Monday, May 28, 2018

7 Steps to a Better Setting

They walked into the house. It was dark and deserted.

Boring! People walk into dark empty houses every day. Reader puts the book down... Even if they all died, it would probably be from boredom! Though the above is an extreme bad-case scenario of a poor setting--all tell and no show--many new and some experienced writers forget the need to enhance a scene from the very beginning, eager to get to the action. But a truly good writer remembers...

Every opening sentence should tell a story in itself.

And here's my little ol' advice for setting a stimulating scene...

1) Who are they? -- Names or Descriptions of the group are always a better opening than a pronoun, especially for a new scene or chapter.

The twins and their two new friends...

Already more interesting!

2) How do they feel? -- Are they Happy? Hopeful? Anxious? Annoyed? Afraid? Curious? or What? And don't say it, show it with actions and expressions.

The twins and their two new friends crept up the stairs, cringing with every step...

3) What do they Hear? Taste? Feel? Smell? -- Immerse yourself in the scene and use all your senses. But notice, I didn't say "See?" yet. For now, Listen, Sniff, and Reach out!

The twins and their two new friends crept up the stairs, cringing with every squeaky step. Though the cleansing smell of fresh rain lingered in the air, the cool breeze made Kita shiver...

4) Where are they? -- A strange place? Familiar? Off-limits? Hideout? What's going on around them?

The twins and their two new friends crept up the stairs, cringing with every squeaky step. Though the cleansing smell of fresh rain lingered in the air, the cool breeze made Kita shiver. She peered over her shoulder as if sensing a presence behind her but saw only the overgrown bushes and full, leafy trees hiding the distant dirt road...

5) When is it? Is the time period a factor? Or just, what time of day is it?

The twins and their two new friends crept up the stairs, cringing with every squeaky step. Though the cleansing smell of fresh rain lingered in the air, the cool breeze made Kita shiver. She peered over her shoulder as if sensing a presence behind her but saw only the overgrown bushes and full, leafy trees hiding the distant dirt road and spreading long shadows as the sun dozed off.

6) What do they see? Now open the reader's eyes with little details that enhance and move the scene along.

The twins and their two new friends crept up the stairs, cringing with every squeaky step. The paint on the door was chipped, and dead leaves littered the porch. Though the cleansing smell of fresh rain lingered in the air, the cool breeze made Kita shiver. She peered over her shoulder as if sensing a presence behind her but saw only the overgrown bushes and full, leafy trees hiding the distant dirt road and spreading long shadows as the sun dozed off. Kita frowned.

Kan shook his head at his sister...

7) Now that you've hooked the reader, bring it all together. This is what keeps a reader up at night, wondering what happens next!

The twins and their two new friends crept up the stairs, cringing with every squeaky step. The paint on the door was chipped, and dead leaves littered the porch. Though the cleansing smell of fresh rain lingered in the air, the cool breeze made Kita shiver. She peered over her shoulder as if sensing a presence behind her but saw only the overgrown bushes and full, leafy trees hiding the distant dirt road and spreading long shadows as the sun dozed off. Kita frowned.

Kan shook his head at his sister and bounded up the last steps, flinging the door open. Darkness and a musty moan greeted them. They all held their breath. Kita knew the piece was there. It had to be.


I hope you enjoyed this mini lesson on Setting a Scene. Do you have any tips to share?

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Now, here's my SHOUT OUT of the WEEK!



I was very excited to meet the lovely Sherry Ellis in person - she used to live near me, then she moved. But now she lives near my parents so I still get to see her. She's very supportive and active on the blog scene even though her home life is nuts--in a good way.

This observant Mama spins a wicked funny yarn as the author of precocious MG and picture books, as well as on her blog the Mama Diaries. She's got so many stories to share! Her latest picture book was released earlier this year: DON'T FEED THE ELEPHANT. And her first Middle Grade book comes out Sept 4th: BUBBA AND SQUIRT'S BIG DIG TO CHINA. Pre-Order here. Then she's off to do some school visits, bringing creative teacher resources they can use. She's been a busy Mama!

Keep Writing! and Have a great week!

Monday, May 21, 2018

What people want to read - Life with a Twist

What would happen if...
Wouldn't it be great if...
What if we could...

Let your mind wander and fill in those blanks. Boom! You're a writer! That's basically what we do - create a story based on What Ifs.

That's also how writers break the mold of stereotypical stories. Every storyline has already been done and redone over and over - we just update or upgrade - PUT A NEW TWIST ON IT!

Agents are always looking for fresh and exciting new stories. They want something that will grab readers' attention, something different, cutting edge, risk taking, outside the box stories. But not too far out there, and definitely well-written.

So how does it work? And how far is too far? Personally, I thought the zombie/Pride & Prejudice and the Vampire-killing Lincoln mashups went too far, but some people ate it up (sorry for that pun-ishment!) On the other hand, some people thought the Twilight & Gray series both went too far - but look how well they did. Sometimes the risk is worth it if it gets people talking!

In the end, a great story is a juicy plot with gripping characters you can relate to put into dire situations, making good and bad choices and figuring out how to survive. So my advice:
  • Take Risks!
  • Send your characters into Twisty Peril no one would guess!
  • Surprise Yourself!
  • and Immerse Yourself in the unknown!
And this leads me to an author who's mastered this process!

SHOUT OUT OF THE WEEK:



I appreciate a woman who is published and super busy, but still finds time to connect with and encourage other writers! Thanks, Sheri!

As a little girl, S.A. Larsen believed her closet held secret passageways to magical worlds brimming with all sorts of creepy creatures – her favorite kind. Now, she uses her exquisite imagination to write award-winning middle grade and young adult stories, starting with -- MOTLEY EDUCATION and MARKED BEAUTY. When she’s not chasing her characters around a cemetery or antagonizing them with the wonders of young love, she can be found in the land of lobsters and snowy winters with her husband and four children (yes, they all play hockey), a playful pooch, and three kittens.

Go check out her blog & books!

Happy Writing!

Monday, May 14, 2018

It starts with a Spark

Welcome to my new format - took me an extra week to work things out, but you know how that goes... I need a plan! So now I have one.

I will be posting writerly stuff each week: advice, woes, joys, and news. I also have a couple of recurring themes, like Compelling Characters and Hot Genres. But my favorite part is my Weekly Shout Out. These are the folks who have helped me along the way and people you should know, if you don't already! And if you'd like to be featured, just let me know.

Now, on to this week's starting post, appropriately:

It starts with a Spark.

"I have a great idea for a book..."
So many people think this. Probably everyone has thought it once or twice in their life, in some form or other. But only a small percentage act on it. And an even smaller amount of those actually finish writing a book. Then there are the very few and proud who get published.

And it all starts with the spark of an idea.

Most of my non-writing friends are impressed that I've written books. For about three seconds, then they move on with their own stories. I get it. We all have a jillion things going on in our lives to worry about and share with others to get through it all. That's why I'm so glad I have connected with other writers! I'd never have made it this far without them.

We all felt that spark. We acted on it and wrote a book! We edit and polish and labor over it, worrying if we are good enough to be called an author. And some of us are even published. We aren't in competition with each other - we all support one another and cheer each other on. We all know what it takes to be in the publishing industry. It's like baseball - a game of OVERCOMING FAILURE. We don't give up. WE WRITE ON!


And this helps me introduce my first
SHOUT OUT OF THE WEEK:


Michael and I have been blogging buddies for many years. And Julie Flanders and I even got to meet him in person! He's had many ups and downs in writing and in life, but he's a perfect example of how to OVERCOME! He doesn't let life keep him down. And recently, he WON 1st Place in the monthly WEP Writing Challenge!

Congrats, Michael! And keep writing!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Time for a Change

Welcome to the Insecure Writers Support Group for May 2018.

Most of the time, I don't like change. I just had to switch phones, which means I need to re-customize my perfectly chosen alarm tones, figure out which songs in my playlist didn't make it to the new phone, and get used to the new "upgrades" I didn't want. That's actually not so bad when you factor in: I may have to switch phone numbers! That's the WORST! I've had the same out-of-state phone number for 15 years because I wanted to avoid telling everyone a new number, much less memorize one. Egads! What a headache.

But I have to look at the bright side. At least I have a phone. At least we don't have to move, just yet. And my family is doing ok - for the most part. The phone stuff is a minor annoyance taking up time I don't have to give... like dealing with a broken garage door (a side story for another time...)

All things considered, sometimes change can be good. Yes, I'm finally getting to the point. I felt like my header was too loud, and visiting around some other blogs, I wanted to give it more of a writer feel. I also need to update my side bar... an easy thing to procrastinate. But the change that needs my utmost attention is concentrating on connections.

I feel like I've become an isolationist in the writing/blogging world. I barely reach out to my writer friends anymore. And it shows with my lower numbers. I need my writerly friends! And I need to find balance with my job to make it happen. I also want to make my articles more content rich so folks will want to come read them!

So here's the changes I have planned:
  • Done with the surveys. It's been fun, but responses have declined, and it's becoming too much effort for the results. Even after I added a prize! Maybe I'll do one again sometime...
  • Rebuild connections. I will dedicate an allotted amount of time to spend reading blogs and writing articles.
  • Reaching out. I want to tweet more (which also shows up on FB) I think I need more visibility. I just have to come up with awesome things to tweet!
  • Posting weekly. This is going to be tough, but I need to get back to a regular posting schedule. I'm going to write more about writing--going back to the roots of why I started this blog. I know I'll have more fodder as I'm breaking away from my two series and diving into a new direction with my latest WIP: FARTHER ALONG, a Christian YA
  • Paying it forward. I'd like to have more guest posts. This is a great way for us to help each other and broaden our reach. Twice the audience! Let me know if you're interested.
And here's the final results from the last survey - A-MUSING

Do you have a personal muse?



What is your muse's name?
  • Hoho the Magic Newt
  • It's unnamed and mysterious.
  • Monster, Librarian Linda, and High-heeled Helen
  • The Muse
  • Styx
  • Unknown
  • Nigel
  • Same as mine. 
  • Erato
Who was your greatest influence to become a writer?
  • Authors - Anne McCaffrey, Terry Brooks, Tolkien, Stephen King, Holly Lisle, C.S. Lewis
  • No one in particular - from classical authors (Dickens, Poe, etc.) to comic book writers like Stan Lee!
  • My mom x 2
  • My kids
  • It's my calling
How long have you known you were destined to be a writer?

And the lucky winner of the A-MUSING survey is...

Christine Rains!!

Thanks to all who have played along.

And finally, the big, huge, awesome announcement...

TICK TOCK, A STITCH IN CRIME is NOW AVAILABLE!!


Exploring the facets of time, eleven authors delve into mysteries and crimes that linger in both dark corners and plain sight. Featuring the talents of...





Amazon == B&N == Goodreads

Thanks so much for stopping by!