Missy, here, talking about episodic writing today, and also sharing photos from the 2012 Southern Kentucky Bookfest. I know we’ve already had fantastic posts on the topic of episodic writing. One by Cheryl Wyatt sharing input from her editor, Melissa Endlich. And another from Janet Deanwhere she touched on the problem in her post about scene and sequel.
Though I honestly think I’m doing better, episodic writing is still something I’m working to avoid. I hope you don’t mind going along for the ride as I try to figure out why this is a problem with so many writers.
First, what is episodic writing? Have you ever gotten feedback from an editor or agent or contest judge with this term? According to Cheryl (via Melissa), it’s “…when one scene happens then another and another and so on but there is really no point to the scenes. They end up trumping the overall story arc but do nothing to move the plot forward.”
|Missy Tippens signing beside Allie Pleiter with Virginia Smith in the background .|
My own take on it is that you end up with episodic writing when you write lots of fun, cute, interesting, scary, exciting (or whatever type) scenes and string them together into a story. The problem is, they often don’t have much to do with the overall story arc or with advancing the plot.
And I think one of the reasons we tend to do this is because we live in a culture where we spend a lot of time in front of the TV. (I know there are probably those of you who don’t watch TV at all. But I still think the majority does watch at least one favorite show a week.)
|Ann Gabhart and Allie Pleiter|Okay, time to admit how many shows you watch or record/DVR each week. I admit I have several that I DVR and watch late at night. There are some, like Project Runway or MasterChef, that probably don’t affect the flow of my writing. But when I thought of others, like Castle, Pretty Little Liars (a big weekly event my daughter and I share), Grey’s Anatomy and Parenthood, I realized how the flow of these episodes (key word!) could affect my writing.
|Lori Copeland and Missy Tippens|
On the one hand, these type shows are great for teaching how to write a fantastic scene or chapter hook. Just think how long the week between episodes seems! (Who else out there is about to DIE for the next season of Castle to find out what’s going to happen?)
But these shows tend to have the main character dealing with one problem each week, solving it, and then possibly leaving you with a new problem introduced or a hint at what’s to come. The thing is, there may not be much of an overall season-long story arc. Each episode is stand-alone. And that can be a real problem in our writing.
|Trish Milburn and Missy Tippens|
So how do we battle episodic writing in a world where we watch weekly episodes of our favorite TV shows? Here are some of my tips:
--The most logical way would be to watch less TV and read more. :) I’m smiling but serious. The more we read, the more we “soak up” the natural flow of storytelling.
--Make sure your main character has a story-long goal that she has to achieve and that she’s taking some sort of step to pursue it in each scene. Not only does this help with story drive, but it also helps make your character active and not just reactive.
--Also, make sure the conflict (the obstacles to her goal) get worse as the story progresses. This assures you have escalating conflict. I usually make a list of all the ways she can fail to reach her goal and then order them from mildest to worst.
--Make sure your story has a sense of drive, of moving forward. This is related to the previous tip. But I like to check this using action and reaction. My main character takes a step toward her overall story goal. Some obstacle stands in her way, so she reacts by making a new decision or plan of action. Then repeat. (I even create an action-reaction chart to check myself on this to make sure my character is always proactive.)
--Don’t fall into the trap of feeling like your story needs to move chronologically like you do in living normal life. If you end one scene at bedtime, don’t feel like you have to open the next scene at the breakfast table the next day. Think more in terms of what your character’s next step is in achieving her goal rather than in terms of a clock or calendar.
|Alecia Whitaker and Missy Tippens|
So now it’s your turn. Share what shows you like to watch regularly. :) And also what you do to make sure your writing isn’t episodic.
|Heather Graham and Missy Tippens|I hope you’ll visit me at www.missytippens.com and sign up for my quarterly newsletter. I’d also love to hang out with you here:
Welcome to Speedbo Week 2!
Congratulations to our 164 SPEEDBO PARTICIPANTS!
The winner of this week's $25 Amazon gift card is Emily Neyer and the winner of a Seeker critique is Meghan Carver. Let us know if you want to be considered for next week's critique. (All critiques can be claimed AFTER Speedbo.)
We Have Winners
If you are a winner, email us asap at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please read our legal page here. If you haven't received your prize in 8 weeks, drop us a line (we get busy writing books and forget). You must contact us every single time you win.
"How to Create Characters So Real You’ll Be Tempted to Add Them to Your Christmas List " was our Tuesday topic, with guest, Abingdon Press author, Lisa Carter. Lisa is generously giving us a triple giveaway that includes Carolina Reckoning, or Aloha Rose, or Beneath a Navajo Moon. Three winners.The winners are Walt Mussell, DebH and Sally Bradley.
Wednesday, Heartsong Presents author Helen Gray was our guest with her post, "Writing Your Book: Setting Your Tempo to the End." Winner of Helen's debut release, Ozark Sweetheart is Pat Westmoreland.
On Thursday, Zondervan author Melanie Dickerson was our guest blogger with her post, "Theme: How can I use it for a more powerful reading experience?" Winner of her latest release, The Captive Maiden is Dianna Shuford.
"Beating Repetition out of Dialogue Tags" was our Friday post, with Christina Rich. Winner of her debut release from Love Inspired Historical, The Guardian's Promise is Natalie Monk.
Next Week in Speedbo-ville
Monday:Join Love Inspired author Missy Tippens as she brings "Episodic Writing Revisited." How are your scenes coming during Speedbo? Are you feeling lost about what to write next? Stop by for tips to help!
Tuesday: Confirmed seat-of-the-pants author Myra Johnson shares some tips for "When a Pantser Has to Plot." Wherever you are on your Speedbo quest, Myra's list of 12 questions to ponder as you write will help your story stay on track. Join the conversation for a chance to win a $10 Panera Bread or Starbucks eGift card (winner's choice).
Wednesday: How can one enhance the depth of a novel? Why, with a little bit of help from one's friends, of course! Join Julie Lessman for "BFF: BEST FRIENDS IN FICTION ... or Enriching Your Story with Friendship," which will include a giveaway of winner’s choice of Julie's books including Romance-ology 101: Writing Romantic Tension for the Inspirational and Sweet Markets or Julie’s latest release, Dare to Love Again.
Thursday: Today, Ruth Logan Herne rides herd in her typical sweet style with a post that mocks, encourages, berates and entertains, all while serving up delicious repast of virtual delicious food that none of you can touch because it's Lent and you gave it up! And while she's upbraiding and consoling you, she's going to offer up five copies of her newest Love Inspired release Loving the Lawman, an amazingly poignant tale of second chances, a mother's love and God's perfect timing!
Friday: Fourteen days into Speedbo! Today White Rose Publishing author, Terri Weldon will talk about "Where Do Story Ideas Come From?" Stop by to chat and for an opportunity to win a Starbucks gift card.
Please do share your sightings and news in the comments or on our Facebook page.
Today (Saturday, 3/8/14) only!!! Myra Johnson's ebook Pearl of Great Price is available free for Kindle! Download your copy here!
About the book:
Raised by her grandfather after her mother died, flea market manager Julie Pearl Stiles promised herself she’d postpone the search for her absentee father until the truth could no longer hurt Grandpa. Then one crazy June day ushers in a series of discoveries that threaten to turn Julie’s peaceful, small-town life upside down. As Julie is drawn deeper into the secrets of the past, she finds herself questioning everything she’s ever believed about herself, her family, and her future.
A few seats are still available for Publishers Weekly Contributing Editor Barbara Vey’s READER APPRECIATION LUNCHEON, to be held on April 26, in Milwaukee, WI. Each year the luncheon gets bigger and better, and this year promises to be amazing with Keynote Speak Debbie Macomber, swag bags overflowing with books, lots of mix and mingle time with favorite authors, author basket giveaways and more. Check it out at http://www.BarbaraVeyReaders.com. Reservations close at the end of March so get your tickets now.
Friday, March 14th Tina Radcliffe is bringing something Irish (possibly..Italian disguised as Irish) to the Yankee-Belle Cafe.
And here's a heads up! If you live in Arizona, consider joining or visiting the Christian Writers of the West. Mark your calendar and line up a babysitter as Tina will be their guest on Saturday, March 29th talking about Emotions. Details here.
For those of you in the Tucson area, Sandra Leesmith will be signing books at the Tucson Festival of Books (http://tucsonfestivalofbooks.org) next weekend.
On Saturday, March 16 she will be signing at the Arizona Dreaming Booth from 9:00-5:00. On Sunday, March 16 she will be signing at the Society of Southwestern Authors Booth from 11:00-1:00. Please stop by and say hi!
Debby Giusti announces the March release of her latest Love Inspired Suspense -- The Agent's Secret Past – available at your favorite book stores and online at Amazon.
And...members of the Love Inspired Suspense book club will be able to get Debby’s award-winning Countdown to Dead as an April reissue from Love Inspired Books
Random News & Information
Once again, thank you to everyone who sent links!
This just came up, so will share the info. Apple iTunes, Harlequin Meet the Editors podcasts. Free.
Love Inspired Editor Emily Rodmell will guest blog on Seekerville in May to celebrate the expansion of the Love Inspired Suspense line from four to SIX books each month. Emily will talk about the expansion, but she’ll also answer questions you might have about Love Inspired Books, the three LI imprints: Love Inspired, Love Inspired Suspense, and Love Inspired Historical, the submission process, what she’s looking for in a submission, how to WOW! an editor and more. Send the questions you’ve always wanted to ask an editor to email@example.com between now and March 24. Questions will compiled and sent to Emily who will respond on May 21 in her Seekerville guest blog.
This Insane New App Will Allow You To Read Novels In Under 90 Minutes (Elite Daily)
The Strongest Brand in Publishing is... (Forbes)
Calling all romance readers! Love romance and want to read books from your favorite and new authors? Be a Reader Rating Judge for RomCon®. As a judge, you choose the genre(s) you love and set the Heat Scale to your personal tastes and we send you matching books to read and score.
It's easy, it's fun and best of all--you get to read romance!
To participate, please go here to register
Hope you'll join us in finding the new and best books in romance!
Need some help with Speedbo? Check out ilys.com Beta.
Grand Central Publishing announced a number of recent promotions. In editorial, Emily Griffin, Michele Bidelspach, and Alex Logan have been promoted to senior editor. Megha Parekh has been promoted to associate editor, while Libby Burton and Lindsey Rose move up to assistant editor.(Publishers Lunch)
Harlequin CEO Craig Swinwood on Harlequin Results, Book Pricing and Self-Publishing (DBW)
The Most Popular Books in Each of the 50 States (Parade)
How to write a great author bio that will connect with readers (The BookBaby Blog)
Paying to get on the New York Times Best Seller List (The Passive Voice)
5 Keep-It-Simple Marketing Tips For Indie Authors (Marketing Tips for Authors)
Author Entrepreneur: Eight Essentials to Make Writing Pay the Bills (The Creative Penn)
THAT'S IT! LET'S SPEEDBO!
with guest blogger Christina Rich
If you’ve been around the writing world long enough you know there are a bunch of rules. Being the rule follower that I am, I tend to become obsessive. And, a little crazy when those rules change, especially when talking about dialogue tags.
When I first started writing it seemed as if the rule of thumb was to be creative with your tags. He said/she said was no longer kosher.
“Jeremy,” she exclaimed as she ran toward him.
“No,” Old Mother Hubbard cried. “I can’t deal with another child. What will I feed them?”
“Little pig, little pig, let me in,” Wolf demanded.
“No, no, not by the hair on my chinny, chin, chin,” Little Pig quivered.
“Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house down,” Wolf growled
Soon we were hearing, STOP! What madness is this? Just use he said. It disappears.
“Little pig, little pig, let me in,” Wolf said.
“No, no, not by the hair on my chinny, chin, chin,” Little Pig said.
“Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house down,” Wolf said.
Really… I mean, really! I feel like with the constant repetition all I’m reading is said.
I’ve said it before, we live in a fast food kind of world and as such we do need to accommodate our readers. We also live in a hyper-sense kind of world. Look at our 3-D movies. Filmmakers are doing all they can to bring their viewers into their world. Soon they theaters will have a smell machine, one that will bring tropical islands alive, the scent of rain, the stench of death.
As writers it’s our job to bring our readers into our world, so much so that they have some difficulty separating fact from fiction. Have you ever walked away from a book, wondering what the main characters were doing now? Wondering if they were driving that old pick-up down the dirt road to lay flowers at their mamma’s grave? Wondering if the butcher cut the right piece of meat for Miss Mable, or whether or not little Jimmy finally caught that big, elusive bass?
Those are usually the books that end up on my keeper shelf. The authors of these books have done their job. They’ve created great characters and utilized their words with optimal effectiveness. One way of creating this effect is by utilizing something called action beats.
“Little pig, little pig, let me in.” Wolf tapped his nails, one at a time, against the bright red door.
“No, no.” The door quivered with each of Pig’s words. “Not by the hair on my chinny, chin, chin.”
“Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff,” Wolf licked his lips. “And I’ll blow your house down.”
Now, I’m not saying we need to cut all he said/she saids from the manuscript, but by replacing some dialogue tags with action beats we get to know the character a little better.
Let’s look at one of my works in progress, Rescuing the Fireman.
“Hey there.” The way his voice cracked it seemed like he was the one suffering from smoke inhalation, not her. He held up a lime green gym bag. “Myrtle packed a change of clothes for you. Thought you’d need them.”
Casey blinked, and if his imagination wasn’t running too wild, she may have even smiled a little. It was hard to tell with the oxygen mask over her face. He uncrossed his arms and jammed his hands into his pockets as he stood straight. Drawing in a deep breath, he rocked back on his heels and noticed his boots were several inches into Casey’s room. What would a few more hurt him?
He took a step in and made for the television set. “I Love Lucy. Great episode. Mind if I turn it up? Of course, you could probably recite the lines word for word, but since you’re not supposed to talk just yet—”
Was that him rambling on like a nervous kid? He glanced over his shoulder. Casey’s eyes danced with amusement. At least he was doing something right. He sat down in the chair near the foot of the bed and rested his elbows on his knees. “I uh, took the horses out to my dad’s. There’s plenty of room. He put up a new barn a few years ago.” He hesitated, knowing his next words could send her packing her bags and leaving Groverton for good.
There isn’t one single he said in there and we get to know a little more about Levi, about his fears and mannerisms. These next few lines from the same scene show us a little more about him.
All the sudden the air in the room seemed thick, choking, too much like hand sanitizer. He removed his baseball cap and ran his fingers through his hair. “Look, I’m sorry. I should have gotten there sooner. If I hadn’t been in the old rig when the call came in maybe I would have. I should have—”
The warmth of her fingers startled him to silence. He looked down to where she touched his arm. He hadn’t even realized he’d gotten up from the chair, let alone had neared her hospital bed. He dropped his chin to his chest. “Case—”
“I wondered where you’d gone off to. Half feared I’d have to walk all the way back to Groverton.” Myrtle hobbled into the room, her hand wrapped around a young woman wearing purple scrubs. “He doesn’t like hospitals much. Actually didn’t think he’d step foot past them twirling doors downstairs, but he did. And look at you now, Levi. All cozy with my niece.”
Levi’s face grew warm at Myrtle’s observation, and he pulled away from Casey’s reassuring touch. The instant separation was like waking up from a coma and finding out she’d left without so much as a good-bye.
“Well, I uh, will just step outside.” He folded the bill of his ball cap. “Take your time, Myrtle.” His feet seemed to take on the weight of cement as he headed toward the door. He turned for one last look. Her grey eyes filled with concern, no doubt for the horses. “I’ll take care of them until you get out.”
I might be a little bias, okay a lot, but I just love the way he folds the bill of his hat, and what about Myrtle? What sort of image do we get of her from the accompanying action beat? It paints her much better than a she said.
Here is a scene from my heroine’s point of view. We don’t get a lot about Casey, but we do see Levi’s father through her eyes and how he’s changed since she’d last seen him.
Casey had thought with the distance and the time apart she’d be over him. Obviously, she was wrong. She climbed the steps in front of Turner’s Hardware and opened the door. A cowbell, familiar, yet startling, jangled above her head.
“How can I help you?” A lanky, gray haired man appeared from behind blue drapes. He’d aged some. All right, quite a bit. He looked like a man who was barely surviving. A man going through the motions.
“Hello, Mr. Turner.” Adjusting the purse strap on her shoulder, she walked toward the counter. “I wanted to thank you for letting me use your pasture and barn until I can get ours rebuilt.”
He peered at her from over the rim of his glasses. His brows pulled downward.
Okay, now it’s your turn. Find a section in your manuscript where you have some dialogue tags and change them to an action beat. Feel free to share your before and afters.
Christina Rich celebrates the debut of her Love Inspired Historical, The Guardian's Promise, with a giveaway to one commenter. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.
A Kingdom in Jeopardy
An evil queen and her royal guards will stop at nothing to find—and kill—the rightful heir to the throne of Judah. When their pursuit leads them to Mira’s village, only her father’s bond servant, Ari, a man shrouded in secrets, can keep Mira safe.
Abandoning his life as a temple guard and becoming an indentured servant was the only way Ari could protect young Joash, the true King of Judah, from Queen Athaliah. But his sacred duty prevents him from confessing his feelings for his master’s daughter. With the future of their nation on the line, Ari and Mira will risk everything to save their people.
And if you haven't read the interesting story behind the sale of this story to Harlequin, take a moment to read it here.
When she was younger, Christina Rich tried to dig herself to China, loved Three Billy Goats Gruff, and had an obsession with maps. She gave up her dig to China but still jumps at the chance to travel even if it's just down the road. She loves watching modern takes of fairytales and mythologies on the big screen and still has a huge obsession with maps. The older the better.
Born and raised in Kansas, where she currently lives with her husband and children, Christina loves to read stories with happily ever afters, research, take photos, knit scarves, dig into her ancestry, fish, visit the ocean, write stories with happily ever afters and talk about her family and Jesus.
With Guest Melanie Dickerson.
Theme has always been one of those ethereal aspects of story that I wasn’t too sure I even understood, let alone something I could plan and/or harness to make my story more powerful. Lately I’ve been realizing that theme is something I should be paying a lot more attention to. But what is theme?
Here is the definition I like best from Merriam-Webster: Theme is an idea, ideal, or orienting principle that is dominant or persistent.
In other words, theme is a dominant principle that shows up persistently in a story. The more stories I write, the more I want each one to stand out and to make a powerful impression on my readers. And I’ve been wondering if I might be able to intentionally weave theme throughout my story.
Now, I’m still figuring this out. In fact, the reason I volunteered to write my blog post on theme was because I wanted to learn more about it and figure out how to do a better job of incorporating theme into my stories.
I’ve been reading a book called Writing Subtext: How to craft subtext that develops characters, boosts suspense, and reinforces theme by Elizabeth Lyon. I realize that most of the things she talks about I am already doing, but not intentionally.
To be honest, I was never very good at figuring out the theme and underlying meaning behind poetry or classic novels. I guess I tend to think in literal terms. And it makes me upset when “experts” interpret a poem or story to mean something I don’t think the author ever intended—or when reviewers read something into my own novels that I never intended. So how can we make sure our readers don’t miss the theme of our novels, experience it in a deep and meaningful way, and yet, avoid beating them over the head with it?
James Scott Bell and Donald Maass, both a lot smarter and more experienced than I am, have talked about the fact that, if you do the work of developing your characters and your plot, theme will naturally emerge. But what can you do to reinforce it? And should you even try?
In my Beauty and the Beast story,The Merchant’s Daughter, one of the themes that naturally emerged was the theme of inner beauty and that it was possible to love someone in spite of their outward appearance. The main characters and plot epitomize this theme, as the hero was disfigured in an accident when he was younger and didn’t believe any woman, especially a beautiful woman, could ever love him.
But I also had a secondary character who reinforced it. Stephen was the heroine’s good friend from childhood, and she loved him. Her friendship type of love was not hampered in the least by Stephen’s cerebral palsy, which caused him to walk in a way that was noticeably different from everyone else. But if I had wanted to be even more intentional about reinforcing the theme, I might have spent a little more time exploring Stephen and his experiences and interactions with other characters. I also could have had one of the characters mention the theme in dialogue.
I came up with three ways theme might be reinforced:
2. An object that symbolizes the theme
However, I also got to thinking that this sort of reinforcement of theme could easily become overdone and seem heavy-handed. My conclusion is that, as the author, I need to be aware of the theme of my book, whether it’s while I’m writing the first draft, before I even start writing, or after I’m done, when I’m revising. During the revision process, I need to reinforce theme, but I should be careful not to overdo it. Let the story itself convey the theme, let the characters come to grips with the theme, but don’t preach the theme to the reader.
Two principles of good writing: 1. Trust the reader to “get it,” and 2. Resist the Urge to Explain (RUE).
Another theme I have used in my novels is that we allow social status to affect our identity and feelings of self-worth, but our self-worth should be based on how God sees us. Looking back on some of my books, I think I could have focused in on this theme and made it more impactful if I had been more aware of it. I might have highlighted this theme through the use of subplots and secondary characters struggling with this issue. I might have had a character make a statement in dialogue that would have encapsulated the theme so succinctly that it would have been an “Ah-ha!” moment for both the POV (point of view) character and the reader.
I’m still figuring out how to reinforce my themes, but I do think, from now on, I will definitely try to identify my theme as early in the process as possible. In fact, I recently identified the theme of my three-book series that I’m still plotting. I haven’t even started the first draft of the first book, but already I’m excited about the ways I’ll be able to highlight this theme, and the variations of the theme that will emerge with each of the three books.
Discussion time! Have you identified the theme of your current writing project? What are some ways you might reinforce this theme to create a powerful “ah-ha” moment for your characters and your reader? How can we avoid “preachy-ness” and still enhance theme?
Melanie Dickerson is the author of Young Adult fairy tale retellings set in Medieval Europe: The Healer’s Apprentice, The Merchant’s Daughter, The Fairest Beauty, and The Captive Maiden. Her fifth novel, The Princess Spy, releases in November. Published with Harper Collins Christian Publishing, she is a two-time Christy Award finalist and winner of the Carol Award in the Young Adult category and the National Readers Choice Award for Best First Book. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Special Education from The University of Alabama and lives in north Alabama with her husband, two book-loving daughters, and two cute-but-incontinent R.O.U.S.s, also known as guinea pigs, named Cecily and Rue.
You can connect with Melanie through facebook, https://www.facebook.com/MelanieDickersonBooks, twitter, https://twitter.com/melanieauthor, and her website, www.MelanieDickerson.com.
Today Melanie is generously giving away a copy of The Captive Maiden to one Seekerville commenter. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition. And here's a special treat..CHECK OUT THIS VIDEO OF MELANIE reading from The Captive Maiden.
The Captive Maiden by Melanie Dickerson.
Happily Ever After …Or Happily Nevermore?
Gisela’s childhood was filled with laughter and visits from nobles such as the duke and his young son. But since her father’s death, each day has been filled with nothing but servitude to her stepmother. So when Gisela learns the duke’s son, Valten---the boy she has daydreamed about for years---is throwing a ball in hopes of finding a wife, she vows to find a way to attend, even if it’s only for a taste of a life she’ll never have. To her surprise, she catches Valten’s eye. Though he is rough around the edges, Gisela finds Valten has completely captured her heart. But other forces are bent on keeping the two from falling further in love, putting Gisela in more danger than she ever imagined.
with guest Helen Gray
Speedbo is about writing FAST.
I am not fast. (Interpret that any way you wish.)
When I was in school I loved ciphering matches and spelldowns, and had only a couple of serious competitors among my classmates. But that speed doesn't apply to my writing. I am in awe of those of you who can produce a book in a month. But I can’t do it!
I have two passions—writing and music. I love gospel and sacred music, cantatas, octavos, and a good concert or marching band. Oom pah pah!!! I also love a well written book. And I see parallels between writing and music.
In deference to Speedbo month, the specific parallel I’m addressing today is tempo, the fastness or slowness of the rhythms.
Presto - very fast
Allegro - fast, but not as fast as presto
Allegretto - a little faster than moderato
Moderato - medium
Andante - moderately slow
Adagio - slow
Largo - very slow & broad
I read somewhere that most good writers think faster than they can type, and most bad writers type faster than they can think. Oops! I’m in trouble. My tempo falls somewhere between moderato and snail's pace—with frequent fermatas (pauses) and rests.
Here's my typical tempo through a book.
1. I begin with a basic idea, setting and time period. Then I I develop the beginning of a basic story line.
2. I write a chapter, at largo tempo,which is slow and broad. It means a more intense application of energy, a slow pace that can be a pace of wisdom. I allow myself as much time and revisions as needed. Once I’m satisfied that I’ve covered all the necessary elements—GMC, who, what, when, where, why, and established the setting and main characters—I move on. I don’t edit any more until I have a complete first draft, but I keep a check list for when that time arrives.
3. I write two more chapters. By now my tempo is adagio, which means at ease. It implies not only a tempo but a quality of movement. A correct balance and flow of energy and crativity can be achieved here. I set myself a quota, typically a chapter a week. Yes, I realize that you speedsters will find that very modest, but it works for me. If done consistently, it will result in a Heartsong length book within 3-4 months. And it’s doable without stressing the joy out of writing for me.
4. When I have three chapters, I stop and develop a skeleton outline for the rest of the book. Then I set my sights on the complete story and continue writing.
5. About the time I reach the mid-point, I start building speed poco a poco (little by little). Andante is moderately slow but flowing, at a walking tempo. Walking is the means of going from one point to another, placing one foot before the other and ultimately completing a journey. So is the walk of writing. Place one word after another, and you will eventually have a book.
6. Moderato. Allegretto. Allegro, which means cheerful. I’m picking up speed. I have my characters firmly in mind now, and I'm like the cows on the way to water. When they smell it, they begin to run. When I "smell" the end, I hit allegro, then presto. I crank out multiple chapters a week.
When the first draft is finished, I draw a deep breath, put it aside and tackle a major task totally unrelated to writing—like cleaning my house. Then I move back to snail’s pace and start editing. But a snail’s pace is not necessarily bad. Although a snail moves at a “sluggish” pace, it has the virtue of perseverance. According to the apostle Paul, perseverance is a key component in character development. He explained that “tribulations produces perseverance” in Romans 5:3. And upon that building block go character and hope. The original Greek word “perseverance” means “steadfastness, constancy, and endurance.” God doesn’t ask for a fast finish, only persevering progress.
We all have different methods and tempos, and that’s fine. The thing that’s important is that, as Christian writers, we write so that our works will glorify our Father in heaven.
Set a tempo that’s reachable so you won’t develop a pattern of failure that will discourage you. But make it a tempo that will challenge you.
Be consistent. Persevere and finish! Finished projects result in submissions.
My debut release, Ozark Sweetheart, took about six months to complete. Of course, it was written to fit the LIH guidelines, and the completed manuscript was 73,500 words. Cutting it to 50,000 was such fun. (touch of sarcasm there) The book is dedicated to my mother, whose notes about her experiences growing up in the depression provided the inspiration for the series.
The sequels took about four months each, but by that time I had the incentive of writing to the instructions of an editor. And I find writing sequels faster because I already have so
much backstory and setting researched and established.
What tempo works best for you? Share with us.
CALLIE BLAKE CAN'T AFFORD TO FALL IN LOVE
She's too busy helping her family survive the Depression. When she returns home to their Missouri farm, she sees her childhood crush, Trace Gentry, and it stirs up old dreams she tries hard to ignore. Trace is kind, handsome and wealthy. He'd never be interested in a poor girl like her—would he?
Successful businessman Trace is crazy about Callie, and he knows she thinks she's not good enough for him. But he's clueless how to woo her. Until he devises a plan that will prove his love to Callie and make all her dreams come true.
Ozark Sweetheart can be found here.
Bio: Helen Gray lives in SE Missouri with her pastor husband of 49 3/4 years. A retired business teacher and church music director, she happily spends her time making up stories--which makes her three grown children think she's slightly nuts. But that's all right. She's growing old graysfully.
You can find her at http://www.helenbrowngray.com
Today Helen is giving away a print copy of her debut release, Ozark Sweetheart to one commenter. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition!
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