Common Contest Problems

My friend Danica blogged about some Common Contest Problems , and her post might be a helpful checklist for anyone trying to strengthen those first 50 pages of their manuscript: I'm doing my civic duty and judging some contest entries today. I had really high hopes for this one. In years past, I've read such good entries that I wanted to write the contest people, begging to read the rest of the manuscript. This year, not so much. As I read each entry, I realized that they all had the same problems in common. So I thought, for the writers who read my blog, I'd share the commonalities. Click here to read the rest of the post.

Article interview with Barbara Scott

In the ACFW Afictionado ezine, there's a good article/interview with editor Barbara Scott from Abingdon Press: A Few Moments with....Barbara Scott A few friends of mine are being published through Abingdon, and I knew Barbara when she had been editor at Zonderkidz. She's a terrific person and I like her a lot. I'm also really excited about the new Abingdon fiction line--there's a huge variety of stories that are sure to appeal, and Barbara is collecting a lot of fresh writing voices for her stable of authors. Check out the article if you think you might be interested in submitting to Abingdon!

Serial Killers and the Writers Who Love Them: Facts about Popular Myths

For those of you writing suspense, thriller, and mystery, Pat Bertram had Katherine Ramsland on her blog. Katherine is a respected writer who has published several books on criminals, criminal psychology, and CSI. (I have one of her books around here somewhere...) We have many myths attached to serial killers in our culture, most of them from outdated studies or from fiction and film. While those early studies had their merits, they’re not, and never were, representative of serial killers as a whole. Click here to read the rest of the article

Inexpensive Writing Retreats

Today I'm blogging at Seekerville about options for inexpensive writing retreats: Camy here, feeling the crunch of the economy just like all of you. But sometimes, you need something to jumpstart your creativity or to kick you out of a writing block. Writing retreats are wonderful things, because they can do many different things: --Help to immerse you in that creative right brain mode so you can get “in the zone” --Give you that kick in the pants you need to plow through a writing block or a difficult patch of writing --Eliminate distractions that might be keeping you from writing effectively or efficiently --Help you to focus and pay attention to details But let’s face it, writing retreats are expensive . Click here to read the rest of the article

Make Great Character Names

Did you know that the right character name can make your manuscript more vibrant or powerful? I wrote this article, which originally appeared on Suite101. Make Great Character Names Add Depth and Emotion By Naming Your Characters Carefully Be judicious in how you name your characters, paying attention to details and not just name meanings, in order to add color, depth, and power to your characters. When naming characters, many writers only pay attention to how a name sounds or what a name means, but there are other things to keep in mind when you name your characters. Choosing a good name and paying attention to certain details can: Add power and depth to a character Make the manuscript less confusing Make the manuscript more polished and professional Create smoother reading pace Evoke an emotional reaction in your reader Choose a Name With Meaning These days, the Internet has many resources to find names and their meanings. Any baby name site will offer almost

The first page, part 3 - Establish the protagonist

This is continuing my series on things to look for in your first page. Click here for part two. Establish the protagonist Your first paragraph (ideally—or at least the first several lines of the book) should mention one of the main protagonists by name. The first page of the book is one place where you can break with deep point of view and mention the entire main character’s name, even though technically, in deep point of view, the main character would only think of him/herself by a first name. This was not the smartest way to die. USAF Pararescue Jumper Manny Péna grunted, tensed his muscles and tried again to flare the canopy on his parachute. No go. -- A Soldier’s Family by Cheryl Wyatt It’s usually best to start the story in the main protagonist’s point of view , opening the storyworld from the protagonist’s eyes, being in her thoughts and body. Allison Stewart’s future hung in the balance. Her job. Her research. Her attempt to make a difference. -- Countdown to Death by Debby G

Join a critique group

As many of you know, I belong to the American Christian Fiction Writers organization, and a topic came up on the email discussion loop that I wanted to tell you guys about. Sometimes, an ACFW member will email the loop asking for a quick critique, and usually people are more than willing to take a quick look at a piece of writing. One member did that last week. In response, another member raved about his ACFW critique group, and encouraged other members to take advantage of ACFW's free critique group service. What ACFW offers for every member is their free critique group program. A coordinator will assign a member to an online critique group. The groups are usually small, no more than 5 or 6 people, and most of them are smaller than that. The groups are matched according to genre, if you prefer. You can also request a group that can keep up with your writing speed--critiquing one chapter a week or one chapter a month, whichever you can keep up with. If a group doesn

Ten Mistakes Writers Don’t See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do)

I got this great link from Mary Connealy: Ten Mistakes Writers Don’t See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do)

Writing despite myself

I'm blogging at Seekerville today about writing despite my own lack of motivation, whether from depression, stress, or distractions. Camy here, talking about the one thing I struggle against the most when it comes to writing—myself. I don’t like it, but I am a very emotional writer. Meaning, my writing motivation is often fed by my feelings. Click here to read the rest of the post.

Strengthen Prose With Judicious Words

I wrote this article, which originally appeared on Suite101, about how you can self-edit yourself into more vibrant prose. Strengthen Prose With Judicious Words Be Selective in Word Choices for Vibrant Writing and Strong Writer’s Voice A writer can bump their writing up to the next level and make it sparkle by being careful and thoughtful about each word used. Many times, editors will say that the writer’s “voice” in a manuscript is what catches their attention. Voice is hard to define, even for industry professionals. It’s that intangible something that makes a string of prose unique to the author, and a strong voice is what will make an editor interested in a manuscript. But one thing common to all writers who have strong writers’ voices is that their word choices and phrasing are very unique and vibrant. Whether you have discovered and developed your writer’s voice or not, here are a few tips for polishing your writing to make it stand out more with strong words and br

The first page, part 2 - Figure out where to start your story

This is continuing my series on things to look for in your first page. Click here for part one. Figure out where to start your story You don’t need cars blowing up or gunfights or a grotesque witch dying a horrible death to open your story (although if you do have those things, that’s a good thing, too). All you need is something different. You need something unusual happening that will perk your reader’s attention. You need something disrupting the character’s normal life. You need just the intimation of some type of change or upheaval. This means you don’t start with backstory or telling or explanations about who the character is and why they’re there and what has happened to him before this scene. You start with the action spurred on by Change in the character’s life. I’ve seen too many manuscripts that started in the wrong place. The character’s “ordinary world” is introduced, but it’s not an active, engaging opening for the story. You need to start with the change to the characte

Mount Hermon HeadStart Mentoring Clinic

I'm a mentor for the Mount Hermon HeadStart mentoring clinic this year! The HeadStart clinic is a couple days before Mount Hermon Writers Conference, April 1-3, 2009. HeadStart is mostly for beginning writers (intermediate writers can take the regular Mentoring Clinic given during Mount Hermon Writer's Conference). I hope that those of you who can will come and take my mentoring class! Mary DeMuth, who's also a mentor for HeadStart, made this really cute video that gives a little more info about who the HeadStart clinic is for and what you can get out of it.

The first page, part 1 - Craft a great opening line

I’m going to be doing a series on things to look for in your first page. Why just the first page? Realistically, that first page is all you have. That’s what will either grab an editor or make him/her put the manuscript in the reject pile. Editors have very little time, and they get thousands of manuscripts a year. If they’re not hooked by that first page, most will not bother to read on to the second page. Editors just don’t have time anymore to “grow” an author and help them improve his/her writing. In past decades in publishing, an editor might contract an author with incredible potential and help them to become a better writer with successive books. That doesn’t happen anymore. A debut author that’s contracted these days has to have very strong writing skills right off the bat—an editor will not contract a writer who’s “good but not quite there.” It’s the same with a reader. Think of yourself in a bookstore. There are thousands of books on the shelves. How do you decide which book

Setting writing goals for 2009

I'm over at Seekerville talking about how writers can set goals for 2009 to challenge themselves to write faster and/or more efficiently. Camy here, talking about Writing Goals for 2009! Pam Hillman recently shared her writing goals with us, and I was totally impressed how she broke things down into quarters. What that mostly did was to help her target herself in terms of writing efficiency. She challenged herself to write a certain amount—or at a certain speed—by a certain date. Click here to read the rest of the post.

Credentials in Query Letters For Novels An Example From Real Life

Here is an example from my own query letter, written for one of my old Asian chick lit novels when I was still unpublished. This was originally published on Suite101. An Example From Real Life Here is a bio paragraph from a real query letter from an author who was unpublished at the time. The credential or bio section of a query letter is important because it lists why the writer is qualified to write the novel being proposed in the query. It also shows the agent or editor the writer’s experience in the publishing industry and in the writing craft. The best way to learn is by example, so here is an example bio paragraphs from a real query letter from the author, who was unpublished at the time she sent this query. There are also comments about each section of the bio paragraph at the end of the example. Example One Here is an example from a query letter this author submitted when still unpublished. The novel was an Asian American chick lit novel. This novel explores the

Query Letters - Listing Credentials: Make Your Bio Powerful and Informative

I just critiqued a query letter and answered a few questions about the credentials paragraph. So I wrote this article, which originally was published on Suite 101. Make Your Bio Powerful and Informative Here are a few tips to make the bio section of a query letter as good as it can be. An important part of query letters is the credential or bio paragraph. It should do two things: 1) Let the editor or agent know why you are qualified to write the novel and its topics 2) Let the editor or agent know that you have publishing credits and writing connections to show you’re not inexperienced in the publishing industry. Show You Are Qualified A writer should show that they are qualified to write a novel’s settings, issues, themes, or character professions. If the novel is about firefighters, a bio should mention the writer is the son of a firefighter or married to one, or is a firefighter himself. If the novel is set in the Michigan upper peninsula, the writer should mention

A Writing Career on a Budget

We're all feeling the financial crunch, but what's an unpublished writer to do when there are so many things you need to buy to develop your craft? I wrote this article, which originally appeared on Suite101. A Writing Career on a Budget Money-Saving Tips for Novelists Here are tips for developing writing skills, improving craft, and taking advantage of resources inexpensively. An unpublished novelist is stuck in a catch-22. He can’t make money until he sells a novel, but he can’t sell a novel until he develops his craft, which usually requires money. Here are some tips for developing your writing craft while limited by a budget. Take Advantage of Free Stuff These days, there are tons of writing articles online that teach the basics of writing. Google is your best friend. There are many websites that have lists of links to free articles. One of my favorites is Resources for Romance Writers . While many of the articles do pertain to romance, much of the informati

Books and Such Literary Agency blog

I am agented by Books and Such, and they've just started a blog! They'll be posting 5 days a week, and they'll also have a Newsflash feature where they'll be posting every new and juicy tidbit from the world of publishing.

How to write a great query letter by Noah Lukeman

Noah Lukeman now has his article, "How to write a great query letter" available as a free download! Way cool! How to write a great query letter

Increase Character Conflict

Feedback can sometimes be vague, can't it? I wrote an article that might help you improve your story when the feedback is not so helpful. This article originally appeared on Suite101. Increase Character Conflict Make Characters and the Story More Interesting By Increasing Conflict Here are some tips for making a bland or episodic story more interesting by introducing deep character conflicts. Sometimes, a writer will get feedback that the characters are unlikable or uninteresting, or the story is only “okay.” This is usually a good indication that the story needs more conflict. For popular fiction, the best type of conflict involves personal character conflict. Some writers refer to this as “throwing rocks” at your character. This type of internal conflict can also directly impact the external storyline, so you get maximum bang for your writing buck. Conflict will automatically create more interest for readers because they want to see how the protagonist responds unde