Archive for October, 2010

Sometimes I get so caught up in the details of a particular scene, or involved with developing one character, that I lose sight of the big picture.

Losing My Perspective

This is especially frustrating when writing the first draft since events later on may change portions of what I’ve already written. It’s tempting to go back and revise earlier chapters or scenes to take into account things that happen later, but in most cases this isn’t the best approach for a first draft. You can lose momentum, or you may come up with an idea you like better later down the line–meaning you have to revise the beginning yet again. One way to minimize this problem is to put off the editing process until the entire story is down on paper.

Get the bare bones of the story down before you start editing, then set it aside for a while. When you go back to it, you’ll be able to read it more objectively and clearly see errors or plot holes in what you’ve written. Knowing how everything fits together will help you layer in details, foreshadow events, leave clues, develop subplots, and clarify what’s going on.



The Big Picture


Do you wait until the first draft is complete to make major revisions, or revise as you go? How do you keep track of things that you change later in the story, such as details about the backstory, or name changes? At what point do you start checking the grammar and punctuation?


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If you’re planning to give a pitch to an agent or editor at a conference, you may want to take a one sheet, or pitch sheet, with you. Some resources use these terms interchangeably, but some say a one sheet covers all of your work while a pitch sheet is designed to help you present just one book or series. Regardless of the term, a one page summary comes in handy when you get a chance to present your work.

In addition to your full contact information, this page should include a professional-quality photo of yourself, and an author bio. Also write a short blurb about the book or series you’re pitching. Make it enticing, like the short summaries you see on the back cover of books in a store.

These sheets should showcase you and your work. Although you should use white paper and black text, it’s acceptable to use photos and some simple graphic design elements, including colored ink, but don’t let those features overpower the story. A template for a flyer or newsletter may help you get the look you want.

If you’re more comfortable with a simple document, go with that rather than trying to create something fancy. Their purpose is to give you one more tool to use in your effort to entice an agent or editor to ask to see more of your work, and an amateurish one sheet will probably not do that.

Author Kaye Dacus goes into more detail than I have, and also give examples:


Another helpful reference is by Tracy Ruckman:


Amy Wallace has an example that includes different books:


Although I’ve seen one sheets recommended on several agents’ blogs, they seem to be optional. 

EDIT AUGUST 9, 2011: Agent Rachelle Gardner discusses one sheets on her blog today, and has links to several excellent examples her clients submitted. 


Have you ever prepared a one sheet/pitch sheet? What’s the first thing you’d say to an agent if you were going to pitch something to them? What would you talk about with a conference faculty member who wasn’t an agent or editor if you were given the opportunity of a one-on-one meeting?

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I’ll be attending my first writing conference in a couple of weeks, and have scoured the internet looking for tips on what to expect. Some suggestions I’ve read are simply common sense: be professional; be prepared to take advantage of opportunities to pitch your work; be friendly; turn off your cell phone.

I came across a few ideas, though, that aren’t so obvious. Maybe you’ll find them helpful, too.

1. Go with a particular goal in mind, but keep your expectations low.

You’ll probably not get a contract out of it, but you may get some feedback on your writing. Even if you don’t, this is an opportunity to network and to learn from people who know what they’re doing.

2. Bring business cards.

Apparently people exchange cards with their contact information as a way to network. Use the back of the ones you get from other people for notes that will remind you of who they are and why you took their card.

3. Research the speakers, agents and editors that will be there.

Your chances of finding someone to represent you or give you helpful feedback will increase if you know which ones represent the type of writing you do. You’ll also be better prepared to talk to them if you meet them at dinner or during a break.

4. Think up a few conversation starters so you’ll be more comfortable talking to strangers.

One I frequently use is: “Excuse me. I’m lost. Could you tell me where to find (insert appropriate place)?”  Or how about, “I’m having a wonderful time here. What about you?”

5. Bring something you’d like to have critiqued—but not your whole novel.

Some conferences provide opportunities for people to read and discuss each other’s work. Also, agents and/or editors may ask to see something you’ve written, so be prepared for the possibility.

6. Practice talking about yourself and your writing.

You want to make a good first impression, so think of something interesting to say in response to questions such as, “What type of writing do you do?” “Tell me a little about yourself.” “Are you enjoying the conference?” “Haven’t I met you before?”

7. Smile.  🙂



Do you agree with the tips I’ve mentioned? What’s the most important advice you’d give someone attending her first conference? What should I not do while I’m there? Have you ever attended the Indianapolis Christian Writer’s Conference? Are you going to be there this year?

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All week I told myself I’d clean the house, and all week I put off doing more than absolutely necessary to keep the place livable. At 6:00AM on Friday, I actually started cleaning. By 10:00AM I’d done 3 loads of laundry, scrubbed the bathrooms, cleaned the kitchen—including the oven and microwave—and vacuumed the floors.

Why did I finally do what I’d intended to do all week? I got motivated: my daughter said she was coming home for the weekend. I wanted everything to be perfect for her visit.

Motivation is what causes someone to take action, or behave in a certain way. Sometimes the motivation is intrinsic, coming from within. The person gets pleasure, or a sense of satisfaction, from completing a task or achieving a goal. At other times, the motivation may be extrinsic, which means something external induces the person to behave a certain way. Without motivation, there is little reason for people to take action, or to react to what others do.

In fiction, as well as in life, motives aren’t always clearly defined. There may be more than one motive involved, or a deeper one than what the person reveals to others. Figuring out a character’s motives may motivate readers to keep turning the pages, but if they can’t imagine the main characters behaving the way the author portrays them, they won’t relate to the story.


What are some common motives for the way characters in your favorite genre behave? Does knowing the motivation behind their actions affect the way you relate to the “bad guys” in a story? What motivates you to read a particular book? What motivates you to write?

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I often have trouble concentrating while I’m writing or doing paperwork because I get distracted by what’s going on around me. One great resource I’ve found to keep me focused is Pandora Radio.

This free, streaming radio allows listeners to select the type of music they want to hear. It provides an assortment of music to fit any mood with only an occasional short commercial. They only allow 40 hours of free listening each month, but if you want to go beyond that it’s just 99 cents to finish out the month. For a yearly fee of $36, they’ll provide unlimited music without commercials.

When there’s a song I particularly like, I can indicate that with a click, and similar songs will be included later. If I don’t like one, I can have it deleted from my radio stream. I’ve got a personalized station that plays instrumental music for when I just want a mellow background sound to drown out the television blaring downstairs. I like that when I’m editing. Another one has Christian rock, which gets me pumped for writing new scenes.

Many writers need complete silence, but for those of us who prefer noise, Pandora Radio is an excellent choice.

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Do you need silence to write? Does music help you get in the mood to write or distract you? What’s your ideal writing routine? Do you listen to music when you’re reading?

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While tone reflects an author’s attitude toward what she’s written, mood refers to the reaction, or feeling, that readers get from the written work.

In fiction, the tone, theme, plot, setting, and characterizations all help set the mood. Each scene should reflect the point of view character’s emotions, and focus on details or actions that help readers relate to them. For example, a scene may feel suspenseful, romantic, mysterious, or humorous, depending on what’s happening to the characters.

Even though the mood can change from scene to scene, one mood should be dominant throughout the story. There can be elements of romance or humor in a suspense novel, or suspenseful moments in a romance novel, but each genre requires a particular element to be emphasized.

Even though nonfiction books and articles are based on facts, readers will react to the mood they create. The subject, the details that are focused on, the author’s tone, and the style of the writing all work together to create a particular mood.  


So, what was your mood after the last book you read? What do you do to put yourself in the mood to write, or to make your reading experience more enjoyable? Do you ever get angry while reading a story?

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