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Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, Tamera Lynn Kraft

2017_ThrivecroppedSo happy to have Tamera Lynn Kraft back as a guest blogger. This time we are discussing how to  plot. When writing. Not when you want to take over a country. Welcome back, Tamera!

Which comes first when creating a story – character, setting, or plot?

Actually, none of them come first. My stories come to me when I read about events in history and wonder what it would have been like for the people living through them. Out of that comes the setting in history, the character living through that time, and what the character went through (plot) almost simultaneously.

Since your write historical fiction, how does history affect your plots?

The history doesn’t affect my plot. It basically is my plot. I’m not the kind of historical author whose stories can be set at any time in the past by changing the costumes and the way they cook. I pretty much immerse myself in the history before I even start writing.

How do you troubleshoot your plot or subplots?

Before I write the story or after? While I’m writing a story, if I can’t figure out what comes next, I consider two questions. What would naturally come next? How can I surprise my reader by blowing that up and still staying believable? After I’ve written my story, if I find there are plot holes I don’t know how to fix, I use Super Structure by James Scott Bell and Troubleshooting Your Novel by Steven James as go to textbooks.

What’s been the most unusual source of inspiration for a plot?

I think my most unusual source would be for the first novel I wrote. It’s not yet published but is coming out in October, 2019. It’s called FORKS IN THE ROAD and is a Young Adult Western about two boys who survive Quantrill’s Raid, end up on their own, and make the wrong choice at every fork in the road until they grow up to become outlaws. It’s a story of redemption. I got the idea from a western in the early 1970s called Alias Smith and Jones.

I’d say it’s unusual because every other novel I’ve written has come from researching history.

I remember that show. You never know what will inspire you.

What advice do you have for writers who want to develop their plotting skills?

My advice is to first learn plot like the back of your hand. James Scott Bell’s Super Structure is a perfect writing book for that. Then when you are reading novels or watching movies, try to identify those plot points. After you know plotting so well you could recite it, read Story Trumps Structure by Steven James and throw everything you’ve learned out the window. That’s what I did. It doesn’t make sense, but if you know structure well, you can write a good story without worrying about it and know the pieces will fall into place.

It sounds like you need to know the rules to know when you can break or bend them. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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Lost in the Storm sm

Lost in the Storm: Ladies of Oberlin Book 2

By Tamera Lynn Kraft

Will war bring them love or will they be Lost in the Storm?

Lavena, a journalist during the Civil War, wants to become a war correspondent. She finally gets her chance, but there’s a catch. She has to get an interview from a war hero who has refused to tell his story to every other journalist, and she has to accomplish this impossible task in a month or she’ll lose her job.

Captain Cage, the war hero, has a secret that will destroy his military career and reputation. Now, a new journalist is trying to get him to tell what he’s been hiding. He wants to ignore her, but from the moment she came into camp, he can’t get her out of his mind.

Leading up to the turbulent Battles for the city of Chattanooga, will Lavena and Cage find the courage to love and forgive, or will they be swept away by their past mistakes that don’t want to stay buried?

Meet the Ladies of Oberlin, the causes they’re willing to fight for, and the men who capture their hearts.

Click here to link to Amazon.

Click here to link to Barnes & Noble.

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Tamera been married for 40 years to the love of her life, Rick, and has two married adult children and three grandchildren. She has been a children’s pastor for over 20 years. She is the leader of a ministry called Revival Fire for Kids where she mentors other children’s leaders, teaches workshops, and is a children’s ministry consultant and children’s evangelist and has written children’s church curriculum. She is a recipient of the 2007 National Children’s Leaders Association Shepherd’s Cup for lifetime achievement in children’s ministry.

You can contact Tamera online at www.tameralynnkraft.net.

Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, Rebecca Waters

BeckySo happy to have author Rebecca Waters guest blogging again. This time, she isn’t here as a novelist. She’s discussing writing advice from her book The E’s of Writing. Good to have you back, Rebecca!

Exercising the Writing Muscle

There is a difference between being a writer and being an author. Writers may write as a hobby or as a therapeutic measure. The casual writer may share his or her compositions with family or friends. An author publishes. An author expects a much wider audience.

It is an important distinction. If you are seeking to be a published author, you need to view your musings as a business instead of a hobby. And while, yes, I recognize that yours may be a “non-profit” business by choice or not by choice in the beginning, it is a business.

A business offers a product or service. I often meet people who want to talk about the book they have in mind. But they don’t write. They don’t have a product to market. That movie based on the best seller they are certain they could write will never happen because they don’t take the time to sit down and do it.

In the handbook, The E’s of Writing, I outline five healthy practices or habits for the soon-to-be-published author. The first of these “E’s” is Exercise. To get you started, I am sharing a brief description here of three exercises to build your writing muscle. These three you can start doing today. Note, to be effective, you need to exercise your writing muscle at least four days a week.

Think of it as training to be a world class weight lifter. In training a lifter starts with small weights to build those muscles needed to lift more. The same is true in becoming an author. You must exercise your writing muscle. In the process, you will create a product worth marketing; Words worth publishing.

Start with these three exercises:

  1. Use writing prompts. One way to warm-up or get your writing brain in gear each writing day is to use a prompt. Write for a sustained ten to fifteen minute interval. You can download prompts, start with a book of quotes, or write about a calendar photo. One author I know writes her way through the alphabet, choosing a word for each letter of the alphabet and crafting a story around the word. When she finishes with Z, she starts back at A. I’ve seen bloggers take on a similar challenge.
  2. Craft a query letter. This exercise is particularly helpful if you want to write non-fiction. You can start to build your audience by writing for a magazine or journal. Research a topic, outline the main points of the article and craft a letter proposing the piece to a magazine or journal you think would find your work interesting. If you’ve never written a query letter before, you may need to do a bit of online research to see what an editor needs from you. And if the editor offers you a contract to write the piece, you’ve already done the research!
  3. Writing contests. Every year journals, editors, agents, and conferences offer writing contests. I encourage new writers to download the guidelines and spend their exercise time working on an entry. Judges will often offer feedback to you to help you improve your writing. Some may require you to attend the conference for them to even read your entry, but the exercise of following the guidelines, crafting a submission, proofreading, editing, and revising helps build your writing muscle. And if you are interested in crafting a novel, one “contest” you may find challenging is NaNoWriMo. It stands for National Novel Writing Month. One month to draft a novel. Now that is heavy lifting!

Ready, Set, Go! Exercise that writing muscle!

I like writing prompts, which is why I offer Monday Sparks once a week. Thank you for describing those three writing exercises. Great ways to stay in creative shape.

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writing with e's Edd 3A writer writes. An author publishes. If you want to be a successful writer you need to first learn to exercise the writing muscle, learn to self-edit, seek to educate yourself about writing, engage with others in the writing community, and regularly engage in self-evaluation. Successful writers become published authors when they turn these practices into highly productive habits.
In the third book of the Writing to Publish series, author, educator, and speaker, Rebecca Waters offers new writers practical strategies to employ these five practices in sustainable ways.

Click here to go to Amazon.

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Rebecca Waters has been a writer most of her life. Her first published work was a short story in the school newspaper she wrote in second grade. For many years Rebecca used her stories as illustrations in school and church settings or to entertain her own three daughters. Her professional writing included educational articles and research. Following her retirement as a professor of education from Cincinnati Christian University, Rebecca turned her pen to the world of fiction. Her latest novel, Libby’s Cuppa Joewas released in March 2019. Her Writing to Publish Serieshelps beginning writers become published authors.

Visit her blog, follow her on Twitter, or like her on Facebook.

Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, Laurie Lucking

My guest today is YA fantasy author Laurie Lucking. Instead of an interview, Laurie has written a post on authenticity. It has so many great points! Take it away, Laurie!

Authenticity in Writing for Teens

Laurie Lucking HeadshotOne of the cautions I hear most about writing for a teen audience is you have to be authentic—if you’re not genuine, they’ll spot it from a mile away. The thought makes me nervous! I’m not a teen, nor do I currently have any young adults in my family or close circle of friends. So will my teenage characters come off as inauthentic stereotypes? Will I distance myself from readers by sounding like a preachy adult?

But here’s the thing—I was a teen, back in the day. In fact, it was such a formative time in my life that I wanted to write books like the ones that shaped me in middle school and high school. As I write my teen characters, I can still tap into those memories and emotions. Even more importantly, I bring myself back to the simple but essential reminder that each teen is an individual. And I’ve found the key to avoiding stereotypes and preachiness is to focus on writing individual characters. Complex, relatable characters that read like real people. In the case of young adult fiction, these characters happen to be teenagers when the story takes place. But they’re so much more than just “teens.”

Do you see the difference? Writing how you imagine all teens think, act, and speak leads to characters who feel like stereotypes. Yes, many teenagers like certain music, watch certain television shows, or use particular slang. But not all. Some quote Shakespeare, some rap along with Jay-Z, others play classical music on their oboes or read every issue of Seventeenmagazine. A select few might do all four! So write your characters as interesting, three-dimensional, sometimes surprising individuals, not generic teens as you expect them to act based on news stories or the grumblings of older generations.

In a similar vein, refrain from using your story to illustrate how you think teens should act. As with characters who feel like stereotypes, an obvious agenda will distance readers from you and your narrative. Even inspiring characters must be written as individuals, or readers may find them preachy and impossible to relate to. Some young adults live very virtuous lives, and there’s nothing wrong with using that as a starting point for a character as long as he or she also has some faults, quirks, and temptations, with dialogue and thoughts that are realistic instead of reading like mini sermons. Or, if a character starts out in a bad situation and matures and grows during the course of the story, make those struggles tangible and multifaceted, not a straightforward climb from wrong to right. As many of us know, learning important life lessons is never easy whether you’re a child, teen, or adult!

All this isn’t to say we can lose sight of the fact that our principal characters are teenagers. They shouldn’t think and act just like adults, nor have the relative innocence of grade schoolers. The young adult phase of life is unique in its endless possibilities, intense emotions, strong but complex bonds with peers, and the excitement and angst of being so close and yet so far from being a true adult. My favorite part of writing for teens is embracing the trials and joys of that extraordinary phase of life between childhood and adulthood, and I hope that comes through in the characters and stories I write.

Now I want to hear from you! What do you find the most enjoyable or challenging about writing for teens? Do you have any tips to share? Thanks for having me today!

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Common-coverOnly one person knows of the plot against the royal family and cares enough to try to stop it—the servant girl they banished.

Leah spends her days scrubbing floors, polishing silver, and meekly curtsying to nobility. Nothing distinguishes her from the other commoners serving at the palace, except her red hair.

And her secret friendship with Rafe, the Crown Prince of Imperia.

But Leah’s safe, ordinary world begins to splinter. Rafe’s parents announce his betrothal to a foreign princess, and she unearths a plot to overthrow the royal family. When she reports it without proof, her life shatters completely when the queen banishes her for treason.

Harbored by an unusual group of nuns, Leah must secure Rafe’s safety before it’s too late. But her quest reveals a villain far more sinister than an ambitious nobleman with his eye on the throne.

Can a common maidservant summon the courage to fight for her dearest friend?

Common purchase links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07958ZV6X

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/common-laurie-lucking/1127863203

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/common/id1338176577

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/common-1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36755967-common

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An avid reader practically since birth, Laurie Lucking discovered her passion for writing after leaving her career as an attorney to become a stay-at-home mom. When she gets a break from playing board games and finding lost toys, she writes young adult fantasy with a strong thread of fairy tale romance. Her debut novel, Common, won the Christian Editor Connection’s Excellence in Editing Award, placed third in the Christian Women Reader’s Club Literary Lighthouse Awards, and is a finalist in the ACFW Carol Awards. She has short stories published in Mythical Doorways, Encircled, and the upcoming Christmas Fiction off the Beaten Path. Laurie is the Secretary of her local ACFW chapter and a co-founder of Lands Uncharted, a blog for fans of clean young adult speculative fiction. A Midwestern girl through and through, she currently lives in Minnesota with her husband and three children. Find out more by visiting www.laurielucking.com.

Or on these sites: her blog, Amazon, Reader’s Group, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

 

 

Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, Clare Campbell

Picture1.Today, fantasy YA writer Clare Campbell is here to talk about her experience writing YA fiction. Welcome, Clare!

One of the great things about YA fiction is that you can write in any genre as along as your main character is a teen. What genre do you write? Why?

Fantasy. I blame Disney for whisking me off to Serengeti sunrises, Arabian nights, and bewitched castles.

What’s great about YA fantasy is that it seems to be rooted in these early fairytales. Some of the best YA hits have all been wonderful re-twists on fairytale folklore. It’s fodder for imagination, and I believe that’s important to preserve. Young lives are so ‘plugged-in’ to social media, it’s essential that a good story transports them to other worlds, landscapes, and exciting concepts.

What I love most about YA fiction is that it explores issues important to young people. It’s their voice in the humdrum of society. If you want to know what’s bothering the youth of today, walk into a bookstore and take a gander at the YA titles. They’ll scream off the shelf in bold color. They’ll dazzle with fierce voices that dismantle worn-out kingdoms. They’ll bleed a rainbow of love. They’ll sing of acceptance and true beauty. Words for everyone regardless of age.

Which comes first when starting a story – character, plot, or setting?

For me, it’s a strong sense of character. If you know who the character is then their attitude will inform the plot, and the setting will veil around them like an outward projection of themselves.

Ever notice how a serious character creates a moodier atmosphere in a story? Or, how a kid with attitude lives in this bold, ‘in-yo-face’ world?

If I’ve a strong attachment to the nature and purpose of the main character, the setting and plot seem to flow with ease. Everything I write tends to fall into the magical or mythic, so I recommend having a constant nose for good folklore. Every chance I get I’m travelling, or reading about various cultures, mythologies, or religions. It gives me a diverse well of information to draw upon.

I love reading myths and folklore, looking for inspiration.

Most YA writers aren’t YA. How do you write authentically about characters younger than you are?

Young people are awesome! I’ve worked with all kinds of teenagers. From the homeless, to the disabled, to the exceptional, and each of them has a magnetic spark. A spark, I believe, we never lose no matter how old we get. Some of us might forget about it, or deem it too immature, or naïve. But, some of us retain that spark and hold it up as the thing that makes us see the world through a lens of hope. Or, the youthful energy that makes us believe we can achieve the impossible even against the odds. That’s all you need to connect with YA audiences.

What are some other unique challenges about writing YA?

The market! It can sound like doomsday to authors. At times I felt like there was a sign on the gate, ‘don’t bother, we’re full.’

And then I remembered something important.

If you treat something like an impossible mountain, you’ll never climb it. I started off not knowing a darn thing about writing, and made two million readers fall in love with my online, fanfiction—an oversaturated market. I made that mountain move. I think I’ve enough brazen impudence, and youthful spark in me to kick the gate down too.

Success is in the mind. May the odds be ever in your favor. Live long and prosper my fellow YA authors.

What’s been your most unusual source of inspiration for a story or character?

Dame Judi Dench did this amazing documentary on trees. Trees play a significant role in Irish mythology, and a significant role to the world. Dame Judi and I appear to share this quirky interest. At one part in the documentary she was able to prove that trees communicate. At another she held a stethoscope up to the trunk and listened to it “breathe.” This ‘consciousness of trees’ really shaped how I tackled world building. I was able to give life to those silent giants, almost making them characters in their own right.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

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Clare is a successful and highly popular author of award winning Fanfiction, with thousands of online fans and over 2 million reads on her Lord of the Rings Fanfic epic. Clare has also won several writing awards. Her YA fantasy Tempest, was awarded runner-up for Serious Writer, Writer of the Year’ 2019.

As well as writing, Clare is an experienced Occupational Therapist, with a passion for enabling people. Her love of storytelling, merged with her positive messages, inspires her to create meaningful narratives that represent diversity and promote unity.

As a native Irish woman, she can usually be found searching for the fair folk, exploring ancient Viking harbors, and defending the odd castle. To learn more about Clare, discover her fanfiction, and join her on her publication journey, visit; www.CJCampbellOfficial.com.

Join Clare’s mailing list and receive platform building hints and access to exclusive online content: http://cjcampbellofficial.com/contact-us/. 

You can also follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

 

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Picture2Platform often scares so many authors, especially in YA, but do you know a lot of young people read and write fanfiction?

I began my career writing fanfiction, and to date have thousands of committed fans, and 2 million readers. How? Well, I learned how to identify and write fanfiction to create MAJOR platform.

I’ve put together this geeky, fandom-filled class for Serious Writer Academy to teach other authors how to build platform, engage with readers, and have a ton of fun doing it. Find out more info here: https://www.seriouswriteracademy.com/clare-campbell/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, Hope Bolinger

65634667_2083290778641269_7865434335707398144_nSo happy to have Hope Bollinger as my guest today. I met Hope at the Ohio Christian Writer’s Conference in 2018. Not only is she an author but also an agent with Cyle Young and a fellow Buckeye! Welcome, Hope!

One of the great things about YA fiction is that you can write in any genre as along as your main character is a teen. What genre do you write? Why?

I do contemporary with a speculative twist (whether it be angels, time travel, etc.). I always felt like the real world often has some speculative elements if you look closely enough. As for fantasy and other subgenres, I never got into them as much while reading them. I wanted to dive into topics which teens in today’s society had to tackle. But I like to throw in a little “weird” into the story.

Which comes first when starting a story – character, plot, or setting?

The plot. I usually think of what situations I never would want to end up in, and then I throw ill-suited characters into those scenarios.

Most YA writers aren’t YA. How do you write authentically about characters younger than you are?

I’m 22, so I’m just weaning off of the YA age range. But I try to have conversations often with those in that age group through youth groups and talking in school. I try to stay well-read in that genre as well.

What are some other unique challenges about writing YA?

So, so many. First, as mentioned above, you need to sound authentic. Too many YA books talk down to teens. Second, if you write cleaner YA, you have to balance the line of talking about edgy topics while keeping the manuscript free of profanity, violence, or sex. Third, you have to compete in a very crowded space. You want an original idea that still plays into some tropes, so publishers and readers won’t reject you right away.

What’s been your most unusual source of inspiration for a story or character?

Hot topic X Tumblr making a Christian baby. Hence, Hannah from Blaze (my debut) was born. She has a weird morbid sense of humor and can scare away quite a few people, but I love her unapologetic sense of self.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

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61617836_2826857410872236_2353109429248851968_nIf you can’t stand the heat, don’t walk into the fire.

Danny knew his sophomore year would be stressful . . . but he didn’t expect his school to burn down on the first day.

To make matters worse (and they were about to get a lot worse), he — and his three best friends — receive an email in their inboxes from the principal of their rival, King’s Academy, offering full-rides to attend the town’s prestigious boarding school. Danny wants nothing to do with King’s Academy and says no. Of course his mother says yes. So off he goes to be bullied and picked on for not being part of the popular and rich “in crowd.”

From day one at King’s, Danny encounters hazing, mocking insults from girls at the “popular and pretty” table, and cafeteria food that, for such a prestigious school, tastes as if it were purchased from a military surplus supply warehouse. If he survives, Danny will have to overcome his fears of failure, rejection, and loneliness—all while standing strong in his beliefs and walking into the fire.

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Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a recent graduate of Taylor University’s professional writing program. More than 350 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer’s Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column “Hope’s Hacks,” tips and tricks to avoid writer’s block, reaches 3,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young’s blog, which receives 63,000+ monthly hits. She is excited her modern-day Daniel “Blaze” just released with IlluminateYA (an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) and they just contracted the sequel “Den.” She enjoys all things theater, cats, and fire. You can find more about her at www.hopebolinger.com and on Facebook and Instagram.

 

 

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