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Thursday, December 19, 2013

5 free tips from my Self-Editing Worksheet

This didn’t occur to me until just now, but back in July I gave a workshop on’s forum boards on Self-Editing, and I featured 5 of the points on my Self-Editing worksheet for free. (I also gave feedback on homework on the forums, but the forum is now locked.)

So if you were wondering if you wanted to buy my Self-Editing worksheet, head over to to check out the forum.

Here’s the link to the Self-Editing workshop forum. You’ll need to register (it’s free) for the Harlequin forum boards in order to read it (I think) so you can register/create a Community membership here.

If you like the 5 free tips, you can buy my Self-Editing worksheet for $20 for all 11 tips.

Note: If you've bought my Deep Point of View worksheet, there are some of those Deep POV tips here in this worksheet. However, the Deep POV worksheet goes into more detail and depth whereas the Deep POV tips in this worksheet are not as extensive. If you're on the fence about if you should get the Self-Editing worksheet or the Deep POV worksheet, the Self-Editing worksheet includes about 60% of what's in the Deep POV worksheet in addition to my other self-editing lessons.

Also, if you've already bought my Characterization worksheet, this Self-Editing worksheet has the majority of what's in that worksheet, in addition to other self-editing lessons and tips. So basically, if you've already bought both my Deep POV and Characterization worksheets, this Self-Editing worksheet will have a lot of the same stuff.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Q&A: Boring characters?

A writer asked me this question:

I recently started writing a novel based off a couple friends and I wondering what would happen if we got thrust into a messy world of insane, chaotic, and anything considered un- or supernatural events.  I have already done a bit of tweaking to one character to make her a bit more agressive and aloof, but two other main character (out of four) are rather shy.  In real life, they don't talk much, and while they have come out of their shells quite a bit in the years I have known them, I doubt they'd ever be the type of people to rush head first into a life-or-death fight that could change the fate of the world you see in just about evrry novel on the shelves.  My question is, is it a bad idea to have them in the story?  I think with the dynamic our little group has it would be very interesting as characters, but I don't want them to be critiscized as boring or unoriginal.

My feeling is that all characters, whether main or secondary, should have their own distinct personality and backstory to go with it. They should also be somehow indispensable to the plot of your story.

Recently my editor asked me to do hero and heroine’s journey worksheets for a book I was going to write in order to help me fix some plotting and pacing problems. The exercise was very useful because I was able to fix some pacing problems I didn’t realize I’d had, and I also was able to better solidify the personalities of some of my secondary characters.

I didn’t realize this, but I hadn’t yet picked distinct personalities for some characters who had rather important supporting roles in the story. I always use 45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt and pick archetypes for my main characters, although I will often turn those archetypes on their heads so that they aren’t cliche. However, I hadn’t picked archetypes for my secondary characters, but I was forced to when doing the hero and heroine’s journey worksheets for my main characters.

In picking archetypes, the secondary characters became richer and more distinct from each other and the main characters. The secondary characters also suddenly developed stronger backstories to explain how they became the people they are in my novel.

So bottom line: Make each of your characters, whether main or secondary, have very distinct personalities that make each one very different from the other. If you have two characters who are too similar, then combine them into one character. Each character in your novel needs to fulfill a necessary role and have a personality that distinguishes them from the others--otherwise, the characters become a muddle of names who are just walking around your story world without function.

Once you start to make sure each character is unique, you’ll find them developing interesting personality traits and backstories to make them even more integral to your plot.

Lastly, and the most important writing advice I always give, is to write what’s in your gut. It’s YOUR story. Listen to your instincts and write what you feel would make it a story that you want to read.

Note: For those interested in the hero and heroine’s journey worksheets I used: for the Heroine’s Journey, I just released a Heroine’s Journey worksheet which is exactly the one I used, although with more description and explanation, as well as examples. For the Hero’s Journey, I used Christopher Vogler’s Hero’s Journey and adapted it to a worksheet. I usually can only do these worksheets after I’ve figured out the main plot turning points in the storyline, including the 3 disasters and ending.

Monday, August 12, 2013

NEW! Heroine's Journey worksheet

Heroine's Journey worksheet

I was asked to describe my Heroine’s Journey many times and I even taught several workshops on it at writer’s conferences, and so I decided to write a more detailed worksheet on the subject. I read about the Heroine’s Journey from several books and compiled what I learned here in one place. This is the same worksheet I myself use for my own novels.

Why the Heroine’s Journey? Because sometimes the story arc of a female character will differ from the traditional Hero’s Journey because of the affects of culture and time period upon the character because of her gender. This will create specific psychological differences in how a male and female character will respond to conflict in a story.

Joseph Campbell’s original book is based on the writings of psychoanalysts and the world myths. The Hero With a Thousand Faces is a psychological analysis of the classical myth formula that breaks down the myths into a basic structure, showing the psychological power of the hero archetype and the Hero’s Journey.

Maureen Murdock took Campbell’s work, her own psychology experience, and other psychoanalytical writings and world myths to develop the Heroine’s Journey for women. This makes it a perfect template for heroines, whether in romances or women’s fiction, because often a heroine’s story arc is more about internal awakening as opposed to the “quest” style of the Hero’s Journey.

This worksheet is based off of one I designed for myself to help me deepen my heroine’s character. I will use this worksheet for every heroine I write about, even if it’s a romance where there’s also a hero taking up 50% of the book (I’ll usually do a Hero’s Journey worksheet for him in addition to the Heroine’s Journey worksheet for the heroine).

Doing this worksheet enables me to double-check that the events in the story match up with how events should unfold in the Heroine’s Journey, which helps me with story pacing. The worksheet also helps me to structure the heroine’s internal arc so that it’s as deeply emotional as it can be and also psychologically resonant with readers.

This 15-page worksheet consists of the Heroine's Journey explained in detail, questions for you to answer about your heroine, and examples to explain each stage of the Heroine's Journey.

This worksheet is a tool I use to help revise my synopsis or my completed manuscript. It’s not meant to replace a synopsis because it doesn’t focus as strongly on the external events and conflicts in the story--it’s more focused on the internal events and internal conflicts of my heroine.

If you'd like the Heroine's Journey Worksheet, click the link below to pay using PayPal.

Heroine's Journey worksheet

Friday, July 19, 2013

Self-Editing tips on eHarlequin and Synopsis writing class in August!

Self-Editing tips at eHarlequin

I forgot to post this earlier, but I'm posting Deep Editing tips over at the eHarlequin forum boards. I'm going over 5 of the points that are in my Self-Editing worksheet and giving some feedback. I'm only online there until the end of Saturday (sorry for the late notice) if you'd like feedback. Since I'm doing 5 of the points in my worksheet, this will give you a chance to see a sample of my worksheet in case you're still on the fence about buying it.

Here's the direct link to the forum:

Register for my next Synopsis writing class in August

I'm not doing as many online classes these days, but for those of you interested, now's the time to register for a Synopsis writing class I'm giving through the Oklahoma Christian Fiction Writers group:

Synopsis writing online class ($20 (OKC member) or $25 (non OKC member)) August 5 - 16

For 12 days, I’ll be working with you to write a synopsis for your manuscript during the class. By the end of the class, you will have:

1) a one sentence hook for your manuscript proposal
2) a five sentence pitch, which you can also use in a query letter
3) a comprehensive 2-page single spaced synopsis for use in a proposal or submission
4) a character synopsis to include with your 2-page synopsis or in place of it
5) if your manuscript is completed, a full chapter by chapter synopsis (usually anywhere from 4-10 pages) for if an editor asks for a more complete story synopsis, OR at the very least, the means to write one if your manuscript is not yet completed.

Cost is $20 (OKC member) or $25 (non OKC member). If you're interested, register here: (scroll down the page a bit to see my class)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Avoiding Episodic Writing

(This post originally appeared on Suite101, but it's no longer there so I'll post it here. :)

Make the Character Proactive Rather Than Reactive

Eliminate episodic scenes by giving the character an External Goal, Obstacles against that goal, and Forward Movement in the story.

A story is more than just good writing. A story plot must have forward motion and a sense of movement that pulls the reader along.

Sometimes writers will get feedback that their story “lacks purpose” or is “episodic.” What exactly does that mean?

Episodic Writing is Reactive Writing in Vignettes.

A character needs more than just to fall into an alternate world and face Scary Monsters. He needs to have a purpose and doggedly pursue that purpose. If he simply goes from one Bad Thing to another, the story lacks direction.

When a character simply reacts to the Bad Things that happen to him, he is being reactive rather than proactive, and that can be boring to a reader.

It’s also boring to read a novel where the characters have coffee and discuss the heroine’s dead-end job, then have dinner discussing the hero’s wayward sister, then go out to breakfast the next morning and discuss the mystery of the missing diamond necklace, etc. A novel like that simply moves from one vignette to the next without a sense or urgency or movement that pulls the reader along.

Instead, give your novel focus and purpose.

Make Sure the Character Has an External Goal

Editors like to see a character who has a strong External Goal that carries him forward in the story. It provides something for the reader to follow, and it provides direction for the storyline.

In The Wizard of Oz, sure, Dorothy gets swept into another world. But her goal all the time is to find a way home. She follows the Yellow Brick Road, tries to see the wizard, gets the witch’s broomstick because the wizard told her she needs it to get home. All the things she does is for the sole purpose of finding a way home. She is not simply moving from one strange event to the next. She has purpose and focus.

Make Obstacles Against the External Goal.

Once the character’s goal is established, make the conflict targeted toward that goal.

If the heroine’s goal is to buy a particular house on Blossom Street, make every obstacle directly against that goal: maybe the bank won’t give her a loan, or her old house won’t sell and she can’t raise the down payment, or some other family is in competition for the same Blossom Street home she’s trying to get.

Don’t just have “conflict” against the character—make the obstacles work directly against whatever her goal is. Then, the story will be targeted rather than episodic because each obstacle is trying to thwart the character’s external goal.

Make Each Scene Have Several Purposes

Each scene has to have two or three major purposes that forward the plot or character arc.

You shouldn’t have one scene whose sole purpose is to show the heroine’s background or some character trait. Or one scene that only shows why the hero moved to Miami, even if that information will be important later.

If you look at a scene and can only list one or two minor things that move the story forward, that scene needs to be cut or combined with another scene. Try to ensure several major things happen in each scene.

Applying This Tips Might Involve Extensive Rewriting

The combination of these three tips will help eliminate episodic writing in your novel, but they also might involve some major restructuring. That’s okay—if you apply the time and energy to restructuring, you’ll find the novel ten times better, and possibly more appealing to an editor.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Update April 2013

Because of several writing contracts, I've decided to step back from doing critiques and coaching for most of 2013 in order to save my injured wrists and my health for my books. If you'd like recommendations of other freelance editors who can critique your work sooner, I can suggest:

Fiction Fix-It Shop (
Moonshell Books and Editorial, Shelley Bates (
Cheryl Wyatt (
Sharon Hinck (

Just email them through their websites and let them know that Camy suggested you contact them about critiquing.

Update: I’ll be teaching an online synopsis class in early August this year, so stay tuned to my blog for when registration opens.

I also still have my worksheets available for download:

Self-Editing worksheet - $20 New!
Deep Point of View worksheet - $10 Price drop!
Characterization worksheet - $10 Price drop!
Structure/Synopsis worksheet - $5
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