Saturday, February 28, 2009


I'm my current WIP, I'm working on the section where I introduce the foil for the hero. A foil is a person who contrasts with and so emphasizes the characteristics of another. Trouble is, in the heroine's mind, she thinks they are the same (even down to the same cologne). So my challenge is to present the foil in such a light that she can see the difference, but only after perhaps being swayed in his direction.

I don't think that all characters have to have foils. Like a quiet, introspective heroine doesn't necessarily have to have a perky, loud friend. But in "coming of age" women's fiction, I find that they are very frequently used. Somehow, the heroine comes to her self-actualization through her interaction with the foil. Either the foil has faith and she doesn't, or the foil went through a similar experience and handled it completely differently than the heroine...something like that.

Perhaps one of the greatest examples of literary foils I can think of is in Austen's Sense and Sensibility. Marianne and Elinor Dashwood are so dissimilar in their dispositions and interests, yet joined by sisterhood. Austen did it also in Pride and Prejudice with Elizabeth Bennett and her older sister, Jane. Where Elizabeth is hot-headed and outspoken, Jane was always demure and proper, one was dark-headed, the other light, etc.

Wonder what it is we like - and maybe even crave - about this idea of antitheses uniting together in literary work? Contrasts make for so much more fodder than similarities. I'm looking forward to portraying my foil in my WIP...and eventually making my hero shine in juxtaposition.

Just random thoughts for today...

Friday, February 27, 2009

Late Nights

I've been spending several late nights in a row working on my WIP...and of course, feeling the effects throughout the next day. But it's the only time I have to really work on my book, since the baby is asleep starting around 8 or 8:30. So usually I can get in about 3 good hours, but just pay for it later.

I'm asking myself if its worth it. If I'm so tired, will what I'm producing be better than what I would produce when well-rested? But then when would I find the time to write if I actually am well-rested? See the quandary? And this isn't even counting doing crits for other people and correcting crits I receive.

Yikes. But I can't stop at night when I'm writing a killer scene (at least, I think so). I have to finish it, or I'd not sleep well the few remaining hours that I have. I'd just toss and turn about what I could have written.

So for now, I'm going to adjust to less sleep, more writing time. I think it's worth it in the end for my psychological health.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mary Connealy Crit

I put the opening couple of lines from my current WIP on the blog, So You Want To Be Published, where guest blogger Mary Connealy was giving some tips on the writing craft. She asked for some openings, so I sent mine. She responded and said it was pretty strong, and that she was interested in reading more. She gave me some ideas about going into a deep POV. You can find the post here.

Gotta love free crits from published authors. :)


Who doesn't need affirmation? Gary Chapman wrote a book called The Five Love Languages (excellent therapeutic resource, as well as just a great read for the general population) in which "words of affirmation" made the cut. My actual love language is quality time, but I do so like the affirming word. I think it's secondary, maybe.

Recently, though, I've received quite a bit of affirmation on my current WIP. Some of this confirmation came from people I'm very close to and have known for a while. Others came from people I've never met, but have an association with through American Christian Fiction Writers. Either way, it just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside! I sit here, reading comments from my crit partners with a goofy grin on my face. I think, "Hey! She got it!" or "Aww, she likes my main man as much as I do!" Sigh.

I suppose I should begin writing these peoples' names down, as hopefully they will end up on a dedication page somewhere in the future.

To all my affirmers, and you know who you are, a multitude of thanks. It means the world to me.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tom Swifties

I've learned something from one of my crit partners that I had absolutely never heard of before, but makes total sense. Tom Swifties. To quote the Random House Dictionary:

Tom Swiftie, a play on words that follows an unvarying pattern and relies for its humor on a punning relationship between the way an adverb describes a speaker and at the same time refers significantly to the import of the speaker's statement, as in: "I know who turned off the lights," Tom hinted darkly.

Not that I was intentionally trying to make a play on words with my speech tags in my novel. I thought I would broadening the description of what was being said. But in truth, my writing was strong enough without it. Almost every single time, the -ly adverb was completely unneeded.

But not only did I do this in speech tags, I did it EVERYWHERE. Just -ly adverbs all over the place, serving no purpose but to clog up the writing.

My favorite examples from my own writing (Katie, you should love this!):

Anna laughed loudly, this time causing others to look our way. "Loudly" isn't needed at all.

His brow furrowed slightly. As opposed to furrowed fully?

"Must be a story behind a declaration like that," Anna said conversationally. How does one converse conversationally? I laughed hard at this one. This might actually fit the definition of a Tom Swiftie.

She sat down quickly, her cheeks flushing gently. Joshua tried unsuccessfully to hide his grin before turning around. A gentle flush. I was trying to go for a flush that wasn't beet red all over..just a tinge on the cheeks. Why didn't I just write that instead? She sat down in a rush, a pink tinge on her cheeks. (I just went back and changed that, by the way.)

So I'm going to work on tightening up my prose and dialogue. I'm really pleased with my first 15 pages of this story I'm going to turn in on for the Genesis competition now. No less than seven people have edited/critiqued it and I feel that it's in good shape now.

So thanks to all who had a part in this! I'm not going to say that I've written the last Tom Swifty that I ever will, but they will less prominent from here on out.

Who knew?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Elusive Ellipses

Since I write quite a bit of my books from the first person POV, I often like to indicate a pause or uncertainty in my heroine's thoughts or words. And to do this, I've been using an ellipsis. The little dot-dot-dots that also find themselves in my own emails rather frequently, as I write emails in a stream of consciousness.

According to Grammar Girl, "A number of style guides note that ellipses can be used to indicate a pause or falter in dialog, the passage of time, an unfinished list, or that a speaker has trailed off in the middle of a sentence or left something unsaid. For example, The Chicago Manual of Style states, “Ellipsis points suggest faltering or fragmented speech accompanied by confusion, insecurity, distress, or uncertainty.” The manual contrasts ellipses and dashes, which it states should be reserved for more confident and decisive pauses.

She goes on to say that ellipses are used much too frequently, and that normal punctuation should apply most of the time. (I was hoping for a you shouldn't use passive voice more than around 10% of the time.)

So, on to how to format an ellipsis. Grammar Girl specifies that you have only three dots, with spaces between the dots and spaces before and after the first and last dots. But she says this is only when omitting words. So what about when the speaker or thinker just loses his train of thought? Or is unsure?

I don't know! I've been doing it like this . . . and then going on with the rest of the thought. Or course, most word processing programs make automatic spaces between three consecutively typed periods. But I had a crit member say that that only was used to represent omitted words. When I researched ellipses, I found this website, and the ellipses are definitely spaced out further than "average."

I'm going to stick with whatever the Chicago Manual of Style says, once I figure out what that is. The CMS Online costs $30/year to subscribe to. And to buy the book from Amazon it's $34.65 and comes with free shipping....what to do?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Crit Groups

I'm in a crit group through ACFW comprised of 5 other individuals and myself. I'm having to edit between 50-60 pages every other week and around 30-40 pages every other week (on the week I submit). And I'm finding that this takes away from the precious little time I have to work on my own stuff! I feel obligated to edit and crit the other's work, of course. I also want to participate in the spirit of the crit group, as well as get an idea of what it's like to write/edit for a deadline, which is good practice. But in my writer's dreamlife, I'd have all this TIME to write and edit my own stuff and edit everyone else's. It's just not happening! Swamped doesn't begin to describe my thoughts. But I know crit groups are the way to I'll plunge ahead and hope the schedule starts to sink in and become more routine.

On top of that, my new friend and fellow-writer, Katie Ganshert, and I will be swapping material soon to edit each other's work, as we have a lot in common in life - we figure this will transfer to the written page, as well. But we've already decided to be a bit more lax in our time requirements, as she also is in an ACFW crit group. Aren't we two peas in a pod, Katie? =)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Chapter Two Switcheroo

Okay...I was just reading over on Camy Tang's Story Sensei blog about writing your first page. (Read her post here.) AMAZING. What struck me was James Scott Bell's technique of switching your second chapter for the first chapter (with obvious tweaks needed to set the story and characters up). I had a crit partner actually suggest something similar, and I took her up on it - just to see if I woud like it. And I do! I think I was hitting my reader with too much backstory too soon...and now I really like the feel of my beginning.

Heck yeah. Love it when it comes together! So thanks to Camy and James Scott Bell!

Friday, February 13, 2009


I've been getting back some fabulous comments from my critique group members! One ran spell check on me and said I was 30% passive voice. 10% is about all you want (even less is preferable). I had NO idea! So thanks, crit buddies!

I've been re-writing some scenes from my chick-lit/romantic suspense novel so that they are from the hero's POV. I'm liking what I'm coming up with so far! So maybe I'll forgo the traditional "chick lit" genre and do more with the hero. But when I write the heroine's POV, I'll use 1st person, so as to really involve my reader and make her identify (hopefully) with my main character (like in a chick lit book). So maybe the best of both worlds? Stay tuned, and we'll see.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Genre Discussion

I got on the ACFW website today and found out about their Genesis competition. It's for unpubbed authors to submit up to 15 pages of their manuscript for consideration. There isn't any publishing deal out of it, but the winner (who will be announced at the 2009 conference) will get first pick of editors/agents to meet with at the 2010 conference. So that's a big deal.

I started looking at the genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance; Historial Fiction, Historial Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Romantic Suspense, Science Fiction/Fantasy/Allegory, Women's Fiction, and Young Adult.

The categories that interest me are Romantic Suspense, Women's Fiction and Contemporary Romance.

Women's Fiction is now supposed to incorporate the chick/mom/hen/lady lit subgenre. Apparently the industry is moving away from these terms, and the conference wants to reflect that. I write in first person, and probably 90% of my books are from the heroine's point of view. This makes me now a "Women's Fiction" writer, apparently. But here's the definition from ACFW for Women's Fiction.

Novels or sagas set in any location, in a contemporary setting, targeted toward women readers of any age. Issues are those women relate to, often involving relationships. Romance can be an element, but doesn't carry the story.

Hmm. Problem. Romance can be an element, but doesn't carry the story. Hmm.

Cathy Yardley's definition of Chick Lit is "generally a coming-of-age or 'coming-of-consciousness' story where a woman's life is transformed by the events of the story" and her choices." Usually the novels are typically funny and upbeat, with a distinctive type of author "voice" that lends itself to the genre. Now THIS fits me (at least I think so).

So how can Chick Lit be sucked up into women's fiction when romance doesn't carry the story?
Now I know why a pubbed author wrote me back and told me to classify my writing as "humorous women's fiction" instead of chick lit.

On to the other definitions.

Contemporary Fiction: The love story is set in any location in a contemporary setting, and is the main focus of the novel. The end of the book is emotionally satisfying. The stories in this category can be dramatic or comedic.

Romantic Suspense: A suspense plot is blended with a love story, which is the main focus of the novel, and the end of the book is emotionally satisfying. The story can be in any location, but the time frame should be a contemporary setting.

Now for the kicker. The disclaimer in the FAQ section for the contest says this:
Please be aware that the industry expectations for contemporary romance and romantic suspense have a higher level of involvement of the hero than is usual in a typical chick lit novel. For example, most contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels have the hero and heroine meeting in the first chapter, whereas most chick lit novels have the hero appearing for the first time several chapters into the story. Also, most contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels novels have 40-50% of the scenes from the hero’s point of view, whereas chick lit is often only from the heroine’s point of view.

DID YOU READ THAT? My current WIP has the hero and heroine meeting in the first chapter. And after reading Gayle Roper's latest, I went back and added some POV from the hero. But certainly not 40-50%. But I could tweak it, of course, to do this. They are in several scenes together throughout the book, and I could re-write them from his POV.

So I'm thinking of submitting a portion of my current WIP (which I hope that I would actually finish before the conference should any one want to request the full manuscript) and making the hero's POV stronger. I technically could enter in both the Women's Fiction and Romantic Suspense if I do this.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I've been thinking about my tagline, and as promised, I've returned with some suggestions.

Since psychology and counseling is all about relationships and emotions within those relationships (this about the truth of this statement), maybe my tagline should have something to do with emotions.

I feel at a disadvantage, because my specialty as a counselor is mental disorders. It's what will set me apart from other Christian fiction writers. (at least I like to think so.) But who wants to read a tag about mental disorders? Or the psyche? So negative sounding.

What about this?

"Where Emotions - and Romance - Run Deep."

I thought about adding something about humor, but couldn't figure out where to put it so it didn't sound a) trite or b) like an afterthought. "Where Emotions - and Romance - Run Humorously Deep." It could be a bit off-putting to some - especially those who really suffer from the mental disorders mentioned. Wowzer. And isn't "humorously deep," like, an oxymoron?

Here are some others.

"Romance You Can Relate To."
(Catchy. Ends in a preposition, though....eww.)

"Where Romance, Laughter and Therapy Intersect."

(Too much emphasis on humor?)

"Therapeutically Funny Romance."

(I rather like this one now that I've actually typed it out. Maybe I should just drop the "funny" part altogether?)

"Where Romance Meets Therapy."

(Ooh! I like this one a lot, too!)

What do you think?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Part-Time Will Put A Hole In My Head

I suppose you could say that I'm a part-time writer, although I have not claimed this status for tax purposes. I write every spare chance I get, which isn't a lot somedays, as I'm taking care of an almost-one-year-old during most days.

I go absolutely bonkers when I'm in the middle of a scene and I get interrupted. This is why I imagine that being full-time will afford some luxuries like not being interrupted. But maybe I'm talking about something I don't know.

Currently, my little darling child is having a whining hissy fit. Nothing is wrong with her at all, she just wants all of mom's attention. She's got toys to play with on the floor, her belly's full, yet she just whines at my feet, upset because I won't let her slobbery hands grace my beautiful white MacBook keyboard or pull out my royal blue jump drive or unplug the power chord, which glows a tempting orange.

I was in the middle of writing a most prolific scene when my heroine encounters her ex-fiancé. Seriously gripping stuff. But I've had to forego the conclusion of said scene as the decibal on her whine steadily rises, in favor or ranting about it here on my blog.

I'll go for now, as she's reaching the point of no return. My scene will wait until her bedtime tonight around 8:30. Or maybe not, as my husband will probably want to finish the movie we started and had to also forego because of her. Hmm....see the problems inherit in this?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Tag Line

I've been subscribing to email loops through the American Christian Fiction Writers (click here for their website), and I've noticed a trend. Almost every author has some sort of tag line or catchy phrase that they close their emails with. I can only imagine that these phrases are found on their websites and blogs, as well.

Some of them are really cute, like Camy Tang's. "Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi." Of course, with her Asian background, this is really catchy! Janice Thompson's: "Love, Laughter and Happily Ever Afters!" Catherine West: "Stories that stir the soul and sooth the spirit." Kathleen Kovach: "Spiritual Truth...with a Giggle." The there's Karen Kingsbury's "Life Changing Fiction," Susan May Warren's "Soul Stirring Fiction," from which I derived the name of this blog, "Mind Healing Fiction" and later added "In Progress." :)

I thought about just "Inspirational Fiction from a Christian Counselor's Point of View," but this seems long to me. So the task at hand is to come up with something creative regarding counseling or therapy, humor, faith, and romance. Tall order! I'm going to be thinking about this some and I'll post my tag line later.

Romantic Rush

I just finished the first true romantic scene in my current WIP, and my heart was beating so fast as I got so caught up in it! Truly, that's one of my favorite scenes to write. I can just imagine it all in my head, and it just flows onto the page. What a great night!

My husband even helped out with the baby a lot more than usual today so that I could write uninterrupted (at least, most of the time). That helped a there is nothing worse than having to stop your writing genius in the middle of some good stuff! :)

So...kudos to me...and to my newly revised word count. Off to bed...much later than I should be for a Saturday night...

Friday, February 6, 2009

I Write Corrected

I just finished Fatal Deduction by Gayle Roper that definitely included elements of bipolar disorder and gambling addictions. Both disorders made up subplots in the story, as the hero's ex-wife had bipolar disorder (and from the indications in the novel, she was a rapid-cycler) and the heroine's sister was involved with a loan shark who made his money feeding off others' gambling addictions.

I just picked up Sharon Hinck's Stepping Into Sunlight, which looks like it will include some elements of mental disturbance. The heroine witnesses a horrific crime, which likely will result in post-traumatic stress or some other depression or anxiety disorder, that renders her wanting to hide away in her home and not take care of everyday affairs. The twist in Hinck's story seems to be how the heroine plans to overcome doing one good thing for someone else every day. So I'm eager to start in on her book, as it likely will help me with my own current WIP.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Reworked Paragraph Summary

Okay. After some "complaints" from family and friends about the run-on nature of the sentences, I've reworked the paragraph. I don't suppose it will kill me to break the 5-sentence rule and have TWO sentences of set-up. So here is the revised paragraph:

Social worker Kathy Burgess was stripped of her self-confidence, trust in men and faith in a kind God when she was raped two years ago, resulting in her diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. She moves to California to start her life over and returns to the career field she had unwillingly left in Alabama. Kathy overestimates how far along in her recovery she is when she suffers a crippling flashback of her rape that raises doubts of her competency from handsome attorney Joshua Brandon, whose client is on Kathy's caseload. As Kathy seeks to prove herself to Joshua and her supervisor, her jilting fiancé unexpectedly returns on scene, throwing Kathy's emotions into a tailspin. Just as she thinks she's got a handle on the matters of the heart, her mind's biggest fear of being attacked again almost becomes a reality. Will Kathy sink further into her mental disorder or rise above it with a Strength other than her own?

Author Mary DeMuth will be critiquing this paragraph on her blog, So You Want To Be Published, on March 6th. Stay tuned, as I will reproduce her critique here.

On another note, agent Janet Grant with Books and Such Literary Agency responded to one of my questions I posted on the Books and Such blog. Check it out.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Paragraph Summation

The next step in the Snowflake Method (mentioned in previous post; method developed by Randy Ingermanson) is to take another hour (or more) to develop a paragraph summation that describes the book's setup, major disasters and ending of the novel. Ideally the paragraph should have about five sentences. One sentence gives the backdrop/setup, a sentence for each disaster, and one sentence to tell the ending of the novel. Randy wrote that if this sounds suspiciously like "back-cover copy," that's because it is.

So, I'll get to work.

After being raped two years ago stripped social worker Kathy Burgess of her self-confidence, trust in men and faith in a kind God, she moves across country to start her life over, returning to the career field she had unwillingly left due to her post-traumatic stress disorder. Kathy overestimates how far along in her recovery she is when she suffers a crippling rape flashback that raises doubts of her capabilities from handsome attorney Joshua Brandon, who has a client on Kathy's caseload. As Kathy seeks to prove herself to Joshua and her supervisor, her jilting fiancé unexpectedly returns to the scene, throwing Kathy's emotions into a tailspin. Just as she thinks she's got a handle on the matters of the heart, her mind's biggest fear of being attacked again almost becomes a reality. Will Kathy sink further into her mental disorder or rise above it with a Strength other than her own?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

One-Sentence Summation

Randy Ingermanson is called "the Snowflake Guy" for a reason. He wrote an article called "The Snowflake Method" that you can view here. The very first step in his method is to take an hour and write a one-sentence summary of my novel. When I started working on this post (several hours ago), I wrote that this probably wouldn't take an hour...but boy was I wrong! This is actually very difficult!

Randy says this sentence will serve me forever as my 10-second selling tool. He says to go for short (15 words or less) and to include no character names. He also says to go to the NYT Bestseller lists to see their examples (although many of the one-liners I read there made me not want to read the book, and they were way over 15 words!).

So, I've done all of the above and these are what I have to show for it:

--An emotionally-wounded social worker battles her mental disorder while learning to trust again. (14 words)

--A social worker battles her mental disorder and past emotional wounds while learning to trust again. (16 words)

An emotionally-scarred social worker battles her mental disorder, reopened wounds from her past and uncertain growing feelings for an attorney who holds her future in his hand. (28 words)

--A social worker fights past wounds, including a mental disorder and fickle fiancé, while her unexpected attraction for an attorney may give her reason to trust again. (27 words)

A social worker battles her mental disorder and wounds from a fickle fiancé while facing her biggest fear of trusting again.

--A victim of rape, a social worker battles her mental disorder while her unexpected attraction toward an attorney may give her reason to trust again. (25

A rape survivor battles her mental disorder while her unexpected attraction toward an attorney may give her reason to trust again, her biggest fear. (24 words)

A rape survivor battles her subsequent mental disorder as well as her unexpected attraction toward an attorney who represents a spiritual and emotional threat to her carefully ordered life.

OKAY! WOW. I could go on forever and ever rearranging a few words to look different, but I'll stop now because I need to go to bed. Might revisit this tomorrow after sleeping on it. Whew!

Monday, February 2, 2009


Okay. I started this blog just this year, obviously, but I have come to the realization that blogging is where it's at. Everyone is doing it. I should have been doing it a long time. Not necessarily starting my own, as I'm fond of facebook and really use that as my social connecting tool. But I should have been reading blogs. Literary agents, authors, editors...they are all blogging! Giving untold amounts of useful information away...FREE.

So now I'm following several blogs and really look forward to checking out them out daily. I would highly recommend to other unpubbed authors to do this!!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Story v. Novel

I had a friend tell me the other day that watching some old movies would help me write my "stories." I know that she meant this to be a helpful comment, and I'm certainly not upset with her, as she's probably right. The oldie, but goodie, movies of, say, the 40s, have long-since been forgotten.

I got to thinking, though, about calling what I do in my spare time writing "stories." I've said this many times, and haven't thought much about it. But if I'm really serious about getting published eventually, then perhaps I ought to change my terminology.

"Stories" implies a lackadaisical attitude, doesn't it? Like, I just fiddle with writing. But to say that I'm writing a "novel" or "manuscript" implies a serious commitment to my writing, even if it is part-time.

So from this day on, I'm going to make a concerted effort not to call what I do "writing stories." I'm a novelist and I write books! :)