Tag Archives | Christian fiction

Pantsers, Plotters…and Flashers

I’ve previously mentioned pantsers and plotters as two commonly known ways of writing a novel. Plotters are those who outline their novel ahead of time and pretty much stick to the outline (with some bunny trails and replotting allowed). Pantsers are those who write by the seat of their pants, abhorring the idea of knowing what comes next in their story. Like the reader, they want to be surprised at what happens when they turn the page. Today, I’d like to propose a third option. That third option is what I’ll call the flashers. (Don’t worry…I’m not going there). I bring this up because I’m somewhat of a flasher myself. A flasher is one who, after a reasonable time of brooding over his novel (read my blog on brooding here), begins to see flashes of his novel, not necessarily in chronological (or any) order. As an example, for some time […]

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Advice I Wish I’d Been Given

I love blogging, I really do. But as I recently told my Facebook friends, sometimes I get blogger’s block. In response, Facebook friend Caitlin Muir suggested a great topic: “Write about advice you wish someone would have given you.” So, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and I’ll offer up five examples of what I wish I knew during the early years of my writing career. 1. We’ll start with college. Though this won’t apply to most of you who are in your post-college years, still it’s worth noting. I majored in English and minored in journalism. The English major was almost by default. The truth was, I didn’t have specific plans for a career, although, of course, I hoped to incorporate writing into whatever I eventually did for a living. The advice I wish I had been given is: Major in journalism. Since that’s not an option for […]

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An Interview with Murray Pura

One of the several fiction authors I edit is Murray Pura. He’s one of the authors who makes my job easy. (Actually, I’m blessed as an editor because ALL my authors are very talented!). Murray’s writing is excellent and his manuscripts arrive pretty clean. You’ll find some of his Harvest House books here. Because he’s so talented, so prolific, and so verstatile, I thought we’d all benefit from an interview with him. I know I gleaned some insight from his words of wisdom. NH: Murray, how long have you been writing? MP: I actually wrote my first real stories for my mom when I was about nine – they were Perry Mason stories because that was one of her favorite TV shows. NH: Do you remember your first published work? MP: Sure. It was a short story called “The Only Way” and it was published in Teen Power magazine when […]

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I Hate It When That Happens

Simply because I can’t think of a better topic, I’m going to vent about the top ten [current] things that make me crazy. Editorially and authorially (is that a word?) speaking, that is. The top ten things that drive me crazy personally are better left to a good therapist. 1. I hate it when good books—I mean really good books don’t sell. I won’t name names, but some of the best authors I know have lesser sales (in some cases far lesser) than mediocre writers. At times like this, I want to throttle the entire book-buying public. 2. I hate it when writers with potential won’t listen to good advice. When I say “with potential,” that means they’re not yet good writers, but might be if they would work on their craft. But no, these writers I’m talking about think their writing is just fine and that it’s my poor […]

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Declining Fiction Sales

As some of you may have heard, the sad truth is that in our industry, fiction sales are presently in a bit of decline. At least if what agents and authors are telling me is true. I say “presently” in decline with some optimism that we will have another upturn in the future. But in the meantime, what’s a fiction author to do? Stop writing? Certainly not. Here are some suggestions on what to do while waiting for the hoped-for turnaround in Christian fiction. 1. Although I’ve long said that following trends is not the way to write fiction, still it’s going to be important to notice what types of fiction are still doing well. If you’re a versatile writer of fiction, you might turn your talents to an up and coming genre. A quick look at the present bestselling fiction shows that although Amish fiction is strong, the books […]

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The Tingle

One of the most interesting aspects of the creative life as it pertains to writing books is something beyond craft itself. Let me see if I can explain it. A few weeks ago we asked Harvest House author Mindy Starns Clark how she was coming on her Titanic novel (Echoes of Titanic) and she replied that all was well because she had gotten “the tingle.” The tingle, she went on to explain, is that point (usually several drafts in) at which the characters, the story, and the research all seem to come together and she knows that, yes, this is all going to turn out just fine. A book IS being born. I love the word “tingle” to describe this sensation an author feels. Of course, other authors experience it in different ways or have different names for it. Another great Harvest House author is BJ Hoff. She says: “I […]

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Will sad endings work in our market?

In case you missed it or in case you’re not a Facebook friend of mine, I recently entertained this question: Can a novel for the Christian market be successful if it has a sad ending? Why or why not? Can you think of some examples? The response on Facebook was great. I had 47 comments. Most responded according to their own personal reading taste—which was fine, but not what I really asked. Even if we personally approve of sad but hopeful endings, will those books succeed in our market? I like a sad ending that offers hope, but I think those of us who feel that way are in the minority. A sad ending in a book for our market has an uphill struggle—both in being accepted by a publisher and then with the public too. As agent Diana Flegal reports below, a publisher asked her client to recast a […]

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The Problem of Overwriting

Happy New Year all. I trust your prayerful writing plans for 2012—including attendance at at least one writer’s conference—are in high gear. If so, good! Keep them that way. For the first blog of the new year I’m going to start out with a complaint from Yvette, a Facebook friend of mine. Yvette is a reader of fiction and the other day she posted on my wall: I’ve been reading some wonderful fiction lately published by small presses. The stories and especially the characters are riveting. There’s one problem. The foreshadowing is heavy-handed. Even if it’s a mere fleeting hint, it’s about as subtle as a bulldozer. I’m not a fiction writer, but I would like fiction writers to know that we readers are not idiots and we would appreciate more finesse when it comes to preparing us for what is yet to come. I can’t say what appropriate foreshadowing […]

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Answering Mike’s Questions

Over the past few days I’ve come up with two subjects I want to blog about, but I’m determined to answer some more questions first as promised. Mike Reynolds had five good questions, so this time let’s address those. 1. The Second Book Syndrome: How does one avoid the trend of having a disappointing second book and what do these books typically lack in comparison to the debut novel (other than time spent in development)? Time IS a crucial element. Most first books were written over the course of many months, if not years. And then when the book is contracted, it’s likely to include an expectation for a follow-up book in several months or up to a year at the most. That creates a pressure to write that usually is counter-productive. And pressure—for most writers—hampers creativity. The other main obstacle is that often an author’s first novel is written […]

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Tracking the Inner Life of Your Fictional Characters

When many aspiring fiction writers think about the novel they want to write, they often think in terms of their proposed linear plot. This happens, then that happens, which causes the next thing to happen, and so on until the end of the book. In short, they piece together a credible story and if they’ve done a good job of piecing their story together, the book gets published.The writer has succeeded with his or her book on the story level. That’s good. Those books can sell like crazy. But in my ongoing attempt to pinpoint what I prefer in a novel, I’ve come up with yet another way to describe this notion of going beyond the storytelling level and entering into the “felt life” level that Henry James championed. This new way is to suggest that just as a reader likes a book he or she can successfully follow (track) […]

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