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September 15, 2014

Twelve Common Mistakes Found in Fiction Manuscripts

Mistake Number Two: Switching Viewpoints in the Same Scene

 

In this series of blogs, we’re going to make our way through all twelve of these common mistakes us writers of fiction must tackle to perfect our writing and get our manuscript publishing ready. In my last blog we discussed Mistake Number One in writing fiction, Too Much Description and Narration. So let’s have a look at Switching Viewpoints in the Same Scene.

Point of view is a technique all fiction writers must master to write effectively. The point of view choices when writing any genre and the difficulty involved in writing the P.O.V. correctly are directly correlated to the “person” in which the author decides to write:

First person – fiction and nonfiction (including “how-to” books and devotionals)

Example: In reading the book of Job, I found that God is ready to console me through my troubles.

Second person – nonfiction (including helps books, “how-to” books, and devotionals)

Example: When baking a cake, you must remember to turn the oven on and allow it to pre-heat before you put the cake batter in to bake.

Third person – most fiction is written in this P.O.V.

Example: Cyrus entered his dog Hunter in a dog show in the Obstacle Course event. Cyrus has won all kinds of blue ribbons with that amazing Scottie. “I love working with this dog,” he told a newspaper reporter in a recent interview. He’s really special.” And he’s special to me even if he hadn’t won any ribbons.

Omniscient – fiction in which the author presents the P.O.V. as though the reader is watching everything happening, but no characters’ P.O.V. is ever presented.

Example: Betty, Jean, Mary, and Sally decided to take a trip to Florida. Betty decided to drive, Jean collected coupons for restaurants, Mary reserved hotel rooms, and Sally chipped in a few hundred bucks for gas. (No thoughts of any character ever appear in the story.)

Because much fiction is written in the third person, we’re going to concentrate on that P.O.V. and how to avoid “messing up” by writing two different P.O.V.’s in the same scene. Let’s look at a few samples of writing P.O.V. incorrectly:

Example One:

Fred came home late from work on Thursday, hoping beyond hope that Chloe would have supper still warm for him. But I wouldn’t blame her if it’s all put away. I forgot to call her, he remembered as he went in the front door. “Hi, honey! I’m home!” he said.

Chloe came trudging into the living room, her hair disheveled, her clothes covered with dirt and grass stains. “What a day I had! The washer broke, Sammy fell and got a bloody lip, and I just slipped and fell out back when I tried to chase the neighbor’s dog out of the yard.” And Fred, you better not say a word about no supper on the table!

Can you analyze this little excerpt and see two points of view? There’s nothing more confusing to a reader than to try to get inside two or three different characters’ heads in the same scene. So how do we fix this point of view problem in this excerpt? Easy! Just delete one of the characters’ thoughts and concentrate on getting into the head of only one character per scene.

Here’s the same scene in the correct P.O.V.:

Fred came home late from work on Thursday, hoping beyond hope that Chloe would have supper still warm for him. But I wouldn’t blame her if it’s all put away. I forgot to call her, he remembered as he went in the front door. “Hi, honey! I’m home!” he said.

Chloe came trudging into the living room, her hair disheveled, her clothes covered with dirt and grass stains. “What a day I had! The washer broke, Sammy fell and got a bloody lip, and I just slipped and fell out back when I tried to chase the neighbor’s dog out of the yard.”

Oh, brother! Fred thought. I better not say a word about any supper, or I’ll be in the neighbors’ dog house!

Let’s look at another example:

Example Two:

Bruce always thought Tammy, the sophomore gal who sat next to him in chemistry class, was the most beautiful girl he had ever met. His heart raced like a horse to the finish line whenever he smelled her sweet perfume and looked into her baby blues. Yes, Bruce was lovesick.

But Tammy, on the other hand, found Bruce to be just another ordinary guy and no one she’d ever want to date. Oh, sure, he was cute, but she never really thought of him as “her type.”

Now, in this example, we’ve not “gotten into the head” of either character to see his or her direct thoughts; however, the way the passage is written portrays to us Bruce’s thoughts and Tammy’s thoughts without direct quotes. Again, we have two P.O.V.s in the same scene, which only cause confusion to the reader.

Now let’s look at how we fixed this P.O.V. problem here:

Bruce always thought Tammy, the sophomore gal who sat next to him in chemistry class, was the most beautiful girl he had ever met. His heart raced like a horse to the finish line whenever he smelled her sweet perfume and looked into her baby blues. Yes, Bruce was lovesick.

But Bruce felt, just from her vibes, that Tammy probably thought of him as just another ordinary guy and no one she’d ever want to date. Did she think he was cute? Bruce could only hope, but he had the feeling that she believed he wasn’t “her type.”

Okay, writer friends, there you have it. The pesky P.O.V. problem and how to fix it in a very, very short lesson. Hopefully, you’ve already mastered the P.O.V. technique. If not, I hope this blog has been of some help to you.

Next time, we’ll look at Common Fiction Mistake Number Three: A Negative Tone Throughout the Story.

Sept. 1, 2014:

From an Editor’s Viewpoint

Twelve Common Mistakes Found in Fiction Manuscripts

If you’re serious about having your fiction published, there are several important points to remember as you create your masterpiece. An editor can usually read the first page or two of a work and know whether the author is an experienced writer or a newbie. Believe it or not, many of the problems I’ve listed below will actually surface on the first few pages of a poorly written story.

Although the tell-tale signs are many (probably two or three dozen), I decided to concentrate on what I feel are the twelve most important problems that appear frequently in fiction manuscripts. Even experienced and published authors, including me, must be careful not to get sloppy and fall into a “newbie mode” of writing.

So, let’s take a look at some of these tell-tale signs that flash like a neon sign BEGINNER on the pages of an author’s manuscript. I’ve listed the twelve points in this post, and we’ll look at the first one in detail. In the next few posts, we’ll discuss the others and sometimes give examples.

Twelve Common Mistakes Found in Fiction Manuscripts

Too much description and narration

Switching viewpoints in the same scene

A negative tone throughout the story

Infallible or underdeveloped characters

Stilted or unnatural dialogue

No significant conflict

Weak transitions between paragraphs

Impossible resolutions

Redundancy

Passive verbs instead of active verbs

Lack of sensory detail

Lack of emotion or action

Too Much Description and Narration

Classics from days gone by were notorious for pages and pages of description and narration. Perhaps you’re a fan of those old books that detailed everything, including how many feathers were on Aunt Millie’s new hat. However, today’s readers, including me, don’t have the patience to wade through all the gold and glitter of background, scenery, characteristics of the main characters, and colors and shades of the setting sun. Today’s readers want a quick read, one that they often can knock off in an afternoon or evening.

I remember several years ago I went to the local library and got Jules Verne’s MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, a book that was made into a movie, probably 30-some years ago, with lots of action, including monster lizards running around eating people. Well, I sat down to enjoy this exciting book, and about 80 pages into it, I threw up my hands and gave up. Why? The book went on and on to describe the island, the cave the fellows lived in, the garden they planted, blah, blah, blah. In fact, those first 80 pages seemed completely isolated from the main plot of the story IF the movie had followed the main plot line when the book was transposed into a movie script. I also tried reading book one of LORD OF THE RINGS with the same result. The first hundred pages or so described all the different worlds and characters, and I got bored out of my tree. I gave up. I’d rather watch the movies.

When I contracted with Zonderkidz to write the KEYSTONE STABLES SERIES, I had kind of a culture shock when my editor returned my first few chapters with this message attached, “I want dialogue on every page.”

I swallowed hard, took a good look at my manuscript, and decided I had a major revision on my hands. It’s important to note the books in my series are for tweens, so the action MUST be fast-moving, which includes frequent dialogue. However, in studying today’s published books for adults, I find practically the same principle. Dialogue constitutes probably at least 60% of most pages, sometimes a higher percentage.

Remember, readers today want a quick read. The definition for a “classic” or “best-seller” has changed drastically over the last several decades. So work on including more dialogue and deleting a lot of the “fluff.”

The editor just might be totally impressed and send you a contract!

pen and quill

August 25, 2014

What is a Chapter Outline?

If you’re like me when you first started writing, you probably thought a chapter outline, which some editors request with the proposal, was Roman numerals I, II, III each with the subpoints of A.,B., and C. And if you’re like me, once you were in the writing /publishing world for any length of time, you discovered that a chapter outline is nothing like the outline you wrote for English class in high school.

To put it simply, a chapter outline is a brief summary, maybe one to three short paragraphs per chapter, explaining in third person your story’s main characters and plot. If you know how to write a good newspaper article, then you’ll do a good job writing your chapter outline.

The Components:

A good chapter outline should include:

1. The names of your main characters

2. The setting and time frame

3. A summary of each chapter (as far as you’ve written if you haven’t completed the book yet)

4. If possible, (and the editor might request this), the outline for the final chapter

A good chapter outline should not include:

1. Dialogue

2. Detailed descriptions of your main characters

3. Your opinions

4. Questions for the editor

To give you an idea of what a chapter outline should be, here’s a sample of one of mine. I’ve included only the first three chapters of twelve in the book:

SNOW

By Marsha Hubler

Chapter Outline

Chapter One

Dallis Parker is a thirteen-year-old tomboy who loves horses more than anything else in the world. However, she fell off a pony when she was six, breaking her leg in three places. Since then she walks with a brace and a limp. Because of her bad leg, Dallis has a poor self-image, is withdrawn, and does not make friends easily. Dallis’s parents will not allow her to be around horses, let alone own one. Yet, she has never given up her dream to have a horse again someday.  Much of her time is spent dreaming about a white stallion named Snow who leads a herd of mustangs in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania.

Living in farm country, Dallis raises chickens and shows them at 4-H Club. Her only friend, Sheila Elliot, is an African American girl who lives with adoptive parents on the farm next to the Parker farm. Sheila is also a member of 4-H and raises lambs. Matthew Spencer is an eighth grade boy whom Dallis has had a crush on for years. A member of 4-H, he shows his champion quarter horse, Scrabble. Unfortunately, two other members of 4-H, Jane Dowling and Courtney Fulmer, who also show horses, dislike Dallis and belittle her constantly.

Sheila invites Dallis to go to a youth group meeting one Friday evening in the fall. Dallis is reluctant to go because she’ll be forced to mingle with kids she doesn’t know. But when she finds out Matthew will be there, she sets out to gain permission to go.

Chapter Two

At the youth group meeting, Dallis focuses on one person, Matthew Spencer. She ignores the events of the evening, studying him and resenting Jane and Courtney who latch unto him all night long. Near the close of the meeting, Dallis finally tunes in to Mr. Markham, the youth group leader, when he announces that the group will be going on a four-day survival camping trip to the Pocono Mountains in December. One of the reasons for the trip is to look for Snow, a “phantom” white stallion, supposedly the leader of a small band of wild Mustangs that roam the Shamokin State Park. When Dallis hears about the horse and learns that Matthew is going on the trip, she makes up her mind that she is going too.

Chapter Three

 

Dallis is overwhelmed with the beauty and excitement of Camp Icy Maples with all its activities to enjoy in new-fallen snow. There are eleven youth groups with over a hundred teens at the camp. However, she’s more interested in a certain young man who, as usual, is constantly smothered by Jane and Courtney. Dallis faces new ugly feelings about the two girls, feelings of jealousy, which she doesn’t like at all.

The first night of activities, while her youth group goes sledding, Dallis sits alone at a pavilion watching kids build snowmen and ice skate on a large pond. Even though others have invited her to join their activities, she chooses to wallow in self-pity and watch the fun from afar.But as she hobbles toward the gymnatorium for hot chocolate, Matthew joins her. As they walk together, they share their excitement about the next two days when the group goes to survival camp, looking for the white stallion.

*****

So there you have a sample of a chapter outline. For those of you who fly by the seat of your pants and you’re never sure what’s coming next, a chapter outline will be a very difficult task to accomplish. But if an editor from a prospective publisher wants one, then…well…

…start writing.

 

TODAY’S WRITERS’ TIP: The Elements of an Eye-Catching Fiction Proposal

In your writing and publishing venture, you might be asked to submit a proposal to an editor or agent once you’ve caught his/her attention.  So what is a proposal?

Other than asking someone to marry you, a proposal in the publishing world is quite the complex project. Of course, the first thing you want to do is check the publishing house’s guidelines. They might have them outlined for you on the website or if an editor asks for a proposal, then you ask him/her for their guidelines. If there are none, then follow a standard format that all editors will accept and get to know you and your project better.

Let’s look at the basic elements of a good proposal for a fiction manuscript. In later blog posts, we’ll look at samples of each of these (if applicable). One word of caution is merited here. Be careful to spend quality time on your proposal. Depending on how many sample chapters you send, your proposal could easily be 40 to 60 pages long. It’s not something that should be taken lightly because your proposal will either earn you a contract or send your manuscript back to you to try again some other place.

Basic Elements of a Good Fiction Proposal

  1. Cover page – includes title of your work, your name, address, phone number, email, website, and to whom you’re sending the proposal
  2. Table of Contents – list all the sections included in your proposal and their page numbers
  3. Synopsis: a one-to-two-page synopsis of your entire manuscript, including the climax and resolution. Don’t keep the editor/agent guessing how it’s going to end.
  4. About the Author – a one-to-two-page bio of you, including a photo, a little background, and your writing credits and awards won; include your involvement with social media, i.e. Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, Twitter, blogsite, etc. with all URLs.
  5. Character Sketches – a one-page description of your main characters (one or two main characters, no more); include time period, personal appearance, quips, goals in life.
  6. Market Potential (this one takes the most time) – spend quality time in bookstores and/or online, researching the other books already published that are in the same genre and age group. Include these elements: Layout and Audience, Competitive Works, Marketing Ideas, and Date of Completion.
  7. Chapter Outline – this is not a I, II, III, A, B, C “outline.” It’s a one-to-two-paragraph summary of each chapter in your book. If your work is not finished, just write the outline to match the last chapter you’ve written. If you have some idea how the story ends, include that.
  8. Sample Chapters – the publisher’s guidelines might indicate chapter one, two, and the last one, maybe chapters one, the chapter in the middle of the book, and the last one. If not designated, send the first three chapters.

Well, there you have the basic elements of a proposal that will catch that editor’s or agent’s eye.

Why is the proposal so important?

If and editor reviews a well-done proposal, he/she recognizes that the author already has good writing and organizing skills, has a goal set to finish a project, and can meet deadlines. All these qualities are essential in maintaining a good relationship between the author and editor.

Write an eye-catching proposal, and you’re one step closer to reaching that unreachable star: publication!

 

 

July 29, 2014

LOUELLEN FRIESEN CLOSES OUT THE HHP BLOG TOUR!
By Marsha Hubler

For the last fifteen days, several Helping Hands Press authors have participated in a summer reading blog tour where we introduced the blogging audience to our stories and characters. To end the tour, I now introduce you to one of my main characters, the wife of Eli Friesen, in my Amish/Mennonite novel, LOVE SONG FOR LOUELLEN:

1. What is your name? Mrs. Louellen Friesen
2. What one word best describes you? Forgiven
3. How do you first become involved in this novel? I make my entrance on the first page. I am cleaning house for an “English” doctor, David McAndrew, and, God forgive me, I have strong feelings for this man even though I’m married to Eli Friesen.
4. What worries you? I am childless, which is a blight in the Mennonite community. I worry that I’ll never have children.
5. What is your favorite song? After reviewing my life and how God has shown his mercy and grace to me, I’d have to say my favorite hymn is “Amazing Grace.”
6. What is your favorite food? Everyone knows the Amish and Mennonite communities know how to cook. I have many favorites, but at the top of my list would be chicken pot pie with home-made noodles and fresh chicken prepared at our Snyder County farm.
7. What do you think of the other characters in the novel? Oh, there are so many folks in this story, I can’t comment on all of them, so I’ll just mention a few. I think my husband Eli has grown so much in the Lord as we’ve worked out our problems. Doctor McAndrew and his two teen girls, Andrea and Jenna, are wunderbaar “English” folk, and I care deeply for them, but our paths had to separate due to unforeseen circumstances. My Amish community? There are so many dear folk that Eli and I have to leave behind when we are shunned, and then we must eventually leave our friends. My heart still aches to see them all.
8. Are you pleased with your life as the novel ends? I am extremely well pleased because God performs several miracles that bring Eli and me closer than we’ve ever been before. And God gives us a special blessing that you’ll only discover when you read LOVE SONG FOR LOUELLEN.

Check out the other authors in the

HELPING HANDS PRESS SUMMER READING BLOG TOUR

They all have exciting tales to tell!

Monday, July 14 – Ruth L. Snyder http://ruthlsnyder.com
Tuesday, July 15 Cindy Noonan http://CindyNoonan.com
Wednesday, July 16 Mishael Witty http://bluebrownbooks.com/
Thursday, July 17 – Michele Huey http://michelethuey.com/
Friday, July 18 – Patti J. Smith http://gridirongrannyfootballfanatic.blogspot.com/
Saturday, July 19 – Amber Schamel http://amberschamel.blogspot.com/
Sunday, July 20 – Mark Carver http://www.markcarverbooks.com
Monday, July 21 – Marian Baay http://marianbaay.blogspot.nl/
Tuesday, July 22 – Jen Cudmore http://www.jencudmore.com
Wednesday, July 23 – Tracy Krauss http://www.tracykraussexpressionexpress.com/
Thursday, July 24 – Marcia Laycock http://marcialeelaycock.com/thespur/
Friday, July 25 – Joy Davis http://www.joyrossdavis.com
Saturday, July 26 – Travis Perry http://travissbigidea.blogspot.com/
Sunday, July 27 – Mark Venturini http://markventurinijourney.blogspot.ca/

Monday, July 28 – Iola Kirkwood  http://iokirkwood.com/

 

Meet the Author Marti Pieper

Photo.Marti.Getting the Story_Pieper (2)

Marti Pieper’s passion to read, write, and pray has yielded all kinds of adventures. In 2005, her involvement in a prayer project led her to assist Brent and Deanna Higgins as they told their son’s compelling story. The resulting memoir, I Would Die for You: One Student’s Story of Passion, Service, and Faith (Revell, 2008), became a young adult bestseller that the publisher has called a “missions classic.”

Today, Marti continues to use her gifts as author, collaborative writer, and editor. Her latest release is Escape the Lie: Journey to Freedom from the Orphan Heart (Randall House, 2014) written for Dr. Walker Moore, President and Founder of Awe Star Ministries, a student missions-sending organization. This is their third book together.

In addition to her work with nonfiction books, Marti writes and edits for popular Christian teen girls’ magazine, Sisterhood. She also serves as Director of Prayer and Publication for Awe Star Ministries and writer for the Shelby Kennedy Foundation, sponsor of the National Bible Bee.

Marti’s passion for mission service has been reflected in her work. She has had the privilege of traveling to Mexico and Panama with Awe Star Ministries and to Guatemala, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, and (this July) Costa Rica as the writer for the Never the Same missions trip co-founded by Susie Shellenberger, founding editor of Sisterhood. Last summer, she climbed several hundred steps in the slums of Lima in pursuit of a story and also had the privilege of joining teens in sandboarding down dunes more than 200 feet high.

Marti is a popular speaker at writers, homeschool, and missions conferences where she shares the wisdom gained from her experiences in writing, editing, homeschooling, and serving on numerous short-term mission trips. Marti also speaks for churches, women’s retreats, and young adults on topics related to missions and prayer.

Marti holds a B.S.Ed. from The Ohio State University and M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. She is wife to Tom, a worship pastor, and mom to five young adults. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and at http://www.martipieper.com.

Check out Marti’s novel, ESCAPE THE LIE

Pieper.Bk.Cover.escape_lie

Satan’s deceptive tactics block most Christians from the lives God intended. We hide behind rules, masks, and manipulation. We preach the gospel, but our lives proclaim destruction.
Escape the Lie provides answers for the deep-seated problem known as the Orphan Heart. Through powerful, biblical teaching and compelling true-life examples, the book unlocks the door to help you escape the wounds of the past and move into abundant life.

Purchase Links:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Escape-Lie-Walker-Moore/dp/0892656859/ref=tmm_pap_title_0
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/escape-the-lie-walker-moore/1119464716?ean=9780892656851
Christian Book Distributors: http://www.christianbook.com/escape-journey-freedom-from-orphan-heart/walker-moore/9780892656851/pd/656851
Randall House: http://www.randallhouse.com/shop/escape-the-lie/

July 7, 2014

The Elements of an Eye-Catching Fiction Proposal

In your writing and publishing venture, you might be asked to submit a proposal to an editor or agent once you’ve caught his/her attention. So what is a proposal?
Other than asking someone to marry you, a proposal in the publishing world is quite the complex project. Of course, the first thing you want to do is check the publishing houses’ guidelines. They might have them outlined for you on the website or if an editor asks for a proposal, then you ask him/her for their guidelines. If there are no guidelines, then follow a standard format that all editors will accept to get to know you and your project better.
Let’s look at the basic elements of a good proposal for a fiction manuscript. In later blog posts, we’ll look at samples of each of these (if applicable). One word of caution is merited here. Be careful to spend quality time on your proposal. Depending on how many sample chapters you send, your proposal could easily be 40 to 60 pages long. It’s not something that should be taken lightly because your proposal will either earn you a contract or send your manuscript back to you to try again some other place.

Basic Elements of a Good Fiction Proposal

1. Cover page – includes title of your work, your name, address, phone number, email, website, and to whom you’re sending the proposal
2. Table of Contents – list all the sections included in your proposal and their page numbers
3. Synopsis –  a one-to-two-page synopsis of your entire manuscript, including the climax and resolution. Don’t keep the editor/agent guessing how it’s going to end.
4. About the Author – a one-to-two-page bio of you, including a photo, a little background, and your writing credits and awards won; include your involvement with social media, i.e. Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, Twitter, blogsite, etc. with all URLs.
5. Character Sketches – a one-page description of your main characters (one or two main characters, no more); include time period, personal appearance, quips, goals in life.
6. Market Potential (this one takes the most time) – spend quality time in bookstores and/or online, researching the other books already published in the same genre and age group. Include these elements: Layout and Audience, Competitive Works, Marketing Ideas, and Date of Completion.
7. Chapter Outline – this is not a I, II, III, A, B, C “outline.” It’s a one-to-two-paragraph summary of each chapter in your book. If your work is not finished, just write the outline up to the last chapter you’ve written.
8. Sample Chapters – the publisher’s guidelines might indicate chapter one, two, and the last one, maybe chapters one, the chapter in the middle of the book, and the last one. If not designated, send the first three chapters.

Well, there you have the basic elements of a proposal that will catch that editor’s or agent’s eye.
Why is the proposal so important?
If an editor or agent reviews a well-done proposal, he/she will recognize that the author already has good writing and organizing skills, has a goal set to finish a project, and can meet deadlines. All these qualities are essential in maintaining a good relationship between the author and editor.
Write an eye-catching proposal, and you’re one step closer to reaching that unreachable star: publication!

pen and quill

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