WordServe News: August 2014

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ books releasing in the upcoming month along with a recap of WordServe client news from the current month.

New Releases

Marcus Brotherton released his first novel with River North, Feast for Thieves. Marcus also released, with Alec Rowlands, a collaboration project titled The Presence in 9781414387246_p0_v1_s260x420association with Tyndale Momentum. 9780802412133_p0_v2_s260x420

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Jim Burns and Doug Fields released Getting Ready for Marriage with David C. Cook 9781434708113_p0_v1_s260x420publishers.

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Mindy Ferguson released Moses with AMG Publishers. 9780899579108_p0_v2_s260x420

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Rick Johnson released, with Revell publishers, Becoming the Dad Your Da9780800723354_p0_v2_s260x420ughter Needs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jeremy Jones, collaborator with Kyle Idleman, released Praying for Your Prodigal with 9781434707710_p0_v1_s260x420David C. Cook publishers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jennifer Strickland, with Harvest House Publishers, released More Beautiful Than You Know. 9780736956321_p0_v4_s260x420

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Sarah Varland released a new romantic suspense with Love Inspired, Tundra Threat.9780373446285_p0_v1_s260x420

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Contracts

Jeremy Jones signed a work for hire agreement with David C. Cook for 40 Days to Lasting Change: A Devotional (tentative title). Greg Johnson, agent of record.

Jonathan McKee signed a contract with Group Publishing for Foundations–Volunteers (tentative title). Greg Johnson, agent of record.

What We’re Celebrating!!

Krista Phillips released her first self-published novella, A Side of Faith! Get your copy here.

Laurie Short was interviewed on The Harvest Show. Watch the clip here!

Barbara Stoefen’s memoir,  A Very Fine House, got an awesome review in Publisher’s Weekly. Read it here!

When the Bad Reviews Come {And They Will}

 

bad book reviews

“She needs to have more respect for the process . . . trying to claim that everyone should heal like her.”

The words pierced my heart.

Until then, I had enjoyed a couple good months of positive feedback, those heartwarming days after the release of my debut nonfiction book, When A Woman Finds Her Voice. The book hit #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases charts and then walked the Amazon {paid} bestseller list {in its genre} for a couple weeks in the top five. It also won some literary awards. But more importantly, my words were reaching the hearts of readers as comments like “inspiring,” “introspective,” “encouraging,” and even “life-changing” peppered online reviews.

That sort of feedback overwhelms a girl with God’s goodness, giving value to this shy writer’s words. To think He had somehow exchanged these primitive ramblings of one who simply longed to spread hope and had used them as encouragement for others, that’s humbling.

I’d finally felt the freedom to say it above a whisper: I am an author.

But then that two-star review hit my screen, attacking my sense of worth. It shouldn’t have, I know. Mentors warned me it was coming; they’d suggested I not even read it.

I didn’t listen.

I determined to mentally counter the negativity and then quickly return to my illusory sense of fulfillment. After all, I welcomed reviews—good or bad. Perpetual student that I am, I’m known to {relentlessly} solicit constructive criticism as an opportunity to learn. And here it sat, this chance for free education, this two-star review therapy.

But in a review-driven culture where we allow others to determine what we read, watch, eat, and even where we spend the night, how can we not be impacted when someone misunderstands our heart?

The judgement sliced soul deep, challenging insecurities I’d long ago buried.

This is the sort of vulnerability we open ourselves up to when we cast our words, our heart, into a public arena that holds potential for not just admiration and esteem but also misunderstanding.

You see, there’s nothing I’m more compassionate about than reaching the heart of a wounded woman and leading her to the restoring, redemptive feet of Jesus. But this particular reader didn’t know that, didn’t know me.

So how do we filter through these words when they come?

  1. We anchor. It’s crucial to anchor any negativity with perspective. We can’t allow disapproval to overtake our thoughts. For the one poor criticism, I had 49 positive reviews from folks who had been uplifted by my words. I worked hard to focus on those. {Very hard.}
  2. Bounce back. To feel defensive at first is natural, but if you find yourself wanting to respond negatively {as in hunt the person down on social media to blast them back}, walk away from the screen and refocus. Immediately.
  3. Consider truth. Ask yourself, “Is this true? Is the criticism valid? Did I somehow fall short?” If so, use this information in a positive manner and seek to write with excellence. However, if the negatives aren’t well-rounded and constructive, the point baseless, you simply have to let it go.

As word-weavers, this should become our default: in the face of bad reviews, let’s practice our ABCs to rebuild our confidence. Anchor. Bounce. Consider.

Okay, I’m curious now: How do you handle criticism?

7 Writing Tips We Learned From Our Dogs

samson-at-computer

We have always loved dogs. Over the course of our lives together we have owned over 27 dogs. It is not surprising that some were our best teachers. Here’s what our four-legged friends have taught us about writing:

1. Sit and Stay. These are the two most important commands for writers! If you don’t sit down and begin, you will never get started. Staying is important, too. No, you don’t need another snack.

2. Dig!  Sometimes the facts that we need are buried deep, like a good old bone. The best writing requires some digging–in the library, on the internet, in your heart. Sniff it out. Then dig. If you don’t find it, dig another hole.

3. Know your territory. Writing takes good boundaries and good boundaries mean saying no. One important lesson for both of us was to protect and guard our writing time. We put the time on our schedule and then we protect it. Remember: Growl, don’t bite!

4. Expect treats. It is hope that keeps us going. Hope of touching a reader. Hope of one day holding your book in your hands. Excitement and anticipation is an important part of writing. Sit down to write expecting something good to happen.

5. Be kind to the postman. It’s not his fault. Rejection is an important part of the writing process. Keep it in perspective. Shake it off and start again.

6. Stay in the moment. Don’t get ahead of yourself and start worrying about the future.  Don’t stay stuck in the past. Worry is not your friend.

7. Play! Some of the best ideas come to us away from the desk. Stop work to chase a few ideas. Dogs love any distraction from a tennis ball to a squirrel. The work will still be waiting when you come back.

Has your pet taught you anything about writing?

Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers  www.WritingSisters.com

 

Bio: The Writing Sisters, Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers were born into a writing family, and began critiquing manuscripts at an early age for their mother, Newbery winner Betsy Byars.  They went on to become authors of more than thirty-five children’s novels. Their first book for adults is  The Shepherd’s Song,  Howard Books, March 2014.

Your First Writers Conference? Things to Know Before You Go!

This is conference season for writers! Not just the national conferences like RWA and ACFW, but smaller, regional conferences. There’s probably a writing conference or retreat somewhere in your area this summer or fall.

Speaker at Business Conference and Presentation.I’m planning to attend the ACFW conference in St. Louis in September, and it will be my second. As I’ve been signing up for classes and preparing my wardrobe (comfortable shoes are a must!), I’ve been thinking back to my first ACFW conference two years ago. I hope what I learned will benefit you.

  • Don’t be afraid to go. You won’t be the only newbie. Not only will you find other first-timers (at ACFW you learn to look for the tell-tale ribbon on other attendees’ name badges), but the veterans will welcome you as a new member of the family.
  • Don’t retreat to your room. Writers are prone to enjoy our solitary existence. We like to be alone. But conference isn’t the place for it. You paid a lot of money to meet other people who speak your language, so make sure you meet them. Introduce yourself. Sit next to strangers. Join someone who is standing alone. Strike up a conversation. You never know who you might meet. Two years ago, I ended up eating lunch with the most charming veteran author who writes in the same genre I do. What a treat to talk with her in that non-threatening environment!
  • Don’t sweat it if you can’t attend all of the classes and workshops you signed up for. Buy the sessions on the MP3 download or CDs and listen to them when your mind isn’t filled with the busyness of conference.
  • On the other hand, try not to skip the sessions you signed up for. There’s nothing like the immediate, in-person teaching by an industry professional to spark your enthusiasm.
  • Enjoy your appointments with editors and agents. Be confident, relaxed, and friendly. And if they ask you to submit something, do it. Since they really want to see it, email it to them as soon after conference as possible.
  • Exchange business cards with the new friends you meet. It’s helpful to have your picture on your card, if at all possible. You’ll be meeting so many people, it will be hard to connect names with faces a week later.
  • Most of all, have fun! Enjoy the meetings, the down times, the after-hours sessions with your new friends. Meet new people, become inspired, and get fired up!

Are you planning to attend a conference soon? Will you be in St. Louis in September for ACFW? If so, be sure to look me up!

How to Create Walk-On Characters Who Are Memorable (But Not Too Memorable)

The Water Cooler is pleased to host guest blogger K.M. Weiland.

Every character is the hero of his own story.

V8374c_JaneEyre.inddThat bit of popular advice is a marvelously evocative reminder to breathe life into even minor characters. However, chances are you’ve also had the sometimes-charming, sometimes-frustrating experience of a minor character who decides he’s not just the hero of his own story, but the hero of the story. He tries to take over, usually with mixed results.

So how can you go about hero-izing your minor characters into memorable and realistic personalities without letting them derail your story? Charlotte Brontë’s masterful novel Jane Eyre (which I analyze in-depth in my book Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic) offers some excellent examples on how to deftly bring to life any type of character—without letting them run away with you.

The Four Types of Characters
First, take a moment to consider the various types of characters you might find in your story. Which category your character falls into will determine how he should be introduced.

1. Main Characters
Main characters are protagonists. They will be on stage in all or most of your scenes and will probably be given the primary point-of-view narration. Their goals and character arcs power the plot. Without them, there is no conflict and no story. To find Jane Eyre’s main character, we need look no further than the title.

2. Major Characters
Major characters are those who figure in the story almost as prominently as the protagonist. However, they act in roles that support the protagonist. They drive the story only in ancillary ways. Antagonists, sidekicks, love interests, and mentors are all examples of common major characters. In Jane Eyre, St. John Rivers acts as one of the antagonists, Helen Burns appears briefly as a sidekick, Edward Rochester is the love interest, and the housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax sometimes functions as a mentor.

3. Minor Characters
Minor characters fill out the rest of the cast. They are characters who recur throughout the story—sometimes only once or twice, sometimes frequently. They fill in the gaps in the story world, allowing readers to believe the setting is populated with the multitudinous faces we find in our own world. Minor characters may dramatically affect the plot, but only in comparatively small ways. They are not as integral as major characters. In Jane Eyre, her cousins the Reeds, the nasty Blanche Ingram, and St. John’s would-be wife Miss Oliver are all important, but decidedly minor characters.

4. Walk-On Characters
Walk-on characters are those who appear only once, fulfill a necessary role, and exit the story, probably never to be mentioned again. They are rarely named and exist only for background color or plot functionality. The many servants at Thornfield Hall and Jane’s fellow students at Lowood School are all walk-on characters.

Use Your Character’s Introduction to Signal His Importance (or Lack Thereof)

Identifying which group a character belongs in will help you understand how to introduce him. No matter his role, you want to bring him to life in your readers’ minds. You want them to clearly visualize him—and not just visualize him, but see him as a unique and vibrant human being.

This is where we sometimes get tripped up. We don’t want readers to dismiss our walk-on taxi driver as a cardboard cutout, or, worse, a cliché. So we spend several paragraphs describing his appearance, his accent, his personal tics, maybe even a little of his backstory. There! Now, he’s three-dimensional!

Problem is he’s also now giving readers the wrong signal. The more time you spend introducing a character, the more you foreshadow his importance within the story. A walk-on character who gets three paragraphs of intro, only to never show up again, will be at best a niggling loose end in readers’ minds. At worst, he’s a gaping plot hole.

Save your paragraphs of description for main and major characters. Weigh carefully how much attention you give to minor characters. The time you spend on them should never outweigh their roles in the story. As for walks-on, you’ve already guessed it: they deserve only a sentence or two of your attention.

How to Bring Characters to Life With No More Than Three Details

So riddle me this: If you’re not allowed to give walk-on characters (and some minor characters) more than a sentence or two, how in heaven’s name can you be expected to bring them to life?

Details are the key. Choose the right details, and you won’t need more than a few. Choose the perfect detail, and you might not even need more than one. Charlotte Brontë offers a fabulous example of this in her introduction of a walk-on postal lady early in the book.

The character appears only in this scene and affects the plot only because Jane needs to get her hands on that fateful letter from Thornfield Hall. Brontë expends just three sentences on the old lady, which introduce a sum total of three important characterizing details (see bold phrases below). But that’s more than enough to bring her to life without implying she plays a larger role in the story than she does.

“[The post office] was kept by an old dame, who wore horn spectacles on her nose, and black mittens on her hands…. She peered at me over her spectacles, and then she opened a drawer and fumbled among its contents for a long time, so long that my hopes began to falter. At last, having held a document before her glasses for nearly five minutes, she presented it across the counter, accompanying the act by another inquisitive and mistrustful glance….”

The next time you write a walk-on character, challenge yourself to come up with three—no more, no less—precise, pertinent, and enlivening details with which to describe him. Then evaluate the effect and see if your brief description hasn’t provided your story with an unobtrusively vivid new character.

************************************************************************************************K.M. Weiland

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

The Dreaded Synopsis

Writing a synopsis doesn't have to freak you out.

Writing a synopsis doesn’t have to freak you out.

“A synopsis is a cold thing. You do it with the front of your mind.”

~ J.B. Priestley, English novelist, playwright, broadcaster

Is it only me, or do you break out in a cold sweat just thinking about having to write a synopsis? I can write novels. I can write devotionals. I can even whip out a mean shopping list. But writing the dreaded synopsis brings out the idiot in me. Perhaps, indeed, I have lost the front half of my brain somewhere along the way.

So what’s my problem? Am I giving this too much importance? Am I trying to fit in too much information? Has there not been enough dark chocolate in my diet of late?

Regardless, there’s no getting around the fact that every writer must construct a synopsis in order to sell a manuscript. Think of it as the bones of your story, or if you like, the short story version of your novel.

3 WAYS TO WRANGLE A PLOT INTO A SYNOPSIS FORMAT

1. Introduce your main characters, focusing most on goals, motivations, and conflicts rather than on physical attributes.

Hint: Think back cover copy.

Example: It takes a thief to catch one, and there’s none better than reformed cat burglar (MOTIVATION) Officer Doug Harwell. He’ll stop at nothing to rid the Boston streets of crime (GOAL)—until the beautiful pickpocket Rhianna Davis enters his life (CONFLICT).

2. For the body of the synopsis, set up each paragraph with the actions, reactions, and decisions made by those main characters.

Example: Bob kisses Donna under the apple tree (ACTION).
He makes her forget she’s already engaged to Bubba (REACTION).
Donna decides to break off her engagement and run away to join the circus instead (DECISION).

3. Tie up the loose ends.

Never—ever—leave an editor guessing, no matter how cute you think it is. Cliffhangers are great for chapter endings, but not for a synopsis finale. You must include the resolution to your story.

There you have it. Put together your story idea into a two-page format before you dig into chapter one so that you have a road map to follow as you compose.

DO NOT LIVE AND DIE ON SYNOPSIS HILL

Are you prepared for the zombie apocalypse? I’m not. Shoot, I’m not even prepared to make dinner tonight. I’ve got more important things on my mind, like should I stick to my synopsis or deviate in a whole new direction even though I’m two-thirds of the way finished? Don’t smirk. This is a serious crisis.

What do you do when you suspect your storyline might be one of the living dead?

First off, don’t panic. I never do. Oh, I did on the first three or four manuscripts, but now I see a pattern. I get bored with my own story. Yeah, I said that out loud. And newsflash: If the author’s bored, the reader will be bored. It’s a valid reason to stray from your original outline, but there are a few other reasons you might want to consider when deciding if you should revamp your plan or ditch it altogether.

You might want to change your synopsis if:

1. You thought of a better idea for an ending.

2. A new character shows up and takes center stage.

3. You realized an angle to turn the story into a series.

4. You came across information that makes your original idea not only implausible but outright impossible.

Remember, a synopsis written before a story is finished is more of a guideline than a legal contract. It’s okay to change things up, unless you’ve already got a contract on the piece. Then you’ll have to clear it with an editor first.

The 7 Fear-Nots of Every Writing Project

Woman afraid (funny)

Whenever an emissary from another world showed up in all its effulgence, men and women fell down terrified, overcome, filled with God-brilliance and self-loathing. Our own writing projects, delivered by the other-worldly muse, can inflict and inspire a similar terror at times (Woe is me! Why did I think I could write this novel?). When you’re visited by these angels of brilliance-and-woe, (and you will be!), remember what usually came next, after the Visited fell facedown in the dirt: “Fear Not!” And then words of hope and direction were given to the stricken to lift them to their feet and their new purpose.

Here are 7 tested “Fear Nots” to get you back to your screen and your project:

Woman smiling with hands folded

1. Fear Not!—-That you’re not qualified to write this material. You’ve chosen this material, or it has chosen you, for reasons deeper than anyone knows, including you (unless you’re purely market-driven). Your desire, your interest, your life experience, your questions, maybe even your prayer life may have something to do with this insistent need to address this subject. Trust your choosing and chosenness.

2. Fear Not! —–That you have nothing new to contribute to the world. Listen to Madeleine L’Engle:
“My husband is my most ruthless critic. . . Sometimes he will say, ‘It’s been said better before.’ Of course it has. It’s all been said better before. If I thought I had to say it better than anybody else, I’d never start. Better or worse is immaterial. The thing is that it has to be said; by me; ontologically. We each have to say it, to say it our own way. Not of our own will, but as it comes out through us. Good or bad, great or little: that isn’t what human creation is about. It is that we have to try; to put it down in pigment, or words, or musical notes, or we die.”

3. Fear Not!—–That the article, short story, memoir, sonnet, sci-fi trilogy, whatever form you’re writing in, feels too difficult. Fear is the perfect response before something this grand and complex. This is partly why you’ve chosen it. If it were easy, you wouldn’t grow as a writer.

4. Fear Not!—–That you don’t have enough time to write. Of course you don’t. No one does. But if you are serious about this project, you will find a way to re-order your life: stop watching TV, write while the kids are napping, get up 2 hours earlier than everyone else, take your manuscript with you on vacation. Yes, it costs you ( and it costs others too, you must realize). Did you think otherwise? Count the cost to everyone. Then, if still so moved, cut and carry on.

5. Fear Not!—-That you don’t know where your novel, trilogy, even your memoir is headed. No one you know informs you of the outcome of their lives, do they? How many of your friends know where their lives are headed and how they will get there and who they will be once they’re there? You will not know this for your characters or story until they do. Keep writing day by day, keep listening to them, and you’ll find out what you need at the right time. The writing itself will get you there.

6. Fear Not!—–That you’re not a good enough writer to accomplish your goal. None of us is good enough to finish a project when we start. Some of us aren’t even good enough to start! By the time we finish, though, we have become more than good enough. The struggle, the long hours and the word-wrangling and prayer-wrestling will all get you there.

7. Fear Not! —-That no one will read your work. Someone WILL read your work. Maybe a few friends, the ones you really care about, maybe thousands of strangers. No one knows this when they are writing, and it has nothing to do with the writing. Just get on with the world you are making, and trust that your creation will find the people who need and cherish it the most.

BONUS: Because fears often multiply, one more to put to rest: Fear Not!—-That when this project is done, you will exhaust all your words and ideas. Not so. You may be temporarily exhausted, but never fear! Your best writing keeps the muse coming back. And when she does, return to this list, pick yourself up—-and turn a new page.

The Seven -Fear Nots- of Every Writing Project (1)