past. In fiction this translates to Deep POV.
The reader wants to climb into a character's skin—tasting, feeling, hearing, smelling what they do. A great metaphor or simile won’t suffice. Deep POV isn't active voice or showing rather than telling.
So how do you employ Deep POV? Here are three tips—snack-size morsels you can chew on and digest at your own speed.
Tip #1: Don't use labels.
Don't label the emotions of your character, describe them.
She felt sad
Her throat clamped and her chin quivered. She blinked away the tears threatening to escape.
This is also true when describing the character's thoughts.
She thought how much she hated her ex-boyfriend
She closed her eyes and saw him—felt his fist striking her jaw, smelled his cologne when he hissed in her ear. Bile rose in the back of her throat at the memory. He would pay.
Tip #2: Pretend it's you.
Use realistic internal dialogue.
What would you say to yourself if you were the character? Figure it out, then replace the pronouns with "s/he" (unless you're writing in first person, of course.)
Someone close to you died suddenly. You don't tell yourself "I feel sad" or even "I feel depressed and confused." No, more likely you think:
"How can he be dead?!" or perhaps "Matt, how can you be gone?"
There's an intruder in your house brandishing a knife. You don't say in your own head "I'm terrified!" You'd think:
"He's going to kill me!" You can turn this to third person in one of two ways: He's going to kill her! or Was he going to kill her?
Tip #3: Physiological Responses.
Once you figure out the internal dialogue and how to describe an emotion without labels, follow up with physiological responses. Depending on the situation, these might be knees buckling, chest tightening, throat clamping, an adrenaline rush, goose bumps, nausea, dizziness, sweating, etc. Describe those. This will really pull the reader deep into the story, particularly in high-intensity moments.
All right love, off you go!
Remember, Deep POV is a skill that must be learned, like anything else. But keeping these tips in mind as you write is a great place to start. Next week in Part 2, I'll apply these tips to a non-pivotal scene and turn it from an invisible transition into an engaging passage. I hope you'll join me.
Now let's hear from you: What do you like/dislike about Deep POV? Do you have any tips to share? Leave your questions and tips in the comments!
Michelle Massaro is a homeschooling mom and aspiring novelist. She is Assistant Editor for the literary website Clash of the Titles and writes for COTT's Blog Alliance. Michelle also serves on the worship team and teaches origins science to the youth at her church. She and her husband of 15 years live in sunny So Cal with their four children. Connect with her on twitter @MLMassaro, facebook, Clash of the Titles, and her blog Adventures in Writing.
Friday, May 13, 2011
Thanks to Casey for sticking with us while Blogger was being all screwy! This was scheduled to post at midnight but...
Finding a Budget and Sticking To It!
You’ve been put on a word budget and each one has an assigned value.
Sweating yet? The word “budget” pops up and the inside of your hands go moist. Your breath gets heavy and you have a sudden urge to pace. You can’t sit in one place and when your child skips in asking for a Popsicle, you march them right back out.
Being put on a budget?
Yeah, you’d rather have your toenails pulled out without anesthesia.
And yet when we sit down to write the next Great American Novel, we can be some of the most verbose, slack-jawed, quick-finger-typing maniacs that use every “and”, “was”, “that”, “just”, “because” and the list heads into infinity.
Our characters don’t just have “dialogue”, they chat amongst themselves for pages at a time about everything from what they ate for breakfast to the new haircut the lady in the fourth pew back in church got last Friday.
They don’t just drive to their destination, they observe all the lovely sagebrush whirling by their window, they see the deer leaping gracefully across the pasture and combine that image with the art gallery painting they saw last week on their date with the guy who was a total jerk and should have dumped yesterday.
The typical novel is 90,000 words. Think about it, that’s not that many words. Yeah, when you’ve written the first 10K it can seem that way, but get halfway through the manuscript and suddenly you realize you still have a whole plot thread that STILL has to be resolved and you have NO IDEA how you can possibly close the thread in the next 30K.
It’s time to go on a budget.
When the goal is 90K and you end with 120K you need to go on a SERIOUS budget. The best way is to go through your manuscript with an eye for a few key things. As you edit you will see more and more that will need to be cut and condensed, but to cut a big chunk of those words that need to go now, here are a few tips of things to look for.
Before you start cutting your precious words think about it this way: you have been given $90,000 to spend on your work. $1 per word. WHICH ONES WOULD YOU CHOOSE? It puts it into perspective. If each “was” was worth $5 would you use as many? If each dialogue section could be totaled at $100 for a conversation about breakfast, would you include it?
Think of each word you write as having a value and you have to PAY for the privilege of using that word. Choose wisely, because you don’t want to miss out on words that can catapult your manuscript’s value.
· Most “that’s” are NOT NEEDED. Don’t hyperventilate. Read it out loud and you’ll agree with me.
· Condense dialogue. All “well’s” and “just’s” for example need to go. Make your dialogue punchy and filled with cutoffs and fragments (when it works). It heightens the tension.
· Don’t describe something UNLESS it matters to the plot. If your heroine is driving across the desert should she give a detailed history of sagebrush? Hmmm, probably not
· Don’t let your character go on for pages and pages of introspection. Put action into those sections and once you state a point, DON’T keep going.
· Cut ALL backstory and include as slivers through the stories. Your readers will be more intrigued and most of that backstory is more for your benefit than the readers anyway.
Grape-shot when fired scatters and takes a chunk out here and there. When you go through that first couple of edits on your manuscript, these are some of the things you need to keep an eye out for. As the edits get more micro, you’ll still be deleting and tightening, but you aren’t going to dump all those excess words in one round. This is just a good start.
Take each word into careful consideration. Is it worth its weight to be included in the story? Does it truly contribute to the book? Those might seem like overwhelming and weighty questions, but once you start editing you will realize it has become second nature.
Word Budgeting is a great concept to keep in mind when you go through those edits. It can be hard to cut those words we spent so much time writing. But if each one has a value and that value equates the difference between a contract or not, which would you choose? Yeah, the love looses the shine really fast.
No go find a budget and stick to it!
Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in rural Eastern Oregon in a town more densely populated with cows than people. Taking the words and stories God has placed on her heart and putting them on paper is one of her highest passions in life. Casey is a member of ACFW. You can connect with her through her personal blog, Writing for Christ and her writing related group blog, The Writer's Alley. She also runs Operation Encourage an Author with weekly interview, sneak peeks and giveaways!
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Thanks to Bonnie Leon for joining us today!
When I first started creating stories it was just a hobby. I never dreamed it would be anything more. But after being side-lined by an auto accident, God gave me a new vision, a new way to serve Him through the gift of writing. Though I didn’t fully understand what I was saying yes to, I was committed to the call. God threw open every door, and it was clear that writing novels was part of His plan for me. I vowed to remain faithful to the call until and if He led me elsewhere.
Recently, I’ve heard a lot of writers talk about weariness of spirit. The job of writing (which is huge) along with discouragement and the general difficulties of life are wringing the energy and joy from their lives. Writers work hard. Not only do we create stories, but there can be mountains of research to do before we can even begin. And the editing process can feel endless. Plus there’s marketing, which begins long before we’ve completed a book. It eats up huge chunks of our time.
For a lot of us what is required is more difficult than we’d imagined. I’ve heard many voice thoughts of walking away. I’ve been there myself a time or two. Each time the Holy Spirit calls me back, reminding me of what God asked me to do and of the vow I made to Him. Ultimately my spirit is refreshed and I continue this unpredictable adventure.
God has a purpose in choosing the paths He places us on. We each have a journey and commission chosen by Him. If we decide to walk away we lose something precious—God’s best.
When we set out on this writing quest did we really believe it would be easy? If you’re new to the world of writing get ready to be surprised by its joys and its sorrows. And if you’ve been traveling this road for a while, I pray you’ll hold fast to the dream, remembering God has a bigger picture in mind—it’s not about sales numbers, awards won or achieving fame. It’s about doing what we love and doing it with intention. It can be a tough road, but it’s also full of fun, discovery and remarkable people. And I know no greater sense of accomplishment than writing “The End” when I’ve completed a novel.
Expect rough patches, dry places where we thirst and valleys so dark we fear passing through them. Troubles can throw us off track, but there is always a way back—reach out for God’s helping hand. He is close and will set us back on our feet.
I’m grateful that I get to write. Despite poor wages and long hours, it’s fantastic fun to create characters and leap into their stories. And what a blessing it is to do something with my life that makes a positive difference in the world. I’ve received many letters thanking me and my characters for being an encouragement or helping someone find their way—some who discover Jesus for the first time.
When we find ourselves worn out or uncertain remember God is our Father. Seek Him. Talk with Him. Rest in Him. Lay your troubles, your disillusionment, your fatigue and sorrow at His feet. He will reach out with love, mercy and wisdom. His strength will lift us up and once again help us see the path laid out for us and know the joy of serving others.
Sometimes we need rest. Don’t push forward when God says stop. Resting is not deserting our call. We must be wise stewards of the gifts we've been given. If we keep going when God says stop, we’re working in our strength not His, which is no strength at all.
May you find joy in service. Turn your hearts toward Christ. And remember that as writers we have the privilege of glorifying God through our gifts. No matter how difficult it may seem don’t miss God’s best.
Bonnie Leon dabbled in writing for many years but never set it in a place of priority until an accident in 1991 left her unable to work at her job. She is now the author of several historical fiction series, including the Sydney Cove series, Queensland Chronicles, the Matanuska series, the Sowers Trilogy, and the Northern Lights series. She also stays busy teaching women’s Bible studies, speaking, and teaching at writing seminars and women’s gatherings. Bonnie and her husband, Greg, live in Southern Oregon. They have three grown children and four grandchildren.
Monday, May 9, 2011
2) Q: I know you've written two books, "Campbell's Gold", and "Ancestors of the Gods". Could you tell us a little about both? (This will require more than a couple of paragraphs)
3) Q: How long was it from conception to publication?
4) Q: What was your biggest hurdle during the whole process?
5) Q: What was it like to hold your first copy of your first book, "Campbell's Gold" in your hand?
6) Q: What do you think of E-Books, and do you think hard-copy books will ever become extinct? (That’s the scientist in me talking)
7) Q: What advice would you give an aspiring writer?
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Thanks to Lynn Squire for her insight into self publishing!
Self-Publishing: A Business Venture
An unpublished novelist, Kent, decides to self-publish his novel. Is he prepared to consider his venture a business?
To succeed, he must analyze his endeavor as a business: capital investment, marketing expertise, management abilities, and skill. He creates the following short checklist of “must dos:”
- Set a purpose/mission statement, objectives, goals and policies. Why does he want to publish his book? What is the message he wants his readers to receive? How will he overcome obstacles?
- Determine operating procedures. How many hours in a day does he plan to write, market, and do general business management?
- Determine his personnel needs. Will he hire an editor, assistant, PR person, ghost writer?
- Analyze his competition. What books are like his?
- Analyze his specific readers. What genre, hobby group, religious denomination, etc. does his book appeal to?
- Determine how to reach his readers. How does his competition reach them and what will he do differently?
- Set a budget. Based on research, he creates the following reports:
- Proposed Balance Sheet
- Breakeven Analysis
- Projected profit & loss statements
- 5-year summary
- Detailed profit and lost statement by month for the first two years
- Assumptions he makes in order to project profit and loss
- Cash flow charts for 5 years
After spending at least a month, he is ready to look for a publisher for his book, Love in the Blue Moon.
Today a writer has four options to publishing: POD, high end self-publishing (including co-op publishing), e-book, and traditional. In each route, the following costs will be incurred by the writer:
- Writing Time
Every good business plan includes the entrepreneur’s salary. While you may not initially be able to pay yourself a salary, you need to consider this, especially if you plan to write full-time.
Let’s pretend Kent decides to POD publish Love in the Blue Moon.
Whether you plan to submit to a traditional publisher or self-publish some money (or time) goes into editing. For self-publishing, you must at least hire a copyeditor. Kent has a wonderful critique group, so he decides to forego a macro-edit and only hires a copy editor. He pays the editor $2500 and incurs an additional $500 for cover design.
No author today, whether self-published or traditionally published, can succeed without market. Kent sets his budget for $2500.
His total investment equals $5500. The cost of printing is $4/book. If he sells the book for $10, he has $6 left to cover his editing and marketing expenditures. Before he can start making money on the book, he must sell at least 917 books. The cost of printing and marketing will be recurring expenditures.
Kent’s friend wrote Love by Summer and contracted with a traditional publisher. She paid $2500 to have it edited before submitting it to the publisher. She budgets $2500 for marketing. She will earn $1 per book on royalties and pays 15% of that to her agent, thus she nets $0.75 per book. To cover her expenses she must sell 6667 books. After that she can start earning money.
From a purely business perspective, self-publishing seems a more viable pursuit. Remember, however, that you must sell the books in order to cover your expenses.
Can a person sell more books if they are traditionally published? The general opinion is yes, but I wonder for how long this will be the case? Whichever route you determine to go, realize you will be making a substantial investment, and you will need to plan to recoup that investment.