Welcome to the Christian Author Network blog from Gail Gaymer Martin. Today I will be talking about ways to improvement elements of writing fiction. My experience comes from seventeen years of published fiction writing, and my pleasure is to share my expertise with you.
Today I will talk about keeping your novel moving forward so that readers are caught up in the story and don’t want to put it down.
Five Steps to Write Forward-Moving Scenes
A scene is part of a chapter in a novel. Some authors write only in chapters and therefore have far more chapters than a typical book. A new scenes are used mainly to change the POV character, move a character to a new setting, and showing the passing of time. Each scene will connect to the story in a logical way by providing pertinent information about character, a conflict or to add a red herring in a suspense or even add a twist to a story. No matter the purpose, the new scene must move the story forward in a significant way.
Before writing a scene decide what will happen in this scene to move the story forward. What is going to happen of significance or what new information will be shown in this scene. Will a major decision be made or will new conflict begin or a continuing conflict end? Will the scene foreshadow an upcoming situation or event? If the scene will only allow the characters to get to know each other better or to introduce backstory, eliminate it. Characters can get to know each other better while something significant is happening and backstory can be included in small pieces throughout the novel on a need to know basis only.
The next step is to ask what the characters need to be in this scene and what will each accomplish during the scene. In what way will the character’s needs or desires create conflict or add tension? Conflict does not have to be blatant but can be reflected in the POV character’s introspection or shown through the response or action of a POV or non-POV character.
Select the best setting for this scene, the location and time of day or season of the year. The setting can add or detract from a scene, so chose one that will enhance the purpose of the scene and the needs of the characters. Too many scenes are set in a car while the characters are driving or at a table in a restaurant or kitchen as they talk about situations. Be creative and use locations, time of day, weather, and seasons to enhance the scene and its purpose.
Each scene will provide pertinent information, action and conflict to move the story forward, and it will be either be a scene or sequel. Dwight Swain’s definition of a scene is to provide interest and move the story forward with its structure being: Goal — conflict — disaster. A sequel is defined as a transition unit that links two scenes and focuses on the main character’s reaction to the previous scene and provides him motivation for the scene to come. The function is: To translate disaster into a goal, To telescope reality, and To control tempo. Therefore ask yourself “what must happen in this scene,” and then decide what is the strongest way to start the scene and then, what is the most effective way to end it. A scene ending with a hook keeps the reader reading. Writing the scene’s opening sentence can trigger your creativity and help you devise interest immediately.
Though many novels write their novels providing all elements of fiction, such as: description, action and reaction beats, dialogue and introspection, some authors begin their scenes by writing the dialogue first. This keeps the scene on track moving the story forward. Then the author returns to the opening and adds the action, description and introspection. Writing a scene this way can help you to understand how a story is layered and it gives you time to put yourself into the characters so that their actions and thoughts can show their emotion and their growth.
Whichever method you use, these five steps can help you write scenes that are strong in purpose, deepen characterization, show change and growth, reveal emotion, and hook readers.
Marketing in today’s world takes a team—a well- oiled machine of wisdom– or at least a circle of friends committed to share each other’s PR and “street team” nuggets so everyone moves their ministry and business forward. This year at ICRS (International Christian Retail Show) the CAN Author Bootcamp was just that– a WEALTH OF WISDOM!~ ! In a wonderful “meeting of the minds” CBA (Christian Bookstore Association, CAN and Harvest House Publishers sponsored a very informative morning. I had the joy of kicking off the morning with a keynote on 7 Simple Skills to Success in Publishing where I shared the God-empowered story of how Bill and I have survived and thrived for three decades in Christian publishing. (watch here (video thanks to Linda Goldfarb)
I have always loved passing right along any wisdom, connections, links, advice others have shared with me because this world is so dark that it takes ALL OF US holding up God’s light of love and truth to piece the darkness. Because of the world’s great need, we cannot, not should not, be selfish with the information we have gleaned or the advice others have passed on to us. That is what I love about CAN! Each person helping encourage and equip the other for greater success.
I had the joy of hearing from so manty BRILLIANT leaders at the author bootcamp. Here is a quick list and my grateful THANKS! Because my husband and I learned SO MUCH TOO ) :
Ava Pennington shared a long list of organizations, affiliations, and networks that authors can join. Other than CAN, let me share four others that have been a source of encouragement, equipping and inspiration to me in this past year.
AWSA: Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. This group, started by author, Linda Shepherd, in 2011, is compromised of the top 10% of women Christian authors. AWSA hosts an annual summer conference the few days leading up to ICRS. In addition, they offer MasterMind groups for the more serious entrepreneur author; and a daily online “loop” filled with encouragement, equipping and positive support for the group’s members.
Bridge Builders: This is a new group to most, but it’s founder, Maria Keckler is a long term friend of ours. We first met Maria when she and my husband, Bill, were both working for Dr David Jeremiah at Shadow Mountain Church in San Diego . Everything Maria has ever done is EXCELLENT A+ quality! I had the joy of being a cheerleader to her as she penned her first book, Be a Bridge Builder. She has gone on to create a power-packed online program for entrepreneurs’: Business Breakthrough University (of all kinds of businesses including writers/ speakers) . She is brave, bold, and Biblical and she has the ability to synthesize information gleaned from some of the world’s most successful business minds into a use to access, easy to implement format. Maria is a brilliant encourager and equipper who can take a person’s hopes and dreams and help turn them into a successful reality.
CWEN: Christian Women Entrepreneurs’ Network is a local (San Diego) networking group founded by Rebecca Garcia. These women, from a wide variety of businesses, are joining together to equip one another, support one another but mostly grow in Christ so as they work their businesses they each reflect Jesus and glorify the God who gave them their talent, dream and platform. If you do a little research in your city or community, you may have a similar network of Christians in Business. I have three of four other local networking groups I speak for and am a member of– nothing like home town friends who you can hug, pray with and can pray for you! If you can’t find one, maybe God is calling you to start one!
Welcome from C. Kevin Thompson! The more I write, the more I become appreciative of those who have gone before me and “blazed a trail,” if you will. It’s no small feat to write multiple books, especially when it was done before the advent of the modern self-publishing phenomenon. I know of many people who tell me they’ve started a book. It’s the finishing that’s the hard part.
That’s why writers like our guest keep me writing. They’ve shown that good, old-fashioned hard work, perseverance through times both good and not-so-much, and a persistent pursuit to hone their craft pay off in the end.
Allow me to introduce to you our guest for today, Nancy Mehl.
Nancy, it’s great to have you on the Christian Authors Network Blog. So, let’s get to it. How many books do you have published now?
Twenty-five books so far!
Amazing. For our readers who are maybe not so familiar with your work, what are a few of your latest titles?
Some of my latest titles are Gathering Shadows, Deadly Echoes, and my newest, Rising Darkness. These are all titles in my Finding Sanctuary series. I also have two recent books with Guideposts. These are in the Sugarcreek Amish Mysteries series. The first book is Blessings in Disguise. The second is Simply Vanished which will be released any day now.
You’ve been busy since you were last featured on the CAN blog in 2012. What are some of the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?
Discipline is paramount! I’m writing for two different publishers, so I have to work hard to pre-plan my writing goals. I use calendars and plan out each book by daily word counts and weekly goals. If I didn’t do this, I’d be sunk.
I’ve also begun to understand how important good editors are. Editors who are brutally honest, but can also encourage their authors, are worth their weight in gold.
What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about promotion since 2012?
To be honest, I can’t drive myself crazy with promotion. I don’t have the time. I do have a street team, and recently, I hired a young man to help me with promotional duties. He is a whiz at what he does, and I am truly blessed. Writers need to write. We just don’t have time to spend on a lot of promotion.
That said, I do have some social media outreaches. My main emphasis is Facebook, which I enjoy. And I work with some other authors on a blog called the Suspense Sisters. I do intend to learn more about Twitter after the first of the year. I also intend to become more involved with CAN. I realize it’s one of the best tools available to authors.
You and me both (the part about CAN). I really haven’t even scratched the surface on how this organization can help. Once my newer works come out, a crash course I will need. What are the most effective means of book promotion you’ve tried?
Honestly? My most effective means of book promotion comes through my publisher’s promotional activities. On a personal level, Facebook has been quite helpful.
What are the least effective promotional activities you’ve tried?
Book signings. When I first started writing, all my newbie writer friends and I dreamed of book signings. It didn’t take long for me to see that they just aren’t worth the effort if your emphasis is sales. But…I do try to have a book signing every once in a while – just for readers who want to meet me. If you want to schedule a book signing, I recommend joint signings. It helps when other authors bring in their readers. It gives an author a chance to make new contacts.
I’ve participated in some of those joint signings, and you’re right. They do work better. Makes it more effective for readers to have more than one writer in the building, unless your Ben Carson or James Patterson, I suppose. On that note, what’s your favorite way to connect with your readers?
Probably through Facebook. It gives us a chance to connect on a more personal level.
What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you’ve ever tried?
I don’t know if it’s crazy, but the most nerve wracking is something called “Book Banter,” a promotional event my publisher manages. It’s done on Facebook and draws in a big crowd. It’s fun to connect with so many people, but you move a mile a minute, trying to answer questions and stay on top of things. By the end, I’m usually exhausted!
What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
There have been several – all of them at book signings. One that sticks out in my mind is the woman who couldn’t wait to tell me that I really needed to be writing books for children – about buses. She was adamant about it. LOL!
Buses, huh? A mystery/suspense writer creating children’s books about buses? I’m afraid by the time mothers around the country finished reading it, their children would become car riders the very next school day. Sometimes, people need to think things through, you know? Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books, besides the possibility of a new school bus genre?
I love Charisma magazine and have been a subscriber for years. Imagine my surprise when I opened it one month and found myself and my newest book mentioned in a feature about what was happening in the Christian community! I about fell out of my chair. My best friend called me as soon as she saw it. “I had no idea you were so famous!” she said. That was not only a surprise, but a real thrill.
What are your top tips for new authors promoting their first book?
First of all, write a great book. It’s not hard to promote a well-written book.
Secondly, reach out on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. But be a real person. There’s nothing worse than someone on Facebook who is obviously trying to promote themselves. I usually “unfollow” people like that. Don’t be obnoxious – be yourself. If you care about the readers you come in contact with, you’ll have made a lifetime friend – and a lifetime reader.
Nancy, it’s been a pleasure having you stop by and take time out of your busy schedule. We wish you well on your present and upcoming works.
If anyone wants to catch up with Nancy, she can be found at the following online locations:
C. KEVIN THOMPSON is an ordained minister with a B.A. In Bible (Houghton College, Houghton, NY), an M.A. in Christian Studies (Wesley Biblical Seminary, Jackson, MS), and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership (National-Louis University, Wheeling, IL). He presently works as an assistant principal in a middle school. He also has several years experience as an administrator at the high school level.
A former Language Arts teacher, Kevin decided to put his money where his mouth was and write, fiction mostly. Now, years later, he is a member of the Christian Authors Network (CAN), American Christian Fictions Writers (ACFW), and Word Weavers International. He is the Chapter President of Word Weavers-Lake County (FL), and his published works include two award-winning novels, The Serpent’s Grasp (Winner of the 2013 Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference Selah Award for First Fiction) and 30 Days Hath Revenge – A Blake Meyer Thriller: Book 1, as well as articles in The Wesleyan Advocate, The Preacher, Vista, The Des Moines Register and The Ocala Star-Banner.
Kevin is a huge fan of the TV series 24 , The Blacklist, Blue Bloods, and Criminal Minds, loves anything to do with Star Trek, and is a Sherlock Holmes fanatic, too.
CAN offers great benefits to readers and blessings to members. It’s good to follow CAN because we post about marketing that others can adapt. It’s also good to see what a group does to glean ideas for your own group.
Let’s chat about how to multiply efforts greatly through team efforts that benefits all the members and blesses others.
Pamela Meyers here with another discussion on marketing your novel.
Recently, while in a discussion with a couple people from my
church, a woman asked me if I had a publicist. I replied that the publisher for my book releasing next spring has a publicist on staff that is available to me, but for my small press books, the marketing is pretty much up to me. At that point the man with us spoke up and recited the old adage, “To make money, you have to spend money.” I assured him I agreed, but with a very slim budget, most of the marketing has been up to me and I needed to be creative without a lot of expense. Then I added that I have a lot of input from my professional organizations as to how to go about marketing my books.
Later, as I reflected on that conversation, I stopped to thank God for providing me with CAN and those here who work so tirelessly to help its members get the word out about their books, and also for American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) to which I’ve belonged almost since its inception. Between these two organizations I have learned a ton about marketing, and yet feel I’ve barely scratched the surface.
One of the ways I want to push the publicity for my next book is to utilize Twitter more than I ever have. During the launch of Thyme for Love I sent out Twitter posts with links to where the book could be purchased, giveaways during my blog tour, and anything else related to the book, but I keep asking the question: Can I do more?
My pastor recently reported that after posting a website link on Twitter for my church’s radio and on-line ministry website, the website received 34,000 hits in a 24-hour period. That started the wheels in my head spinning, and I began to wonder what else I could do to stir up peoples’ interest enough to go to Amazon to order my new book.
This month at CAN we are seeing first hand how a team of people can bring about positive results more effectively than just one person. I don’t have near the number of Twitter followers to generate 34,000 hits by myself, but we can help each other in this way by agreeing to publish the Twitter posts that are being gathered every week.
It takes more than saying “Buy my book by going to this link.” We need to think creatively about how to get people interested in learning more about our books. This can be done by starting out with a tease, or asking a question to which they have to go to the link to find the answer, or holding a give-away and getting people to your blog to sign up for the drawing. But there has to be even more we can be doing. I’m just now starting to noodle what else I might do so I’ll be ready when the release date gets closer.
Have any good ideas to share? Please leave a comment!
A simple method of improving your writing is learning how to use dialogue tags and presenting character’s thoughts. Though this may seem trivial, these techniques are important in helping you become an author who knows how to write. One way to approach this is to ask yourself how would a real person say this or do this. Then bring that to life by using the following techniques.
Warmest winter wishes from Gail Gaymer Martin at www.gailmartin.com It's amazing how the winter has marched by with warm temperatures in many of the colder states. It makes us anxious for spring, especially those places that have experienced the horrible tornadoes so early in the year. Prayers go out to all of them.
I believe that intimacy in our storytelling style helps us to touch readers in an amazing way. Part I of Intimate Storytelling covered some of the elements of staying in a POV character’s viewpoint, but intimate storytelling needs more than a character’s viewpoint. The reader needs to feel the story through the character’s impressions and experience. This is done by bringing the senses to life and Part II covers this point.
When creating story, the author should remember that each genre has its own set of patterns or “rules.” By rules, I mean reader expectations and qualities editors look for in your manuscript.
These patterns or rules do not exclude creativity. If that were so, authors would lose their spirit. Within the expected genre patterns, authors have great leeway to create unique stories. So let's take a look at the various patterns for romance, mystery and suspense, and speculative fiction such as: fantasy, paranomral and adventure,