Writing – Keep on, Keeping on

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by DiAnn Mills, @diannmills

Writing is a series of keep on keeping on. Our minds are geared toward the latest project while balancing social media and staying up to date on the craft and changes in the publishing industry.

We waken at 3 a.m. with a forgotten deadline looming over us like a bad case of flu. Yikes! How did I miss that! We bolt from the bed and race to our computers to confirm what we already know is true. For the next few hours until the rest of the world wakens, we’re digging ourselves out of an unfinished manuscript.

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I’ve been there, and you probably have too. Our scheduled writing day now means doubling up tomorrow, and we think seriously about giving up writing and handing the task to a more capable writer.

Many of us thought writing would be free of the worries and hassles of a boss. We longed for the day when we could toss aside the need to clock in, stay late, and arrive early for a job that didn’t excite us. We craved to be a writer. But we’ve discovered numerous demands are made on our time and effort from: publishers, agents, editors, copy editors, publicists, critique partners, readers and family responsibilities. Is this worth it?

Dear writer friend, we can’t go there. Don’t even think about quitting, or I’ll be camped at your front door balancing a computer, dictionary, thesaurus, and triple espresso. Our conversation won’t be pretty. Abandoning our dreams can cast us into a pit where failures and weaklings whine and complain. Who wants easy and manageable?

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Creativity is part of our DNA. Our blood races with the joy of arranging and rearranging words. We thrive on stories that contain amazing characters, unique plots, witty dialogue, purposeful setting, deep emotion, and even editing. Our job can be strenuous, but look at the rewards of a worthwhile manuscript that touches our readers’ hearts?

If we think back to the time when writing began as a dream, the urge to communicate through the written word became so powerful we didn’t know what to do with the idea. Ignoring it made the need greater. A realization swirled deep inside us. We could no longer deny our calling as a writer.

  • We sensed the power of touching the world with our prose.
  • We drew on our passion to entertain, inspire, and encourage readers with story.
  • We found a purposein our lives, one that is richly fulfilling.

Let’s make a list of why we love writing. Use sensory perception and feel the emotions of a job well done, a job worth all the effort.

My encouragement to you is to keep on keeping on.

How do pull yourself back up when life threatens belief in yourself?


High Treason

When Saudi Prince Omar bin Talal visits Houston to seek cancer treatment for his mother, an attempt on his life puts all agencies on high alert. FBI Special Agent Kord Davidson is the lead on the prince’s protective detail because of their long-standing friendship, but he’s surprised – and none too happy – when the CIA brings one of their operatives, Monica Alden, in on the task force after the assassination attempt. Kord and Monica must quickly put aside inter-agency squabbles, however, when they learn the prince has additional motives for his visit – plans to promote stronger ties with the US and encourage economic growth and westernization in his own country. Plans that could easily incite a number of suspects both in the US and in countries hostile to Saudi Arabia. Worse yet, the would-be assassin always seems to be one step ahead of them, implicating someone close to the prince – or the investigation. But who would be willing to commit high treason, and can Kord and Monica stop them in time?

DiAnn Mills is an award winning writer who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She currently has more than fifty-five books published. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won placements through the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards and Inspirational Reader’s Choice awards. DiAnn won the Christy Award in 2010 and 2011. DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a Craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. Find her on the web at www.diannmills.com.

Realistic Dialogue is a Must

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By Hallee Bridgeman, @halleeb

Before I started writing, I was a reader who could never stop reading a book – meaning, if I started it, no matter how much I didn’t enjoy it, I had to keep reading to the end; even if it meant that I had to skim my way through it.

That changed one day when reading some historical romance by an author I can’t remember. The book started well enough. The heroine was a widow, alone on the estate, afraid. A storm had picked up and lightning flashed in the night sky. A loud cracking sound of a door banging had her leaving the warmth and safety of her home to go out to the barn to make sure a door hadn’t blown open.

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Okay, so we have a young woman who was afraid, and she goes to the barn and finds – a man. A stranger. (A tall, dark and handsome stranger, but I digress.)

And she’s alone. And afraid.

What do you think she does?

She doesn’t run back to her house and lock all the doors and windows and get the shotgun and make sure it’s loaded. No. She begins this long expository on the history of the area and the history of the house and how it was built by her grandfather and left to her father and left to her and her now late husband. You’re going to think I’m exaggerating with this next part, but I’m not. This dialogue took up FOUR PAGES. FOUR. It would have been agonizing to read four paragraphs, much less four pages. If I’d been that tall, dark, handsome stranger, I would have re-saddled my horse and took off back in the storm.

Now, I was a voracious reader and had read my share of not great books in my lifetime. However, this was truly the first book I ever threw across the room.

Writing good dialogue is important. Do you know why? Because the reader needs to hear the dialogue in his head. It needs to ring true to him, to sound like something people will actually say. If it doesn’t, then your book might get tossed across the room. Or, it might get deleted off of an ereader. And that reader will never come back to your books.

How do you make your dialogue realistic?

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If it doesn’t sound right and normal and natural to you, then it’s not going to read normal and natural and right to your reader.

Make sure the dialogue is organic to the scene and not just used to drive the story – or to show off your research abilities. Picture the scene in your head, the movements of the characters, the lighting, the noises. Then, speak the words your character would say. Do they fit that scene? Does it make sense that your character just said that? If the answer is no, then find something else to do other than that dialogue.

If you said yes, then, wonderful! Put it in there. Continue the conversation until your characters have said exactly what they need to say before they end the conversation.

In the self-editing phase, make sure that all of the dialogue is tight and right. My number one trick to that is to read it out loud. I know it feels silly. Trust me, I’ve written 24 novels, and I’ve sat at my computer and read every single one of them out loud. The silliness doesn’t ever go away when you start with chapter 1, but by the end of the book, you’re in a flow and it feels less awkward.

What you benefit from that is the ability to hear your dialogue – and you use a different part of your brain when you hear versus when you read. So, if it sounds right to you reading it out loud, it will definitely sound right to the reader who is reading it.

Read More Writing Tips

Numbering Your Days with One Word by  Beth K. Vogt

How Christian is Your Fiction? by Dan Walsh

How to Show and When to Tell by Susan May Warren


Jade’s Match

Two Olympians are matched in a media campaign that turns into something more than a game.

Rio Games silver medalist and social media darling CORA “JADE” ANDERSON is approached by a popular cell phone company to launch a flirty but fake media campaign with ice hockey star DAVIS ELLIOTT. When things get off to a rocky start, Cora and Davis both wonder what they’ve gotten into and how they’ll get through the months until the Korean games.

It’s not long until things start to warm up between the athletes and soon this fake romance becomes something much more real. Cora knows just how to work social media and engage her fans, and as the world watches and interacts with them, their love grows. When Davis is selected for Team USA, the opposition starts. As a Korean American, he’s already facing odds Cora can never comprehend, but he takes his frustration at the racism to the ice and lets the puck take the beating.

Things come to a head just weeks before the games begin. Can Davis and Cora’s very public relationship survive the aftermath of a very public confrontation, or are they going to have to let their love go when the Olympic flame is extinguished at the closing ceremonies?

With more than half a million book sales, Hallee Bridgeman is a best-selling Christian author who writes action-packed romantic suspense focusing on realistic characters who face real world problems. Her work has been described as everything from refreshing to heart-stopping exciting and edgy.

An Army brat turned Floridian, Hallee finally settled in central Kentucky with her family so that she could enjoy the beautiful changing of the seasons. She enjoys the roller-coaster ride thrills that life with a National Guard husband, a college sophomore daughter, and two elementary aged sons delivers.

A prolific writer, when she’s not penning novels, you will find her in the kitchen, which she considers the ‘heart of the home’. Her passion for cooking spurred her to launch a whole food, real food “Parody” cookbook series. In addition to nutritious, Biblically grounded recipes, readers will find that each cookbook also confronts some controversial aspect of secular pop culture.

Hallee is a member of the Published Author Network (PAN) of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) where she serves as a long time board member in the Faith, Hope, & Love chapter. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the American Christian Writers (ACW) as well as being a member of Novelists, Inc. (NINC).

Hallee loves coffee, campy action movies, and regular date nights with her husband. Above all else, she loves God with all of her heart, soul, mind, and strength; has been redeemed by the blood of Christ; and relies on the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide her. She prays her work here on earth is a blessing to you and would love to hear from you. You find Hallee on her blog at halleebridgeman.com.

 

Maturing Writer

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By Peter Leavell, @PeterLeavell

A few years ago, after bedtime, my daughter would wake and wander into our room. Sometimes she was scared. Or she needed a drink. As she grew, she wanted to talk about God. Other nights, life was getting her down.

At the time, I was tired. The half-awake chats were a bit frustrating. But now, I miss those days.

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She’s matured to age 14. As I kiss her goodnight, I know she’ll probably work out her problems herself like I’ve taught her, and I’ll receive a decent night’s sleep. No more visits unless the problem is extreme.

Of course, I’ll be there for her.

In one way, I’ve worked myself out of a job. Which lends itself to a manifest of churning emotions.

Beginning writers need help. They come out of their writing caves with little idea what the world holds. They turn to those with more experience, those with who have lived more writing life.

That’s good. That’s how it’s done.

Eventually, the beginner will mature. They’ll stop paying for our classes and following our blogs. They’ll go on to create their own disciples. They’ll be contemporaries.

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I’ve noticed some beginners who don’t go past writing childhood. Some are fearful of the next stage of maturity and remain locked in learning. Others receive terrible advice, and when followed, their growth is hampered. And some enjoy the status of the eternal beginner.

That’s okay. Our advice, as best as we can give it, is only as good as the work we’ve done—how mature we are. We keep changing. Because we keep studying. We keep learning. We continue looking for more advanced writers to feed us advice.

We’re working ourselves out of writing parenthood. But there’s so many more children to care for!

All this is terribly obvious. But I’ve two points.

  1. Keep Keep studying. Keep looking for help and keep helping.
  2. Writers are a family. Every day, we’re looking out for one another. Pssst, you used the wrong word here. Hey, you do a great job with titles. Can I get some help with something? Critics don’t get our work, so that bad review is okay. 

We care for one another!

Thanks for being part of this amazing family!

Read More Writing Tips

Sparking Emotions in Your Readers by Kathleen Freeman

5 Types of Rough Drafts by Michelle Griep

The Rhythm of Rest by Allen Arnold


Dino Hunters: Discovery in the Desert

Siblings Josh and Abby Hunter don’t believe their parents’ death was an accident. After taking pictures of the most incredible find of the 1920’s—proof humans and dinosaurs lived together in the same time and place—desperate outlaws armed with tommy guns are on their tail! Only Josh and Abby know where the proof is hidden—in the canyons of Arizona’s desert. When an intruder searches Josh and Abby’s bags inside their new home, the two convince their uncle Dr. David Hunter to return to the canyon and find the pictures they’d hidden. But the outlaws are just as eager to find the proof before Josh and Abby. Can Josh use his super-smart brain to outfox the villains in time? Will Abby’s incredible physical abilities stop full-grown men? And will their uncle believe them?
Dino Hunters is an apologetics-adventure series aimed at the middle reader to help them trust the Bible from the very first verse.

Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. For entertainment, he reads historical books, where he finds ideas for new novels. Whenever he has a chance, he takes his wife and two homeschooled children on crazy but fun research trips. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com

Placing A Character On A Movie Set

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by Rachel Hauck, @RachelHauck 

Serendipity.

Just as I finished a book where the contemporary story revolved around a script and movie, I traveled to a movie set!

Maybe that’s more like irony than serendipity.

Anyway…

Once Upon A Prince is wrapping up as I type, a soon-to-be-aired Hallmark Channel movie.

AHHHHHHHH!

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Who knew when I woke up at the crack-of-before-dawn to watch Prince William marry the lovely Catherine Middleton that I’d have the spark of an idea which would one day come to life on the Hallmark Channel.

There’s my serendipity.

Beyond the honor and sheer emotion of seeing characters life that only lived in my head, I learned some things about being on a movie set.

If you want to set your characters on a movie set, here’s some tips.

First let me say just say the language may vary from movie company to movie company, but the tips I put down here should suffice for your story book movie.

First team – the main actors.

Second team – the stand-in cast. This could be one or more actors who play bit parts or background cast who stand in for the stars during staging and lighting.

When the director calls for the second team, he’s calling for those stand-ins. When he’s ready to shoot, he calls for the first team.

Also, he calls the actors by their real name or character name.

If you’re writing a scene with characters on set, you could call for the first team, or call for the actor by name or character name.

Background – the crowd. Those folks sitting in the restaurant or standing around in a park or ballroom. We see them in every movie.

You can also call them extras but often when the director was setting the scene for filming, he’d cue, “Background,” and it was our call to “Action” and start pretending!

When the background appears to be talking, laughing, whatever, there is literally NO sound. The set is quiet except for the speaking characters and if 50, 75, 100 background actors even whisper, you’d get a hovering din. No es bueño.

So the extras just mouth pretend conversation. They look engaged but it’s all made up.

I was an extra for Once Upon A Prince and was schooled by professional background folks how to look real without making a sound. We actually worked out a routine and used it for every run through and the actual filming.

First positions – the beginning. When a scene is rehearsed, people move about, so when the director wants to rehearse again or is ready to film, he calls, “First positions.” Everyone goes back to the start.

Usually a scene is shot 2, 3, 4 however many times the director wants. So remember your first position!

We’re locked – wha??? I never really under this term and I can’t find it on any film term list but I think it means, “Ready to go.” Everything is set.

Picture’s Up – the shot is framed, ready to roll.

Sound – Quiet! All talking, sound, movement must stop. Actually, there are different terms for sound but in our case, when we heard sound we stopped talking.

Sound can also mean Sound Speed which might mean the camera is rolling.

Speed – the camera is rolling. Filming is happening!

Slate – also known as the clapper. The device that records a scene number and sync point as the camera rolls and before the action begins.

Playback – music. The director will call for play back if the scene has accompanying music or other sounds. This allows musicians, singers, actors to mime to the music that will be added later. 😉

Notes – feedback. A script is given “notes.” An actor is given “notes.” In Hollywood, that’s nice speak for feedback, critique, help, review. So your characters should ask for “Notes.” The scriptwriter will “Review the director’s notes.” The producer will give notes to the director. I think you get where this is going…

Touches – does everyone look good? I loved this one. The director or assistant director would call for “Touches” which launched the hair and makeup folks into action. They’d check the faces of the on-camera actors to make sure they weren’t shiny, and that their hair styles were lasting.

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Every time I came off the floor as an extra, I’d call for “Touches.” But ha, no one ran over to me. What gives?

The term Finals is also used.

So, if you’re writing dialog, you might write something like this:

“Okay, let’s rehearse this. First team, take your positions. Playback. Action.”

“Okay, this is a take. We’re locked. Picture’s up. Sound, Speed. Action.”

The slate person jumps in without being called.

Of course you can vary the terms. I heard a variation of those terms with each shot.

Director – the guy in charge of the filming. Works with the AD (see below) and DP (see below) to execute the project. The film will have a lot of the director’s vision. He will map out the scenes in pre production and systematically work through them while shooting.

P.S. Scenes are not shot in order.

AD – assistant director. He or she will do a lot of hands on with the crew and make sure everyone is where they are supposed to be. Kind of the Master Sergeant on set.

In my experience, the AD gave the directions right before filming. “Picture’s up. Sound. Speed. Playback.”

Then the director may call action. Either one could do it.

The director also said, “Whenever you’re ready,” if the scene was just one or two actors.

DP– director of photography. He works with the director to get the shots framed the way they want, the best way to tell the story.

Producer – the one who made the movie happen! Of course movies can have many producers who play different roles. In my case, the producer acquired the project and sold the concept to Hallmark.

A producer can touch all aspects of the process from the script to filming.

The producer may be on set for the entire process. She gives input and consults with the director.

I think you can have fun with this character in a book.

Say goodnight – a principle character is leaving the set or the movie.

The Circus – trailer location. I’m sure this term is different per movie set but for this movie The Circus was the location of the trailers for the main actors, wardrobe, hair and makeup.  Transpiration moved the cast and crew from the Circus to the set and back again.

From this point, the list is endless. 2nd AD. 3rd AD. Assistant DP.  Production crew. Hair and makeup. Transportation. Unit managers. Camera men. Security. Set crew. Wardrobe folks. Craft services. Or as we called it, “Lunch!”

In fact, here’s a list of terms.

Filming days are long. Twelve, thirteen hours. Sometimes the shortest scene may take an hour or more to film between staging, rehearsing, then filming from different points of view.

Speaking of Point of View. They use that term in movies too!

They entire crew breaks for lunch at the same time.

They get weekends off. But this may vary per director, location, union rules, etc.

The main actors have a “green room.”

I had a blast peeking behind the scenes of a movie set. 🙂 Hope these tips help in your writing journey.

Go Write Something Brilliant!


THE WRITING DESK

Tenley Roth’s first book was a runaway bestseller. Now that her second book is due, she’s locked in fear. Can she repeat her earlier success or is she a fraud who has run out of inspiration?With pressure mounting from her publisher, Tenley is weighted with writer’s block. But when her estranged mother calls asking Tenley to help her through chemotherapy, she packs up for Florida where she meets handsome furniture designer Jonas Sullivan and discovers the story her heart’s been missing.

A century earlier, another woman wrote at the same desk with hopes and fears of her own. Born during the Gilded Age, Birdie Shehorn is the daughter of the old money Knickerbockers. Under the strict control of her mother, her every move is decided ahead of time, even whom she’ll marry. But Birdie has dreams she doesn’t know how to realize. She wants to tell stories, write novels, make an impact on the world. When she discovers her mother has taken extreme measures to manipulate her future, she must choose between submission and security or forging a brand new way all on her own.Tenley and Birdie are from two very different worlds, but fate has bound them together in a way time cannot erase.

New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal best-selling, award-winning author Rachel Hauck loves a great story. She serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a past ACFW mentor of the year. A worship leader and Buckeye football fan, Rachel lives in Florida with her husband and ornery cat, Hepzibah. Read more about Rachel at www.rachelhauck.com.