Showing posts from 2005


What clients are saying about the Story Sensei critique service
Camy and I worked together on a series of synopses and I found her ability to pinpoint the heart of the story incredibly helpful. Once I had that, plot holes were easy to fill in and my characters' journeys became more fulfilling--both to write and to read. Thank you, Camy!

--Shelley Bates, author of RITA Award winner Grounds to Believe (Steeple Hill 2005), and Over Her Head (FaithWords 2007)

In today's writing industry, grabbing an agent's or editor's immediate interest is a must--it can mean the difference between a request for a full manuscript and a form rejection letter. As agents and editors have limited time, a winning synopsis can make them dive into your sample chapters with interest. Camy Tang is a master synopsis sensei--highlighting where to pull out the vital information and showing you where to tighten and enhance your structural plot in order to make your synopsis sing. I highly recommend th…

Internet marketing - blog tours

This article originally appeared as a series of blog posts.

Because of the nature of the web, blog tours have become an effective marketing tool. However, like most marketing strategies, it’s hard to quantify how effective it is in terms of sales.

Regardless, blog tours are low cost and get the word out (buzz) about you and your book, and that’s never a bad thing.

Also, if you’ve got a website contest going on, a blog tour is a great way to get the word out about it, because you can mention the contest at each blog on the tour.

Please use the following guidelines to help you schedule the time you’ll need for the blog tour. You’ll need time the month before the tour in setting it up (contacting people, writing guest blog posts or answering interview questions), and you’ll also need time during the tour to email reminders, to post the daily stops on the tour, to comment on each blog on the tour, and to correct any mis-posts.

Setting up a blog tour:

You can hire a publicity company to do this …

Basic Point of View

This article originally appeared as a 12-part blog post series.

Many beginning writers are confused about the concept of point of view. I’m hoping this series of blog posts will help you out. After I finish the series, I’ll condense it into one blog post article.

What is point of view?

It’s the type of narration of a story. For the purposes of a writer, it’s easiest to think of it as the eyes through which your reader sees the scene.

There is third person, second person, and first person point of view.

First person is told from the character as the narrator. I’ll be covering that later.

Second person is not used often. It’s the type of narration where the character is referred to using personal pronouns, which serves to make the reader into the character. I remember this type of narration in the Choose Your Own Adventure books.

Third person is most often used. In third person, the characters are distinct from the storyteller, who is essentially the author. Most readers are familiar with thir…

Writing Styles: Confessions of a Plotter Who Used to Be a Pantser

What in the world are "pantsers" and "plotters"?

There seems to be lots of discussion on the web about the two different writing styles, "pantsers" and "plotters."

There are "pantsers" who write off the seat of their pants--they have the important aspects of the plot in their minds, and they write to see how the story unfolds. They are also known as “fly into the mist” writers.

Then there are "plotters" (sometimes affectionately termed “plodders”) who outline everything beforehand so they know what they need to accomplish in their chapters as they write.

Some people are a little bit of both. Ultimately, whichever writing style you choose is based on your personality and preference.

When I first started writing, I was a "pantser". But as I wrote more, I experimented with "plotting" and discovered that style enabled me to write my personal best. Plotting became a painful but necessary process for me.

Having …

Writing Fight Scenes

I love martial arts movies and action flicks. So naturally I'd write action scenes.

I discovered that it takes a slightly different writing style. These are some of the things I learned, although this list isn't exhaustive by any means.


A fight scene is always Action-Reaction. He punches, she staggers back. She kicks, he blocks and swings a fist at her. Watch out for putting your reaction before your action:

She staggered back when he slammed his fist into her shoulder.

The rule of thumb is to have each action-reaction have its own paragraph, although that’s not always possible. Sometimes the sentences are too short for their own paragraphs and can be combined. It’s up to the writer how to format it:

He swung a roundhouse punch.

She bent backward and felt his knuckles swish past her nose.


He swung a roundhouse punch. She bent backward and felt his knuckles swish past her nose.

Short sentences = fast reading flow

Use short sentences and phrases to make reading flow…

The First Chapter: Hook, Description, and Backstory

This article came out of the contests I've judged. These are some of the common things I see in most entries when it comes to hooks, description and backstory.

Starting with description--pros and cons.

There are two camps about starting a scene with description:

1) Most historical writers and some sci-fi/fantasy writers like the whole idea of the novel like a movie camera, panning into the scene and describing the setting in detail to place the reader there before anything starts to happen.

2) Most suspense/mystery writers tend to start with action, and to give details of the surroundings and what's happening through subtle hints in the dialogue or narrative.

Each method can be done poorly. If you spend too much time setting the scene or if you don't do it well enough, an editor won't get past the first page because it's too boring--nothing going on.

On the other hand, if you land the reader in the middle of action but don't do a good enough job orienting the reader …

Motivation to write when you feel like a slug

As a writer, I admit I'm not raring to go at that keyboard 24/7. These are things I do when I don't have the motivation to write for whatever reason--laziness, stress, antsy-ness, boredom.

In no particular order:

Small chunks—Tell yourself, I’ll just write for fifteen minutes. It might be an excruciating fifteen minutes, but it’ll be fifteen minutes more than you had before. Then take a break, get distracted, go crazy.

Sit and Pray—Sit in front of that computer and quiet yourself. Remember your desire to serve God with your writing. Ask God for help to motivate yourself to start typing.

Snacks—Since we’re all careful about our health, go easy on this one, but sometimes your brain can speed up while you sit and munch on snacks, or sip your favorite tea or coffee.

Comfort—Take a moment to notice your comfort level at your writing station. Back or neck pains? Room temperature too hot or too cold? Too noisy or too quiet? Bad smells? Too dark or too bright? Adjust accordingly. It might …

Articles from Swain

Dwight Swain's classic book TECHNIQUES OF THE SELLING WRITER was one of the best writing craft books I read when I first started learning how to write. It was written in 1982, so the language is a bit dated, but the techniques he gives are still excellent and applicable today.

Several of my friends mentioned how hard it is to read his prose (which is rather rambling, I'll be the first to admit) so I wrote a series of articles based on his book. These articles were originally published in RubyZine, a Christian e-zine for teen girls.

I hope these techniques from Swain will help other beginning writers form a solid foundation for their skills to build on.

1-Emotions and the Writer

2-Choosing Understandable Words

3-Choose Vibrant Words

4-The Larger Picture: Character, Setting, Story

5-The Smallest Picture: MRUs

6-Scene and Sequel: Scene

7-Scene and Sequel: Sequel

8-General Story Structure and Strategy For Your Novel

9-Your 50-Word Elevator Pitch

10-Beginning Your Novel, part 1


Emotions and the Writer

Feeling and emotion is the basis for every good story.

Think about it. The stories you remember are not the intellectually-stimulating ones, but the ones that made your heart race or your eyes tear up.

Your job as a writer is to make your reader feel emotion. But it's very hard to make your readers care if you don't feel for you write about. You will write your best pieces when you care about the topic or the characters.

Now, don't go overboard and start preaching. Readers are turned off by writers on their soapboxes.

But do write about what interests you. Find a topic, theme, character or plot that makes you excited. Do certain song lyrics make you cry? Was there an intriguing event in yesterday's news? Do you have a character talking in your head?

Technical skills:

A good writer writes with emotion, but EDITS with solid technical skills.

You don't want to be misunderstood or to turn out a piece that doesn't accurately reflect what you're feeling. Writing with e…

Choosing Understandable Words

Once you find a topic to write about—something that inspires you, something that you feel strongly about—how do you convey it? Let's get down to the nuts and bolts: WORDS.



You're a writer, the choice of words is yours. Start with the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How. Be specific. Not "a sad girl," but "a suicidal 14-year-old soccer player." Not "a sunny neighborhood," but "a tree-less suburb of monotonous cookie-cutter development homes."

Arrange your words with care. "Meet," "kiss," "argue," "make up" conveys a typical boy-meets-girl love story. But "kiss," "make up," "argue," "meet," conveys a couple who breaks up, and one of them meets someone new. Words and phrases should be ordered Action--Reaction, Action--Reaction.

Words have specific cultural connotations. A car's …

Choosing Vibrant Words



Your description should include all five senses--sight, smell, taste, touch, sound. This will bring your reader into the story, help them to experience what the character is experiencing. This will create the atmosphere, this will make the reader forget the real world for the fictional one.

Use specific nouns and adjectives. Not "a sad girl," but "a suicidal 14-year-old soccer player." Not "a sunny neighborhood," but "a tree-less suburb of monotonous cookie-cutter development homes."

Use active verbs. A few rules of thumb for verbs:

1) "To be" verbs are weak. "She was on the stage" versus "she quaked on the stage," or "she sparkled on the stage."

2) "Had" is jarring to the reader.

Joy remembered the time she had gone to the grocery store and had picked up a few sodas, but then Johnny had driven up in his motorcycle and had asked…