Friday, September 14, 2018

Getting Conference Ready

Heading to ACFW next week? Have another writing conference on the horizon?

Here are some ways you can start getting ready.

  • Research agents and editors. I am always shocked by how many people go into a meeting with an agent or editor, treating these professionals as if they're interchangeable. They're not. While one editor may want YA, another may completely refuse to see it. Respect their time and your town by doing your research before you go. Otherwise, you will come across completely unprofessional. It's one thing if you meet an editor in Starbucks and don't know what they're seeking, but quite another if you request an appointment and don't take the time to do your research. The more you know, the more you'll help yourself in the long run by finding a good match for your story.

  • Start asking big story questions. Even if you're not done with your manuscript yet, ask yourself big story questions. What is the takeaway? What is the main source of conflict/tension? What genre is this story? Who do you see as your target audience? Why did you choose that particular setting, or those particular qualities for your characters? What makes them a good fit for each other? Everything about your story should be intentional, and you should know it better than anyone else. Think of questions editors may ask you ahead of time, and consider these opportunities to chat about your favorite fictional people rather than a quiz you might "fail."

  • Get your draft/proposal in shape. If you're unpublished, editors and agents will almost always want to see your full manuscript along with your proposal before they can make an offer. Expedite the process by having that ready to go, so that if you do get a request, you don't take six-eight months before answering. Also, I've found that the further along I am in my story, the better I can articulate it, so that's an added bonus!

  • Get help with your one sheet and pitch! Whether it's a critique partner, mentor, or someone you pay for help, don't try to go at this alone! Practice your pitch out loud to get the nerves out of the way.

  • Pray. Start praying now that God will give you divine appointments, and that you will be sensitive to His leading. Your conference experience may not go exactly as planned (ie-- wouldn't we all love manuscript requests from all the major publishing houses? :) ) but God knows just who you need to meet and in what timing, and that includes people you can encourage, even if you are a first time attendee!

No matter what, remember you can't "fail" at conference... it's an incredible experience that will build you up through encouragement, networking, and instructions. But the better prepared you are, the most confidence you will have, and the better able you'll be to represent your story.

What conference advice and tips do you have to share?


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.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

#TipfulTuesday: The Importance of Following Through With Your Plans


ACFW conference is next week. There are many articles and posts on how to prepare, what to take, what to expect, etc. Today I'd like to share the importance of following through with your plans.

One year, I sat by co-authors of a book. He owned a bookstore. His eye for good books and thirst to read gave him fabulous ideas for new books. He could plot, cast characters, etc. His weakness was writing the story. The man teamed with a female author who had a great gift for writing but struggled with creating new ideas. The two made a master team.

After hearing their story, I asked, "So why are you here? You have a plan. How would a conference help you?"

They said conferences gave them opportunities to pitch new book ideas. They shared other advantages such as networking, observing, listening, and etc. They continued to build their craft even though they'd had many books published traditionally.

The night I sat with them I didn't know they were up for a Carol award. At the Gala, I cheered when their names were announced as winners for their category. Sorry, I don't remember their names, but I sure remember this story. 

Everyone has a reason for attending a Writer's Conference. You know what yours is.

Whatever that reason, embrace it. Follow through. Don't allow distraction, discouragement, or any other nasty trick from Satan to build a wall around the success God has planned for you.

There are nine days left including today. Rise up. Take the challenge to prove the calling God has given you.

Start each day with a solid time in prayer then gather your materials, put one-sheets in pretty folders, business cards in a handy holder, your preparations for the agent/publishers in another folder, practice your pitch every day (see my last post on tips). THEN, go to your closet and choose clothing that screams success and pack them in your suitcase.

Last, and most importantly, remember God is the only one we are to please. He will never be disappointed when you follow his call.

~Mary Vee
#amwriting #conference #WritersAlleyBlog #Nevergiveupstories #TipfulTuesday

Photo by Mary Vee

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

Mary's new release, Daring to Live, is a new release on Amazon.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Elevator Pitch. Anytime. Anywhere.


No matter where you go or who you speak with, always, always be ready to give an elevator pitch.

An elevator pitch is:
*what your story is about
*three to four sentences NO MORE
*30 to 45 seconds long NO MORE
*dangling-so the listener wants to hear more
*spoken with the voice of a captain of the ship--because you as the author ARE. Confidence! Assured! 

Some of you will be going to the ACFW conference and have an excellent opportunity to give an elevator pitch to an agent or editor. This moment is not the time to own any introvert characteristics. Be proud of your work. Think of your MC. Their trials and triumphs. Share what God has helped you write. Shoulders back. Sit or stand straight. You've got this.

I am also here to proclaim there are a gabillion other times when you can say an elevator pitch. Hmmm. You don't think so? Well...rolling up sleeves. Here we go.

I recently went on a cruise down the Rhine River in Germany. I met people from so many countries. They are my new friends. When we meet people, there are typical questions asked: What is your name? Where are you from? and What do you do? My answer to number three: I am an author, or I am a writer.

Ours is one of the few careers that solicits more questions. "You're an author? Really? Do you write books?" This is the point where we answer, "Yes, I finished this book called _____ and it's about ... insert elevator pitch..." The total time answer: less than 30 seconds.

The fabulous bonus to this opportunity is: there probably will be more than one individual standing nearby listening. On that seven-day cruise, I gave my elevator speech at the meal table, in the hall, in the lounge, on the bus, walking in courtyards and marketplaces, and much more. Every single time the person raised their eyebrows and asked for more information. I gave out over 200 business cards, each with my tagline, a list of my books on Amazon, website, email address, and my photo with an image that looks like me ...very important.

Okay, you may think I am an extrovert. I went out and blabbed my head off about my book, stealing the conversation from others, dominating the meeting. LOL! Nope. I am so the opposite. I am the mouse in the corner. Hubby and I like to travel. This is where I meet people and am given the opportunity to run through the usual greeting questions that lead to: What do you do? My cue to give an elevator pitch.

Here are a few more ingredients:
**Do not memorize. Do not memorize. Do not memorize.

I have taught third grade and could always tell who memorized the spelling list and who learned how to spell the words by sound applying the concept. Those who memorized made silly mistakes. Spelled the words correctly only on the test but not in their work. The difference was obvious. 

Memorized pitches are jagged. A forgotten next word can trip up the who presentation. Feel your story then share.

**Beginning, middle, end components are not necessary. The point is to stimulate an interest in your story in a few seconds.

Choose pieces of your story that you'd like to present. It's okay to have more than one pitch ready. This gives you flexibility. One time you may focus on the MC, another the villain, or the hero, or the plot, or the setting. So many choices! Practice with your pet, he or she will love each version. Fill your message with intrigue, passion, heart, not with a goal to be word perfect. Say it as if telling your childhood friend is standing there excited to hear about your work.

Honestly, the editors and agents will be excited. They long to hear intriguing, inviting, dangling, passionate, stimulating story pitches.

And, people you meet in life feel the same. Authors who sell many books have this skill mastered. They radiate enthusiasm for their story. If you go to ACFW this year, watch Steven James. 

Whoa, I've taken up a lot of your time today. I hope this has helped you. Do you have any questions?

~Mary Vee
#TipfulTuesday #TheWritersAlley #amwriting #elevatorpitch #conference #sharingyourstory

Photo by Mary Vee, Taken near Amsterdam, Netherlands

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

Mary's new release, Daring to Live, is a new release on Amazon.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Honoring the Process

Today I (Laurie) have some encouragement for the faith-filled writer -- and the writer who doesn't feel very full of faith.

A little background for you in case we're not friends yet, I'm naturally the kind of person who measures her pursuits in items checked off the to-do list, achievement milestones, and--if we're honest--human affirmation. I like to know I'm doing a good job and that my hard work is meaningful. Or at least that it's leading somewhere.

But over the last few years, the Lord has been working in me to honor the process of writing. My first few years in the pursuit of publication were littered with contest wins, contracts signed, and manuscripts finished relatively quickly.

The last couple of years? Totally different.

I've alternated between hustling to manufacture inspiration and deleting hours of work in self-doubt. I've sabotaged my creativity by reading all the books, searching for some mirror or scale or rubric that will tell me:

Is my offering enough? 

Am I enough?

In January, I wrote about the creative wilderness and how surrendering one's art to the Lord is necessary. But I think it's just as important to honor it as a journey of creating with God, as Allen Arnold emphasizes in his book, The Story of WithWriting is an ongoing process that looks different every day. It should be guided by the Spirit, not the road markers of contracts, wordcounts, and trophies. It should be fueled by the sustenance that only nearness to the Father can provide, not by human accolades.

Not even by coffee.

That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with deadlines, plotting story arcs with the help of a craft book, or seeking feedback from trusted writers. It simply means we should invite the Lord into that process and leave room for Him to improvise.

When we treat our art as an act of worship and a living, breathing practice that's an extension of who God called us to be--who he created us to be--then success won't be measured by completed chapters. Satisfaction won't depend on shiny gold-foil stars in the corner of our paper or what others' successes look like.


I took a break from writing this post for a bit because my three-year-old Cubby asked me to watch him do a puzzle, and the Lord gave me a beautiful, real-time illustration. Here's what I found in it:

  • I stopped what I was doing because I was so happy my son invited me to do something he loves. It pleases the Lord when we invite Him into our lives, not that He isn't already there, but because we are intentionally aware of being in His presence. 
  • A few times along the way, Cubby paused, unsure where a piece would go. Most of the time, I resisted the urge to show him, even when he was frustrated. Figuring it out himself made him proud and confident in his next decisions. Even though our all-knowing Father can see the big picture, part of His goodness is letting us do the work of figuring out where the pieces go--in art and in life. We can be confident that He's watching us, will be there to guide us, but that we have everything we need to accomplish this work through the Spirit.
  • As my son worked on his puzzle, I wasn't focused on his performance but more on the fascinating way his mind works and the adorable way he sticks out his tongue when he's concentrating really hard. Nothing will make God love us more or less, because the Father's love doesn't depend on what we do but who He is. And His nature is love. 
Whether we're writing the next bestseller or a manuscript that will never see the light of day, the Lord delights in what we are doing because we are HIS. When we feel stuck or disheartened, we can remember our calling may be to point others to the Cross in our stories, but the process of creating is a life-giving, sacred privilege.


About the author - Current reasons Laurie Tomlinson may have burned dinner include: ogling her soccer playing engineer, chasing two small children, studying for a summer school final, or promoting her latest release, The Long Game, an inspirational rom-com featured in the Once Upon a Laugh novella collection. (On sale for 99 cents-YAY!)

She is also the author of With No Reservations, now available from Harlequin Heartwarming. You can connect with Laurie on her websiteFacebook page, and Instagram.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Need A Little HIP Action?

So what did you really think I was going to write about? LOL ... A dancer, I am not. I like to dance to make my kids laugh, but that's about it. I keep telling my husband someday we are going to take dance lessons, but nah...we never will. We'd laugh too much.

I'm still reading James Scott Bell's book, Revision and Self-Editing and he talks about HIPs. Here is how he breaks it down:

HOOK: This is making your writing hard to put down. It is not just used at the beginning of your book, but all throughout it. You want to give your reader a reason to keep turning the page, so every scene needs to draw the reader into it. This can be done through the opening line, through dialogue, and setting. You want to start your scene at, or close to, the action of the scene. You also want to establish the viewpoint right up front.

INTENSITY: "The greater the trouble, the greater the intensity." You don't want any dull parts, whatsoever. You need to keep tension in every scene. It doesn't have to be high-end tension, but enough to keep the reader in anticipation.

PROMPT: To me, this is like a hook, but only at the end of your scene and/or chapter. This is where you prompt the reader to keep on reading. Here are a few of Bell's ideas: a mysterious line of dialogue, an image of foreboding, a secret suddenly revealed, and a question left hanging in the air.

So have you been putting your HIPs in action? A little rusty from disuse? Or do you have some great moves?

photo credit: Mirian-Fotos
Article first published at 11/2009


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, tentatively The Lady's Masquerade, will release April 2019.

You can connect with her through:

Personal blog:
Twitter: @sherrinda
Instagram: @sherrinda

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

#TipfulTuesday: The "He" "She" Writer's Epidemic

I find sharing tips becomes easier when bringing an issue, I am currently muggling through to the table. Today's discussion: The "he" "she" writer's epidemic. 

Seriously, I have read through my current manuscript a zillion times. Had critique partners, a few grammarians give advice. Made those changes too. 

One of my last editing steps is an audio version. My word processing program has a computer voice I've named Ed. Bless his pea-pickin', lack of emotion boring voice. I take my eyes off the screen and listen to him read the story. Today I heard a problem. It was a sonic boom. Laughing and shushing splashed on my pages. He. He. He. She. She. She. There weren't that many when I read through the pages! I'm quite sure.

Chapter by chapter I listened. Stopped Ed from reading. Scrolled back and zeroed in on "he" and "she" words. Each time I thought, this can't be said any other way! But it could. When truly stuck, I walked away and started another task. Sure enough, a new way to write the sentence came to me.

Of course, not all "he" and "she" words need to be eliminated. Neither do all the character names. But many can and should be. The result is the same as the difference between Target clothes and a Gabbana garment.

"He's" and "she's" camouflage themselves in the text. They won't simply surface to the first word of a sentence. Listen to your story. Listen to a boring, lack of emotion computer voice read your story. Uncover these words with infrared, lemon juice, cryptography, whatever it takes. THEN create a new and rich sentence.

Will this take time? Yes!
Do you want your book to sell? 
Then it's worth it.

~Mary Vee

#TipfulTuesday #amwriting #editing #TheWritersAlleyBlog #NeverGiveUpStories @MaryVeeMysterySuspenseWriter 

PC: pixabay

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

Mary's new release, Daring to Live, is a new release on Amazon.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

#TipfulTuesday: What Writers Really Need

I love writing. I don't like ... (here is where you fill in something like marketing, crafting a synopsis, query, proposal, etc.)
Like so many areas in life, there are components that we have to push ourselves through in order to move forward. 
Writing is more of a journey than an arrival. The destination is not:

Finishing a manuscript (although that is something  
definitely worth celebrating), 
Signing with an agent, 
Getting a book contract, 
Finding our story on a bookshelf in a store, 
Witnessing someone reading the book, especially if we 
don't know the person, 
Reading positive reviews

All of these are magnificent. But they are not the destination.
God has called you to share unique stories, told only in the way you know how, to readers who have a need. The need could be entertainment, enjoyment, uplifting, or a thousand other things. There isn't an arrival place. This is an on-going assignment.
So, if you have received criticism, a rejection, feel unworthy to continue, or struggle in any other writing way, raise your hand. I'm raising mine, too.
My last proposal was rejected recently. Sigh. Thanks, I hear your sigh in return.  I had a pity party for a time. Walked away from writing day. That's all the longer I could do it! I simply love telling stories too much to stop. 
What I really needed more than anything was Grace. God's grace to continue what He had called me to do. He never promised an easy road. And this road, by the way, is one that continues long into the sunset. 
I asked for God's grace to continue perfecting my proposal. He gave me the enthusiasm to learn from the criticism in the rejection. He gave me eyes to see this person wanted to teach, not hurt. I have spent the entire day rewriting the proposal and am pleased to say I am not done. Quality work worthy of submission takes time, thinking, editing, rewriting, letting those words rest, then editing again. THEN SUBMIT.
I know I won't arrive, in terms of finding the end of the writing journey road. I guess I really don't want to. And so comes the dreaded question: Do I love writing enough to learn how to write stellar proposals? Sigh...I guess. Only with God's Grace to help me Continue.
~Mary Vee
Photo Credit: Mary Vee

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

Mary's new release, Daring to Live, is a new release on Amazon.