Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Study of Writing the Christian Romance by Gail Gaymer Martin: How to Sell your Christian Romance

So you’ve plotted, written, and feel good about your story. Now what?

Before you head out to buy those big manila envelopes or purchase a Writer’s Market Guide to figure out who to send your manuscript to, you should consider a few fine-tuning scenario’s.

Gail Gaymer Martin suggests that before you send your proposal out, consider brushing-up your writing knowledge by reading How-To books and making sure your story is the best it can be. Then run your manuscript through a well-chosen critique group that can spot areas of contention that you may have missed. A fresh pair of knowledgeable eyes can be invaluable, and several of those pairs, even more so. Find a group of writers with varying knowledge and willingness to help you grow as a writer that fits with your personality. The time you take to form a critique group will prove invaluable to your writing success. Pray for guidance in this area especially. It’s never easy to hear constructive criticism, but if you want to grow as a writer, criticism is inevitable.

Also, getting involved in writer’s groups for the expertise they can share, as well as the encouragement and support they offer is a good idea. For the Christian romance writer American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA) and the FHL Christian Chapter are two you could start with to look at. In Canada, there is also The Word Guild to consider. These are just a few that are out there. Talk to other writers/authors and Google writer’s groups to get recommendations. Many of these writer’s groups host annual conferences which are invaluable in networking and getting you appointments with agents and editors and even published authors to run your questions by or manuscript through.

Getting published is usually a very long process. It takes patience and determination and belief in yourself, so invest in finding the right support groups for you before submitting your work to agents or publishing houses that still accept un-agented submissions.

Once you feel confident that your work has been critiqued appropriately and you’ve made the necessary revisions, then it’s time to go over your manuscript word by word checking layout, punctuation, paragraphing, and presentation.

For layout, be sure to have a one-inch margin surrounding the page and use a standard 12-point font. Create a title page that includes your manuscript name, word count, and author information such as, name, address, e-mail address, & telephone number. On each page of your manuscript you should have a header that includes author’s name, book title, and page number.

Each agent or publisher will have their own guidelines, check on-line or phone the agency or publishing house to request a copy of those guidelines and adhere to them for the best possible chance at having your manuscript viewed.
Writers’ Market Guides are published yearly with updated agents and publishing houses' information included. If you choose to go this route, then be sure to customize your submissions according to the individual guidelines given. Perhaps a better use of these manuals is to use them as a starting point to compiling a list of editors and agents you may want to approach at a writer’s conference. If you can get an appointment with an editor or agent and they request a proposal then you are one big step ahead of sending out your proposal blindly.

Gail Gaymer Martin goes into great detail on how to create a proposal in her final chapter of Writing the Christian Romance. Most proposals contain a cover/query letter that introduces you and your work, a Proposal/ Summary Sheet that includes the title of your manuscript, genre, back-cover type blurb (very short synopsis), brief author bio, and any marketing strategies you may have. Followed by a longer synopsis, the length of which you will find in their guidelines, and then usually the first three chapters of your manuscript bound in an elastic band. You should also include a sufficient SASE for their reply. If you plan to send out multiple submissions to varying agents or editors you should make note of this on the query/cover letter.

For most synopsis, the key is to remember to include your characters’ goals, motivation, and conflict, followed by the resolution for these proposals. Gail Gaymer Martin recommends Give ‘Em What They Want by Blythe Camenson and Marshall J.Cook for a good reference on how to write synopsis.

In the end, though, it is wise to remember that many factors go into whether a manuscript is selected or not. You may have a wonderful story, written very professionally, but it’s timing at arriving at that particular publishing house is sadly off. They may have just purchased one similar or they may be closing that line of books, etc. So don’t let the rejections pull you down, keep searching out new agents and editors, attending writer’s conferences, submitting to contests, etc. The quitter never gets the sale, it’s the determined ones that do.

That concludes my notes on Writing the Christian Romance by Gail Gaymer Martin. There is so much in this writing manual that I hope these posts have given you a little taste of what is offered in this book and that you’ll get your hands on a copy of one yourself to do a more in depth study. Gail Gaymer Martin offers many examples that show just how to incorporate a technique or what a well written synopsis is like, etc. Most libraries will do inter-library loans for those whose library does not yet have a copy of this How-To book. Or, if you’re up to purchasing one, you can find it online at Amazon here.

Tomorrow I’ll be sharing my Authors-Helping-Writers Interview, featuring author Sharon Dunn. I hope you’ll stop by and be encouraged by Sharon’s responses. She writes who-done-it mysteries and shares her road-to-publication story with us, inspiring us to fight the good fight of writing on...



Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Study of Writing the Christian Romance by Gail Gaymer Martin: Plotting

The chapter on Plotting the Christian Romance in Gail Gaymer Martin’s Writing the Christian Romance resource book is full of details and direction to creating a compelling plot. There is no way to summarize all that is included in this chapter, so I’m just going to highlight a few points to give you an idea of the depth of knowledge to be gleaned from a personal study of this chapter.

When plotting a Christian romance you must not only include the growth of the characters and their romance in the context of the story action, but you must also show the spiritual growth of the characters as well within the story flow. Gail Gaymer Martin suggests a simple system she calls the Five C’s of Plotting to help you get started on your plotting. If you include Characters (believable characters), Cause (motivation and goals), Conflicts, Commitment (both in romance and faith), and Conclusion (HEA with emotion) in your plot formation then you are well on your way to creating a winning story.

There are numerous styles of plotting. A few that are mentioned and described in detail in this chapter are: Synopsis, Chapter Outline, Index-Card Plotting, Seat-of-the-Pants (SOTP) Plotting, and the Three-act play structuring. No matter which plotting style the author adopts, or combination there of, their task is still the same, to create a compelling story with believable characters who have understandable motivation and goals and are thrust into compounding conflicts that keeps the reader’s eyes glued to the page even through the long middle of your book.

And just how do we writers do this? Well, Gail Gaymer Martin offers many techniques to achieve this goal. Some of which are:

Conflict: Include both internal and external conflicts throughout your story. Up the stakes with more and more difficult situations for the characters to overcome or traverse—it’s those building conflict-riddled scenes that holds the middle up.

Pacing: Create fast paced action scenes followed by gentle awareness scenes or sequels as many call them to give the reader a chance to breath and reflect on what just transpired. Emotional response can sustain the slower paced sequels, while action shoots us through the fast paced scenes. Think of the most thrilling roller coaster rides you’ve been on. Remember those slow climbs? The emotional response to a previous action-driven scene can be related to that slow climb. Add foreboding, internal dilemma’s, and/ or a sense of mystery during the reflective scenes and your reader will take the climb with anticipation for the next whirlwind of loop-d-loops that your fast-paced scenes are to deliver.

Holding Back: As the story progresses, you the author, should be leaving got-to-know-the-answer type questions in the reader’s mind. Don’t answer those questions right away, make the reader work to find the answers by reading onward. This technique is often found at the end of a chapter or scene, also called a cliff-hanger.

Subplots: Subplots can strengthen the long middles as well, just be sure they are related to the outcome of the relationship between the hero and heroine. If you can’t connect the dots to the main plot, then it’s not a suitable subplot for your story.

Ask “What If…”: When things seem to be getting too kosher, relaxed, consider asking what if questions to flesh out further conflict, dilemma’s for your characters. What if the hero’s ex-girlfriend showed up? What if the heroine gets in a car accident? Think of what means the most to your characters and then consider “what if they lost it or it was stolen from them or they were provoked into doing something they hate and despise?” Up the stakes by asking “What If …” questions and then make it happen.

Combine Characters: If your story is too congested with characters, consider combining some or purging others so that the reader doesn’t become overwhelmed with trying to keep track of your large cast. This combining technique can round out characters too and make them more interesting and three-dimensional.

Twists: Use your own personal who-would-have-thought experiences to create a twist from the usual types of plots. This will make it your own unique plot as will the individual characters you create.

These notes just touch the tip of what is offered in Writing the Christian Romance. Just remember that there is no right or wrong way of plotting. Each author must discover what works for him/her. But by being aware of various techniques to strengthen your plot, you may be able to fix a sagging middle without a whole lot of frustration, so be creative and come up with some unique situations for your interesting characters to endure and watch your story come to life.

Tomorrow we’ll be visiting the final topic of Gail Gaymer Martin’s Writing the Christian Romance. And that would be some tips on how to sell a Christian romance novel.

For a topic of discussion, let’s share our own plotting methods. Are you a three-act plotter, SOTP (of which I’m personally now calling An Intuitive Plotter, as Megan DiMaria taught me) or an Index-Card junkie, or Synopsis extraordinaire, or any combination of the above or more?



Monday, April 28, 2008

Study of Writing the Christian Romance by Gail Gaymer Martin: Visiting Introspection

Gail Gaymer Martin refers to introspection as not only the internalizations (unspoken aloud, but dialogue just the same, that is italicized within fiction novels) but all internal thought processes divulged from the POV character’s head.

It is easy to see the importance of introspection within any novel, especially a Christian romance, when you consider how intimate the reader can get with the POV characters through shared introspection on the page. It is in introspection that the POV character can truly reveal what is in his/her head and heart. Personality and feelings—fears, joys, questioning, confusion, heartache—you name it, can be revealed through introspection. It is a powerful tool for an author to use to instigate a connection between their characters and the readers of their book as well as divulge information.

But it is the author’s duty to be sure that as with dialogue, narrative and action, introspection should always move the story forward. Something new or a deeper understanding must be presented in the context of the segment of introspection. If it doesn’t advance the plot in some way then it needs to be scrapped or modified so that it does.

Through introspection the POV character can reveal their personal goals and motivation. This can be done in dialogue and action as well, but consider a scenario where the POV character wants to hide their goal from other story characters, introspection is a perfect way to reveal it only to the reader. It is through introspection that the reader learns of secrets, or perhaps just their existence but not yet the details, providing intrigue and mystery as the story unfolds.

Introspection is a powerful tool for foreshadowing or revealing intrigue as well. End any statement with “now” and see how it can cause second guessing, questioning? For example, consider this simple phrase: “I like this outfit.” What does that tell you? She’s pleased, content with her choice of attire, right?

Now add “now” on the end. “I like this outfit now.” See the questioning the now evokes? The reader will wonder what happened in the past that caused her change of attitude toward the outfit. Has she overcome an insecurity that the outfit reminds her of? Has someone of interest complimented her on this outfit after an unpleasant experience in it in the past? Or has her body just altered in shape to complement the outfit better since the last time she wore it? Depending on the reader, that simple “now” will introduce a variety of questions, keeping the reader hooked to find out what was meant by that “now”. But like anything, don’t overuse this trick in any one novel or its value will soon fade and become more of a nuisance than a motivator to read on.

Remember that important third strand of a Christian romance? The spiritual component. The character’s spiritual journey can be disclosed through the use of introspection. If a character starts out a non-believer and then we see him/her questioning faith issues along the way, progressing into prayer for help and then perhaps praise, for example, the reader will see the character’s faith and understanding of God progress throughout the novel. A lot of this can be divulged through moments of introspection mixed with dialogue and action throughout the novel. In the same way, the reader can be privy to the romantic development in the novel through introspection, action, and dialogue. By utilizing introspection, dialogue and action to show these progressions you will provide a compelling read that can touch all the senses and doesn’t bore the reader.

Getting inside your character’s head makes him/her three-dimensional and thus introspection is needed to create a believable character. So reveal your characters and their plights through not only dialogue and action, but be sure to use moments of introspection as well.

Again, this is by no means a complete analysis of what Gail Gaymer Martin offers in her book Writing the Christian Romance, it is only my summary notes. For a more in depth study, I suggest you borrow or purchase a copy of this writing resource, it is definitely a wonderful book for Christian romance writers and writers alike to have as a resource to reference often.

Tomorrow we’ll be visiting the topic of plotting from Gail Gaymer Martin’s Writing the Christian Romance.

If you feel so inclined, for a challenge, I ask you to tell us your feelings on introspection in works you have read. Is it overused, underused, too long-winded, or perfect? What balance do you prefer in the Christian romance novels you read?



Friday, April 25, 2008

Four-legged Writing Buddies and a New word

I have several four-legged writing buddies in my home. Two are of the canine persuasion and the other is our sixteen-year-old feline companion, Columbo, who we adopted from the Humane Society way back when he was just a kitten.

Our black lab, Tippy, is nearing her forth birthday and our little yorky poo, Tucker, and all his five pounds match the number of months old he is. We just adopted him in February and he loves to keep both Tippy and Columbo on edge. But, honestly, I think they're really enjoying our newest addition to the family. The house is certainly more lively with the pitter-patter of 90 lbs verses 5 lbs, or 14 lbs for Columbo, prancing around and jostling in their natural mode of play. Tucker and Columbo get into some amazing boxing fights and bless his heart, Columbo does keep his claws contained. Tug of war is the mode of fun for Tippy and Tucker, which often finds Tucker soaring across a room only to shake off the shock and return for more fun.

These three writing buddies keep me company during my creative time and they sometimes provide inspiration for scenes, too. Besides that, they often instigate much needed breaks for my eyes from the keyboard by way of play that draws my attention, required outdoor bathroom breaks, or as you can see in this one photo, tromping across my desk to get some undivided attention also does the trick. It's never lonely in a home with pets and I wouldn't have it any other way.

I added this campfire picture to remind me that we had our first campfire of the season last Saturday. Our youngest and I are roasting hot dogs and quickie pot pies in this picture, while Tippy makes sure her presence is known for sampling time. See her licking her lips!

Musings done, now it's time for Vocabulary Enrichment. What will the word of the week be today?

Okay, I found one, and it's related to one of the senses. You know how you see aroma, smell, scent, odour, as triggers to the sense of smell in many novels. Well, here is another word to add to that list.

Olfactory (ol-FAK-tuh-ree): of or relating to the sense of smell.

An example sentence, courtesy of Michelle Bevillacqua is:

For me, walking past the bakery every morning on the way to school was an OLFACTORY delight.

Let's see what sentences you can come up using the new word of the week, olfactory. Looking forward to reading them.



Thursday, April 24, 2008

An Interview with Author Megan DiMaria

A big welcome and thank you goes out to Megan DiMaria for her willingness to participate in my weekly Authors-Helping-Writers Interview segment of this blog. When Megan isn’t working at her day job, puttering in her garden, or hanging out with her family and friends, she writes contemporary fiction that has also been referred to as chick lit and women’s fiction with humor.

Having read Searching for Spice, Megan DiMaria’s debut novel that released this month, I whole-heartedly concur with the chick lit and women’s fiction with humor classifications as well. Searching for Spice is a wonderful mix of elements found in all three of those genres and not only is it an entertaining novel, the story of Jerry and Linda Revere’s marriage commitment and perseverance in Searching for Spice provides a wake-up call to all of us lucky enough to be experiencing the long-lasting marriage.

But I should save my review of Searching for Spice for another day and get on with sharing Megan DiMaria’s road-to-publication story.

Congratulations, Megan, on receiving your first publishing contract with your novel, Searching for Spice. Now that your debut novel is on the bookshelves for the world to enjoy, can you give us an idea of how long it took to realize such a dream and what you did to achieve it?

Megan: I spent about five years studying and writing before I was published.
I decided to do everything possible to learn the craft. I read books on writing, attended conferences, joined a critique group, submitted to contests, joined local writers groups and hung out with other writers. I love to speak to other writers to cheer them on, and I also
blog regularly.

You mentioned contests in that great list, can you tell us something about that experience?

Megan: I’ve entered contests but never did all that well. However, I used the feedback to strengthen my skills.

That’s encouraging. I must admit, I’m one of those writers that puts a little too much emphasis on contests. I figure if it wasn’t good enough for the judges then it’s probably not good enough to send out to agents or editors even with the recommended revisions completed. But clearly, you used the advice given and took the leap to sending out proposals as well. This truly is a subjective business, and we authors-in-training would do well to remember that.

So tell us, Megan, how do you write? Do you have a plotting method?

Megan: I am an intuitive writer, not a plotter.

Intuitive Writer? I like that phrase. Would you explain how an intuitive writer creates her stories?

Megan: I believe there are as many writing styles as there are writers. Mostly they fall into two camps, plotters and intuitive writers (sometimes called seat of the pants writers). Of course there is always some overlapping of methods. I learned the term intuitive writer from author Alton Gansky at the Glen Eyrie Writers Conference. When he said that he’s an intuitive writer, my ears perked up. Intuitive writer sounds like a more purposeful and intelligent term than seat of the pants.

From my understanding, when a plotter crafts a story they outline each point in the plot and then flesh out their story. I’ve joked that an intuitive writer plots as well, they just do it as they go along in the story.

As an intuitive writer, I have a clear understanding of the direction I want to press toward, and I know what the ending of the story will be. I know the types of situations I want to place my characters in and what challenges I want them to face. I often know some specific scenes I want to insert into the story. Sometimes I write a scene and tack it on the end of the document, and when I reach the right point in the story, I insert it into the appropriate chapter. However, I don’t have a definite “road map” that I follow to craft my story from point to point. As I get into the story, the characters and their situations dictate the way in which the story unfolds. I’m fortunate because I’ve never written myself into a corner. I follow my characters’ lead, and the story seems to grow organically from my characters and the settings into which I place them.

When I mistakenly thought there was a “right” way to write a story, I tried to turn myself into a plotter. It frustrated me and wasted too much time. I’ve accepted my writing method and am a much more relaxed and productive writer. Trying to force myself into being a plotter drained the joy from my writing. I’m more eager to sit at the keyboard when I know I’ll journey with my characters throughout the story.

You’ve sold me, Megan. From now on I’ll use the term “Intuitive Writer”, too.

As an intuitive writer did you write any “practice” novels, or did you revise and edit your initial story until it sold?

Megan: I wrote my first novel from 1995 until 2000. It was awful, but it proved to me that I could write a book.

What is your basic editing process of your novels?

Megan: I write a chapter, edit it and then send it to my critique partners. I’m not one of those writers who endlessly edit.

To date, how many books have you published?

Megan: Searching for Spice released in April and Out of Her Hands will hit the shelves in October.

Do have an agent, or do you deal directly with the publisher?

Megan: My first sale was a result of a meeting with an acquisition editor from Tyndale House at an ACFW conference. Although I had been searching for an agent prior to Tyndale’s interest, I didn’t connect with anyone. When it became apparent that Tyndale was interested in my book, I queried a few of the agents I felt I might work well with. As a result, I am now represented by Beth Jusino of Alive Communications.

Will you tell us about your first “acceptance call”?

Megan: Tyndale’s acquisition editor, Jan Stob, promised to call me as soon as the publication committee reached a decision. I was so nervous before I went off to work that day that I gave her my husband’s cell phone number. Fortunately he had his phone turned off. Jan ended up calling my home and telling my daughter to have me call her. [I told my] my husband [first], of course and then my children, my agent, in-laws and friends.

How many edits did Searching for Spice go through with Tyndale, and in what timeframe?

Megan: I signed the contract in April 2007 and it released in April 2008. I had about three rounds of edits, each one less involved than the first.

Will you give us an idea of what Tyndale’s expectations are regarding promoting your novels?

Megan: I understand that it’s up to the author to do everything in her power to partner with the publisher to market the book. I speak, have book signings, arrange for radio interviews, send out press releases and constantly pass out bookmarks.

Thanks so much for sharing your writing journey with us, Megan. It sounds like you have this writing process down to an art and go full steam ahead with each story you write. Before we get to revealing more about your books, do you have any final words you’d like to share with weary authors-in-training?

Megan: To be honest, many times in my writing journey I was tempted to throw in the towel. But the moral of the story is, don’t give up. Hold on to your dreams. Press on. Trust God. Someone once told me writers don’t fail, they quit. And I decided to believe it.

Wow, what a powerful statement: Writers don’t fail, they quit. I think I may frame that to encourage me onward.

As we learned through the interview, Megan DiMaria has one title released all ready and another one due out in October. After reading Searching for Spice I know I’m looking forward to October’s release and hopefully more to come after that. Please tell us a little about your books.

Searching for Spice, my general fiction novel, is available everywhere books are sold, in stores and online. The ISBN: 978-1-4143-1887-5.

Searching for Spice is the story of a woman who’s been married 24 years, and she decided she wants to have an affair—with her husband. It was a blast to write, and I’m delighted by the positive response it’s been receiving.

My second novel, Out of Her Hands will release in October. Out of Her Hands continues with the same family as SFS, but this time the focus is on the relationships my character has with her young adult children.

As a special bonus, you can hear Megan talk about her novel and how she came to be a novelist on a radio interview she participated in earlier. Just click on the pink button on the MP3 player below. Be sure to have your volume on.

If you have any questions for Megan DiMaria feel free to leave them in the comment section here or visit her blog to chat. You can also learn more about Megan and her books at her web site.

Thanks again for sharing, Megan, and I wish you all the best in your writing and life.

Tomorrow I'll blog about musings (possibly writing buddies -- the four legged kind) and add a new word to my Vocabulary Enhancement list.

Remember, for all who leave comments in any of my posts during the month of April, they will be entered into a drawing for a wonderful devotional book for writers, Daily Devotions for Writers. Georgiana Daniels was the lucky winner of the early bird draw. Best of luck to everyone for the April 30th drawing that will take place early early on May 1.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Study of Writing the Christian Romance by Gail Gaymer Martin: Mastering Dialogue

I’ve heard that many authors and agents will go straight to the dialogue when they first look at sample chapters presented to them. If the dialogue doesn’t pass the test, then you’re out of luck.

So it was with great anticipation that I came to Gail Gaymer Martin’s chapter on Writing Believable Dialogue in her book, Writing the Christian Romance. There is much to be gained from reading this chapter directly, so I’m afraid I won’t be able to do this chapter justice in these study notes. Gail Gaymer Martin uses wonderful dialogue samples extensively in this chapter to show just how good dialogue is written. In the interest of keeping this blog post to a reasonable size I’ll do my best to highlight the key factors in writing good dialogue, but I will not be offering examples like you will find in Writing the Christian Romance.

Dialogue in any fiction must have a purpose. Keep that always in mind when you sketch out your dialogue portions. If need be, use tight narrative to smooth the transition into the dialogue segment of the scene. Strip out the niceties, greetings, garb-a-lee-goop, and head straight into the meat of the conversation when delivering dialogue. Consider your reader’s time as precious and thus get straight to the point, they’ll be thankful for it and will be more likely to become repeat customers if you don’t waste their time with what they can assume has already transpired in the course of the conversation.

Gail Gaymer Martin offers four basic purposes of dialogue in Writing the Christian Romance.

# 1: To move the story forward.
# 2: To introduce goals and motivation, thus advancing the conflict.
# 3: To set the mood of the scene or establish a theme.
# 4: To reveal character.

After you write your dialogue portion of a scene go back over it and ask yourself if that transaction of dialogue advanced the plot, provided new information, or defined your characters more. If it had a purpose, was interesting to read, and didn’t turn out to be just mindless filler, then you’ve got something worth keeping. If, however, portions of that transaction doesn’t help the reader understand your story or the characters better, then you need to do some further editing to make your dialogue shine.

Dialogue in fiction isn’t meant to be like real life conversations as a whole. You must take the best, the most informative part of real life conversations and put only that part on the page to keep the reader’s interest. And in so doing you need to somehow show the speaker’s personality through their words and actions as well. Knowing your characters, their education level, their profession, their upbringing, etc. is important to depict your character accurately through their dialogue. A doctor would likely choose very different words to describe a certain event than what a mentally handicapped person, who often finds himself struggling to formulate sentences, would say about the exact same event. Be the character speaking as you create his/her dialogue to reveal their personality through their choice of words, the tone they deliver their words in, the actions they incorporate with their speech (disclosed through action beats), etc. The more you can define one character’s speech from another’s, the more the reader will gain from the dialogue segments and the less dialogue tags (he said/she said to define who is speaking) you will need to use.

If you can strip your dialogue sections of action beats, dialogue tags, introspection and narrative and you still present a compelling segment of dialogue that moves your story forward in one way or more (ie. providing important, intriguing information, revealing important characterization, presenting emotion) then you’ve written good dialogue.

A while ago I noticed that when time was of the essence and I just had to get through a given number of chapters of a fiction novel I was reading, I resorted to speed reading. I focused in on the dialogue of the scenes mostly. I was amazed at the amount of information, emotions, and characterization that could be gained solely from reading between quotes. Now I know why. Those particular authors wrote believable and valuable dialogue.

Introspection, action beats, and narrative enhance the dialogue, but the dialogue itself should be able to stand alone and still reveal the just of the story.

One more note that I want to mention in this very condensed summary of Gail Gaymer Martin’s chapter on dialogue, is the use of subtext in dialogue. Subtext is what is implied by our words or the true meaning that might be hidden beneath the actual words spoken. Subtext is often used to avoid making hurtful statements or to tease or to get a point across indirectly. The one speaking is counting on the person listening to understand his or her indirect meaning or hidden message in many cases.

Using subtext is a great way to subtly reveal flirtation and to build romantic tension in Christian romance. It’s also fun to read if written well, but careful consideration must be given first to helping the reader understand and know the character well enough that they can pick up on the character’s use of subtext in a scene when it occurs. It won’t do if only the author is capable of seeing the true meaning of a character’s words. So be sure to set the scene and the character’s personality up enough for the reader to be able to comprehend the true meaning behind the subtext dialogue or it will lose all effect and probably cause confusion more than anything and you don’t want your readers confused. Confusion often causes a person to feel stupid, and no reader wants to feel that when they are supposed to be entertained, not alienated.

So this concludes week two of the study of Gail Gaymer Martin’s Writing the Christian Romance. Next week we’ll take a look at the final three chapters in Writing the Christian Romance. On Monday we’ll visit the topic of introspection, Tuesday we’ll take a look at plotting and then we’ll finish off this study on Wednesday with some direction on how to sell your novel. So lots to learn yet, but I have to say, I’ve learned much so far, too! This book is a true reference manual for writers and I’m glad I got my hands on a copy of it. If you are interested in picking up a copy yourself, here is the link to’s listing of Writing the Christian Romance.

Tomorrow I’ll be sharing my Authors-Helping-Writers Interview featuring the debut author of Searching for Spice, Megan DiMaria. She shares her road-to-publication story and an innovative method of writing in her interview. I hope you’ll stop by and see what she has to share.



Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Study of Writing the Christian Romance by Gail Gaymer Martin: The Spirituality Element

Today we’ll take a look at what resonated with me in my readings of chapter 6 of Gail Gaymer Martin’s book, Writing the Christian Romance. In this section of the book the subject matter is geared to the third strand that is needed in a Christian romance novel—the spiritual element.

Though the main purpose of any novel, including Christian romance, is to entertain the reader, in a Christian romance the second most prominent objective is to “present life and romance through a Christian worldview”, as stated by Gail Gaymer Martin on page 95 of Writing the Christian Romance.

By incorporating realistic struggles of believers and non-believers within your novel, you open up the opportunity to reveal a spiritual message through your story, and that is what the publishers of Christian romance are looking for. It is the interweaving of that faith element within your stories goals, conflicts, motivations and reactions that sets Christian romance apart from the secular romance novels.

Internal conflict naturally occurs in a Christian romance when a Christian character’s flaws become evident. Remember, your characters should not be perfect, but rather, “real” and that means they have faults to contend with. It is not unusual for a Christian character to chastise themselves or feel guilt when their behavior falls short of what they believe God expects of them. This type of internal conflict can reveal your character’s faith journey within the main story or tale you are presenting to entertain your reader.

If you introduce a non-believing hero or heroine or even a weak believer in your Christian novel, then it is your duty to show them discovering their faith throughout the scenes and chapters of your story, thus providing the spiritual element needed in a Christian romance. By creating “real” imperfect characters you provide opportunities for mistakes and stumbles to occur during the natural course of your novel and in those scenes you should reveal your character’s growth in all aspects of his life, including his spiritual growth.

In previous postings we talked about how a character’s past can provide conflict in your story, can you also see how that same past can be the catalyst for spiritual growth? It’s your job as the author of a Christian romance to reveal that spiritual growth in the midst of all the other elements of your story so that it comes across naturally, perhaps even subliminally, but in an entertaining way, not in such a way that it will be perceived as preaching. You want to touch the hearts and souls of your readers, not pound them with a string of lessons and judgments.

Some authors develop their whole plot around a spiritual theme they want to address, while others let their character sketches reveal the spiritual thread they wish to depict in their story. Either way, it is the job of the Christian romance writer to incorporate some faith element within the story to fulfill the requirement of that third strand. Gail Gaymer Martin addresses a number of ways to flesh out spirituality in chapter six of Writing the Christian Romance, one of which is to interview your character with respect to his or her level of faith and how they utilize, show or handle their individual faith in their everyday life situations.

Faith issues can be disclosed not only through introspection and the POV character’s narrative but also through dialogue in your novel quite naturally. Think of how you and your friends incorporate faith messages in your everyday conversations. Do you quote verses from the bible? If so, how long do those quoted verses tend to be? Or, do you more often than not paraphrase or just discuss faith issues in everyday language? Do you pray aloud with a friend or family member or just to God? What circumstances would lead to such prayers and are they generally short, quick prayers, long drawn-out ones, or do they seem more like you’re having a one-sided conversation with the Lord? By taking some time to recall how you and others around you bring faith messages into their dialogue you will be more likely to write believable faith-driven dialogue in your story that hopefully won’t come across as preaching, but rather as support for the other person or for yourself even, perhaps.

Gail Gaymer Martin spends some time discussing publisher’s guidelines within the realms of spiritual context as well in this chapter of Writing the Christian Romance. Some publishers would prefer that specific denominations not be mentioned in the novel or anything that would specifically reveal a given denomination. So take care to check with the publisher’s guidelines you’re gearing your book toward for any direction in this area. Certain ceremonies or sacraments, or the way they are carried out will define a denomination and if the publisher specifically asks for no denominational referencing you will need to take care when incorporating such ceremonies within your scenes so as not to divulge the forbidden. Also the names of certain chapels/churches will give away the denomination, so you may need to use a more generic name for the purpose of your story.

They may also have clear direction on what is and isn’t acceptable within your novel, such as referencing dancing or alcoholic beverages or playing cards, etc. The realization of what is and isn’t allowed for a specific line may dictate how you present certain scenes or the need for removal of some even to obey the guidelines given. So be sure to study those guidelines and work your scenes so that they are acceptable to the line you are writing for.

That concludes my notes taken from my readings of chapter six of Gail Gaymer Martin’s writing resource, Writing the Christian Romance. Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the chapter that addresses dialogue. I found it interesting that while reading Gail Gaymer Martin’s chapter on dialogue I discovered why, when necessary, that I speed read a certain way. It all makes perfect sense to me now.

For a challenge today, I suggest you go through the guidelines of the publishing house you are hoping to pitch your story to one day and check that you are adhering to their requirements. If you find something of particular interest that you weren’t familiar with before, it would be great if you shared it with us in the comment section.

Blessings Prayed for you All,


Monday, April 21, 2008

Study of Writing the Christian Romance by Gail Gaymer Martin: A look at Sexuality in Christian Romance

Because the romantic relationship is the core of the romance novel, careful consideration must be given as to how an author should reveal sexuality within the Christian romance novel.

To me, if you are writing a Christian romance, then you should be a Christian yourself and you probably have a pretty good idea of how far one can go in showing this aspect of a romantic relationship—especially when appropriate consideration is given to your own moral and ethical standards, as well as your experience with reading published works of Christian romance. It would be helpful here, I think, to quote a couple lines that Gail Gaymer Martin offers in her book, Writing the Christian Romance: “While secular fiction is a two-strand story of the hero and heroine, the Christian romance is strengthened by the three-strand cord—the hero, the heroine, and the Lord. The spiritual connection is ultimate in Christian romance.” as stated on Pg.75 of Writing the Christian Romance.

With that in mind, you as the author will know how far you want to go with revealing sexuality in your novel, but you should also be sure that your comfort level is in tune with the publishing house(s) expectations in which you are gearing your novel toward.

If you want to write for a specific line, you should be well versed in what is printed in that line, but you will also want to study the individual publisher’s guidelines carefully. Within those guidelines, you will find specific limitations noted with respect to what they deem acceptable sexual referencing in published works.

As a general rule, Christian romances fall under the “Sweet”, not “Spicy”, umbrella of romance writing. Meaning, they deal more with the heart and inner feelings involved in building a romantic relationship. Human needs of lasting love, companionship, support, thoughtfulness, kindness and concern are all important elements of the Christian romance that should be incorporated into your story to create a touching, moving, and fulfilling Christian romance.

Modesty and self-control are expected in Christian romances by both Christian readers and publishers alike. As such, most often physical descriptions of the hero stay above the waist, while heroines are described mostly from the shoulders up. And because Christians are counselled to not dwell on physical beauty, but rather to look inside a person for true beauty, most often these descriptions are incorporated with some reference to a talent or an attribute that the character possesses. By combining both the physical and inner characteristics within the description, either through admiration or concern for the other character, the author is able to reveal much about the characters in question and also show the hero and heroine’s relationship growth in an acceptable Christian viewpoint that is unlikely to offend.

That said, let’s get into how we can reveal the progression of the romantic relationship in a Christian romance novel. According to Gail Gaymer Martin there are four basic stages in building a romantic relationship in a Christian romance.

Stage 1, Awareness: Curiosity is the keyword to remember while working through this first phase of a romantic relationship. Early in the novel, preferably on the first page, your job as the author is to provide something in the personality or manner of either the hero or heroine that arouses curiosity in the other. This doesn’t mean that it has to be an instantaneous positive attraction, it could just as well be a negative response, but by revealing some kind of curiosity you set the stage for a romance to develop. Admiration, distrust, disgust, or even sharing an embarrassing moment together, etc. are all ways to instigate a curiosity about the other character. Be creative and create a scene that shows curiosity blossoming!

In this early stage of the hero and heroine’s relationship, the outward expressions grow in proportion to the emotional commitment they have invested in each other. Consider what physical responses you felt the day you met someone who you eventually became romantically involved with. Were you tongue-tied, flustered, giddy, hyperventilating with anger, miffed? Try and use those realistic feelings to show a connection between the hero and heroine early on in your work.

If either or both, hero and heroine are practicing Christians and there’s an immediate positive attraction on the Christian’s side, then they will definitely question whether their feelings are God ordained or if the awareness they feel is of their own will. This can provide one of your first elements of conflict in your novel and conflict is an integral part of any novel, including Christian romances.

As the two characters get to know one another, the Christian hero or heroine will be searching for clues as to whether the other is a Christian as well. In the early stages of a relationship, before they get too deeply emotionally attached, the Christian may not be as concerned about being equally yoked, but they will be wanting to see signs of belief in their Heavenly Father from the other party before they allow the relationship to really start developing.

Stage 2, Interest: Having the interest between hero and heroine rise over the next couple of chapters after the meeting moves the story forward while hooking the reader to want to see the romance develop. Interest in one another can be expressed via introspection from the POV character (remember, the one who owns the scene). During this stage the hero and/or heroine will look forward to seeing one another on some level or another. Denial, or a struggle to stay uninvolved, can still be a part of this phase for at least one of the characters and it is usually driven by the characters’ personal needs and motivations.

Distrust and fear of rejection are issues common in the early interest stage, as well. You can reveal them overcoming issues like these by having them give way to their hearts and become more and more accepting of one another and what each has to offer. Introspection is a good tool for revealing this progression in the relationship. To be believable, though, you should make this shift gradually by showing their new feelings in an accumulative, responsive fashion.

During the interest stage, where at least the reader is aware that one of the characters is drawn to the other, there can be more outward signs of a growing relationship. In this stage a simple touch of the other’s hand can trigger nervousness, unease, or breathlessness in one or both parties. As Christians, the amount of intimacy they share will grow in direct proportion to how certain each is that God approves of their relationship. In this stage, the characters’ emotional struggles can add to growing conflict and cause a desire for distancing themselves from forming a relationship. It’s in this stage that a lot of questioning and uncertainty might be revealed.

As the characters grow through their experiences so will the romantic and faith elements of the story, allowing the relationship to move from awareness and interest into the third stage of romantic progression, namely attraction.

Stage 3, Attraction: This is the stage when the hero and heroine dream of being together, are reminded of each other in everything they see or do, and start to assess the pros and cons of their relationship. You must keep the hero and heroine’s love and faith growing through this stage while providing realistic conflict in the form of hidden secrets, issues or problems that they struggle to reveal to one another for fear of rejection or perhaps embarrassment, clashing goals, ambitions that threaten to separate them, etc. Think back to your’s or a friend’s courting years and recall all the things that happened that threatened their relationship, incompatibilities that they needed to learn to accept or overcome. Life is full of trials and tribulations, let your characters dive in and explore some of them.

It is in this stage that we see the characters’ logical thinking clash with what his/her heart is saying. Both internal and external conflict is upped by elements of distrust, fear, doubt, overanalysis, etc. Incomplete feelings or conflicting feelings battle with each other during this phase causing confusion and possibly indecisiveness. The tension that builds in these scenes draws the reader in and attracts a great desire for a HEA (Happily Ever After) ending.

As the relationship grows between the hero and heroine outward demonstrations of their feelings become more prevalent. In the attraction phase an intimate face-to-face embrace, long-lasting hugs and a more intimate kiss can show their furthering commitment to one another. This deepening relationship often occurs near the middle of the book, and the descriptions used in Christian romance for the physical interactions between hero and heroine at this stage of their relationship deal mainly with the inner responses the character’s experience—ie. their feelings and emotions at the time of the exchange—rather than explicitly describing the physical interaction.

The closer the characters become to admitting that they are falling in love, the faith issue will become more evident. Now is the stage where they will want to confirm that they are equally yoked. This could be cause for major conflict if one party questions the others level of belief. For the Christian romance novel, it is paramount that you have your characters come to their own acceptance of Christ and God’s word, and on their own accord, through personal learning, searching, and prayer. You cannot have them just accept the responsibility of being Christian simply by having it thrust upon them by the other character. You must show the growth of their spiritual journey throughout the scenes and chapters of your novel while you’re building their relationship and commitment to each other.

Stage 4, Falling in Love: Secular romances do not require this stage of a romantic relationship, but Christian romance does. This stage usually happens at the end of the book and it is what constitutes the HEA in Christian romance. This is the final acknowledgement of a commitment to love each other with the understanding that they’ve received God’s blessing. In other words, they are committed to make their relationship work despite any obstacles that may still exist. By the end of this section (perhaps even the last page of your book) your hero and heroine will have figured out how to deal with or at least accept any issues that remain between them and declare their intention to marry. You can strengthen this section by incorporating emotion, faith, and the commitment of love in your ending scene(s).

In the Falling in Love stage there will be a definite struggle for the hero and heroine to remain chaste in their relationship. For a Christian romance this struggle must be presented in a tasteful and mindful manner so as not to offend any of the wide variety of Christian readers that your book may attract. To do this, you might find it easiest to write such scenes playfully. Alluding to what the hero or heroine might be thinking or feeling will allow the reader to use their own imaginations and thus avoid inadvertently offending anyone. It’s also fun to write playful scenes, so go ahead and experiment and see what you can come up with to make the ending of your novel one to be remembered.

That completes my study notes on the chapter on Sexuality in a Christian romance. Gail Gaymer Martin gives many more details than what I've highlighted here of course in Writing the Christian Romance. For a more thorough look, I suggest you get your hands on a copy of her book and dive in. Each chapter is full of wonderful nuggets for any writer of any genre really. The main focus is definitely on Christian Romance but much of her guidance can be applied to all fiction writing.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the topic of Spirituality and Romance, an important thread of the Christian romance novel, in fact it is the thread that sets Christian romance apart from secular romance. We’ve touched on this element throughout our study so far, so it should be interesting to see what detail Gail Gaymer Martin offers in her chapter devoted to Spirituality found in Writing the Christian Romance.

I challenge you all to post a short snippet of how you have shown the sexuality element within your work-in-progress of a Christian romance novel. Copy and paste them into the comment section of this posting so that we can all see some wonderful examples of how to reveal the physical side of a romantic relationship. Let’s see how creative we can be without offending!

I promise to be the first to offer one in the comment section.



Sunday, April 20, 2008

Special Announcement :Winner of the Early Bird Draw

My youngest daughter drew the lucky winner right after Church this afternoon.

Congratulations goes out to Georgiana Daniels!

I would like to thank everyone who has participated in my blog thus far and I do hope that you are gaining some writing tips and inspiration from my posts. Remember, even if you didn't win this early bird drawing, you are still eligible to win a copy of Daily Devotions for Writers during the April 30th drawing.

Georgiana, if you would be so kind as to send me your snail mail address, I will send out your copy of Daily Devotions for Writers a.s.a.p. You may e-mail your address to eileenastels[at]rogers[dot]com and please put "Winner of Early Bird Draw" in the subject line.

Blessings and good luck to everyone for the final draw that will take place on April 30, 2008.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Musings and Vocabulary Enrichment Friday

Remember that writer's office/haven I was working on? Here are a couple pictures of what I've completed so far.

Stage one is complete and it is mighty functional and I just love my time down here. In fact, I start my day here around 5:15 am and write until 6:30'sh, then I go upstairs and start preparing lunches and breakfast for the family. Then, after I see the girls and hubby off in the morning, I return to my little haven around 8:00'sh. Rarely do I leave it again until the muchkins arrive home after school. I'm just so comfortable down her now. It's wonderful!

I was never a basement person before, but this morning sunshine paint really is inviting. I've discovered that it is the quietest room in the house and I'm one of those people who need silence to work. So it's perfect for me. I do have an alarm clock radio that I set regularly to keep my commitments from being overlooked, and see my big white board? It helps me get organized immediately. And my full-spectrum lamp helps me wake up right away in the morning. Of course the colour of my walls helps with that, too.

I'm proud to say that it was I who painted this room, and it was I who assembled all my furniture, too. I bore the blisters and arthritic pain for many days afterward to prove it. I'm sure that in time I'll get around to adding a few more decorations and get some organizing done behind my closet doors, but for now I'm enjoying the simplicity of my room and find it quite pleasant to work in and it provides a professional appeal, too. I feel like I'm back in my old office building--working for real! To bad my chequing account doesn't see it that way!

Now, on with the promised Friday Vocabulary Enhancement. Drum roll please...

And the word of this week is: lachrymose (LACK-rih-moce): causing tears or sadness.

An example:

While most men I know dismiss An Affair to Remember as a LACHRYMOSE melodrama, the women in my office consider it one of the best movie romances in history.

Thanks given to More Words You Should Know by Michelle Bevilacqua for this weeks definition and example sentence.

I pray you all have a wonderful, sunny weekend ahead. Monday's post will be a continuation of the study of Writing the Christian Romance, the topic being, Sexuality in Christian Romance.

Can you give an example of a sentence you would use lachrymose in? I would be most interested in seeing some pop up in the comment box and as a thank you I will enter you into my book drawing!



Thursday, April 17, 2008

An Interview with Mary Connealy

I’m pleased to welcome Mary Connealy as my first Authors-Helping-Writers interviewee. And what an inspiration Mary proves to be to authors-in-training as well as those starting out in the publishing world. And as a special bonus, Mary has offered to address any further questions left in the comment section for the next day or two. So feel free to ask away, we can all learn more this way!

A little upfront information: Mary writes historical romances, contemporary romances, and mystery novels, all with a strong element of comedy that entertains brilliantly and so it is no wonder that Mary received an exclusive contract with Barbour that consists of eighteen books to be published through to 2011. That’s an additional eighteen titles, on top of her previously contracted books with Barbour and Heartsong Presents, all since her first contract was received in front of 350 attendees at the Nashville ACFW conference in September, 2005.

In addition to fulfilling her eighteen book contract, Mary has taught writing courses for ACFW, judges contests, both published and unpublished, and is actively involved with three blogs, Seekerville, that focuses on fiction writing contests, Petticoats and Pistols, a blog promoting Romancing the West, and her Personal blog, offering Mary’s own news.

With five new books releasing in 2008, another five in 2009 and then three more each year thereafter through to 2011, it’s amazing that Mary found the time to participate in this interview. For those of you blinking furiously, wondering just how one woman can manage to write so many novels per year, Mary shares her secret of success and it’s an amazing lesson for us all to learn from.

The na├»ve interviewer I am, asked Mary: Did you write any “practice” novels, or did you revise and edit your initial story until it sold?

Mary responds: HAH! I had twenty finished novels on my computer when I got my first contract. That’s full length adult novels. In addition, I had four or five middle grade novels written and a half a dozen novellas. I’ve sold a bunch of them now. I’d always go right to the next one when I finished a book. Then after that one was finished, I’d go revise the one I’d finished before, then write another book, then revise whatever I was in the mood for. I always, always, always have a new Work in Progress going. That is the book that gets 1000 words a day. Revisions don’t count.

I had a lot of books already written on my computer before I signed my first contract or I’d never have been able to make a commitment like this
(referring to the 18 book contract she signed last summer with Barbour releasing over the next four years.)

With that number of manuscripts completed and in the works, one is curious to know how long it took for all of those novels to be written.

Mary responds: I'd been writing for ten years before I got my first contract.

Wow, that averages out to two plus novels per year and many of those manuscripts were finalists in writing contests throughout those years. In the 2004 ACFW Noble Theme Contest, Mary won the historical category with Petticoat Ranch, and came in third in the same category with another novel. It was that particular win that Mary accredits to her signing with an agent and ultimately receiving her first offered contract.

With ten years of dedicated writing, I suspect Mary could share some wisdom on how to handle feelings of dejection so common in this industry, so I ask: If you received rejections along the way, would you care to share how many you received? If so, how did you handle the disappointment they must have presented?

Mary graciously responds: So many rejections you cannot believe it and I can’t count that high. Seriously, I know I got about 40 rejections in one year. And I’d been writing for ten, so do the math!!!! Of course in later years I had more books to reject so there was more opportunity for editors to tell me I stunk.

I handled the rejection, honestly, by developing a spirit of hopelessness about publication. I just have this thing about writing. I just love it. I write all the time. I decided about half way into my ten years that I would of course be rejected, of course. I expected nothing else. So then when the rejection came I could just look at it and think, big deal, I already knew. With that attitude I was able to quit sucking my thumb and crawl out from under my writing desk often within 72 hours of getting the rejection.

Praying and continuing to write despite the rejections are both key elements to succeeding in achieving publication, but was there anything else you did to survive the author-in-training phase of your life?

Mary responds: I joined ACFW, my local RWA group (local is Omaha, Nebraska over an hour drive away so it was hard to be loyal). I joined the online FHL chapter of RWA. I joined a critique group through ACFW, I got some short pieces published, some children’s Christmas plays and worked at a newspaper and had a book review column for them. I set a daily word limit for YEARS of 300 words. I now have a 1000 word limit but when I had the 300 word limit I was aware that some days it was opening the Word document that was the hard part. Getting started, writing that first sentence. Usually if I’d write one sentence I’d write a thousand words. So upping my daily count to 1000 isn’t that much of a change. I attended writer’s conferences, I entered contests almost compulsively, I made connections, got to know other authors, not to advance my career but just to have partners and a support group. That’s the basis of Seekerville. We call ourselves Contest Divas, but we’re mainly a support group for each other.

Did you work on creating a platform during that time?

Mary responds: I don’t have a platform. Most of the authors I know don’t. I think ‘platforms’ are great if you’ve got a speaking ministry or a cause you believe in, and I think a platform, if you’ve got adherents to your platform, give you a good jumping off spot to get contracted but I don’t think it’s necessary.

That’s good to know for all of us introvert writers. Now for a few specifics regarding publication: What was the time frame involved between signing your initial contract to seeing your book on the shelves?

Mary Answers: I signed my contract in September 2005 and Golden Days came out in May 2007, nearly two years later. If you get a contract, prepare to be patient, these publishers work a long time ahead.

And during that time, how many revisions or edits does your publishing house generally request?

Mary: Two. I send in the book, they send it back with what they call ‘substantive edits’. That’s edits that say things like, ‘this girls is acting really young here but over here you say she’s sixteen. Which is it?’ Barbour is really good at this. I feel like the editors just make the book so much stronger by catching inconsistencies like that. I just now finished with my galley edits for Calico Canyon. This is my one last chance, with the book all laid out, to catch mistakes, misspelled words, clumsy sentences. In the end, I am amazed at the extent to which the book is still all mine. No one to blame but myself if anyone dislikes it.

I often wondered if the changes requested would alter your work so much that it would no longer seem like your own. It's good to know that even after editors get hold of the manuscript, the author still very much owns her work. That must make it so much easier to self-promote your book. What do publishing houses expect in the way of self-promotion?

Mary: I am gung-ho about promoting my book. But I am also, at heart, a kind of solitary person. I’m very happy sitting behind my computer having both sides of a conversation myself. I’ve done speeches, though, yikes! So far out of my comfort zone. I did a radio interview for a small Christian radio station, I enjoyed that. I’d do more of that. I try to really respect the chance Barbour has taken by signing me to an exclusive contract. I’m really honored that they put that kind of faith in me and I’m doing my very best to be very brave and do all the promotion things that are asked of me to hold up my end of the bargain. Fundamentally though, I mean at the rock bottom basis, I believe the very best thing I can do to promote myself is write the very best book I know how to write, so if I do convince someone to take a chance and buy one of my books, they’ll have a great time and want to read more of what I write.

I do believe you are truly fulfilling that, Mary. I look forward to reading all of your new releases. Any final thoughts or direction you would like to share with weary authors-in-training?

Mary: Write and keep writing. I don’t think you can get better without doing. Take classes, find a critique group, enter contests and take the judges comments SERIOUSLY. You know there’s just no such thing as an author looking at a judges comments and saying, “Well, this judge doesn’t know what they’re talking about.” Because any neutral pair of eyes on your book is a reader. No, you don’t have to make every change a judge tells you to, but ask WHY didn’t they like this section. If they say, “You’re research is wrong here” when you know it’s right, ask WHY, or ask HOW can I explain it so this reader understands.

That’s excellent advice, Mary. It is really the only way to reap the benefits of participating in writing contests where the judges do comment.

Thanks so much for sharing all this great information with us. Before we wrap this interview up, will you give us some information of your current available novels and some of your upcoming releases, too?

Lassoed in Texas Series:

Petticoat Ranch

In Bookstores Now

Sophie Edwards’ life is one long struggle for survival, and, more importantly, the survival of her four daughters. She wants to avenge her husband’s murder, but she has no idea how to do it. And as if she hasn't got enough to do, now a wounded man is disrupting her family’s lonely life.
Clay McClellen left an idyllic, all-male world in the mountains. But, after plunging headfirst over a cliff, Clay finds himself at the mercy of a widow and her four girls.
A suspenseful romantic comedy about a mountain man trapped in a pretty, sweet smelling, confusing all-girl world.

Calico Canyon

Releases August 2008

Let yourself be swept away by this fast-paced romance, featuring Grace Calhoun, an instructor of reading, writing, and arithmetic, who, in an attempt to escape the clutchs of a relentless pursuer, runs smack dab into even more trouble with the 6R's - widower Daniel Reeves, along with his five rowdy sons. When a marriage is forced upon this hapless pair - two people who couldn't dislike each other more - an avalanche isn't the only potential danger lurking amid the shadows of Calico Canyon. Will they make it out alive? Or end up killing each other in the process?

Alaska Brides

Anthology by Cathy Marie Hake, Mary Connealy and Kathleen Y’Barbo with Mary Connealy’s book, Golden Days

Releases September 2008

The historic Alaskan frontier makes a wonderful setting for romantic adventures. Trek into the wilds alongside three women who have strong faith, determination, and no need for a husband. Can they surrender their independent hearts when love comes to call in the form of a friendly neighbor, a grieving widower, and a secretive gold miner?

Of Mice…and Murder

Releases September 2008

Join the club here!

Carrie hates mice and loves the big city, so why is she living in a huge mouse infested house in her dinky hometown? The dead guy in her pantry closet is the most interesting thing that's happened since she came home. Of course the carpenter whose helping her trap her mice and solve the crime is pretty interesting, too.

Being named in Great-grandma’s will was like hitting bankrupt on Wheel of Fortune. The whole family held their breath while the wheel ticked around and around, or rather while the lawyer opened the envelope. Then they all heaved a sigh of relief when the wheel stopped on Carrie’s name. Carrie the heiress. Great. Clean up the house. Clean up the yard. Clean up Great-grandma’s rap sheet.

Can Carrie find the courage to team up with her greatest enemy…Maxie the World’s Largest Field Mouse…in time to save herself and find true love?

Heartsong Presents South Dakota Weddings

Buffalo Gal

Releases October 2008

Book #1 in the South Dakota Weddings Series from Heartsong Presents

They’ll never see eye-to-eye.

Buffy Lange has spent her life learning about, caring for, and protecting buffalo. She’s landed the job of her dreams, managing a huge buffalo ranch in South Dakota. With stars in her eyes, she imagines all of the Midwest given over to free-ranging buffalo. To her, buffalo embody beauty, majesty, and strength.

To Wyatt Shaw, however, the buffalo are a constant threat. Wyatt’s ranch adjoins the Buffalo Commons and he watches in trepidation as its owner expands and rides roughshod over the local ranchers. Buffalo are wild, untameable, and dangerous. They present a hazard to man and beast.
When disaster strikes, Wyatt’s worst fears are realized and Buffy can do nothing but clean up the mess. With one determined to rid the area of buffalo and the other determined to see them flourish, the dust seldom settles around these two. Will they find a common ground or are they destined to forever stand alone?

Clueless Cowboy

Releases November 2008

Book #2 in the South Dakota Weddings Series from Heartsong Presents

Emily Johannson discovers a cranky man living in a derelict house in the woodland behind her ranch. When she orders him off, Jake Hanson tells her he bought this wreck and is planning to live there. He’s filthy, starving, and furious that Emily found him. He wants to be left alone. And she would if she didn’t keep needing to save his worthless life.

Bossy Bridegroom

Releases December 2008

Book #3 in the South Dakota Weddings Series from Heartsong Presents

Tyler Davidson was a tyrant for a husband, and Jeanie was born to be a doormat.

They got along great.

Then Tyler abandoned his submissive wife, just another way to be a jerk.
Tyler returns a Christian and wants to heal their relationship. Jeanie is in possession of the first bit of hard won self esteem of her life, and she doesn’t believe for a minute her cranky husband can change his ways.

They commit to building a healthy marriage but his new job as her boss slips them back into old habits.

What a line-up, Mary! Thanks so much for taking the time to share and inspire those of us trudging along the path to publication. I look forward to many good reads ahead from you, Mary.

If you have any questions for Mary Connealy, she has agreed to check in on comments for the next day or two and is willing to reply. So don't be shy, this is one author who loves to help others.

And remember, for every comment posted on my blog for the month of April a ballot will be put into a giveaway drawing for one of two copies of Daily Devotions for Writers.

Ask away...and learn even more!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Study of Writing the Christian Romance by Gail Gaymer Martin: POV Discussion

First off, for those who are just starting out and don’t know, POV stands for point of view.

The POV character is the one who owns the scene. It is through the POV character’s eyes that readers experience the scene or sequel, as the case may be. Christian romances are most often written in third person (he and she) with multiple viewpoints, alternating the scenes or chapters between the hero and heroine’s POV. But there are other POV types found in popular fiction, which includes Christian romance, such as first person, and multiple first person. Omniscient and a combination of POV types can also be found in Christian romance.

If you are just starting out, though, it is a wise choice to write your novel in third person multiple, the most common POV type that is widely accepted by readers and editors alike. This is probably the easiest method to write, and it allows the reader to get to know both the hero and heroine on an intimate level through introspection— which is an important facet of hooking the reader long term .

First, we’ll take a look at what’s involved in each of the POV types and the benefits and disadvantages of each that is Gail Gaymer Martin addressed in Writing the Christian Romance, while including own personal thoughts, too.

Third Person: Is most often written in past tense. In third person novels the reader is shown the life experiences, thoughts, and actions of a specific character, rather than being told the story directly. Third person multiple refers to revealing scenes from the POV of one character at a time, meaning more than a single character will own scenes of your novel. Often in Christian romance those POV characters are only the hero and heroine, but other secondary characters may be given a POV as well.

The advantages of using third person multiple in Christian romance is that the reader can learn the attitudes, emotions, and thoughts of each of the POV characters allowing them to get into the heart and soul of the characters at a relatively intimate level. Another key advantage third person has is that secrets can be kept not only from other characters within the novel, but from the reader as well. Which provides a big opportunity to build suspense into your work.

The disadvantages of using third person is that while in one character’s POV you are limited to showing what that particular character thinks, sees, hears, tastes, feels, etc. unless of course the other character reveals such information in dialogue within those scenes and sequels. If you break that golden rule, then you venture into “Head Hopping” which is unacceptable in most editor’s and agent’s eyes. That’s a privilege that only multiply-published authors achieve and that’s because they are deemed to have the experience to make it work without jarring or confusing the reader, and of course, they already have their devoted readership so publishers are more willing to take a chance on them breaking a few rules.

You must write your scenes from the perspective of only the POV character who owns that scene, and to do that well, you should give each of your POV characters an individual, distinct voice, that allows the reader to know who is talking even when no speaker attributions are used. That’s probably the toughest part to master in writing in third person. A good way to approach each scene is to put yourself in the POV characters head while writing. Be the POV character for that scene as your fingers work the keyboard!

Gail Gaymer Martin offered a really good test for authors to check the quality of their third-person POV use in Writing the Christian Romance. Checking the authenticity of what your POV character can really reveal, what he/she is capable of experiencing in his or her's owned scenes is an important aspect of writing well. For each occurrence of the POV character’s name, replace it with “I”, and for the pronouns he/she, replace them with “my”. Does the writing still ring true? Does everything seem plausible now? In many cases when using this trick you’ll discover that your character would really need to be seeing themselves in a mirror to honestly explain a situation in that way. The POV character can feel their expressions, scrunched up nose, heat rising to their temples, etc, but they cannot see their eyes snapping or face turning red.

First Person and Multiple First Person: Writing in first person POV offers the story to be viewed through one person’s eyes only. This type of POV is the “I” voice. First person offers the most intimate view of the one POV character as the reader only experiences the story through that person’s limited vision. This type of POV is usually told in past tense, but is also found in present tense which provides immediacy as well as action and excitement. Multiple-first-person POV can be found in Christian romances with the hero and heroine alternating scenes from the first-person perspective, to allow for the reader to get to know both characters intimately.

The advantages of this type of POV use is the intimacy it offers. And if you go with multiple-first-person POV then the reader can get to know both the hero and heroine on an intimate level. The disadvantages, though, if you stick to just one character’s POV written in first person for a Christian romance is that the reader only really gets to know either the hero or the heroine, not both. And considering that the Christian romance is the story of both a man and a woman falling in love, most readers want to know both characters to be sure they are right for one another.

Other difficulties are that the first-person character must be present and most-often active in every single scene of the book. And the author must create dynamic and extremely interesting characters to sustain the length of the novel. Also, the POV character must always be honest in first-person POV works, no POV character secrets are allowed as you are in that character’s head 24/7, so to speak. I will add one of my own pet-peeves regarding a common element I find in first person books. The number of occurrences of the word “I” that appears in many first-person POV books is overwhelming. After reading page after page with “I” practically occurring in every sentence, that single letter makes me cringe. Sorry, but it does.

Omniscient: This POV type is not often used anymore. It is far more common in classic literature. Omniscient POV can often be confused with “Head Hopping” if one does not do it well. This style is really the deliverance of the story by the “all-knowing” author, the narrator, if you will. It is the narrator who explains what is happening and why and the narrator has access to everything. Because of the lack of intimacy with the story characters, omniscient POV is very limited in Christian romance.

An advantage to this style of writing is that a multitude of information, from any POV, can be given at any time. It is not limited by the presence or absence of characters. This style can also be used to expedite scene transitioning by way of telling readers rather than showing them.

Omniscient POV style, though, often pulls readers outside the characters, rather than allowing them to form an intimate bond with them. It is not common in works today, and as such, is not widely accepted.

Now that we’ve looked at the varying POV types and know that we can combine these differing types in our work if we are experienced enough to make it work, lets take a look at how we might choose who to deem the POV owner of any given scene. Now there’s a topic that stumps many of us. In Gail Gaymer Martin's book she offers several questions an author could ask to help make that important decision.

Try asking yourself the following:

* Which character has the most at stake in the scene?
* Which character has the most to lose?
* Which character is the most vulnerable?
* Who is more likely to disclose a secret, share a fear, or open the door to the relationship? Are you ready for that to happen at this stage of the novel?
* Who do you need to share their true feelings? This is done mainly by way of introspection and the POV character of that scene is the only one who can reveal introspection at that time.
* Which character would be most suited to present the scene to the reader? Who will present it in the most exciting way?
* Which character can lead readers astray with a bad deduction? This can provide a twist or further conflict in your story many times.

If you write a scene in one character’s POV and it seems to fall flat or doesn’t take you in the direction you want to go, rewrite it in the other’s POV and see if you get better results. Using multiple POV’s in your story doesn’t mean that your POV characters have to share the scenes by alternating in a consecutive manner. Let your individual scenes dictate who owns them. No pattern is required. As often heard, “story trumps all”.

A couple of last notes from this chapter in Writing the Christian Romance by Gail Gaymer Martin:

Create clear changes in POV shifts. If you have several scenes within a chapter, to mark a change of scene you should provide an extra double-space or put a symbol like an * or *** centered on its own line, separating the scenes. And this goes for when you switch POV within a scene, which should be done rarely, if ever. Note the shift in POV by providing that extra double-space or giving a line with an asterisk or three centered in between the shifting POV characters

When a chapter or scene opens, it is wise to start the scene by using the POV character’s name so that the readers have no question about who owns the scene.

That’s my study notes on POV. I will take a break from this series until Monday, April 21st, when we will resume the study of Gail Gaymer Martin's writing resource, Writing the Christian Romance, by starting off the week with the topic of Sexuality in Christian Writing.

Tomorrow I’m excited to post my first Authors-Helping-Writers Interview featuring Mary Connealy. She shared some wonderful information and I hope you will find her story as inspiring as I have. Then on Friday…well, Friday’s will be my musings and Vocabulary Enhancement day. I’m working away at finding an interesting word that didn’t exist in my limited vocabulary until recently. My critique partners will prove to be quite helpful with this topic, even though they don’t know it.

So that’s the planned routine: Mondays to Wednesdays are study note days, Thursdays are book review or Authors-Helping-Writers Interview days, and Fridays will be general musings and vocabulary enhancement day.

Any thoughts on this? I’d love to hear if what I’m doing is of any interest to anyone. I know I’m learning from these study notes and the interviews, so at least I know the time spent here isn’t really a waste of time. But it would be nice to know if anyone else is getting anything out of these notes or if you have suggestions of how you might learn more from them.

Blessings to all,


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Studying Writing The Christian Romance By Gail Gaymer Martin: Using Emotions and Senses

Today we'll take a look at how an author can utilize emotions and senses to bring their story to life. If you as a reader are drawn to laugh, cry, cringe, etc. then you are truly drawn into the story, relating to the characters' situations, caring about the characters, and that's what makes the story compelling. Infusing emotions and the senses into your work is a key way to get that connection.

Emotions are subjective, they are the intense mental reaction to a stimulus of the senses. How one person reacts to a given situation may be very different from how another does based on their background, experiences, personality, etc. So it is very important to know your characters intimately to be able to represent their emotions accurately and believably. This again is another reason why the author should have detailed back story developed for each of their main characters. Knowing what drives your character, what triggers moments of joy, grief, boredom, etc. is imperative in portraying believable characters.

Males and females are wired differently in many ways, and one of the most visible differences is in how we reveal emotion. Stereotypically, females are more expressive, cry easily without embarrassment, whereas men would rather walk away, derail the emotional situation, forget about it, than cry and express their grief. Men show their feelings by doing things for those they love, whereas women are more vocal in sharing their feelings aloud. The list goes on and on about how different the male species is from the female. It brings to mind the old phrase "opposites attract" and that really does seem fitting here, and is a tool we authors can use to great advantage in upping the all important conflict needed to make our stories fly.

But rather than get caught up in the stereotypes, my personal suggestion is to really study the differences between those of opposite genders in your life. I know women who greatly fear showing certain emotions in public and will go to great lengths to avoid topics that might cause her to reveal such private emotions, and I also know of men who seem to have confidence enough to let a tear or two fall in front of a whole congregation when the situation seems fitting. So, the point is, know your characters, if you've done your homework, have reasons for why they are who they are, then their reactions to stimulus will follow naturally. And once you know one character intimately, develop his/her counterpart with an eye for some conflict to erupt between them based on their personality differences, too.

Getting back to the basics of emotion, though. Just like characters, Gail Gaymer Martin suggests that emotions need to be three-dimensional to be believable, as well. They are filled with nuances and usually a blend of feelings. At my church we have a time for sharing our cares and concerns as well as a time for sharing joys. Often people have to choose which one they want to tell their story under because there are elements of the story that fit in both categories. It's the same with emotions. You can be elated because you won an award, but at the same time you may feel sad for your friend who didn't. When you're angry, disappointment and frustration may be driving your actions as well. By allowing your hero or heroine to blend feelings you create a true-to-life character that the reader can relate to.

Emotions are best shown. Remember the golden rule "Show, don't tell". Characters' emotions can be brought to life, even felt by the reader, if revealed by dramatization through actions and reaction and the mood of the scene. They become a powerful tool for an author to draw the reader in if they are not merely described, but shown in a variety of ways.

Using word pictures, word choices (such as harder sounding words to inflect a sense of demanding or terseness, softer sounding words for a sense of intimacy and quiet), familiar images that anyone can relate to, and poetic devices such as similes (A comparison using "like" or "as"), metaphors (A comparison between unlike things without using "like" or "as"), imagery (Using words to appeal to the five senses), onomatopoeia (Words that imitate sounds in real life), and alliterations (repetition of the same initial sound) are all ways to infuse emotions without just stating them. As you read your current night-stand novel, watch for how the author used these devices to portray a given emotion. What sounds kept popping up in the text to make you feel anxious or relaxed? What pictures were painted to make you feel giddy or glum? Make note of them and keep them handy for rewrite time.

By evoking as many of the five senses as you can into your writing you will bring life into your story for sure. People live through their senses, they experience life through the senses they process. If you are denied one sense, it is said that your others become stronger to compensate. So the senses are definitely important to experiencing life. As an author we want our readers to not just read our work using the sense of sight, but we want them to experience our story and thus we need to evoke all the senses in our work.

The most common sense used is sight. Naming objects, shapes, painting a picture of a scene is all part of sight. But sight can easily lead you to evoke the touch sense. What does the object feel like? If you can express texture, then you are revealing how something feels and that helps a reader to feel the item themselves. Sound is another common sense revealed in writing, but don't just tell us what the sound is, try and reveal it through a string of words with well chosen consonants that fit the tone of the sound, or use onomatopoeic words (words that imitate the sounds like snap, crackle, and pop--remember those adorable Rice Krispy characters--maybe I'm dating myself).

Smell and taste are the last two senses that are often the least common found in writing, but when you have a dinner scene, these two senses are readily available to share with the reader. Or, if your character nears a pig farm on clean out day in one of your scenes, there's a pungent odour that will curdle in his mouth for sure. (I live not too far from one and believe me, our clothesline is never used on the days the piggies homes are being disinfected.) Anyway, the point is, watch for scenes that certain senses can enhance and make it real for the reader.

And it is not surprising, of course, to realize that by evoking one or more of the senses, you can show many emotions. He nestled his face into her silken tendrils, savoring the rich lilac scent that always carried him home.

Tomorrow we'll take a look at Point of View in the Christian Romance as discussed in Gail Gaymer Martin's writing resource book, Writing the Christian Romance.

Okay, I was brave and displayed an example of how senses can be used to show emotion. In my example, tranquility/contentment was what I hoped came out through that line. Now, what about you? Will you share an example of how you reveal a character's emotion through showing. It doesn't have to be in one sentence, sometimes it takes a series of them, a painting of a picture, if you will, to convey emotion or mood. Looking forward to reading some good ones for us all to learn from.