Monday, January 29, 2007


I saw this picture on one of the skydiving forums I frequent. I can't remember the username of the person who had it, but I'll put that link up shortly. Until then, here's why this guy stopped surfing the water and went for the sky.


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

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

Author Colleen Coble on Editing

During a writing discussion on one of my online writers' groups American Christian Fiction Writers we were discussing whether it's possible to over-edit our stories.
Bestselling author Colleen Coble said something that really resonated within me and I asked her permission to share it here. 
Regarding editing a novel, presubmission, Colleen had this to say:
What you've noticed is how STORY trumps writing every time. If the
story is engrossing enough, the reader overlooks a lot of slips that
we writers can make. Can we over edit? Only if you're letting someone
else have you take out things that are part of your voice. If you're
talking about tightening up and improving the writing in general,
then no, we can't over edit that. But you know, no matter HOW much we
edit, things will slip through that can be better. That's one reason
writing is so fun--you grow and change and your voice becomes
stronger and clearer with each book you write. I'm always reading a
book on craft because you NEVER arrive as a writer.

If you're editing and editing the same story though, ad infinitum,
stop it! That's the mistake I made that helped it take 7 years for me
to find a publisher. The best way to get better is to WRITE. Finish a
book, polish it as best you can, start sending it out and MOVE ON to
another book. Editing the same book over and over isn't going to help
you improve your storytelling ability.

Colleen Coble
Distant Echoes: Winner of '06 ACFW Book of the Year and Readers'
Choice Awards.
Available Now: Fire Dancer
I hope you visit Colleen's website. Be sure to check out her book trailer for Fire Dancer (great book!) because it's BEYOND COOL!

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

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

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Even if it's not me. He he!
Breaking away from this regularly scheduled PLOTSTORM to ask: Have you ever wondered how you can help your favorite author? If you want to do something meaningful for them, the next time you read a book you really enjoy, go post a review of that book on
The other thing you can do is simply word of mouth. If you tell ten of your friends how much you loved this book, and they tell ten of their friends, it would only take ten friends to reach 100 people with the message of how great the book is. Also, recommending they actually buy the book instead of pass it around. Especially if you truly love reading books from certain authors. Author's sales and royalty stats often determine whether publishing houses continue to buy them or not.
Posting a public review on places such as Amazon will do wonders for your favorite authors.
Squirrel-who hopes to be someone's favorite author someday. How cool would that be!!!??? Yes, I'm a dreamer, but hey, if I hadn't dreamed, I never would have realized the dream of becoming published. So dream those dreams and chase the Giver of them  and when You catch Him every day through prayer, love Him with all your heart! He's worthy!

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

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

Saturday, January 27, 2007

PLOTSTORM 12 aka Writing Spree


I hit 30k last night around nine then my arms started to blurr and my eyes went numb.....I drank a bowl of chili mac and ate a cup of cold coffee with texas toast.

Yes, getting into the zone and going on a writing spree like this short curcuits my brain for every other activity.....what was my name again?

As of now, the story is slowing momentum. So I'm at a point where I will skim through what I have, resist the urge to edit or write in the middle because I always repeat or mess something else when I do that, then reevaluate where I am in the overall plot. Right now I'm just trying to be sure the story flows in a coherent, cohesive manner, and that I'm spacing all my major plot points ro inciting events in a logical manner. Consistant pacing, etc, so I don't have to do major revisions by the end. I almost always overwrite by several thousand words and right now, I don't worry if I get to the end and go over or under. Right now, I'm just focused on getting the bones of the story down, which for me at this point consists of mainly dialogue, a few action beats or tags so I can figure out who's speaking, and narrative/introspection.

Stronger setting and sensory descriptions will come later. I am doing all my chapter beginning and ending hooks as I go along, and often have most of those secure before I start.

Last night, when I got near the middle and needed more conflict (since my characters were getting along way too well) I thought of some major wrenches to throw at my characters. What I like to do is put them in a calm, serene scene where everything seems peachy then WHAMMO! Something happens to tilt their equilibrium and chaos erupts.

I'm striving to have conflict on every page if I can, whether it be internal(character against him/herself), external(character against another character or outside force), spiritual(character's faith struggle with church or God or their belief system). Robin Miller and Camy Tang taught me how very important it is to have conflict on every page. If you struggle with this in your writing, and can scrape up the money for an edit from one of these gals, I can almost guarantee what they teach you will help you in all future works of fiction. Plus it will be one of the best things you can do with your money to further your writing career, or calling.

Check out my links to the right for Camy's Story Sensei and Robin's Critique Boutique.

Another author with a wellspring of great writing tips on her site taught me that it's best to have at least three solid reasons for a scene to be there. If each scene doesn't have at least three reasons for being there, then either build the scene up so you do, or omit it altogether.

So at this point, I'm striving to keep my internal editor off as far as grammar and sentence structure, etc. And focus on making sure my characters are consistant with who I envisioned them, as well as making sure my scenes have sufficient conflict and three reasons for being there.

Some reasons I have/ things I strive to accomplish in a scene:

Hook the reader into the story (opening scene) and keep them reading (ie-hooky chapter beginnings and ends)
Introducing or endearing my characters to readers
Furthering the plot
Ramping conflict
Building on characterization
Revealing character Goal, and Motivation
Advancing the romance

These are just some of the main reasons I write particular scenes. I'm sure there are others, but as I said before, my brain is in story mode and I can't quite think logically when I'm in that deep creative realm.

This morning before I even got out of bed, and while I worked out I prayed for God to give me what He wants me to write today. I prayed He'd help me write real characters that people will remember, because it's very, very important to me for my characters to be memorable. So I really try to do that in my scenes. I also ask Him to let His character flow naturally from the story, through a character's struggle or epyphany or relationship with God that I've fashioned. The relationship, not the God. He's already Supremely fashioned. LOL! See? Told ya my brain was fizz. I'm also asking God to help me think of ways to create a page-turner of a story. I heard a prayer once by someone, and I'm so sorry I cannot remember who said it, or I'd give them credit for it, but they said, "I pray people like my books so well and are so entrenched into the story(my paraphrase) that they walk into poles going down the street because they can't put the book down."

Yes and amen. I'm hoping people need ice packs and a box of tissue when they read mine, too. I hope to evoke emotion and in this stage of the writing spree, that's my goal if even a spark of it. I can perfect it later. The main, number one thing though at this point is just to:

Get the story down. Not getting the story perfect.

Okay, I'm off to write again.


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

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

Friday, January 26, 2007


So I'm up to 18, 000 words on the third book in my USAF PJ series. So far the scenes are flowing in order, so it's going faster. I'm averaging about 2000 words an hour, even with chaos erupting in every corner of my house. LOL!

If you don't write this fast, please do not let my speed discourage you. Each writer is different and you have to find your own groove.

Remember I said GONE WITH THE WIND took ten years to write. Ten. And look what a classic that is. So please don't fret if you can't spit a story as fast as I can. I've always been blessed with fast labors. LOL!!!!

But I agonize over the pregnancy. They always give me trouble. In life, in writing. The process for each writer will be different.

For me, the faster I can get the story down, the better the story flows, the more cohesive the plot ends up, and the less scattered and splotchy the story ends up.

Thanks for those of you who helped me figure out who the Sweet Home Alabama guy is.

I talked to my editor via email today and she thuoght as I supected, that I should veer away from any mention of abortion in the story since it's a minor subplot and not a crucial element to the story.

So I've stripped it out and moved onward in the story. Not ony did I strip out that thread, I made her UN-pregnant too. Highlighted that whole scene, about a page and a half, and omitted it. Revisions the easiest thing in the world with delete key. He he.

Of course I didn't read over the scene before cutting it. And for scenes that I just can't bear to delete, I will cut and paste them into a different document titled "Cuts from PJ3" so it doesn't totally feel like I'm getting rid of it. Just transplanting it out of the story. Granted I'll probably never use it anywhere else, but there's always that chance, and it makes edting easier when I don't feel like I've nixed a scene I love completely.

So if something has to go in your ms, you may want to try this method. There is, after all, a method to my madness.

So in this plotstorm, I'm just letting the characters take over. Letting them tell their story. I'm not referring to any of my plot notes, my character charts, because by now I feel I KNOW them.

At this point, the only other thing I have when I write is my laptop, a cup of coffee, a healthy snack, Donald Maas' workbook to "Writing the Breakout Novel" (Thanks Robin!", and my Bible as I go through Chance's spiritual arc. He's coming to a place in the story where he begins to realize he's been seeing God through a clogged filter=giving him a distorted view of God as he is, and himself as God sees him.

I am looking forward to writing his spiritial epiphany. Speaking of....

I'd better get off here and go write again. I'd like to hit 20 k today.

Hope you've found something helpful in my plotstorm.

Please feel free to email me with questions, or post your question in the comments if you have any about how this process works for me. Oh, and did I happen to mention the most important part? I pray, always, always, before one word goes down. I have a team of people praying me through writing this story. Each story really. If you don't have that, I hope that will be your next step. Depending on God to inspire you will do wonders for your writing. I know it has mine.

Praying you find your perfect groove in Him,


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

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

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Interrupting your regularly scheduled Plotstorm to let you know:
There's still time to get your Prompt Contest entries to me!!! You have until Midnight tonight!!! Today's the deadline guys!
Get those stories in if you haven't!
Those of you who have, I'm looking forward to reading them! Thanks so much for entering!

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

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

Blond guy in Sweet Home Alabama movie?

Okay it just hit me who Chance could look like in the face only younger and with lighter blonde hair.  I'm having a brain fart, someone please help me. Who was that blond actor who played the lead guy role in Sweet Home Alabama?
Poor Chance...who has no face.....
Come on blog readers...HELP!...give my guy a face?

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

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


Okay, did I happen to mention that with stories....I am a S---L---O----Wwwww starter?
But once I kick it into gear.....
I'm now a little over 8000 words in the PJ 3 book.
Since I know my characters, it's going really, really fast. Unfortunately, remember the outline I mentioned where I mapped out my scenes? Um, far I haven't used any of them. Sigh. I do this almost every time. I make a scene index...then the characters take the story in a different direction. I don't know why I spend the time trying to plot or do a plot outline.
I never use it.
Okay, rant over.
I told you I wasn't real happy with my opening. So another writer pal offered to read it. She said it was so boring that she went into a coma...okay, so no she didn't exactly say that. She said she loved my characters and would keep reading because of them.
Read: Slow start. LOL! No actually she said she thought people who hadn't picked up my first two books would think this opening was a bit slow. She had a totally kick-butt idea for a better opening line, which I asked her permission to use. So I'm much happier with the opening hook, or sentence one. YEEE!
So now I'm to about chapter four in the story and I feel I know my characters enough to take them through the rest of the story. Or actually it seems they're taking me the rest of the way since they're not obeying the plot I set out before them.
Anyway, the way I imagine my characters is to fashion them physycally after a celebrity. Doesn't have to be an actor or actress. Can be a singer, or an athlete, etc. Anything just so long as it's someone in the public eye. But I then keep that info to myself. I don't portray that to my readers anymore because some people may not know who George Eads (CSI actor I fashioned Joel after) or Paul Walker (8 Below actor who I fashioned Nolan Briggs after) are. But the thing is, I have to be able, as the author, to really see and hear these characters so I watch movies with them in it as research. Like, I've watched Sharktales for four hours straight one day because one of the characters in my Navy SEAL series (Joker Covelli) has a voice nearly identical to Will Smith. So though he doesn't look like Will Smith (he's latin), he uses the same inflections when speaking. But I got LOTS of compliments on getting Joker's voice down to a fine art and nearly everyone who read that story (Covenant SEAL-my 2005 Noble Theme first place winning story) could tell when Joker was speaking even if they had no beats or tags to identify him. Of course I put beats and tags in there but you get the point. I really, really strive to make my characters real and come to life on that page, and hopefully they will soon eek their way into reader's hearts.
When I can clearly picture and hear the characters, like having a hero look like Vin Deisel but sound like Mathew McConoughey (Sorry I'm probably butchering the spellings) that makes for an interesting combination. Or how about someone who looks like George Clooney but walks with the swagger of John Wayne, etc. You can mix and match mannerisms to voice and physique to a different personality, etc. You can have lots of fun with this. 
So in plotstorming this, I'm sort of stuck because this in the only story in which I haven't been able to clearly picture (physically) Chance Garrison. (Hero-PJ 3) I want my PJ's to be as distinct from one another as possible. I know that Chance has light blonde hair, nearly bleach blonde like a surfer dude. And I'm pretty sure he has a sort of boyish quality to his face. So I looked up photos on Google Images, typing in Blonde Male Celebrities. Now, WARNING: You have to be really careful with this because occasionally an image will pop up that is definitely NOT G rated. I have no need to see my characters with their clothes off, and neither does my reader since the house I write for is extremely conservative and careful. I'm talking little to no sensuality in these stories. Because though owned by Harlequin, the imprint I write for is teh Christian Imprint and they are very strict on their content because they have a very conservative readership. So all I need to know is basically height, approx weight, body build type, and mainly what their face and hairstyle looks like. You can tell a lot about a person by their eyes and I go into the most detail about eyes and mouths because every guy's grin is unique. I have one heroine who has almond shaped eyes. I have a hero with ebony eyes that seem to see right through a person.
The eyes are a window to a person's soul so I give more detail to them than almost any other physical aspect. Did I happen to mention you can tell a lot about a person by their eyes. This is just something in my style of writing. You may not be big on eyes in your stories, and that's fine.
Moving onward, so I googled images and went to safe sites to look for pictures and now I kind of have a vague idea of what Chance looks like. I'd like to solidify that before I move too much forward, but I won't let that impede my story. I can always go back and layer in descriptive detail about him. Besides, you really only need to describe your character (usually best to do this from another character's POV) once in order to give your reader a visual to go by.  Anything more than that I think can border on overkill. I know some authors who intentionally leave their character description vague so the reader's imagination can form the character how they want. It's up to each writer to decide how to execute this aspect of writing.
I also stumbled on an issue that may be too sensitive a subject to leave in my book. I emailed my editor to ask her. Depending on what she thinks, I may strip out that thread because of two reasons: I'm a newbie author and it would be risky for me to push the envelope. When I've sold several hundred thousand copies of books, like say, twenty books LOL! then I could probably tread into these contraversial areas. My hero had taken his girlfriend to get an abortion in high school and it comes out in the novel. Though it happened eons ago in his life and he's remorseful, the very word abortion can cause contraversy. Plus if I have a reader who's had one, I certainly don't want to bring back memories or make them feel condemned, though I don't preach or patronize about it in the book. My intent with that 2 paragraph scene was to have the heroine overhear that aspect of his past because she never knew that about him. I have a feeling my editor will suggest I nix the entire thread though. If I were a known author, I could probably risk it. We'll see what she says and I'll let you know.
For now, I'll just have to write on or write around that issue, or write a different version of that scene that excludes any mention of abortion. That means I'll have to take the plot in a different direction. And that's okay. It's called revision.
For now, I'm going to press onward with the story and try to solidify what my hero looks like to completion. This will be interesting because I've never delved this far into a book without having a concrete image of my characters. Google I come! LOL!
More another day,
I'm gonna go try to write.

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

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

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

No Rules. Just Write

Forgot to mention the name of the author who has this motto. Her name is Brenda Coulter and you should check out her website. She has excellent tips on writing and formatting. her website. her blog.

She is also a Steeple Hill author, and hangs out on the eHarlequin community here:

Be sure and check Brenda's links out! She taught me everything I know about formatting a manuscript and getting it ready for submission, for which I'm deeply thankful.

You can check out other Steeple Hill authors here:

I'm even there! It seems surreal!!!!

I just have to shout it again....THANK YOU JESUS!!!!!!!!!! I'm still stunned that I'm actually going to get to share shelf space with these phenomenal authors!!!!!!



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

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


I think we're on 9 anyway.

Sorry I haven't been able to blog every day but I've been very busy coordinating American Christian Fiction Writer's contest for published authors.

I am now on a first name basis with every DHL, FedEx, and UPS driver in the region. LOL!

My Postmistress was forewarned so she's cool with it. I think. He he. My FIL goes to pick up the books for me since I still can't life after surgery. It's funny because I hear the doorbell chime, go to the door and here stands this stack of boxes with legs. LOL! I can't even see my FIL's face or head due to so many packages of books in his arms.

Anyway, that has nothing whatsoever to do with Plotstorming so let me get back on track.

I've only had about four hours of writing time but in that four hours I've managed to get to 3, 200 words. I'm nearly through Chapter Two.

I'm not really happy with my opening, but I'm REALLY picky about my opening. My first line has to be perfect and I do seriously agonize over it for WEEKS before getting it right. Yes, one sentence causes me such grief. Actually I LOVE coming up with opening hooks and usually scored REALLY high on that in contests. Most people who read my stuff compliment my hooks so the hard work pays off. So I'm semi happy with the opening line but I may end up changing it if something better comes to mind. I groveled over my opening scene for the past two weeks and finally decided to just jot something down to get the story rolling. I may end up going back and revamping the opening because I really feel it is SO important to hook readers. So I agonize over my first chapter....then try to write every chapter as if it were my first. I use hooks to end the chapters and to begin them, but the most important hook is the one in chapter one.

So that's my progress. I am finally getting a better picture of what Chance (my hero) looks like. Since there are 7 USAF PJ's in this series, I want each guy to be as distinct as possible. Since they are all basically Alpha Males and Special Forces Soldiers, they all have some of the same traits and qualities, so it is an extreme challenge to make them each distinct. That's been fun. The hardest part has been deciding Chance's personality and physical appearance. I see the story in my head like a movie in moving picture with color, sights, sounds, everthing so that's how I try to write the story. So my reader can "see" the story like a movie when they read the book. So in order to help my reader picture everything, and feel, hear, see, smell, etc with all their senses, I have to be clear on how things look, smell, etc.

That chasm of constructing words and sentences in such a way to show the reader instead of tell them is one of the hardest things, because I'm not sure until an outside reader reads the story if I'm accomplishing that or not. What I see as a sympathetic character, three out of four judges in a contest thought he was stuffy and rude. So I gave him a personality makeover. I saw him as sensitive and compassionate but obviously that wasn't coming across in the writing. So bridging that chasm between what I see and hear in my mind and portraying that on paper...or in Word actually since I type my stories instead of write one of my greatest challenges. And yes I obsess about getting it right because I'm a perfectionist. On the other hand, I know the story will go through many rewrites and revisions before I send it to my agent and editor, so I don't stress on self-editing issues while I'm penning my mess draft. As an author I know says, "No Rules. Just Write."

That's how I am approaching this first draft anyway. The one thing I do is change the font to pink and blue depending on whose POV I am in.

Okay, I plan to write a bunch this week, so hopefully by Saturday, I will have gotten pretty far into my rough draft.

I am writing in scenes at this point. I'll smoothe out the transistions as I go along because I'm anal like that. But as far as adding layers of setting description, and sensory description, the bulk of that will come later. Right now, I'm getting the basic dialogue snippets down and character introspection and their action beats.


"You gonna eat that bagel?" (Dialogue snippet)
Shauna shrugged. "Nah. Go ahead."
Nick eyed the bagel with deadly intent. If he ate the last one, would she think him rude? Was she just saying she didn't want it since this was their first date? Most girls didn't like to eat in front of guys on their first dates, right? (<--Introspection) Nick reached for the bagel, tore it down the middle and handed her the biggest half. (<--action beat)
Shauna grinned and pink tinged her cheeks as she took the bagel. "How sweet. Thanks."
Her smile caused his stomach to do a little flipper thing. "You're very welcome," he said. (<-Dialogue tag)

FYI: One thing I used to do and one thing I see many beginning writers do (more beginning than me I mean...he he) is they use many creative words other than plain ol' "said" for dialogue tags. Such as: He Spat, She sputtered. He hissed. She yelled. He countered. She explained. He proclaimed. She argued.

I've heard many, many, many editors say they prefer the use of plain ol said unless you need to use a different tag word for emphasis or to set tone, such as this:

"Did you hear that?" she whispered, crouching behind the barn.
He stilled, nodded and held his arm out, prohibiting her next step. She froze. A flash of light shone through the trees. Like a streak through the yard, he dropped his arm and bolted after the would-be intruder. "Stop!" he yelled, already on the heels of the hulking form.

Okay so that was sort of a cheezy example but you see that "whispered" and "yelled" helped set the tone for the scene.

Another thing newbie (hey, I are one so I should know) writers tend to do is put both a dialogue tag and a beat when only one is necessary.

Here's an example:

"Are you going to the Parent-Teacher Conference after school today?" Miriam asked, leaning against the fence separating her property from her neighbor's.
Trina set the water hose down beside the plants and answered, "I think so. Want to ride together?"
"Sure," Miriam answered, pushing her sleeves up to help her new neighbor pull the overgrown weeds from her flower garden.

That could be rewritten as this:

"Are you going to the Parent-Teacher Conference after school today?" Miriam leaned against the fence separating her property from her neighbor's.
Trina set the water hose down beside the plants. "I think so. Want to ride together?"
"Sure," Miriam answered. She pushed her sleeves up to help her new neighbor pull the overgrown weeds from her flower garden.
"Great!" Trina smiled.
Since I have action beats there, denoting the speaker by each new paragraph, I don't really need the "Said" or "answered" or any other tag. Likewise, if you say, "said," you don't actually need a beat if you've sifficiently shown the reader the character's stance and action and established the setting for that snippet. You want to be sure not to have very long stints of dialogue with tons of tags but no beats though. That's called "talking heads" and makes it hard for the reader to:
Keep track of who's talking.
Picture your character and what they're doing at that moment.
Hope this helps you in your journey.



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

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

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Okay, so I was on the phone with another writer buddy today who does my presubmission line edits (waving to Robin) and we were talking about giving my heroine a quirk that stands out. Because the heroine in my last book had such a strong personality, I don't want my new heroine to pale in comparision, so today in plotstorming, I'm thinking of ways to layer my characters. Things to give them more depth, and show readers (without making it obvious that's what I'm trying to do) that how Bits (heroine) feels on the inside is way different than how she acts outwardly.
So we discussed what quirk we could give her, something she does, thinks, or says when she's nervous or mad or feeling insecure.
Bubbles. She's all about bubbles. She blows bubbles for stress relief and she always chews bubble gum. Always. She's a hefty gal who is not at all happy with herself. She's discontent. But to look at her outwardly, you'd think she's happy because she's boisterous and bubbly and laughs loud and often. But inside, she's self-conscious and always questioning what others think of her. She's also very envious of skinny an extreme. To their faces, she's nice and sweet, but inside she's thinking thoughts and wishing for the day gravity takes its toll on their bodies and that they'd suddenly have a surge in weight. Like about a hundred pounds pronto. LOL!
So I'm envisioning a scene where she's talking to a lithe, female Drop Zone employee, and blows a bubble, letting it pop loudly. Nearly to the point that it could be borderline rude. Of course Bits is doing it on purpose to pacify and amuse herself, but then to cover it up, she puts smiles sweetly and acts gushy nice so no one suspects her secret thoughts.
I may end up hating my heroine if I can't execute this and still make her a likable, sympathetic character who seems real and like they have credible dimension. I want to make her compassionate, but she struggles with envy big time.
Incidentally, I just had an email pop up from my small group leader from my church who said in the email that this week's discussion is going to be on "contentment." LOL~
SO that's where I am in the plotstorming. Just talking through this in a conversational manner and hoping it's not choppy or confusing. Just trying to let you guys into my mind so you can see how the story comes together for me. Hope there's something in these plotstorming sessions that you can use.
When I start writing my rough draft, I may be sparse, but will pop in occasionally to let you know how it's going in regards to the plotstorm and working everything in that I came up with.
When I'm writing, I normally don't get on a computer that has email. I seclude myself from any distraction save my family. I bribe them for a few days writing time in which I can get the book done. LOL! But if you wonder how I can get an entire book written in a matter of days (8 days for book 1, 4 days for book 2). I prepare meals the week ahead of time, so they can be thawed out and baked and I save up casey's free pizza tabs too. LOL! So my cooking time is minimal that week I'm writing. I give my house a good cleaning before, and then after I write the book because it bugs me to have to write with clutter around me.
So that's what I did the last four days, clean from top to bottom. Clean out my desk, etc. Gather my research materials close. That consists of webpages, emails printed from my military sources, reference books on skydiving, and USAF PJ's, and Biblical notes on envy, contentment, etc. I am preparing to hybernate from outside activities, save church, and have stocked up on groceries so I don't have to shop for two weeks. Basically trying to set myself up for no interruptions.
Of course if someone gets sick that will change things, because my family is my priority, but I've spent a couple weeks away from the computer when my children are home from school, paying specialized attention, so they will be more merciful when I go to write my mess draft. I will have no TV, No IM time, No checking email even. I go digest on most loops and stay off the message boards I frequent, such as
I cut myself off from all that temptation in order to get the book done. So if I'm gone for a few days from here, you'll know I'm diving in. When I come back up for air, I'll talk through the writing of the mess draft. I may break my "no online time" rule just to pop in a few times in order to post my word count or something.
As it stands now, I have a few scenes etched in a couple wordpad documents. About 2100 words. I need to aim for 60,000-65,000 words, so you see I have the entire book, save 2000 words, to write.
Any questions, feel free to email. I'll reconnect with you as soon as I come up for air.

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

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

Monday, January 15, 2007


Sorry I've been MIA for several days, but let's play catch up.
I brainstormed with my two author friends, which basically consisted of me telling them what I had so far, and then them shooting ideas at me. So both of them felt I'm at a point where I should just start writing the story and let the characters take over, since I've developed them fairly well.
Here's a great example of how God often comes alongside me, (or actually, brings me alongside Himself is how it usually works..LOL!) to help me plotstorm. I mean, He's the most important person in my life, and the entire reason I write, well besides for my future readers. Hee hee. Anyway, so His input is extremely valuable.
I was praying about my books theme, which I also usually like to have prior to penning my mess draft. (What I call my first draft--just ask Camy and Robin why it's called a mess draft...sigh.) Anyway, I like to be able to sum the theme of a story up in one word. So what I wanted with this was "Balance."
The heroine needs to learn the balance of contentment, and the hero needs to learn the balance that seeing God rightly can bring to his life.
So I looked up scriptures that will potentially be the scripture theme verse for the book. A couple days ago, after praying about the book's theme, and knowing it needed to be "balance" I go to weekend service at church and theyr'e talking about guess what?
Yep. Balance. Hee he. I just love when this happens because I felt it was confirmation, and believe me my hand was heating the paper taking notes.
THEN, earlier before the night service, there was a womens' event at church in which the speaker did a magnificent job of discussing what?
Contentment....and balance.
Cool, eh?
So even though I don't have all the scenes in sharp focus, I have some major ones etched in my brain, enough to start the story.
So what I will do now is morph into a panster. I will wait until I have a few days of uninterrupted time (yeah right...what's that?) and WRITE. Just get the bones of the story down. It flows better if I can write the rough draft in under a couple of weeks. Yes, you heard right. But don't feel bad if your rough draft takes years to write. We are all different and you have to do what works for you. Think of food...pot roast would taste nasty after being mirowaved..but slow-cook that baby all day and WOW! YUM! Delicious. Some stories NEED to be slow-broiled over time. So if you're more of a crockpot writer than a microwaver...fear not. I heard somewhere, wish I could remember where, that it took the author of Gone with the Wind TEN years to write that story....and look what a classic it is.
Now, my research is a different story. I reasearch a series for literally YEARS before writing begins and the research is then ongoing. 2-5 years is avg research time for me. I've crash-coursed a research for a book in 6 m to a year, but I did not at all feel as secure about that book, and will probably double and triple check my research and let the story gel prior to subbing.
Anyway, that's where we're at with plotstorming.
An questions, feel free to email me.


Monday, January 08, 2007


I mentioned I had two friends I was going to plotstorm/brainstorm this book with. Last night, one friend and I brainstormed until the wee hours...and I had such a BLAST. We were laughing (on the phone at first) SO hard my husband evicted me from our bedroom. Sigh. So I tiptoed into the living room and Pammer and I continued our brainstorm via IM. I feel MUCH more confident about the story now, and am looking forward to diving into this story, rather than dreading it, or feeling at a loss as to the direction to go. Tuesday evening I'll brainstorm with another friend and Love Inspired author who can help me determine if what Pammer and I came up with last night is workable, plausible, and acceptible to my publisher's guildelines, etc. etc.

So how did the brainstorm go?

I told Pammer my basic premise, and let her know the story set up. I introduced her to my characters (verballly speaking) by way of telling her their backgrounds and the roles they played, or the appearances they made in books one and two.

You may remember my mentioning the novel I'm plotstorming is book three in a series.

So after I brought her up to speed, she began asking me questions to get me to think, and to help offer suggestions. Some of her questions were:

What's your hero's goal? (His goal is to help his sister heal from an assaut.)

Why does he want this? (Because his parents were killed in a car accident when he and his sister were young and they were shuffled from house to house and they only have each other now.)

What were his parent like? (Before they died, they were solidly loving and stable.)

What does hero believe about God? (Hero went to church a couple of times when he was young, may have even made a decision but he guesses it "never took" or that "God forgot about him in the shuffle of life" because He let his parents die and he and his sister be separated, the ONE thing Chance asked God for was to keep them together.

Is your heroine a Christian? Which one of them is the stronger Christian? (Yes, in the beginning of the book she's the stronger Christian but the spiritual arc is such that she begins to be deceived, and hero recognizes it. In the process of studying the Bible, and asking Christians how to help her, he comes to a relationship with Jesus and understanding God never actually abandoned him. So at one point in the story, he's seeking God more than she is and helps bring her back when she gets caught up in her body image to the point it becomes an idol, and being involved in things that subltly steal her simple devotion to Jesus.)

We discussed a few scenes, (some HILARIOUS), then talked about the heroine. We came up with a goal for her: That she wanted to be healthy because someone in her family recently had a stroke. She gets her cholesterol checked and realizes it's dangerously high, and wants to be healthy.

Pammer asked what the relationship conflict was. (Relationship conflict is mostly on Chance's part. He's the resistant one to the relationship for several reasons. He doesn't think he's good enough for her. He knows his sister needs to heal and needs the heroine's friendship to do so. He fears if he and the heroine date and end up breaking up, that will compromise his sister's friendship with the heroine, which will be detrimental to his sister's healing. It's no secret to any of their friends that heroine is head over for the hero, but he only sees her as a friend.

We brainstormed some other stuff, but mostly went over GMC. (Two main character's goals (What they want), motivation (why they want it), and conflict (what keeps them from getting it.)

I now have a good handle on both my hero and heroine's goals and motivations, but I'm still a little sketchy on the conflcits which will arise to challenge their goals. Hopefully Tuesday I'll have all the bugs worked out and can dive into the story.

Indidentally, I critted a book recently, by Camy Tang which floored me in the sense of how she kept upping the stakes and adding conflict. Her book will release from Zondervan some time this year or next, and would be an excellent study in creating character conflict.

More another day.

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

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

A SOLDIER'S PROMISE~ Steeple Hill Love Inspired~ Jan. 2008 ]=9998644322312`

Sunday, January 07, 2007


Okay, we discussed with my last Plotstorm post that I needed to delve deeper into my characters in order to continue plotting the book. Yesterday, I filled out some of those character worksheets I mentioned. How I format my character worksheet is I have a list of questions, then a blank beside it so I can just fill it out. Below, I will put a few of the questions I have in my character worksheets. Only a few because I have literally HUNDREDS of questions for each character. I don't always fill out every blank, just what I think will help me round him/her out and tell their story.

Like this:

  • Character's name______________
  • Hair color____________________hair style___________________
  • Eye color and shape______________________
  • Body physique/type/height/approx weight_______________________
  • Greatest dream______________________________________
  • Greatest fear________________________________________
  • Greatest accomplishment in their eyes_____________________
  • Describe their relationship with God_______________________
  • Current career________________________
  • Education____________________________
  • Personality type_______________________
  • How their friends would describe them (three words)_________________
  • How they'd describe themselves (three words)______________________
  • Family history___________________________
  • Relationship history_______________________
  • Traumatic events that have shaped them_____________________
  • etc, etc, etc.
These are only a few I thought of off top of my head. You can fill your character chart out as fully or as minimally as you want. Some people cannot use charts and that's fine. Each writer has to find what works for them.

This method works for me because I am a list person.

I would like to note that I also learn about my characters as the story goes along. Once I know them strong enough to kickstart their story, they usually take over and I'm constantly surprised at some of the things they do and how they react and decisions they make.

That said, you want to be sure to keep your character "in character." Meaning, if I have a hero who can be described as "generous" then put him in a scene where someone in his life is in dire need, not a con artist, leech, loser or user (lol!), and he has the means to help but hearltessly doesn't....that would be "out of character" for him.

Okay, more another day.


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

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

Friday, January 05, 2007


Okay so yesterday I mentioned that you should intro the hero and heroine as close to beginning of story as possible. In my story, my hero and heroine have known one another for years..but my readers haven't ever met them unless they've read the previous two books. So it's important FOR YOUR ROMANCE READERS that you let them meet the hero and heroine of the story asap, even if the hero and heroine haven't met one another.

At this point in my plotstorm, I'm thinking of ways to make my main characters likable. I want to really endear them to readers. If readers don't care about your characters, they won't care about their story. So I think this is CRUCIAL. How I do this is try to think of what endears me to a character or a real person, since I often fashion my characters after a conglomerate of people I've come in contact with in my life. A plethora of personalities if you will. I also watch movies for research. I figure out the precise moment a character slips into my heart and ask myself why. Or if I hear a story about a real-live person that makes me go, "Awww! That's so awesome or heroic, or whatever." I often use precepts for deepening characterization.
Some things that endear me to heros for example are:
Men who are gentle with babies and get down in the floor and play with children.
Men who are compassionate to animals
Men who are generous to the needy
Men who reach out to and respect the elderly
Men who stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves
Men who open doors for women and who have good, old-fashioned Boy Scout manners
Those are just a few.
Heroines I'm endeared to are often:
Rely on God's strength rather than their own, yet they have a sort of inner strength and perseverance and fortitude.
Empathetic but not wimpy
Respect men
Just to name a few.
I stumbled upon Chip McGregor's blog today, and am posting the link because he has a GREAT blog. One of his posts deals with creating great characters. This man has been in the publishing industry for years and years and I hope you will bookmark his site in your favorites if you are serious about pursuing publication.
More tomorrow on PLOTSTORMING.
Here's Chip's link:

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

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


In response to Christa's comment question, I imagine the character as a real person, and create in my mind their life story so to speak. I do character charts that are so detailed, I know what my heroine carries around inside her purse. Not all of what I know about my characters will make it into the book, but it helps me write their story.

Some authors do personify themselves into the character, so to speak. But I don't do that, it just doesn't work for me. I imagine them a seperate entity from myself. I do, however, try to get inside their heads and hearts and thoughts and motives and hopes and dreams.

So to answer your questions, I, being the compulsive organizer that I am, form lists.

Physical traits
Mental traits
Character Archtype
Spiritual state
Emotional makeup

There are a gazillion blanks I fill out. Some people can't create characters this using character charts I mean.

I try to put them in scenarios and figure out how they'd respond, react, etc.

I often fashion them after actors or actresses so I can picture them, and better help my readers picture them.

The only way I know how to describe it, is I see them in color, in moving picture in my mind. I know their thoughts, the intent of their hearts, etc, etc.

If anyone wants examples of great character charts, there are TONS on the web. One I use very often is one Margaret Daley has on her website or blog.

Navigate around there until you find her character worksheet.

Hope this helps,



Okay, I've roiled scenes around in my head for my current WIP (Work In Process.) I've also come to the conclusion I'm not at all happy with where the story is going, so I'm calling in the reserves. By this, I mean I'm consulting with a few friends who will brainstorm with me. This is all part of the Plotstorming process for me, as at some point in my novel, I usually like to run aspects of my story by people so they can keep me from making a huge mistake by investing myself into something that will not work in the end. I think I've said this before, but I'll reiterate that creating outstanding characters is of utmost importance. I'm thinking the reason I'm running into a wall with this story is that I've underestimated my characters. I don't know them well enough, or as well as I thought.
So over the next few days, I'm going to switch direction. Instead of trying to nail down all my plot points, I'm going to delve deeper into my characters. Into their pasts, into their secrets, into their personalities. Find out what makes them tick. Find out anything in their background that I hadn't thought of yet. Investigate their motives, their goals, their internal struggles. Then I'm going to do what most pansters do....
I'm going to hand the plot over to them and let them take over, run wild with it.
This is all part of Plotstorming for me, my method. I mentioned before I HAVE to know my characters before I can write the book.
I believe my first book sold largely because the hero was very likable. He made that story. I also had a secondary character in there who I had to tone down because she nearly overshadowed the heroine. So I gave that secondary character her own starring role in book two. She's the heroine. In revisions, one of the things my editors had me do was strengthen my heroine's character. I did that by changing her internal conflict from one of being a worry-wart and struggling with choosing faith over fear, to something entirely different. It completely changed the book, and changing her altered the plot significantly...and made it a much stronger book in my opinion.
So what I'm working on in the next two days as far as Plotstorming is:
Getting with a couple other writers either by IM or email, or phone and hashing out this plot. Getting ideas and running ideas by them, figuring out whether my characters goals, motivations, conflicts are going to be strong enough to sustain a story and bouy a plot.
Some great reference books that will help you if you're trying to grasp the concept of GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict) are as follows:
GMC by Debra Dixon
Getting into Character by Brandylin Collins
Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
Techniques of a Selling Writer by Dwight Swain
There are several more, books by Donald Maas, and Jack Bickham as well, but the above will get you started.
For goal, I ask myself, "What does my character want?" The story goal has to be something concrete that the character can obtain or make happen within a time frame. For romance, it just can't be only the guy's goal is to get the girl, the girl's goal is to snag the guy. It has to be more than that. In my book that sold, my heroine wanted to adopt the little boy. That was her story goal. The hero wanted to be able to keep his promise to the little boy without running into the uncle who destroyed his family. I ask myself, "What does my character want more than anything in the world? What is MOSt important to them? What is their number one dream? etc."
For Motivation, I ask myself, "Why does this character want this goal? What happened in their past to cause them to pursue this? Etc.) What drives them? What motive? What reward? Etc. Exactly WHY do they want this (goal)?
For Conflict, I rub my hands together and cackle with a wicked glint in my eye, and ask myself, "Now..what can I do to throw a series of wrenches in the character's paths and plans that will keep them from getting the goals I've dangled before them?" "How can I keep making things worse and worse without overplotting?" "How can I make the reader think there is no possible way that everything is going to turn out okay between this hero and heroine, and cause angst over the characters reaching their goals or obtaining their dreams?" This is conflict. Your readers should feel it, and most certainly, your characters should feel it.
Okay, so I know what my problem is. I need to be sure their goals are solid enough to sustain a plot and make the story interesting enough for someone to want to buy.
More another day, for today, I'm going to Brainstorm with friends and see what kinds of havock I can create for my defenseless characters.

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

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

Thursday, January 04, 2007

JANUARY PROMPT CONTEST-Squirrel's Story Starter

Rules and Contest Overview
In September of 2006, I started up my prompt contests again due to several requests to do so. Each month, the prompt winner receives a new Steeple Hill release. In addition to this, everyone who enters is placed in the larger contest. The larger contest runs for a year. In the larger contest, those who've entered my monthly contests will have a chance to win a 6 month Subscription to the Steeple Hill line of their choice.
Rules for monthly contest:
Write a 500 word scene and submit it to my email address Cheryl @ (lose spaces before and after the "@").
Authors of entries retain all rights to their work and I do not publish or reproduce it in any manner.
Winner will receive a free Steeple Hill book of their choice.
Entries must be received by Jan 25, 2007.
Winner will be notified by Feb 1, 2006.
Book is mailed to winner within a week of winning. 
Write a 500 word scene beginning with one of the following sentences, using five of the ten prompt words following the sentences:
"Give it back!"
"He sure filled out since high school, not that I noticed."
"That's the most despicable thing imaginable."
Peanut Butter
Garlic Bread
Ball game

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

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

Monday, January 01, 2007


As promised, this post is dedicated to letting you in on my plotting process. You may share these PLOTSTORMING with other writer friends if you like as long as I get credit. Grin.
Since the book I'm plotstorming (brainstorming a plot for) is part of a series, I have skimmed through my first two books (the first of which is contracted, the second of which is with my editor now, awaiting a verdict of yes or no) to refresh myself of the storyline. I paid particular attention to areas the characters for book three (the one we're plotstorming) came up either "onstage" in the book, or by mention of another character in the first two books. None of this is relevant unless you are plotstorming a series. So from here, we treat this like any stand-alone book.
Now remember everything here is progressive as far as my thought process. What I'm writing down may not even resemble what I end up with, because I may get so far and decide it's not working. So these are just ideas rolling around. When I have a good handle on how I want the book to go, I will start my mess draft. (What I call my rough draft.)
Now remember, up to this point, I already know my characters...inside and out. That's half the battle for me. If you're a plot-driven writer instead of a character-driven writer, this process may not work. Knowing the background of my characters is something that I need to have before I ever begin to plot. 
Today's PLOTSTORM for PJ Book 3:
I'm mulling over my usual! LOL!
Opening Scene: Not sure yet. (How's that for brilliant? LOL!) Seriously, as of today, I have NO CLUE what my opening scene is going to be. I've batted around a couple things, but won't decide on the opening until I know the rest of the plotpoints. I always agonize over my first chapter, and especially my first scene since this is the thing that will hopefully "hook" my readers and help them want to read the rest of the book.
Potential openings: C and A talk B into a makeover since she's lost weight since the hero has been deployed. Heroine loves hero but they're just friends. Heroine is best friends with hero's twin sister, who is recovering from a brutal assault. Twin moves to the town of my story setting with heroine as roommates.
Heroine has double motivation: She wants to help her best friend recover emotionally and physically from a sexual assault which occurred in book 2. Her other (hidden) motivation though, is to be near to the hero more often, since his USAF Pararescue team's home base is now in Refuge. (Setting of books one and two).
I always ask myself what I want to accomplish with the scene. I must have at least three reasons (Thanks to Margaret Daley for that great idea ) for a scene being in a book or I cut it.
What I want to accomplish with my opening scene:
-Hook reader from sentence one. I'm HUGE on perfecting that first sentence and spend a ton of time and energy coming up with it.
-Introduce my hero and heroine. I think it's very important in romance to get the two main characters intro'd as close to the front of the book as possible.
-Hint to reader about characters' goals. (hint: this has to be more than the romance of a girl getting the guy and the guy pursuing the girl.)
-Hint at heroine's motivation and internal struggles(2 separate things) so I endear her immediately to readers. No backstory dumps.
-Endear my characters to reader. There is a gazillion ways you can do this. I often do it by letting the reader glimpse through dialogue, etc, something sad in the character's past, or something they're dealing with right now in their life that evokes emotion and sympathy.
-End scenes and especially the chapter with a killer hook.
Okay, more tomorrow...or as soon as I get more in my brain.

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

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