Plotting with Passion

by Dawn Crandall, @dawnwritesfirst

Hello, my name is Dawn, and I am a Plotter. Of the first degree.

Even before I started to write my very first novel, which also became my award winning debut novel, The Hesitant Heiress, I’d tried out many plots in my “before writing” writings. It’s just something I love to do, and as I’ve learned over writing my four published novels, it makes things easier in the long run. It might be partly because I write my historical romances from deep first person point of view from only the heroine’s side. Because of this, I need to figure out all of the other associating characters just as well, and also make it so the reader will be able to get to know them as well as the heroine does as the book unfolds.
Since all of my characters so far have been a part of a four book series, there is oftentimes a continuation of one of the main character’s arc throughout at least one other book. I’ve been thinking about them often as I’ve been writing the first books, but not enough to really get into what makes them tick. And that’s what my extensive outline is for.

Outlines come in all shapes and sizes, but mine are written over a few months time (because I’m doing this author thing at the same as being a stay-at-home mom of two very young children… which is a bit nuts). They end up being about ten pages single-spaced and written in third person—I basically tell the story in generic form to myself and describe what’s happening from both the hero and heroine’s perspectives. This especially worked out well last year since I got pregnant with my second son a few weeks after my publisher had received the proposal for The Cautious Maiden, and then a few weeks later when I was about 12 to 28 weeks pregnant (the entire second trimester, fortunately!) as I wrote out the novel.

First of all, I start with a page numbered 1 to 30, because that’s usually about how many chapters I’ll end up with. Then I name the chapters. And then I brainstorm, piecing together things I see happening, moving those pieces around and trying to get everything to flow just right for “twists and turns” that lead to a highly satisfying ending. And because the love story and the spiritual arcs of both the hero and heroine are a huge part of my novels, I very carefully decide when momentous happenings (like some really great kissing!) and self-discoveries come up.

Over the years my outlining process has evolved. It wasn’t nearly as organized as all this when I was figuring out The Hesitant Heiress, but it definitely came to this point while discovering the story in my latest release, The Cautious Maiden. It had to be! I’d written my first two books before getting pregnant for the first time; wrote the third a little before, a little during and little after my first pregnancy; and then wrote the fourth on my iPhone 6 Plus while very pregnant AND with a two year old running circles around me.

It’s definitely time consuming, but it gets my story to a place where I don’t have to think much about it as I’m writing it—I can strictly be in character. Which is a really difficult thing for me now that I have children, especially since I have ADD. I’m seriously the worst person at organizing almost anything… except this organizing a novel thing!


Plotting with Passion by Dawn Crandall (Click to Tweet)

I am a Plotter. Of the first degree. ~ Dawn Crandall (Click to Tweet)

I’d tried out many plots in my “before writing” writings.~ Dawn Crandall (Click to Tweet)

Whitaker House, October 2016

Violet Hawthorne is beyond mortified when her brother Ezra turns their deceased parents’ New England country inn into a brothel to accommodate the nearby lumberjacks—but when Violet’s own reputation is compromised, the inn becomes the least of her worries.
In an effort to salvage her good name, Violet is forced into an engagement with a taciturn acquaintance—Vance Everstone.
As she prepares for a society wedding, Violet learns that her brother had staked her hand in marriage in a heated poker game with the unsavory Rowen Steele, and Ezra had lost. Now Rowen is determined to cash in on his IOU.
With danger stalking her and a new fiancé who hides both his emotion and his past, Violet must decide who to trust—and who to leave behind.

Dawn Crandall is an ACFW Carol Award-nominated author of the award winning series The Everstone Chronicles, which consists of four books: The Hesitant Heiress, The Bound Heart, The Captive Imposter and The Cautious Maiden.

A graduate of Taylor University with a degree in Christian Education and a former bookseller at Barnes & Noble, Dawn Crandall didn’t begin writing until 2010 when her husband found out about her long-buried dream. It didn’t take her long to realize that writing books was what she was made to do.

Apart from writing, Dawn is also a mom of two tiny little boys and spends a lot of time slowly renovating an old brick farmhouse in northeastern Indiana.

Dawn is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and is represented by Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary Agency.

If you’d like to learn more about Dawn and her inspirational historical romances, links are below:

Facebook –


Author Website:

My Book Review Blog:


Twitter: @dawnwritesfirst /

Micro-Tools of Suspense

By Ronie Kendig

Microscopic. Micro-changes. Micro-expressions. They’re little pieces that cumulatively make a big difference. That is true of writing and of suspense as well—we have micro-tools for fine-tuning suspense (a scene or a whole novel). 

Suspense is not merely someone or some city in danger. There is more involved in creating suspense than putting a weapon in a villain’s hand or having the heroine fighting for her life. Outside the plot and your characters, suspense is nuanced throughout a story using many techniques, but we’ll focus on two: word choice & placement, sentence/paragraph length and pacing. 

Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very’; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite. ~C. S. Lewis 

The point? Be intentional with your words. Word choices should: 

  1. Reflect the pace – the more general the word, the more benign the impact. Make them matter!
  2. Reflect your character – your characters should not all sound alike
  3. Reflect the mood – use more intentional words to mirror what your character is feeling of what’s being done to them. Our word choices change when we’re frustrated or angry; so should your character’s words. 

Consider word choice placement. In my “Mind Magic” workshop, we talk about “white/negative space,” a marketing/design concept that capitalizes on the negative (white) space of a design, letting the audience’s brain naturally fill in the rest. Also, speed readers are often taught to read the beginning and end of a sentence, and the beginning/end of a paragraph and then let their brains fill in the rest.

Negative Space forms face

By being intentional with word placement, writers can use the white/negative space concept to capitalize on what readers’ brains do naturally—fill in the rest—to create hooks. We’re taught to do this at scene and chapter breaks, but we should also be more intentional with word placement throughout our scenes and chapters. We have stronger words now that we don’t want to bury in the middle of a sentence or paragraph. If you have to, rearrange so the stronger words are more easily detected and a quick (often unconscious) first impression of what’s coming is engaging. 

Another topic in the “Mind Magic” workshop is length, which applies to blogs, articles (ahem), books, speeches, and so on. Ultimately, no matter if it’s a sentence or a paragraph, length determines viability and interest. Think about Twitter, which restricts tweets to 140 characters. Today’s society wants things faster, and we need to keep that in mind when writing scenes. Here are a few tips for brevity in writing:  

  1. Monitor Sentence/Paragraph Length – Make it as simple as possible for a reader to move through and enjoy your story. Sentences should be a natural length and there should be a variety of lengths as well. It’s a good idea to break narrative passages into smaller chunks and ensure that each is vital to the story.
  2. Fragments Are Our Friends (Sometimes) – it’s okay to cut a sentence short if it fits the character, pacing of a scene or chapter, or the mood (more suspenseful). Fragments are wonderful for creating a jarring presence, which is perfect for action or surprise. 
  3. Shorter Sentences Create Movement – Shorter sentences are read faster (obvious, huh?) paragraph and a sentence are great ways to increase the reading speed, giving the reader a sense of faster movement with the characters. 
  4. Longer Sentences Allow for Breathing – if you’ve amped up a scene and sliced/diced sentences, then draw it back down after with longer sentences that allow your readers’ breathing to slow. Think of it as the giddy (or nervous) exhale of relief after a roller-coaster ride.
Suspense nuances really ratchet up the tension and your reader’s heart rate! Were these tips helpful for you? Do you have a question for Ronie to address about writing suspense? Comment below! 


Micro Tools of Suspense by Ronie Kendig (Click to Tweet)

Be intentional with your words~ Ronie Kendig (Click to Tweet)

* * * * * 

Ronie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling author who grew up an Army brat. After twenty-five years of marriage, she and her hunky hero husband have a full life with their children and a retired military working dog in Northern Virginia. Ronie can be found at:
     Facebook (
     Twitter (@roniekendig)
     Goodreads (
     Instagram (@kendigronie)
     Pinterest (!

DOWNLOAD Ronie’s newest release–the FREE digital prequel novella, THE WARRIOR’S SEAL! 

CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE (Tox Files #1) releases Dec 6th and was given 4.5 stars & named a TOP PICK by RT BookReviews!

“…fast-moving, roller-coaster thriller…” ~Booklist

Kendig keeps the tensions high and the pace lightning fast, with military action scenes worthy of Vince Flynn.” ~Publishers Weekly

Unlocking the Passion

by Author S. Dionne Moore

Almost twenty-one years ago, my daughter was born. The light of my life. As every first-time mother will tell you, she was perfect. A gift. Except, she was born too early. At one pound and fifteen ounces, her condition was fragile at best. We spent seventy-five days in NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) as she struggled to breathe, much less suck and swallow, a reflex natural to full-term babies. 

Good days were always tinged with sorrow, and bad days sometimes became the stuff of nightmares. Those times when you entered NICU and saw an empty bed where an infant had been the night before, your emotions rolled between grief for the parents, relief that it wasn’t your child, then guilt over your relief. 

When the day came that we brought our baby home, it was glorious. We were filled with joy. We willingly dragged along the heart rate monitor just to have her out of NICU, and a chance for normalcy. Granted, our days were filled with more worry than most new parents, more concerns about our child’s growth and development, but the question of life and death had at least been settled.
In the midst of all this I came to the slow realization that I needed an outlet for the coiled knot of hope and fear that had become my constant companion. A hobby that I enjoyed. I turned to writing. A hobby I had not dabbled in since my teenage years. 

I started small. The Preemie Experience was my heartfelt tribute to mothers of premature infants, and the culmination of experiences of other young mothers with whom I swapped stories during our stay in NICU. In that day, Geocities was the way to publish a blog on the Web, and that’s what I did with my tribute. To my surprise, I was contacted by an editor who was compiling stories from other parents. She asked if she could use my article as the prologue for her book, Living Miracles: Stories of Hope from Parents of Premature Babies. It was a thrilling moment, and one that made me reconsider old story ideas I had developed in my teens, with a mind to writing a book. 

Brides of Wyoming

My new journey to write fiction began with a lot of learning. Mastering the rules of writing, the best ways to help your publisher market your book, and all about developing story, conflict and characters. After a few years of conferences and meeting with editors and agents, I received feedback from a professional encouraging me to use my sassy, mature, secondary character as a heroine. LaTisha Barnhart was born. Within a year I had finaled in a writing contest with the opening chapter of a cozy mystery in which LaTisha held the starring role. It was for this book, Murder on the Bunions, that I received my first contract.

My journey in writing continues in the form of my newest release, Brides of Wyoming (11/1/2016), an anthology of three romances featuring heroines who must overcome physical and emotional dangers to learn to live and love to the fullest. And as my daughter turns twenty-one and studies for a degree to become a Paralegal, I have to stop and smile. It’s amazing how terrible circumstances can unlock an unrealized passion that brings such joy and dimension to our hearts and minds. And my daughter? She has become a beautiful young woman with a sharp mind a quick smile. She is my heart. My joy. My gift.


Unlocking the Passion by Author S. Dionne Moore (Click to Tweet)

I needed an outlet for the hope and fear that had become my constant companion.~ S. Dionne Moore (Click to Tweet)


S. Dionne Moore
S. Dionne Moore resides in the historically rich Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, where she indulges her pleasure for history and vacillates between the need to write and the desire to play. Brides of Wyoming is her newest release from Barbour Publishing. 


Non-Fiction vs Fiction

post by Michelle Griep

If I were to sit down across the table from you, cups of java in hand of course, and ask you how writing non-fiction is different from writing fiction, how would you answer? Think on it.

Ready? Answer in mind?

You are wrong, Bucko.

Today I’m here to blast out of the water the three most common misconceptions the average humanoid believes to be true about non-fiction vs. fiction.

In fiction you get to make things up, but in non-fiction you can only list facts.

Would you seriously want to read a novel wherein nothing is true? Fiction needs to have facts incorporated in order to be believable.
And conversely, in non-fiction you need to creatively express your facts so that a reader doesn’t shrivel up and die from literary dehydration.

Story is fine for fiction but forget about it for non-fiction.

Creativity is needed for fiction and non-fiction alike.

We all live in some kind of story. Maybe your life is a drama right now. Or perhaps you’re living in a sit-com. Whatever, story grabs hold of readers because that’s where writing connects with their heart. This is every bit as much true for non-fiction books as well fiction.

Writing fiction is harder than non-fiction –or– writing non-fiction is harder than fiction.

They’re both hard. Each requires attention to detail, word choices, writing tight, and content that scoots the reader to the edge of his seat.

Sure, there are some differences between the two. There is no arc or climax in a non-fiction book, no protagonists or antagonists. Fiction has a theme, but it’s not a useful how-to tool.

The point is don’t be all puffed up thinking non-fiction writers are smarter than fiction authors, nor put fiction writers on a pedestal of supreme creativity because non-fiction writers surely only deal in dust-dry words. Writers are writers no matter the genre. Words are words. The great divide isn’t so great after all.

In my newest release, THE CAPTIVE HEART, I blend historical fact with fast-paced fiction. Here’s a blurb . . .

Now available on Amazon.

       On the run from a cruel British aristocratic employer, Eleanor Morgan escapes to America, the land of the free, for the opportunity to serve an upstanding Charles Town family. But freedom is hard to come by as an indentured servant, and downright impossible when she’s forced to agree to an even harsher contract—marriage to a man she’s never met.
       Backwoodsman Samuel Heath doesn’t care what others think of him—but his young daughter’s upbringing matters very much. The life of a trapper in the Carolina backcountry is no life for a small girl, but neither is abandoning his child to another family. He decides it’s time to marry again, but that proves to be an impossible task. Who wants to wed a murderer?
       Both Samuel and Eleanor are survivors, facing down the threat of war, betrayal, and divided loyalties that could cost them everything, but this time they must face their biggest challenge ever . . . Love.


Knocking out  the misconceptions about non-fiction vs. fiction~Michelle Griep (Click to Tweet)


Michelle Griep


Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. Follow her adventures and find out about upcoming new releases at her blog, Writer Off the Leash, or stop by her website. You can also find her at the usual haunts of FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.

Like what you read? There’s more. WRITER OFF THE LEASH: GROWING IN THE WRITING CRAFT is a kick in the pants for anyone who wants to write but is stymied by fear, doubt, or simply doesn’t know how to take their writing to the next level.