Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Wall

My one year anniversary of working on staff at my church is coming up in a couple weeks. As an adult ministry associate, for the most part I have thoroughly explored some pretty solid research in discipleship. Mostly, we have discussed the stages of faith that a disciple walks through to grow in their faith, in their community, and intimately with God. While I won't go into detail all this involves, something has resonated with me during our exploration of the stages--THE WALL.

When a person begins to look into God and faith, they step on the discipleship path that will lead to belief and learning and centering on God. But we all know there are moments in life that we don't feel like we are going forward, that we actually feel stuck in old patterns that have stopped working for us. This is a WALL. It stops us from growing out of one stage to grow into the next.
Perhaps someone has walked along and gone through the motions of a good believer, they've gathered the knowledge from Bible study and wise teachers...they've felt God's Spirit and set a quiet time..and raised their family in the church...and ...and...
Suddenly a tragedy hits, and even though they were grounded in the Word, understanding all that God is, their eyes have been pierced with circumstance and everything that moved them forward before just seems so...small. Everything they did before stops working for them because their journey is completely hindered by the tragedy.
They are up against a wall and hope is nowhere to be found.
Ever been there?
I have. I have been up against such a monstrous wall before that I couldn't see past the brick at my nose. All seemed lost, and all I could do was depend on others to start knocking the wall down for me.
You may think that those of little faith hit those walls...but I would like to suggest that those who God is calling to go deeper with Him might just find a wall coming up soon.
I would say, the wall, while it is painful and dark, might just be the greatest blessing. In my brokenness and humility, I did two things at that wall that saved me--
I got rid of my pretenses and depended on others--a lot.
I evaluated my perspective of God, and doubted...and found that I had been stopped for good reason.
The wall was my protection to not go so far into a false idea about who God was that I would be trapped by a cultural version of Him.

COMMUNITY and PERSPECTIVE.

That's what I got from hitting the wall.

I am sure you may have guessed how this relates to writing. Ever hit a wall there? Maybe in that story that you just can't move forward with, maybe in that next step toward publication?

If you are on this writing journey out of calling, then may I suggest that you have something wonderful ahead. That the wall might be your chance to re-evaluate, depend on community, and come at your writing with a new perspective--one that might only be prayerfully discovered?

The wall, in faith and in writing, is a place where the old way isn't working and a new way is on the other side. There is work involved in climbing up and over that wall. Or just knocking it down. Two things I know for sure, we aren't meant to do it alone--lean into the writing community, and God is much too big to only fit in our present perspective--let Him work alongside you as you write...and maybe, your stories will be a place where bricks might just come tumbling down.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Finer Points of Great Dialogue

Dialogue is one of the most important functions of any good story.

“Tell the story between the quotes.” These wise words from Rachel Hauck always make me stop and pause and consider what all is being said through the words of our characters. Dialogue should be magnified by body language, interaction with setting, and even sometimes by what is not being said.

 How do we go about creating great dialogue?

1: Remove everything you and I would say in everyday life. Unless it speaks for what the character is not saying, dialogue such as “are you doing” shouldn’t occur in a novel. You want dialogue that drives the plot forward. There are exceptions to every rule, but as a general idea anything you or I would say in normal everyday conversation shouldn’t be included in good dialogue.

2: Go for the zingers. Those pops of dialogue you wish you had come to your mind at the perfect moment…but instead showed up three hours later. This is the great reality for every author. We have the opportunity to let our character say it! With that being said, be careful to avoid dialogue that is stilted and overdone. So how do you create those moments where your character has the best comeback? It has to fit with their characterization. If you have a sassy and sarcastic character give them all the zingers you possibly can. But if your character is more demure and quiet, their words need to have the most impact for when they speak. (Perhaps this is the character that is your voice of reason for your other characters.)

3: Make sure your dialogue fits your character. It's important that what you write fits your characters. To learn how to best do this, I would suggest the ever socially unacceptable option of eavesdropping. Airport eavesdropping is great for this, as you really can’t help but overhear, so you might as well take notes (wink). Listen for how people talk. The tone of their voice, the inflection, the words that 
they use. How would you put that into a story?

Dialogue is an opportunity for our readers to view your character from a different angle. To see their knee-jerk response and reaction.

Dialogue should be accompanied by a few key elements: the tone of their voice, the inflection they put behind their words, and their body language.

4: Body language is a huge asset to every author—and not just in dialogue. How is the character standing-- what direction are they facing? Who are they looking at? Are their arms crossed? Is their
breathing labored? Are their hands extended in supplication or plea? All of these things paint a picture for how the reader will visualize the character.

5: Much can be said by what you're not saying anything at all. By leaving a question or statement unanswered or unfinished, you speak for that character’s thoughts and emotions more than words ever could. Don't underestimate the power of a nonverbal.

6: Subtext. This is one of my all-time favorite uses for dialogue. Subtext is not what is being said, but what is being understood through the dialogue that is being spoken. This is a tricky concept to nail and even harder to write. Think of subtext as something you are trying to communicate, but will not be overtly mentioning to the other character. Subtext is a natural way to create tension, as what is unsaid is also left open to interpretation by other characters. Which can lead to false understanding and even discord between characters.

 A great way to hone your dialogue is to find some of your favorite books and read only the quotes. 
By studying your favorite authors’ dialogue, you are able to see what techniques they are using, the length of their sentences, their word choices, etc.


Who are some of your favorite authors that do dialogue well? Share in the comments who they are and why you love them. Or share some techniques you have found that you really love for your own books. I would love to hear your take on what aspect of dialogue you love to read or write.

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Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in colorful Colorado where she gets to live her dream stalking--er--visiting with her favorite CO authors. 

   

   

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Advanced Basics-Street Team Marketing Tips




Street team marketing is a gift to today's writer. Seriously. Even writers need time for coffee in the morning, and the only way we can squeeze marketing into our already overloaded schedule is to garner the help of our genre's community.

1. To build your team from zero (or how ever many you currently have) send out invitations. Take your time. Design this like you are throwing a gala party. Simple. Sharp. Colors. Clear. Concise. 

Include appealing information. Just enough to pique interest. Then send a follow up that has the details. Sending invitations is a great control. You really don't want to send out an open call to the world because there are expectations on you as well.

Confused yet? Yay! That means you'll keep reading!!

2. Once you have your team make a point to regularly show your appreciation. One Alley Cat sends a call out to the whole team to say happy birthday to a team member. She acknowledges new members of the team and asks everyone in the group to say hi. These simple kudos help team members know that you care about them as individuals.

3. If possible, get to know the city where your street team members live. Using Facebook can help us be connected, but there is nothing better than meeting the 3-D individual. If you are traveling you could link up with a street member at a coffee shop, a library, a park, anywhere to take some great selfies. Post these on your group site.

4. Speaking of group site, make a closed group for just your street team. This way you can discuss ideas, present new material, ask them their thoughts about new story ideas, plan promotion parties, etc.

5. Expectations- Rewinding just a tad, make sure you inform those interested in becoming street team members what your expectations are and what they will receive in return. For example, tell them about your future publications, that you need them to read advanced copies and plan to post reviews. Find out their gifts and interests. Perhaps one loves to make memes, another might like to plan parties, another loves to read and post reviews, they all will have gifts. Know these and delegate your needs to them. In return, plan to lavish the group with appropriate kudos, birthday greetings, Amazon/Starbucks gift cards, etc.

6. Kindness - I once said yes to be on a street team for a critique partner a couple of years ago. I was asked to read the book, no problem, write a review, no problem - but then she said she didn't like my review and asked me to make certain changes. Then she sent me personal notes of tasks she wanted me to do. It went on and on and on. And seriously, I said enough. She asked too much. She needed a team. And she needed to appreciate me.  The honey /vinegar thing comes in very handy here.

7. Keep conversations open and solicit the team's questions. Let them ask questions. It's amazing what seems unclear to one individual and crystal with another. This, again is where the group page comes in handy. Team members will answer each other's questions building a camaraderie. It's amazing how the super planners will step up to the rescue. 

8. One other idea is to ask your street team to join you in giving shout-outs to other writers when one of their books is released. Talk about a viral idea. Street teams helping each other. It can't get any better.


So these are only a few of my favorite things I've seen in other street teams. Hop on board, and share what you have learned, tried, or have seen done.



I can't wait to read your comment(s)!

Help others--tweet or FB share this post

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Mary Vee -  Rock climbing, white-water rafting, zip lining, and hiking top Mary's list of great ways to enjoy a day. These activities require lots of traveling, which is also tops on her list. For some crazy reason, the characters in Mary’s young adult mystery/suspense fiction stories don’t always appreciate the dangerous and often scary side of her favorite activities. Unbelievable.

Mary studies marketing and writing skills, and pens missionary and retellings of Bible stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids. She has been a finalist in several writing contests.

Visit Mary at her websiteblog, and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter

CLICK HERE to learn more

Mary has a new release. William Worthington Watkins III and the Cookie Snitchers.  Someone took the cookies from the church's kitchen and William wanted--no he needed to know who did it. Who isn't telling the truth? Mystery. Junior Fiction. Humor.  Click here to learn more. A GREAT READ FOR THE END OF THE SCHOOL YEAR OR SUMMER.


All subscribers to Mary's newsletter will receive her novella, an intriguing suspense/mystery. Come, read a good story. To get your free gift, sign up for the newsletter at Mary's website  Never Give Up Stories. Join the adventure!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

75 Questions to Help You Get to Know Your Characters

I'm trying this new thing where I get to know my characters before I start writing them. Novel idea, no? Here are 75 questions I compiled (meant to be answered as an omniscient character), a list I'm always adding to. Obviously, they won't apply for everyone, but they can help us understand how our fictional people would react in certain situations and what has shaped them and brought them to the present.

Hopefully finding some of this stuff out now will help us avoid some major editing headaches down the road. Feel free to borrow these questions at will!



THE BASICS

Name:

Age:

Personality type:

Hometown:

Current city:

Living situation:

Education:

Occupation:

Mode of transportation:

Dream job:

Childhood:

Ghosts from your past?

Biggest fears:

Hobbies/activities:

Weird habits or quirks:


STORY SITUATION


Number one goal/dream:

What’s stopping that?

Who’s stopping that?

What in the past makes you believe it’s impossible?


PHYSICAL/APPEARANCE


Height:

Build:

Hair color:

Hair length and texture:

Eye color and shape:

Skin tone:

Vocal quality:

Distinctive features:

Basic clothing “uniform”:

Frequently worn accessories:

Signature smell:


RELATIONSHIPS


Who were you raised by?

What’s your family dynamic?

Relationship with mother:

Relationship with father:

Do you have any siblings? What’s that relationship like?

Any special extended family members? Why?

Family secrets:

Elephants in the room:

Who are your best friends?

Who do you consider your mentor(s)?

Who would you call when in trouble?

Who would you call to vent?

Who would you call for advice?

What’s a secret only your closest friends would know?

Dating history?

What generally makes your relationships fail?

What’s your love language?

Who do you wish you could be closer to?

Qualities that attract you to a friend or significant other?

Any pets?


CURRENT(LY)…


In your bag?

On your nightstand?

Reading?

Listening to?

Drink order?

Routine?


WHAT IF YOU…


Had to pack one bag because your home was on fire? What would be inside?

Got embarrassed? How would you react?

Lost your job? Do you have a backup plan?

Got angry? How would you react?

Were dumped? How would you cope?

Lost a loved one? How would you grieve?

Were nervous? What physical reactions would you have?

Wanted to flirt with somebody? Would you be good at it?

Were in an emergency situation? How would you handle it?


FAVORITE


Place to hang out:

Color:

Candy:

Sports teams:

Celebrity crush:

Food:

Drink:

Movies:

City:

Material possession:

Quote:

Do you get to know your characters before you start writing? What would you add to this list of need-to-knows?

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Laurie Tomlinson is an award-winning contemporary romance author and cheerleader for creatives. She believes that God's love is unfailing, anything can be accomplished with a good to-do list, and that life should be celebrated with cupcakes and extra sprinkles. 

Previously a full-time book publicist, Laurie now serves as a virtual assistant and runs a freelance editing and PR consulting business called 1624 Communications

She lives with her husband and two small children in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her novella, That's When I Knew, released with the Love at First Laugh rom-com collection this spring, and her debut contemporary romance novel, With No Reservations, is now available wherever books are sold from Harlequin Heartwarming.

You can connect with Laurie on her website, Facebook page, and Twitter

Friday, June 9, 2017

Friday Fun on Writer's Alley- With Lead Editor, Kimberly Duffy


What an amazing week here on the Alley. We're cranking out stories, pounding the marketing pavement, sweating at the brow and sure could use a break to chat with you. Take a minute to scroll down to this week's great Alley Cat posts 

Writers all around the world are using their favorite word processing programs (yes, you pen on paper writers are doing this too) to create memorable stories. Stories that change lives.

AND YOU ARE ONE! 


Think of the readers who have opened book covers and read those first stirring words that sucked them into Main Character's plight? The hours of missed sleep. The giggles. The swoons. The gasps.


BECAUSE WRITERS WROTE.


Perhaps you're unsatisfied with your word count. Seriously, only 100 words? Wait! Don't berate yourself. Those 100 precious, stirring, uplifting, life-changing words mean WAY more than you could imagine. 


My guest today has a fantabulous idea how you can put to print those small numbered word counts. 


Please welcome Kimberly Duffy, lead editor for Spark Magazine, an imprint of Splickety Publishing Group. She is here to tell us about Flash Fiction.




Thank you Writer's Alley for having me today.



Life is busy. There’s kids, cooking, work, grocery shopping, and all-too-often trips to the ER. Sometimes opening up a good book feels like a vacation—which is probably the only time you have to read.



And then you’re a writer, so you must write. But what do you do when all of those kids and chores and stitches interfere, the clock has struck midnight, and you’re still scraping burnt chicken Cacciatore from the bottom of your frying pan?


Enter Flash fiction.

A story fewer than 1,000 words—complete with a beginning, middle, and end, dialogue, character development, and conflict. All of that in less than an hour.

Flash fiction is my go to when I’ve just finished a big project and need to write without pressure. It’s what I write when I want to experiment with a new genre. It’s what I read when I’m sitting in the preschool drop-off line. It’s where beginning writers go when they need to practice, increase publishing credits, and build a platform. It’s where experienced writers get their book in front of a new audience and refine their craft.

Flash fiction isn’t easy. Have you ever written a synopsis? Did you have to cut that synopsis down by half because telling an entire 85,000 word book in three, double-spaced pages seems impossible? Try telling an entire story in 700 words.

You’ve got to be ruthless with extraneous words, picky with description, and clever with dialogue. Everything must do double duty. Can two characters be combined into one? Do we really need to know the hero has a smoldering gaze and killer biceps? Can you wrap up the story three paragraphs early and leave the reader with only the tantalization of what’s to come?

Here are six tips for writing great flash fiction:
Don’t rely on telling. It’s tempting because it’s so much faster, but the same rules for writing a good novel apply to good flash fiction.
Pick a moment or scene. You can’t tell an entire story, from the meet cute to the HEA, in one or two pages.
Stick to one POV and only a few characters. Less is more with flash fiction. Let us get to know one character well, instead of just barely understanding three.
Eliminate backstory. A line or two sprinkled throughout is enough to tell us what we need, and if it’s not, maybe the backstory is the real story.
Conflict is important. Make sure the character doesn’t get what he wants until the end. It’s just as easy to put down a boring flash fiction piece as a boring novel.
Remove anything nonessential—modifiers, descriptions, adverbs, redundancies, explanations, and boring bits. If it’s not pushing the plot forward, get rid of it.

Everyone wants things that are fast—cars, phones, food, entertainment, and fashion. Most people will not read War and Peace because of the length. Many ignore novels altogether. Flash fiction is a way to capture new readers and it’s a virtually untapped—yet growing—market. So, hurry up and write something short. Something powerful. Something sweet. Something marvelous.

Something written in an hour and read in five minutes can stay with you long after you’ve finished five loads of laundry and brought your child to the hospital for another cast.


You can get e-subscriptions of all three Splickety imprints for free by signing up for our newsletter at www.splickety.com.


Kimberly Duffy writes historical women’s fiction and romance when she’s not homeschooling her four children. She’s lead editor for Spark Magazine, an imprint of Splickety Publishing Group, and a Genesis semifinalist. In her free time, she scours Goodwill for cute outfits to feature on Instagram and wishes she could drink coffee.
Kimberly's Website |  Facebook |  Instagram |  Twitter




Thank you for joining us today, Kimberly. Flash fiction sure sounds like a great way to get stories published when schedules allow less time for writing.

Be sure to tell others about Flash Fiction. 

What question do you have about Flash fiction, Splickety, or the imprint, Spark Magazine?


The Writer's Alley, a special place where writers grow, inspiration overflows, the coffee is always hot or iced, and the friendships are sweet. Invite a friend!