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The Black Moment


Hi everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Most of the articles I write for this blog don't come from an area of expertise per se, but rather from a desire to learn how to do something better. And that is absolutely true of today’s blog post. 

Lately I’ve been researching how to deepen and improve on the black moment scenes in my books. I do this by reading books by writers I admire to see how they pull it off, reading craft books and articles on the topic, and studying my own work to see what I’ve done well and where I’ve fallen short. So today I’m going to share with you some of my lessons learned.


The Black Moment


First, let's make sure we're all on the same page on what a black moment actually is.
My personal definition of a black moment in a romance is that moment in your book when the hero and heroine have worked through their conflicts to the point where they admit they love one another but, just when they are ready to grasp the brass ring, something happens to brutally snatch away their hope for a happily ever after – it’s that moment when the characters, and the readers, think all is lost.

The black moment is arguably the most important part of your novel. It is the moment where your characters face their ultimate test, it provides the catalyst for their greatest growth and gives them the opportunity to move to a place where they can finally overcome whatever emotional wound or lie has held them back to this point.  It is the fire that tempers your protagonists and that, once they make it through to the other side, convinces the reader that not only have they earned their happily ever after, but that it will ‘stick’.

The Black Moment


So based on what I’ve learned from my research, here are five things to keep in mind when crafting your black moment.


  • Make sure you have an effective set-up. The protagonists, despite their conflicts, should have been moving forward in their romantic relationship. And they should have been making strides toward working through their issues, perhaps have even convinced themselves that they can put those issues/conflicts behind them and grasp for a HEA. But in the black moment scene this forward momentum must appear to be a mistake to your protagonist, that they were wrong to open themselves up in whatever way they did.
  • Many writers explain that you can figure out your black moment in one of two ways. Either:
    • Ask what would your character NEVER do and then put them in a position to have to do it. This one always confused me because there are lots of things my characters would never do – murder someone for instance.
  • or
    • Ask what is the worst that can happen. Again, this is way too broad for me.
    • So instead I ask myself, based on the character arc I’ve set up for this character, what trial does he need to face to test his growth. This way I know exactly what kind of issue will trigger the black moment. Is his arc to go from craving isolation to wanting to become part of a community – have the black moment be triggered by a perceived betrayal by his community. Is her arc based on moving from refusing to trust anyone to opening herself up to trusting the hero? Then have her face some so-called evidence that he has betrayed her trust.

  • Along those same lines, your black moment should always be individual to your protagonists. Generic just won’t cut it if you want this to have the impact all authors strive for. It should flow directly from your character arcs, from the very personal emotional wounds or lies they are living with, the internal conflict that is at the very heart of your story.
  • Don’t skimp on this scene. Take the time to make sure your reader feels every bit of the agony and despair your character is enduring. Show both the outward and inward turmoil both the hero and heroine are experiencing.
    • Don’t pull your punches. I know we love our characters, but the black moment is the time to put them under extreme pressure, to strip away the illusion that they’ve overcome their deep-seated issues, bring them to their knees and make them face the fact that they could lose any hope of an HEA. Think of it this way – the darker and more crippling the black moment, the sweeter the eventual payoff of the resolution and happy ending.
    So there you have it - my 5 tips for crafting a great Black Moment. What do you think? Do you agree with these? Do you have other tips to offer? Please share your thoughts.

    PS: When I penned this post I didn't think about it going up on Good Friday, but it does seem oddly appropriate, since this day represents the ultimate black moment and is the lead in to the ultimate happily forever after.

    Help Your Reader Fall in Love with Your Characters


    by Jan Drexler 

    The literary world has changed in the last fifty years. In the past, authors like J.R.R. Tolkien could spend three pages introducing us to his main character in “The Hobbit” (Bilbo Baggins,) complete with a description of his home and family history – and he does this in the first three pages of the book. I happen to like that style, and when I read “The Hobbit,” I settle into my comfy chair ready to lose myself in the story.



    But things have changed! In our time, authors need to get to the action as soon as possible and leave the backstory and descriptions for later.

    How do you do this?

    Layer by layer.


     

    Onions or cake. Take your pick!

    Either way, we peel our character’s layers back little by little, letting our readers learn to know our characters by their actions. Or a comment here. A thought there.

    It’s tempting to tell the reader everything! We love our characters and we want our readers to love them, too!

    But an information dump (where you give your reader way too much information at once) is like your co-worker setting you up for a blind date with her favorite cousin. She has been gushing over this guy for two weeks, telling you all about his job, family, house, dog, his appendicitis attack in 8th grade… But really, don’t you want to meet him first? Don’t you want to be the one to decide if you want to get to know him better?

    Do your readers a favor and peel away those layers little by little.

    Here’s an example from my work in progress, Softly Blows the Bugle. We’ve already met the hero, Aaron, in the first scene. There we found out that he was wounded and captured at Gettysburg. First layer.

    In the second scene, we begin to see him through his own eyes as he’s talking to his friend Jonas:

    “But the war changed you.” Aaron let his mind go back to the angry, fiery young man he had been, hot to kill any Yankee he could find after a scouting party shot Grandpop. “It changed both of us. War will do that.”

    That snippet is all we know so far about Aaron’s past. It’s just one more layer, but the story isn't finished yet.

    Later in the book, but still early, we’ll learn more about Grandpop and what he meant to Aaron. Another layer.

    Somewhere around the middle of the story, memories of Aaron’s mother will begin to surface. Thin layers peel away, revealing his home life as a child.

    Toward the end, we’ll learn the secret of Aaron’s past, and the reason he believes the lie that has ruled his life. Peeling back layer by layer by layer.

    Meanwhile, all through the story we watch Aaron’s actions, how he treats other people, and how they respond to him. Layers.

    By the end of the book, if I have done my work well, we will know Aaron’s story, his struggles, his spiritual battles, and his physical battles. And we will know the inner man. The hero the readers will fall in love with.



    At the same time, we need to be careful not to peel back a layer, revealing a hint of an important detail, and then never bring it up again.

    For example, what if you read that smidgen of information at the beginning of the book (Aaron let his mind go back to the angry, fiery young man he had been, hot to kill any Yankee he could find after a scouting party shot Grandpop,) but then you never learned any more about Grandpop or that event? Or what if I didn’t let the readers see the process of the change between then and now? What if I never let the other shoe drop?

    Among the things I look for in my revision process are unfinished trails like this. And if I don’t catch them, I pray that my editor will!




    Let's chat! Have you ever experienced the "information dump" in your writing? What about in your reading? Or, does it bother you when an author leaves a detail hanging? (It's one of my pet peeves!)

    Thanks for reading, and have a blessed Holy Week!




    Jan Drexler spent her childhood dreaming of living in the Wild West and is now thrilled to call the Black Hills of South Dakota her home. When she isn’t writing she spends much of her time satisfying her cross-stitch addiction or hiking and enjoying the Black Hills with her husband of more than thirty-six years. Her writing partner is her corgi, Thatcher, who makes life…interesting.




    Finessing a Story

    Finessing a Story
    I have a book due in less than three weeks. The story is out of my head and on the page, the metamorphosis from idea to book almost complete. But before I can submit this story, it must be finessed.

    Finessing involves skillful maneuvering. As writers, we need to skillfully, purposefully, write our stories in a way that takes readers on a journey and leaves them basking in the glow of a satisfying ending.

    When finessing a manuscript, there are certain things I look for.

    Have I adequately described each setting? 

    Each and every scene needs a sense of place to ground it, otherwise you just have talking heads. However, too much description can bore a reader. Too little leaves them wanting and maybe even feeling a little lost. Determine what aspects of your setting are important, then sprinkle those details throughout the scene. Also, ask yourself if you’re showing the reader the scene, allowing them to see it through the POV character’s eyes, or if you’re telling them. 

    Showing is always better because it allows the reader to experience the story.
    Finessing a Story

    Strong word choices.  

    Is your character running, hurrying, scurrying or speeding? Each of these words means, essentially, the same thing, but which is best for the context of your scene? If it’s a lighthearted scene, your heroine might be scurrying to gather things for a party. On the other hand, your police office hero would likely race or speed to the scene of an accident. 

    What words best fit the emotion and feel of your scene?

    Are my characters actions/reactions believable and appropriate?  

    When I receive my line edits, they sometimes contain notes from my editor saying things like, “This seems out of character for her.” Or “His reaction is too strong,” or even, “Not strong enough.”

    Whether it’s in word, thought or action, a character’s response to an event or comment, needs to fit not only who the character is becoming, but who they are at their core. Yes, your meek heroine might need to show a little backbone, but does her response show growth and change, that she’s finally standing up for herself, or does she simply come off as rude?

    Even as they change, your characters will remain true to their essence.
    Finessing a Story

    Characters’ journey. 

    Reading is about watching someone embark on a journey. Hopefully, your main characters have grown during the course of your story. But will the reader be able to see that growth?

    When a baby is born, he or she is completely helpless. Newborns can’t feed themselves. They can’t hold up their little heads. They can't sit up and they’re only mobile when someone carries them from one place to another. Yet week by week, month by month, they change and grow. So by the time baby’s first birthday rolls around, he or she can do all of these things and more. 

    No matter how long or short the timeframe of your story, the characters need to grow and change. But don’t just ask yourself what they can do at the end of the story that they couldn’t do at the beginning. Make sure your reader knows how they got there. Show those baby steps of growth along the way. How did the heroine who was deathly afraid of horses end up being comfortable in the saddle? 

    And if you’re writing for the Christian market, don’t forget about their spiritual journey.

    Writing a book is a process. All of the elements have come together for a story to be successful. Taking the time to finesse will help ensure the finished product is the best it can possibly be.

    Now it's your turn. Readers, in your opinion, what makes a good book great? Writers, how do you know when your manuscripts are ready to submit?

    Leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of my latest release, Her Colorado Cowboy.


    Finessing a StoryLassoing the single mom’s heart…A Rocky Mountain Heroes story

    Socialite Lily Davis agrees to take her children riding…despite her fear of horses. But now widowed cowboy Noah Stephens is determined to help her get comfortable in the saddle. And, at her children’s insistence, Lily finds herself promoting his rodeo school. As Noah and Lily work together, will Noah continue to shield his heart…or can they discover a love that conquers both their fears?






    Finessing a Story
    Three-time Carol Award nominee, Mindy Obenhaus, writes contemporary romance for Love Inspired Books. She’s passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her grandchildren at her Texas ranch. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com









    Productivity Tools for Writers... and a New Release!

    Missy Tippens

    Productivity Tools for Writers... and a New Release!


    I have a couple of cool new things I wanted to share today—tools that might help you with productivity. For the first one, you may need to open your mind a bit. :) But stay with me and don’t shut out the idea until you’ve tried it.

    Tapping.

    Have you heard of it? I recently heard about the The Tapping Solution app and decided to check it out. You can read about it—click here. They do have several sessions you can do for free, which are the only ones I’ve tried. The website says: “Tapping, also known as EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), is a powerful holistic healing technique that has been proven to effectively resolve a range of issues. It is based on the combined principles of ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology.” Basically, in a session, you tap different parts of your body, like areas of your head and face, while working on moving your thoughts from the negative to focus on the positive and your potential. It helps get the “junk” out of your brain (kind of like morning pages, if you’re familiar with The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron). I’ve found that it really does help me move past anything that’s distracting me. I’ve also found tapping helpful for dealing with tension headaches. You’ll find tapping sessions for a variety of purposes. Check it out and let me know what you think!

    Dictation.
    Last summer while at a conference, I sat in on a late-night session where authors discussed using dictation to help increase their productivity--not only for writers who use dictation because of physical limitations, but also just for a quicker way to write. One writer said once she got past the rather steep learning curve (like having to say “new paragraph,” etc), she produced 30% more words using dictation. Here are some quick tips I jotted down:

        Don’t use your computer’s dictation app. Do dictation on a good MP3 recorder (Sony was recommended by one author).
        Get a recorder that cuts background noise
        if you use a phone, don’t use the Notes app. Get a voice recording app.
        Don’t edit during dictation. It’s too slow.
    I searched and found this article where they list some of the best software (free and pay). I really would like to try this method to find out if I can be more productive. I admit that so far I’ve only played with the dictation built into my Mac, and found it very difficult! Yes, the learning curve will be steep, but possibly worth it.

    Productivity Tools for Writers... and a New Release!


    Here are some tried and true productivity tools I thought I’d mention again:

    Planner.

    Last year, I recommended my Panda Planner. Now this year, I purchased My Brilliant Writing Planner from Susie May Warren’s site. This planner includes much more than a calendar—it includes life activities, book and career planning, and spiritual activities. Find a planner that works for you—even if that’s just jotting deadlines on a calendar or in your phone calendar app. Writing down goals and keeping a calendar will help you remain productive.

    Productivity Tools for Writers... and a New Release!
    photo credit: DevelopGoodHabits.com

    Accountability.

    This takes many forms. Critique groups/partners, Facebook groups (like 1k1hr), publicly posting your goals, word count trackers on your website…

    Challenges.

    This would include challenges like National Novel Writing Month and other Finish the Book programs.

    Timer.

    Several bloggers over the years have mentioned using a timer to help them with productivity. The Pomodoro Technique is one that uses a timer that you’ve probably heard of. There are many specialized timers out there, but a regular old-fashioned kitchen timer will do. The point is to set a block of time and write straight through without interruption. And speaking of blocks of time…

    Productivity Tools for Writers... and a New Release!


    The Chunky Method.

    I did a post on this several years ago (click here). It’s based on Allie Pleiter’s book, The Chunky Method: Your Step by Step Plan to Write That Book Even When Life Gets in the Way. Allie’s book can help you figure out your prime writing chunk (are you most creative in small chunks or larger chunks?) so you’ll be more productive. Check out my post at the Seekerville Archives and also Allie’s book to find out more. 

    Before we chat about what helps your productivity, I’d like to celebrate the new release of the third novella in my Home to Dahlia, Georgia, series! To celebrate, I’ve put the first and second novellas on SALE. So please check them all out at my Amazon author page!

    Her Valentine Reunion is here just in time for Valentine’s Day!

    Productivity Tools for Writers... and a New Release!


    What happens on the very day Abbie Rogers makes a preemptive strike against Valentine’s Day funk by declaring herself content to be single? Why, Victor Wallis, the man who broke her heart, comes crashing back into her life, of course. Not only that, he declares himself a changed man, and he truly seems to be. She even finds herself falling for him again. But when he makes a move to take over her family’s business, Abbie’s not certain she’ll ever be able to trust the only man she’s ever loved.

    Productivity Tools for Writers... and a New Release!


    After more than 10 years of pursuing her dream of publication, Missy Tippens, a pastor’s wife and mom of three from near Atlanta, Georgia, made her first sale to Harlequin Love Inspired in 2007. Her books have since been nominated for the Booksellers Best, Holt Medallion, ACFW Carol Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Maggie Award, Beacon Contest, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, and the Romance Writers of America RITA® Award. Visit Missy at www.missytippens.comhttps://twitter.com/MissyTippensand http://www.facebook.com/missy.tippens.readers.


    Emotion and The Setting: A Powerful Story Combo

    By Guest Angela Ackerman

    Emotion and The Setting: A Powerful Story Combo

    An interesting thing happens when setting and character come together, something writers don’t fully realize, or if they do, may not use to its full advantage: combined with intent, these two elements produce emotion. 
    What do I mean by that? Well, think about us in the real world. Are there places you choose to vacation again and again? Is there a specific route you like to walk the dog, or areas in the city you enjoy visiting? Do you have a favorite restaurant, room in the house, coffeeshop, or park to sit in? I’m betting you do. Spaces we return to are special in some way, causing us to experience positive emotions. We may enjoy them for their beautiful scenery, their energy or solitude, because they remind us of the comforts of home, or some other meaningful reason. 
    Just as we gravitate to places that make us feel good or safe, we also make emotional decisions about locations to avoid: that dark ally shortcut, the friend’s car that smells like spoiled milk, the high school football field where we were humiliated in front of the entire senior class. These spaces make us feel unsafe, vulnerable, or unhappy.
    Our characters are just like us, so they will also have a catalog of places that hold personal meaning, good and bad.

    Emotion and The Setting: A Powerful Story Combo


    The difference between the real world and the fictional one? Rather than shield our characters from uncomfortable emotions, we want to encourage them.
    I know, it sounds a bit sadistic but exposing them to settings that trigger a range of emotions, some of which they desperately want to avoid, will not only produce conflict (a necessary ingredient in story), it will help to reveal their hidden layers. 
    Beneath the surface of any character is a dark underside: insecurities, fears, and pain caused by negative past experiences and unresolved emotional trauma. This baggage is costly to lug around, causing unhappiness and steering the character’s life off course. This is usually how readers find them at the start of a story: incomplete, adrift, and hurting. And, if the writer has chosen a change arc for the character, it’s even more important to pull this pain to the surface where it can finally be acknowledged and dealt with. Only then can the character move forward toward happiness and hope, fulfilling the change arc and achieving their goal. 
    Positive and negative, emotions are the lifeblood of a story. The setting we choose for each scene is a vehicle to bring out a wider range of emotions, including those that provide a window for readers to see inside the character and the struggle going on within. Here are three ways you can deliberately use the setting to bring out your character’s deeper emotions. 

    Emotion and The Setting: A Powerful Story Combo

    Choose Specific Settings for a Reason
    With each scene, think about the actions that will unfold and what each character’s emotional state will be. If you can, find a setting location that will amplify these emotions, perhaps by choosing one that holds personal meaning (good or bad). For example, what location would be a better choice for revealing a parent’s betrayal to her adult son: in the car on the way to the airport at the end of a visit, or at the playground where the character and his mother would come every day after school? The setting itself can trigger powerful emotions in the right circumstance.
    Provide Obstacles
    If your character is under so much pressure they’re struggling to function or they are on their final frayed nerve, use the setting to plant a natural obstacle in their path (a nosy security guard, a locked door, a car that dies halfway to their destination) that pushes them past their limits to cope. This new difficulty will trigger powerful, raw emotions whether they break under the strain, or find inner strength to prevail. 
    Resurrect a Ghost
    When it comes to the painful past, characters want it to stay there: in the past. So instead, we writers should dig around in that old suitcase of pain and resurrect a ghost: a person, thing, situation, or experience that will act as an echo of that past trauma. It might be a setting itself, or something that can be inserted into the setting. Maybe the character’s alcoholic dad shows up unannounced to her child’s graduation party at a restaurant, or a couple planning a honeymoon trip arrive at their appointment to discover the travel agent is a bitter ex-girlfriend. Perhaps the character is ill and is forced to pull into a roadside stop, a place she normally avoids at all costs as she was carjacked at one once.
    What does the character feel in this moment? What will they do? Choose settings and setting elements specifically to awaken complicated emotions and possibly force them to deal with something from the past. 
    Becca and I love to think about how we can push description to work harder in our stories. The possibilities are endless, so we encourage you to always think deeper, combining elements and experimenting with ways to increase tension, personalize story moments, and especially to deepen emotion. 
    Emotion and The Setting: A Powerful Story Combo

    If you ever need help, visit our website or check out our books. And if you happen to be a fan of our work, you might be interested to know there is now a Second Edition of The Emotion Thesaurus. We’ve added 55 new emotions to the original 75 and have made a lot of other improvements. We also have a free webinar on Using Emotion to Wow Readers that we’ve made available until the end of February. If this is an area of struggle, visit this post to grab the link!

    Angela Ackerman is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of the bestselling book, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, (now an expanded 2nd edition!) as well as six others. Her books are available in six languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. Angela is also the co-founder of the popular site Writers Helping Writers, as well as One Stop for Writers, an innovative online library built to help writers elevate their storytelling. Find her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

    Writing A Christmas Novella - Easy?


    guest Leslie Ann Sartor

    It’s funny that I pin my hope for the world on the short season of Christmas, but I do. While I try to always offer a smile to anyone who passes by, at this time of year I make it brighter to the harried store clerk, or frazzled family. And I also fervently send up prayers for peace, for mankind to believe that the goodness in each of us should be shared and that war and hate and discrimination are never solutions. Light and love seems more powerful during this season. Let us each light up the world and become the miracle we so believe in. 

    It's one of the reasons I wrote a series of novels featuring the holiday season. To give hope to readers and coax a little "magic" into the holiday season. 

    And then, I thought writing a Christmas novella would be easy. Short and sweet, piece of cake, walk in the park…you get it. 

    Well, not for me.  Dream Of Me This Christmas Eve was turning into a nightmare.
    I was sooo keen to start writing Caroline Young’s story because—get this—readers were asking me to write her story. They learned about her in Forever Yours This New Year’s Night, book two of the Star Light ~ Star Bright series, and they wanted more.
    Sure, no problem I thought. 
    Writing A Christmas Novella - Easy?


    Except that I needed to make the conflict in this 24,000+ word story not as deep as I usually did in my 60,000+ word tomes. And I needed to build the romance and develop the character.

    Caro was a wild child growing up in Kansas, now she’s an engineer who designs and builds floats, and she lives and has her company in Pasadena. My hero, Maximillian Henderson III, lives in Boulder and is a second-generation lawyer.

    Easy conflict right? Who is going to move where? 

    Well, neither can. 

    Writing A Christmas Novella - Easy?So, as I was pulling out tufts of hair, my buddy Audra came to my rescue. Happily Ever After I asked? How about Happily For Now she responded.  And she suggested that I stop making food their crutch and start making them need each other. Not that yummy sushi I had four paragraphs about them eating. (But I love sushi, I whined.) She just gave me that Audra look.  Okay one paragraph.


    I needed to find ways to add in the romance immediately, make the story work and make my readers fall in love with Caro and Max. LET ALONE give cameos to the other characters in the series. 

    But you know, with the help of some trusted friends who pointed out a few or many issues, I was able to pull it together by make each scene a bit more intense, choosing my words carefully, putting myself in the character and consciously think about what they’d do and want. 

    Word choice was key, along with reminding myself as I wrote (then edited each scene) that this was a short book that still must deliver an emotional pull of the heart-strings. As well as entice the reader to read the other three books in the series. Each scene had to pack in all the above … in less than half the words.

    Phew!!



    Writing A Christmas Novella - Easy?


    So, it wasn’t an easy learning curve. And you know, I can’t wait to write another one.
    Dream of Me This Christmas Eve is the fourth book in the bestselling Star Light ~ Star Bright series.  Book one, Believe In Me This Christmas Night won the prestigious International Digital Award for Contemporary Short. The series has garnered the coveted #1 seller on Amazon, both achievements are dreams come true.

    I’ve been asked why the star in the books.  We do have a star on Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder and I recalled a story mom told me about it. She was at a party and one of the neighbors was grousing about the star being too Christian. Mom said she completely disagreed.  That no matter your faith, the star represented the feeling of hope, the promise of the new day, the talisman of looking forward. 


    Writing A Christmas Novella - Easy?
    Amazon



    Merry Christmas to you all.

    PS. One commenter will receive Dream Of Me This Christmas Eve as an e-book.


    Writing A Christmas Novella - Easy?



    I started writing as a child, really. A few things happened on the way to becoming a published author … specifically, a junior high school teacher who told me I couldn’t write because I didn’t want to study … urk … grammar…

    That English teacher stopped my writing for years.  But the muse couldn’t be denied, and eventually I wrote, a lot, some of it award winning. However, I wasn’t really making a career from any of this.

    Writing A Christmas Novella - Easy?My husband told me repeatedly that independent publishing was becoming a valid way to publish a novel. I didn’t believe him even after he showed me several Wall Street Journal articles. I thought indie meant vanity press. 

    I couldn’t have been more wrong.

    I started pursuing this direction seriously, hit the keyboard, learned a litany of new things and published my first novel. My second book became a bestseller, and I’m absolutely on the right course in my life.


    Please come visit me at www.lasartor.com, see my books, find my social media links, and sign up for my mailing list. I have a gift I’ve specifically created for my new email subscribers. And remember, you can email me at Leslie@LeslieSartor.com  

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    The Delight is in the Details

    by Jan Drexler

    Writing is a complex task.

    We work with words, using them to build sentences and paragraphs. But writing is much more than buildings blocks. Any computer could do that.

    What we do when we work with words is artistry. We create worlds, moods, emotions, action. We convey hope, despair, love, and hate. We might even affect a reader’s world view.

    Our goal is to make the reader forget that they are reading and immerse them in an experience.

    That’s easy to say, but how do we do it?

    One key is in the details we add to our writing.

    The Delight is in the Details


    Here’s a simple example to start us off:

    He kissed her cheek.

    Simple and straight forward, right? But where is the experience of the kiss? The way this sentence is written, there is no reward for the reader. No “being there” feeling.

    So, let’s add some details:

    He cupped her chin in his hands, turning her face toward his. Her eyes softened as he drew her near. The time to claim her as his own hung before him, sweetly tantalizing, but this wasn’t the time. Longing to feel her rosebud lips, he ran his thumb over them in a light caress, then planted the kiss on her soft, fragrant cheek.

    This is a different experience, isn’t it? Now we’re getting a hint of both characters and an idea of the story behind the original sentence.

    Let’s try another example. This one is from my book, “The Amish Nanny’s Sweetheart.” First, I’ll give you the bare-bones scene, then I’ll show you what the scene is like after I added the details.

    Bare-bones, first draft:

    Luke left Judith standing in the road. She looked around at the unfamiliar landscape and pulled her shawl tighter. She headed off the opposite way Luke had gone, hoping that this was the way he had brought her.

    And now, here’s the way this description appears in the book:

    Luke slapped the reins on his horse’s back harder than he needed to and the horse jumped into a trot, leaving Judith standing by the side of the road.

    Judith stamped her foot and turned around to walk home. But as she took the first few steps, her anger at Luke faded. The road stretching in front of her was unfamiliar, and the night was dark. The wind had picked up, tugging at her shawl.

    Ripples covered the black, oily surface of the lake and lapped against the shore along the roadside. From the woods across the water came the hoot of an owl. A night bird trilled in response. Judith backed away and started down the road, hoping she was heading the way Luke had brought her. 



    Do you see how the details I added filled out those few paragraphs, bringing the reader right into Judith’s mind, experiencing what she experienced?

    But how do we add those details? And how many details do we add? How do we know when to stop?

    One thing I do when I’m filling out a scene like this one is to place myself there. I know the lake where Luke took Judith – it has appeared in most of my Love Inspired Amish books. When I wanted to add the details to this scene, I started by closing my eyes. I went back in my memory. What does that lake look like? Where are the woods? The road in relation to the lake shore?

    I thought about times when I’ve been in an unfamiliar place, and times when I’ve been outside on a dark, cold, windy night. I thought about what a lake looks like on a night in early spring, after the thaw and before the first leaves appear on the trees.

    Finally, to all those memories, I added Judith’s feelings about what she had just experienced: an unwelcome kiss and a disagreement with the boy she thought she liked. Anger fading to uncertainty and fear.

    The Delight is in the Details


    But it is easy to go too far when describing a scene. Details can slow the action and bog the story down.

    Here’s another example from the same story. In this scene, Guy (the hero) has just finished milking the cows and is running the milk through the cream separator. At the same time, he and Judith are having a conversation. I hope this snippet gives you an idea of how the scene goes:

    Guy watched Judith from under the shock of hair that always fell over his eyebrows as he started assembling the cream separator. He tried to catch her eye, but she seemed distracted. She stepped forward to help him sort the dozens of rings and filters, chewing on her bottom lip.

    “Well?” Guy set the filters in their place and attached the big onion-shaped hopper on the top of the cream separator.

    “Are you serious about learning Deitsch?” She handed him the clean steel buckets that would hold the separated milk and cream. Guy started the slow, heavy crank, getting the separator up to speed before he poured the milk into it.

    “Of course I am.” He lifted the first pail and poured the steaming milk into the hopper. “At least, I am if you’re going to teach me.” 



    In preparation for writing this scene, I learned how a cream separator from the 1930’s works. I read descriptions and I watched You-tube videos. Too late, I realized I should have asked my dad, because he used one of these every day when he was growing up.

    But now I know how to run a cream separator, and I know a LOT more than the little details I mentioned in this scene.

    And I don’t know about you, but I love sharing information like this with anyone who will listen! I could have added SO MANY more details about cream separators…but I didn’t, and I’m sure you know why:

    This scene isn’t about cream separators!

    I put in enough details to place the reader in the milk house with Guy and Judith, but not so many that the purpose of the scene is lost.

    In other words, don’t let your story get overshadowed by the details.

    Learning to sprinkle in the right details at the right time is part of developing your writing skills, so today we're going to play a little game!

    Choose one of the following sentences and add in a few details. Make the sentence your own, and share it in the comments. Practice making the sentence come alive for your readers!

    1) She turned the page.
    2) He closed the car door.
    3) It rained all day.
    4) It snowed.
    5) The meal tasted good.
    6) She saw him walking toward her.
    7) The dog barked.
    8) The smoke was thick.
    9) She heard a door slam.
    10) A baby cried.


    Have fun!


    *I will draw the names of two commenters this week to win their own copies of "The Amish Nanny's Sweetheart!"




    The Delight is in the Details
    Jan Drexler is a long-time Seekervillager who credits the ladies of Seekerville for giving her the tools she needed to launch her writing career. In her former life she was a Homeschool Mom, but was forced into retirement when her youngest son graduated from high school. That’s when a computer and a deep well of family stories to draw from inspired her to delve into a long-held dream of writing historical fiction with Amish characters. When she isn’t writing she spends much of her time satisfying her cross-stitch addiction or hiking and enjoying the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband of more than thirty-six years. Her writing partner is her Corgi, Thatcher, who makes life…interesting.



     


    30-Day Writing Habit Challenge!

    Missy Tippens

    30-Day Writing Habit Challenge!


    Are you looking to develop or maintain a writing habit? This post is for you! Whether you’re writing madly right now with NaNoWriMo and want to continue the habit, or you’re not writing at all, I hope today’s post will help. PLUS! I have a challenge for you at the end to assist in forming your new habit.

    When researching how we develop habits, I checked out the Psychology Today blog. I’ll be sharing my takeaway from these two posts and will include some tips from the articles:

    The Habit Replacement Loop by Bernard J. Luskin, Ed.D., LMFT.


    Stop Making New Goals--Create Habits Instead by Marcia Reynolds, Psy.D.



    In Dr. Reynolds’s article, she quotes a study by Neal, Wood and Quinn that says we humans are creatures of habit—and in fact, nearly half of what we do each day is out of habit (repeated behavior). So I think we need to choose wisely what we make into a habit rather than just falling into a pattern by default.

    30-Day Writing Habit Challenge!


    Want to be in the habit of watching TV? Watch TV daily.
    Want to be in the habit of checking email? Check email daily (or 45 times a day!).
    Want to be in the habit of writing daily? You get the picture. :)

    But often we’ll set a goal of getting up early and writing each day (or of writing after dinner or during our lunch break or while in the carpool line or at soccer practice with the kids). And then we’ll jump into that new schedule we’ve committed to. But before we know it, we hit the snooze figuring we need the sleep more. Or we get caught up in a new series on TV that’s all the rage. And quickly, that new goal goes by the wayside (New Year’s resolutions, anyone?). Before we know it, we’re back to our old habits.

    Dr. Reynolds says, “You must take deliberate, consistent actions repeatedly over time to defy your brain if you want to achieve the results you desire.” She says we basically have to trick our brain into accepting that the new habit is “achievable and worth the effort,” so we don’t start rationalizing (I need sleep more than I need to get up and hit the gym).

    Crazy how our brains work! That’s why working gradually, and daily, will help us change our habits or form new ones.

    In his article, Dr. Luskin says: “The good news is that we now know that, through repetition, it's possible to form and maintain new habits.  Enter ‘The Habit Replacement Loop (HRL)’.”

    He talks about habit memory as if it’s similar to muscle memory. And says repetition is the key to creating an automatic habit response.

    Luskin specifically mentions the 3 components of habits:
    1.  A trigger/cue (for me, this would be finishing my devotional/prayer time, and then sitting down at the computer with my coffee and opening Word).
    2.  The behavior (the actual writing—aiming for attainable goals repeated over and over).
    3.  A reward which causes our brain to remember (keeping track of and cheering my successes as well as reminding myself that I’m doing something positive that is helping my productivity)

    This reward fits in nicely with Reynolds’s idea that we need to demonstrate to our brain that what we’re doing is GOOD and something we can succeed at.

    We can do this! We can replace old habits with new. We can train/re-train ourselves to consistently write.

    30-Day Writing Habit Challenge!


    To help you do that—should you choose to accept this mission!—I’ve come up with a 30-Day Writing Habit Challenge! I’ve created a tab at the top of the blog. Click it and you’ll find a daily writing prompt for the next 30 days. Some are short and fun, some will make you think, some will help you with craft. I tried to come up with a variety to keep you interested and writing each day. And I hope that by the end of 30 days you will have tricked persuaded your brain that writing daily is a good thing and you’re going to be great at it!

    Feel free to check in to encourage each other in the comments section on the Challenge tab (comments only, not your writings). Then we’ll celebrate at the end. Even if you don’t take the time to comment daily, I hope you’ll let us know if you finish the challenge! And if you’re NaNo-ing, feel free to join us any time you can.

    So, do you think daily repetition with rewards can help you change or create habits?

    30-Day Writing Habit Challenge!


    While we're chatting today, let's be sure to remember our Veterans. I'm grateful for them and their families who have sacrificed so much for our country! I hope you'll thank a Veteran today.



    Missy has a recently-released Christmas novella! His Perfect Christmas.

    30-Day Writing Habit Challenge!


    Unlucky in love, police deputy Hardy Greenway has spent his life in the friend zone. But now he’s fallen hard for the girlfriend of his nemesis. Dori Blanchette has been waiting for a proposal from her boyfriend, but how can she say yes when she has feelings for Hardy? With Christmas tree ornaments playing spontaneously and secrets being revealed, there’s no telling who will end up together at Christmas!

    Welcome to Dahlia, Georgia, where everyone feels welcome!

     Bio:
    After more than 10 years of pursuing her dream of publication, Missy Tippensmade her first sale to Harlequin Love Inspired in 2007. Her books have since been nominated for the Booksellers Best, Holt Medallion, ACFW Carol Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Maggie Award, Beacon Contest, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, and the Romance Writers of America RITA® Award. Visit Missy at www.missytippens.com,


    Where Do I Start (to write a book)?

    by Mindy Obenhaus
    Where Do I Start (to write a book)?
    In the beginning…

    No.

    Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place…

    No, no, no.

    How about this? I’m writing a new book. I have a hero and heroine and a three-paragraph blurb. How do I turn that into a 200+ page book?

    Every writer has their own process. Mine has changed over time. Multi-book contracts have forced this pantser to become a plotter. 

    I wrote the blurb for this book two and half years ago when I first proposed my Rocky Mountain Heroes series to Love Inspired Books. Now it’s time to write the proposal for this final book in the series. That means it's time to figure this story out.

    Theme and Scripture – The first thing I try to come up with in any story is a theme and scripture passage. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. Often, there are things that don’t come to me until I’m almost finished with the book. Or, I choose something only to have it change by the end. That’s okay. At this point, all I’m looking for is a general guide.

    Goals and Motivation – Next, it’s on to my hero and heroine. I need to know what their story goals are. What is it they want when the story opens? Why? What’s their motivation? Actually, these things are in my original blurb, but now I have to develop them.
    Where Do I Start (to write a book)?
    Stakes – Hand-in-hand with their story goals are the stakes. What will happen if they don’t achieve their goal? Example: In my April 2019 release, the hero wants his soon-to-be-open rodeo school to be a success. Why? So he can use it as an avenue to help troubled kids. But what if it isn’t a success? Then he loses his life savings that he sank into the school. What’s at stake drives the goal.

    Greatest Dream – Okay, once I’ve got all of that figured out, I need to determine their greatest dream. What does their heart long for? Love? Acceptance? A family? This is more than just a job or a promotion, we’re talking about their heart’s desire. Something they’ve, possibly, never told another soul.

    Greatest Fear – Finally, I need to know their greatest fear. No, not spiders or snakes. Well, unless you’re writing an Indiana-Jones-type story, then snakes will work.

    In my book, Falling for the Hometown Hero, the hero’s greatest fear is coming face-to-face with the families of the men who were with him the night he was driving their Humvee and hit a trip wire. The blast killed his four buddies and he believes the families will blame him for their deaths just the way he blames himself.

    Fear is a great motivator and will cause us to do/prevent us from doing a lot of things.
    Where Do I Start (to write a book)?
    Now that I have all of this information, I have to come up with a plot that will put my characters in situations that will challenge their goals, up the stakes and cause them to question their dreams and face their fears.

    Some writers go straight to the synopsis. Me, I use a plotting chart. A writer friend turned me onto this a number of years ago and it’s helped me discover that this pantser really can plot. 

    Basically, it’s a chart with chapter numbers in one column and a box for the hero and heroine’s POV for each chapter. There, I’ll write a brief thought on what happens in the scene and the POV character’s GMC. Or I’ll have snippets of conversations. I give myself permission to write here. Sometimes the entire scene. Whatever pops into my head gets typed in. Something that appeases the pantser in me.

    Once all or most of the scenes are filled in on my chart, then it’s onto the synopsis. I cut and paste everything from my chart then delete, add… Basically pretty things up until the synopsis sounds like an actual story.

    Finally, it’s on to the chapters. And, because each scene is already plotted, I can write the book much faster. And when we’re talking deadlines, faster is always better.

    There you have it, a glimpse into the steps this writer goes through at the beginning of each and every book. Now it’s your turn. How do you get started on a new book? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do deadlines affect your process? Readers, have you ever closed a book and thought you might like to write a story, but didn't know where to start? Remember, you'll never know until you give it a try.


    Where Do I Start (to write a book)?
    Three-time Carol Award nominee, Mindy Obenhaus, writes contemporary romance for Love Inspired Books. She’s passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her grandchildren at her Texas ranch. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com


    Falling For You

    by Guest Lindi Peterson

    Hello Seekerville! It’s great to be back. Thank you for having me guest host today. It’s always a special time in Seekerville, for sure.
    Today we are talking about love.
    Yes, love.
    It’s what romance writing is all about and it’s what makes the world go ‘round. Right?
    Love is an action, not an emotion. I once heard in a church I was attending that people don’t “fall in love.” Drat! That shook my romance writer’s mind. But as I kept listening the pastor’s words made sense. Love is an action.
    You do it. 
    Which is why you can’t have a romance where the only goal is to fall in love and get married. 
    So what is it that makes our characters fall? If they don’t fall in love what do they fall into?
    Let’s explore some ways our characters fall for each other.
    Falling For You

    Excerpt from One Winter Kiss-Lindi Peterson
    He kissed the top of her hand. “Thank you. Thank you for trusting me with who you are.”
    She kissed the top of his hand. “Thank you for being someone I can trust. I’ve never met anyone like you.”
    “We need each other, don’t we?”
    “I think so,” Deena whispered.
    He leaned over, his kiss gentle, caring.
    Loving, kind.
    Everything Andrew was touched her lips.

    Falling For You


    In looking for passages to use, I found this one. And wow, God directed me to the right passage. We have a plethora of reasons Deena “fell” for Andrew.
    First he was TRUSTWORTHY. That is a quality to fall for. If you can’t trust someone, you certainly can’t give your love to them. Without trust there would be suspicion and doubt. There would be questions that might be unnecessary. 
    2 Corinthians 3:4 And we have such trust through Christ toward God. NKJV
    We place our ultimate trust in Christ.
    Deena also fell for his GENTLENESS. The passage starts out describing his kiss, but ends with all those adjectives describing Andrew himself. And Andrew is a gentleman. He proved that to her many ways, starting at the beginning of the book.
    He held out a Devon Park Raiders hoodie. A lined, thick hoodie. Black and silver, The Devon Park High School colors.
    “Thank you. I think I will. Especially since I don’t know how long Grandpa will be.” She took the hoodie from him and quickly put it on.
    This excerpt is from Chapter One, right at the beginning when Deena was stranded outside her grandpa’s house. Right away Andrew displayed what a gentleman he was. And yes, I still like a man to open the door for me, to pull out a chair before I sit down. 
    Psalm 18:35 You have also given me the shield of Your salvation: Your right hand has held me up, Your gentleness has made me great.NKJV
    CARING is another quality one can “fall” for.
    “You’ll need these gloves. Evan doesn’t tire easily. And he’s ready for a fight.” Andrew handed Deena a pair of gloves perfect for snowball making. Well, that might be taking things a bit far, but they were designed to keep the wet out and the hands warm.
    Here Andrew shows how caring he is offering Deena the proper gloves to wear in a snowball fight. If you are wondering why Deena is so ill-equipped for cold weather, she has just arrived in Ohio from Florida. She wasn’t prepared to be hanging out outside so much, as she was there to help her grandfather pack his house to move. Oh, and she was trying to stop the moving process as well. Andrew is his next door neighbor who has a son named Evan. Deena also saw throughout the story how Andrew cared for his son. That showed a huge part of who Andrew was and something Deena couldn’t help but be drawn to.
    1 Peter 5:6-7 Thereforehumble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. NKJV
    When we know God cares about us, we can see how caring for others is important.
    And how about KINDNESS? Don’t we love meeting people who are kind? 
    “I insist on taking you. Besides, I’ll help Harold get his truck out of the ditch.”
    That sentence is kindness and helpfulness all in one. (Andrew is quite a guy, isn’t he?) But again, these are the types of things people do that attract other people to them. Harold is Deena’s grandpa, so Andrew, offering to help pull the truck out of a ditch after a snowstorm displays his kindness front and center.
    Psalm 119:76 Let, I pray, Your merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to Your word to Your servant.NKJV
    Kindness is a great attribute. When someone is truly kind, you know their heart is in the right place. Someone’s day can be made just by having someone be kind to them. And kindness is an act we can show to those we don’t even know. We don’t have to be best friends to show someone kindness. 

    Falling For You

    We can see by the above excerpts that love comes from knowing who someone is. It’s the attributes they have that bind our soul to theirs. It’s how their heart works and how they show that heart to the world that attracts us to someone.
    This is how we show growth in our romance novels. You can be attracted to someone for just the way they look, that is true. But that doesn’t carry a relationship. That person’s way of living, and treating others soon comes to light. I do believe that the books we like the best show this growth and growing attraction to our hero’s and heroine’s character.
    I do love the saying “falling in love.” It sounds so much better than “falling in trust,” “falling in kindness.” There’s something universal about the word love. Whether it’s in a good or bad way, love is something everyone can relate to. It’s why we write about it, it’s why we read about it. It’s why God sent his son.
    He loves us.
    I’d love to talk about other attributes people “fall” for. I’ve only named a few, but I know you have some you’d like to mention. I’ve got 2 giveaways today to 2 separate commenters. First I’m giving away an e-copy of my novella, Sweet Love of Mine. It’s the story of Eden and Grant. I’m also giving away a copy of a brand new release, A Christmas to Remember.

    Falling For You

    This is a boxed set of 8 never before released Christmas novellas. I was thrilled to do this set with the ladies on the Inspy Romance Blog. This is the 2ndnovella in my Sweetly Southern Series. Sweet Love of Mine is the 1stnovella in that series.
    Thank you for having me here in Seekerville. It’s always a pleasure and an honor to be a guest! Let’s talk “falling!”

    Visit Lindi at www.lindipeterson.com





    The Black MomentHelp Your Reader Fall in Love with Your CharactersFinessing a StoryProductivity Tools for Writers... and a New Release!Emotion and The Setting: A Powerful Story ComboWriting A Christmas Novella - Easy?The Delight is in the Details30-Day Writing Habit Challenge!Where Do I Start (to write a book)?Falling For You

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