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Friday, November 30, 2007

Hiding Emotion

by Ronie Kendig from Double Crit editing service

Joan stared at the device. A bomb. She’d expect no less of those who’d come after her. Would motion set it off? Afraid to move, she prayed.

From nowhere, Joshua appeared. He rushed toward the explosive. “I’ll handle this.” He defused the bomb before she could answer.

Enjoyable? Fulfilling? I think not. Too often we write deus ex machina into our story—God from a machine (a concept derived from Greek tragedies)—where a hero/god swoops in and saves the day. Maybe that’s our way of trying to protect our character. Have you ever done that? Become so immersed in your story, that an idea pops into your head. And you think, “Oh, that would be very bad. I can’t let that happen.”

How do you respond? Do you let the “very bad” thing happen? Or do you pad protective clutter around your character and story, stifling what could very well be a powerful, emotional experience? I say, LET GO! Let your character experience pain. Allow the villain or circumstance to rip your hero/heroine’s life apart. Isn’t that what often happens in our lives? How many times have you heard friends or loved ones ask how God could allow something to happen? Pain exists. We aren’t protected (not completely) from it. Don’t let your characters hide behind your shields. Sure, you might feel the pain vicariously. But then, so will your reader.

Too often, we let superficial wounds carry the story and conflict. I mean, if it’s superficial, then I’d say it’s a boo-boo, not a wound. Wouldn’t you? Your characters (like us) are resilient. They’ll bounce back (after all, you control the ending…to some degree). Without those wounds, they can’t grow and develop. Who wants one-dimensional characters? So dig deep. Write deep. WOUND DEEP.

Double Crit is a unique freelance editing service that offers high-level critiques of fiction book proposals and manuscripts from two experienced editors. Whether you’re preparing for a conference or getting ready to submit your manuscript to editors or agents, we can help.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Actions to fit your characters

by Ronie Kendig from Double Crit editing service

The scene was set. My heroine finally knew she’d fallen in love with the hero. As they stood on a beach, he told her they’d have to keep their distance because he couldn’t focus. So, what did my feisty, independent woman do? She kissed him back.

I stopped writing. Staring at the screen, I wondered if that was right. Did it fit with her character? How do you know what is right and what isn’t? Have you done the research to understand personality styles and characterization? Without this vital research, you might have a maiden leading a crusade for women’s liberation.

Okay, sure. Anything is possible—but only with the right framework. Only if you’ve established credence to why your character is responding in such a way. For me, the above scenario proved right. My heroine demanded control of a situation. When the hero draws the line, she steps over it. Without the knowledge that my heroine had this flare in her personality, I would’ve rewritten this scene. Wrote her into compliance, per se.

Do you find yourself doing that? Forcing your character to fit your story? It’s like trying to tell a four year old child to solve an algebraic equation. It’s just not possible (yes, genius and mensa and prodigies aside…). Only by becoming intimately acquainted with your characters will you be able to write them into compelling scenarios.

Another story I wrote, the most important character trait to my hero was honor. At the end of the story, a situation has arisen where the woman he loves is revealed to be married to a man everyone thought dead. My hero had no choice by to “relinquish” his love for her. It was the honorable thing. The right thing.

Did this ending make me happy? No. I’m a consummate romantic. I love happy endings. And it sure didn’t make my crit partners happy. I think Robin had to buy a new monitor since she didn’t have the story in book-form to throw across the room. :-D But I wrote the ending that fit with the character and the story. By doing this, you will leave your readers satisfied (and maybe a little angry on behalf or your characters).

Double Crit is a unique freelance editing service that offers high-level critiques of fiction book proposals and manuscripts from two experienced editors. Whether you’re preparing for a conference or getting ready to submit your manuscript to editors or agents, we can help.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Squashing our Protective Urges

by Ronie Kendig from Double Crit editing service

I work in the children’s department at a national department store, which means I see a lot of adorable little faces smiling up at me quite often. But every now and then, I see a situation that I know is doomed to end badly. My urge is to rush to the rescue. Protect that child (and yes, the store from a law suit! LOL). We all have instincts and urges to protect others. Unfortunately, those very urges can stifle or even kill our fiction.

Recently I read a chapter for one of my critique partners. The story was enjoyable and the writing very good. However, I felt the author was protecting the heroine by not wanting to push her. How often have you done that? Go to write a scene and you stop, thinking, There is no way I can do that to my heroine/hero.

Why not? Why can’t you put your characters through the grinder? It happens in real life every day. I challenge all writers to push your characters PAST their limits, see what they’re made of. What you—as a writer—are made of. It’s not easy to release that much pain and agony on a “person” you’ve grown to love and care about. And yep, it certainly could alter your story. But here’s what you need to consider: is it going to make your character stronger? Is it going to make your ending excel? If so, then maybe you need to take that lonely, dark road. Many times story-altering changes like this will not only deepen your fiction, but grow you as a writer.

Double Crit is a unique freelance editing service that offers high-level critiques of fiction book proposals and manuscripts from two experienced editors. Whether you’re preparing for a conference or getting ready to submit your manuscript to editors or agents, we can help.

Writer...Interrupted Carnival of Christian Writers

Visit the November Carnival of Christian Writers at Writer . . . Interrupted

Monday, November 19, 2007

Christmas gifts for writers

It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas...

A few years ago, I came across an article on gifts for writers, and I expanded on it with an article of my own. If you have ideas, leave a comment and I’ll add it to the list!

This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but it might help jump-start some other creative ideas. Some of these taken from All I Want for Christmas by Diana Rowe Martinez. I also have several products because I like them and think they’re wonderful gifts for readers/writers.

• Gift certificate to any of the major bookstores--Barnes & Noble, Waldenbooks, Borders,, or my favorite, (cheaper books, free shipping on orders over $25, and no sales tax)

• Gift certificate to Office Depot or any office supply store

• Dictionary and/or Thesaurus--one of the biggest and most comprehensive. My favorite thesaurus is the Visual Thesaurus, which you can purchase as a CD and/or subscribe to the online version, which is constantly updated.

• Gift certificate for, practical and/or luxurious gifts for readers and writers

• Case of printer paper--white, 20lb.

• Printer cartridge

• E-book reader

• Office furniture: file cabinet, desk organizer, desk lamp, ergonomic keyboard/mouse, filing shelf, footrest

• A day with a professional organizer

• Maid service for a month/few months/year

• Laptop case, laptop backpack, or a laptop carrier with wheels and pull handle (however, one caution about this—some women are picky about their laptop bags. It’s kind of like choosing a purse for a woman—most have very specific ideas about what they want and would rather choose the style themselves.)

• Arrange an author's website--domain registration, hosting, professional designer

• A set of business cards, or arrange to have the writer work with a graphic designer to design her own business cards
I can’t stress enough the importance of a professional looking business card. I worked with two graphic designers—one to create my logo, and one to design the look of my card (Designer Girl Graphics). Then I had the card printed using an online company rather than printing it myself because the cardstock and colors look more professional.

• CDs or MP3s of recorded writing workshops from a writer’s conference

• Membership to a writing organization like RWA or ACFW

• Registration fee and/or hotel and travel costs to a writer’s conference

• New laptop or computer, printer, scanner/fax/copy machine, flatscreen monitor

• Ergonomic chair and/or footrest, ergonomic or wireless keyboard, ergonomic or wireless mouse/trackball
I’m one of the lucky ones in that I haven’t had too many repetitive motion injuries from my writing, but I’m also not taking any chances.

I made sure I got a very good chair and also a footrest that supports my lower back (which has problems from an old work-related injury). I have an ergonomic keyboard. I tried out many different styles of mice and trackballs at various office supply and computer stores until I found the one that best fits my hand and wrist, and I don’t skimp on paying good money for it.

Wireless is also convenient because I can shift my keyboard and/or trackball around on my desk, which isn’t very big, to enable me to do other types of work. However, not everyone will need/want this feature.

If buying this for a loved one, it’s a good idea to not surprise them with this gift, but to go with him/her to pick out a chair, keyboard, or mouse/trackball so you can be sure to get them one that really fits their body.

I use mine a lot to schedule my writing. I like using the Calendar feature to figure out what blog posts I’m supposed to be posting, how many words I need to do on each day, when my deadlines are. Not everyone is digitally-minded, however—I have many friends who like to use a regular calendar instead.

• MP3 player/iPod and/or accessories—car power adapter, adapter to play the iPod via the car radio or adapter to plug the iPod directly into the speaker system, armband holder, exercise earplugs or other specialized/high-end earplugs/earphones
I use my iPod a lot. I often listen to music while writing. I also buy the MP3 recordings of writing workshops from RWA and ACFW conferences and then listen to the workshops when I’m walking the dog, exercising on a machine, or driving in my car—I have a car adapter that hooks into my iPod so that it can be heard through my car’s FM radio.

Levenger’s Reader’s Table
I want this table because it can be used while lying in bed, adjusting the table over your lap but not on it.

Levenger’s Scooter table with Laptop Landing Station
This is something I’d like to have to set my laptop on, or to use as a table for notes while I’m writing with my laptop. It’s fully adjustable.

• Arrange a writer's retreat for a weekend or a week—at a hotel nearby, an actual official retreat center, a nice bed and breakfast, a rental cottage.
A friend of mine and I did this for just a day—checked in to a local hotel on Friday, checked out on Saturday—and we got a lot done. Just the act of being away from home, without distractions, was very freeing for our creativity, efficiency, and productivity. Some writers retreat places purposely don’t have phones, TVs, or internet connections so that writers can be completely undistracted, without even the temptation of outside things. There are some cottages in the nearby mountains available for rent which also don’t have the amenities, although they’re not labeled specifically as writers retreat cottages. Other writers retreat facilities offer workshops or coaching.

• Randy Ingermanson’s Fiction 101 and/or Fiction 201 CD sets.
I took Fiction 101 at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference and it was fabulous. It really helped me understand the basics of story structure and what makes for a strong, tight storyline and character arc. For beginning writers, this is a very good resource, especially if you are an auditory learner—you learn by hearing a lecture rather than reading a book.

• Highlighters

• Pop-up Post-it dispenser, Post-its, flags
I use Post-Its on the wall for plotting my book out, but I also use flags and Post-Its when I’m doing research, or to make quick notes to myself. I keep these all over the house. It is absolutely horrible for me when I have an idea but nothing to write it down on, and then it’s gone and I can’t remember what it is.

• Binder clips, super-size paper clips
These are useful for entering contests, when they usually require each copy of the entry be bound with a large binder clip or a butterfly paper clip.

• Small notebooks to keep everywhere and write when inspiration strikes (There are neat little notebooks offered by Levenger that are styled like a matchbook with a pencil included, about 3.25” x 4.75”, called Matchbook Notebooks.)

• A set of thank you cards for contest judges, editors, or agents
One thing I think writers don’t do enough is SEND THANK YOU CARDS. To editors and agents even when they reject you, because you’re developing a relationship with them and you don’t want to come across as a disgruntled Prima Dona writer.

Also, send thank you notes to contest judges—a very under-recognized breed—who give their time to judge your entry. I don’t care if they gave you the lowest score, they still took the time to read it and give feedback. You don’t have to agree with the feedback, but at least be courteous, even (and especially) if the judge wasn’t as courteous to you.

• Gelpens

• A creativity journal

• A special pen: Montblanc, Waterman, or a more inexpensive rollerball or fountain pen ( has a few cheaper ones)
There’s a possibility that your writer might be picky about her pens. Some like them lighter, some like them heavier. Some like a thick barrel, others like a thin barrel. Some like them short, other like them long. A good pen can be nice to autograph books with, but there’s also the possibility that a writer will want a more flamboyant pen for signings.

• A nice business card case or a case for bookmarks
I give out tons of business cards and bookmarks at conferences. I typically give out both—bookmarks to other writers, business cards to editors and agents.

• Blank disks/CDs for backing up files or giving away (I’m thinking of handing out CDs with free stuff when I go to a booksigning—free short stories, novel excerpts, etc. For a while, I was also using CDs to back up my files.)

• A USB flashdrive for backup and storage (I love these things, they’re so small, light, and inexpensive.)

• An external hard drive backup, or a subscription to an online backup service.
I can’t stress enough what other authors have told me—back up everything OFTEN. I use to back up my files—it’s free up to 2GB, and if you use this link to sign up for the free service, you get an extra 256 MB and so do I. There are also online subscription services like .mac which automatically will back up all the files on the computer at a certain time each day.

• Aromatherapy—candles, a cold diffuser, an electric low heat diffuser, a candle diffuser, or a warm oil diffuser, plus a variety of essential oils.

• A bath set or one of any of these things—soaps, bath salts, bath fizzies, bath oils, towels, exfoliator, an over the tub rack to hold books or snacks, bathrobe (for pampering and brainstorming)

• Little clip-on nightlight for late-night reading or scribbling. (There’s also a neat alternative in the Levenger LightWedge, which has a magnifier attachment. It also comes in LightWedge Magnifier paperback size.)

• Bookweight for holding books open flat

• Clipboard—fancy or engraved/personalized

• Large water bottle so she gets her full water quota while writing

• Healthy snacks: almonds or other nuts, fruit (fresh or dried), popcorn, pretzels, beef jerky, trail mix, etc.

• Not-so-healthy snacks—M&Ms, bite-sized candy bars, Dove chocolate, Dove ice cream bars, etc. Her favorite chocolate or candy, pick your poison. ;)

• Home-made or store-bought writer’s fodder—fudge, truffles, cookies, brownies, biscotti, muffins, cake, Chex-Mix, caramel popcorn, chocolate dipped pretzels, candy/caramel apples, candied walnuts/almonds, cheese and crackers, sweet breads, cinnamon rolls/buns, individual frozen pizzas, apple cider or mix, hot chocolate mixes, wine/alcohol.

• coffees or teas, a tea cup and saucer or just the cup, a large mug, an insulated mug

• Coffeemaker for one

• coffeemaker that brews into her favorite insulated mug

• Tea kettle (there are some nice ones with special handles or in bright colors and designs)

• Electric hot water pot (my favorite is the Zojirushi 3 liter electronic hot water dispenser)

• Tea pot or tea cup or both (especially if she loves tea cups and pots, several nice bone china pieces can be found inexpensively at flea markets or online)

• Mug warmer

• Gift card to Starbucks, Jamba Juice, or her favorite beverage place.

• Anti-virus and/or anti-spam software (recommended in Consumer’s Reports: BitDefender Standard, Zone Labs ZoneAlarm Antivirus, Kapersky Labs Anti-Virus Personal, Norton Antivirus)

• A GPS system so she can find her way home after brainstorming in the car again and getting lost (don’t laugh, this totally happens)

• Fingerless gloves for when her hands get cold while typing at the computer

• Socks, shawl, blanket, and/or sweater for when she gets cold—you guessed it, while typing at the computer

• A space heater to warm her office during cold days

• A book weight (thanks to Mark Goodyear for this idea)

• Hire a transcriber or assistant to type up what she dictated on tape, or rough draft notes (thanks to Leticia for this idea)

Gift coupons are great gifts for the busy writer! Anything you can do to give the writer time to write is always welcome. Some ideas:

• A load of laundry

• An hour of babysitting

• Walking the dog

• An hour of errands/shopping

• A sink of dishes

• One cooked meal

• Vacuuming for the week

• Cleaning the bathroom, or kitchen counter

• Mopping and/or sweeping the floors for the week

• Clearing the living/family room

• A wildcard, any chore of the writer’s choosing

I hope this series of posts was useful! Make sure to leave this list around the house in case your significant others still haven’t a clue what to get you. ;)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cliche characters

I just got back from vacation so I'm gearing up for more posts.

In the meantime, here's a post on cliche characters and contests at the Seekerville blog.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Internet marketing – blog tours, part 9

After the blog tour:

Take a breath and rejoice—it’s done!

Take time to thank everyone who participated. If anyone did a book giveaway, remind them to draw the name and give you the mailing address (if you’ll be mailing the books to the winners).

Now look at see what could have been done better.

Did it take way too much of your time? Consider hiring someone to do the emailing and blog posting for you next time. You’ll still need to do the interview questions and write guest blog posts, however, so schedule time in for that. Or maybe you don’t care about original content and would be happy with just the book blurb and your bio on a bunch of blogs during a few days. Decide what you want and how much time you’re willing to spend on it.

Did you get people their interview questions or guest blog posts in time? If not, then try to schedule more time for yourself next time before the blog tour starts. Also, what I do is do the interview the day I receive it (or the next day if it’s late in the evening when I get it) so that I can get it out of the way and sent off as soon as possible. If someone asks for a guest blog post, I also try to write it that day or the next so it’s done quickly. That way, I only had one or two things to write each day rather than 10 interviews to complete the night before the blog tour started.

Did you write your daily blog posts ahead of time? If you didn’t, consider doing that for next time.

Were you prompt on emailing people? Maybe you need a daily reminder on your computer.

Were there several people who mis-posted or didn’t post at all? Remember who they were so that you know who you can count on for your next blog tour.

If you do your blog tour in conjunction with another group like the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, try to encourage people to email you to get original content for their stops on the blog tour. I had several people in the CFBA who were stops on my blog tour (and got a link on my Blog Tour Schedule) because they posted original content.

Now gear up for your next tour!
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