Story Foundations for the Serious Writer

by DiAnn Mills @DiAnn Mills

Story ideas can be like fireworks. They soar and explode in beautiful colors…then their dance fizzles to the ground and we turn our attention to the next one. But story ideas don’t have to fade away. A writer can take those wild moments of inspiration and build a credible, colorful, creative, and compelling story.

Where do story ideas come from when we’ve spent hours brainstorming and feel like giving up? Buster Moon from the movie Sing says: “When you’ve reached rock bottom, there’s only one way to go, and that’s up!”
Here are suggestions to give your story idea bestseller (up) status.

  1. Pieces of a conversation…juicy tidbits that move us to explore story and character
  2. An article in the news that grasps our attention
  3. Books we’ve read—fiction or non-fiction
  4. Music—including lyrics
  5. Poetry
  6. Nature—with all its beauty and danger
  7. A movie you’d have written differently
  8. The behavior of family or friends
  9. Historic events about people and places
  10. Genealogy
  11. Personal experiences
  12. Dreams – Deep within our subconscious activity lies this realm where plot problems find answers, character situations resolve, and new characters are born.

I know you have a story idea. It’s banging against your head and heart, keeping you awake at night. You’re not sure what to do with all the information, and you fear you may lose it. So, let’s turn your burning thoughts into a book project.

Ready? Are your fingers poised on your keyboard? The exercises below will take a little time but so worth the effort.

Step One
 
Write your story idea in one sentence. Don’t concern yourself with character names, setting, and genre.
 
A few examples:
1. A young mother confesses to her police officer husband she is not only addicted to drugs, but she also deals them.
2. A businessman discovers the owner of his company is smuggling assault rifles into the country.
3. A newly married couple is left behind on a wagon train when the husband is suspected of carrying a terrible disease.
4. A young woman travels west to marry a man she’s never met—only to discover he doesn’t exist.
5. A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s means a middle-aged woman must become the caretaker for her mother, with whom she already has a strained relationship.
6. A couple is awakened by thieves in their home. While the husband attempts to overpower the intruders, the wife is killed.
7. During wartime, a prince is forced to take the throne for his ailing father. Then the prince learns he’s not the real heir, but the son of the warring king.
8. The inhabitants of a planet wracked by pollution face extinction. Their only solution is to exterminate half of the population.

Take a deep breath and congratulate yourself. You’ve given your story life.

Now perfect your one-sentence storyline. Tweak it until you’re satisfied. Do you envision your protagonist(s) and antagonist(s)?

Step Two
 
Take your one-sentence idea and write at least one paragraph about your story. Extend the idea to include what you know about your characters and the storyline. Don’t worry about grammar and punctuation. Simply envision the story. When you’re finished, save and edit your paragraph(s).

Step Three 
 
What is your story’s genre? Consider the list below and find a home for your idea.
1. Contemporary
2. Historical
3. Romance
4. Suspense/Thriller
5. Mystery
6. Western
7. Women’s Fiction
8. Speculative (includes science fiction, fantasy, allegory, etc.)
9. Young Adult

Story ideas often mix genres with romance, such as:

  • Contemporary Romance
  • Historical Romance
  • Romantic Suspense

By including a thread of romance, writers increase their readership. It’s been said that 80 percent of book buyers are women. Half of them buy romance. Do the math and consider adding a spark of love to your project.

Where do you find the foundation for your story ideas?

TWEETABLES

Story Foundations for the Serious Writer by DiAnn Mills (Click to Tweet)

Three Steps to Turn Your Story Idea into Book Project~ DiAnn Mills (Click to Tweet)

Story ideas can be like fireworks.~ DiAnn Mills (Click to Tweet)

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers

should expect an adventure. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Firewall, the first book in her Houston: FBI series, was listed by Library Journal as one of the best Christian Fiction books of 2014.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Suspense Sister, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference with social media specialist Edie Melson. She teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com.

7 Mistakes Authors Make

By DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

Every writer wants to be viewed as professional, intelligent, and bestselling. Nothing wrong with those goals, and they are worthy and attainable. But when a writer consistently makes dumb mistakes, her credibility takes a nose dive as well as her career.

Take a look at the following mistakes. Are there changes on your horizon?

1.  Practicing poor grammar and punctuation
Work smart! Invest in a grammar guide or take a college English course. Most publishers use the Chicago Manual of Style. An online help is www.grammarly.com.

2.  Failure to invest time and effort in social media
Work smart! Today’s readers are online and active in social media. How can we reach them when we fail to learn how and where they are spending time?

3.  Condescending remarks posted online about those in the publishing world
Work smart! Not only are critical marks about others inappropriate and unprofessional, but also every word written online can be retrieved.

4.  Lack of demonstrating sincere concern for readers
Work smart! Take time to discover and meet reader needs. Life is about relationships, and when we are genuinely interested in our followers, they become our friends.

5.  Refusal to understand genre and the guidelines
Work smart! Be an expert in your writing niche(s). Know the distinguishing characteristics of your subject matter. A professional writer knows where she fits and strives to meet those criteria.

6.  Practicing pride that comes before a fall
Work smart! Rejections and a request to edit make us better writers. Grow a tougher skin and understand it’s not about us but about the writing project. Humility molds us into better people.

7.  Neglecting to learn the writing craft

Work smart! A writer may have the gift of communicating through the written word, but unless she commits to learning how to write and practices the techniques, she may never sell. Learning is ongoing, a means of always being at the top of our game. Wrap your writing in emotion—the reader’s, the characters, and your own.

If any of the above 7 items have slipped into your work habits, now is the time to make changes. Your career, relationships, and reputation are on the line.

We all need to be professional. Have you ever made a writing mistake?



TWEETABLES


7 Mistakes Authors Make by Diann Mills (Click to Tweet)

When a writer consistently makes mistakes, her credibility takes a nose dive~ Diann Mills (Click to Tweet)

Your career, relationships, and reputation are on the line.~ Diann Mills (Click to Tweet)

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Firewall, the first book in her Houston: FBI series, was listed by Library Journal as one of the best Christian Fiction books of 2014.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Suspense Sister, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and The Author Roadmap with social media specialist Edie Melson. She teaches writing workshops around the country.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on Facebook: www.facebook.com/diannmills, Twitter: https://twitter.com/diannmills or any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com.

Title Photo Copyright: scyther5 / 123RF Stock Photo

Novel Preparation 101

By DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

We writers have habits, some quirky, that help us get started on new writing projects. Today I’d like to share with you how I organize my thoughts and preparations before writing chapter one, line one of a new novel. I’m mostly an organic/pantster writer, but some things I have to know before I begin.

  1. Idea! Oh, these come from so many different places—from a movie, a current happening in the news, overheard conversation, a what-if from everyday life, and dreams.
  2. Prayer. Not sure about you but if I’m not onboard with God, then my story will fail.
  3. Premise. This is what guides me to create a story line. For example: What if a young woman chooses death if she learns she can no longer be with her beloved? Or . . . What if a man is framed by a sheriff for a murder he didn’t commit? Or . . . A young woman finds herself in charge of ten little girls after a tornado wipes out a wagon train.
  4. Character. Who is the hero or heroine of the story? Why would working through the premise and storyline (plot) be difficult for him or her? Why would this character be the only person who could walk through this story? What are the character’s weaknesses that make this journey necessary? What motivates my character into action? What happened in the character’s backstory that shaped who this person is in chapter one?
  5. Characterization sketch. This is a continuance from question number four above. The most important part of any story is the character. A powerful story is one in which the writer knows the character inside and out. We live with the character, breathe, suffer, rejoice, embrace truth, run, and the list goes on. A complete characterization sketch should be completed for every POV character.
  6. Setting. Where is the best place to set the story? What setting forces my character to change and grow, catch the character unaware, and generally make life miserable.
  7. Research. This covers a lot of ground from the character’s occupation, the problem or goal, setting, and even dialogue according to the character’s personality and background.
  8. Summary. I despise writing a synopsis because my story will change in the writing process. But my editors need an idea of where my characters are going and why.
  9. Spreadsheet. Yes, writers, I create a spreadsheet that I will use long after the manuscript is turned into my editors. I have columns that read: Chapter, Scene #, short scene summary, blog ideas, contest ideas, Facebook post, Giveaways, Hashtag, Pinterest Board, Speaking Topics, Tweetable, Video, Images/Memes. I only use the first two columns during the writing process, and the others are completed during the final line by line editing to help with promotion efforts.

Once I have these things completed, I’m ready to place my fingers on my computer keyboard and create. 

What about you? How do you plan to write?

TWEETABLES
Novel Preparation 101 by Diann Mills (Click to Tweet)

9 Things Even a Panster Must Know Before Starting To Write~ Diann Mills (Click to Tweet)

Some things I have to know before I begin~ Diann Mills (Click to Tweet)

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an


adventure. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Firewall, the first book in her Houston: FBI series, was listed by Library Journal as one of the best Christian Fiction books of 2014.
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure.

She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Firewall, the first book in her Houston: FBI series, was listed by Library Journal as one of the best Christian Fiction books of 2014.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and The Author Roadmap with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on Facebook: www.facebook.com/diannmills, Twitter: https://twitter.com/diannmills or any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com.

5 Tips to Brand Your Writing Style

By DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

Developing a writer’s brand can sound like scaling a cliff unless the writer has sound footing. Unfortunately, if a writer fails to take distinct steps to establish a brand, the publishing industry will do the job themselves, and you might not like their choice.

A professional writer seizes control of her career and develops a brand that is an asset, not a liability. This begins by assessing what a writer knows about herself and her readers.
Our readers have definite requirements:

The reader must know the writer’s specialty.
The reader must be able to access the writer’s works.
The reader must recognize a writer’s unique voice.
The reader must fulfill his/her needs through our writing.

The following 5 tips will help the writer brand her writing style.

  1. Define what you want to write. Writing contemporary one day, fantasy the next, and horror after that confuses the reader. When a writer establishes a writing niche, she can build on readership.
  2. Know your audience. A writer understands her readers. She takes the time to explore their lifestyles, problems, dreams, and problems. Writers who fail to address the needs of readers soon don’t have any readers.
  3. Develop a distinct writer’s voice. A writer’s voice is perfected by studying the craft and writing. The more we create, the more our voice is deepened.
  4. Encourage others through your area of expertise. Our niche in the publishing world means we can help others.
  5. Spread the word through social media.

How can you brand your writing style in the world of publishing?

TWEETABLES

5 Tips to Brand Your Writing Style by DiAnn Mills (Click to Tweet)

Develop a brand that is an asset, not a liability.~ DiAnn Mills (Click to Tweet)

The more we create, the more our voice is deepened.~ DiAnn Mills (Click to Tweet)

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers

should expect an adventure. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Suspense Sister, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and The Author Roadmap with social media specialist Edie Melson. She teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com.