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May 23, 2016

 

Today’s Writers’ Tip: Writing Fiction Plots Outside the Box

Christmas.Presents

Over the years, I’ve taught different classes and courses on writing at various writers conferences, including the Montrose Christian Writers Conference in Montrose, PA. As of January 2015, I assumed the directorship of the conference, which is a wonderful experience for any writer at any level in his/her career. Every year there are workshops and classes presented by a faculty (this year 17) of many best-selling or award-winning authors, agents, or editors representing various genres and subgenres.

In one of my seminars for beginners, I present anything and everything from query letters and proposals to marketing yourself and your work. I also present a detailed Power Point on the good elements of fiction, including how to write “outside the box.” I thought I’d share a few of those pointers with you in this post.

First, we need to define the term “outside the box.” What in heaven’s name does that mean?

“Write outside the box.”

Well, in plain language, it means to write a plot that doesn’t have a normal humdrum boring story line.

As a short exercise in my presentation, I always cite some average boring story lines and ask my class to change the plot so that it’s outside the box. One example I cite is the following:

“A little girl finds a nest of baby bunnies in her back yard.”

Now, of course, everyone is immediately drawn to the “outside the box” famous children’s story, Alice in Wonderland, where Alice finds a whole new world, not a nest of baby bunnies.

Several years ago, I presented this workshop to a group of writers and asked how to change the story line. One fellow in the back of the room raised his hand and said, “How about if a big rabbit finds a nest of little girls in his back yard?”

I said to him, “Sir, you are DEFINITELY thinking outside the box. Go for it.”

Just for the fun of it, I’m going to list about 10 different story lines. Analyze each one. If you can change the plot to move it outside the box, do so. But some of the story lines are already outside the box and are, in fact, famous stories or books written by best-selling published authors. See if you can identify those that are already great plots.

So, which of these would you like to continue to read?

  1. A little girl saves enough money to buy a horse at auction.
  2. A bitter sea captain of a sailing ship hunts for a white sperm whale to kill him.
  3. A newly married couple tours Paris, France, and enjoys all the sites.
  4. A boy is shipwrecked on an island with only a wild stallion that won’t let him get near him.
  5. A middle-aged woman works at Wal-Mart, saving enough money to take a trip to Hawaii.
  6. A young pioneer woman is left alone on the prairie in her covered wagon when her husband falls from his horse and is killed.
  7. The neighbor’s cat has a litter of six kittens underneath a little boy’s porch.
  8. A collie dog, sold and taken away from the boy he loves, travels a long distance through life-threatening dangers to return to his boy.
  9. A young unmarried girl decides to marry her childhood sweetheart.
  10. An unmarried woman on a plantation in a southern state faces the harsh reality of post Civil War life and the loss of all she held dear.

Well, how did you do? Did you analyze the boring plots and decide what you could do to make them better? (Numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, 9)

And did you identify the best-selling books/movies in numbers 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10?

MOBY DICK

THE BLACK STALLION

LOVE COMES SOFTLY

LASSIE, COME HOME

GONE WITH THE WIND

When you analyze what makes these million-dollar story lines what they are, you’ll be on your way to writing, possibly, the next great American novel. And all the while you’re writing, keep on reading. Read tons of books, especially in the subgenre in which you are writing, and learn how the masters did it. Maybe someday, your name will be on a best-seller list with the rest of them!

Happy writing!

P.S. Time to register for the Montrose Christian Writers Conference. You won’t be sorry!

Please check http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx for all the details.

Marsha

http://www.marshahubler.com

http://www.horsefactsbymarshahubler.wordpress.com

http://www.marshahubler.com

(More shameless promotion)

ANOTHER WHOLESOME BOOK FOR TWEENS

SNOW, PHANTOM STALLION OF THE POCONOS

SNOW

Dallis Parker copes with bullying at school by dreaming about owning Snow, a wild Mustang, who most folks believe doesn’t even exist. Then she actually touches the horse, and her life is changed forever.

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DO YOU NEED HELP TO GET YOUR WORK PUBLISHED?

COME TO THE MONTROSE CHRISTIAN WRITERS CONFERENCE, MONTROSE, PA

July 17th – 22nd

Don't.Stop.Believing

Thinking of self-publishing your book? Award-winning author Michelle Lazurek will have a continuing afternoon series for you to learn the ups and downs of doing it yourself.

Having trouble understanding all those little icons in the Microsoft WORD menu at the top of your documents? How do you insert a picture? Bullet points? A footnote? Author/illustrator Brenda K. Hendricks will explain in depth how to use WORD as you write your manuscript.

Working on a tween or teen novel? Author Marti Pieper and best-selling author Karen Whiting will show you exactly what you need to do to get that manuscript published.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Needing an agent? Hartline Literary Agent Jim Hart will tell you how to get that agent.

Writing some short pieces or feature/news articles? Authors Patti Souder and Kathy Ide and best-selling author Jeanette Windle will share what needs to be done to get that short work published.

These are only a few of the 40+ afternoon workshops and seminars offered at this year’s Montrose Christian Writers Conference. Check out all the details (including a registration form) at http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx   Smiley.Face.Smiling

We’d love to see you there!

Marsha

Director MCWC 2016

May 9, 2016

DO YOU KNOW YOUR WRITING TERMS?

I often speak at writers’ conferences and present workshops to help those who are just starting out in the writing/publishing world. During my presentations I’ve often stared into the blank faces of newbies who don’t have a clue about what I’m discussing, and I’ve found that it has much to do with their lack of knowledge concerning the writing/publishing business and the many “odd duck” terms we writers use.

For you who are more experienced, this little quiz will be old hat for you. It’s a 20-question matching quiz to sharpen the writing/publishing part of your brain. So, take a few minutes, grab a pen and paper, and let’s go: (Sorry for the misalignment of the list. Parts of the answers in the right column wrap around underneath the first word in the left side of the list. WordPress alignment is the problem.)

  1. _______GENRE                        A. $ EARNED AFTER BOOK IS OUT

 

  1. _______MANUSCRIPT SUB. B. YOUR NAME PRINTED W/WORK

 

  1. _______ QUERY LETTER      C.  SUMMARY OF BOOK ON COVER

 

  1. _______ COVER LETTER     D.  UNDERLYING MESSAGE

 

  1. _______ PROPOSAL              E.  CLEVER BEGINNING OF STORY

 

  1. _______ CRITIQUE/EDIT    F.  CATEGORY

 

  1. _______ REJECTION            G.  “PLEASE LOOK AT MY WORK”

 

  1. _______ CONTRACT             H.  ALL ABOUT YOU & YOUR WORK

 

  1. _______ MARKETING          I.  “DOES NOT MEET OUR NEEDS”

 

10._______ PITCH                            J.  SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT YOU

 

11._______ HOOK                            K. SENDING IT TO THE PUB. CO.

 

12._______ STORY LINE                 L. “ENCLOSED PLEASE FIND …”

 

13._______ THEME                           M.  $ FOR NOT BEING PUBLISHED

 

14._______ PLOT                               N. EARNED BEFORE BOOK IS OUT

 

15._______ BLURB                            O. ESSENTIAL REVIEW OF WORK

 

16._______ CREDITS                        P. OF THIS A WRITER DREAMS

 

17._______ BYLINE                           Q. LIST OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS

 

18._______ ADVANCE                       R. ACTION IN YOUR STORY

 

19._______ROYALTY                         S. WHAT YOUR STORY IS ABOUT

 

20._______KILL FEE                        T. GETS THE ATTENTION OF THE

EDITOR OR AGENT

 

Well, how do you think you did? Here are the answers:

 

  1. F    2.   K.     3.  G     4.   L.   5. H     6.  O     7.   I.       8.   P.      9.  J.    10.   T
  2. E. 12. S.    13.   D.   14.  R.    15.  C   16.  Q   17.  B.   18.   N.    19.  A.     20.  M

Happy writing!

Marsha

(Web) www.marshahubler.com

Montrose Christian Writers Conference

http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx

(Horse Facts Blog) www.horsefactsbymarshahubler.wordpress.com

(More Shameless Promotion)

 

SNOW, PHANTOM STALLION OF THE POCONOS

SNOW

Dallis Parker copes with bullying at school by dreaming about owning Snow, a wild Mustang, who most folks believe doesn’t even exist. Then she actually touches the horse, and her life is changed forever.

http://www.amazon.com/Snow-Phantom-Stallion-Marsha-Hubler-ebook/dp/B013GUF078/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1449523382&sr=1-1&keywords=Snow%2C+Phantom+Stallion+of+the+Poconos

EVENING PERKS AT THE MONTROSE CHRISTIAN WRITERS CONFERENCE – 2016

Westcotts.+BigDuck

Do you like to laugh?

How sharp are you at Jeopardy?

Jeanne.Mull.Readers.Theater.2015Would you like to read a section of your written work to the entire conference assembly?

Then it’s time to register for the Montrose Christian Writers Conference July 17th to the 22nd. Besides choosing from over 40 workshops during the week, three evenings offer additional perks:

Monday Evening: Puppets on Parade will present faculty and conferees who would like to participate in a fun-filled program of puppetry and ventriloquism. You may volunteer to be in the program or relax in the audience and enjoy the event.

Wednesday Evening: Odd Ducks’ Dilemma, a Jeopardy-type game will challenge panels of three volunteers each, both faculty and conferees, with questions about writing/publishing on all different levels.

Example: Answer – The author of Alice in Wonderland

The Question – Who is Lewis Carroll?

Thursday Evening: Writers’ Theater invites any conferee or faculty member to read a three-minute section of any written work. It’s an evening of creativity you’ll enjoy whether you participate or cheer on the writers brave enough to read their work to their peers.

Please go to http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx

for all the details and a registration form. I hope to see you at Montrose in July!

Marsha

Director

(More shameless promotion)

Whispering Hope

A wild horse and an angry young woman. Is there a secret to taming them both?

Foster kid, Skye Nicholson, sets her sights on a new teen and a rescued wild Mustang

at Keystone Stables.

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Book 7. Keystone Stables

April 25, 2016

 

Research for Nonfiction

 

Do I Need To Do Research for my Nonfiction Work?

Detective.w.Spy.Glass.Cartoon

“Well, that’s a no-brainer,” you say. “Even if you’re writing your life history, you’d probably need an ancient facts book to see what REALLY BIG happened the year you were born. Duh. Nonfiction means ‘no fakey talkey.’”

Right. We all assume, and correctly, that nonfiction requires research, except maybe if you’re writing poetry, although you need to keep your facts straight there, too, if you’re writing practically anything but mushy love notes.

Let’s discuss the importance of keeping good notes and doing the necessary research to make your manuscript a reliable and trustworthy document.

How About the Internet?

Yes, Google has brought to all of us a library on our desks in our homes. But, please reconsider Wikipedia for all your research. It’s all right to use it as a reference, but sometimes online sources are not 100% accurate. You need to spend some time at the brick-and-mortar library. And not just hanging around the encyclopedia shelves either.

Let’s say you plan to write a coffee table book that would attract sports car racing fans. You want to find facts and photos about “The First Car Races in the United States.”

Online searches and encyclopedias are a good place to start, but only a good place to start. Where else can you find information about early car races? Let’s list a few:

1.Libraries (more than one, including public libraries and college libraries), which should have a wealth of all kinds of books about the topic

2.Racing magazine archives

3.Biographies and autobiographies of famous “car people” like Henry Ford

4.Race tracks, contemporary race car drivers, local auto racing clubs

5.Race car museums

6.Manufacturing plants of race cars

There are just a few ideas of where you could get your facts for your project.

So after you start collecting the facts, what’s the best way to save them?

Of course, an accurate bibliography is essential. I recommend keeping all your notes not only on paper in a file but feeding them into a computer file and on back-up flash drives or CDs for safe keeping, as well. You never know what might happen to just one file, either in the computer or outside of it. I’ve lost items much bigger than a file of papers in my feeble-brained moments.

I can’t express more clearly at this time the importance of keeping that bibliography as detailed as you can. If at all possible, record publishing dates and companies of all facts gathered. Record phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses of all folks interviewed, or the sources of all information (if available), and don’t skimp on the details. You just might need to “prove” to your editor that your facts are correct.

Case in Point: when I wrote my ladies’ Bible study guide, DRAW ME CLOSER, LORD, A WOMAN’S GUIDE TO A MEANINGFUL PRAYER LIFE, several years back, I took a full year to write it because of the research involved. I used not only the Bible extensively, but I also used 19 other resources, all of them books, many written by famous pastors or missionaries on the topic of prayer, to substantiate my statements. I also had to do research for every song lyric or poem I quoted at the end of each of the ten lessons. I needed to know if the words I wished to copy were in the public domain, (older than 70 years for the hymns I wanted to use), or if I had to acquire permission to use the words or even purchase the rights such as in the case of a Helen Steiner Rice poem, which I wanted to quote two or three lines. (That purchase price was extremely high, so I used another poem with no reprint fee—one of my own!)

I vividly remember talking to the editor at the publishing company who had contracted with me for the Bible study guide. She made it quite clear to me that it was MY responsibility to send her all the “permission slips” to use any other author’s poems or any composer’s lyrics. I also remember she told me I had to have documentation from said authors or composers to send to her before the company would publish the book.

Well, now, if I hadn’t written down where I had found some of the poems I wanted to use or some of the hymns’ lyrics, I would’ve been in a big research waning mess. But, fortunately, I had documented all of the above.

I remember one incident when I found the phone number (I don’t remember how) of one of the poets whose poem I wished to use. I called the number, and the poet’s husband answered, telling me that his wife had passed away several years ago. After I offered him my condolences, I explained that I wanted to use one of her poems in my book, and he graciously consented to send me a written statement, which I then forwarded to my editor.

Now, can you see what it took me a full year to write the Bible study guide? Accuracy takes time!

So, my strongest note of encouragement to you is to keep accurate and detailed notes of every little tidbit of information you use. You have no idea what your editor will ask for. And if you decide to self publish, you need all the more to be accurate and to have permission when permission to copy is due. One thing you don’t need accompanying the joy of seeing your name in print is a lawsuit in tomorrow’s mailbox.

Happy researching!

P.S. Time to register for the Montrose Christian Writers Conference. You won’t be sorry! Please check http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx for all the details.

Marsha

http://www.marshahubler.com

http://www.horsefactsbymarshahubler.wordpress.com

 

(More shameless promotion)

BEST-SELLING BOOKS FOR TWEENS

Book 7. Keystone Stables

Whispering Hope

Book 7 in THE KEYSTONE STABLES SERIES

Foster kid, Skye Nicholson, has her hands full trying to train a wild Mustang and befriend another wild foster kid who has no intentions of cooperating with anyone at Keystone Stables.

http://www.amazon.com/Whispering-Hope-Keystone-Stables-Book-ebook/dp/B003TO59SW/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1451949826&sr=1-1&keywords=Whispering+Hope+by+Marsha+Hubler

Writers! It’s Time to Register for the Montrose Christian Writers Conference!

Westcotts.+BigDuck

July 17th – 22nd (Or come for just a few days)!

Older Teens to Senior Citizens!

Come to Montrose and get your work ready to publish!

 

This Year’s Perks

  1. Build your blog or update! (3 classes or private tutoring for only $20/45 min. periods)
  2. Finally understand how to use Microsoft Word to enhance your documents. (3 classes)
  3. Attend freebie critique groups to give you invaluable advice to hone your work.
  4. Review your work privately with a faculty member. (free/15 min. periods or $40/30 min.)
  5. Read a 3-minute piece of your work to all the conferees at Writers’ Theatre.
  6. Participate in the Parade of Puppets with your puppets or dummies.
  7. Participate in the Odd Ducks’ Dilemma, a quiz program similar to Jeopardy.

Just Starting to Write?

Attend the Inspiration and Perspiration classes with Roseanna White to learn where to start.

Wanna Self Publish? Don't.Stop.Believing

Attend 3 classes to find out just how to do it.

Wanna Publish Your Poetry?

Sign up for the work-in-progress seminar with award winning poet Shirley Stevens or attend her 3 classes during the week.

Is My Romance Novel Good Enough?

Find out by signing up for the work-in-progress seminar with award winning novelist Gayle Roper.

Walk.w.Joan.and.Faith.at.MontroseCan’t Attend All the Classes?

Purchase any or all the recorded sessions for a reasonable price.

 

PLUS over 40 classes that present everything from public speaking to editing your own work to marketing and promotion.

I’d love to see you there in July!

For more details, go to http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx

Looking forward to meeting and greeting you on July 17th!

 

 

(More shameless promotion)

SNOW, PHANTOM STALLION OF THE POCONOS

Dallis Parker copes with bullying at school by dreaming about owning Snow, a wild Mustang, who most folks believe doesn’t even exist. Then she actually touches the horse, and her life is changed forever.

http://www.amazon.com/Snow-Phantom-Stallion-Marsha-Hubler-ebook/dp/B013GUF078/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1449523382&sr=1-1&keywords=Snow%2C+Phantom+Stallion+of+the+Poconos

 

SNOW

April 11, 2016

 

The Essential Details of Research for your Fiction

 Detective.w.Spy.Glass.Cartoon

What? Research for fiction when I’m making it all up in my brilliant head?

Yes, you need to do research even though your story is “make-believe.”

The editors with whom I worked to publish three different juvenile fiction books or series all demanded accuracy when it came to “the facts.”

In my Keystone Stables book number seven, WHISPERING HOPE, a small barn fire causes the local fire company to come to the Chambers’ ranch to, of course, put out the fire. So, what, or who, would show up to put out a potentially dangerous flame that could destroy acres of property and farmland?

To be absolutely correct in my manuscript, I interviewed a local fireman and got all the details of who, what, where, when, and why. Following is that scene with all “the facts” included accurately:

**********************************************************************

Skye followed Mrs. Chambers outside just as two screaming fire engines, a tanker, and an ambulance, all with flashing lights, barreled down the driveway and pulled a short distance from the barn. The trucks and their commotion lit up the place like a firemen’s carnival. As far as Skye could tell, about ten firemen scrambled from the trucks and started their assigned tasks.

Moving to the far side of the barn, Mr. Chambers continued to spray water on the fire. “I think it just started!” he yelled to anyone who would listen.

“Is there anyone in the barn?” one fireman yelled.

“No!” Mr. Chambers yelled. “We just got all the horses out!”

Another fireman asked, “Do you have a pond on your property?”

“Yes,” Mr. Chambers answered, “at the bottom of the fenced-in pasture.”

“Freeburg’s trucks should be here any sec,” the fireman said. “Open your gate, so their tanker can fill up.”

Mr. Chambers dropped his garden hose and raced toward the gate.

Skye stared at the scene while two men quickly slid a large plastic holding tank off the truck and started pumping water from the tanker into it. One fireman grabbed some kind of line or hose from another truck and pulled it to the plastic tank where he plugged it in. Two other men shoulder-loaded a hose from the first truck and stretched it the length of the barn. A pair of men from another truck donned breathing apparatus, grabbed fire extinguishers and hatchets, and started toward the barn.

The men with the outstretched hose started spraying water on the flames in the loft while two men from the second truck prepped their hose.

Still coughing, Skye watched the firemen perform their duties with the precision that only drill after drill had produced. Every man knew exactly what to do to put out the fire and save the barn from total destruction.

Out of the ambulance hopped two EMTs. Carrying small cases, they rushed toward Mrs. Chambers and Skye. “Are you all right?” asked a chubby female in a navy blue uniform.

Mrs. Chambers gestured toward Skye and spoke through a series of coughs. “We … got our lungs full of smoke, but we’re okay. Just let us… catch our breath.”

“Do you need any oxygen?” a tall thin EMT with a beard asked.

“I think… we’re okay,” Skye managed to say. “We were in the barn… just long enough to get the horses out.”

Gasping, Mr. Chambers joined the group while his glare never left the barn.

“Sir,” the male EMT asked Mr. Chambers, “are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Mr. Chambers said. “I didn’t breathe in any smoke… I’m just winded.”

With blasting sirens and flashing lights, three more fire trucks and another ambulance barreled down the driveway. They clattered to the far side of the barn and pulled to a screeching halt. One busy fireman in front of the barn ran to the tanker and shouted something to the driver. As the firemen hopped off the engines, the tanker backed up, maneuvered around the other trucks, and headed toward the pond.

Mrs. Chambers grabbed Skye by both shoulders and glared into her face. “Skye … where’s Wanda?”

Skye’s eyes grew as round as saucers. “Mom… I completely forgot to tell you… she wasn’t in her bed.” She then pointed at the barn. “She might be in there!”

“Wan-da!” Mrs. Chambers screamed and started running toward the barn, but Mr. Chambers grabbed her arm and stopped her. “You stay here!” he yelled. “I’ll go in.”

“You can’t go in there!” an EMT yelled.

“I have to,” he said. “One of our girls is in there!”

Mr. Chambers ran to a firemen gearing up and told him about Wanda.

“Mike!” the fireman yelled back to the hosemen. “There might be a kid in there. We’re going in.”

“Okay,” one said. Turning his water on, he and his partner streamed a second powerful surge of water into the barn’s loft.

(From WHISPERING HOPE by Marsha Hubler, pp. 60-62)

 

**********************************************************************

 

There you have an example of the detail required to make a scene come alive with truth in action. I trust that you felt like you were standing right next to Skye, watching everything that was going on.

In another one of my fiction books, THE SECRET OF WOLF CANYON, the plot centers around Civil War gold coins hidden in a canyon that the main characters, three teen girl junior detectives, have to find. I make several referrals to the Battle of Gettysburg, including a map or two in the manuscript; so, of course, much research went into being accurate with the details about the coins and the battlefield. I used encyclopedias and the Internet for my research.

Oh, by the way, one of the publishing companies’ editors’ main jobs is to make sure their authors get their stories straight. The editors, in turn, must do their own research to verify the words we authors have written.

So, my point is this: when writing fiction, make sure you get “the facts” straight. I suppose the only subgenre in which you wouldn’t need much research is if you’re writing fantasy that takes place in a brand new world. You can make up your own laws, rules, details, and creatures which need to follow no standard. However, if you’re writing about anything or anyone here on planet earth, do your homework, and make your story as true to life as you can, even if it’s all a big lie. ☺

Marsha

P.S. Don’t wait to sign up for a work-in-progress class at the Montrose Christian Writers’ Conference this July. Those seminars fill up fast.MCWC.Duck.Welcome.Sign.on.Porch.7.22.14

http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx

http://www.marshahubler.com

http://www.montrosebible.org

http://www.horsefactsbymarshahubler.wordpress.com

 

(More shameless promotion)

SOUTHERN BELLE’S SPECIAL GIFT

(KEYSTONE STABLES BOOK 3)

Foster kid Skye and her horse Champ have their hooves full

trying to help Tanya Bell, a wild foster kid, handle the loss

of a mare giving birth.

 Keystone Stables Book 3

 

http://www.amazon.com/Southern-Belles-Special-Keystone-Stables-ebook/dp/B003SE765M/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1455548107&sr=1-1&keywords=Southern+Belle%27s+Special+Gift

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