A Chat with The Writer Whisperer, BARBARA SCOTT

Okay, I’m biased. But one of my most valuable business relationships occurred when
a little publisher I didn’t know much about hired a new senior editor for their
fiction line. When Barbara Scott accepted the job at Abingdon Press, I had no
idea how profoundly my own life would change (both personally AND professionally, as it turned out).
Finding an editor who really “gets you” is that beautiful lightning-in-a-bottle miracle that every
writer hopes to land. Since she bought my first single title novel for the
Christian market (The Big 5-OH!),
Barbara has established herself as an editor (and agent, for about a year) who truly
loves writers and feels that it is her special calling from God to nurture and
guide them through a sometimes-treacherous, often-confusing journey. I can tell you from firsthand experience that she is successful in following
her commission. So I thought perhaps Novel Rocket readers might also benefit from
getting to know her.
Barbara Scott has more than 35 years’ experience in
newspaper, magazine, and book publishing, including adult, youth, and
children’s fiction. She also co-authored two bestselling novels for Thomas
Nelson—Sedona Storm and Secrets of the Gathering Darkness—as
well as numerous gift books and ghostwritten pieces. Barbara was responsible
for acquiring and launching a new bestselling YA fiction line at Zondervan
Publishing before taking on the adult fiction line at Abingdon Press.
About the authors
with whom she’s worked, Barbara says:
“Sandie,
discovering you was like finding the Hope diamond. You make me laugh, and you
make me cry. Not every author has the ability to move me emotionally. Through
the years, I’ve also worked with unique stand-out authors such as Melody
Carlson, Brandilyn Collins, Nancy Rue, and dozens of others. I don’t think I
steered their careers, but as their editor, I hope I contributed to the success
of their projects.”

@BarbaraScott01: Avoid writing your first scene about
a character staring out the window, thinking about his emotions or what he’s
about to do. #writing

When Barbara recently returned to work as a freelance
editor, she really dug into her desire to mentor and guide authors. One
manifestation of that desire came when she began tweeting little nuggets of
advice. The response, she says, has been overwhelming.

@BarbaraScott01: Don’t switch point of view in the
same scene unless you want your reader’s brain to short out from confusion.
#writing

About the tweets, Barbara
says:
“I realized I had years of experience in
writing, editing, and agenting and could help new and experienced authors learn
more about their craft and the Christian book publishing industry in general.
I’ve gotten into a rhythm and post five or six nuggets of knowledge every day
of the week. I also include encouraging quotes or Scripture, usually for my 6
a.m. post. Writers seem to enjoy and look forward to learning in a shorter
format. I’ve almost decided to give up my blog because I’m more effective with
the format on Facebook. I also have a Twitter following because my Facebook
page posts connect to that site. It’s been fun receiving comments and answering
questions. If I don’t know the answer to a question, I’ll do research and find
out the answer for my readers.”

@BarbaraScott01: Your main characters should be
complex and four-dimensional (physical, psychological, emotional, and
spiritual). #writing
On the role she
feels she is meant to play in the writing journey, Barbara says:
“My gift as an editor is to
encourage authors and edit their manuscripts so their voices are strong and
their prose sings. They should be able to accept all of my changes, read
through their manuscripts, and not be able to tell what I’ve done. Edits should
blend seamlessly into an author’s work.”
@BarbaraScott01:  Don’t overplay your description. Use bits of action, dialogue, and the five senses to show a character’s reaction to pressure. #writing

On
her blog, Barbara states:
This becomes a two-way conversation when you post a comment. Often I jump
back on the blog during the day and will answer your questions or respond to
your comments. I have both published and unpublished authors who read this
blog, and we’d love to hear from you so that we can learn from your experience.
Let’s talk!”
If you’d like to keep up with Barbara, here’s how you can
find her on the net:
Twitter: @BarbaraScott01
Her Blog
# # #

For more than a decade, Sandra D. Bricker lived in Los Angeles and,
while writing in every spare moment, worked as a personal assistant and
publicist to some of daytime television’s hottest stars. Since then she
has published 17 novels, including the popular Another Emma Rae Creation series that started with Always the Baker, Never the Bride.

The final book in the Emma Rae series hits bookstores this spring with Always the Baker, FINALLY the Bride, now available for pre-order at Amazon.

Feeling Emotional? Don’t Tell Anyone, Instead…

Show them!
Show your character’s emotion, instead of naming it!

Telling the story, instead of showing it, is one of the most common mistakes beginners make. During the first draft almost all of us, no matter how advanced, tend to tell a lot of the story. It’s only natural. This is the time when our manuscript comes together and telling allows us to develop the bones or structure of the story before we refine it into a compelling work of fiction. But beginners often stop the refining process too early. So how do we take a story from just bare bones to one that’s publishable? One of the best ways is to add depth by showing how our characters feel without naming their emotions.

Now, I know a lot of you are probably having the same reaction I did when I first heard it wasn’t a good idea to name an emotion. I had a rather loud conversation with the writing book that first shared this nugget of information.
“You have got to be kidding me! Who made up this stupid rule? How can I tell the reader what’s going on if I don’t use words like scared or angry?”
And there is the crux of the problem—beginning writers always default back to telling the story. Writing fiction is hard work. It takes a lot of time and effort to write a book and write it well. You already know this—after all that’s why you’re taking the time to read and study about how to improve.
Rewriting is a challenge where everyone wins!

Like I mentioned, I didn’t have a positive reaction to my first exposure to this convention. But now it’s an aspect of rewriting that I enjoy and even look forward to. I look on this as a challenge—a game of sorts. The best part of this game is that when I, the author wins, everybody else does too. Am I nuts? Absolutely, but I am, after all, a writer!

Let me give you some examples. I’ll start each out with an excerpt where name the emotion. Then, in the second, I’ll let you see how I changed it to let the reader decide the emotion by interpreting the character’s actions.
Example 1
Emotions Named:
She began to cry as shame and anger warred inside. “I didn’t do anything wrong.” Her voice sounded hoarse as she tried to control her frustration.
Emotions Implied:
Tears flooded her eyes, making his features blur as she lifted her head and tried to focus. “I didn’t do anything wrong.” Her voice came out like a croak and she tried to clear her throat, but choked on the unshed tears.
The first excerpt tells the reader what’s going on. Granted, the writing is clear, but we’ve all heard the expression that a picture is worth a thousand words. The second excerpt is that picture. It invites the reader into the action and leaves them to draw their own conclusions.
Here’s another one.
Example 2
Emotions Named:
Manaen rose, her anger giving her strength as she faced her brother. “Do not think to intimidate me.” His arrogance amazed her even as it infuriated her. “I am not a child to be bullied. My Lord’s Spirit speaks to me as clearly as to you.”
Emotions Implied:
Manaen rose in response, her eyes almost even with his as she drew herself up to her full height, oblivious of her feminine garment. “Do not think to intimidate me.” Her jaw worked as she gritted her teeth. “I am not a child to be bullied. My Lord’s Spirit speaks to me as clearly as to you.”
And a final one.
Let your reader see the anger in your character!

Example 3

Emotions Named:
Rage sent Josiah shooting to his feet. “I tell you, Manaen, I’ve never witnessed any Elder behave in this manner.” Josiah paced, feeling like his world was collapsing. Confusion made him restless. “I just don’t understand.”
Emotions Implied:
He shot up from the desk, upsetting the chair. “I tell you, Manaen, I’ve never witnessed any Elder behave in this manner.” Josiah prowled through the briefing area of their quarters, picking things up and setting them down again. “I just don’t understand.”
Now it’s your turn. Take one of these two sentences and show us the emotion in place of naming it.
Example 1
Susan’s agony flooded through her as sorrow mingled with guilt. “What have I done?”
Example 2
“Hello? Who’s there?” Jenny’s fear reached a crescendo as the footsteps above moved toward the stairs.

I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Edie Melson is a freelance writer and editor with years of experience in the publishing industry. She’s a prolific writer, and has a popular writing blog, The Write Conversation. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, as well as a popular faculty member at numerous others. She’s also the Social Media Coach at My Book Therapy.

It’s No Hunger Game

There exists in most writers a hunger to be published. It’s genuine, deep and far-reaching, and it motivates most to improve what they perceive to be a calling, a purpose, a desire at the very least, to share words in a meaningful manner. When an individual is willing to spend hours, weeks, even years in front of a computer screen creating a story or writing longhand on paper, the inspiration which drives the dedication to telling that story ignites the determination to make it worthy of telling.

If I had to define story, this is what I’d say it is: Story is the composite of reality, the revelation of the soul. Story allows a reader to slip into another’s life. To experience another’s reality. To glimpse the soul of both the author and the characters which are revealed.

                     

One of the amusing results from my first novel, Hope Of Glory (and for the umpteenth time, I capitalized the O in of on purpose), was when my fellow racetrackers discussed and tried to guess who each character “really” was. Those characters were composites of everyone I ever knew in racing including myself at different stages of my life. One thing racetrackers got when reading that book was a comprehensive experience of the racing they knew and gave their lives to day in and day out. Yeah, it was mucho preachy and very much a first effort. Not my best work as far as the writing end of it, but the testimonies from the readers who dared to plod through its over 700 pages (and, no, that’s not a typo) have given me such gratitude to the Lord for sending me on my way as a writer of novels and actually turning some people’s attention back to Him.

So. The Hunger. It’s no game for those of us who are compelled to write stories. There comes a point in time when that hunger for being published must yield to whatever the Lord has ordained for any given writer. Where the actuality of getting published becomes secondary to whatever the Lord is directing. It’s that “die to self” thing which is, not surprisingly, hard to do. After all the study, work, and desire, the hunger to please the Lord must surpass all other ambitions. For some this is much easier to achieve than for others. We want it all. Of course we want to please the Lord, but wouldn’t He be proud of us receiving a contract, for crying out loud? And the answer is probably yes because if it wasn’t for Him, the contract wouldn’t be given.

Let’s face it. It’s just as easy to make idols of writing and publishing as anything else in this life. Why wouldn’t God want me published since He called me to write these blasted stories?! I mean, come on. Don’t ask me. Ask Him what His plans for you are.

And I’m certainly no one to ask. I’ve “felt” all along that self-publishing was going to be the route I’d be taking which is rather interesting since I’m such a lousy marketer.

After all the hard work, a manuscript emerges. After sharing it, receiving suggestions, critiques, perhaps even professional editing, you gain a contract and it’s published. Many love it. A few hate it. Reviews come in all forms of praise and malice. It’s impossible to please all readers. Someone wants to change something; someone wants to erase every word. It’s the nature of the reading beast. Some authors will be challenged and excel; others will be discouraged and retreat to some degree. The hunger to write will eventually emerge and some will improve while others will remain the same. Some readers will still love you and those who hated you might still.

The only real satisfaction to the hunger comes in the pleasing whisper from the Lord’s heart: Well done . . .

No one can do what He can do for us.

 

Raw, Romantic, Redemptive

Stepping Stones – M. Laycock

A friend posted a cute photo on Facebook a while ago. It’s a
picture of a baby’s foot about to step down onto a round piece of salt dough.
The recipe was included and the suggestion that one should be done each year
and made into a path of stepping stones. A great idea for new moms.
It’s also a great idea for writers, to do this
metaphorically. I had occasion to follow a trail of stepping stones a while ago
as I pulled out an old manuscript. I had a few versions of the piece so I could
see the progress clearly, just like a series of stepping stones made of a
child’s footprints. It was humbling to see all the mistakes I had made in the
beginning, but encouraging to see how much I had grown over the years. 
It’s a worthwhile exercise to look back at the work begun
when we were baby writers. And it’s a worthwhile exercise to look back at our
lives to see what stepping stones we have made as believers in Christ. The Old
Testament is full of places where God told His people to look back and
remember. He often told them to mark a significant spot with stones or an altar
built to glorify Him. 
As writers of faith, we can do that by writing the
testimonies, the stories, the articles and poems that glorify the God who has
led us from the moment of our conception. Then we can look forward to all that
He will continue to do in our lives and in our work, trusting that He will work
in and through us as He has in the past.
“and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle
of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with
you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight to serve as a sign
among you.” Joshua 4:3-6
****
Abundant Rain, Marcia’s devotional book for writers of faith is now available on Amazon. Visit her website to see more of her writing and speaking ministry.