Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Have no FEAR of starting your book.

How to banish the fear of the blank page and the first word

Many articles talk about writers facing a blank page with fear. I suppose the idea is to let us know we all face hurdles when we write.

There is a meme about Humpty dumpty. It’s a title over a crashed Humpty that reads: What if Humpty dumpty were pushed?

What if the fear of starting a new book is a myth?


What if that first word is not fearful, but exciting to write?

To turn the fear of starting to excitement for a new story, try these. Start before the first word, before the first sentence, and use tools, not rules to launch your story.

First, to face the blank page without fear, warm up. Athletes warm up before races or sports matches. Writers can warm-up before starting the first draft.

Free-fall writing is warm-up for writers.

  • Brainstorming on the page is non-threatening.
  • Interviewing your characters on the page is making new friends.
  • Designing a setting is creative and with a diagram or mind map is fun.
  • Staging a what-if problem for the main character can be diabolically satisfying.

Backed up by a collection of brainstormed ideas, I find starting the first draft easier. I dig into my scribblings and diagrams for details, character traits, and the goal of the protagonist. Therefore, the first draft becomes a re-organizing of what I have freely and joyously set down in previous warm-up writings.

Second, remember that first word or sentence is ‘just for now.’ That which you can change, need not be feared.

  • When cleaning the house putting an item in one place “just for now” is not a good idea and can lead to more clutter. However, putting down a first word 'just for now' is perfectly legal and actually a damn good idea.

 Third, rename that surge of adrenalin. The physiology of fear and excitement is the same. 

  • Name the surge of adrenalin excitement, not fear, as you put the first word, the first sentence on the blank page. Excitement trumps fear.

Retrain your brain to help you. When those first words are on the page, celebrate, punch the air, and congratulate your brain as you WRITE ON.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

How to tell a story - in 3 easily understood steps

 By Anne R. Allen

Storytelling is the foundation of novel writing. 

Without it, all the beautiful prose in the world is wasted. There are many ways to explain the structure.

 Anne R. Allen's short and succinct explanation!
  says it better than most.

 How to Tell a Story: Follow the Rule of Three

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

3 keys to prolific writing

Writers, empower yourself with these three mindsets.

Three basic precepts all writers need to know and remember to be prolific. 

  1. First writings do not need to be good - they just need to be written. You cannot edit a blank page.

  1. Writing well is learned in the same way swimming strongly is. Get in the water/just write, learn some skills, get some feedback and keep swimming/writing.

  1. Golfers golf. They do not have to make it to the PGA to either call themselves golfers or to enjoy the game. Writers write. They do not have to publish a best seller to call themselves writers or to keep writing.

Claim who you are. 
        BE a writer! 
              Just write.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

KIMBERLY STUART - Books about family & friends, courage & love, tears and laughter


Kimberly Stuart a writer who lives in Iowa has eight books to her credit and dozens of favorable reviews. Her protagonists are young women in their 20s and 30s who are meeting the challenges of adulthood in various ways. They cover women’s themes from career building to returning to work after adding a baby to their lives. A touch of romance enters their lives. They tackle their struggles in our modern world with grace and inner strength drawn from their Christian faith. These are books that will make you cry and laugh and let you know you are not alone in the struggles you face.

 Welcome, Kimberly,

Kimberly, you have eight books published. What prompted you to write the first one and did you developed a process you could use in writing more books?

My first book came out of a desire to write books that my friends would love to read. I wanted to write stories that would make a reader laugh, cry once or maybe twice, and identify with real struggles and real joys. The process to getting that kind of story on paper has varied a bit with each novel I’ve written, but the thread that ties all of my stories together has remained the same from the first. I want my friends and women like them—complicated, funny, smart, hard-working, curious women—to pick up a Kimberly Stuart book and end up reading far past their bedtimes.

Link to Balancing Act

Your characters’ careers and lives are depicted in engaging and complex detail. How did you gain the knowledge of their work situations and how much of your own life informed their personal struggles?

I know some authors feel differently, but I really love the research piece of writing. I like immersing myself in the worlds of my characters. Whether it’s reading ridiculously detailed pastry manuals and following around a chef during the writing of Sugar, or peppering my New York fashion designer friend with questions about her field for Heart Land, I love gathering all the details and getting to the point where I can tell a story with confidence in the small things as well as the big ones. 

To follow Kimberly at Twitterhttps://twitter.com/KimberlyAStuart 

I’m sure it’s encouraging to have so many positive reviews. Which one of the many do you relate to most and why?

I actually do not read many of my own reviews. I absolutely love hearing directly from readers through email, social media, and in person, and I have a general idea of how things are going in the review world, but as a rule, I don’t read many reviews. The positive ones are delightful, but the negative ones can start to seep into my thoughts on a loop that’s not at all helpful. It’s amazing how the kind reviews can make a happy, muddied puddle in my memories but a stinging review can resurface word for word in my mind. I learned a few years into this gig that the right approach for me is not to put too much weight in either group. ;)

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or your books?

I’m a firm believer that there is room on the shelf for happy endings, both in books and in real life. So if you’re in the market for chemistry-driven romance and feisty characters, if you like movies like Sleepless in Seattle or You’ve Got Mail, then my books are for you. Thank you, Mahrie, for letting me join you here. It is an honor for me. Here’s to many good stories to come, both lived and read!

Kimberly, thank you for letting me feature you on my blog. I’m sure there are those in my audience who will enjoy finding your books. Best of luck as you go forward in your writing career.

Thank you, Mahrie!



Tuesday, May 7, 2019

How to Give a Constructive Critique

Language Choice can result in a Constructive Critique

Writers, like most people, react badly to harsh comments. But there is a way to soften what you want to tell them so they can make their manuscripts EVEN better.

After reading the manuscript:

1)        State what you like about the story or the character and so on.

2)      State what emotion or image you experienced. (Overall or in specific scenes.)

3)      Identify any place where you were confused or found inconsistencies.

4)      Underline passive verb structures, non-specific word use, overuse of adverbs, adjective + noun structures that could be replaced with strong “showing” verbs, negative structures that could be positive.

  Structure critique comments as questions or suggestions.

 Sample Comments to mark changes you think will improve the writing.

  1. This is a strong verb – I can see action here.
  2. Colorful description-I like it.
  3.  Evocative turn of phrase, it made me think.
  4. This made me cry/laugh/giggle/get angry…
  5. Never thought of it like that.
  6. Oh oh- had to read this 3 times – maybe change order/add/delete/use different words for clarity.
  7. Lost me here. Not sure what you are trying to say. 
  8. I understand this to mean XYZ – is that what you intended?
  9. From what you said above I thought she had blue eyes? 
 Beta Readers or editors, keep this positive approach in mind when working with a writer, especially a new writer.

Writers, print this and offer with your manuscript when you ask for feedback from volunteers. It will help them give you the information you need without worrying about upsetting you.


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

5 basic steps at the crime scene in a mystery

Overview for writing a mystery... 

     1) INTERVIEW: - the victim, the witness(es), the first person/officer on the scene – Purpose: to develop a theory of what allegedly happened. 

a) Ask your POV character about:
Problem / Conflict
Scene Goal (what they hope to accomplish)
Purpose (Action he/she plans to take to achieve the goal)
Who else is in the scene and are they “with” him/her or “against” him/her? 
b) Ask your other characters if they are “with” the POV character or “against” the POV character and why or why not.

      2) EXAMINE THE SCENE: - to ascertain if the theory can be upheld – watch for:
-          Point of entry –  the previous failures, setbacks or discovery that propelled the character into this scene.
-          Point of Exit – the failure or discovery in this scene that propels the character into the next scene.
  3) PHOTOGRAPH: - to capture overall and specific items of evidence.
   Setting: - Where are they? When is it?  What’s the climate, lighting, etc?
Note all physical items in the scene-are they clues or red herrings?

       4) SKETCH – ACTION
       Choreograph what happens. Who was where, when?
       Who did what? How?

5)  PROCESS:  Evaluate, record, collect physical and testimonial evidence for further analysis

-          What did we learn?  How does this impact the plot? The character? The setting?
-          What is the result of the scene?  What step must the POV take next? What is the new goal? 
-          How does this propel the story and the characters into the next scene?
-      Are all the necessary clues and set-up information included?