Friday, August 29, 2014

Labor Day, 2014

I'm departing from my usual "Friday is for stuff about writing" format to say a few words about the long holiday weekend that's upon us.

Labor Day means different things to different people. Kids who are tired of school already rejoice at a three-day weekend (and their parents groan). Football fans start thinking about that sport, and baseball fans look forward to the World Series with a variety of emotions, depending on how their particular team is doing. Community swimming pools prepare to close. Stores start putting out their Christmas goods (if they haven't done so already).

Today I hope you'll pause and give thanks for the people whose work makes our lives more tolerable. Remember to voice a prayer that those currently out of work will find employment soon. While you're at it, express your gratitude for your freedom, and pray for this country and its leaders. I hope you have a wonderful holiday.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The random number selector has chosen Jackie (joyfuljelatgmaildotcom) as the winner of a signed copy of DiAnn Mills' latest novel. I've sent Jackie an email, notifying her. Thanks to everyone who commented, and to DiAnn for offering the book.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Perfect World (According To Social Media)

I really need to stop reading the various social media venues that I normally peruse each day. Oh, I've heard it said that authors have to maintain a presence on the web, and this includes a website, Facebook page (either personal or a fan page), Twitter, Google +, Pinterest...the list seems endless. But sometimes it presents a problem.

On some of the loops to which I subscribe, I read about people taking trips I can't afford (either in time or money), doing things I'd love to do but can't (because of time, money, or physical status), and in general sharing wonderful news. Meanwhile, I've just struggled to do a bit of writing, taken the car to have it serviced, picked up a prescription, and some of the other things that occupy my life each day. And I have to admit, it makes me a bit jealous at times.

I guess it's natural for people to share good news with their Internet friends, but when that's all we see, it gives a false impression. Then again, maybe I'm the only person who feels this way.

What do you think? Do you like to read the good things that are happening to your friends and acquaintances? Do you sometimes get the impression that you're the only one still struggling? I'd love to hear your comments.

(picture via

Friday, August 22, 2014

Writing: Is My Project Done? (guest post by DiAnn Mills)

Today I'm pleased to present a guest post by my friend and fellow author, DiAnn Mills. DiAnn currently has more than sixty books published. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers Choice, and Carol award contests. In addition to her other activities, DiAnn is also a craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. Today, she presents a great checklist authors should review before submitting their manuscript.

        Gasp! Today I must send my manuscript to the editor. It’s ready . . . I think. Doubts drive us crazy
Oh, for a few more days to go over the rough spots. But I’ve edited until my changes are simply changes and not adding to the story.
Another reader’s opinion would ease my ragged nerves. 
Maybe I should have paid for a professional edit.
I need to reach deep for courage and hit “send,” but I’m not sure if it’s polished.
How can a writer be assured a project is really, really done?
From my nonfiction book, The Dance of Character and Plot, I’d like to give you a few tips on how to be confident in your submitted manuscript. 

Document facts.

Active Voice
Strive to make sentences active.
Remember “as” and “ing” words tend to make a sentence passive.
Often the word “as” indicates a sentence is not in chronological order.

Avoid Clich├ęs
A successful writer creates his/her own metaphors and similes.

Does the writing project begin with a strong hook that raises a question or 
a curiosity?

Chapter Hooks
End passages/scenes with a strong hook.

Hero, heroine or protagonist
What is it about the hero or heroine that you like?2
What is it about the hero or heroine that you dislike?
Is there a positive and negative trait that is not yours?
If you chose to spend a vacation with the hero or heroine, what would appeal to you?
Villain or antagonist
Is the character truly evil or badly behaved?
What is the one trait that gives the character redeeming quality?
                Sol Stein states that no villain can attract victims unless he has charm, charisma, position,   or wealth.

Use a calendar to keep track of story chapters. 

Conflict and Tension
Keep conflict and tension foremost in your mind.
Numbers - written or spelled.

Cut Extra Words
Be clear and concise.
Never use two words when one will do.

Clear and tight.
Punctuated correctly.
Is a tag needed?
Is a beat needed?

Emotional Conflict
Is there emotional conflict in every paragraph? Every line?

Is the project written with a clear genre in mind?
Invest in a grammar guide or English book.

Do you have passion for the writing project?
Have you grown and changed into a better person during the writing process?

Are the four crucial plot questions answered in every scene?
1. What is the POV character’s goal?
2. What does the POV character learn that he/she didn’t know before?
3. What backstory is revealed?
       4. How are the stakes raised
         Is the plot tight?

Is the writing project true to its premise? 

Pronoun Preference
Make sure the reader knows which noun the pronoun stands for.

Avoid repeated phrases.

Keep an works cited list.
Always research more than is needed.

Rate every scene. 
Each scene should propel the story or subject matter forward, constantly building conflict and tension.
Make sure the first and last lines in each scene are strong.
Smooth transitions.

Sensory Perception
Does each scene use all the senses?
In a nonfiction book, sensory perception helps communicate the subject matter.

Sentence Order
Count the symbols with single syllable words first: beans, cabbage, and tomatoes instead of huckleberries, pear, and a banana.
Count the number of words. He enjoyed green beans, deep fried onion rings, and buttered corn-on-the cob.
If all the items have the same number of syllables, then consider their position in the alphabet.
Exception to this is chronological order, obvious sequence, familiar sequence, and unintended modifiers.

Sometimes the way we are accustomed to hearing items in a list contradicts the above guidelines. If the items in your list do not sound appropriate, change the order so the list is acceptable.
Tea with lunch, dinner, and breakfast is written as tea with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 
Cream and peaches become peaches and cream. 
The bees and the birds (alphabetical sequence) become the birds and the bees. 
Gold, myrrh, and frankincense are written as gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
For fiction: view the setting as antagonistic to add conflict and tension.

Does the nonfiction topic have different aspects or features?

Does each chapter or scene flow into the next?

Vary Sentence Length
Do the sentences have rhythm?

Word Choice
William Shakespeare said: “Suit the action to the word, the word to the action.” 

Unintended Modifiers
Make sure all modifiers modify the appropriate word.

Writer Termites:
Beginning sentences with “There” or “It.”
Conduct a global search of the manuscript for:
… ly with a space after it
…ly with a period after it

When we develop our fiction writing skills, we have a manuscript we’re proud to submit! How about you? Leave a comment below to be entered into a random drawing for a personalized copy of Firewall.

Thanks, DiAnn. I hope all my blog readers will enter a comment along with their email address (like this: Dr R L Mabry at yahoo dot com) for a chance to win that signed copy of your latest book. I'll announce the winners in a week.

You can follow DiAnn on Facebook and Twitter, as well as learning more on her website.

Writers, is your manuscript ready to submit? Helpful tips from @DiAnnMills. (Click here to tweet).

Authors, an invaluable check-list to tell if your manuscript is ready, from @DiAnnMills. (Click here to tweet).

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

If A Tree Falls In The Forest...

If a tree falls in the forest and there's no one present to hear it, does it really make a sound? I'll leave you to wrestle with that problem in metaphysics. I have a different question for you. If a person reads scenes from a book, does it conjure up images in his/her mind?

When I was growing up, books were fantastic portals to take us places we could only imagine. I think Treasure Island was one of the first to act as a magic carpet for me, transporting me to a land populated by pirates and plunder.

We had no television until I was in my early teens. (Yes, you read it correctly. I'm older than dirt, and my childhood took place when the earth's crust was still cooling). I remember our radio bringing me programs like Let's Pretend and Captain Midnight. I listened, along with my parents (when they weren't busy) to shows like I Love A Mystery and Grand Central Station.

The point I'm making is that I supplied my own images, either when reading or listening to radio. Now TV, movies, and even video games supply the visuals for us. So, what do you think? Is that good or bad? Is the current generation bereft of imagination because it's all done for them? I'd love for you to chime in with comments.

(picture via

Tweet about this post: Have TV and video games robbed us of our ability to visualize images from books and radio? (click this link to tweet).

Friday, August 15, 2014

Writing: Three Magic Phrases

I'm posting my thoughts today on the blog of the American Christian Fiction Writers, talking about "Three Magic Phrases For Writers."

Early in my road to writing, author and teacher Alton Gansky taught me to ask a magic question: “What if?” One of his books began when he noted the presence of a military installation in a deserted location and asked himself, “What if that base suddenly disappeared?” The result was an excellent book. And it began with one question: What if?

To see the rest of this post, click this link. And hurry back next week. Thanks.