Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dive In!

Olympic divers amaze me.

They climb up a ladder, walk out on the diving platform, take a few preliminary bounces, and dive--leaping off the board, twisting, turning, arching--finally slicing through the water to finish their routine.


The purpose of Olympic diving is to dive--to get off the platform and into the air and then into the water. If the diver just stood there bouncing on the board well, I'd get tired of waiting.

"Dive already!"


"Just do it!"

Writing the lead paragraph for your article is like diving off the platform. You don't want to spend too much time up there on the board, bouncing, bouncing, bouncing ... you need to set up your piece and then dive in.

We're writers. We love to write. We love words. We especially love the words we write. And sometimes we are convinced every single word has to stay in that article we've oh-so-carefully crafted. No slicing, no dicing.

Part of writing is--dare I say it?--editing. And editing is more than just polishing the words you've written. Editing is also figuring out what words you need to delete.

Too many words can become too many sentences, which can become too many paragraphs, which becomes a lead that is way too long. It's like a diver taking too many bounces on the board. He's up on the board, bouncing, bouncing, bouncing, bouncing, bouncing, bouncing ...

Dive already!

The next time you're working on an article, look at how many "bounces" you take before you dive in to the rest of the story. Your lead should set up your article and then allow you to move on.

You decide if you need a sentence or a paragraph or half a page before you're "off the board" and into the rest of the story. If you're on page 2 and you're still setting up your story, you're probably overdoing your lead. You're just bouncing on the board. Step back and rework it so you're not wasting valuable word count on a lead that's too long.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What is Deep Point of View (POV)?

The point of view where a reader experiences being inside a character’s mind, knowing his actions, feelings, emotions, and thoughts.

The reader becomes the POV character.

Before you write a scene, decide which of your main characters—or possibly the villain—will be the point of view character. Everything in the scene will be experienced through this character. Consider:
--Which POV character has the most at stake?
--What must be revealed or remain hidden? (If a character has a secret, you don’t want the scene to be in his head.)
--Which character has the strongest emotion in the scene?

Layers of Deep POV.
On the surface, the reader experiences the actions of the POV character. Going deeper, the reader perceives what the character sees, hears, feels, tastes and touches, which also establishes setting. Then, the reader discovers the thoughts, emotions, and feelings. Finally, the character displays a unique voice that’s based on sentence patterns, age, gender, education level, career, and attitudes.

A five-year-old protagonist sounds different than a college professor. Male characters should sound different than female ones. A reader selecting a random page in your novel should be able to tell which character is speaking by the unique voice you’ve given to each POV character.

Setting becomes more than mere description and reveals qualities of your character. Describe setting through the POV character’s eyes. If your POV character wouldn’t notice the setting, then it’s not important to the reader, so you’d give minimal description. But if your character is an architect or a building contractor, you‘d describe the building in more detail then if your character is a mailman. If your character is a forest ranger or a botanist, you’d describe the field differently than if she were a hairstylist.

Choosing Vocabulary.
My husband used to say there were only sixteen Crayolas in his box. He’d recognize beige and tan as synonyms for light brown, but words such as ecru, fawn, cream, sand, oatmeal, or taupe weren’t colors in his vocabulary. However, if your POV character is an artist, paint contractor or fashion consultant, he might have a wide pallet of colors.

1. Write the scene before worrying about a lot of rules. Then, edit and decide which rules you need to follow.
2. AVOID: seemed, appeared, and looked.
Example: In the moonlight, Sara looked at a tall man limping toward her.
Better: In the moonlight, a tall man limped toward her.
3. AVOID: He or she thought/felt/saw/noticed/wondered.
Example: She wondered, how many times had Nick warned her to observe the details the police would need to solve a crime?
Better: Nick had warned her to observe details the police would need to solve a crime.
4. AVOID: describing your POV character's physical traits. I know I’m a petite brunette. I don’t think about it, and your character shouldn’t either.
Example: Suzy ran her hands through her long, silky, blond hair.
Better: Suzy pulled her hair into a ponytail.
(The reader will learn the color of her hair when another character notices it.)

1. Become your POV character for a day. I’ve heard of several authors who say they’ve done this. As you sort laundry, stir cream into your coffee, run errands, think of how your character would react in each situation. It sounds crazy. But we’re already crazy, since we hear voices. It’s worth a try.
2. In a workshop, Author Suzanne Brockmann advises to write the scene in first person, then rewrite the scene in third person point of view, changing as few words as possible.
3. Read The Power Of Point Of View: Make Your Story Come To Life by Alicia Rasley.

When writing deep POV, every word should reflect the personality of your character and bring him or her to life.


~Roxanne Sherwood~

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Top Ten Tips to Avoid Missed Spellings

"Bee holed! Wear wood wee bee without the my tea spell checker? God only nose."— Jason Ohler

By Scoti Springfield Domeij

  1. Set your writing aside for a day.
  2. Proof read carefully on hard copy—not the computer screen.
  3. Check your dictionary, either a hard copy or online, then click "Add to Dictionary" tab to add the correct spelling into your "Spelling and Grammar" check. This is especially useful for Bible names and commonly used "web words."
  4. Don't rely on spell check. It's not the infallible last word. However, do turn on Microsoft Word's auto-correct feature. When it flags a misspelled work, select the correct usage, then click on the auto correct button. Warning: Auto-correct doesn't review every misspelling. Also, watch things it flags as potentially wrong. If you just blindly follow the recommendations of spell check, you will introduce new errors into your manuscript.
  5. Look for homonyms. (One of two or more words that have the same sound and often the same spelling but differ in meaning, i.e. Their/they're/there.)
  6. Watch for potential spectacularly embarrassing misspellings. Spell checker will not catch misspellings that form other valid words. I routinely misspell marital. My fingers always Freudian-type "martial." Public is another word that you don't want leave out the letter "l." Trust me on this one. A "faculty person" can become a "faulty person."
  7. Right spelling, but wrong words spell check misses include: accept/except, affect/effect, among/between, anxious/eager, bad/badly, desert/dessert, Earth/earth, farther/further, foreword/forward, irregardless/regardless, It's/Its, lead/led; passed/past; than/then, your/you're.
  8. Make a list of words you usually misspell.
  9. Double check dates. You don't want 1997 to rewind back to 1967 or 1897.
  10. Read your copy aloud. Often, our ears hear the mistake our eyes miss.

Fun Web Sites

How Well Can You Spell? Take this test and find out.

Improve your spelling. Learn the one hundred words most often misspelled.

Regret the Error: Mistakes Happen This web site reports on corrections, retractions, clarifications, and trends regarding accuracy in the media. Some of the posts are hilarious.

Quiz: Are You Smarter Than a Spell Checker?

Word Finder finds words with any combination of listed parameters. For example, you can find all 6-letter words that start with "d" and end with "n". Or find words that rhyme by searching for words ending in the same letters. If you enter letters into the "Unscramble" box, it finds any words formed from those letters.

Owed to Spelchek by Jamy Schuler

I have a spelling checker,

It came with My PC

It plane lee marks four my revue

Miss steaks eye can knot sea.

Eye ran this poem threw it.

You sure reel glad two no

Its vary polished in it's weigh,

My checker tolled me sew.

A checker is a bless sing.

It freeze yew lodes of thymes.

It helps me right awl stiles two reeds,

And aides me when aye rime.

To rite with care is quite a feet

Of witch won should be proud.

Their are know faults with in my cite.

Of none eye am a wear.

Each frays come posed up on my screen

Eye trussed to be a joule.

The checker poured oar every word

To cheque sum spelling rule.

That's why aye brake in two averse

By righting wants two pleas.

Sow now ewe sea why aye dew prays

Such soft wear for pea seas!

Spell Check Poem

Friday, October 24, 2008

Spelchek: Deterent to Akurate Speling

"Bad spellers of the world, untie!"– Graffito

By Scoti Springfield Domeij

Are You Orthographically-challenged?

(Hint: Orthography refers to "right spelling.")

I used to be a great speller. Spell check ruined my memory.

One day during critique group, Beth said, "Is that spelled correctly?"

"It passed spell check," I replied.

"I can't believe you said that," Beth said.

Then I realized, I blindly rely too much on spell check—an imperfect correction system. I had substituted spell check for proof reading. Every time I rewrite or before I send a manuscript to my critique group or to an editor I click on "Spelling and Grammar." It's my habit.

I have always loved reading, writing and spelling. In second grade I was a spelling whiz. When I had children, I expected them to excel in these subjects. I grieved when ADHD disabled my son's reading and spelling skills. I also felt like a failure. In second grade, my son's verbal skills tested out at grade nine, even though he failed reading and spelling. My daughter-in-love sent me this email with these instructions—


Only great minds can read this This is weird, but interesting! fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too. Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can. i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg.The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr t he ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! if you can raed tihs forwrad it.

This email looked like my sons' school papers that their teachers had to decipher. Apparently, I have a great mind and so do my sons. I raced through the paragraph and so did my son. Being able to read this scrambled email proves Andrew Jackson's belief, "It's a d*#* poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word. Did I mention that I have creative sons?

To the college professors and editors that teach, "Bad spelling makes you look lazy," I proffer, "Bad spelling is the sign of a genius or a great mind." However, dear writers, editors agree with Mark Twain who said, "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug."

These links provide some interesting thinking about "right spelling."

Moral of Story?

Don't relinquish the value of your knowledge to a computer or to someone that judges you—failure—if you can't spell.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Not Your English Teacher’s Point of View

Your teacher tried to explain the three points of view: first person, second person, and third person, which has nothing to do with how many people are in a story.

First Person.
In this POV, the focal, or point of view, character uses the pronoun “I” or possibly “we,” if plural. Everything must be revealed through this character’s senses, knowledge, feelings and thoughts. The author is limited by what can be shown through the POV character but a benefit is that this POV gains immediacy and reality. (It also lends itself to eavesdropping, so the reader can hear conversations and learn information that the POV character isn’t otherwise privy to hearing.) ☺

(A) I went to the store and saw a little black sweater with red flowers. It called my name, so I just had to try it on. I wondered what Brad would think.

(B) I didn’t know that Brad would hate it because it reminded him of a sweater his mother used to wear.

Sentence B doesn’t work even though it uses the “I” pronoun because the character can’t say what she doesn’t know.

Examples of first person POV are: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding, and Kissing Adrian by Siri Mitchell. A book written that uses the pronoun “we” is Anthem by Ayn Rand.

Second Person.
The POV character speaks to “you” and makes the reader feel as if he’s a character in the story. A few novels have been written in this narrative, but this POV isn’t very popular today except in some fanfiction.

Third Person or Omniscient.
Historically, the omniscient POV has been the most common. The pronouns “he” and “she” are used. A narrator, who knows all the facts, tells the story. The author’s knowledge and prerogatives are unlimited. In this POV, you can write, “Little did he know . . .” and divulge information that the character does not yet have.

Examples of third person POV are: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Solzhenitsyn, and Finding Stephanie by Susan May Warren.

Writers using the omniscient POV may be tempted to head hop. For example, in the classic dinner party, the author goes around the table revealing the thoughts of each guest, hopping from head to head.

Jim chewed the roast beef—and chewed and chewed. He took a swig of water and finally gulped down a chunk. Where in the world did Tom get his meat—from Shoe Leather R Us? He wondered if he could make an excuse to leave early.

Sylvia glanced at the gentleman to her left. He appeared to have as much trouble swallowing the tough beef as she did. Might she plead a headache and ask him to escort her outside?

Again, I’ll say that historically the omniscient POV has been what we’ve read the most, so it’s very easy to slip into this narrative view. However, today’s editors will mark you as an amateur if you head hop.

Limited omniscient POV tells the story through one or two character’s points of view—maybe as many as four character’s views, but each scene is limited to only the viewpoint character’s senses, knowledge, feelings and thoughts. A new scene may skip to a different character’s POV but the author must write from the new character’s viewpoint. When the author writes essentially becoming the character in the scene, this is writing with deep POV.

In the example above, the story is told through Jim’s viewpoint, so we can only know his thoughts.

Sylvia grimaced. She appeared to have as much trouble swallowing the tough beef as he did. He leaned over and whispered, “If you announce that you have a headache, I’d be grateful for the chance to escort you outside.”

Deep POV.
In deep POV, you must write the story with only the knowledge, thoughts, experiences, and feelings of your POV character. The entire scene, not just the dialogue, should reflect the personality of your POV character.

This is where stories come alive. Today’s editors want to know if you understand deep POV, and beginning writers often struggle to grasp this concept. I’ll explain more on Deep POV next week.

~Roxanne Sherwood~

Monday, October 20, 2008

Blog Tour: Love Starts With Elle by Rachel Hauck

**Win a copy of Love Starts With Elle by leaving a comment on Rachel’s blog tour post. **

I enjoyed reading Love Starts With Elle. Rachel Hauck develops strong characters with believable conflict who don't always make predictable choices. I've come to look forward to my "visits" to the South Carolina low country.

Rachel is the author of ten, going on eleven novels, and has recently become an "acclaimed" author. (Yeah, funny how that happened. Some dude found her lottery stub stuck to the bottom of his shoe and tried to "acclaim" her. But her husband refused to pay out.)
Since then, she's gone on to become a best selling author of Sweet Caroline.
Living in central Florida with her husband of sixteen and a half years, one sweet little dog and one ornery cat, Rachel is a graduate of Ohio State University and a huge Buckeye football fan. One day she hopes to stand on the sidelines next to Coach Tressel as a famed, acclaimed best selling OSU alumni, beloved for her work in literature and letters. (She's written at least a couple hundred letters in her life time.)
Love Starts With Elle (July 2008, Thomas Nelson) is set in the South Carolina lowcountry, and earned 4.5 Stars and Top Pick from Romantic Times Book Club.
Look for her next release next spring, The Sweet By and By, the first book in the Born To Fly series with award winning country artist, Sara Evans.
Of the writing journey, Rachel says, "I'm humbled by the amazing things God is doing in my life. I love what I do, and am so privileged to work with Thomas Nelson fiction and am excited to see what God has in store for all of His authors and writers. Just keep praying and writing!"
Visit her blog and website at http://www.rachelhauck.com.

To visit other blogs hosting Rachel's blog tour, go here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Passion or Imitation?

"Find a subject you care about and which in your heart you feel others should care about. It is the genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style." ~ Kurt Vonnegut

I never planned on writing a book.
I was quite content writing magazine articles, contending with 800 to 2200 word counts and fairly quick deadlines.
I wrote about issues that burned in my heart and spilled out onto the page as words that became sentences ... paragraphs ... articles.
I didn't necessarily write as much as other writers that I knew--but I was writing regularly and submitting regularly.
And then I became a late-in-life mom at 41. Motherhood over 35 became something I cared deeply about because I was living the experience up close and personal--and looking for answers. And I knew I needed to write about it. I also knew the multi-faceted topic couldn't be adequately tackled in a single magazine article.
And so I found myself working on a book proposal and 3 sample chapters and pitching the idea to an editor.
Baby Changes Everything: Embracing and Preparing for Motherhood over 35 was published a year ago. I've kept my first author copy on my desk.
Will I write another book?
If I am passionate about a topic that warrants being pitched as a book.
Writing a book is hard, hard work. I run into people all the time who say, "Oh,yeah. I want to write a book too someday."
I smile and nod and think, "Good luck with that. You have no idea."
And more importantly, they have no passion for writing.
One of the most-oft repeated axioms about writing is "Write what you know."
I agree.
But, even more important than writing what you know is write what you care about. Write what you are passionate about. Write your heartbeat.
No one else can write that.
When you write from your heart, you are sure to find your true writer's voice rather than imitating someone else's.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Seat-of-the-Pants V. Plotster?

Generally, writers fall into two camps: those who plot every detail before writing the book, and those who write by the seat-of-their-pants, never knowing how the story will unfold until events happen to the characters.

Plotsters may start with a single concept, building on an idea until they know everything that will happen in each scene and chapter.

Good resources:
Randy Ingermanson's website for the Snowflake Method
First Draft in 30 Days by Karen S. Weisner

Authors may answer dozens--even hundreds--of questions to create elaborate character sketches, so they know every detail about each person in the book.

Books with Questionaires:
The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life by Noah Lukeman
Building Believable Characters by Marc McCutcheon

You’d think that every writer of suspense or mystery would be a plotster. Most are. They have to know who is the killer, who are the suspects, which red herrings to plant as false clues. But that’s not always the case. Some actually write by the seat-of-their-pants and don’t know who the killer is at the start of the novel. I’ve heard of novelists who think they know, only the killer changes as the story develops.

Writing by the seat-of-the-pants takes just as much thought as it does for someone who plots first. It’s just that the thinking is done in discovery as the story is written, rather than before. Unfortunately, it sometimes means unnecessary blind alleys and dead ends.

I wish I’d think of a high concept story, then plot in rich, glorious detail before I started writing. But my mind’s not wired that way. When I’ve tried to plot, I put myself into a box and all my creativity fled. So I’ll stick with what works, Creating memorable, three-dimensional characters. Using the following books:

Books to develop characters:
Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon
The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes & Heroines by Cowden, LaFever and Viders.

Without serious plotting, I know that I’m doomed to rewrite. But each time I rewrite a scene, I get closer to the book I’d have written if I’d planned it that way.

It takes a lot of thought to plot before writing. But I wouldn’t know the characters, so I wouldn’t think of how they’d react in a given situation. From the start, I knew Stephanie didn’t want to marry Sam, but why not? Hadn’t I created a wonderful hero just for her? I had to work with her for a while to know why. I knew Drew had injured his ankle, but I didn’t know how until he jumped off a balcony. An emergency room visit, then the accident?

Yeah, not only do I write by the seat-of-my-pants, I don’t even write scenes in order. I write whatever scene I can picture most vividly in my mind. For my current wip (work-in-progress), I wrote the ending about three months into what’s turned into a five-year project. I needed to write the destination, so I’d know where my characters were heading. I’ve actually met several authors—some are even successful—who create through this fashion.

In the end, it’s the final manuscript that matters, not the process used to create it. Do you plot first or write by the seat of your pants?

~Roxanne Sherwood~

Monday, October 13, 2008

Too Tired to Edit

"You're through. Finished. Burned out. Used up. You've been replaced. . . forgotten. That's a lie!" —Charles Swindoll

My computer screen stared back at me as blank as my grey matter.

No ideas.

No motivation.

No words.

Nothing flowed. All I felt was drained. What will I blog? I riffled through my blog ideas writing file. Nothing. Everything required too much revision. Then I wondered, Am I burned out? Aha…my topic.

I didn't mind writing, but the thought of rewriting until my article sparkled held no appeal. Cleaning the toilet until it sparkled seemed more inviting than editing. And it was too late to eat chocolate. Caffeine would wreck another night's sleep.

This last week the economic news tapped into the financial nightmares I experienced solo parenting. I want security, peace and publishing opportunities. Every night was also Sleepless in Colorado Springs. Sleep deprivation left me feeling discouraged. Exhaustion dampened optimism. I wondered, Will my passion for writing, plus the commitment and hard work, ever be given the opportunity to impact the lives of others?

Tomorrow I will—

  1. Acknowledge my feelings and the lies I'm telling myself that drain my joy.
  2. Take better care of myself.
  3. Go to bed earlier and get more sleep.
  4. Renew my soul.
  5. Take a day off.
  6. Soak in a hot, luxurious bath.
  7. Eat rich, dark chocolate.
  8. Meet an upbeat friend for coffee or tea.
  9. Say "no" to draining people.
  10. Finish some remodeling projects around my house.
  11. Refill my creative well.
  12. Take a walk, enjoy the sunshine and the scenery.
  13. Grab my camera and capture the beauty of God's creation.
  14. Sing or listen to uplifting music.
  15. Let go of perfection and expectations.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Writing Math

I am the original carrier of math anxiety.
I am thankful the writing life doesn't involve equations and angles and computations. The only thing I learned from my math classes is how to spell math words.
One numerical function I can't get away from as both a writer and an editor? The oh-so dreaded word count.
After traveling the writing road for so many years, I don't mind a word count. As an editor, I live by a word count. I only have so many pages, so much space in Connections, the MOPS leadership magazine I edit. And some of that space has to be handed over to the graphic designer.
Earlier this week I helped a friend of mine write her very first magazine article. She's a funny, articulate writer. I showed her the writers guidelines for the magazine she wanted to submit to--complete with article word count. She sent me an article 100+ words over the limit. I then told her to cut the article by 250 words.
I could hear her gasp of shock across the internet.
She began bartering with me back and forth, begging for extra words. I gently, but firmly, told her that she could do it, admitting that I was an Evil Editor.
And you know what?
She did it.
And you can too.
Word counts in writers guidelines aren't optional-if-you-feel-like-it-submit-an-article-with-this-many-words limits. Word counts exist because magazines are made up of pages and columns and photos and ads. There is only so much space. Want your article to have a better chance of getting accepted by an editor? Write well and hit the word count. Don't make an editor do your work for you.

Here's a few tips for hitting your word count:

  1. Know what your word count is. I know, sounds obvious. Some writers don't check a magazine's writers guidelines online or in Writers Market or Sally Stuart's Christian Writers' Market Guide.
  2. Here's a rule I live by: No sentence longer than 20 words. Any sentence longer than 20 words can usually be broken down into two sentences or it has unneeded words in it. Okay--that last sentence has 22 words. I'll rewrite it: If a sentence has more than 20 words, break it into two sentences. Cut unneeded words. Ta Da!
  3. Start by cutting out small words like "but" and "that" and all "-ly" like "really" and "actually."
  4. Look for redundant ideas. If you're writing an 800 word article, you don't have the word count to say the same thing three times.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Synopsis -- Your Sales Pitch.

I’m a member of the I-Hate-Writing-Synopsis club. Heck, I don’t even like the sound of the word. Synopsis. I think it’s the “nop” in the middle that bothers me most. My mother used to wave a white tissue in my preschool face, asking just before her attack, “Do you have a noppy nose?” I shudder at the memory.

An unpublished novelist complained, “If I could have told the story in five concise pages, then I wouldn’t have wasted 100,000 words.“

You can view the synopsis as a necessary evil or as a wonderful marketing tool. It doesn’t really matter. The truth is if you want to sell your manuscript, you’re going to have to write one. A published author writes a synopsis. If an editor doesn’t like it, then the author doesn’t bother writing a manuscript that won’t sell.

Like any daunting task, whether you’re writing a synopsis or eating an elephant, it’s best to break the chore into manageable pieces.

1. Go through your manuscript chapter by chapter and write down the important plot points (the events and motivations that move the story forward), which happen to the POV characters in your story. This is generally very boring. Don’t worry about it now.
2. Don’t ask questions in hopes of hooking a reader. Editors don’t want to read the manuscript to find out how Penelope escapes the villain. Tell them.
3. Contrary to basic fiction writing, you are encouraged to tell not show.
4. Keep the name of the POV character consistent. Call him Jefferson Smith (not Senator Smith, then Jefferson, then the senator).
5. Only name the POV characters. In a romance, only the hero and heroine need names. Call other characters by their function: the neighbor, boss, son.
6. Limit the use of adjectives or dialog. This is only a summary of the story.
7. Length: varies. Find out what your publisher/editor wants. If you’re uncertain, limit your synopsis to five to ten double-spaced pages, max. Some say one-page/10,000 words. Others can summarize their novel in a snappy two pages.
8. Write in present tense, even if your manuscript isn’t. Jefferson goes to Washington.
9. Reveal your POV characters’ goals, motivations, conflicts, desires and flaws.
10. Highlight the theme, symbolism, and one-line marketing tags.
11. In a romance include: inciting incident, conflict that keeps hero and heroine apart, interest that draws them together, dark moment, and resolution.
12. Go back to step one. Edit the plot summary, only try to sprinkle a little pizzazz. Choose strong nouns and verbs. Make the tone of your synopsis match your writing. A light-hearted romantic comedy? Keep the tone in your synopsis light hearted too. Make the writing shine to entice an editor into reading your first three chapters and to provide your future marketing team with a hot tool they can use to sell your terrific book.
13. If your editor doesn’t require a chapter-by-chapter synopsis, and most don’t, then drop the plot points that aren’t essential to moving the story forward. Concentrate on writing dazzling details of the main events. In a romance, stick to details of the romantic plot, not the subplots.

Once you get the hang of it, you may find that you actually like writing a synopsis. Hard to believe, (yeah, I don’t believe it yet either) but some authors say they do.

~Roxanne Sherwood~

Monday, October 6, 2008

Tools You Can Use: Improve Grammar, Punctuation and Vocabulary Skills

"My vocabulary dwells deep in my mind and needs paper to wriggle out into the physical zone. Spontaneous eloquence seems to me a miracle. I have rewritten—often several times—every word I have ever published." —Vladimir Nabokov

When you read the Chicago Manual of Style do their complex examples leave you saying, "Whaaaaaht? I'm confused. I don't understand." If you want to write faster and cleaner, here are websites that can help you learn grammar and punctuation rules.

The Purdue Online Writing Lab offers FREE handouts and exercises on grammar, spelling and punctuation.

HyperGrammar is a FREE electronic writing course that approximates the same information covered in the University of Ottawa's ENG 1320 Grammar course. If you don't understand or remember what a grammatical term means, grammatical terms link to their definition. From punctuation to building sentences and paragraphs to frequently confused verbs, every lesson includes a review.

Vocab Test.com offers FREE vocabulary tests ranging from sixth grade to advanced senior levels. Whether you are a writer, a homeschooling parent or work with the public, a strong vocabulary increases your skill to teach and communicate.

"Devotees of grammatical studies have not been distinguished for any very remarkable felicities of expression." This quote by Bronson Alcott illustrates the importance of understanding your audience reading level. Use words creatively that are clear, simple, active, colorful, and powerful.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Building Your Author Platform

The writing life is all about sitting in front of my computer doing just that: sitting and writing.
Or so I thought.
Nowadays, a writer has to build a platform.
Rob Eagar of Wildfire Marketing is mentoring me, teaching me how to build my platform. Here's what I've learned the last couple of months:
1. Building an author/speaker platform is hard work. My son worked construction two separate summer vacations during high school. He came home hot, dirty and exhausted. Redoing my web site (MommyComeLately.com) and writing press releases and free resources and practicing for media interviews wears me out. Oh, sure, I'm not putting in drywall, but I'm pushing myself past my comfort zone. Remember, I'd rather be just sitting in front of my computer writing--not thinking about marketing.
2. Building an author/speaker platform takes time. My book on late-in-life motherhood, Baby Changes Everything: Embracing and Preparing for Motherhood after 35, has sold decently. But I'd like to see it do really well. Increasing book sales, booking speaking engagements--getting my name out there--isn't going to happen overnight. So, I have to be patient and build my platform one piece at a time.
3. Building an author/speaker platform is worth the effort. I am learning skills that will benefit me for years to come along The Writing Road. Rob and I have run through a couple of mock media interviews, which have helped me feel ready for the real ones I've got coming up. We worked on a press release through Labor Day weekend when Gov. Sarah Palin was selected as John McCain's running mate. (Politics aside, she's a late-in-life mom--and that's my area of writing/speaking expertise!)
The reality is, authors have to promote their books, unless they're bestselling writers with names like J.K. Rowlings or John Grisham.
So be it.
The question for you is: How are you going to build your author platform? It's not an optional activity for any author.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Screenplay: A New Opportunity

Writers write. It’s what we do. It’s who we are. During the screen writers guild strike of 2007, writers still produced new scripts, knowing that eventually a compromise would be reached and stories would be needed.

Book publishing may be in a slump, but great authors will continue to get books published. For those who are unpublished, like me, we can continue to write our stories and improve our craft until we sell. Or maybe some of us will move to another, unexpected media: screenplays.

Far from Hollywood, Alex and Stephen Kendrick have written, produced and directed three films from their home church of Sherwood Baptist in Albany, Georgia. Their latest movie, Fireproof, opened September 26. They also wrote The Love Dare, a nonfiction book. Fireproof, a novelization by Eric Wilson based on the screenplay, is now in print.

The Movie:

Fireproof is the story of a firefighter, his wife, and a marriage worth rescuing.

A firefighter finds his marriage going up in flames due to his online porn addiction. His wife files for divorce, but he agrees to work on the marriage for forty days following steps in a book called The Love Dare. He and his wife learn that when Jesus Christ is at the center, a marriage can withstand the fires of life. www.fireproofthemovie.com

The Success:

Debuting at 839 theatres, Fireproof placed fourth and grossed $6.5 million. Distributor Samuel Goldwyn Films said, “Fireproof made more money than any film this year that opened at fewer than 1,000 screens, save one movie.”

Fireproof is the third feature film of the moviemaking ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia. Previous films include Facing the Giants and Flywheel.

Flywheel has won numerous awards including The Gold Crown Award for Best Screenplay, and the 2004 Best Picture Award at the WYSIWYG Film Festival. The church received $20,000 in private donations to produce the film.

Facing the Giants was made with a budget of $100,000. The film ultimately was shown in over 1,000 theaters and grossed over $10,000,000.

The Opportunity:

I’m excited by the success of the Kendrick brothers and Sherwood Baptist Church. They've shown what can be accomplished outside of Hollywood. Perhaps other churches and community groups will follow their lead. Screenwriters may have amazing opportunities to see their stories told.

Join me along this exciting journey on The Writing Road.

~ Roxanne Sherwood ~