Thursday, February 21, 2019

Reading Critically: Grow as a Writer

I am blessed to attend a critique group twice a month with two multi-published, award-winning authors. They take turns sharing words of wisdom about the craft of writing at the beginning of our sessions. This week the topic was on reading to improve your craft. While I knew it was important to read, the tips given opened my eyes to how I can grow as a critical reader. I thought I'd share a few with you.

  1. Read outside of your genre. When you always read the same genre, it is easy to gloss over that unique turn of phrase, the pacing of story, etc. Reading something new makes it easier to see new things that can up your own writing.
  2. Read to find out what you DON'T want to do in your writing. Let's face it. Not everything in a book grabs our attention. Pay attention to what you skim over and make sure you don't do that particular thing in your own story.
  3. When you start to "feel" something, take notice. When your heart races, when you heave a sigh, when you get angry...these are the things that should make you sit up and take notes. What did the author do to inspire such feeling? Whatever it was, incorporate that type of writing in your own story. 
These are just a few ways to grow in reading critically. Can you think of anything to add to the list? What things do you look for while reading to learn?

Sherrinda Ketchersid is a born and bred Texan, preacher’s wife, mother of 4 children, and works part-time as a bookseller at Amazon. With the children grown and out of the house, she weaves tales of fierce knights and their ladies in a time where men were warriors and women had to be strong enough to keep them in check.

After taking time off from writing, she has returned with a new motto in place to spur her on. “Writers write. Everyone else makes excuses.” ~Jack Bickham.  No excuses this time. She is weaving her love of romance with history to bring joy and the hope of love to those who may one day read her stories. Her first book, Lord of Her Heart, releases May 2019.

You can connect with her through:
Newsletter: Sign Up Here
Twitter: @sherrinda

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Why Writing Isn't Your Side Hustle

Hi, friends! Before I start today's blog, I have to share that I'm just tickled pink to share a book birthday today with Pepper Basham! Our collection Finding Ever After released about an hour ago, and you can find it here on Amazon. It's so special to me to be sharing my debut novella with three very, very dear friends. I feel like my little story is being hugged between all of theirs! :) Also, PSA - I just started my own newsletter that you can sign up for on my new website if  you want to keep up with me there too.

Happy Valentine's Day to everyone! I hope you all have an extra-sweet holiday this year.

This past week, I've been thinking a lot about what fuels our writing. The Alley Cats chat pretty regularly, and we got on the topic this week. Maybe you ask yourself these questions too - why am I writing? Who am I writing for? What if I'm not making the income I expected? What if I'm making the income, but the rest of it doesn't look how I expected? And so on and so forth. If there's one thing that's for certain about the publishing industry, it's that nothing is for certain.

I have been writing for a long while, and writing has seen me through various stages of life - from newlywed to new mom and everything in between. The constant in it all has been the writing itself and what it offers me as the author. For me, this means fellowship with God. Now, don't misunderstand. I desperately dream of my stories being published. I can't wait to be in conversation and prayer for my own readership. But the hope of readers is not what has sustained me.

In response to faith, God brought life to the barren Sarah. In response to faith, God shielded the fire and silenced the lions. In response to faith, God parted the Red Sea. God's economy is not limited by the proportions and priorities that limit you and me.

We have a tendency to look for validation from 1) the amount of time we give a project, or 2) the financial benefit it offers. But when we do that, we miss out on what I've been calling "manna moments" - those hours or half-hours or maybe even five minute breaks that make our heart sing. In these moments of worshiping God through our gifts, we find what we need to keep going on all other parts of the journey. We become better people, better mothers, better students, better friends. We find direction, purpose, joy, and an outlet. Through the expression of our hearts, we find healing, and it is from this place we can minister more effectively.

So stop thinking of writing as your side hustle. I don't care if you aren't published. I don't care if you have a small advance, or if you've got a three book deal you're only chipping away at during nap time. Your calling matters. Immensely. You've got this.


Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's also an active member of ACFW. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her website - and while you're there, be sure to sign up for her newsletter!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

#TipfulTuesday Pen The Words

There are times when a writer's life is oh so difficult, like when we don't have control over our circumstances and the accompanying issues whittle away at our time. 

For me, life in the north during the last week's ice and wind storm stole my focus.
Tree branches snapped under the weight of ice, falling 60' in my yard. In our community, entire trees snapped at the trunk blocking roads and crashing onto homes. We will have to say goodbye to our beautiful tall Elm this summer when the thaw enables us to clean it up.

At the end of our road, a power line broke and started the road on fire. The road was impassible except through dirt backroads barely wide enough for a small vehicle.

I'm thankful for our generator, but is it okay to say the constant, loud grinding sound hurt my ears? Moment by moment, God helped me remember to be thankful for our furnace powered by the generator for the five days. Then, when the generator suddenly broke, God stayed with us. Ice had clogged the system. Thirty minutes after the furnace stopped, our power was restored. I am so very thankful. 

One extreme benefit of story is that it allows writers to place characters in difficult situations. Readers who have endured similar circumstances see the joy in our characters when at last triumph rules over tragedy. Stories build hope and reassurance deep within that is so strong readers say: I can and will experience joy someday. Don't you love hearing the testimonials? 

The story that God has impressed upon your heart is destined to help a reader. 

No matter your circumstances, don't give up. Find a way to pen the words.

~Mary Vee Writer
Photo by Mary Vee
Link to Mary's books:

#TipfulTuesdayMary Vee Mystery/Suspense Writer#hope #amwriting #TheWritersAlley #Story

Mary Vee -  Mary Vee - Rock climbing, white-water rafting, and hiking top Mary’s list of ways to enjoy a day. She was homeless for a time, earned her MA in Counseling, and married an Air Force vet.  Mary has been a finalist in several writing contests and writes for her King.
Visit Mary at her websiteblog, and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter


Thursday, January 24, 2019

A New Kind of Goal for 2019

Anyone who knows me (Laurie) knows I’m a planner-wielding, goal-setting kind of gal. But 2019 has been different. 

Instead of the usual color-coded list of goals and measurables for the year, I’m asking God to show me how to reinvent my processes. To create new rhythms based on who he shows himself therein to be.

Instead of setting out to finish another manuscript or blog twice a week or double my platform, I want proximity with the Father. I want to be so close to him that I can feel his heartbeat. 

So I will do the work, but my time, habits, successes, and worth won’t be decided by what I check off the to-do list, but by memorizing and moving in HIS rhythm. 

Everything else comes from that goal.


One of my favorite writers and podcasters, Emily P. Freeman, aired an episode of her show late last year that had me pausing in my kid's school parking lot to take notes on a napkin I found in the glovebox. And not just because its title is my very favorite word: Collaborate. In the episode, she shared qualities of a wholehearted creative, someone who works from a place of wholeness and health.

If you have creative goals this year, I would invite you to listen to this episode and join me in examining your processes. Learning to refill your creative well before it can run dry, if you struggle with this like I do. 

Feel free to download this PDF based on her podcast episode. I printed mine on a pretty piece of paper and framed it in my office. 

We are praying a life-giving 2019 for you, Alley Pals! We'd love to know what you're up to in the comments.


 Laurie Tomlinson is an award-winning contemporary romance author of That’s When I KnewWith No Reservations, and The Long Game, currently featured in the Once Upon a Laugh novella collection. 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. You can connect with her on her WebsiteFacebookInstagram.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

#TipfulTuesday Subplot Ideas

Without a subplot, the singular journey arc of a novel from page one to the last page will fall flat.

It doesn't matter how dynamic the journey. Every good novel needs at least one subplot.

Subplots are the butter on toast. The seasoning in a marinade. The sound in a movie. They are never the primary component of a story and should never ever hijack the plot--but are so very important!

Contemporary movies, TV shows, and novels tend to use a romance thread for the subplot. It's easy to incorporate one. I must admit, my current story has one. I think readers and viewers have come to expect it. 

In my story, Christmas With The Enemy, I included a second subplot about a foster child. This subplot, more than the other one I used, has readers asking, "Will there be a story about Janey?"

Below, you will find a list of ideas, something different for you to try. Perhaps one of these ideas will morph into your next novel. Many subplots do. 

After reading the list below, add some of your own ideas in the comment section. I am tempted to say more than a keyword but will try to refrain. I don't want to limit your creativity. But if you have a question or expanded thoughts about the idea leave a message in the comment section. 

1. A new tradition including all the ancillary issues that pop up.
2. Dealing with a newly discovered disorder, like eating disorders.
3. A new skill
4. Phobia- suggest some in the comments
5. A grudge, lack of forgiveness, rivalry
6. Moving to a new home, redecorating, clutter, hoarder, building, adding on, etc.
7. Taking/planning a vacation, business trip
8. A sudden disability
9. Dealing with a family secret
10. A mysterious affliction
11. a new child, bonding, foster, adoption, loss
12. financial - sudden new income, loss of income

Happy writing. May you be blessed with many subplots. ;)

~Mary Vee
Author of Christmas with the Enemy
Photo by Mary Vee 

#amwriting #subplots #author #TheWritersAlley 

Mary Vee -  Mary Vee - Rock climbing, white-water rafting, and hiking top Mary’s list of ways to enjoy a day. She was homeless for a time, earned her MA in Counseling, and married an Air Force vet.  Mary has been a finalist in several writing contests and writes for her King.
Visit Mary at her websiteblog, and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

How Do You Edit?

How do you edit, writer? 

This past round of edits, I printed out my manuscript and red-lined it over a 2 week period. This was perfect for traveling—I loved having a tangible thing to pick up and work on when I had a chance.

When I got home, I frantically put it into the computer to make a deadline.

The thing is, I didn’t account for the ADDITIONAL editing that goes into doing this. I hit the deadline, but my head was spinning, and I probably know my manuscript word for word now!

While it wasn’t completely ideal at moments, I still stand by handwritten editing at some point in the process. It truly connects you to your story in a different way than typing does—and gives you a break from screen time!

If you’d like to try handwritten edits, here are some tips:
1. Set aside extra time for the EXTRA editing that goes into transferring to digital (unless you are an expert at turning your internal editor off while you type in the edits—I am not!)

2. Break up the transfer into acts. Paper edit the first act then transfer into the computer. Then go to the next act. This might be less daunting than trying to get them all in as a deadline creeps up.

3. Enjoy the journey. I loved sitting with pen in hand and changing things up. I only got frantic when I realized how much I had changed! Ha! But, the process is life giving, and in the end, you have a thoroughly edited manuscript to send off!
So, do you prefer editing on paper or screen?

Thursday, January 10, 2019

A Lesson On Subtext from Mary Poppins

Last night, I finally got a chance to see the new Mary Poppins movie-- wow! I loved everything about it. (And all the heart eyes for Ben Whishaw, right? I've been a fangirl since he played John Keats.) But one thing I found particularly interesting about the Mary Poppins story, and this movie particularly, is its ability to pull the subtext out from the behind-the-scenes, straight to the forefront of the storytelling.

What does that focus on subtext mean? In this case, colorful costumes, whimsical songs and dancing, and a plot structure that borders on eccentric. Somehow--amazingly--the movie pulls these elements together without crossing a line into the absurd. Through it, I think we can see not only the value of subtext, but also how we as writers can do it well.

So what can we learn about subtext from Mary Poppins Returns?

  • You have a story within your story. Tell it. Your characters are always moving from Point A to Point B. Your job as a storyteller is to fill that journey with intention. Is your character getting ready at the start of a scene? Then what subtext could you use to either foreshadow, express suspense, or convey characterization?
  • Your readers want your story to resonate. "A cover is nice, but a cover is not the book"--I mean, HELLO--does it get better than this song?! One of the reasons we all love Mary Poppins is because she's full of whimsical idioms... they look charming and colorful from the outside, but man do they pack a punch! Your readers want the same. Give them a moral and someone they can cheer for. It's best if you can use what you're learning in your own life. But be honest. Be vulnerable. Seek the Lord, and whatever you do, never talk down to them.
  • The impossible is possible with fiction. Use this fact to your advantage. Play with POV, order of scenes, etc. to tell the story in the freshest way you can.

What about you? Did you see the movie? Do you have anything else to add to the list?


Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram at the_handwritten_story. She is represented by Karen Solem.