|Back to Back Issues Page|
Right Writing News, June 24, 2004, Issue #010
June 24, 2004
Welcome to the tenth issue which highlights a best-selling author's writing life, writing articles and some writing tips. This publication appears bi-monthly.
If you like what you see here, please forward this copy and use this link to subscribe.
Table of Contents1) The Man Who Created Beast –- Glen Keane By W. Terry Whalin
2) The Writer’s Mandate By Thomas B. Sawyer
3) Ten Factors to Consider When Writing Book Proposals By Dr. Dennis E. Hensley
4) How to Write Devotionals By Sandy Brooks
5) Are You Writing Your Book Backwards?
6) Start to Finish By Cecil ("Cec") Murphey
7) What Is The Banner Over Your Life? By Robin Jones Gunn
8) How to Outgrow 'Write What You Know' By Jenna Glatzer
9) Understand the Effects of Your Point of View By James Scott Bell
10) Ten Percent of Nothing book review By W. Terry Whalin
11) How to Crack A Closed Trade Show
12) Writing Tips
13) New Links to Check
The Man Who Created Beast –- Glen Keane
By W. Terry WhalinGlen Keane is one of the most famous Hollywood actors you never heard of; he's the real person behind the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast," Tarzan in "Tarzan," Aladdin in "Aladdin," Ariel in "The Little Mermaid," and the great eagle in "The Rescuers Down Under." No, he's not the voice behind these Disney animated stars. He's the guy who makes them come to life. Glen Keane is directing animator at Walt Disney Pictures, one of the creative talents who, some critics and parents say, is helping Disney move into a new golden age of animated film.
Glen spends a lot of time thinking about his characters--why they do what they do, how they feel while they're doing it. "As an animator," he says, "you become that character. An actor never gets the chance to play some of the parts I can play."
It takes more than a year to finish a full-length film. Glen and his team of six animators are at work on the next animated feature with long hours and an exacting craft. As a Christian, Glen sees his work more broadly. "I look at animation as a gift from God. We're helping the public to see the beauty of God's creation."
Most people, he feels, take simple aspects of life for granted. For example, consider a dog walking across the street. To make an animated dog cross a street, animators have to study bone structure, movement and anatomy.
"As artists," Glen says, "we see with new eyes and then reflect it to the public. Without these fresh experiences, my work would become stale."
Those ‘experiences' include Linda, his wife and their adult children Claire and Max. Glen's father, Bil, is the creator of the popular "Family Circus" comic.
"Dad taught me that whatever I drew should be real to me," says Glen. "He does that, and the sincerity shows in his work."
Glen grew up in the Phoenix area, and it was there that he met Linda. They were both in line to see "The Godfather." Linda, a Minnesota native, was vacationing with her parents. As Linda tells it, she noticed Glen and thought, "Hey, he's cute. What would it be like to be married to him?"
They started talking, hit it off, and for the next three days Glen showed Linda the sights around Phoenix. But because she had a steady boyfriend at home, nothing came of the relationship then.
Glen didn't forget the girl from Minnesota, especially when Roberta Flack's hit "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" came on the radio.
Nor did Linda forget him. Three years after they met at the Phoenix cinema, Linda sent Glen a birthday card, rekindling the relationship.
Eventually Linda flew out to California to visit Glen, who by then was working for Disney. They spent their first day at Disneyland.
"I wanted to make sure Linda liked kids," Glen said jokingly. That evening he proposed, and they were married two-and-a-half months later.
"I expected marriage to be like the Cleavers," Linda says. But, the Keanes found the reality was far from the storybook images Glen worked with every day.
"We had immediate problems," Linda says. "We didn't know each other."
Nor did they share a faith tradition. Raised Lutheran, Linda decided to convert to Glen's Roman Catholicism. When she asked the priest for marriage counsel, he advised seeking an annulment. At the same time, Glen's coworkers were saying, "Just get a divorce." But Glen refused the easy way out.
"My commitment was based on the fact that I knew it was God's will for us to be married and not to divorce," he says.
During his first years at Disney, Glen had been searching for a deeper understanding of life. "One of my coworkers, Ron Husband, had been studying with the Jehovah's Witnesses and was beginning to question their teaching. He gave me a Gideon Bible."
Reading John 3:16, Glen believed the words and trusted Christ. Husband left the Jehovah's Witnesses study and began meeting with Glen for prayer and Bible study during breaks at work. Both Glen and Linda began to glimpse the truth of Christ working in their lives.
They both broke with their heritage and started attending an Evangelical Free church. One night their pastor, Don Botsford, dropped by. Glen wanted to talk about his marriage but felt awkward about introducing the topic. Finally, just as Botsford was leaving around 11, Glen said, "There is one thing ..." The pastor wound up staying another two hours, during which he explained to the Keanes what it really means to commit a marriage to the lordship of Christ. Linda and Glen had never thought of marriage in quite that way before, and Botsford's words helped turn their relationship around.
Today, not only has the foundation of Christ anchored the Keanes firmly at home, but also it has provided a safe harbor from the intense pressures that accompany Glen's efforts to turn out cinematic works of artistic merit, while still keeping the world's most profitable entertainment conglomerate in the black. How does Glen bring his faith to bear on his work?
"My attitude has been that I don't work for Disney, I work for the Lord in whatever I do," he says. "Sometimes even when I disagree with an idea, I'll throw my whole self into it, and somewhere in the middle find a spark of inspiration. I try to invest in other members of my team and get a sense of accomplishment watching them do well.
"The biggest challenge at work is loving your neighbor. We're a bunch of egos--artists working together. Can you submit to someone else's idea? Can you take their idea instead of yours?"
Through the years, Glen has expanded his creative horizons beyond the Disney studio where animated features are put together. He writes and illustrates the Adam Raccoon children's book series (Faith Kidz/ Cook Communications) which includes books like Adam Raccoon and the Flying Machine and Adam Raccoon and the Circus Master. Geared for children ages four through seven, each book finds poor Adam in another misadventure, such as getting lost in the woods or trying to assemble a flying machine. Each story is based on one of Jesus' parables and discussion questions help parents reinforce the books' themes.
Glen has tested his Adam Raccoon ideas on his own children, and like his dad Bil, he encourages them in their own artistic pursuits.
"Claire could draw before she could talk," Linda says about their daughter. "At age three, we took her to a speech therapist, but she drew like an early elementary-age child."
Max, too, has done some animation at home--bringing a shark to cartoon life.
Glen is one of the few veteran animators at Disney who have remained at the drawing board. Some of his colleagues have moved over to producing or directing. But, says Glen, such a change would "move me away from what I do best--drawing."
The fact that Glen has stayed put is something for which many children, as well as their parents, are grateful.
W. Terry Whalin understands both sides of the editorial desk--as an editor and a writer. He worked as a magazine editor for Decision and In Other Words. His magazine articles have appeared in more than 50 publications including Writer's Digest and Christianity Today. Terry has written more than 55 nonfiction books and his latest is The Complete Idiot's Guide to Teaching the Bible (Alpha Books). See more about his writing at www.right-writing.com/whalin.html. For more than 12 years Terry has been an ECPA Gold Medallion judge in the fiction category. He has written extensively about Christian fiction and reviewed numerous fiction books in publications such as CBA Marketplace and BookPage. He is the Fiction Acquisitions Editor for Howard Publishing. Terry and his wife, Christine, live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
© 2004 W. Terry Whalin
The Writer’s Mandate
By Thomas B. SawyerFace it — We’re Entertainers
First, and perhaps most important, the writer must understand that no matter what it is we’re trying to communicate — to readers or viewers — be it comedy, drama, instructional or informational, high art or lowbrow — we want our audience to respond — to laugh, cry, feel. We want to surprise and delight and yes, when possible, teach and illuminate. And to achieve that, to get our message across, we must entertain.
We are entertainers.
Now, that is not as tacky/shallow as it may sound. We — all of us, no matter how lofty our literary intentions — want an audience, or we hope to find one, for what we have to say — and we want to hold its attention. Strike that: we must hold its attention — or we won’t get our story across. To accomplish that, we must — on some level, tasteful or not — entertain. It’s an obligation. This is true whether we’re poets, peddlers or preachers.
Or even trial lawyers. The noted novelist/attorney Scott Turow has said that when he was first hired as a prosecutor he was astonished to find that “the trial lawyer’s job and the novelist’s were...shockingly similar. The trial lawyer who lost the audience also inevitably lost the case. Engaging the jury was indispensable...Tell them a good story...”
The TV Writer’s Mandate
Ancillary to the concept that we are entertainers, and arguably just as important, is the mandate in commercial television that — while it’s unique to the medium — should resonate for all of us: simply put, the television scriptwriter’s mission is to deliver the audience to the commercial break.
That’s all. It is the advertisers who are paying the bills.
And how does the TV writer do that? By keeping the audience entertained. Fascinated. Curious. Amused. Moved.
The TV writer is not obligated to elevate the public’s cultural level, to educate, inspire, enlighten, or to produce art. But neither are we prohibited from doing so (with the obvious exception of shows that are so abysmally dumb in conception as to make such aspirations impossible — there have always been too many of those, but I prefer to celebrate the remarkable few that are brilliant — and yet manage to survive in this mass medium). If the writer aims for any or all of the above, that’s great, but it is not a requirement.
The only requirement is that the audience must continue to watch. Hence, if the television writer fails to grab, and then hang onto viewers, if the audience switches channels before the commercial — if the writer loses the audience, that writer is not doing his or her job.
Is not the same thing true of a poet, a playwright, a novelist, biographer or minister?
The TV Writer’s Bogeyman
Another take on it: an imperative that television taught me, is that as I write each word, each line of dialogue, I keep a certain image in mind — that of a representative, metaphorical VIEWER. Mine happens to be a guy in his tee-shirt, feet up on the coffee table, sitting there after another long, tiring day at a job he despises, a beer in one hand and the remote in his other. And that’s the important part — the remote — because his thumb is constantly hovering over the channel-selector button. He is ready to vote, moment-to-moment, on how well I am doing my job. If I bore this guy, for even an instant, I’ve lost him. Ergo, I have failed.
Oh — and there’s another side to this guy — as I envision him — that sets him apart from, say, the moviegoer in a theater. The moviegoer has paid to see the film and, beyond his cash investment, is at least somewhat captive; he’s sitting in a dark room, which contributes to his feeling of isolation and therefore to his concentration on the movie, which is bombarding his senses with Surround-Sound, special effects and a giant screen. The person reading your novel or short story is, likewise, hopefully engrossed. My TV viewer, on the other hand, is seated in a lighted room, looking at a small screen while the kids are screaming, the dishwasher is clattering, the phone is ringing and the dog is farting. And if that weren’t bad enough, every few minutes he’s further distracted from my show by — commercials.
Think about it.
That’s the challenge.
How different is it from the necessity, in writing a novel, that you grip your reader? Or the movie that rivets the audience’s attention, advertising copy that sells, or essays, newspaper stories, travel articles, or even biography that compel us to read on — or religious sermons that keep the congregation awake? Or weaving a story that sways a jury? How different is it from the historian’s obligation to hold the attention of the reader who bought his or her book? Or the playwright’s to the audience that paid for tickets to the show — to keep the people in — or better yet, on – the edge of their seats — instead of walking out?
The novelist whose reader stops turning the pages is not doing his or her job.
The advertising copywriter whose words don’t rivet the customer – and sell the product – isn’t doing her job.
The minister whose flock dozes off or begins fidgeting, glancing around the room, isn’t doing his job. A successful pastor whom I know approaches his sermons with the following philosophy: “I try to comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comfortable.”
We want our audiences to be absorbed, hooked. We want them to stay with us, turn the pages, remain in the theater. So we must remember — always — even in the smallest, seemingly least important scene — that we cannot bore them. If we do, they’ll stop reading or watching or paying attention to whatever it is we’re trying to say. And even the most dedicated — the ones who despite the boredom hang on till the end, will find the process torturous. And will therefore be reluctant to try anything else that you’ve authored.
That is the standard by which you must judge the words you write — and be willing to revise them or dump them if they don’t measure up — no matter how deeply you might love them.
The Hitchcock Motto
Perhaps the most meaningful words for a writer that I have ever encountered came from a filmmaker. Alfred Hitchcock, the master writer/director of suspense movies said:
“Drama is real life — with the dull parts left out.”
I think about that a lot. And so should you. It applies to all of us, to all kinds of writing, but it is especially instructive for those who are telling a “true” story — be it history, biography or a memoir. That a story is factual gives it, admittedly, a degree of cache, but only a degree. Its success depends on how it is told. You, the writer, the teller of that story, have got to locate, to recognize — and then present — the heat. The drama.
And by “drama,” I mean comedy as well as tragedy, and all of the shadings in between — including surprises — all of which have, at their core, a common and arguably the single most important thread for writer and audience — CONFLICT.
Conflict is a word you will find repeated many times in this book — for very good reasons. A true-story that consists of a succession of this-happened-and-then-that-happened-accounts of how your hero or heroine met this-or-that famous person, or was present when some noteworthy event took place — that doesn’t cut it. Where was the heat in their tale? Where was the theater? What were their emotions? Where was the excitement?
But more to the point, and I’ll expand upon this later, show the conflict. Play it. Don’t talk about it, or have your characters discuss it. Dramatize it. Focus on it. Set up scenes or situations that illustrate it. Conceive your stories and your characters and your individual scenes and moments in terms of conflict. In terms of disagreement. Argument.
Because that is the story.
Because true-story or not, it must still entertain your audience. Put another way, readers/viewers want to see, to experience vicariously, the obstacles your protagonists overcome in getting from A-to-B-to-C. Not just that they get there. I submit that historians or biographers who have a dramatist’s sensibilities, a gift for going beyond the academic, write the best, most satisfying, riveting nonfiction. People with the fiction writer’s talent for finding the real, human meanings, the stuff that takes us past the dryness of dates and times and places, enabling us to identify with the players.
Excerpted from Fiction Writing Demystified: Techniques That Will Make You a More Successful Writer All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.
Novelist, screenwriter, playwright Thomas B. Sawyer was Head Writer/Producer-Showrunner of the hit series, Murder, She Wrote, for which he wrote 24 episodes. Tom has written 9 network TV pilots, 100 episodes, and has been Writer/Showrunner or Story Editor on 15 network series. He wrote, directed & produced the cult film comedy, Alice Goodbody, is co-librettist/lyricist of Jack, an opera about John F. Kennedy that has been performed to acclaim in the US and Europe. He is co-creator of Storybase software. The bestselling mystery/thriller, The Sixteenth Man, is his first novel. Both his latest book, Fiction Writing Demystified: Techniques That Will Make You a More Successful Writer, and Storybase are Writer’s Digest Book Club Selections. His next thriller, No Place To Run, will be published in 2005. Mr. Sawyer has been nominated for an Edgar and an Emmy. Tom, his wife Holly, and cats live in Malibu, California. You can learn more at his website:
www.ThomasBSawyer.com or his site for writers: www.storybase.net.
Ten Factors to Consider When Writing Book Proposals
By Dennis E. HensleyMy friend Virginia Muir, former managing editor at Tyndale House Publishers, was once accosted by an irate writer whose proposal had been rejected by Tyndale.
"All right, so maybe my proposal had a few rough edges," barked the young writer. "But couldn't you have fixed it up a little bit for me?"
Virginia shook her head. "We are hired to heal the sick," she said, "not raise the dead."
According to most acquisition editors at publishing houses, the knack for writing contract-winning book proposals is seldom mastered by freelance writers. This is unfortunate. Most houses today insist on reading proposals only, particularly when dealing with previously unpublished authors. If you are trying to market a novel or nonfiction book, you would do well to consider the ten factors editors find most important about book proposals:
#1 Proper Elements. "The standard package has not changed much over the years regarding book proposals," says Peter Rubie of the Perkins-Rubie and Associates Literary Agency of New York. "A cover letter should include the author's qualifications for writing this particular book, a brief description of what the book is about, a projection of when the manuscript will be completed, some discussion of who the target readers will be, and an explanation of whatever the need is that the book will meet. Some companies also like a one or two page synopsis of the plot to be included."
Rubie adds, "Send along an annotated table of contents which lists the title of each chapter and then provides a one or two paragraph summary of what will transpire in that chapter. Editors expect also to receive at least two completed chapters so that they can judge the writer's ability to write dialogue, handle leads and closings, develop characters, and create plot (or provide support data for nonfiction books)."
#2 Neatness. You only get one chance to make a good first impression, so it had better be your best effort. Dog-eared pages, erasure smudges, strike-overs, faded ribbons and correction fluid smears are sure indications that the manuscript has been passed around. Make sure that the manuscript smacks of professionalism. Use #16 or #20 weight Bond white paper, and be sure to have an ink cartridge in your computer printer that is full and dark.
#3 Reader Sensitivity. "To me," says John R. Ingrisano, president of Poetic Press, "a book proposal needs the smell of gunpowder. Readers need to feel an author has been in the battle, that he knows first-hand what he's talking about. It's easy to see through a fraud. He'll say things about a topic that no one who's been involved in it would ever say. Readers want sensitivity and identity from authors, not aloof judgments or unbending mandates."
#4 Good Writing. Most writers will make an effort to have exact spelling, proper punctuation and correct grammar in their book proposals. Unfortunately, that doesn't guarantee that their writing will be clear. Former acquisition editor Steve Laube of Bethany House Publishers notes, "When book proposals come in, the sample chapters often have redundancies, fluff and padding. I like to see clear messages, straight-forward writing, and well organized structuring. Prose that needs paring isn't going to impress me."
#5 Organization. "Book proposals need a clear sense of organization," says Rich Willowby of Warner Press. "There needs to be a logical progression from one event to the next. I often make my authors ask of themselves, ‘What is it I'm trying to accomplish in this book?' I then make them summarize the whole book in one paragraph. After that, if there is anything in the book that doesn't fall in line with those early-established guidelines, it gets cut. This keeps the book on target and organized."
Mr. Willowby suggests that writers should prepare a solid blueprint for a book via the annotated table of contents. This will map the book's direction and pace and will organize the information or plot.
#6 Publisher Familiarity. The author should be familiar with the kinds of books each publishing house specializes in. If a house specializes on a particular market (children's books, college textbooks) or has a particular theological bent (Baptist, Catholic) or specializes in a distinctive line of books (romances, mysteries), the author should be well aware of this prior to sending in a book proposal.
"It's easy to gather a lot of information about a publishing house," says Pamela G. Ahearn, director of the Ahearn Literary Agency of New Orleans. "Write for the publisher's Guidelines for Writers. Study the company's catalog of current and back listed books. Go to the library and check out books published by that company and read them for style and content and market focus. Go to writers' conferences and meet one on one with editors from that company and discuss the company's current and future manuscript needs. Be informed."
#7 Market Positioning. In a cover letter of a book proposal the author will need to show that he or she has a thorough knowledge of the market the book will be competing in. The publisher will be interested in knowing what similar books are already on the market, who wrote them, who published them, and how well they have been selling. The publisher will also want to know how this new book will stack up against the competition and in what ways it will offer any new material or fresh ideas.
#8 Professional Development. Publishers want to know specific facts about where an author is in his or her career – novice or seasoned professional. The cover letter should include pertinent information such as where or when the author's other books (if any) have been published, which magazines he or she has written articles for, how much byline visibility the author has had in recent years, and what sort of educational training or on-the-job experience the writer has had to enhance his or her writing (and marketing) skills.
"One of the biggest advantages for a would-be writer is to have a built-in forum," asserts Linda Konner, former editor of Weight Watcher's Magazine. "When I wrote my first book about diet and exercise, I mentioned in my cover letter that I travel around the country to speak to various organizations about health matters and that I could sell my books at these meetings. I also said that my contact with a leading diet magazine would enable me to have excerpts from my book printed in that periodical. This convinced the publisher that I would be a big help at marketing the new book. I got the contract."
This same principle applies to people who do evangelism crusades, lead sales seminars, have their own radio or TV show or serve as lecturers at conventions. Public visibility is important.
#9 Legal Concerns. If the author's manuscript will contain photographs, illustrations, maps, cartoons, historical documents, direct quotations from interviews or material from other printed sources, the publisher will want to know if appropriate model release forms and permission-to-quote releases have been secured. We are a litigation crazy society these days, so it pays to secure all the right paperwork.
#10 Business Negotiations. A cover letter should mention whether or not a writer will be acting on his or her own behalf or will be later represented by a literary agent or attorney when contract negotiations begin. It's also proper to mention whether the book proposal is being multiple-marketed or just being sent to one publisher at a time.
A book proposal is similar to a job interview. If the appearance is neat, the information is interesting and accurate, and the necessary preparation has been done, there's a good chance that the deal will be closed.
Dr. Dennis E. Hensley is director of the professional writing major at Taylor University Fort Wayne (IN). He is the co-author of the Leslie Holden mystery-romance novel series released by Harvest House and also the author of such writing books as How to Write What You Love and Make a Living at It (Random House) and Alpha Teach Yourself Grammar and Style in 24 Hours (Macmillan).
How to Write Devotionals
By Sandy BrooksEarly in my writing career I thought devotionals were short articles accompanied by Scripture and a prayer. I wrote and sold many devotionals -- even on assignment -- under that misconception. Not until I attended a devotional workshop taught by Mary Lou Redding did I realize that I didn't understand devotionals as a writing form. Mary Lou is the long-time editor at The Upper Room. Much of what I'm saying to you, I learned from her.
Devotional writing is one real person (the writer) telling another real person (the reader) a true story about God's activity in everyday life.
Although devotionals are short, they aren't necessarily easy to write. Writing good devotionals requires an intimate relationship with Christ that only comes through daily Bible study and prayer. Incorporating Scripture, life application, prayer, and sometimes a "Thought for the Day" in 300 words or less takes discipline. It leaves no room to explore side trails. Every word must count, and every ingredient must mingle with the others to form a cohesive unit.
Consider at least three areas in choosing your devotional markets.
The audience. Tailor make your devotionals to the audience you're writing for: children, teens, adults, and retired adults, boys, girls, newlyweds, parents, teachers, athletes, and other audiences with special needs and interests.
Unsolicited submission. Submitting an unsolicited devotional means that you come up with the idea and send the devotional on speculation as with any other manuscript. Get a sample copy of your intended market and imitate the format as closely as possible: length, viewpoint, and enhancements such as italics, boldface, and all caps.
To Write on Assignment. You follow a similar process to the unsolicited submission to get a writing assignment except the devotionals -- around three -- are samples of your writing rather than submissions for sale. Using these samples and a query letter, you request a devotional assignment. The editor responds using the SASE you enclosed in the query. The editor assigns you specific Scripture passages. Sometimes the assignment involves following a unifying theme. Often, you're put on a waiting list. It may take a year or more to receive an assignment so you may want to apply to several guides at once.
If you cross denominational lines, keep in mind that your theology must agree with the publishing house you're writing for. Stick with the basic tenets of the Christian faith, with Christ at the center of your writing, and you shouldn't have a problem: His virgin birth, His sinless life, His atoning death by crucifixion, His bodily resurrection, and His imminent return.
A Simple Devotional Format
Title: Editors often give you titles to go with an assignment.
Focal Passage: This varies from one to ten verses and my cover a whole chapter.
Memory or Key Verse: This usually contains the thesis of your devotional.
Body: This section usually consists of three parts that make a single spiritual point: (1) a lead (anecdote, quotation, statistic, question), (2) a section that connects the lead with the key verse, (3) a section that contains practical life application from the Scripture passage.
Prayer: Prayers are usually no more than two short sentences. Short prayers carry more impact that long ones.
Thought for the Day: This summarizes the devotional's point or challenges the reader to be "doers of the word and not hearers only."
Types of Devotionals
In the order of marketability, here are some common types of devotionals.
Dialogue: Editors prefer dialogue over other types because it involves real life happening in front of the reader's eyes.
Narrative: An incident that often opens with an anecdote and sometimes contains dialogue.
Reflection: A philosophical look at a personal discovery of a spiritual principle. Nostalgia works well with this one.
Object lesson: Everyday objects, such as a glass of water, that have spiritual application.
Quotation: A quotation from a famous person, an advertising slogan, a cartoon, or something similar that makes a spiritual point.
Living Skills: Assigns readers something to do or try out.
Seasonal: Editors often need good material for holidays and seasons.
Historical figure or event: A dramatic scene of faith from yesteryear.
Inspiring places: Spiritual insights about places you've visited, read, or heard about.
Children's stories: A key word, phrase, or idea from timeless stories like The Little Red Hen or The Ugly Duckling.
Retold Bible stories: A good choice for writers with a gift for writing nonfiction with fiction techniques.
Poetic prose: These have a similetical, metaphorical, or allegorical feel in language and arrangement of words on the page.
Cute kid stories: Least marketable of all types because it's extremely difficult to draw your reader's attention away from the child and toward God.
Use Old Testament passages. Devotional guide editors say they get too many devotionals on the New Testament. What they really need are devotionals on the Old Testament -- especially the obscure passages.
Retain your rights. You may want to sell them as reprints or collect them into book form at a later time.
Avoid cliches. Use fresh, real life stories and illustrations. Don't rely on what you've heard a thousand times. Life happens around you everyday, and it's full of fresh, lively stories and illustrations.
Don't preach. Something about commenting on Scripture entices us to beat readers over the head with Truth.
Devotional articles. If you have written devotionals to a particular format, but could not sell them that way, rewrite them incorporating the key verse into the text and sell it as a devotional article.
I often scan guides for examples of good devotional writing. Mostly, I find writers like me who don't understand devotionals as a writing form. They treat them as short articles accompanied by Scripture and a prayer. Occasionally, I find writers who sparkle like droplets of dew in the morning sun. They've learned the secret. Good devotional writing draws the reader's attention to God -- not to someone in the story, not to an historical event, not to a quotation by a spiritual giant, not to them and their writing ability -- but to God. May God cause your writing to sparkle!
Sandy Brooks has been writing professionally since 1980 and has served as CWFI director since 1993. Part of that role includes serving as editor and publisher of Cross & Quill, The Christian Writers Newsletter. A frequent faculty member at some of the nation's largest writers conferences, she specializes in nonfiction. She wrote the nonfiction units of At-Home Writers Workshops, a correspondence course for Christian writers. Recently, she has begun serving as a consultant on layout and design of children's books for a major Midwestern publishing house. The author of 12 childrens books and co-author of Religious Writers Marketplace, Fourth Edition, she's sold thousands of articles, devotionals, curriculum, poems, and columns to almost every denominational and non-denominational house in the Christian marketplace.
© 2004 Sandy Brooks
Are You Writing Your Nonfiction Book Backwards?
Many people believe to write a nonfiction book, they need to write the manuscript then try to locate a publisher. Instead the publisher needs something called a nonfiction book proposal. This proposal contains a great deal of information which will never appear in the pages of a manuscript--yet a publisher needs to make an informed decision about the writer and to offer a publishing contract.
Terry Whalin has written more than 60 nonfiction books (all with traditional publishers). He understands what is required to produce a nonfiction book proposal. He has collaborated with a number of different people on nonfiction book projects. Also Terry is an acquisitions editor—often the first person to read these nonfiction book proposals. This book contains his insight and experience regarding book proposals that sell. His stories and insight will show you how to avoid the pitfalls of rejection.
If you want to write a nonfiction book, then you need Book Proposals That Sell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success and you can have this product in a few instant clicks for only $19.95. Besides the ebook, Book Proposals That Sell includes a real nonfiction book proposal that Terry wrote (and an agent sold) for a six-figure advance from a traditional publisher.
Besides several valuable appendices in this ebook, Terry includes several bonuses with each purchase.
Start to Finish
By Cecil (Cec) MurpheyMy friend Wayne Holmes compiled a book called Heart of a Mother for a 2003 publication by Bethany House Publishers. He sent out the word that he paid for heart-warming stories and received more than 300 entries At least two hundred of them he easily rejected. Wayne asked me to edit the stories.
We can cite many reasons for rejection such as poor quality of writing, but one of the major problem was that too many people simply didn't understand what an article is. (I'm using the word article, but the principle applies to chapters of a nonfiction fiction or a scene in a novel.)
1. Focus on one idea.
Let's start with a definition. An article is a short piece that focuses on one idea. Here's an easy way to see how this works. Pick out two different magazines. Read three articles in each. As you read, ask yourself: What is the one point the author is trying to make? The title should help. If it's a how-to advice called "Three Ways to Lose Weight," that points the direction. If it's something such as "The Day Dad Cried," everything in that piece needs to point to a single, poignant event with no distracting information about where Dad lived when he was fifteen (unless it's relevant) or the fact that he went to school with Tom Cruise's mother.
As you read each article, here's another question to ask yourself: Is there anything that distracts me from a single focus? Less experienced writers, like beginning preachers, tend to provide too much information and thus, divert the power of the message.
Once you have a single-focused idea, you can state it in a single sentence. Here's an example: If you're considering adoption, here are the things you need to know.
2. Gather the material.
This is the research period and gathering includes getting the facts, accurate statistics, and deciding on anecdotes. Learn everything you will need to cover.
3. Structure your article.
Before you write, plan where you're going. If you start with a single focus, you decide on a beginning or introduction and then bring in evidence to support your point. I find what the Train Method helpful to explain this.
Think of your piece as an old-fashioned freight train with a snowplow on the front. That snowplow grabs readers' attention. We call that a lead or a hook. A lead can be an illustration, a quote, or a question—anything that grabs readers and makes them want to read.
The locomotive comes after the snowplow. You might start with a negative lead about a couple that lost all their money in the stock market. Then you say, "If they had known the three golden principles of investing…" and you have previewed your focus This is the engine that propels the entire article. Sometimes we call this the capsule statement. You hook your boxcars to the locomotive by presenting the substance that supports your one point. You arrange your boxcars in logical sequence. The caboose ends the article because it concludes with a quote, a summary, or a restatement of your capsule statement.
4. Write the first draft.
Don't worry about syntax, grammar, or consistency: just write. Don't edit yourself. Novice writers often bog down because they try to make every sentence perfect before they can go on to the next. Resist that urge. In this computer age, it's easy to make changes easily, and no one else will know how much you edited.
5. If possible, lay the piece aside for a few days.
I've learned that when I do that, when I return to the article, I'm fresher and have greater insight because the article has been churning away in my unconscious mind.
6. Polish your writing.
Scrutinize for clichés, fuzzy thoughts, grammatical problems, poor word choice, and favorite words you've used too often. Ask yourself: Have I written with a logical progression? Read the end of each paragraph and check to make sure the next paragraph flows logically from it. (We call that smooth transitioning). Get rid of clutter, such as redundancies and laborious phrases. A good rule is that if you can think of a simpler word use it in place of a long word. The rule is that we write to communicate not to impress.
7. Polish the article again.
Keep editing and revising it until you know you can't make it any better. The first article I ever wrote for publication (and it was accepted the first time out), I wrote eighteen full drafts.
8. Stop. Let go.
When I finished the eighteenth draft, I knew I couldn't improve on it. Today I could, of course, but that was the best I could do then. An editor someone else might make it better. To myself I said aloud, "This is the best I can do at this stage of my development." I now repeat those words before I send in a manuscript. It's my way to let it go. Then I'm ready to send my prose to an editor.
9. Consider Slanting.
We can write your prose in two different ways. The most common method is how most beginning writers do it. They write their article and then search for a magazine to publish it.
A better way is to slant the article to fit the needs of a particular magazine. We call this "knowing your markets." (That will be my next column.) For instance, I don't like put-down jokes. I decided to write an article on the subject and aimed it at parents so that they could set the example for their children. I sent the article to Focus on The Family. (FOTF).
I knew that the magazine consists of 16 pages and that 90 percent of their articles are staff written and the odds were against acceptance. I had studied them enough to know what they wanted, so I mailed it to them. Three weeks later an editor wrote to say she liked the article and that it was exactly the kind of material they wanted. The problem was that they didn't see how they could use it for at least a year. "This isn't fair to you," she wrote, "so please feel free to sell it elsewhere. If you have not sold it within six months, please send it back and we'll accept it for publication."
I changed three sentences to focus on adults in general, gave it a new title, and sent it to Signs of the Times. They bought it and also paid more than FOTF.
In my early days of writing I wouldn't have known to do that, Slanting is part of the craft we learn.
Slanting is part of the craft we learn. Despite my changing the slant for a second magazine, the principles of writing articles still holds. I started my article with one basic thought, illustrated my point, gave examples of the harm of put-down jokes, and offered suggestions on how to avoid that type of humor.
My point is that no matter how you choose to write your article—and I've presented one day—the foundation is the same: Every article has one major point.
Cecil ("Cec") Murphey has written, co-written, or ghostwritten more than 90 books, both fiction and nonfiction. His Gifted Hands, the autobiography of Dr. Ben Carson, has now sold nearly two million copies since its publication in 1990. He ghosted Franklin Graham's autobiography, Rebel With a Cause, which won an ECPA Gold Medallion. Reader's Digest magazine condensed I Choose to Stay: A Black Teacher Refuses to Desert the Inner City (Kensington) and Disney has optioned it for film as"The Mighty Bishops." Kinetic Pictures has optioned 90 Minutes in Heaven, written for Don Piper(Revell). His recent books include When Someone You Love Has Alzheimer's (Beacon Hill) and Committed but Flawed: Finding New Ways to Grow Spiritually (AMG). You can learn more about Cec at his website located at: www.cecilmurphey.com.
© 2004 Cecil Murphey. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.
What Is The Banner Over Your Life?
By Robin Jones GunnOn Monday evenings I've been meeting with two aspiring writers Jaynie and Meg. They are brilliant women and both are accomplished in their careers. Jaynie is from England. Meg has a Masters in Marketing. Since their children are in high school and they have a little more time opening up, they want to pursue a long-time dream of writing.
Last spring through church, I met Jaynie and Meg when our teens were in the same drama performance. Jaynie wrote and directed the play. I found out Jaynie and Meg were both taking a correspondence writing course. "But something seems to be missing for me," Jaynie said. "I have so many ideas but I don't know how to let go of the really bad ones."
The three of us mid-life mamas met for coffee one Monday evening in May. Since then we decided to make it a regular event. One of the early questions they asked me was, "How do you know if you're suppose to write and what you're suppose to write?"
I mentioned a verse I've been reflecting on lately: Romans 11:29. "For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable."
"Has God gifted you to use words to communicate His truth?" I knew the answer was yes for both of them because I'd read some of their writing.
"Has God called you to communicate His truth through writing?"
"I think so," Meg said. "I've tried pursing other avenues of service but these stories inside me won't go away. I keep coming back to the computer."
I told Jaynie and Meg that I felt the same way seventeen years ago while working on Summer Promise, the first novel I wrote for teens. After two years and ten rejection letters I wanted to give up but I couldn't. I found a verse in Jeremiah 20:9 that perfectly expressed what I was feeling.
"But if I say, ‘I will not mention Him or speak anymore in His name', His word is in my heart like a fire, shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in, indeed I could not."
"That's exactly what I feel," Meg said.
"Ditto," said Jaynie.
I smiled at my new friends and said, "Consider yourselves gifted and called by God to write. And remember, it's God's gifting and His calling and it's irrevocable. No one can invalidate you with criticism and no one can quench this fire in your bones. Only God. He put it there. Your only choice, really, is to obediently respond."
We got into a great discussion about our spiritual gifts. We agreed that using our spiritual gift to communicate through stories is no more exalted in God's eyes than the person who has the gift of helps and shows up every week to inconspicuously set up chairs for church service. The gifts are given so we might build up the Body of Christ, not bring glory to ourselves.
Jaynie bought a spiritual gift test at the Christian bookstore that week and came the next Monday with the results. Meg borrowed a copy of my mission statement and brought a rough, first run at her mission statement.
"It's all beginning to make sense," Jaynie said. "This is how God created me, this is how He gifted me. I'm confident that He's called me to write. But my question remains. How do you know what you are suppose to write?"
I challenged my friends again. "What is the banner God has planted in your heart? When others listen to you, what banner do they see waving above your life?" More thoughtful discussions followed.
I told them about a small church in rural Wales where I worshipped with friends last year. At the front of the sanctuary were various banners on long wooden poles lined up the same way we might line up a dozen American flags at a political rally. During the worship time, one of the men from the church walked with determined steps to the front and pulled a banner from the stand. The emblem on the banner was the Lion of Judah positioned as a strong protector and a mighty ruler. As we sang, this man set his face toward the congregation and began waving the banner as if he were preparing us for battle.
I thought, This man of faith is saying with his whole heart that he believes in the power of the Lion of Judah and he is ready to lead these people.
Later my host family told me he was the youngest elder in their church and he was the one who was instigating new and good changes. I asked if he had ever stood before the people and waved that banner.
"Oh, yes. Many times. Always the same banner. He has the heart of a lion himself. We all love him. We can trust him."
I told Meg and Jaynie that years ago when I wrote out my mission statement, I penned the word, "come" as the banner over my life. This is the theme God has planted in my heart. I believe God longs for His people to come to Him. Every story I write reflects this gracious invitation. I know God to be a Relentless Lover. We are His first love. He doesn't give up on us because He wants us back. This is the theme, the banner, that I stand and wave with all my heart.
The next Monday, Jaynie and Meg came with the homework I'd encouraged them to work on. They both had a written out mission statement and they both knew the one-word banner God was flying over their life.
I asked Meg if I could share her banner and mission statement with you. Here it is:
Meg's one word banner is "Partake."
Her verse is Psalm 34:8. "Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him."
Meg stated her passion and her mission this way:
"My passion is to encourage women to enjoy the victorious life God has for them. My mission is to encourage women to taste, touch, and see that God is all He says He is. I want to draw them in and make participants out of spectators. I want to see them dine and enjoy the hope and healing that God has laid out for everyone."
The three of us writing pals have discussed how easy it is to sit together now on Monday evenings and read our writing for critique. None of us feel insecure about whether or not we're supposed to be writing. We all agree that God has gifted each of us and called us to write. We know the theme of our message because we know the banner that we go to and hoist from the stand every time we sit at the computer. Confidently, we set our face to our audience and wave that banner with our whole heart, as if someone out there has never heard this truth before.
Have you tried to write out your mission statement? There are no right or wrong rules on how to do this. Simply write out your objective for writing. What do you want to say with your stories? Why do you feel so passionate about what you want to say?
You might find that a one-word banner has been flying over your life and you never looked up and identified it. One writer friend I know said at a dinner that she didn't have a common theme to all her books. Everyone stopped eating and looked at her. All of us knew the theme. It seemed obvious to us. We told her and she said, "Oh. I guess you're right. That is what I end up writing about every time, isn't it. I never realized it before."
As you consider your banner, think about what God has uniquely done in your life. What is your story? What is the theme that runs through your life story? This will probably be the banner that already flies over you.
Think of the intense love story found in book of the Song of Solomon (also called Song of Songs). Chapter 2:4 says, "His banner over me is love."
Ask God to bring a few extraordinary people into your life who will give you honest feedback on your writing. I didn't go looking for Jaynie and Meg. I prayed for someone my age that would provide helpful advice on my current writing project because I'm entering a new season of writing. God brought the three of us together at just the right time for all of us. We've commented on how true Solomon's words are in Ecclesiastes 4:9 & 12. "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken."
May our gracious Lord bless you with clarity and confidence in your writing. May His banner over you become clear to you and may you be blessed with a threefold cord of like-hearted writers.
Robin Jones Gunn is the best-selling, award-winning author of over 57 books with 3 million copies of her titles sold worldwide. Robin grew up in southern California and began writing for publication in 1985 when her children were young. After writing fourteen picture books for children and over 60 articles, her story-telling attention turned to writing novels for teens. This came about as a result of being involved with her husband, Ross in full-time youth ministry for over 20 years. The Christy Miller Series was followed by the Sierra Jensen Series and the Christy and Todd; the College Years Series. Bethany House Publishers currently distributes all 29 teen books in partnership with Focus on the Family.
As Robin's audience of teen readers grew older, they asked for more novels and she began writing The Glenbrooke Series for Multnomah Publishers. This eight book series includes Secrets,Whispers, Echoes, Sunsets, Clouds, Waterfalls, Woodlands and Wildflowers as well as a unique gift book titled Tea at Glenbrooke. Her most recent novels with Multnomah Publishers include Sisterchicks on the Loose!, Sisterchicks Do the Hula! and Sisterchicks in Sombreros! (9/04). Robin has also written a Women of Faith novel, Gardenias for Breakfast, which is scheduled for a 01/05 release.
Robin and Ross have been married for 28 years. They currently live near Portland, Oregon with their 22-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter. Robin's passion as a storyteller is to introduce women to God, the relentless lover. Her stories carry the common theme that we are God's first love and He never stops pursuing us because He wants us back. You can learn more about Robin Gunn at: www.robingunn.com or www.sisterchicks.com
© 2004 Robin Jones Gunn. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.
How to Outgrow 'Write What You Know'
By Jenna GlatzerEvery writer has heard it time and again, and it's not without merit: "Write what you know."
When I began freelancing, I was just out of college, so what did I write about? College. I wrote profiles of collegiate entrepreneurs, I wrote editorials about college life... and after a while, I really wanted to move on and write about other things. But I didn't feel qualified.
Luckily, I didn't let that hold me back for too long.
"Write what you know" is a very good starting point. But that's all it is. It's a place for you to go to get your feet wet, and a place to come back to when the tide gets too high. But it's not a place to stay for very long.
A better piece of advice, in my opinion, is "Write what you want to know." One of the great perks of being a freelance writer is that you get paid to learn about things. So... what do you want to learn about?
If I had completely disregarded "Write what you know" and simply opened a page of the Writers Market at random, figuring I'd send a query to whichever market my finger happened to touch, my career would be very different today. I might have ended up writing about finances, miniature horses, and aerobics. And you know what? I would have hated it.
I have no experience with any of the above topics, and there's a good reason for that: I never really wanted to have experience with them. Since I have no real passion for any of the topics, if I had to write articles about them, it would feel like work.
But did you ever stop to think about the things you always wanted to know, but never found out? Or all the interesting people you wanted to meet? Or the problems you've encountered that you wanted solved? Now those are article topics.
Try this exercise. Fill in the blanks with your answers.
1. If time and money weren't factors, I'd love to take a course in ___________________.
2. I've always wanted to ask (person you know)______________________ about _________________________.
3. I've always wanted to know how __________________________ works.
4. My life would improve if I could only ______________________________.
5. When I have a sleepless night, it's usually because I'm worried about ____________________.
6. The worst injustice I can think of is ______________________________.
7. When I was a kid, I was really passionate about _________________________.
8. I have always been embarrassed to admit that ________________________really interests me.
9. In my life, I have overcome ___________________________________________.
10. If I could volunteer for just one cause, it would be __________________________.
11. I wish I were better at ___________________________________.
12. I have always wondered why _________________________________________.
You may have lots of answers for each statement. That's great! Each answer is a possible article topic. Most of them won't be specific enough (or perhaps too specific) for an article, but they should give you lots of new starting points from which to brainstorm angles.
Think of freelance writing as your own opportunity to learn about all the things you ever wanted to know, and don't worry if you're not yet an "expert" in any of these areas! Among my favorite writing assignments have been topics in which I had no previous expertise:
-An article about a woman who started her own greeting card business for Woman's Own. Of course, I've never started my own greeting card business—but the topic certainly interested me, and I wanted a good excuse to learn more about it.
-An article about how "media overload" affects children's development for KidsGrowth.com. I'm not even a parent, let alone an expert in child psychology. But I've always wondered how increasing media immersion (TV, Internet, video games, radio, etc.) has affected people in my generation.
-An article about book packagers for Writer's Digest. Okay, I had written for a book packager at that point—but just one, and I was eager to learn more about the industry and its players. It gave me the perfect excuse to contact book packagers and learn more about the market. Many of them now have my resume on file for future assignments, too!
-Several articles about interesting inventions for Zooba.com. How much fun did I have learning about how Velcro™, aspirin, and Post-It Notes™ were invented? This made for great dinner table conversation for weeks. My father always fancied himself a bit of a mad inventor, and I guess the gene spilled over to me. I devour these quirky stories of how the human mind approaches problem-solving creatively.
-Every disabilities-related article I've ever written. Was I an "expert" in this area when I began? No. I have a brother who has Down syndrome, so I had the benefit of some extra understanding, but I only became an "expert" by writing about this topic over and over. Each time, I learned something new that I really wanted to learn—new legislation for people with disabilities, profiles of amazing people with disabilities, issues of discrimination, etc.
When working to broaden your writing horizons, be sure to think about two things: your passions, and your curiosities. You don't need to only write about topics that mean "everything" to you; you can—and should—also write about the little things that bounce around your brain. Have you always wondered how the custom of kissing under the mistletoe evolved? Or how Mexican jumping beans jump?
Have you wondered what it feels like to go back to school in your 40s or 50s? Have you wondered if there's a way to stop all that junk mail and those telemarketing calls from darkening your doorstep?
Do some preliminary research, formulate a query letter, and... ta da! You get paid to find answers to these pressing questions, or learn more about your hobbies and passions.
Consider it a challenge. Keep learning. Use your writing as a vehicle to answer every question you never had time to answer before. There are lots of people out there who have wondered about those very same things, and you can help them!
You don't need to be an expert. You need to be a great researcher, and you need to be willing to ask questions. Lots of questions, sometimes. But that's one of the great things about writers--we're such curious creatures.
Write what you want to know, and soon enough, it'll be what you do know.
Jenna Glatzer is the editor-in-chief of www.absolutewrite.com, where writers can get a free list of more than 180 agents who are open to new writers! She is also the author of Outwitting Writer's Block and Other Problems of the Pen and other books for writers, which you can read about at: http://www.absolutewrite.com/jenna/books.htm if you want to make her day.
Understand the Effects of Your Point of View
By James Scott BellThere's a constant confusion, it seems, over point of view. Even veteran writers sometimes get in a fog about it.
I'd like to approach in a little different way. Instead of heading into the differences, let's first talk about the effects.
There is a range of intimacy in POV. The most intimate is first person, where the narration is coming from the head of the character. We get the closest possible connection to the thoughts and feelings of the Lead.
By way of contrast, the omniscient POV is the least intimate. While the omniscient narrator can roam freely, that very freedom prevents the close focus on one character that, once again, renders greater intimacy.
So the first question to ask about your plot is how intimate do you want it? Is the character aspect the most important factor? You might then consider first person. But that's not always the best choice. There are other alternatives along the way, as we'll see.
In between First Person and Omniscient is Third person POV, which comes in two forms. Limited and Unlimited. Limited means you stick with one character throughout the book. You don't stray into the perceptions of any other character. Unlimited means you can switch POV to another character in a another scene.
A variation on the omniscient POV is the cinematic POV, rarely used except in detective fiction. Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon is the prime example of this style. Most literary novels choose the first person these days, for good reason. Since character drive is the motor of literary plots, using first person is a natural choice.
First person does not have to be limited, either. Many writers now use multiple first person narration, alternating voices with each scene or chapter.
Third person is most popular for thrillers and action driven books.
But this does not mean there is any one right answer. The right answer is what best fits your book.
Let's have a closer look at your alternatives:
1. First Person
First person is the character telling us what happened.
I went to the store. I saw Frank. "What are you doing here?" I said.
Obviously, this POV requires everything to be seen through the eyes of one character. The lead can only report what she saw, not what Frank saw or felt (unless Frank sees fit to report these items to the lead). No scene can be described that the narrator has not witnessed. But, as we will see, there are some trick you can use to get around this.
You can use past or present tense with First Person POV. The traditional is past tense, where the narrator looks back and tells his story.
But the narrator can also do it this way: "I am going to the store. I see Frank. 'What are you doing here?" I say."
There is an immediacy of tone here that, when handled well (as Steve Martini does in his Paul Mandarini legal thrillers) is quite nice.
But there is something you can't do in First Person Present POV that you can do with the past tense form: The "If only I'd known" technique:
If only I'd known what was behind that door, I never would have opened it.
Can't do that in the present. If only I knew what I don't know now, I might not open the door, as I am doing now.
First Person makes for a very intimate, and potentially memorable, tale. But to do it well you have to:
• create a strong, interesting narrator.
• be ready to deal with the limitations--you can't observe anything the narrator can't.
One way around this is to write from first person POV for various characters, in different chapters. Some authors put the name of the POV character at the start of the chapter, then proceed to write in that narrator's voice.
This requires a lot of skill, of course, because each voice must be different, and each perspective unique.
The opposite of first person, from an intimacy standpoint, is the omniscient POV. You can, of course, go into any head here, float around from a large scale description down to deep focus on any one character. This gives you great perspective, but at an intimacy cost. While introducing information is one of the benefits of omniscient, confusion and lack of focus is a possible drawback.
In their book, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Renni Browne and Dave King suggest the omniscient choice was a weakness in an otherwise successful novel, Lonesome Dove. Which shows that a great plot can overcome some minor deficiencies.
But why make anything deficient?
These days, the safest bets are First Person and Third Person.
3. Third Person
Not surprisingly, 3d person is a compromise. The biggest problem here is keeping that POV consistent throughout a scene. It's easy to lapse and suddenly have the POV be from a different character. I'm reading the second novel of a "hot" young thriller writer now, and he makes this mistake. You're cruising along in the head of a character, then suddenly you drop into the head of a secondary character, before going back.
Now, I don't think readers really care about this. Writing teachers and critics do, but they don't buy thousands of books. What happens is, I think, more subtle. As intimacy is lost the impact of the story is lessened. At the end of the book a reader might say, "Hey, that was a pretty good yarn." But they may not have the "Wow" factor that comes from real intimate character bonding.
In the limited variety of 3d person, you stay with one character throughout. You never take on another character's POV. Done well, this can be nearly as intimate as First Person.
If you allow other characters to have a 3d person POV (unlimited) you obviously spend less time in the head of a single character. You spread the intimacy around.
I recommend the discipline of "one scene, one POV." If you need to change POV, you should start a new chapter or leave white space to signal the switch.
The difference between 3d person and cinematic is that with 3d person you create the scene through the head and perceptions of the character:
With cinematic, it's a description from the outside, as if a movie camera were set up to film the proceedings. You don't dip into the thoughts of the characters:
An example will help with the distinction. Here an excerpt from Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon, a novel in the cinematic style:
Spade sank into his swivel-chair, made a quarter turn to face her, smiled politely. He smiled without separating his lips. All the v's in his face grew longer.
The tappity-tap-tap and the thin bell and muffled whir of Effie Perine's typewriting came through the closed door. Somewhere in a neighboring office a power-driven machine vibrated dully. On Spade's desk a limp cigarette smoldered in a brass tray filled with the remains of limp cigarettes.
This is cinematic because if we were in Spade's perception (3d person) he wouldn't have been able to see the V's in his face grow longer. The description of the cigarette on Spade's desk is like a camera zooming in.
Were this to be done in 3d person, it could have gone like this:
Spade sank into his swivel-chair, made a quarter turn to face her, smiled politely. He smiled without separating his lips. He felt a tightness in his face.
He listened to the tappity-tap-tap and the thin bell and muffled whir of Effie Perine's typewriting came through the closed door. That was familiar. What bothered him was a power-driven machine vibrating dully somewhere in a neighboring office. He reached over to his desk for a limp cigarette smoldering in a brass tray, annoyed at the remains of all the limp cigarettes he'd smoked that morning.
An excellent treatment of Point of View can be found in Orson Scott Card's Characters & Viewpoint (Writers Digest Books).
Now that you understand the different possibilities for Point of View, which one is right for your novel? As you understand the possibilities, you can make a much more informed decision and carry this intentionality into your writing.
James Scott Bell studied philosophy, creative writing, and film in college, acted in off-Broadway theater in New York, and received his law degree, with honors, from the University of Southern California. A former trial lawyer, Bell is the author of the Christy Award-winning Deadlock, Breech of Promise and coauthor of the best-selling The Trials of Kit Shannon series which includes A Greater Glory, A Higher Justice and A Certain Truth. He lives in Southern California with his wife, Cindy, and their two children. You can learn more at his website: www.jamesscottbell.com.
Ten Percent of Nothing book reviewBy W. Terry Whalin
Have you ever seen the ads for literary agents in writing magazines who charge reading fees? If you wonder if people prey on unpublished authors, then you need to read Jim Fisher's new book, Ten Percent of Nothing, The Case of the Literary Agent from Hell (Southern Illinois University Press, June 2004). Fisher is a former FBI agent and this book reads like a fascinating novel.
You will learn about a frustrated science fiction novelist, Dorothy Deering, who was burned by two fee-charging literary agents who did nothing to locate a publisher for her work. As an ex-con, Dorothy saw the money-making potential in starting her own fee-based agency. She believed there were thousands of writers who had stars in their eyes about publishing and who couldn't get the attention of traditional publishers. These writers would be willing to pay money to have their work marketed to publishers.
This simple concept of fee based reading and marketing of manuscripts began one of the biggest publishing scams in American history. Thousands of would-be writers paid millions of dollars to Deering, a former bookkeeper who had no professional experience as a writer, editor, agent or publisher.
Fisher who worked for the FBI for over twenty years, was drawn to this story after learning of a friend who lost money in this scam. The author exposes an ugly side of American publishing and the book emphasizes the warning signs to any would-be writer so they will not be drawn into such practices.
I recommend anyone in publishing get a copy of Ten Percent of Nothing, The Case of the Literary Agent from Hell to help their own education about the importance of using common sense and also avoiding fee-based agents. Victoria Straus has written an excellent article which ties to this topic--The Safest Way to Search for An Agent.
You will learn from Jim Fisher that Dorothy Deering ran a publishing hoax. She never sold a single manuscript to a major publisher and bilked millions of dollars from her clients that were spent on personal cruises and expensive cars and homes. Today Dorothy Deering is in prison for her scam but others have taken up this confidence game within publishing and writers need to know about this little talked about aspect of publishing.
How To Crack A Closed Trade ShowBy W. Terry Whalin
Several times a year, authors and editors and retailers gather at closed trade shows. To get inside the door and view these aisles of books and new products, you have to have a badge which is your ticket inside.
Over the years, I've gone to many of these trade shows. There are several ways to get inside. One way is as a journalist to write about the show for a magazine. Or if you plan to interview an author (or authors) for magazine articles, then you can be issued a "media" badge for the event. I've attended many of these trade shows with a media badge. Usually there is a media office for these shows and you contact the media office requesting entrance as a writer with an assignment.
The hitch for some people is getting an assignment. There are numerous articles on Right-Writing.com about how to write a query letter and get this assignment ahead of time. You can see that it takes some effort and planning.
Another crack in the door If you haven't done this type of planning, there is another option open to you. Each year at the Christian Booksellers International (the largests Christian retail event), CLASS holds a reunion. Typically these CLASS Reunions are only open to graduates of the CLASSeminar and is usually sold out months in advance. However, due to some late cancellations, there are a limited number of spots available and CLASS is opening these reservations up to anyone interested—whether or not you are a CLASS Grad.
Nearly 20 editors from publishing houses and/or literary agents will be speaking at CLASS Reunion. Visit this CLASS Reunion link for more details including a list of editors at the Reunion. Accommodations are still available in the CLASS block of rooms at the Sheraton Hilton Hotel (on the Christian Booksellers Association Convention shuttle line). Reunion attendees have the opportunity to walk the CBA convention floor to gain an education on the Christian publishing industry that is unattainable anywhere else. The Reunion, usually reserved for CLASSeminar graduates, is now open (on a space available basis) to non-CLASS graduates. The price is $329 + an extra $40 if you wish to attend the CLASS Reunion banquet. Call 800/433-6633 to make reservations or for additional information.
If you want to crack the door of this Christian Booksellers Tradeshow this summer, you will have to hurry--but if you've missed it, then plan on it for the future.
Writing TipsGlen Keane determined to stay at his drawing table instead of moving to a different part of his industry. Also he writes children's books. What can you learn for your own writing life from his decisions?
As a television writer, Tom Sawyer has an incredible background. He knows how to construct a riveting story for the viewer or the reader. His article is loaded with writing insight for the fiction author and for the nonfiction author who wants to improve his storytelling technique.
Doc Hensley has build careful research into his article about writing book proposals. Return to this article and review the quotes from different editors and agents in publishing and it will help you. His various points require not just a single reading sessions but are to be studied.
Incredible insight and detail is built into Sandy Brooks article on How to Write Devotionals. This type of writing is wide open to new writers and a great place to begin the journey to publication or increase your publishing credits.
Cec Murphey writes about the magazine article and step-by-step takes it apart for you then puts it together. His insight is valuable for any writer.
Have you ever thought about the single word which captures the focus of your writing? Learn from best-selling author Robin Jones Gunn.
Writers are commonly told, "Write what you know." What if you've been writing what you know and want to take another step in your growth? Then you need the insight and information in Jenna Glatzer's well-written article.
For fiction writers, one of the areas of common concern is point of view. Best-selling author James Scott Bell provides detailed insight in his article on this topic.
Watch out for publishing scams and Terry's review of Ten Percent of Nothing helps you understand that in publishing some times you need to move with caution to reach your dreams.
Are trade shows really closed? The article about How to Crack A Closed Trade Show will give you some creative ideas of how to get inside.
New Links to CheckFind the Perfect Words When You Write A Note in this article
Want to find an audience for your book or your work? Your best option is to build a theme-based website. Learn more at:
Some people have written that articles are incomplete or broken in the newsletter. If you have this problem, then check the link for the back issues--which is availble to subscribers:
Are you watching the camera angle as you write fiction? Check out this article loaded with insight:
|Back to Back Issues Page|