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"Seekerville" - 5 new articles

  1. The Heart of Your Story
  2. Lazy Website Syndrome
  3. How to Throw a Fantastic Facebook Launch Party (Without Losing Your Sanity)!
  4. The Weekend Edition
  5. Write the Scene
  6. More Recent Articles
  7. Search Seekerville
  8. Prior Mailing Archive

The Heart of Your Story

by guest blogger/s Sparkle Abbey.

Any fans of “The Voice” out there? Have you been watching this season? Wow. Just wow. What incredible talent! 

If you haven’t seen the show, let’s catch you up. “The Voice” is a singing competition with three phases: the blind auditions, the battle rounds, and the live performances. During the blind auditions, the celebrity coaches sit in large red chairs with their backs toward the stage. Each contestant has ninety seconds to sing for their life and get at least one coach to turn their chair around. If more than one coach turns, the contestant chooses which celebrity they want as a coach. It can get competitive fast once the power is in the hands of the contestant. The coaches flaunt their many accomplishments, diss their fellow coaches, and at times, are not above some old-fashioned begging. 

If only there was a reality show like this for writers, where editors fall all over themselves to tell us how amazing we are and how much they want to work with us. Right? 

As this season of the television show has played out, we’ve been struck not only by the fantastic voices of those who were chosen, but also by some incredibly talented singers who were not picked up. When the coaches pass on a contestant, instead of a generic, “not my cup of tea” or “it just didn’t grab me,” they give constructive comments, mostly centered on the lack of development of the performer’s voice. Some singers need to find who they are as an artist. Others are encouraged to study their craft and learn to work through their nerves. And there are some who, although they are “technically flawless,” lack an emotional connection with their song and ultimately with the coaches. 

Developing a strong singing voice takes practice, training, practice, more training and more practice. Sound familiar? 

But whether singing or putting words on the page, once you’ve got the technique down, there’s more. In both music and writing the goal is to connect with the audience. To evoke emotion.  And that happens through your writing voice. 

Your writing voice is the intangible thing that makes your work different from everyone else’s. It’s your particular way of telling a story and it begins with your view of the world and your life experience. 

Think about your favorite authors. Even if their name didn’t appear on the cover of the book, you’d recognize their work. The words their character’s use, the rhythm of the conversations, the way the author paints the setting with a handful of paragraphs or with a single sentence. When done right, their voice casts a spell, transporting the audience or reader to another world, time or place. 
In music, that unique voice is what catches your attention and makes you want more. It’s the same with writing. 

Your voice is the heart of your story. 

Though we believe voice isn’t something that can be taught, we do believe there are some things you can do to help strengthen your voice. 

1. Say it your way. Be true to yourself and your own experiences. Your individual truth is an ingredient of your unique voice. 

2. Dig deep. Use emotion, don’t hold back, share your fresh and original worldview. No one else sees life in exactly the same way you do. Use that.

3. Be brave. Using your true voice in your writing may seem scary. You may feel exposed. Good, then you’re almost there! Work on setting aside your fears and allowing your unique storytelling to come through. Vulnerability is strength.

4. Learn the craft. A strong voice is not simply spitting out raw prose and thinking you’ve got it down. Learn the basics, hone your writing skills, polish your work. Only then can your voice shine through. 

5. Don’t over edit. By that we absolutely do not mean, don’t edit. Bad writing is bad writing and must be whipped into shape. However, fix the grammar, improve the sentence structure, correct the punctuation, but don’t edit the life out of your work. 

6. Stay strong. Listen to your coaches, your beta readers and critique partners. They have your best interests in mind. But don’t let your desire to do it right or make it marketable, overcome your storytelling voice. It’s possible to be technically correct and lose your voice in the process.

Ultimately, it’s your voice – that wonderfully different and distinctive way you string words together – that’s what will make your work stand out from the millions of other storytellers. 

In The Voice competition and in writing and publishing, those who do well: have talent, learn from their coaches, and work hard to hone their skills. It takes all of those things to create great stories.

But those who stand out will have that difficult-to-define element that makes their work memorable, makes you want to hear more, and tugs at your heart. That’s voice. 

As Voice coach, Pharrell Williams, said to a contestant in one of the final episodes of this season, “This is what you were born to do.” 

For you, too, writers, this is what you were born to do.

Thank-you so much Seekerville for letting us stop by! And now we have a question for all of you:

Are you aware of “voice” when you read a book? And, if so, what elements do you think makes a particular writer’s voice speak to you? 

By the way, there will be a drawing among those commenting for a Sparkle Abbey book of your choice. 

Sparkle Abbey is the pseudonym of mystery authors Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter. They’ve chosen to use Sparkle Abbey as their pen name on this series because they liked the idea of combining the names of their two rescue pets – Sparkle (ML’s cat) and Abbey (Anita’s dog). The authors co-write the bestselling Pampered Pets Mystery Series which focuses on the wacky world of precious pedigrees, pampered pooches, and secrets in posh Laguna Beach, California. The main characters and amateur sleuths are Texas cousins, Carolina Lamont, a pet therapist, and Melinda Langston, a pet boutique owner. The first books in the series, Desperate Housedogs, Get Fluffy, Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, Yip/Tuck, Fifty Shades of Greyhound, and The Girl with the Dachshund Tattoo have received rave reviews. Midwest Book Review calls the series, “A fun and sassy mystery!”

The next installment, coming in June, Downton Tabby, is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.

The authors love to hear from readers so stop by their website or visit them on Facebook at: to check out all their news.


Lazy Website Syndrome

with guest Matt Jones of Jones House Creative.

“My website is lazy.”

It’s an odd sentiment. Kind of like calling your car lazy for sitting in the garage. But then again, it’s not, is it? Your website, for all intents and purposes, is like a 24-hour store. Always open and ready for business. You’re like the store’s owner, and the site is your team of employees. Each part of your site, each page, is like a different department of your store, offering something unique to your customers, whether it’s information, a product, entertainment, instructions…whatever. 

But, what if your employees are lazy? What if they aren’t giving people what they want or offering them the information they need to make the decision to buy from you? What if the way your employees look is making people not want to be around them? What if the employees are giving people outdated or incorrect information? Or, worse, what if your employees are misrepresenting you and people are leaving your store because they have the wrong impression of you and your product?


What then? Well, it may be time to get into your store and clean house a bit, because your website can, and should, work diligently night and day for you, and, with a little bit of effort, it will. But first, you need to have an idea of what your website should do for you and what you should do for your site.

What is my web site is supposed to do for me?  

I like Shrek. He’s got layers…like an onion. And, like Shrek, your site’s purpose is layered, too. 

The first layer of that purpose is what I’ll call The Broad Picture: to give a clear representation of who you are, what you have to offer, and how your site visitors can get what you have to offer. Plain and simple. You have something to offer that you want people to buy, and your site’s job is to help people find what you’re offering and buy it.

But there’s a second layer, a little deeper and more psychologically interesting layer. It’s called The Proof. You have to answer your customers’ question, “Why are you an expert? Or, in the case of authors, ‘why are your stories worth my time and money?” This is where you dig deep and present yourself to your readers in a more personal way, showing them that you have skill and passion to provide them a meaningful, impacting journey through your writing and through interaction with you in your website.

A third layer, and probably the most important, is what I’ll call The Core. It answers the question, “How will you meet my need?” Another way of labeling it is “the takeaway.” Think about it: what are your site visitors most concerned about? Themselves. No, not in a negative way, but the simple fact that they are online, visiting websites, more than likely with a cup of coffee in their hand and wearing pajamas, means that in that moment, they aren’t thinking about how they can help the world. They’re looking for something that will do them good or meet a need THEY have. What will your site give them as their takeaway?

What should you do for your website to keep it from being lazy? 

The question isn’t really, “Why isn’t my website doing much for me?” I kinda think that that’s a backward way of thinking. If we’re honest, we know the real question we have to answer is “Whose responsibility is it to make my website work?” It’s yours. 

Think about this: if you haven’t changed the oil in your car, can you blame your car for breaking down and not getting you to the airport on time? Nope. If you don’t put gas in it, will it operate properly? Nope. If peanut M&M’s roll across the dashboard and fall into the defroster vents…you get where I’m going. In short, it’s important to put thought and effort into your website if you want it to run properly. You have to give your “employees” the right tools, the right uniform, and the right training so they can offer the best experience to your customers. How does that translate into action you can take? Well, it’s pretty straightforward: 

1. update content regularly (blogging helps), 
2. keep imagery fresh, and,
3. when necessary, overhaul the whole thing with a new look and features.

Money Talk…

Now, I’ve been posed with the question before, “If my website isn’t doing much for me, why should I pay a lot of money to have a new one built?” This question is a tad more difficult for me to answer without sounding self-serving, so I’ll try to just illustrate (sans-flannelgraph).

Imagine you’re running your dream business; for the sake of this story, we’ll say it’s a flower boutique. You come to work one morning and find your air conditioning units have stopped working. So what do you do? You jump online and look up repair companies. (HINT: the ones with the best SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, will come up first…something to think about…) 

You click simply because it’s the first result within ten miles of your shop and…the website is a blank white page with one photo of a repair guy, presumably ‘Jack’, standing in front of a dirty, nondescript wall. The words “Jack’s Quality Air” are written way off on the right in Comic Sans font, and the huge, red words “COMING SOON” sit in the middle of the page right above a phone number. You click your back button as quickly as you can, hoping the image of Jack isn’t burned into your retinas.

You click the next result,, and, lo-and-behold, a clean, professional-looking site pops up. The colors are cool and inviting. There are pictures of smiling faces. There are several clearly-placed logos from air conditioner manufacturers you recognize. Right there in the colorful image slider at the top of the page are the words, “Did your air conditioner just quit? We can fix it. Call 470-blah-blah-blah and our team of professionals will come fix it today.”

Do these websites ACTUALLY tell you anything about who will do a better job? No, but the professionalism and pleasing aesthetic of Davis and Sons won you over. Without even thinking about it, you were influenced by the site that engendered a feeling of professionalism and trust simply based on its presentation. Did Davis and Sons pay more for their site? Without question. But their return on investment far outstripped the cost of the site. They get business while poor Jack doesn’t.

This is a great illustration of what your website should be doing for you. It should be engendering trust and confidence in your site visitors so that they view you in the way you want them to. I’m not suggestion that anyone misrepresent themselves, but I strongly encourage everyone to remember that, as a writer or a speaker or even a business owner, your website is your first impression to much of the world. People will see your books in a bookstore and immediately try to find What they find when they arrive at your site will, whether fairly or unfairly, influence them in their regard for your writing. Your website is your resumé, your Sunday best, your fireworks show, and your little black dress all in one. It has to wow people and leave them wanting more. 

Tips on how to evaluate if your website is doing its job

So, how do you determine if your site is doing its job? Here are a few tips:

1. Track. Your. Site. Website stats aren’t nearly as mysterious as some people think. Knowing the first few steps and then being willing to get your feet wet will go a long way to understanding and maintaining your site. A few stats you’ll want to track are how people are finding your site, what pages in your site are most popular (and which ones aren’t), how long people stay on your pages, and what links get clicked the most. Use that information as leverage to improve pages people don’t stay on very long, place popular links on more pages, and put “Call to Action” (like “Buy my book!”) on pages people visit most and stay longest.

2. Work on your SEO (search engine optimization). Place content in your site that, when indexed by the big search engines, will help your site climb up in search results. A simple Google search on “SEO for my website” will give you tons of great information and tools to help your site. If you use a content management system like Wordpress, Typepad, Joomla, or Drupal, you’ll have loads of plugins and add-ons available that can help you prep your SEO, too.

3. Get feedback. I’m not a big proponent of using polls on your site, simply because that isn’t why people came to your site, but sometimes, a little bit of  customer feedback can help. If you blog, use a blog post and its comments to connect with your visitors and find out about their experience on your site. NOTE: giveaways help. :)

So, what do you think? Do you have a lazy website? What help do you need? If you don’t, what are some tips you have to keeping your site working for you?

Matt won't toot his own horn, so we'll do it! 

Here are just a small sample of the Seekers and Friends of Seekerville who have websites designed by the Jones House Creative Team.

Pam Hillman

Myra Johnson

Dan Walsh

Elizabeth Goddard

Melissa Tagg

Leave a comment today for an opportunity to win a $10 Amazon gift card. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.

All about Matt Jones of Jones House Creative:

With nearly thirteen years of experience in graphic and web design, Matt is still the first to admit he is constantly learning. “In a field where progress and change is a daily activity and innovation is key, I have to keep learning, keep expanding, and adding new techniques and knowledge to my arsenal. The good thing is, I love it.”

While he enjoys the satisfaction of seeing a well-thought-out design come together, Matt also enjoys all kinds of creativity. A professional bass-player and budding writer, Matt spends his free time enjoying music, hanging out with his amazing wife and three kiddos, and trekking across country in search of beauty and adventure.

Sign up for their newsletter here.


How to Throw a Fantastic Facebook Launch Party (Without Losing Your Sanity)!

with guest blogger Amy J Cattapan.

So maybe you’ve got a new release coming out. Or maybe you’ve spent years hoping you’ll have a book to promote . . . someday. Either way, when the time arrives, you’ll want to be ready to throw yourself one fabulous celebration!

Build up your Facebook author page.

If you don’t already have an author Facebook page, do so pronto. Yes, it’s true that Facebook is using all sorts of algorithms to decide which of your fans should see your posts (the more someone likes and comments on your posts, the more likely they’ll see future posts), but you still want an author page. Don’t believe me? This article from Bad Redhead Media explains very clearly why you don’t want to use your personal page as your author page.

Long before your book releases, you’ll want to build up your audience. Reach out to friends and fellow writers and let them know you have an author page. To keep them coming back, post interesting content daily so that people stay engaged. With the new changes to Facebook, you may need to post 3-5 times a day to reach the most people.

Set the date and time for your party.

Pick an evening during the week when people are likely to be free. The great part about a Facebook party is that people can participate on their smart phones while doing other things. During the launch party for my young adult novel Angelhood, I had one friend participating during her daughter’s fencing lesson! Nonetheless, I wouldn’t recommend a Friday or Saturday night when people will be less likely to commit time to your party. Also, don’t forget to list all the different time zones on your party page! I had people from four different time zones at my party, and you don’t want someone not showing up because they had the wrong time.

Decide on your prizes.

Most authors give away copies of their book, bookmarks, gift cards, and other author swag, but try thinking outside the box, too. For my party, I wanted to celebrate young adult books, so I reached out to my fellow YA authors to see if any of them would be interested in donating copies of their book(s) as prizes.

This turned out to be a win-win for all of us. Seven different authors offered up their books. With each donated book, I added a prize of my own (my own book, a gift card, an Angelhood pen). By offering up other author’s books as prizes, I was able to introduce these other YA authors to the fans who showed up at my party. In fact, several people commented that they loved getting to know so many new authors! Also, these authors advertised my party on their own social media accounts, so a lot of their fans got to learn about me. It was a win-win for us all!

Create cute graphics for your prizes.

Because I was partnering up prizes, I used to create cute graphics for each prize pack. These graphics became a fun way to advertise the party ahead of time on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. During the party, it gave the partygoers a chance to see exactly what they were vying for.

Type up your script ahead of time.

Your Facebook party is going to fly by! You don’t want to waste time composing and typing out your posts during the party. Simply, create a Word document with an entire timeline of already composed posts. For example, I typed out:

8:00 Game #5
In the following passage, I introduce one of the guardian angels in my book. After reading the passage, can you guess what pop singer I had in mind while creating this character?
 “A bright light zooms past me so fast it leaves a trail of shimmering stardust behind. Up ahead, the light blossoms into the image of a feisty, petite angel. She has long blond hair with a pink streak dyed through the right side, heavy dark eyeliner, and black fingernails. She wears a black tank top over ripped jeans and cargo boots. A tattoo of a Celtic cross adorns her upper arm. A pair of bright wings are tucked behind her.” 
Since I was inspired by a musician, I’m giving away an iTunes gift card for this one! Plus, you’ll get a copy of Marissa Shrock’s YA dystopian novel The First Principle. 

Notice how I tied together a snippet of the book, some background on how I come up with a character, and the prize. People like getting inside information so craft your games so that people feel liked they’re getting the inside scoop.

Here’s another game we played:

8:15 Game 6
 My main character’s younger sister Cecille is a ballet dancer. I took ballet lessons for only a few years but really enjoyed our dance recital in which we performed a ballet to a song from a popular opera that takes place in the Far East. Can you guess the opera?

The prize is a Jamberry nail wrap gift basket, including a sheet of the ballet slipper style like I’m wearing tonight and a copy of Cynthia T. Toney’s Bird Face, a great story about overcoming bullying.

This script was a lifesaver! It was so easy to just cut and paste the posts at the necessary times. This left me free to read people’s comments on the posts and respond to them.

Gather your friends for help!

I had a team of about six women helping me out. We staked out a spot at a local Starbucks, made sure we had plenty of caffeine, and fired up our laptops and tablets.

The women took turns watching the entries on the games. Each time a new game went up, one of them would take all the names of the commenters and enter them into As soon as the game was over, they hit the “randomizer,” and the top name became our winner!

We were getting around 50 comments per post, so having a lot of eyes on the party helped tremendously.

Have a place to write down the winners’ names.

At the end of my Word document script, I listed all the prizes (by the way, I definitely recommend numbering your games and prizes!). As soon as the winner was picked, I typed in the name and posted it in the comments section of that game. When the entire party was over, I listed all the prizewinners in a single post.

Have fun with it!

My friends and I all dressed in our “Angelhood blue” t-shirts, so we’d stand out at the Starbucks. My sister-in-law (who makes customized jewelry) even made necklaces for us with my book cover design on it. When the two hours flew by, we couldn’t believe it! Over 100 people had joined our party, and it was so much fun reading their comments.

But you want to know if this helped book sales, don’t you? I mean, having fun is good and all, but is it worth the time and effort? While I haven’t seen my sales numbers yet, I can tell you this: Angelhood sat at the #1 Amazon bestseller spot for Christian YA on social issues for the first few days it was out. The next week, it fell down. By the morning of the Facebook party, Angelhood was down to #25 or so, but after the Facebook party, I checked the rankings again, and it was back up at #2! So the Facebook party definitely helped spread the word around and got me some more sales.

Have you thrown or attended a Facebook launch party? What did you think? Do you have tips for others on how to make it a success?

Leave a comment today for an opportunity to win an ecopy of Angelhood from Seekerville. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.

A.J. Cattapan is an author, speaker, and middle school English teacher living in the Chicago area. Her published works include the young adult novel Angelhood, a story in Chicken Soup for the Soul: From Lemons to Lemonade, and numerous short stories and articles in magazines for teens and children, including Highlights and Hopscotch for Girls. She will also be featured in a recipe and corresponding story anthology due out this summer.

You can find her here:


Seventeen-year-old theater geek Nanette believes her life is headed toward stardom on Broadway. But when her dream theater college rejects her and her best friend dies in a terrible accident, Nanette decides the world would be better off without her. Unfortunately, the afterlife offers something less than a heavenly situation. Trapped between alternating periods of utter darkness and light, Nanette is stuck following a high school freshman around. Soon, she learns she’s a guardian angel, and the only way she can earn her wings is to keep her young charge, Vera, from committing the same sin she did—taking her own life.
Unfortunately, Nanette is missing more than just her wings. She has no tangible body or voice, either. Frustrated by her inability to reach out to Vera and haunted by memories of her old life, Nanette wants to give up, but then she sees what happens when another Guardian at the high school turns his back on his charge. The shock is enough to supercharge Nanette’s determination. If she’s going to find peace in the afterlife, she’s going to have to discover what living is really all about.

Purchase Links:
Amazon Kindle  
Amazon Paperback  
Barnes & Noble Nook  


The Weekend Edition

Happy Memorial Day from Seekerville. 
When I was I kid, I thought Memorial Day simply meant
 the pool was open and I could wear white.

We Have Winners

 Giveaway rules can be found here. Please drop us a line to claim your giveaway at All prizes not claimed in 8 weeks go back into the prize vault. We wish we could contact all our winners individually, but we'd rather write books! And P.S. - if we forget to send  your prize DO let us know after 8 weeks per our rules. 

 Monday  Love Inspired Historical author Janet Dean discussed how to bring story people onstage in her post, "Tips for Introducing Characters in Ways that Will Hook Readers."  Laura Pol is the winner a $10 Amazon gift card.

What a kick! Tuesday we hosted debut author, Rachelle Dekker (daughter of Ted Dekker)  in Seekerville with a dose of "Coloring Outside the Lines." Megan Besing is the winner of her debut novel from Tyndale, The Choosing.

Wednesday  Ruth Logan Herne was back with "Three R's: Revise, Rewrite and Resubmit: A Gift You Can Take to the Bank." How to take it on the chin and make the story better! She gave advice on revisions, taking direction and dealing with Writing Reality 101.  Olivia, Sherri Woodbridge, Tanya Adler, Deb H and Laura Pol are winners of  Healing the Lawman's Heart.

The Characteristics – And The Characters – Of A Christian Novel." Winnie Griggs joined us on Thursday to discuss what a Christian novel is and is not, as well as list some of the questions we should ask and answer about our characters when penning Christian Fiction.Walt Mussel and Mary Hicks won their choice of her current release or any title in her back list.   

2014 ACFW Carol Award winner,  Tina Radcliffe was your hostess on Friday, with a back to basics post, "Just Write the Scene." It was guaranteed to be a painful day of writing growth. Winners of  a scene critique, not to exceed ten pages, are Sherida, Terri Weldon and Sally Shupe. Winner of a triple threat, Missy, Tina and Ruthy's current release in print or ebook is Kathy Bailey.

 Next Week In Seekerville

Monday: Vinspire author Amy J Cappatan is our holiday hostess with her post, "How to Throw a Fantastic Facebook Launch Party (Without Losing Your Sanity)!" Stop by to chat  and you could win an e-copy of her YA release, Angelhood.

Tuesday: Let's talk about your website. Matt Jones of Jones House Creative is today's special guest with his post, "Lazy Website Syndrome."  Stop by and meet the genius behind many of your favorite author's websites. P.S. The prize vault is open!

Wednesday: We're quoting another furry friend when we say that we have a pawsome day planned today with the return of Sparkle Abbey. They're sharing, "The Heart of Your Story,"with us! Comment for the chance to win a Sparkle Abbey book of your choice. BTW, the next installment for Sparkle Abbey, is coming in June. Take a peek at Downton Tabby.

Thursday: Amanda Barratt comes to Seekerville to talk about writing with integrity and how integrity affects every aspect of our lives. Join us as we explore her wise theory and your name will be tossed in Amanda's cat dish for a copy of her debut offering in Barbour's The Most Eligible Bachelor romance collection!

Friday: It's time for the June Contest Update. Stop by to meet our June diva/divo and of we have more five page critiques ready to giveaway!

Seeker Sightings

Two Days Left to Get Your Name in the Drawing for the Beach Book Bonanza.
Read all about entering the raffle HERE:

Stop by Soul Inspirationz for a chance to win a Ruthy and  Tina June release!

On Sale This Week For .99!!!! Ruthy's 4.6 Star-rated "Safely Home" is on sale for the next four days for your Kindle or your Kindle App on any device. "Detective Cress Dietrich never intended to come home, but a bullet in the leg, a toxic relationship and her beloved grandmother's cancer diagnosis proved her wrong. Cress Dietrich was the last person Alex Westmore thought he'd be attracted to, but he was wrong. The wounded soul within the tough-as-nails woman calls to him, but can he convince Cress of his love and devotion without revealing the secrets in her grandparents' past?"

Random News & Information

Awesome Combo! The 10 Keys to Writing Killer Fight Scenes (Writer Unboxed)

5 Top Tips For Driving a Ton of Free Traffic with Twitter (Jeff Bullas)

 How To Beta Your Book by Bronwen Evans (Romance University)

4 Signs of an Unhealthy Agent-Author Relationship (Writers in the Storm)

Check out the SYTYCW Boot Camp!

Should You Give Someone A Book? (BuzzFeed Books)

On Book Designing (JA Konrath)

Apple Releases iBooks Author Starter Kit (Ink, Bits, & Pixels)

 Harlequin & HarperCollins to Launch New Audio Imprint (GalleyCat)

The Daily Routines of Famous Creative People: INFOGRAPHIC (GalleyCat)

This is for Tanya Agler who asked a very interesting question yesterday in my blog post, Write the Scene (at the end of the comments).  

That's it!

Have a safe and blessed holiday weekend!


Write the Scene

Writing a scene seems straightforward enough, but I want to journey past the basics and  into a few other areas of scene that have been on my mind.

If you've been in my online class the basics are not new. You have permission to eat donuts while I review scene and ignore sequel for today. Please save me a maple glazed donut.

The Basics of Scene:

The goals of scenes are to elicit emotion and move your story forward. 

Just like your book has GMC (Goal, Motivation & Conflict) , your scenes have GCD. 

Structure of Scenes:

Goal->Character wants something
Conflict ->2 characters with incompatible goals
Disaster->hook, unexpected development

In many inspirational and sweet romance novels the conflict and disaster are what is called "low tension." The conflict provides enough worry factor to satisfy the reader, but generally does not involve world peace. The disaster at the end of the scene can be as simple an internal monologue of worry or "what am I going to do now?"  Or it can be a real "gasp" hook as in suspense or action novels.  Varying your disaster in each scene provides more interest for your reader so they don't predict what's next.

And remember that disaster is why you do not end your scenes with going to bed. The reason we end with disaster is so the story advances, the tension increases and the reader keeps turning the pages. 

Additionally, every scene asks a question: Take the scene goal and turn it into a question. Will xx get xx? The character should always be in worse shape at the end of the scene than at the start.

 An example of scene GCD:

  • Goal: Daisy wants the land that borders the river and plans to purchase it today after selling her cows at market. (The scene question is, will Daisy get the land?)
  • Conflict: She goes to the claim office and discovers the price on the land has gone up.
  • Disaster: Not only that, but Cade (her mortal enemy) tells her he intends to buy it and the only way she can have that land is to marry him.

Cheesy, but you get my point. 

And here are some real disaster scene endings from books on my shelf- notice the variety of different types of tension in the disaster endings.

The fire engine’s horn sounded before the vehicle pulled away from the curb.Maggie shook her head, willing herself out of the daze that had wrapped itself around her.
“I’m simply going to have to stay out of his way,” she murmured. “Because Jake MacLaughlin is an exceptionally dangerous man.” 
Safe in the Fireman's Arms-Tina Radcliffe 

The doctor looked up from her crouched position. "Less than ten years, and these markings on the rib cage-" she pointed at the tiny lines "-are lacerations made by a knifelike instrument. It would appear a crime has occurred on your island, Sheriff Grant. And my assessment says it's murder." 
 Grave Danger-Katy Lee 
 Reel wondered if Robie was still coming after her. She wondered if right now he regretted not killing her.
Her phone buzzed. She looked down at the screen.
Will Robie had just answered her.
The Hit- David Baldacci

And yet, once again I will mention my post 7 Things You Need to Stop Doing Now as I reference scenes with no goals.

So, if ham and cheese on rye with the hero is your only scene goal, the conflict better be that the waitress hates your heroine and wants the hero and the disaster is she poisoned your heroine.

Resources for further research on Scene:
Scene & Structure-Jack M. Bickham
Writing the Perfect Scene –Randy Ingermanson

 And just for fun here is Joanna Penn from the Creative Penn talking about how she writes scenes.

I've laid the foundation. Now let's talk about a common practice I see with newer writers. If you think I'm talking about you, you're right and wrong. We've all been there and done that. and have the shirt. 

Writing Around the Scene 

Writing around the scene usually occurs when your hero and heroine are about to share the stage in a monumental way. The writer leads you up to the scene nicely and then stops right on the edge of the precipice. 

The next thing on the page is either hours later, the next day, or worse, reflection by one of the characters on the scene that we never saw (this reflection is called sequel btw).

Don't do that. Why? Because you are cheating your reader and subconsciously making them very cranky. Allow me to explain.

Scenes are live.

Everything you say happens in a scene must play out in real time. TIME IS REAL IN EACH SCENE. -Michael Hauge

 Yes, we all use techniques to show the passage of time, however that is used to avoid the stuff readers skip over, like sleeping, showering, using the loo.

BUT passage of time techniques must never, ever cheat your reader.

Every scene is not only going to provide GCD (Goal, Conflict, Disaster) and advance your story, but it also is an opportunity to endear your reader to your protagonist. To get them into the skin of our character. To make them root for your hero/heroine. Make them care. It's also an opportunity to elicit emotion. 

When you make your readers part of the journey then they think about your characters long after they close the book. 

Now on to more sticky scene stuff....

A while back Mary Connealy mentioned the fear that writers have as they sit, hands poised over the keyboard ready to tackle a difficult scene. Let's address that because again, it's another writerly phenomena we all experience.

Fear of Writing the Scene 

We are neurotic writers who talk to people in our heads, and our fears include:

  • Fear of the audience
  • Fear of the editor
  • Fear of ourselves
  • Fear of the art

This begins with some basic neurosis as you self-talk.  

What if I can’t get what’s in my head onto the paper?

Who am I to tell this story?

What if I fail?

What if it’s misinterpreted?

What if they don’t hear it, taste it, feel it as I do?

What if I freeze in the clutch?

What if they find out I'm a fraud?

What if my editor hates it?

What if I get one-star reviews?

The first step toward writing past your fear is to IGNORE YOUR HEAD. (AND STOP READING REVIEWS -You know who you are and yes, I am talking to you!)

You are not alone in your fears, so just go ahead and write the scene.

The writer does not know what he knows. You must remain with a difficult scene for as long as it takes to dig deeply into yourself and discover more of what you know. You not only complete the scene, but add to your store of writing skill.

The "short breath" writer is facile and easily discouraged. When he exhausts what he knows, he rearranges and never learns anything new. He repeats and re-repeats. The "long breath" writer plunges deeply until he finds what he needs. He emerges from the depths of "self" with new material, new techniques. He learns from himself.

Dare to Be a Great Writer-Leonard Bishop

Now I leave you with a thought provoking technique to consider when you sit down to write your next scene:

Every scene has a "hot spot," the moment that the rest of the scene is built around. One way to determine the best length for a scene is to locate that moment and draw a box around it. Then read backwards from there. Read the previous paragraph and ask yourself whether or not it  (or all the sentences in it) contributes to that hot spot. Then repeat the paragraph before that and repeat the process. By alternating the traditional linear reading, you get a more objective perspective of each line and are able to cut those that interfere.

Novelists Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes-Ray Obstfeld.

Here's the promised quiz for today:

Which of the three areas I mentioned today do you struggle with? What's your greatest fear as a writer? 

Are you afraid of critiques? If not, then let me know you want to be considered for a critique of a scene. No longer than ten pages. Two names will be drawn and announced in the Weekend Edition.

And if you're a reader, I'll give you this triple header in print or Kindle-all three if you haven't read any of them, or just the ones you haven't read.

And you have another chance to win Safe in the Fireman's Arms, and Healing the Lawman's Heart here on Soul Inspirationz.


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