Sunday, September 30, 2007


I took an early bird course at the recent American Christian Fiction Writers conference. Margie Lawson taught us ways to deepen character emotion and touched on her EDITs system.
During the course of the class, we worked on three chapters of our manuscripts and ALREADY I can see drastic improvement in my writing.
I HIGHLY recommend you get yourself to one of her workshops if she comes within six hours of you. I'm serious when I say she is an absolute genius when it comes to deepening emotion, AND she's a FUN teacher. Really neat lady.
She also has online courses, which I plan to take. For more information, visit her Web site:
There was so much information presented that I'm going to purchase her handouts. I know it will be well worth the money.
I can't wait to get them and apply what I've learned to my fiction.
Margie has no idea I'm posting this on my blog. This is not a paid advertisement. LOL! This is a writer who seeks to get better with each book, and who has a heart to help other writers get better with each book, and therefore raise the level of excellence in Christian fiction.
I feel very strongly that Margie's techniques will bump your writing to the next level. Check out her site today.
On my Web site I have had a link to the non-verbal dictionary. Margie touched on this, as well as using body language in our characters to communicate emotions. I was so affirmed to hear this because my fiction craft shelves hold three or four of the body language books she mentioned.
Also, her course helped me to see how much my 16 plus years practicing nursing really helped me to pick up on assessing people for sympathetic and parasympathetic response to stress, pain, etc. I have been incorporating that into my writing some, but I need to do it more.
If you want to bump your writing to the next level and learn techniques to deepen character emotion and how to apply fiction methods and rhetorical devices beyond the use of typical hyperbole, metaphors, analogies, DO take her online class, or go to one of her live workshops.
Cheryl Wyatt   Gal. 2:20   Pouring my vial of words over Him.

A SOLDIER'S PROMISE~ Steeple Hill Love Inspired~ Jan. 2008
A SOLDIER'S FAMILY~ Steeple Hill Love Inspired~ Mar. 2008

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Regarding the last Plotstorm

I've had many of you say the last edit list was overwhelming. Let me assure you that most of that stuff you will never have to worry about because not making some of those mistakes will come naturally to you as you develop your craft.

Don't get so caught up in self-editing that you halt the pulse of the story. Just write, write, write!

I write dirty (as in messy, not raunchy) the first time. I just get the words down without thinking of all the problems.

Admittedly, each rough draft I write ends up cleaner than the last, requiring less editing after the initial mess draft is complete.

So I urge you....just get it written....don't worry about getting it right, especially if you've never completed a manuscript, or only one or two.

Hope this helps.

Happy writing!


Saturday, September 15, 2007


I'm a day late posting this...but Melissa Meeks won the drawing for Camy Tang's Sushi for One!

Thanks for "entering" guys!


Wednesday, September 12, 2007


In days 8-11 I reached 30,000 words in the ms. (The first three chapters are pretty much finished) All I'm doing now is tweaking here and there and polishing. Nit picky kind of stuff. Proofreading. I distanced myself from the story every other day in order to be able to read scenes with a fresh eye. Then I went back through and checked for:
1. Passive sentences. Changed them to active. (For instance, "He was stricken with..." became "...struck him."
2. Places I slipped from Deep POV
3. Places I've told instead of shown (nearly the same as the above).
4. Places the story dragged.
5. Places I needed to put a proper name in place of a pronoun. Going back and making sure every "he, she, her, him, his," etc. refers to the last spoken name.
6. Reworking any sentences that contain indeterminate "Its," etc.
7. Looked for repetitive phrasing. Made sure I didn't use the same word or words too close together in passages.
8. Seek and destroy overused words such as "So" and "Gaze." My characters are gazers and grazers. LOL! I mention eyes and food a LOT! Probably because I'm fasting from some type of food and media when I'm churning out a rough draft. LOLOL!  
9. Checked the chapter, paragraph and sentence construction. Broke up or shortened any long passages. Made sure every sentence I'd placed on a line by itself NEEDS to be that way for maximum impact.
10. Made sure I haven't overused dashes, ellipses, exclamation points, etc.
11. Made sure I could envision the scene and setting. That I knew where the characters were in any given section.
12. Made sure I've used all the senses to enrich setting/sensory detail without going overboard. Sparingly added a few tactile words, smells, taste, sounds.
13. Read portions aloud to make sure nothing snags or drags.
14. Made sure dialogue is snappy and realistic.
15. Broke up run ons.
16. Made sure my characters have come through the way I intended them.
17. Made sure I maintained tension and conflict throughout. For instance, I upped the stakes again in this layer by having heroine not only need to get to a job, but have her boss be a Meany and tell her if she's not there by Tuesday he's not keeping the spot for her. Not only is the doctor not releasing her if he thinks she's going to skip town, her car is in the shop. Or maybe I'll have it impounded first so she really doesn't know how she's going to make it there. At this point, her scene goal (which is a step toward her story goal) is to make it to Missouri by Tuesday because (she thinks) everything hinges on her getting this job. You and I know God has different plans for her, but she's not to a point where she recognizes that yet.
18. Made sure I've not violated POV. For instance in a scene in Ben's POV, I must have forgotten because I had Hayyven have a fleeting thought. He can't know her thoughts.
19. Made sure my characters' goals and motivations are coming clearly across. And that conflict is already rampant. LOL! 
20. Cut down on overuse of introspection (a BIG weakness!) and internal monologue.
21. Made sure I didn't use a dialogue tag (he said) if I've already used an action beat (something the character does.) You don't need to use both. Beats can effectively show who is speaking.
22. Made sure I didn't start too many sentences with the same word in close proximity. For instance, on one page, I'd started the paragraph sentences out with "Ben.." or "She" and not much else. So I changed one of the "She's" to "Hayyven" and switched a couple of Ben's sentences so the dialogue came before the action beat since the reader could tell who was speaking due to the stint being on a line by itself. Every time a new person talks, it needs a new paragraph.
23. Made sure I didn't stay in a particular scene too long, and that the pacing is on target. To do that, I don't stop and edit...just read straight through and don't stop for anything. In fact, that's what I always start my writing sessions out doing. Read through what I've written to check for flow, pacing, coherency, clarity, succinctness, etc.
24. Made sure I haven't added in too many names or people for readers to have to keep up with. Condense and cut where you can.
25. Made sure I didn't refer to anything in previous books that will confuse readers who haven't read the previous books. Though this story is part of my Wings of Refuge series, it should also be able to stand alone so readers coming in in the middle of the series won't be confused or have to have read the previous two books to figure out what's going on in case my editor acquires this story.
26. Did a Seek and Destroy of all Taboo Terms. For a list of these, go to Steeple Hill has a conservative readership, so there is a list of terms and scenarios they have deemed off limits. Taboo Terms is their word for that list. For instance, I had a character say, "That totally sucks." I changed "sucks" to "stinks." I don't think sucks it's on the Taboo list but it occurred to me that phrase in its entirety has obscene roots. Only when most of us say it, we don't think of it in the sexual context. We just mean it as...that stinks. But some readers might be offended, so be mindful of that if you write for or are targeting a house that caters to a more conservative readership.
27. Made sure I haven't left any gross or graphic images in reader's mind.
28. Forgot to mention right off the bat that I always, always, always pray before I type one word or put my fingers to the keys. I ask God to order my day and to help me strengthen my story. He always comes through with a poignant image, etc. that I can then add to make the story emotionally compelling.
29. Made sure I have an equal balance of dialogue verses narrative.
30. Tweaked chapter length.
31. Made sure all my characters' reactions are believable and that nothing is coming across as jerkish, whiny, immature, unlikable, or contrived.
32. Made sure it's clear who is speaking at all times.
33. Made sure I haven'tt repeated anything. Another weakness. LOL!
34. Made sure I've used the correct names for places in town that were mentioned in books one and two. Such as Refuge Community Church, and Faith Elementary, etc.
35. Made sure secondary characters haven't stolen the spotlight from my hero or heroine.
36. Made sure nothing plot wise or subplot wise has overshadowed the romance. That needs to be front and center.
37. Made sure my hero and heroine are meeting/interacting as soon as possible in the story.
38. Made sure nothing goes on too long or too short scene wise or conversation wise.
39. Made sure I've italicized sparingly and only during direct thoughts or prayers.
40. Made sure I haven't overused "was" and any time I could, replaced a stronger verb there. Especially cut down on the use of "was" in conjunction with an "ing" verb. Most times the prose is stronger if you can replace the "ing" verb with an "ed" verb. An example would be to change "He was sprinting" to "He sprinted"
41. Made sure I haven't misused any wrong words my spellchecker might have missed. For instance I might slay something I really don't mean. See? Spellcheck will only pick out misspelled words, not misused ones. LOL! It wouldn't have flagged "slay." Those are the things you'll hopefully find on  proofreads.  
There's much, much more but I'm out of time right now. More another day.


Cheryl Wyatt   Gal. 2:20   Pouring my vial of words over Him.

A SOLDIER'S PROMISE~ Steeple Hill Love Inspired~ Jan. 2008
A SOLDIER'S FAMILY~ Steeple Hill Love Inspired~ Mar. 2008

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Hello all!
As part of her SUSHI FOR ONE Blog Tour.......I am SUPER, DUPER THRILLED to present an interview with my good friend and Zondervan debut author Camy Tang.
To enter for the book drawing, simply leave a message stating so in the comment section. Leave contact info or check back THIS FRIDAY to see who won.
Also, Camy is having a fantabulous contest on her blog. See the info at the end of this interview for a chance to win baskets of Christian Fiction, AND an iPod Nano!!!
> 1. When did you first know you wanted to write?

When I read Anne McCaffrey's Pern books, especially Dragonsong and
Dragonsinger. It totally made me want to create my own fantasy world
and cool heroine. So I took over the family's Apple IIe computer (am I
dating myself? LOL) and chugged out my 500+ page fantasy manuscript.

> 2. What are your other passions besides writing?

I've really gotten into knitting the past few months. I've discovered
that it helps me to write because I need the tactile stimulation when
I'm in right-brain creative mode. I also really like the challenge of
making things for myself and for others. I just recently finished a
knit skirt edged with hand-knit lace (for me to wear to church).

> 3. If your three current heroines from your Sushi Series could write a blurb
> about you, the author of their stories, what would they each say?

Lex (from Sushi for One): She's an okay volleyball player, and she
gets hit by so many balls it's past coincidence and it's gotten into
scarily freaky, but she's nice.

Trish (from Only Uni): She's cool! She leads a rockin' worship team on Sunday.

Venus (from Single Sashimi): I like her. She's efficient, logical, and
she says what she means.

> 4. What would be the highest compliment a reader could give you regarding
> your writing?

"This book was so fun, I told all my friends to go out and buy a copy!"

> 5. What do you have to have each day before you begin to in
> something you bring to your desk with your hands, or something on your desk,
> and why?

There isn't anything in particular I need each day to write, unless
it's the fact that I've elevated my monitor, keyboard, and trackball
so that I can stand as I write. I alternate sitting and standing at my
desk during the day because it's better for my back.

> 6. Is your writing journey how you envisioned it? Or different? If so, how
> so?

It's funny, but my writing journey is nothing like I envisioned it.
For one, the first book I shopped around was DREK and I'm embarrassed
so many editors and agents saw it. I had always envisioned polishing
my work and sending out a jewel of a manuscript, but my knowledge of
the craft was so poor that what I thought was a jewel wasn't even
close. That's the "Bad Book," which is buried in the depths of my
computer somewhere.

For another, I didn't realize how bad I am at time management until I
started writing full-time. I suck at it! I thought it would be heaven
(and a piece of cake) to spend only an hour at emails and the rest of
the day on writing, but I quickly discovered that wasn't the case. I
have to work really hard to be efficient during the day, and while
some days I do well, other days i don't do so well. I'm ashamed to say
that I had better time management when I was working full-time.
However, thankfully I'm getting better at it.

However, one thing I did envision about my writing journey that's come
true is how much I love what I do. I really enjoy what I'm doing now
and I'd do anything--even going back to work in biology in order to
pay the bills--just to be able to keep writing fiction.

> 7. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Keep learning more writing craft. I'll be brutally honest here, what
you think is brilliant is not as great as you think it is (remember I
mentioned the "Bad Book"?). My mistake was in shopping my manuscript
when it wasn't ready. I should have just spent my time working on more
books, learning and improving my writing craft, finding more critique
partners. Some writers sell their first or second book, but most have
to write several manuscripts before they perfect their craft enough or
hit on that really unique story idea that makes an editor sit up and

> 8. It's unusual for debut authors to contract (especially three books! WOO
> HOO YOU!) with a bigger house such as Zondervan. What advice would you give
> to those targeting bigger houses? Do you think it's easier to break in with
> category romance versus single title? And why?

I certainly don't think it's "easy" to break into category romance. In
fact, it's darn hard. Even though category romances are shorter books,
the editors still require a high standard of writing. Krista Stroever
has the reputation of being one of the best and hardest editors in the
business. I get very frustrated with writers who flippantly dismiss
category romances.

I think the decision to target category versus single title depends on
the writer. Sometimes, you're just a big book writer. Other times,
you're able to write succinctly and emotionally at the same time.

I'm actually a rather succinct writer, but the manuscript that sold
for me happened to be a single title. It's actually a shorter book
than a lot of other novels out there.

There's also the undeniable fact that a lot of category writers
eventually write single title novels. Some of the biggest names in the
business have done that--Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Cathy
Marie Hake.

Whether you target single title or category houses, I think all
writers need an agent. For one, a lot of houses are relying on agents
rather than their slush pile for manuscripts--in fact, many houses
don't even accept unsolicited manuscripts anymore.

However, writers need to be SMART about picking their agent. Spend
time talking with them and with their clients. Figure out their
working style and communication style, and determine if it's a good
fit for you.

> 9. How much emphasis do you think authors should put on promoting themselves
> before they're published? What are some of the things you did?

I always tell writers to only do what you WANT to do. Don't do
anything you don't want to. If you don't like blogging, then don't
feel pressured to do it. If you don't like teaching, then don't do it.
If you don't like booksignings, then don't do it.

If you only do what you like doing, then you actually find you're more
open to occasionally moving outside your comfort zone for promotion. I
don't like doing booksigning, but I'll do one occasionally. The rest
of the time, I do what i enjoy most--blogging.

The only non-negotiable for a writer is a website. It's your business
card on the web, telling people what you're writing and about
yourself. They're very inexpensive and very easy to set up.

Marketing before you're published is helpful but not necessary. I
happened to have an internet presence before I contracted, and that
helped to beef up my marketing plan in my proposal, but the difference
was that I was blogging within my marketing brand. If you blog about
something totally different from your brand, it doesn't help your
career much. If you market yourself before you're contracted, be very
selective about how you do it, what your focus is.

> 10. How much emphasis do you think authors should put on promotion and
> marketing once they're contracted? What are some of the best marketing ideas
> you've heard of? I just loved your homemade cards by the way! I might use
> that idea. LOL! and by the way, Camy's chopsticks are THE coolest marketing
> tool I've seen!

Thanks, Squirly. Again, I think writers should only do what they want
to do, what they can afford to do. I also think writers need to be
SMART about what they choose do spend their money on. The chopsticks
were both cheap and fit in well with my brand.

> 11. How important is your faith to your writing?

God has really impressed on me the importance of being faithful in my
quiet times with Him. I couldn't write without His blessing on it. I
couldn't write without the right attitude in my heart, and that only
comes through vigilant prayer and study of the Word. Francine Rivers
and Debbie Macomber both spend an hour or two with God every morning,
and while I'm not up to a couple hours yet, I do try to emulate their
faithfulness and discipline. I earnestly want that time to become
vital and important to my day, every day, no matter what I have to do.

> 12. What are you working on now, and when can we expect another release from
> you?

I'm working on a new series proposal right now, but my next release is
Only Uni, Trish's story, which comes out in February 2008.

> 13. You are big on networking. How important do you feel networking was to
> your journey to publication? What are some effetive ways to network in your
> opinion?

Networking was one of the most important things I could ever do. After
all, that's how I met you!

Meeting and becoming friends with other writers--both published AND
unpublished--is vital for a writer's journey. I met my prayer partners
and critique partners through online discussion boards and
conferences. I met a few published authors who were able to give me
advice for the journey. I personally think a writer becomes too
arrogant and delusional without other writers for critique, prayer,
and accountability.

> 14. Who has been your favorite character and why?

Venus, whose story is Single Sashimi, releasing in the Fall 2008. I
like how brutally honest she is. She's also as slender and sexy as I
wish I was (sigh).

Thanks for the interview, Squirly!
>You're very welcome Camy!
Also, Camy has a huge website contest going on right now. She's giving away baskets
of Christian fiction and an iPod Nano! Only her newsletter YahooGroup
subscribers are eligible to enter, so join today!
Please visit Camy's web site here:

Cheryl Wyatt   Gal. 2:20   Pouring my vial of words over Him.

A SOLDIER'S PROMISE~ Steeple Hill Love Inspired~ Jan. 2008
A SOLDIER'S FAMILY~ Steeple Hill Love Inspired~ Mar. 2008

Saturday, September 08, 2007


Hey entrants!

This marks the LAST prompt for the year. Contest may resume in January of 2008.

As always, write a 500 word scene using one of three Scene/Story Starter Sentences. Use at least five of the ten Prompt Words. Email entries to me at Cheryl at CherylWyatt . com (close spaces before and after "@" and ".".

Scene/Story Starter Sentences:

"I told her it would happen."

Surely she's not going to . . .(

fill in the blank here, or leave it as is)

"That's the funniest thing I've ever seen."

Prompt Words:









fall (in any context...even the season)


Everyone who has entered my prompts (whether you've won or not) will be entered in the annual contest. The person with the most entries will win the 6 month subscription to any Steeple Hlll line of their choice through the Harlequin book club, paid for by me.

As an added bonus, I am also giving prizes to the second and third place winners.

ALSO, since this is the lasts prompt of the year, and your LAST chance to enter, I am giving a bonus prompt. If you use EVERY word (all 20) in the bonus prompt in your scene and use them all CORRECTLY and in their proper context , I will add one more "entry" to your tally. Yes, I'm gonna make you work for this one. :-) You may have to break out your grammar books. He he he.

Here are the 20 bonus prompt words:

1. past

2. passed

3. its

4. it's

5. altogether

6. all together (must use both)

7. reek

8. wreak

9. affect

10. effect

11. there

12. they're

13. their

14. rung

15. wrung

16. pail

17. pale

18. rapt

19. wrapped

20. rapped


Cheryl Wyatt   Gal. 2:20   Pouring my vial of words over Him.

A SOLDIER'S PROMISE~ Steeple Hill Love Inspired~ Jan. 2008
A SOLDIER'S FAMILY~ Steeple Hill Love Inspired~ Mar. 2008


As you can tell, the plotstorm has morphed into the actual execution of the plotstorm, which is simply brainstorming a plot. I include my character development with my plotstorms. Just FYI.

Moving onward....

What I've been doing the last three days is:

I let the story gel for about a day and a half. Separated myself from it so I could see it with fresh eyes. Then I went through tightening the writing. More on that in a second.

Normally I do that after the book is finished, but since I only have to turn proposals (three chapters versus a completed book) into my editor from now on, I've changed the way I normally do it. I usually write the mess draft in a matter of days. No editing or proofing, just write, write, write straight through and get the story down.

This time, I've been polishing and proofing as I go. When I finish a scene, I go back through and polish/proof/correct errors. Then I do this when I finish a chapter so what I'm writing the first pass is actually pretty clean.

I actually got on a roll though and in the past four days have written 27,000 words even though I only intended to write the first three chapters. Out of those, I may have 20,000-25,000 usable or keepable words though.

Regarding the tightening: I am aware that I almost always over write by several thousand words. I usually end up having to cut between 3000-10,000 words...and that is before I even send the book to my acquisitions editor for consideration. So I've gone through and made sure that every single sentence belongs there. Every sentence must serve at least one purpose for being in the book. I also make sure that sentence needs to be in the book right then. I had a couple paragraph passage where I must have gotten off on a back story tangent, so I cut and pasted all but one or two sentences of that to the back of the book. I will break it up and sprinkle it in as I go, just not in the first three chapters.

One thing we often do as beginning writers is put too much back story or background in at once. This is called a back story dump and it bogs the reading. You want the story to have forward momentum as much as possible. If, while I'm reading any portion of my WIP (Work in Progress) and I find my mind wandering from the story, I know that I have stumbled upon a problem area in my story. I do something to ramp the tension in that moment. A snappier piece of dialogue, etc. Something to keep readers' attention.

Also to tighten the writing, I'm reworking sentences. Omitting every and all unnecessary words. I'm ruthless with "ly" adverbs. LOL! If I originally wrote, "she moved quickly to hide behind him." I changed it to, "She darted behind him." You get the same meaning while giving the reader the correct visual. She didn't saunter behind him. She didn't crawl. She didn't hop on one leg. She darted. Just by changing one word in a sentence, you can form images in the reader's mind. I also omitted the part that said "to hide behind him." Give your readers credit to be able to figure stuff out on their own without you having to tell them.

On that note, if you've ever received a critique or a contest comment that used the words, "RUE" that means you need to Resist the Urge to Explain. If you've crafted your sentence well enough, you won't have to explain things to your readers. They'll get the picture. In this case, it was a little girl hiding from a DCFS caseworker. She darted behind my hero's leg and peered at the woman. Then I changed it to "Wide-eyed, she shot Miss Harker looks that said she was up for a showdown of wills if necessary." So you see, not only is the child scared, she's strong-willed and defensive. Probably how she deals with her fear. I can show this without saying it or having to explain it to the reader. The hero feels her trembling hands clutching him. So he knows though the child is acting defiant, she's really scared. If he knows, the reader will know. On second pass, that sentence was shaved down to "Wide-eyes shot Miss Harker looks revealing Reece was up for a show-down of wills if necessary." Basically, the caseworker was trying to woo her to come with her, but the child only felt safe with my hero.

You never want to write a scene where you talk (as the author) to your reader. Well, anyway, this is just my personal preference. I don't like when a story has an author intrusive feel.

Another way I've tightened the writing is rearranging sentences. Seeing if I could replace three words with one stronger one, such as the above example. Other examples are: "He reached down and picked her up" became "He lifted her." Stuff like that. Saying the same thing with less words. Gives the writing more punch in my opinion. You can experiment with sentence structure in this manner. Use how you construct your sentences and your paragraphs to convey tone. For instance, if something is really, really, really important....put it in a line by itself. But do that sparingly, so the reader understands the gravity of the sentence. If you use that technique too often, it will lessen the effect when you really need it.

Same thing with exclamation points. I have a personal rule not to use more than 5-10 my entire manuscript. I'm serious. I've seen over twenty in the first three pages alone. That gets old and lessens the effect for when you truly want to convey stuff. I always use it in dialogue or internal monologue. Never in narrative. You can show tension and suspense by making shorter sentences. Long rambling sentences describing the landscape when someone is being chased through a forest will seem odd.

For instance, in Ben's story, in one tense scene, I had one sentence written something like this: He reached for the door handle and pulled but it was locked. Here we have a woman passed out in a hot, locked car. I can't ramble. So I changed the sentence to this: He jerked the handle. Locked. Not only did I break one long sentence into two, I put "Locked" on a line by itself.

Yesterday I went through the line edits of my other two books to make any stylistic corrections to my book. Such as, I wrote USAF just like that. But the copy editors switched it to U.S.A.F. in the first two books, so I switched it to U.S.A.F. in this book to make their jobs easier if they decide to buy the book.

There's much, much more that I've been doing, but as I am swamped the next two weeks so I can't put more at this time. Hopefully there's something here that you can use.



Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Things were going great then I hit a plot snag. Though the book is fiction, it has to be believable. I sometimes spend 2-5 years researching a book before I write it. Unfortunately, sometimes all that technical info sops my brain and it runs out of RAM, leaving me with spurts of no common sense.

I totally blitzed on a portion of the plot regarding legalities and proper Illinois (the state my story is set in) proceedures for what happens to an unnattended child whose parent is incapacitated after a wreck. I had to go back into the opening scene and insert a DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services) caseworker.

Thankfully, I'd had one in a previous book (who may get her own story some day) so I had her make an appearance. Up to this point, I hadn't introduced many secondary characters, so there was room for her to revisit this story.

So that lengthened the first scene. For some reason my first chapters usually come close to hitting 20 pages. I like to stick to around 15. We'll see if my critique partners can help me shave off a page or two. Anyway, if they can't (because it's already pretty lean) my first chapters are usually highly action-driven which makes them seem to move quick even though they tend to be longer.

After I wrote the caseworker in, I went through and added emotion and depth to the second scene. That part takes a lot of time, and it takes a lot of mental energy. I'm usually drained because I have to really get inside my characters' minds and hearts. I have to explore every angle, and try to put myself in their positions to feel what they'd feel. It's like acting of sorts, only you do it on paper. And sometimes it's hard to have to try and imagine some of that stuff, because it's stuff I'd never want to happen to me or to someone I love. Or it's stuff from a character's past that I feel my reader needs to know in order to help endear the characters to readers.

That's another thing I've done the last couple of days...write in touching moments that will hopefully live in reader's minds. The kind of stuff that brings a tear to eyes. For instance, a movie scene that has had that effect on me is the one from "Raising Helen." If you've never seen it...GO RENT IT NOW. LOL! Watch it immediately. Bring tissues.

Anyway, the scene I'm talking about is when Kate Hudson was in the closet with her just-deceased sister's children closeby. They're smelling her clothes and crying. This is her sister's closet. That scene makes me cry every time I see it. It lives in my mind and heart, especially since I have a sister who I love and can't imagine having to live without. This is the kind of thing you want to try to do with your stories. Write in emotional scenes that most people can identify with. We all love someone. We all grieve. Death or loss has touched every one of us in some manner. Try to write to a universal human need or something that most readers can sympathize with. Some examples I've used in my books are: touching upon the need to belong. The desire to be loved no matter what. Various faith battles. Coping after loss.

I also incorporate light and funny moments that most people can identify with. How many of you get those stupid email messages that say "if you don't send this to a billion people in the next five minutes your eyebrows will explode" or some other equally ridiculous "curse." I absolutely hate those and had my heroine groan over one in a scene in my first book. It's the kind of thing you hope your readers will read and say, "Oh, yes! I hate those things too!" So you've just personified your character, added dimension and realness, and made them a person your reader can identify with.

My particular writing technique is that I see and write the stories by scenes. There is no right or wrong way to write. Everyone is different. Find what works for you. I break the story up in my mind. I rarely know the story from beginning to end. I get it in snippets or scenes. Snippets of dialogue. Flashes of interaction. I see portions of the setting. I usually have a written scene index to go by, but they're usually not in depth..and in fact are usually only 1-3 sentences of scene summary. Then I free write. This keeps me on track plot and word count-wise, and helps me to avoid sagging middles. It also helps me cover all the plot points if I have to write a plot-driven synopsis. I much more prefer character-driven synopses, but I have to make sure in my synopsis that I'm showing my editor the story has a very definitive beginning, middle and end. Once I start a story, I need to have it down (mess draft) in a few days or weeks.

BTW: A sagging middle is when your story just suddenly bogs, and you get stuck. Though I'm mostly a panster as far as plot, I do like to have some kind of a roadmap. My scene index serves that purpose.

For an example of how I do my scene indexes, refer to the Labels in the right side bar of my blog. Click on "Plotstorms" and you should be able to scroll around and find the section where I posted an example of my scene indexes.

In the last couple days' pass, I also changed up my wording a bit in order to foreshadow some things to come, one being a disaster. I also tailored my analogies, metaphors, etc. so they are plot-specific. There is a hurricane later in the book, so I've used words such as, "emotion stormed in her eyes" etc. That's not the precise wording, but you get the drift...pun intended. LOL! My hero is also military, so I've tried to paint word pictures while in his POV that he could identify with. Such as, "her words hit like a mortar shell." Again, not the exact wording I used, but just to give you examples of how your word choices should exemplify the tone, setting, theme and plot of your story.

Another thing I've done is proof and proof and go through my grammar books. I've also done spell check a gazillion times. When I'm satisfied with a computer copy, I print it out and proof it by paper because I am a TERRIBLE proofreader by computer. As you can probably tell by lots of the typos in my blog. I plan to take a couple of days to go through and correct those though because I can't stand the thought of leaving them out there. But for now, I just want to get this down while it's fresh so I can get the story turned in to my editor.

More in a day or so.



Sunday, September 02, 2007


Okay, so continuing on with Ben's story. I have the opening scene cut down so hero and heroine are interacting in chapter one instead of chapter two. What used to be Chapter two is actually scene two in chapter one.
The book starts out in Ben's point of view. He's in a mall parking lot when a child approaches him needing help. Basically the mother passed out from dehydration and the child found Ben to help. Mother and child are passing through town. So I had the scene set where Ben rushes across the parking lot to help the mother. Scene is in his perception. So we're seeing and feeling everything Ben would feel, think and experience in this scene. This is maintaining a purist Point of View. I stay in one person's head the entire scene. Only during a scene or time break do I switch POV, and I always have at least a few pages in a scene.
Scene two is the heroine waking up and meeting the man who helped her. She has trust issues, and those come out immediately. I try to end not only each chapter with a hook, but each scene. I even try to fashion my prose so the first page of the manuscript ends on a hook....even if it's only six lines of text. I've done this with every novel and received tons of positive feedback through contests on my hooks before I was published. Hooks are a good way to keep your reader reading. Don't give them any reason to want to set that book down.
Incidentally, how I craft my scenes is using Dwight Swain's Scene/Sequel technique. His book, Techniques of the Selling Writer is, in my opinion, a must-have for any fiction novelist wanting to have solid scene structure. Every scene we write needs several reasons to be there. That advice came from my author mentor, Margaret Daley. She also has some wonderful examples of character charts on her site.
Right now, Randy Ingermanson..who created the snowflake method of plotting, is doing a teaching on synopsis on his site. He also has a section where he discusses Scene and Sequel. Here's a link to his scene structure article, based on Dwight Swain's techniques.
So yesterday I polished the first two scenes. Then I went through and decided to up the stakes. In the prior version of the scene, I hadn't added in setting details. For some reason, I nearly always layer that in last. Mostly because I have to figure out time lines and need to decide what season the story starts in. In this story, one of my major disasters is a hurricane. So I needed the story to start about three months before hurricane season starts. So in addition to layering in setting details, I layered in sensory details. I usually always incorporate sight in my first draft because I have to see the scene play out before I can write it out. What I did last night was go in and sprinkle in details (never too heavy, nor too much at once) using other five senses. In this case, the point of view character's senses. I write it in deep point of view so the story doesn't have a narrated feel to it. In other words, when the little girl got close to Ben, he smelled a scent of strawberry in her hair. But I didn't write it like this: "Ben smelled a hint of strawberry in her hair." Writing it that way is "Telling." You want to show the reader through the POV character's senses. So you just simply say it since we know we're in Ben's mind and body. A slight breeze ruffled her hair, lifting hints of strawberry with it. Or something like that. So you just write it as Ben is experiencing it. By the seems that I just said just and actually, nearly all the time, you can remove words such as "that" and "just" and "actually" and "nearly" and "it seems" etc. LOL! It tightens your writing, gives sentences more punch, and cuts down on wordiness and unnecessary prose. Some other "telling" words are: "He heard"
"She saw"
"He watched"
"She felt"
"She smelled"
"She wondered"
Just describe what they're feeling, wondering, thinking, etc. in a direct sentence. You'll cut down on italics that way too, and anchor your reader deeper in point of view which will hopefully help them to feel like they're an ancillary person in your scene, experiencing, seeing, feeling, etc. everything your point of view character is. As much as you can put them "in" the scene, the more it will rivet them there. And if you do it well, they'll feel as though they are the POV character. So write the scene as if you're a robotic camera inside the point of view character. Don't tell the scene. Let it play out as if onstage.
I got off on a tangent there. Back to upping the stakes. After I layered in sensory and setting details (a sentence here or there is all because a little goes a long way. Sometimes less is more.)
In the opening, Ben was casually shopping. He'd picked up some items, deodorant, shampoo type stuff from the drug store near the mall. I know what's in his bags, but the reader doesn't necessarily know that. They're not going to care what's in the bag unless it's crucial to the scene. So in the initial scene, I had him leaving the store at closing time. Sure, there was tension when the little girl ran up to him saying her mommy needed help. A sense of urgency was present in sentence one because I always spend a lot of time on my opening line. I like it to immediately make the reader sit up and! in addition to hooking them from the onset with trouble, I try to use my first sentence or two to leave them with at least one question. In this case, the scene starts with the little girl saying something like, "Hey, Mister! My mommy needs help." or something similar. That immediately puts tension on the page because Ben sees panic the the little girl's eyes and doesn't see her mother anywhere around. So he's having this internal monologue like, "He scanned the parking lot for the mother. No car propped with its hood though." See, it works like that because the reader knows stat whose  POV the scene is in. I don't have to say, "Ben didn't see a car with its hood propped though." See the difference? And if I wanted to deepen the POV more, I could actually take out the part about Ben scanning, and just put what he's seeing without actually telling the reader he's seeing. But in this case, the way I wrote it in the book, I used the name of the town and the actual location, so the reader would know the setting without me having to slow the intensity of the scene by a chunk of setting detail.
About upping the stakes. The second pass through the scene, I thought, how can I add tension to every page? How can I make this worse than it already is? So I made it very hot outside. That adds tension because the mother is passed out in a hot car, and we all know how easily the inside of a car can heat up. That can be lethal to people and especially to children or babies. So as a side note....never, never, never leave an infant or child in a hot car...not even for a few minutes. my soap box and back into tension. I wasn't satisfied with that aspect of tension. That ups the stakes for the heroine, but what about for Ben? So I start asking questions. Why was he at the mall? Where was he going afterward? Initially, I just had him between deployments with nowhere in particular to go. He could be at the beck and call of the damsel in distress. LOL! But that feels entirely too contrived. So I have him stopping off at the mall, hoping he'll make it by closing time because he's on his way to the airport to pick up his brother with Down Syndrome. Furthermore, I can up the stakes because if he doesn't leave in the next few minutes, he won't make it in time to meet his brother who is traveling unattended.
Furthermore, to increase tension more, I can have his brother have panic attacks with change, or airports, or fear of being left alone or abandoned, etc. Lots of stuff I can throw at Ben to cause stress in the moment. LOL! So he feels torn between an emergent situation and his brother at the airport.
So my challenge to you today with this plotstorm is go through a scene you've already written and ask yourself: How can I make this worse? Is there tension on every page? Every paragraph? How can you up the stakes for your character? Something has gone wrong for someone. Something has upset their life or their plans for the day. Just when they think it can't possibly get does. How?
Maybe there was another child in the heroine's car that wandered off? How about that, huh? Or maybe the infant...who can't wander missing? We've just upped the stakes significantly.
Or maybe not since I'm writing for LI and not LIS. LOL!
You'll just have to get the book to find out. He he he he. But of course, the editor has to agree to buy the book first, which means I need to finish the chapters. So I'm off to do just that.
I hope this has helped to enrich your scenes. I'm saying nothing new here. Nothing I haven't learned from someone else. Lots of great resources for writers out there. When you have a scene that really rivets you, study it. Pick it apart. Find out why. Find out what works. When you meet a character who sticks in your mind for months or years....find out why. Go back and read to determine at what point that character was endeared to you. Find out what the author did to make that happen.
Then make it happen in your own writing, with your own story and your own characters and plot. Happy writing! Let's all step it up to the next level. Strive to make it better than the best it can be.
More next time,

Cheryl Wyatt   Gal. 2:20   Pouring my vial of words over Him.

A SOLDIER'S PROMISE~ Steeple Hill Love Inspired~ Jan. 2008
A SOLDIER'S FAMILY~ Steeple Hill Love Inspired~ Mar. 2008

Saturday, September 01, 2007


I'm getting ready to turn in another proposal to my editor. Before I do, I thought I'd throw together my plotstorm for this book. For those of you unfamiliar with my plotstorms, when I say plot, I'm also talking characters because characters drive the plot in my stories.

So Ben-li is one of the U.S.A.F Pararescue Jumpers (PJ) in the series I'm currently working on. Steeple Hill publishers have bought two of the books so far. They'll release in Jan 2008 (A Soldier's Promise) and March 2008 (A Soldier's Family).

To start Ben-s story, I knew these things about him: He's part Asian, and part Caucasian. He's unusually tall for an Asian man. He's marriage-minded. Wants to find someone who shares his newfound Christian faith. He is musical. Likes to play various instruments but mostly the guitar.

So he's a well-rounded kind of guy. A Special Forces soldier, highly educated. I'm the kind of author who loves to turn stereotypes on their heads, so in deepening Ben's character, I didn't want to give him traits most people think of when they think of Asians. He's not the martial arts expert of the team, but the communications expert. One quirk Ben has is he hates chinese food. He eats it so he doesn't hurt his mother and grandmother's feelings. So though he's a tough as mortar warrior, he's also sensitive and thinks of others. Yet he's not wimpy. He's funny and speaks clearly in an American accent. He doesn't drive a sports car, he drives a sensible, economical car...just like him. He's sensible and manages his money wisely. My readers may never know some of this stuff about Ben, but I do. It helps me to know how he would react in any given situation.

Moving onward, Ben's story goal is to move his adult brother (who has Down Syndrome) to Refuge (the fictional town of my story setting) and to find someone to either take care of him, or find a home that his brother would thrive in because he cannot live alone, and Ben gets deployed on a moment's notice. Ben's never really had a relationship with his brother and longs for that. He also longs to honor his parents by enabling them to pursue the world travel they've always dreamed of. His brother doesn't travel well, so Ben taking over primary care of his brother is a win-win situation for everyone.

In comes the heroine. Ben met her by chance in the opening. She was passing through Refuge en route to a friend's house, who'd offered her a job and a place to live. She is a single mom who has a fender bender with a mall light pole. She has to remain in town to get her car fixed. She's financially strapped and unexpected expenses keep cropping up to deter her plans. You want to constantly toss roadblocks in your characters' paths to challenge their goals.

One of the first things I did in the plotstorm was get to know my characters by the use of character charts. Another thing I do immediately is figure out characters' goal, motivations, conflicts, spiritual struggles and relationship conflict. Meaning what is the main thing keeping the hero and heroine apart? There can be more than one thing. It can be an internal reason (heroine hurt in the past and gunshy of relationships-liek my heroine), or it can be an external reason: (hero's job phsically takes him away from the heroine...such as in my first book.)

One thing I determine in the beginning is what can I incorporate into the plot that forces the hero and heroine to remain together, though their goals try to pull them apart. In this case, her car breaking down keeps her in town initially. Ben helps her and she feels indebted to him. Then other things crop up to keep her in town for summer, and so forth. She gets a summer job in Refuge to be able to catch up some before starting school on scholarship in another state.

All of these things are tentative. They may change when I turn this in to my editor. If she likes the story and wants to buy it, there will probably be revisions, which makes everything here tentative. It's always good to have plan B or C, etc for your stories in case one aspect of your plot doesn't work.

I find out why my characters want this goal. This is called motivation. You can get Debra Dixon's book called GMC....and she explains all of this in depth. It's a great way to formulate story structure and make sure you know your characters somewhat before you begin.

So we know the characters' story goals and motivation. Then I figure out who is least and most resistant to the relationship and why. This usually stems from something that happened to them in their past, or a way they were raised, or some defining moment in their life which caused the resistance.

I then figure out their spiritual struggle. One or both of the characters can have a spiritual arc, meaning their faith struggle. In this case, my heroine never feels like she measures up to God's standard to her. She's always working to better herself. She struggles with self-condemnation. That's her arc in the book. I have a goal epiphany for each character usually, but especially for the character who struggles most in their faith. In this case, it's the heroine. Her epiphany is that she must come to realize that no matter how many times she fails, God will never see her as a failure. That she can't do anything to make God love her any less.

Okay so moving on...

We have GMC, etc. Now, I figure out the opening scene, which usually consists of a defining moment in character's life, or a disaster or some life change, etc. I decide whose point of view I'm going to start the book in. In this case, it's the heroine.

I then decide my setting, meaning what time of year is it and where is the story set? I already knew the setting would be Refuge before, since readers like to revisit towns from previous stories in a series. So at this point, I am planning to set the story in the same town as the first two books.

Then I go through and think of as many things as I can to add tension to the book. How can I up the stakes constantly for the characters? What hurdles can I fling at them, and what obstables can I toss in their paths to make them work harder for their goals, and cause the reader to wonder how this is all going to turn out all right in the end. Some ways to do this is imagine your worst fear and write about it. That puts quite a bit of authentic emotion in the story. Or, I've heard of authors putting their characters in a situation they dread most, or that they'd never willingly enter into themselves, and see how they react. Make them do things they think they'd never do, or never could do.

So for now, I have polished the two opening scenes. I had scene two as chapter two originally, but I cut it down by 6-7 pages because I wanted the heroine and hero interacting sooner. In category romance, it's pretty important that your hero and heroing meet within the first chap and even better if it's in the first few pages.

Since I tend to lean toward writing action-driven stories...I struggle with that and usually have to do some major hacking of plot and pages to get them together sooner.

So that's what I'm working on now. Or did a few days ago. Then I've let the story gel for several I can see it with fresh eyes. It's amazine how much stuff you pick out, mistake wise and plotholes, etc. when you set it aside for a time so your mind has a chance to forget most of what you wrote.

This is also why I send it to my critters (critique partners). They always find stuff I miss. I highly recommend if you're serious about learning fiction, to find a good writing group such as ACFW or FHL or RWA. Pray for God to send you critique partners. And if you're able, spring for a conference. Networking is invaluable. Contests are great for feedback, but if contests help you move a few inches in your writing journey, conferences will move you miles. It's that kind of difference face to face networking makes.

Okay, off to tear into chapter three.

More plotstorm another day.