Should I Outline of My Novel – Or Not

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

The question is asked at every writer’s conference. “Should I make an outline of my novel before I start writing?” The truth is you might be asking the wrong question. The real question you should be asking is, “What kind of pre-planning should I do?”

For years, I never completely understood plotters or pansters (seat of the pants writers) because I didn’t really fit into either category. At some point, I came to the realization I didn’t have to be completely in one camp or the other. There are a myriad of possibilities on how to pre-plan a novel, and making a complete outline is only one of them. I’ll talk about those in a moment, but first let’s discuss what plotters and pansters are.

Plotters: Plotters are those organized people who make a detailed outline of their novels before they even think of writing the first draft. Basically, their outlines are their first draft. This works well for some people because they are wired that way. Others are stifled by what they consider a rigid outline.

If you are a true plotter, here are some sites and books you might find helpful:

Helping Writers Become Authors

Structuring Your Novel by KM Weiland

The Snowflake Method for Designing a Novel

My Book Therapy

How to Write a Brilliant Novel by Susan May Warren

My Brilliant Book Buddy by Susan May Warren

Panster: Pansters are writers who do very little or no plotting before they start writing. These are the people who give plotters spasms. They discover their plot points as they write. Most pansters don’t think they need resources. After all, they have their creativity to guide them, but their creativity can write them into a corner. Pansters may not do pre-planning, but the smart ones understand the more they know about the principles of plot, the better. It takes a certain amount of storytelling knowledge to be a good punster. Usually during the second draft, the panster will make outlines and check plot points to make sure they don’t have plot holes. My Book Therapy listed above is a great book for a panster to plug in the plot points after the first draft. Here are some books and resources to help a panster know the story elements better.

How a Panster Outlines

How to Plot and Outline Without Using a Formula

Super Structure: The Key to Unleashing the Power of Story by James Scott Bell

Write Your Novel from the Middle by James Scott Bell

Story Trumps Structure by Steven James

Middlers: Most writers are somewhere in the middle. They may plan characters and a few plot points but they don’t overly outline their novels. What works best for you will probably be some variation of the above. You might find the signpost plot points of Super Structure or the Lindy Hop highlights of How to Write a Brilliant Novel works well, or you might need more or less structure. Whatever works for you, it will only benefit you to learn story plotting and structure techniques.

Experiment with all these methods whether the entire stucture or only the highlights. Chances are you’ll find you aren’t a true plotter or panster but are somewhere in the middle. Sometimes you’ll even find a method that works well for one novel doesn’t work for the other. That’s okay. Whatever process you use will help you become a better writer.

 

 

10 Tips for Using Critiques to Improve Your Novel

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Many writers of fiction wonder if they should have critique partners. Critiques can cause beginning writers problems, but they can also be helpful if they’re used right. Even the most experienced authors can benefit from a critique of their work, but bad critiques or using them in the wrong way can become your worst nightmare. Here are 10 tips help you benefit from critiques.

Don’t get a critique too early. Finish your first draft before you even consider getting a critique. In fact, you should write your first draft before you ever show it to someone else. There are some reasons for this. In the first draft, you are working out the story on paper. You don’t need someone telling you they don’t believe your characterizations or where your plot is going. You work those out as you discover your story. The novel evolves as you write it, and if you share it too soon, it will no longer become the story you have because other people’s opinions will affect the way the story evolves.

You can get help brainstorming during the first draft. Brainstorming is different than critiquing. When you are struggling with a plot point or have written your story into a corner, brainstorming can help. Remember that brainstorming consists of getting a lot of ideas about a certain plot plot. It doesn’t discuss how to write the novel or cover more than one plot point. Once you get a variety of ideas, one of them might spark a totally different idea to lead your story in the right direction.

Edit your own first draft. After you finish your first draft, put it in a drawer and ignore it for at least a couple of weeks. This will help your objectivity and make it easier to edit. Now do your own editing. You’ll learn your craft by laboring over your first and second drafts working them to become great. A book I recommend for this stage of the process is Self Editing for Fiction Writers. There are also a number of editing checklists free online. Do the hard work. Don’t expect others to do it for you.

Find critique partners. After you’re sure you’ve edited and rewritten the best you can, go ahead and show the story to a few people who love the genre of fiction you write. You’ll want different people in the mix. If you know a grammar expert, definitely recruit that person as one of your best resources. Also, find a couple of people who love to read but don’t necessarily write to point out where characters or plots seem unbelievable or where the reader loses interest. Last, find a couple of writers well versed in the craft who understand your voice and style of writing.

Be careful who critiques your novel. I’ve lived through a number of horror stories in my early days of writing because I chose the wrong critique partners. Once I had a group of critique partners who wrote contemporary category romance. I write intense historical fiction. It didn’t work out well. Another time, I chose a novice who though she knew everything about writing. She kept wanting me to phonetically spell out all my accents. When I wouldn’t do it, she almost had me in tears. Later, after I’d studied the craft more, I found out I was the one doing it the right way. Many times finding a good group of critiquers is trial and error. Keep working at it until you find the team that helps you the most.

Don’t Get Discouraged. When you get your critiques, don’t be discouraged by varying opinions. Remember they are opinions. Also, after you read a critique, don’t change anything right away. Let the critique set a day or two to digest the information and help you look at it in a fresh way. Sometimes a critique will be spot on, but it stings so much, we can’t see it at first. Other times, the critique partner is adding too much of her own style and would ruin your voice if you took the advise. You are the expert on your novel.

If there is something you struggle with, inform your critique partners to look for it. You may have a difficulty with setting or you’re not sure the character motivation is right. Tell your critique partners, and they may be able to help you in those areas.

Don’t let a critique partner change your voice. Take everything critique partners say into consideration, but don’t let them change you voice or your story to suit them. At some point, you may need to back away from critiques to make sure you’re writing the story your way, or you may need to find different critique partners. Do what you need to do to maintain the integrity of your story.

Get different kinds of critiques. This is where having different types of critiques helps. Sometimes you will want to tell each person what type of critique you want. Some critiquers will look for holes in plot or character motivations. Others will notice the “rules” for writing and let you know when you’re head hopping or when you haven’t resisted the urge to explain. Some are sticklers for word choice and will alert you when you have worded something clumsily. The last kind of critique you want before you submit your manuscript is a beta read. A beta reader will look for punctuation, spelling errors, repeated words, weak verbs, etc, and will let you know if your character changed eye color or shrug too many times. Even if you don’t get the other critiques, every author needs a beta reader.

 Don’t get too many critiques. More than ten is excessive. You probably don’t even want that many. If you have too many opinions about your work, you might be tempted to second-guess yourself. It’s your story. Always remember that.

John Harper – Hero of the Titanic

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Almost everyone has heard of the sinking of the Titanic, but few know the name of the man who would become known as the hero of the Titanic, John Harper. His last words before he drown in the ocean that fateful night were, “Believe on the Name of the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”

The sinking of the Titanic was not the first incident where Harper risked death by drowning. When he was two and a half, he fell into a well and almost drown, but his mother saved him in time. At age twenty-six, he was swept downstream by a reverse current and almost drown. At thirty-two, he was stuck on a ship in the Mediterranean that sprang a leak. But the Titanic would be the last danger of drowning he would face.

Harper was born to Christian parents in Scotland in 1872. He was saved at thirteen and began preaching to his village by the age of seventeen. In early adulthood, he worked at a mill to support himself while he continued to preach. At one point, E.A. Carter of the London Baptist Pioneer Mission heard Parker and took him to London to mentor him. In 1896, Harper started his own church with 25 members. Within thirteen years, it had grown to 500 members. It is now called the Harper Memorial Baptist Church in his honor. During this time, Harper married, but his wife died of complications after giving birth to their daughter Annie known as Nana.

In 1912, John Harper was invited to speak at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and boarded the Titanic with his daughter Nina and his niece Jessie W. Leitch who was brought along to care for Nana while he was ministering. He put six-year-old Nana to bed that evening not knowing the danger that lie ahead.

At 11:40 pm, the Titanic hit an iceberg. Harper went to see what happened and found out the ship was in trouble. He wrapped Nina in a blanket and directed her and Jessie to lifeboat #11. Although he could have joined them in the lifeboat since he was Nina’s only living parent, there was no indication he even considered it. He kissed Nina goodbye, and according to documentation, flares went off revealing the tears on his face. A well known photograph of the second class promenade, in which a young girl is seen holding her father’s hand, is believed by many to show young Nina Harper and her father.

What happened next is well documented by a few of the survivors. As the ship lurched, he ran through the deck shouting, “Women, children, and unsaved into the lifeboats!” The ship broke apart, and Harper along with many others jumped into the ocean. At this point, he had a lifevest on. In the frigid water, he swam frantically to people dying of hypothermia and led them to Christ. At one point, he swam to a young man and asked him if he would accept Jesus as his Savior. The young man said, “No”. Harper gave the man his life vest telling him that he needed it more.

Later Harper swam back to the young man and led him to Christ. The man then saw Harper succumb to the waters.  The reason we know this story is because the young man was one of the few survivor snatched from the icy waters that night.

Harper’s orphan daughter was raised by her uncle and aunt and lived until 1985. She married a preacher and had two children. She didn’t remember much about that night, and her family discouraged anyone talking about the Titanic with her, but Jessie Leitch says they were about a mile away when they saw the ship sink.

Although the story is not told by Hollywood, John Harper was a true hero who gave his life so that others might be saved both that night and for eternity.

Keep Your Focus

by Carole Brown

In one of my recent devotionals I read recently, the topic was on endurance, and the way to endure was to focus. 

A runner must focus on the goal. He wants to finish his race which means he must tone his body and build his strength to endure to the end. If/when he finishes, he will have the satisfaction of gaining an earthly reward: greenery wreaths, plaques, money or ribbons.

But a Christian, to finish his race, must focus on Christ/God. Keeping our attention on him will make the hindrances seem less frightening. Focusing on God keeps our perspectives in line and correct. We want to finish our race knowing our reward will be the words: Well done, my good and faithful servant.  We know it is a never-ending, permanent, and glorious reward well sought after and certainly well worth striving for. 

Let us remember:

  • Know ye that they who run in an earthly race runs to receive a prize, but only one obtains it? But every man that strives for mastery in this heavenly race must be temperate in all things so that we all might obtain an incorruptible crown.  (paraphrased from KJV: I Corinthians 9:24-25)

racer run free

Run! Focus! Win!

How do you keep your focus on God?

 

Top 10 Tips for Starting the School Year Right

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Most children start back to school this month. Here are 10 tips to make the school year easier.

1. Start the school routine early. Most children stay up a little later during the summer. It takes at least a week or two for their bodies to get adjusted to the new sleep schedule. It will help them get a head start if you place them on that schedule at least a week before school starts.

2. Help your children decide a homework time. Children are more apt to follow through on homework assignments if they have a say in initiating it. Discuss with your child how much time he’ll need to do his homework, when’s the best time, and where he should work. Some children would rather do their homework as soon as they get home and get it out of the way, but other children need to unwind before they can concentrate on more work. Work with them instead of against their natural work habits.

3. Set up a homework station. Some children like to work out in the open where everybody is so they don’t feel isolated. Other children want privacy and quiet. Find out what’s best for your children.

4. Discuss extracurricular activities with your children. Most children are so overburdened with sports, dance, music, art, and other activities that they never have downtime just to play. Give your children limits about how many activities they can be involved in. Let them know they have decisions to make about which activities to participate in. They can’t do them all.

5. Schedule and limit TV, computer, video games, and other electronic devices. Let your children know that, during the school year, these activities will be limited. Tell them how much time they have on each device, and let them decide how to use that time.

6. Buy a number of easy and healthy breakfast items for your children. If they’re running late, they’re much more likely to eat breakfast if there’s a banana or breakfast food readily available.

7. Take your children to the grocery store and let them help you pick out items for their lunches. If your goal is for them to eat healthy, let them know that, and help them choose foods they’ll eat and not throw out.

8. Go school shopping. This is an exciting time. Make a day of it.

9. Visit the school your children will attend. If possible, try to meet the teacher.

10. Decide how your children will get to school. If they ride a bus, what time will the bus pick them up? If they walk, who will they walk with? Have they met the crossing guard? What route will they take? If you drive them, you might want to set up a car pool with other parents. Also give your children a secret password that you can use for anyone you might send to pick them up in an emergency.

The Modern Missionary Movement Started in Colonial Times

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

America is well known for the modern missionary movement. The missionary movement is credited with starting in the mid 1800s during the Second Great Awakening, but it really began with a 100 year prayer movement in colonial times. The people who started this movement were called the Moravians.

In 1727, a group of Moravians in Saxony started a round the clock prayer meeting that lasted 110 years. By 1737, Moravians had settled in Savannah, Georgia to share the Gospel. At this time, they met John Wesley, from the first Great Awakening and had a profound impact on his ministry.

In 1741, the Moravians moved to an estate owned by John Whitfield, another preacher from the Great Awakening, and started ministering to the Delaware Indians in the region. They established the towns of Bethlehem and Nazareth in Pennsylvania and moved throughout the colonies sharing the Gospel wherever they went.

Schoenbrunn Village

By 1772, the Delaware were being pushed into Ohio, and the Moravians followed them. They set up two villages there, one in Schoenbrunn and one in Gnadenhutten. They risked great dangers, not only from the other tribes, but from the British forces once the Revolutionary War began. The British accused the Moravians of informing the colonialist about troop movements, a charge that was mostly true.

The Moravians finally abandoned their villages to move on to avoid clashes with the British. That fall, a group of converted Delaware returned to Gnadenhutten to harvest their crops. They were massacred by American soldiers who mistakenly thought they were raiders.

There aren’t that many Moravian in the United States today although there are clusters of congregations in Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia. There are also some areas in Canada with large Moravian populations. Moravians in America moved on to evangelize other parts of the world. The largest groups of Moravians now live in East Africa and the Caribbean. They left their mark on America though through their missionary endeavors and paved the way for other missionaries.

Want Some Reviews?

by Carole Brownbook reviews free

Do you long for more reviews? Here are a few steps that may help you land a few more professional reviews. Remember that this is a professional business and when approaching reviewers and book review sites, act professional.

 

  • Try for a personal note by greeting the reviewer by name. If you’re looking on a site or blog for requirements, etc., then search until you find that name. Address them as “Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms Brown.” rather than the generic one of “Dear Madam” or “Dear Sir.” Not only does this show some diligence on your part in knowing the reviewer’s name, but is a sign of respect.
  • Don’t overdo the familiarity. Keep it simple in the first sentence by stating your name and the title of your book. When you end your letter, sign it simply as 
    “Sincerely.”
  • In your letter, include a word count for an e-copy of your book. If you’re sending a print book, a page count is fine. This will clue in the reviewer on
  • book notes lists etc the time frame.
  • Also, you’ll need to mention the genre of your book. Be specific. If it’s a “who-done-it” then make sure you state that its a mystery. Thriller? Then the reviewer will be expecting a fast-paced read. By not following through correctly with this, can give the reviewer cause to mention it negatively in your review. Be diligent!
  • If you have a time frame when the book will be published or promoted, then by all means include this. If, as many authors have, no time frame demand, then ignore it. This will help the reviewer decide if he has the time to read and review it.
  • Include a short synopsis and book blurb. Make it interesting and one that captures the reviewer’s attention. You’ll want him/her panting to read your book! email-us free
  • If you’re emailing your request, on the subject line, keep it simple and short. Book review request should do the job. 

Be polite and respectful, keep it simple, and provide the details the reviewer needs to decide if he has the time and if she’s interested.