Friday, August 29, 2014

Writer Rehab Series : Salvation for the Plotless Wonder

I'm continuing the Writer Rehab series today-(Overcoming Goldilocks Syndrome & Writers Who Don't Write 'The End.' ). 

I've spent my share of time in writer rehab, so always know that I speak from having been there and yes, I have the t-shirt.

I've written and been stuck in the middle or sometimes the end of many a plotless wonder.

 No mandatory testing in this rehab, but if you can count any number of manuscripts you have started and abandoned or you have manuscripts that have been rejected due to lack of a viable plot, you need to be here. 

Get comfortable as we dissect this problem.

 Does your story have plot? 

First...what is plot?

Plot consists of the internal and external story goals, and the sequence of events as the protagonist/s moves toward those goals.

 Those goals are the destination of your character's story journey. The destination must be specific-you must be able to verbalize when your protagonist will arrive at their destination. You cannot arrive someplace without a map and a location.  Can you verbalize the internal and external destination?

 Conflict consists of the obstacles that are in the way of reaching their destination. What are the obstacles on your character's road? They must be threatening enough to make the reader worry right along with your character.

Sure you know the rule: Emotion on every page. 
But how do you get that emotion on every page?
By creating conflict on every page.


The truth about Episodic Writing: This phenomena occurs when there is a lovely scene is in your story which fails to advance the plot. See Janet Dean's post, "No Tea Scenes Allowed," if you need a better explanation. 

Episodic Writing occurs for two reasons: 

1. The internal and or external goals, motivations and conflicts are weak or missing.

2. You are missing scene goals that move each scene toward the external and internal goals. 

The Solution?

1. Create strong internal and external goals with believable motivation and conflict (obstacles to those goals.)

If you have serious problems with  internal and external goals and charting them, re-read Debra Dixon's Goal, Motivation and Conflict.

Author Shawntelle Madison has created a GMC Wizard for you to use.

 2. Scene goals

Scene functions to create emotion, move the story forward and create interest. Think of them as units of conflict. Several units of conflict make a chapter.

Structure of Scenes:

  • Goal->Character wants something
  • Conflict ->2 characters with incompatible goals
  • Disaster->hook & unexpected development at the end of the scene

Yes, you need Goal, Motivation and Conflict (Disaster) in your scenes too. Many of you already do this without thinking by ending on a hook or an internal.

The Journey.

Michael Hauge (our therapist for this part of rehab) breaks down the journey toward the destination into specific turning points. The formula is called the Six Stage Plot Structure of the internal and external journey.

For those of you unfamiliar with Hauge, the internal journey is the character growth arc. The growth as he defines it is from identity (how the character defines himself to the world to) to essence (their full potential that they are avoiding out of fear).

 Let me recap: six specific steps toward the destination. You can find a handy form here.  

The following is my translation of the Hero's Journey for a short romance. Adjust as needed for a novella and a longer novel.

The External Journey is in Black-The Internal Journey in Red:

 Act 1 Stage 1 (living fully in identity)
 0% Set Up
Introduction and identification. The character’s everyday life.  This is who the character was YESTERDAY.

10% Turning Point 1.
Opportunity-An opportunity presents itself. The opportunity is not your character’s desire or goal. Sometimes opportunity is simply new geography.

Opportunity creates:


Act 1 Stage 2  (50 page point  based on a 300 page story) (Glimpses, longing or destiny. Character gets a peek at living in their essence but shrugs it off)

25 % New Situation-A new situation arises. The hero learns the rules of the new situation. Generally, the character thinks this is going to be fun.

Turning Point 2-Change of plans. (50-100 pages in)
Structurally, this is the most important turning point. The finish line is established here at the 25% point. THIS IS YOUR EXTERNAL GOAL. Notice how nicely it corresponds with the end of chapter three hook?

Act II Stage 3 Progress (100-125 pages in) (Moving toward essence without leaving identity. Starting to accept the possibility of essence. Starting to pursue their longing.)
New Plan seems to be working. Obstacles are bypassed or overcome or delayed. Then things begin to be a lot tougher than the character bargained for.

50% Turning Point 3 –The point of no return. The midpoint.  (around 150 page point)
This when the traveler is closer to the destination than the point of origin. The character is so committed to the goal, that there is no turning back. There is no return to the life they were living –all bridges are burned. It is when the character’s life they have been living previously is over.

They are forced into:


Act II Stage 4 Complications and higher stakes. (at 175-200 page point) (Fully committed to essence, but fear is escalating. The protagonist is so frightened by internal conflict they retreat.)
Two things happen as a result of the character's full commitment:
1. It becomes more difficult to accomplish the goal.
2. It becomes more important to accomplish the goal.
Stakes are higher. Obstacles are greater.

75% Turning Point 4 Major Setback (at approximately 200-250 page point)

It must seem to the reader and the character that ALL IS LOST!
The character is left with very few options. The original plan is gone. But they can’t give up as their bridges have been burned.

Their only choice is the final push:

90-%  Act III Stage 5 Final Push (around 250 pages in-flexible)(Character is living their true vulnerable self, (the mask is off) with everything to lose. They realize that the old identity doesn’t work and they must be true to themselves and find their essence and thus their destiny.)

Everything is at risk. The character gives it all to achieve the goal or die trying. Everything must be at stake.

99% Turning Point 5 Climax- The journey is resolved and all goals tied up. (Climax is not only the moment of achieving the visible goal, but it is also the moment of fully realizing the character’s essence.)

Where the climax occurs (page count and percentage point) depends on how much time you need to reach Stage 6.

100% Stage 5 Aftermath. The journey is complete.   (The character’s new life in essence.)

The reader must see the new life, or if the character dies, they must be allowed to experience that emotion. The character can fail or change their mind, but the ending must be a resolution.

Optional Epilogue

For your convenience I am sharing my S.S.P.S handouts. This is how I plot. They are in  in PDF format here. The spaces are for you to enter your hero and heroine information. Here is a clip of Michael Hauge's The Hero's Two Journey's, where the Six Stage Structure originates.

As always, I am willing to put my money where my mouth is. One commenter who admits to needing rehab will win a copy of the DVD version of The Hero's Two Journeys. 

Additionally, because writer friends shouldn't let writer friends write plotless, I have another giveaway. Nominate a writer friend who would benefit from this and I will send one nominee the audio version of The Hero's Two Journeys. If you're in a critique group, nominate each other. The winner will not be announced publicity. Instead they will receive a private email announcing their win. Send your nominations to with NOMINATION in the subject header. You only have until midnight tonight (that's Friday by 11:59 PM EST) to get your nomination in.

And two readers can win a copy of my latest release from Love Inspired, Stranded with the Rancher (print to USA and Canada, ebook release September 1 to international. 

(And all those waiting for a copy to arrive, note I have completed my mailings and they are all on the way.)

The Doctor and the Cowboy

Stranded at single father Dan Gallagher's ranch during a Colorado blizzard, Dr. Beth Rogers is counting the days till the roads are clear. She can't wait to leave for her exciting new life in New York. But suddenly the big-city doctor is delivering babies in log cabins, helping to feed newborn calves and teaching Dan's little girl to play hymns on the piano. No-nonsense Beth even throws a snowball or two at the handsome, love-shy cowboy. She thought she had her heart set on leaving, so why does she dream of Dan asking her to stay forever?

Tina Radcliffe writes fun, inspirational romance for Love Inspired. She is a 2014 ACFW Mentor of the Year finalist and a 2014 ACFW Carol Award finalist in the short novel category, with her first Paradise book, Mending the Doctor’s Heart. Her latest Paradise book, Stranded with the Rancher is a September release. She also runs My Critique Partner service.

And if you liked this post, parts of which are from my online class, consider signing up for the Self-Editing for Beginners in October in Seekerville’s Night Classes

And one more note, if you're hungry, I'm serving Burrito Bowls today in the Yankee Belle Cafe AND, you can have another chance to win Stranded with the Rancher if you will please and thank you, go  say hi and happy birthday at Stitches Thru Time Blog and grab some birthday cake. They're celebrating their blog birthday over there.

P.S. Don't forget that it's Freebie Friday at eHarlequin. Buy three books and get the fourth one free.

P.S.S. I am not the only Seeker who has been in rehab. Check out this photo of Debby Giusti, Missy Tippens and Janet Dean (R) with Michael Hauge.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

More Than a Setting with Guest Blogger Mindy Obenhaus

Despite what some people may think, stories don’t just happen. They’re comprised of many different components, such as plot, characters and setting. Yet every writer writes differently.

Some start with plot. Others start with characters and then create a plot that will generate the most conflict possible. Then there are those of us who start with a setting. 

When my mother-in-law first introduced me to Ouray, Colorado, I knew I had to write a story set there. The town was so beautiful and so unlike any place I’d ever been. I wanted to tell people about Ouray. Better yet, I wanted them to experience Ouray. But how do I do that? 

 Give at least one character a job or hobby that is unique to your setting

 In my debut novel, The Doctor’s Family Reunion, my hero is a doctor. He could have been a doctor anywhere. But my heroine…she owned a Jeep tour company. Why? Because Ouray is the Jeeping capital of the world and Jeep tours are big business during the summer months. 

 In my current release, Rescuing the Texan’s Heart, my heroine is a mountain guide and avid ice climber. Okay, she also works in a store—a store that’s a one-stop shop for outdoor

Think about the setting in your manuscript. Are there any jobs or hobbies that are unique to your setting? Put your setting to work for you. I have to be careful here. Don’t want to accidently insert any spoilers. 

 When I was writing The Doctor’s Family Reunion, I knew that something potentially dangerous was going to happen to a particular character. I researched diseases and ailments until I was blue in the face before I finally decided what was wrong with them. But when I told my husband, he said, “Well, that’s silly. Why not use your setting?” Don’t you hate it when normals start to sound like writers?

But he was so right. I was trying to contrive something that could grow organically out of my setting. Which, in the end, made a much stronger story. Going back to your manuscript, how can your setting wreak havoc with your characters? 

Get to know your setting 

 As I said earlier, I wanted my readers to experience Ouray. To do that, I had to highlight the uniqueness of the town. What makes it special? If it’s a real place, how do locals view things versus how the town’s guests view them? Having a waterfall within walking distance of Main Street is no big deal for people who live in Ouray, but a photo op in front of those same falls is Christmas card worthy for guests. Whether fictional or real, think about what makes your setting special. The added bonus for fictional settings is that you can always create something special. 

(Yes, that’s my son behind Cascade Falls) 

 Explore your setting 

Because Ouray is a real place, I had to get to know it not only as the guest that I usually am, but also through the eyes of the people who live in Ouray. In other words, I had to learn what they might do or where they might go. While all the tourists are flocking to Yankee Boy Basin, the locals might head to some little known place like Clear Lake. Had it not been for my friend Brandy who owns a Jeep tour company in Ouray, I wouldn’t even know Clear Lake existed. 

Setting can be a powerful tool. With a little thought and planning or research and exploration, it can be more than a setting. Done well, it can be a secondary character. What’s your first step in creating a story? Plot, characters or setting?


If you’d like to win a copy of my latest release, Rescuing the Texan’s Heart, be sure to leave a comment. 

 Rescuing the Texan’s Heart

Cash Coble is desperate for a change. 
After working in the family business for ten years, he's stressed
out and overworked. When he heads to Colorado to visit his ailing grandfather, he finds his mood lifted by the beautiful woman living next door. After a troubled past, ice climber Taryn Purcell isn't looking for love. Especially not with a charming Texan who's consumed by work. But there's something about Cash that captures her heart. Never one to back down from a challenge, Taryn promises to show Cash how to carve out a happy life—one that includes her.

 Mindy Obenhaus lives in Texas with her husband and two of her five children. Her debut novel, The Doctor’s Family Reunion, is a finalist in ACFW’s 2014 Carol Awards and her second book, Rescuing the Texan’s Heart, is a September release. When she’s not writing, Mindy enjoys cooking, reading and spending time with her grandkids.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


with guest Pamela Tracy.

It was a dark and stormy night as the rabid reader climbs the trellis outside the inspirational romance novelist’s home. Looking right and left, Rabid Reader assures herself that she hasn’t been seen. Good. She’s trained for this day: hours of lifting heavy books, crunching numbers to be able to buy all the books she wanted, and bending page corners to keep her place in such wonderful books.

Dressed in black, she feels a bit like a cat burglar. Only it isn’t jewels she wants; it’s information.

After she climbs through the conveniently unlocked window and lands quietly on soft carpet, she tiptoes across the bedroom and looks down the hallway. There, two doors down, comes a soft light. That's the room! The office where Pamela Tracy works, writes stories, stories that have driven Rabid Reader to tonight’s deed.

Pamela: Ouch. Hey, what’s with the rope?

Rabid Reader: I’ve tied you up. Now you won’t be able to type another work until you tell me all your secrets.

Pamela: Secrets? Me? I’m on deadline? I’m too tired to have secrets.

Rabid Reader (waving the cover of Pamela’s last Harlequin Heartwarming titled What Janie Saw) : It’s all your fault. I start these stories, and I have to read them in one setting because I have to know whodunit.

Pamela: And you’re telling me this why?

Rabid Reader: So I can finally wake up in the morning with more than five hours sleep, so I won’t be looking at my clock all day and thinking when can I get back to the book, so I won’t be at work and wondering if I’m – just like the heroines in your book - just one step from the extraordinary, so…

Pamela: I get it. You’re wondering how a romance writer, one who pens suspense, works? Specifically how I, a wife, teacher, mother, friend, come up with these plots that keep you guessing until the end?

Rabid Reader: Yeah.

Pamela: Untie me and I’ll tell you.

Rabid Reader (picking up a bookmark and aiming it at Pamela): No, I don’t trust you.

Pamela: Good, never trust a inspirational romance novelist. We just might put you in a book.

Rabid Reader: That would be grand. I love all this characterization stuff you guys do. Just what do you do?

Pamela: My heroines are always 1/3 me, 1/3 someone I know, and 1/3 spunk. My heroes depend on the book I’m writing.

Rabid Reader: What are you working on now?

Pamela: Well, right now I'm writing a 70,000 word Harlequin Heartwarming.  It doesn’t have a title yet.  I’m calling it Yolanda’s Legacy.  I’m sure the name will be changed to the Secret Cowboy’s Pregnant Bride or something like that.  (Just kidding.  It’s not about a cowboy.)  I’m waiting for revisions for a Love Inspired contemporary. It will be out in April and is called Finally a Hero. Not very suspensy.

Rabid Reader: No, not very suspensy.

Pamela: You want me to talk about my next book?

Rabid Reader: Yes.

Pamela: Well, it’s called  Holiday Homecoming.  My hero is Jimmy Murphy, a journalist/maker of documentaries about animals and their plight. He doesn’t believe animals should be penned... ever.  He’s a Matt Damon type.  (Yes, yes, I watched the movie a hundred time and soon couldn’t get the man out of my book.  Me, I wanted Johnny Depp.  Matt said, Nope, my turn.) My heroine Meredith Stone works at an animal habitat and has felt the sting of his prose.  She’s also the girl he left behind ten years earlier.  Now, he’s in Scorpion Ridge, Arizona, because his little girl needs a place to call home.  Soon, he realizes home is with Meredith.  And, yes, there is a mystery.

Rabid Reader: Oh, I wish I could meet him.

Pamela: Buy the book online.

Rabid Reader: I will. Hey, you have a television in your office. Way cool. What are you watching?

Pamela: Bones.

Rabid Reader: Is that your favorite show?

Pamela: No, I do like it, but I watch it for mood only. You can’t trust it for fact. See, the investigators on the show have way too much freedom with crime scenes. When I write, I have to pay attention to what my readers will believe. Personally, I don’t believe all I see on Bones. I actually am really into The Gilmore Girls right now. On DVD, of course, during their heyday I was much too busy meeting deadlines to get to watch.

Rabid Reader: Judging by your books, I’d not take you as a Gilmore Girls fan.

Pamela: My critique group actually made me stop watching the Gilmore Girls. They said I was starting to put cutesy stuff in my suspense novels.

Rabid Reader: Where’s your critique group now? If they were loyal writer buds, they’d be here rescuing you.

Pamela: They’re too busy to rescue me. We all have a three pages a day goal. Then, we meet once every two weeks for critique. They’re brutal, which a suspense writer really needs.

Rabid Reader (Finding the pre-order for Holiday Homecoming on her Kindle and waving it around): You mean, you wrote this book at just three pages a day.

Pamela: Well, I wish I’d written it in three pages a day increments. But really, I have a full-time job (college professor), a husband, a son (in elementary school) and so many other things to do (clean house, attend church, judge contests) that I’d start with my three pages a book goal (Did you know that at three pages a day, you can write three books a year?) and eventually I’d be behind and start trying for five pages a day until I’d be really behind and writing ten pages a day for ten days. It works. By the time I get to the last 100 pages, I’m flying.

Rabid Reader (frowning at book): Wow, a college professor. Do most writers have day jobs?

Pamela: Yeah, I’m pretty sure.

Rabid Reader: Do you get your ideas during your day job?

Pamela: No, my all-time favorite book, Pursuit of Justice, came to me when I kept noticing the same homeless woman in my old neighborhood.  She was about my age and size.  I got this “What if” idea.  A whole book idea came from that moment.

Rabid Reader: A whole book idea!  The idea came complete, all you had to do is write it?

Pamela: No, I had to write the synopsis, which is never easy for me. I always know my beginning and my end, but the middle is pretty much a mystery. I have four papers with two columns on them. I label the first column with the heroine’s name and the next column with the hero’s. Then, I starting coming up with at least three harrowing events per chapter that will happen to both. In one of my books, a Love Inspired Suspense, Fugitive Family, there’s warnings posted on doors, flattened tires, tornados, corpses. Oops, I’m telling you too much. I need you to buy the book and then read it. Oh, and I also research. I found a bank manager and investigated what his life was like because I made the hero a bank manager. The heroine is a lawyer. Then, I also researched things like fallout shelters and go-go boots and stalkers and-

Rabid Reader: Stop, all of those things are in here! In one little book. See, that’s why I broke in tonight. You put all these great plot points in a book, and then I buy it, and pretty soon I’m losing sleep because I try to read it in one setting.

Pamela: I think you lose sleep because you’re reading and training to be a cat burglar when you should be sleeping.

Rabid Reader: Do you have a cat?

Pamela: Yes, his name is Tyre.

Rabid Reader (suddenly studying the walls and pictures in Pamela’s office): Do you have any jewels?

Pamela: Hey, I thought you were here to find out how I wrote books?

Rabid Reader: Yeah, but you just told me that most writers have other jobs. I’ll be a cat burglar by night and a writer by day. Thanks for helping me out.

Pamela Tracy is an award-winning author who lives with her husband (He claims to be the inspiration for most of her heroes) and son (He claims to be the interference for most of her writing time.) She was raised in Omaha, Nebraska, and started writing at a very young age (a series of romances, all with David Cassidy as the hero. Sometimes Bobby Sherman would interfere). Then, while earning a BA in Journalism at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, she picked up the pen again only this time, it was an electric typewriter on which she wrote a very bad science fiction novel.)  First published in 1999 by Barbour Publishing, She has written more than twenty-five books/novellas/devotions and has sold more than a million copies.  She's written contemporary, historical and suspense - all in the romance genre.  Her 2007 suspense Pursuit of Justice was a Rita finalist.  Her 2009 suspense Broken Lullaby won the American Christian Fiction Writers' Carol award.   

Sandra again to thank Pamela for such a fun and informative post.

So to summarize, you:
1. Design a third of your character's traits after someone you know  (Beware friends of Pamela)
2. Watch suspense shows to get in the mood.
3. Use a critique group to keep you in line.
4. Have reasonable goals like 3 pages a day, but don't freak out if you don't meet them. You just find time somewhere to make it up.
5.You make a chart for hero and heroine and list three harrowing events per chapter.

These all sound like great tips for a busy working mom.  And folks, on top of this, Pamela keeps her marvelous sense of humor.  I'm sure that plays a big part in her success in juggling all of her commitments.

Do you have any questions for suspense author, Pamela Tracy?  For those who comment we will put you in the doggy dish for a drawing of a kindle copy of Pamela's Rita finalist novel, Pursuit of Justice and another winner will receive a copy of Carol Award winner, Broken Lullaby.

Pamela loves Irish shepherd pie  (we shared some at Desert Dreams conference )  so I have put out a huge casserole dish of Irish Shepherd pie for all to enjoy.  You don't have to cook tonight so watch out for that cat burglar.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

When is a Rejection Letter a Beautiful Thing?

Sandra here with her latest rejection letter in hand.

And I'm not crying.

Nope. I'm doing a Snoopy dance.

Yep, I received a great rejection letter.

The reason this rejection letter was great is the editor took the time to write and inform me of the strengths she saw in my writing. She took the time to explain why this particular manuscript wouldn't fit into her line. She took the time to explain some elements she was looking for in her line. She took the time to point out some solutions to the problems.

Wowza!  A busy editor took that much time on a proposal of a manuscript she wasn't going to buy. Do you know what that tells me?  That tells me the editor liked my writing. That tells me the editor thinks I am worth her time. That tells me not to give up. A rejection letter like this is Encouragement with a capital E.

So how many of you out there have received rejection letters?

And just so you know, that once you are published doesn't mean you won't ever receive another rejection letter.  No way. Published authors receive rejection letters and dread them just as much as a "not published yet" author.

One of the speakers at Desert Dreams Conference who is Best Selling author showed us all the rejection letters she had received in her career.  They filled a suitcase.  And she stated she had over 1,000.  Well she has been writing a long time. But the point is, she didn't let those rejection letters get in her way. She pushed on to the best seller list.

Rejection in a suitcase

So what does that mean? How can a rejection letter be great?

Here are some of the reasons:

1. A busy editor thought enough of your writing to take the time to respond. This validates your writing.  It shows you write well and other factors were involved in the rejection.

2. The editor or agent who rejected you, may have left helpful hints and/or suggestions for improvement. This is an opportunity to improve your manuscript. They may ask you to resubmit. Be sure you do it because this now becomes a requested manuscript and passes up the slush pile.

3. The editor or agent thought enough of your writing to respond so they like your writing style.  If they don't ask you to resend the one they rejected, they will more than likely be interested in something else you wrote. So get busy and send them another proposal.

4. Your rejection may have had nothing to do with your writing, but may simply have been some other in-house reason to reject it.

For more detailed information on the reasons, check out the post I wrote in 2012 on rejection letters .

The above reasons are practical reasons why a rejection letter can be great. But there are deep underlying and spiritual reasons also:

One thing about having lived this long and written this long,  is hind-sight is very enlightening.  We may be certain that God has given us a gift to write and that He expects us to use it.  But then we become puzzled with why we get so many rejections when we are so sure we are supposed to be writing.

Well it isn't my place to question God's wisdom, but hindsight and living life has enlightened me to a small degree.  (Notice I said SMALL degree lol)

1. It isn't the right time:  There have been many times in my life when circumstances would have made it next to impossible, for me anyway, to have fulfilled a contract. I have gone through some circumstances that made me say "thank you" that I received that rejection letter.

2. Need more information:  Maybe I needed more experience or research. My heart's desire to write a historical that begins in Spain has been put off for years because I knew that I needed to go to Spain before starting that novel. Well, it took me awhile to get there, but as you know, I went last fall so now have that research and I also made contacts for further research. So thankfully that proposal was delayed.

Roman bridge in Spain

3. Another reason related to time is maybe the timing of the novel isn't right: Love's Miracles is a story about a Vietnam Veteran.  I received rejections for that book because it was too soon to publish a book about that heart wrenching time.  But now it is well received because it has become historical. There are many books that were rejected, but became popular because the time was right for them.

So what does knowing all these wonderful reasons for rejection mean to us as writers? I am hoping that it will give you encouragement to keep on writing in spite of rejections and seeming impossibilities.  Look for the bright side when a rejection comes. Think beyond the immediate disappointment and look for the positive implications.

Does anyone have a wonderful rejection letter story to share?  Please do because it helps to build our hope and faith. We can say all we want about relying on Him and having faith in our work, but sometimes it is tough to see until we've lived a little and can look back.

Sees Candy has a Build Your Own Dream Box  so help  yourself and let's hear how you are doing. Yummmm

Build your dream box at

Thanks to Walt Mussell's suggestion earlier today, I will give a $25.00 gift card from See's Candy to the winner.  You can build your own dream box.  


Preview for my September blog post.  Last weekend, my former editor, Amber Stokes came to SunRiver, Oregon on vacation and we finally met face-to-face.   We had lunch at Hola's and talked and talked.

Amber on her bicycle in front of Holas!

It was soooooooo much fun to meet someone you have worked with for the past couple years.  She has a new job she is going to tell us all about in September so keep watch.

Sandra and Amber

Monday, August 25, 2014

Maybe She Was Born With It...

Does anybody remember those timed skills assessment tests in high school? The ones with hundreds, dare I say, thousands, of O’s on page after page with a few C’s thrown in? Well, I hated them because I rarely finished before the teacher called time. And, since they said they were timed, finishing was important, right? I had a good friend who almost always finished these kinds of tests, and of course I thought she was a lot smarter than I was because of it.


Turns out that even though I didn’t get through with the tests most of the time, I usually found more C’s than she did. So, she was fast and could get done on time, even if she wasn’t that accurate. I, on the other hand, rarely finished, but the sections I got through were pretty close to being accurate.

I really wasn’t the fastest typist in the world either. Why? Because they had to drag me out from under my desk every time I hit the wrong key. Okay, that might be a stretch, but as someone whose natural bent is accuracy over speed, I had to force myself to try to type really, really fast and ignore the typos if I wanted to make a decent grade. Ouch. Typing class. A very traumatic experience.

Fast forward a few years (oh ten, fifteen years… tops) after those high school years and I still struggle when it comes to accuracy over speed. Why can’t I have both? Why can’t I just spit out a blog post in thirty minutes, or a chapter on my novel in a matter of hours? It’s rare that we find someone who can “bring home the bacon AND fry it up in a pan” and do both equally well, but it seems that we as authors expect it of ourselves. I know I do.

First and foremost, our first priority is to our books, so we either have to improve our productivity or learn when to step back from obligations that overwhelm us. So, what are these other obligations? Blogging, interviews, Q&As, interacting on social media, book signings, conferences, speaking engagements all fall under the "work" of a writer. Those activities take time, and they’re valuable to an author as a marketing tool, but some of us detail-oriented folks find ourselves spending way more time on them than we should when we really need to write.

I’ve known friends who take 8-10 hours to write a blog post, and I'm amazed when someone can just whip one out in a matter of minutes. I personally took several hours to write a four sentence endorsement. I was in a hotel room in St. Louis (and I’ll be BACK there in a few weeks…ACFW, here we come!) at the time with another author. She couldn’t believe it was taking me so long to write a measly four sentences, but I wanted that endorsement to be just right…memorable. Finally, it clicked and I was able to send it off. Otherwise, I guess I’d still be sitting there scribbling away.

I don’t know all the answers for getting all the “writerly” tasks done on time, and done well, but a few of the Seekers and I have a few tips for the detail-oriented among us that might help us all up our game.

Missy Tippens, a goal-oriented Seeker, said, “I'm a natural perfectionist who plots and plans and frets before I ever start. But I've had to try to learn to limit that tendency because it really slows me down. I'm trying to force myself to jump in and get going. Especially for proposals, figuring once I make the sale I can spend more time to get the story exactly the way I want it.”

First, if you’re detail-oriented, don’t wait until the last minute and pull an all-nighter like a ninth-grader writing her first term paper. Write out the rough-draft of your blog, interview, answer that Q&A, work on that speech you're scheduled to give to the lady’s luncheon in two months. Just get it out there, as messy as it is. The sooner, the better. The old saying of “you can’t fix a blank page” applies to extra-curricular writing tasks as much as it does to your contracted novel.

Julie Lessman says, “HA!  I’m “born with it,” all right — a CDQ (caffeinated drama queen) personality that also suffers from MSD (Martha Stewart Disease). Which means I’m a “detail-oriented perfectionist” who has actually piped dinner guest’s initials in their twice-baked potato — now that’s true anality!  Which is why I generally only write one book a year. BUT … I know I am capable of “fast and furious” because I wrote my 2nd book, A Passion Redeemed (580 pages) in one month (two months working part-time, actually, which full time would be one month), so I have it in me. I just wish it would come out a little more often … :)”

Julie has the passion and the perfectionist part down pat, and she can be fast-and-furious when the need arises. Hopefully she’ll join us today and share her secret for how she accomplished all that in two months!

I love this answer from Mary Connealy, who seems to be on the opposite end of the spectrum: a fast-and-furious writer who gets things done at warp speed. (Mary has been known to email me and ask about this or that deadline, or for a copy of some email that she knows I kept, so I know of whence I speak.)

Mary says, “I am, honestly, utterly disorganized. I am a woman who can't find the clothes she planned to wear, or realizes they're in the wash. I forget the perfect pair of earrings purchased specifically for this [or that] outfit. I get asked to do some simple thing and it bounces off my brain and into the stratosphere. It's some kind of learning disability. (I'm saying that to keep from having to take any responsibility)

But when it comes to writing, none of this seems to apply. I don't have to fight my nature. I don't forget or ignore. I get my books done ahead of time, every time. Same with revisions and galley edits. I put in the time daily, always, to get my 1000 words written. The only reason I can figure out that I'm so different with my writing than EVERY OTHER ASPECT OF MY LIFE is simply that......I love it.

I love writing. I love being published. I never, ever, ever get over being HONORED that a publisher has advanced money to me and signed a contract with me. This is my dream come true and I am so grateful it happened and I simple LOVE IT!”

From the feedback from these Seekers, and what I know about myself, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that a detail-oriented perfectionist’s greatest stumbling block is getting embroiled in a project (research, balancing the checkbook, reading/editing a blog post, etc.) and surfacing hours later, and realizing that you just spent a whole day researching the life of a gnat and you're not even writing about gnats!

The second problem for perfectionists is fear which manifests itself in procrastination. The savvy author who’s been around for a while doesn’t let fear rule them and they do as Missy said, they start and they keep going--early and often. 

The biggest hurtle for the fast-and-furious person who races to the finish line (and I’m guessing here since I am NOT this person!) might be the time it takes to polish their projects after the fact. And researching gnats because they failed to do it first. Please, people, get your gnat research in order!

We all come to the table with different skill sets, and each of us have to figure out our own way to get everything done, but the answers I received from the Seekers taught me one thing—actually, I already knew it—but their answers just reminded my head what my heart already knew...

The Seekers and friends might not have been born with it, but baby, we've got it in spades.

What is it?

It is passion, determination, and grit to go out of their comfort zone and get the job done no matter what it takes.

Oh, and my friend from high school? She ended up managing a deli at a very busy grocery store and I ended up in computer science and crunching numbers. Appropriate, huh? Pam Hillman lives and writes in Mississippi. The Evergreen Bride (White Christmas Brides), coming soon!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Weekend Edition

We're talking about our favorite movie kisses in Seekerville as August 25th, and National Kiss and Makeup Day approaches. 

I've been converted to the swoon-worthy kiss from North and South. What about you? (Best Period Drama Kisses from Lady Victorian)


We Have Winners

  Be sure to contact us if you are a winner (send an email to with your snail mail address unless email is specified). We don't have time to track you down. Do let us know if you don't receive your prize in 6-8 weeks. Rules are located here, on our legal page.

Monday we welcomed bestselling and Christy Award-winning author DiAnn Mills! "Where is Your Warrior?" Writers march to their computers every day to battle with words. If you doubt your fighting skills, DiAnn provided ten ways you can find the warrior in you. Kathy Albright is the winner of DiAnn's new release Firewall.

Tuesday we welcomed back Love Inspired Historical author Sherri Shackelford with her post, "Are We Selling Books or Selling Out?" Heidi I and Heidi Robbins are the winners of  The Cattleman Meets His Match!

Award winning Love Inspired Suspense author Debby Giusti shared, "Reflections on RWA 2014," on Wednesday, with information she gleaned from the conference, along with her observations about why RWA is a conference worth attending.  Winners of Debby's newest release, Mission: Christmas Rescue, featured in Holiday Defenders are: Tracey Hagwood, Wilani Wahl, Sherida Stewart, Misty Gaoutte-Clarkson, and Walt Mussell. Congrats! Debby reminds everyone who likes her stories to please consider posting a review!

Thursday we welcomed  Vickie McDonough  with tips and tricks on "Writing Historical Dialect" Winners of  Song of the Prairie are Doreen and Helen Gray.

Friday we celebrated with Astrea Press debut author Chris Lorenzen! Chris inspired us with her first sale story, "It All Started Because I Wanted to Meet Debbie Macomber." Oopsie- Cindy W is the winner of of her e-book, A Husband for Danna.


Next Week in Seekerville

 Monday:Maybe She's Born With It.... Nah. Probably not. Tyndale author Pam Hillman is your hostess Monday and she wasn't born fast, but she was born thorough. Pam's on a mission to increase productivity, whether that is in writing books, blog posts, answering interview questions, cooking dinner, or ... you get the drift.

Tuesday:Montlake Romance and Indie author Sandra Leesmith will talk about how a rejection letter can be a great thing.  Yes, there are such things as wonderful rejection letters. Join us and lets discuss how that can happen.

 Wednesday:Multi-published author Pamela Tracy will join us with the suspenseful thriller,  "Curious Case of the Rabid Reader."Join us for a fun interview with the author.

 Thursday:Today we'll talk setting with Love Inspired author, and 2014 Carol Award finalist, Mindy Obenhaus, in "More Than a Setting" and she’ll be giving away a copy of her September release Rescuing the Texan’s Heart.

Friday: Seeker and 2014 Carol Award finalist Tina Radcliffe is back in rehab. Writer Rehab. Her series continues with: "Salvation for the Plotless Wonder."

Seeker Sightings

 Tina Radcliffe is guesting at the Seriously Write Blog on Wednesday, August 27th. Stop by for her post, "I'm Peddling as Fast as I Can."

Then join Tina Friday in the Yankee Belle Cafe for a yummy Burrito Bowl! 

She'll top it off with birthday cake as she joins the gang at Stitches Thru Time who are celebrating their blog birthday. Tina's post is called, "Guarding Your Growing Work," and she's giving away a birthday present of course!

Random News & Information

 Check out the September 2014 Releases in Category Fiction at Soul Inspirationz and enter the HUGE Giveaway! Ends Sunday, August 24 NZDT

Exciting news! You can now get a digital subscription to the Love Inspired book lines delivered automatically to your e reader. Details here.

Get The Scoop on One of the Newest Romance Imprints! - Interview with Managing Editor, Sandie Bricker  (Novel Rocket)

 Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook Review (PW)

 Reading Literature on Screen: A Price for Convenience? (NYT)

 Valley of the Sun Romance Writers Group will only be accepting entries for a few more days and they are LOW ON ENTRIES!! More information on how you can enter can be found here.

Don't forget the Phoenix Rattler closes to entries on August 29th. Details here.

 The Amazing Book Race: We pitted Amazon vs. Google in a same-day delivery test, and this is who won (GeekWire)

 The 15 Habits of Highly Successful Authors and Writers (The Publishing Profits Podcast Show)

 ALS ‘Ice Bucket’ Challenge an Unprecedented Viral Hit, Christian Celebs Get Wet for the Cause (Christian Retailing)

 New Pure Amore imprint to promote abstinence (Christian Retailing)

Publishers Are Giving Away Bestsellers For Free (The Book Insider)

Agent Steve Laube is speaking at the Desert Rose RWA on Tuesday August 26th: MONTI'S LA CASA VIEJA. 100 S. MILL AVE., TEMPE 85281 (Non members welcome to up to three meetings before joining.) Agenda: 5:00 p.m. | Optional Dinner & Networking-6:00 p.m. | Business Meeting, Reports, Announcements, Roses & Quills & Raffle | Book Signing | 6:45 – 8:00 p.m. Main Program will be: Today's Agent: Changing Times 101 

There's One New Book on Amazon Every Five Minutes (Passive Voice)

That's it. Have a great weekend!