Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Tipful Tuesday: The Key to Writing a Memorable Story Is...

The key to writing a memorable, lasting, bring-the-reader-back-for-more story is:


Seriously. Our stories are best, the scenes flow, the characters are genuine when we insert the experiences from life rather than sit at the screen and attempt to create what happened next. Using these experiences will make the scene natural--and--it will intrigue, interest, and invite readers to want more.

Here's an example. Yesterday, I wrote this scene: younger adult brother arrives at older sister's house. He hasn't seen her in four years, and he didn't tell her he would visit. She opens the door. We are in his POV

To play the scene out, the worst I could do at this point is have the sister break into tears. Tears of joy, tears of memories. So happy to see him tears. etc. 

The second worst I could do to portray the scene is to have her ask a million questions. "What are you doing here?" "I didn't know you were coming? "How have you been?"etc.

Both of these would be expected. Have been done a million times. Reasons for readers to scan over the scene until something good happens.

Instead, I considered my own family dynamics. Four girls and one boy. I was an older sister to my brother. Being the perfect, wonderful person that I am, I couldn't possibly help this poor male character in this moment. BUT, I recalled MANY stories told by my husband. He, the younger brother of an older sister. Oh the tales he spun of his youth. The terrible sister, that he really loves. The horrible things she did, that he never retaliated for. Uh huh.

Yes, now I had great fodder for a humorous scene. She opens the door, and while projecting her absolute joy at his unexpected visit, she casts out the first insult, the kind only a sister shares with her brother while holding the door open for him. He returns the favor with brotherly harassing, picks up his suitcase and walks inside. In the muddled flinging of banter from days gone by, seasoned with grins and laughter, they greet each other and are now ready to move forward in the scene. Oh yes. This reads really well and hopefully leaves the reader feeling at home with these characters.

I've used my favorite childhood cake made by my grandmother who always ripped open the label in the store to read the ingredients. The cashier always wondered why she bought an open package. Grandma said the cake didn't taste as good when she didn't. See? 

When you sprinkle you into your stories, they will flow and be memorable. This, by the way is your voice. 

Your turn. Think of a memory from the past that could flavor a scene in your story. OR, tell one that you have used in a story already written. I'm excited to read them. :)

~Mary Vee
Photo by Mary Vee

Link to Mary's books: https://amzn.to/2Fq4Jbm

Mary loves to travel to places like New York City and Paris. 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 7, 2020

TipfulTuesday: The Hidden Promise In Our Stories

I confess. I am one of "those" shoppers who walk through a bookstore, glancing at covers and titles, seeking one to pick up and peruse.

The huge Barnes and Nobel in my mall put up a new display for "new releases". I glanced through the forty books beautifully shelved. Sadly only one cover caught my attention. I walked on to the next display.

My point today will not be that a great cover sells. Although it sure helps.

My point also is not the title, back cover, and/or the first page enhances sales...although they seem to.

The key to a fabulous book is this: If a reader is enticed to buy a book, then takes it home and snuggles up in their comfy living room chair, opens the cover and doesn't read the whole story in her normal time, she will set down the book with the fabulous cover, amazing title, enticing back cover, and intriguing first page and most likely not pick it up again.

One writing instructor (sorry can't remember which one of the many I've heard) said:

We the writers make a contract with the reader, 
promising a story that will follow a course so compelling
she has to turn every page until the last.

This year, let's focus on ... not so much fixing a sagging middle, although this too is important--

But a growing overarching story that, like blowing up a balloon, expands, becoming with each word. Becoming what? Why the next recommended book by very appreciative readers.

For this reason, I chose today's photo. Colorful, cheery, glass-blown balloons floating in a Venetian store.

Some pitfalls to watch for:

1. While your MC should have a problem that gives the story purpose, she must be likable. Think Cinderella. We love her and feel for her plight from the beginning. Had the stepmother been the MC we probably would have put the book down.
2. When adding backstory, be careful not to repeat. Even when sprinkling in this essential information, as we are taught to do, readers will remember what was said before.
3. Shake up the beats. Lordy, lordy, do people really cry so much? Smile so much? Laugh so much? Instead, use setting, sounds, nature, anything that "is" to shake up those beats. Expand this essential storytelling time to bring meaning to the scene. Help readers see.

Let's aim for stories that "Become" until the last page.

~Mary Vee
Photo by Mary Vee

Link to Mary's books: https://amzn.to/2Fq4Jbm

Christmas is Mary Vee's favorite holiday. She loves to travel to places like New York City and Paris. 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, December 24, 2019

Merry Christmas

We are so happy to spend another Christmas with you. 

As writers, we are ever on the lookout for fresh, inviting ways to make our narrative and dialogue inviting. 

I love Christmas stories. Yes, even the Hallmark ones! And while the stories repeat the same message, they somehow invite us to read or watch yet another story. 

Whether you have a manuscript that takes place during the Christmas season or another time of the year, you can use Christmas when describing. Seriously! Because of God’s goodness, it is timeless. 

So, I'm hoping you will help grow this Christmas list for all of us to morph, borrow, or simply use:

Sweet like candy cane (use in kissing scene)
Warm as Christmas fire (hugs, kindness, etc.)
Merry as a child opening a Christmas gift
Joyful as Christmas music (spirit)
Sparkling like Christmas lights (eyes)

Your turn: Add an inviting Christmas picture to our list. 

Merry Christmas!
~Mary Vee
Photo by Mary Vee

Link to Mary's books: https://amzn.to/2Fq4Jbm

Christmas is Mary Vee's favorite holiday. She loves to travel to places like New York City and Paris. 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, December 10, 2019

The God Effect in Stories

Even as writers we don't always see details or truths or influences flowing in our books. 

Not all readers will either. 

BUT there are the many who will notice amazing details that spark their interest, cause them to think and respond to ... well... us, and their friends, and ... others.

This week I posted a photo. My thoughts: this is a dreamy place. A dock reaching out to a lake surrounded with trees. The unique aspect from my pov: part of the dock is underwater. This looks good... I thought. It was a photo story.

More than almost any other photo I've posted, this one sparked many responses. A few responders mentioned the dreamy doc setting. BUT the majority noticed a detail I had not.

In the foreground, small, and not in my thoughts, was a tool my husband uses. It rested on a wooden plank. Underwater. Although silver, it didn't especially stand out since the sun didn't reflect the shiny surface. Commenters asked questions that grew into conversations. 

How odd, I thought. I didn't even see it there when I took the photo.

As writers called by God to tell stories, we describe scenes, use interesting dialogue, explode action on the page, and develop relationships. Behind the scenes, God is using our work to touch lives in ways we don't even realize.

If this isn't incentive to set aside time to write, edit, and write more, I don't know what is. Our stories are important in ways we don't understand.  A tool used by God to impact someone we may not know...for His glory. Perhaps the story you have written or are writing is God's tool to impact your life.

So, friend, ready to write?

Has a reader pointed out something amazing in your story you didn't see?

#story #writing #behindthescenes #MaryVeeWriter #Godeffect #thewritersalleyblog

~Mary Vee
Photo by Mary Vee

Link to Mary's books: https://amzn.to/2Fq4Jbm

Christmas is Mary Vee's favorite holiday. She loves to travel to places like New York City and Paris. 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, November 26, 2019

The Lord's Blessings...

God has been so very good to us, right?

He not only calls us to be writers, but then he blesses us with opportunities to turn our work into fruit. Signing with agents. Publishing books. Meeting other writer's we've only know on FB. Applying our writing to other avenues. Sometimes, setting the work aside for a time. All for God's glory. 

God is good. 

Here is how God has blessed us. In the comments, tell us how He's blessed you.

Pepper Basham: God blessed my writing in so many ways. I publish three books this year, two novels and one novella. I also taught my first class at ACFW. (from Mary: A great class on how to write a good hero)

Sherrinda Ketchersid: God blessed me with my first book, Lord of Her Heart, published in May.

Krista Phillips: God blessed in an unusual way. He asked me to set my writing aside. He has shown me it is important to set things aside for a season, to let it grow stronger, and be more fruitful. (note from Mary- Krista's book, Match Me If You Can was published earlier this year.)

Casey Herringshaw: God blessed me with a desire to write. This is such a blessing. An intimidating one, but a blessing nonetheless. AND, I saw so many of you at ACFW!

Mary Vee: I am thankful for the two stories God helped me publish. One a Christmas story: Sylvia's Secret, A Christmas Story the other a fantasy: Fire and Thorn, A Fantasy. AND--in all the crazy road trips and conferences I went to this year, God let me see all but one Alley Cat. As a bonus, I even saw many of you at those conferences. I am soooo thankful!

Ashley Clark: I'm so thankful to have found a home for my stories at Bethany House.

Angie Dicken: I have been so thankful to have readers share in the celebration of my third novel, The Yellow Lantern, my third novel release.

Julia Reffner: I've really been blessed to lead a small group at Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies. It's a way I feel God is able to use my writing on a daily basis and I'm loving it.

Amy Leigh Simpson: God blessed me with a new agent this year

Laurie Tomlinson: God helped me to finish a very difficult manuscript this year.

Karen Schravemade: I'm thankful I was able to fly from Australia to attend ACFW for the first time in eight years. It was a blessing to hug my Alleycats in person, some of whom I met for the very first time. 

Cara Putman: I am thankful to have survived this busy year.

Now it's your turn! 
Please share God's blessing in your writing life.

~Mary Vee
Photo by Mary Vee

Link to Mary's books: https://amzn.to/2Fq4Jbm

Christmas is Mary Vee's favorite holiday. She loves to travel to places like New York City and Paris. 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, November 21, 2019

The Artisan Soul

Have you read a book lately that really spoke to your heart? I have to say that The Artisan Soul by Erwin Raphael McManus is one of those books for me. From the very first chapter, the words I read made my soul burn with yearning, agreement, and connection. I've highlighted most of the book so far, wanting the words to be imprinted on my heart, for they encourage and motivate me to be creative, to be brave, to risk, and to truly be an artist.

McManus is not just an artist. He is a creative who uses his gifts to further the work of God. He started a church in LA, CA called Mosaic where the people of his congregation use their creative talents for the Kingdom. And what he calls us to in The Artisan Soul is a life of creativity...every day...no matter the medium or vehicle through which we create. What he teaches is that every soul is a creative soul, whether they think so or not.

"...the great divide is not between those who are artists and those who are not, but between those who understand that they are creative and those who have become convinced that they are not."

We are all creative. We are created by a creative God who made us into His image.

"Yet what humanity needs most is for us  to set creativity free from this singular category of the extraordinary and release it into the hands of the ordinary. Creativity should be an everyday experience. Creativity should be as common as breathing. We breathe, therefore we create."

A person might say that not all people are creative and that saying everyone is just sets a person up for failure. But as people who have the Spirit of God living within them, we are creative beings. We want to create whether it is through decorating a room, cooking a fabulous dish, writing a short story, blogging, painting, making a yard look good, or crocheting a blanket.

Being creative doesn't mean there won't be failures. There will be.

"...we live in the fear that if we aspire to be more we will discover ourselves to be less. We live in fear of failure, convinced that failure will prove us to be frauds. We have bought into the lie that creative people never fail and hence failure is proof that we are not creative."

"Fear is the shadow of creativity....The creative act is inherently an act of courage....To make our lives a creative act is to marry ourselves to risk and failure...creativity is born of risk and refined from failure. If we are at the core both spiritual beings and creative beings, then the artisan soul is where we live when we have the courage to be our truest selves."

It's so hard to step out and risk it all to share our creative selves. When we hit send on the manuscript we have written, we feel we are sending a part of very essence out for the world to judge. We fear we will be judged as inferior, which reflects on who we are at our core. But those rejections are the building stones of creativity. They are what grounds us and molds us. We are indeed "refined by failure".

This book is one that should grace every artist's bookshelf.

Do you consider yourself creative? Do you embrace your artistic soul? Or is it hard for you to say you are an artistic person...whether it is with words, paint, landscape, or food, etc? 


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, released in May 2019.

You can connect with her through:
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Website: sherrinda.com
Twitter: @sherrinda

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Face Your Writing Fears

First of all, a big cheer for all of you who are doing NaNoWriMo! I tried Nano once. Two days later I gave up and started eating ice cream. I'm kidding! But really, I am not the type of writer who can crank out word count that quickly so if you are, I really do applaud you, and I stand a bit in awe of you as well.

Today I want to talk about something we as writers all face: fear.

Newer writers will sometimes ask, "How do I get over my fear of writing something that stinks?"

The answer is usually, "You don't."

I know-- I'm Miss Positivity today, right? But bear with me.

You will never get over your fear of writing poorly. And that's because to write well, you inevitably end up pouring your heart into the thing. And if you poor your heart into the thing, you are going to care about it deeply.

You can however, write through and beyond your fear, which is a different thing entirely.

If you're writing as a Christian writer, you have the amazing assurance that God is at the helm of your story-- and that is not something to take lightly. Because God's work in us is never wasted. I can tell you that even the books I wrote that didn't sell changed me as a writer and me as a person, and I am so glad looking back that those books aren't floating around in the world because that is no longer the writer I am today (hello, chick lit) and readers would be totally confused.

If you learn to accept those feelings of anxiety over inadequacy, you can acknowledge them and refocus. Typically, I've learned my own fears stem from the perception of scarcity. What if I go to all this work and no one reads it? What if I get this contract and it's the only one I have? What if people think I'm only mediocre?

Many of my friends and students have expressed similar fears-- what if I embarrass myself? What will people think of me?

You know what all of these questions have in common? The mislocation of our identity. As writer. As author. As child of God. In reality, there is only one opinion that matters, and He is the one who has equipped you in the first place. You don't have to prove yourself good enough or worthy because He makes you those things.

It's only when we shift our perspective to the security that can be found in our deeper-rooted identity that we can begin to implement strategies to draw it out. Get away from the lies and the fears you have believed. Try writing them down so you can see in ink how silly they sound. Try going to a coffee shop for a change of scenery as you work on your next scene. Try "writing" via dictation, or write on the notes app of your phone. Do whatever you need to do to write from a place of freedom over fear. Because the fear may not go away, but that doesn't mean you have to let it rule you.


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 and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.