Don’t Be Afraid of The Story

by Rachel Hauck, @RachelHauck

A couple years ago as I fast drafted a novel, I realized I had this tension in my gut.

What was going on?

Yea, it’s tough to hammer out a first draft on a tight deadline but I was pleased with my progress. I wasn’t behind schedule. Though the story wasn’t really popping.

Hmm… the tension? I concluded I was actually afraid of my story.

We talk about being afraid of the blank page, but it’s really being afraid of the story.

Was I heading in the right direction?

Was the tension sustainable?

Did I even like this story?

Would my readers?

As the questions rose, I knew there were other things missing.

Was my setting right? Did I have the right research for my 1930s timeline?

How much of my heroine’s past really played into the story?

I was tense over what I didn’t know. And the fact I was sure I didn’t know it.

Makes perfect sense right?

A lot of times I get tripped up because I know that I know that I don’t know details and tidbits that would make my story deeper and richer.

When writing The Wedding Dress, I did a lot of research on Birmingham. In the process, I came across the convict leasing program.

When I decided to use it in the story, assigning it as a justice issue for my 1912 heroine, it made her more passionate and layered than if I’d left it out.

Plus, I could bring to light the injustice of the era.

And I got to write this great paragraph:

“The white guards talked and joked while the men of color swung axes and hammers against the hard concrete. Emily lowered her gaze. It must be back-breaking, near impossible, to break up what had been set and hardened with time in this city.”

See the metaphor? All from research. So when I’m in crunch mode and crisis, I start to think, “I need more research.”

I’ll panic with, “I need to read more books by all the writers in the whole world who are better than me so I can writer better books myself and ahhh!”

Yea, it’s stupid. It’s fear. It’s being afraid of the story.

Some of you are afraid of the story. Afraid to let go. You won’t submit to an editor or agent. You won’t let a writer friend read it. Maybe you keep revising and revising. Maybe you’re afraid to say, “This book is done. I need to move on to another book.”

The story has a life of it’s own, trust me I know. A will, a force that keeps us awake at night.

But face your fears. Don’t be afraid of the story, or what changes might come about.

Be of good courage. And go write something brilliant!


TWEETABLES
______________

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.

Yet Another Tip On How to Write A Great Novel

by Rachel Hauck, @RachelHauck



Do you ever weary of all the do’s and don’ts of writing a novel? I do. Sometimes I get so bogged down with the “rules” and guidelines I end up writing something that doesn’t work. But in the end, it all forms together to create the novel I do end up sending to my editor. Nothing written for a novel is ever wasted. Every word becomes a layer and texture of the ultimate story. On my latest novel, I learned a valuable lesson. Reading. Shocker, right? Y’all are rolling your eyes, moaning, “Gee whiz, Rachel, and you have more than twenty novels published!? Where’s the justice?”Simmer down. I know reading is important. I’ve always read. Let me be more specific. Reading for research.

I do a ton of research for my novels. I read books, store web sites, but this time, I came to the reading table late. I don’t know why, or how I skipped this step, but I think I got in a hurry. I forgot there were books out there for me to read on the subject! Read for research before starting the novel. And read for research constantly. In other words, bump up my non fiction reading.

Non fiction opens us up the real word in a way we cannon glean from news reports or short web page blasts of how this thing works or that thing goes.

When writing the Nashvegas books, I read several non-fiction works about how the Nashville music scene worked. While I’d done a bunch of research online about songwriting, it wasn’t until I read these books that I understood the details of songwriting.

It wasn’t until I stumbled across a book about Tom Petty book where I truly understood what “artist differences” with a record label meant.

When writing Dining with Joy, I read several memoirs, talked to a television producer as well as speaking with a chef. I thought I had the opening cook-off scene nailed but something was missing.

Finally, I talked to the chef. “Even the best chef will get nervous at a cook-off and make major mistakes.”

That one line made my scene, and Joy and Luke’s motivation, click. Now when Joy fudged cooking, Luke could legitimately think she was just plain nervous and jump up to help her. That worked way better than having him wonder what she was doing by juggling peaches instead of pureeing them.

So… if you’re stuck in your current WIP, here’s some thoughts to help.

  1. Maybe you’ve not done enough reading up front. Take a break, Google around, and find memoirs or non-fiction works that will give you details related to the theme of your book.
  2. You might not be emotionally connecting. So read more. While reading about Queen Elizabeth II, I found myself gaining more than details, I started feeling passion and affection for the Crown. I got a feel for what it must be like to be a descendant of Henry VIII and Queen Victoria. Head knowledge merged with heart understanding.
  3. You’ve underestimated your need for research. Don’t skip it. Every book, contemporary or historical, romance to thriller, needs research. For language, dialect, setting, mood, emotion, even small, unimaginable details that give a book texture.
  4. Invest in an e-reader so you can download instantly. Plus it keeps your house from overflowing with research books.
  5. Block off time when you’re not writing to read memoirs, non-fiction works along with your fiction.

Happy writing!!

TWEETABLES

Yet Another Tip On How to Write A Great Novel by Rachel Hauck (Click to Tweet)

Read for research before starting the novel.~ Rachel Hauck (Click to Tweet)

5 things to consider if you are stuck in your WIP by Rachel Hauck (Click to Tweet)

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.

Beyond the Craft Building Blocks: Why Does It Matter?

by Rachel Hauck, @RachelHauck 

During an edit with my former fab editor, Ami McConnell Abston, I developed a small “rule” for my characters: Everyone must have a problem.

Not so much walk on/walk off characters but those who interacted with the protagonist on a consistent bases.

Like…

The teen girl who worked in the vintage shop.

Or…

The friend who lived next door.

Ami challenged me to make those secondary or thirdary (is that a word?) characters more interesting by giving them a small problem.

In The Sweet By and By written with Sara Evans, I gave the athletic teen working for the heroine, Jade, a money issue. She’d wrecked a friend’s car.

So whenever Lillabeth came on the scene, there was something interesting and curious about her.

Otherwise. why did she matter? She could’ve just been the nameless and faceless “shop girl.”

Lillabeth’s problem made the dialog more interesting. And believe it or not, gave the reader a break from Jade’s on going drama!

Here’s another tip I learned while working with Ami: Why does it matter?

Like…

Why is my protagonist a novelist?

Or…

Why does he refurbish furniture?

What about setting? Does it matter? Does it play into the story at all?

Granted, not everything has to be vital to the story, after all, we are just making stuff up. But 90% of it should link together.

Recently I was reading a book where the heroine’s career and family was a big part of her story but in reality, none of it mattered to the conclusion of the book or the satisfying ending.

In fact, her story almost could’ve been eliminated because at the end, she served as a “surf board” for the other characters to tell their story.

Hmmm…

If your protagonist’s job or vocation, or journey, doesn’t play a strong factor in the development of the story, the journey, the epiphany and conclusion, then you’ve got the wrong job/journey/want/vocation.

Here’s the test for your story: If the job of your gum smacking, wise cracking waitress protagonist doesn’t play a significant party to her journey, to the story, find a job that does!

In other words, as you write, keep asking yourself, “Why does this matter? How does it fit into the overall story?”

You can MAKE UP anything you want! You’re the master and creator. But the story has to fit together. Like puzzle pieces.

This is where I lean on The Story Equation. I ask:

What does your protagonist want? What’s her goal?

What’s the story goal?

What wound will be healed?

What’s the epiphany?

What will he do in the end he can’t do in the beginning?

If you could change your lawyer protagonist to a ditch digger and still have the same story — minus a few tweaks of course — then you need to do some thinking!

Have you ever read a book where one story line just seemed to be that “thing” that moved you through the pages to get to the best and most dramatic parts?

So you ask: Why did it matter?

Now, given your particular genre, this rule varies. A romance focuses on the romance. But you knew that already didn’t you?

She could be a ditch digger and he could be a lawyer but as long as the romance is layered with the relationship and motivation, with intimate conversations and a heart stopping kiss, then you’re good.

But still, how much deeper and more satisfying the romance would be if the protagonists personal goals and vocations mattered to the story!

When I was writing The Wedding Shop, I came up against this problem. I’d wanted Haley to be a veteran but once I got to writing, it didn’t seem to fit.

So I gave her the personality of an air force veteran. I made her a logistics expert which tied into her ability to run a wedding shop.

I also gave her a history with the shop. That was her main motivation.

In reality, I could’ve made her an entrepreneur. Or a downsized corporate executive. Or a burnt out saleswoman.

But when I decided to make her a veteran, I wove those elements into the story. Her discipline, her experience, her mistakes played into her determination and desperation to open the shop.

I kept asking myself: Why does it matter?

Other genres like general fiction, suspense, thrillers require your protagonist to have a job that weaves into the heart of the plot.

As you develop your stories and as you’re writing. keep asking:

Why does it matter?

Ask: if I take out this element, does anything change? How can I weave those layered elements like jobs, wants, goals, etc tighter into the story?

You got this.

Go write something brilliant!

TWEETABLES


 Beyond the Craft Building Blocks: Why Does It Matter? by Rachel Hauck Click to Tweet)

Make secondary characters more interesting by giving them a small problem.~ Rachel Hauck Click to Tweet)

How can I weave layered elements tighter into the story?~ Rachel Hauck Click to Tweet)

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.

The I’s have it. But should they?

by Rachel Hauck, @RachelHauck

Ever listen to a conversation where “I” was the predominate word? I did this, I did that, I went here, I went there… I, I, I, I.

After awhile, the picture is etched that the person talking is really into themselves.

The same idea applies to writing in first person. As the writer and storyteller, it’s easy for us to get going in the first person narrative and forget to not let the “I’s” have it.
When I started working with editor Ami McConnell, she warned me. “Watch the overuse of I.”

“Hmmm, in first person?” I thought, but answered, “Okay, I’ll do that, very good idea.”

Yes, it’s way easier said than done. It takes time, rethinking and rewriting to avoid the overuse of I, or starting every sentence in a paragraph with that same slim pronoun.

Okay, I can hear the question, “How can I avoid ‘I” when writing in first person?”

You can’t, but you can change the way you structure a sentence to minimize I’s effect or to omit it completely. I found it hard at first to adjust my I sentences, but after awhile, it became a habit.

Here’s an example from my book, Sweet Caroline:

No answer. I check the pantry. “You here?” Still no answer. The kitchen feels cold and abandoned. Regret strangles my heart from some dark inner place, but I refuse to surrender.

After reading this short paragraph, the last phrase “but I refuse to surrender” doesn’t feel necessary. Or, it could be reworded to “but surrender is not an option.”

Frankly, the sentence really ends with “Regret strangles my heart from some dark inner place.” The reader gets the picture. When the galley’s come, I’ll edit out the last part.

Here’s another example:

I slumped down against the side of the boat, pillowing my head against a life jacket. “I’m not sure Mitch ever knew.”

This is a perfectly fine sentence, but it could be reworded to read, “Slumping down against the side of the boat, I pillow my head against a life jacket.”

Here, “I” is buried in the middle of the paragraph. It doesn’t stand out as much, but communicates as effectively as the first sentence.

Take a look at something you’re reading or writing in first person, and see if those “I’s” don’t stare at you from the page. If you see a sentence or paragraph with three, four or five “I’s” rewrite it, figuring out a way to trim them down.

Listen to me now, this is a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. Some sentences and dialog will have I’s, it can’t be helped. This Doc Chat is just to make you aware.

Avoiding the overuse of I does make our work stronger, and causes us to go deeper in the character’s POV and with our own writing to NOT let the “I’s” have it.

Have fun!!

TWEETABLES
The I’s have it. But should they? by Rachel Hauck Click to Tweet)

It takes time, rethinking and rewriting to avoid the over use of I.~ Rachel Hauck Click to Tweet)

Avoiding the overuse of I does make our work stronger.~ Rachel Hauck Click to Tweet)

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.