I'm teaching at the ACFW conference!

Hey guys, My workshop "The Hero and Heroine's Journeys" just got accepted for the American Christian Fiction Writers conference this year! I'll be teaching on--duh--the Hero and Heroine's Journeys. If you've never used the Heroine's Journey, especially, and you have a female main protagonist, this will be a good workshop for you for characterization. The ACFW Conference is in Denver, Colorado this year, from September 17th through the 20th. Information is on the ACFW website . Registration hasn't opened yet, and only ACFW members can attend the conference (but it's only $50 membership fee for the first year to join ACFW, and believe me, it's totally worth it to join! I talk about ACFW here . If you have questions about ACFW, just leave a question in the comments.) They'll announce when registration is open for the conference on the ACFW members email loop. So anyway, I hope you (a) join ACFW and (b) take my workshop in Denver this year!

Book in a Nutshell contest

The Knight Agency is holding a Book in a Nutshell Contest Submit three compelling sentences (150 words max) about your completed, unpublished manuscript to submissions@... Write BOOK IN A NUTSHELL in the subject line or it will not be deemed eligible. One submission per project, please. Twenty of the best submissions will be chosen and requested by various agents who will then give feedback on your work...and it may even lead to possible representation. Hurry, the deadline is April 20, 2009. Winners will be notified by May 1, 2009. For more info, go to

Avoid Info Dumps in Dialogue

I admit, I'm prone to info dumps in my dialogue, especially in my first drafts, and I have to edit them out in my revisions. I wrote this article, which originally appeared on Suite101, with some of my tips and tricks. Avoid Info Dumps in Dialogue Strengthen Your Dialogue By Eliminating Telling Eliminating the Info Dump in dialogue will create mystery that keeps your reader riveted while strengthening the prose. In publishing days long past, it wasn’t uncommon to find a character who starts a line of dialogue with the infamous, “As you know ...” For example: Gerald walked into the living room and announced, “Phillip, our mother is at the door. As you know, she ran off twenty years ago with the family lawyer and we haven’t heard from her since.” Today’s readers and publishing industry has moved toward eliminating this technique, which is “telling” and not “showing” the story to the reader. Emulate Real Life In real life, people don’t need to remind their listeners

Shorten Your Dialogue

Sometimes, in my haste to make sure the reader knows something, I'll have a character go on and on in a line of dialogue, and I'll have to edit it out in revisions. I wrote this article, which originally appeared in Suite101. Shorten Your Dialogue Improve Pacing and Add Emotion With More Deliberate Dialogue Often, shorter dialogue lines with more deliberate word choices can improve a scene’s pace and create greater emotional impact. In real life, people don’t often have long speeches. Most of the time, someone will interrupt them—maybe when they pause for breath—or the speaker will purposefully pause for a reaction from the person they’re talking to. It should be the same in your fiction. Contemporary Fiction The dialogue in a present-day novel should be more back-and-forth, give-and-take, which is what real-life dialogue is like. One person says a sentence or two, the other person responds to what they said. A character who goes on and on for a paragraph or two i

The first page, part 5 - Establish the tone or atmosphere

This is continuing my series on things to look for in your first page. Click here for part four. Establish the tone or atmosphere of the story In addition to using key words to indicate genre, use key words to develop a certain feel to the writing, setting, and story in that first page. Remember, you are dumping the reader in a completely new story world. You want them to be able to know what type of story this is going to be right off the bat. If they’re expecting a gripping, emotional story and the first page is heavy with action, they’re going to close the book. If your story is going to be humorous, start it out humorously. Also, use key words that indicate whether it’s dry British humor or slapstick comedy or sarcastic chick lit. If it’s going to be a roller-coaster ride, start it out quickly. Use strong words and sharp sentences to strap the reader in for a wild read. If it’s going to be deeply emotional, start it out emotionally. Use words that evoke strong emotional responses s

Reciprocal blog links?

Hey guys, Sorry I've been AWOL the past week, I've been too busy! Anyway, before I continue on with my series on The First Page, I wanted to know if any of you wanted to trade blog links? I'm going to set up a Blogroll on this blog and if you already link to this Story Sensei blog, please email me or comment below to let me know! Camy

Medicals for Harlequin Mills & Boon

Have you ever considered writing Medicals for Harlequin Mills & Boon? Want the inside scoop? Wednesday, March 11 Laura Iding will be in Seekerville sharing about the Medicals line. Laura has written 18 books for Harlequin Mills & Boon over the past five years. Her most recent book is Emergency: Single Dad, Mother Needed. And she's giving away a copy of her latest release. See you there.

Two Dogs. One Bone

Pam Hillman wrote a really great article detailing character conflict in a novel. She simplifies the concept of conflict but also makes it easy to grasp, a jumping off point for writers: I’ve started a new wip (work-in-progress) and while I’m excited and have a lot of angst and conflict planned for my characters, the core conflict between my hero and heroine doesn’t feel strong enough to carry the entire book. Or at least it’s not fleshed out enough for me to see it. So I started looking around for ways to define that backbone and nail it down. (Ouch, that sounds painful, doesn’t it?) Click here to read the rest of "Two Dogs. One Bone."

The first page, part 4 - Indicate the genre

This is continuing my series on things to look for in your first page. Click here for part three. Indicate the genre When an editor opens your book, he/she should be able to tell what your genre is right off the bat. Genre does not have to be established in the first line, but it should be fairly obvious by the end of the first page. You don’t want to open your story with: The wagon train left a dust cloud that Shep could see from seven miles away. when your story is a contemporary thriller. Use key words to indicate to the editor/reader what genre your novel is. Certain words or phrases are indicative of different genres by tapping associations in a reader’s mind. “Glock” will usually indicate a suspense or thriller or crime drama. “Wagon train” will usually indicate a Western or a historical prairie romance. “Desire” in context will typically clue the reader in to the fact that the story is a romance of some sort. Another benefit of indicating genre in the first page is that it will

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