Catherine Finger

Catherine Finger

Where do you get your ideas?

We writers know, love, and sometimes hate this age-old question.

My Jo Oliver thriller series started with a desire to write compelling stories of triumph, choice, and the power of emergent faith and community. Each story was fueled by a strong character, a plot idea, or an idea of what justice might look like via a twisty series of events. And while I am playing around with my next installment, I find myself distracted by new dreams.

For the past year or so, I’ve been toying with a new story that I finally had to start writing. This idea came to me in my sleep. Literally. I dreamt of my protagonist and how she meets her man— a paunchy insurance salesman with a deep alternative history steeped in international espionage. I loved the scene that first appeared to me in that memorable dream and ignored it soundly for about a year.

Yet the dreams returned. At night. While napping on planes. And once, while driving, an idea presented itself so strongly, I had to pull off the road into a highway oasis and furiously stab it all down on fast-food restaurant napkins. That chapter involved a kitchen island sex scene, with my 60-something arthritic protagonist secretly desiring to be ravished by her man on her granite counter—while fearing the possibility of breaking a hip with equal ferocity.

I’m thoroughly enjoying creating a life of unexpected purpose and adventure for two recently retired individuals who find themselves at the same banquet table at a hotel facing the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Stuff happens—and it is stirring my writer’s heart to share their story, giving me that excited I can’t wait to get to my keyboard to see what happens next kind of feeling.

Rest assured, as the story reveals itself, I’ll share more with you!

Enjoy today,

Catherine

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by Judith Couchman

Recently I ate lunch with Heather, a former coaching client who became a friend. She talked about an app that helps her learn to write better, catching mistakes and suggesting ways to improve. I recognized Heather’s sincere desire to write well, and that impressed me. Many writers new to the craft want to skip over writing principles and dart straight to publishing and social networking.

Heather felt so excited about this method for improving her manuscript, I couldn’t help but absorb her enthusiasm. Later at home, online I researched writing apps. After typing “Writing Apps” into my browser, the results surprised me. Although apps exist for brainstorming, collaborating, planning, organizing, outlining, reading, and timing writing, not many help an aspiring author actually write well.

As a result, below I’ve listed some apps that help with writing and editing your work. Most likely, more apps exist because I didn’t research deeply. Consider this a “starter list” for apps that might meet your needs. I’ve provided website links so you can learn more. Most are free. Check whether an app operates on your phone, tablet, or desktop.

  • EditMinion. Edits a manuscript a few pages at a time, checking for mistakes, including clichés. Free. http://editminion.com
  • Grammarly. This app does what the name implies: it checks a manuscript for grammar, suggesting the correct wording. Free. grammarly.com
  • Hemingway App. Heather enthused about this app. It aims to simplify, tighten, and strengthen prose in the tradition of the famous writer. $19.99 hemingwayapp.com/desktop
  • Merriam-Webster. Every writer needs a dictionary. This one includes voice searches. Free. https://www.merriam-webster.com/apps
  • ProWriting Aid. ProWriting Aid not only identifies and corrects problems, but it also explains, in detail, why you need to change something. And how to do it. Free for basic; $40 for premium. prowritingaid.com
  • Scrivener. A versatile writing app that helps with many formats: articles, books, blogs, podcasts, speeches and more. $40-45. writersstore.com/scrivener

If you’ve found another app that improves writing, please inform us in the comments section below. Thanks!

Judith Couchman is an author, speaker, university professor, and occasional writing coach. Learn more about her at www.judithcouchman.com

 

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Historical Post by Gail Gaymer Martin

Cut, Snip, Tighten

I have been blessed to have been given an amazing career as a writer of Christian fiction, and in my days of creating stories that I hope will touch your hearts, I have learned so much about writing stories readers can enjoy. Most people do not understand the amount of detail and craft that goes into being a writer, and most people do not sell their first novel. I did, but not before it went through “refining fire.”

I knew nothing about writing fiction when I began to write. My first romance novel began with the death of the heroine’s husband, traveled through months of her grief, and on page 102 she met the hero. The book was rejected numerous times until I realized that a romance begins with the meeting of the hero and heroine within the first couple of pages. I also learned a story starts at the point of change—not the husband’s death, but the heroine’s new beginning. With the advice of a few kind writers who knew about writing fiction, I had to cut one-hundred glorious pages from my novel. That made all the difference, but by then the book had been rejected a number of times.

I courageously continued to submit books, and most of those were sitting on editors’ desks, waiting for rejection. In 1998, I submitted a new book to Barbour Publishing. Within a few months, I heard from them. Though the editors felt that particular book would not work for their readership, they liked my voice and writing style. They asked if I had anything else. I thought of my first novel…just sitting there. I said, “Sure I do and I’ll get it in the mail right away.”

But “right away” meant doing some serious edits. At that time the completed book was seventy-five thousand words. Barbour accepts only forty-five to fifty-five thousand words, so I had some serious cutting to do. I had learned so much more about writing by then, and I went through the manuscript tightening the story by removing useless dialogue and scenes that did not move the story forward. I cut a sub-plot and tightened my language. When I’d reached the right page count, I mailed the book in. Within eleven days, SEASONS sold to Barbour Publishing and I became a published author.

I have learned to cut, snip and tighten. I continue to improve my writing skills by honing the craft, listen to those who know the business, and understand that tightening a novel can only make it better. Those lessons have reaped great rewards and blessings for me. Now with 76 published novels and over 4 million books sold, I conclude that I finally know how to write a good book. It takes time, patience and tons of perseverance. Improving the craft never ends! I continue to read and study writing techniques and find new ideas for ways to improve my work.

In my next post, I will cover what I have done when I’ve received the reversion of rights and can now republish my older books for readers who hadn’t read them years ago when they were published. My goal is to use what I have learned to this day and to make my old novels new and improved. I hope you look for this blog on Reversion of Rights.

 

 

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kathyide

Hi! I’m Kathy Ide. In addition to being a published author, I’m a full-time professional freelance editor. For CAN, I’m blogging about tips for writers based on the manuscripts I edit.

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Crystal Bowman

Crystal Bowman

When people find out I write books for children, their response often goes something like this: “Oh, how fun! I have always wanted to write a children’s book.” Writing for children is fun, but fun does not mean easy. And the more you learn, the harder it gets! If you are someone who wants to try writing for children, here are a few basic tips on how to get started. Read More →

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