Thursday, February 15, 2018

My Journey to a Book Contract - Five Vital Steps (Part 3 Theme)

By Elva Cobb Martin

Today I continue my series on "My Long Journey to a Book Contract - Five Vital Steps."
You can get the full blogs in my archives on Part 1 and 2 but here is a fast review:


Here are the five steps I listed in Part 1:

1) NEVER give up!
2) Keep Honing Your Craft
3) Importance of Conferences and Writing Groups
4) Help Other Writers 
5) Learn how to Submit to Editors and Agents



In Part 2 I covered four ways I've learned to plot a novel. 

Today, in Part 3, I continue with "Honing Your Craft" and important things I learned that helped me on the way to a contract. 

Plug into a Theme - A story’s most basic element
The author’s worldview, their core values and outlook on life, drive the theme. Here are 10 central themes in film and books constantly repeated which describe an opinion about society, human nature, God, or life in general.
1) Good vs. Evil   - Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia,
         The War Room
2) Love Conquers All 
 - The Notebook, Love Comes Softly                      series, The Passion
3) Triumph over Adversity – The Blind Side, Facing the Giants
4) Individual vs. Society – Schindler’s List, The Elephant Man
5) The Battle – Braveheart, The Patriot, Attila
6) Death as a Part of Life – The Shack, Driving Miss Daisy
7) Revenge – Cape Fear, Revenge of the Nerds
8) Loss of Innocence – Sixteen Candles, Toy Story 3
9) Man vs. Himself – Gone with the Wind,The Godfather
10) Man vs. Nature –Jaws, Armageddon, Jack London stories,               Survivor shows
A quick check of stories in the Bible will reveal many universal themes. In fact, the Bible hasn’t left out any nitty-gritty issues mankind faces.
■ Husband and wife join in wrongdoing (Adam/Eve, Ahab/Jezebel, Ananias/Sapphira)
■ Jealousy/sibling conflict (Cain/Able, Rachel/Leah,                       Joseph/brothers)
■ Love/hate triangles (Abraham/Sarah/Hagar;                                     Jacob/Leah/Rachel)
■ Arranged marriages (Isaac/Rebecca, Jacob/Leah/Rachel,               Christ and His Bride
■ Rape (Dinah and Shechem; Tamar and Ammon)
■ War and its mighty men (Joshua, David, Gideon, Samson)
■ Women’s rights (the daughters of Zelophehad Joshua 17:3-6)
■Adoption vs. Infanticide (Moses)     
■Adultery/Murder (David/Bathsheba) (Hosea)
■ The perfect love story – Ruth and Boaz
■ The Wrong Kind of Sex  – Sodom & Gomorrah, the Levite’s concubine (Judges 19), Samson & Delilah
■ Redemption and Forgiveness – (the Prodigal Son and                        numerous stories)

Because I'm an inspirational writer, I want my novels to reflect my Christian worldview, core values and outlook on life, through whatever theme I choose. That's the legacy I want to leave with my readers and future generations.

Can you discern the writer's worldview in the movies and/or books you have read recently? So much being written and filmed today is in a secular worldview, but I do love to read and view stories with a strong Christian worldview. How about you?

What is your theme in your current WIP? Can you add to our theme list? Please leave a comment and share this blog on your social media if it helped you.

Be blessed today!
Elva Martin


Elva Cobb Martin is vice-president of the South Carolina Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a former school teacher and a graduate of Anderson University and Erskine College. She has two inspirational novels contracted with Lighthouse Publishers of the Carolinas. Summer of Deception, a contemporary romantic suspense, and an historical romance, In a Pirate’s Debt. Both have spent time on Amazon’s 100 Best Sellers List for Women’s Religious Fiction. Decision, Charisma, and Home Life have carried Elva's articles. Jim Hart of Hartline Literary represents her. She and her husband Dwayne are semi-retired ministers. A mother and grandmother, Elva lives in Anderson, South Carolina. Connect with her on her web site http://www.elvamartin.com,
her blog http://www.carolinaromancewithelvamartin.blogspot.com 
Twitter www.twitter.com/ElvaCobbMartin; Facebook http://www.facebook.com/elvacobbmartin;  and Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/elvacobbmartin
Link to her romance novels and non-fiction works on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2pOgVHI



Thursday, February 8, 2018

My Journey to a Book Contract - Five Vital Steps (Part 2)

by Elva Cobb Martin


For a long while my dream of securing a book contract seemed like an impossible goal- like reaching for a castle in the sky.

If you missed Part 1, you can find it in the archives.

Here's a quick list of the Five Steps that helped me finally land my first book contract. It is with Prism Book Group for my inspirational romantic suspense novel, Summer of Deception, to be released in 2017

Drum-m-m ROL-L-L! I have recently signed a second contract with Lighthouse Publishers of the Carolinas for my historical, In a Pirate's Debt! So now I am into edits on TWO books at the same time. (Yes, that's a prayer request in the subtext). Selling the second book has been quicker maybe because I started writing it before I sold the first one. ( : 

Here are the five steps I listed in Part 1:

1) NEVER give up!
2) Keep Honing Your Craft
3) Importance of Conferences and Writing Groups
4) Help Other Writers
5) Learn how to Submit to Editors and Agents


Part 2  Keep Honing Your Craft!


Learn how to Plot a Novel  - 4 Ways I’ve Studied               

A) The detailed Authors Boot Camp Manual can be found at
     There are tons of links compiled for every aspect of plotting and writing a book! And it’s all free—the best articles from some of the best authors you’ll find. 
B) The Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson. Find his 10 detailed steps under Products at  http://www.advancefictionwriting.com
         
Randy, a former software architect, lists 10 Steps that he compares to a snowflake in building a novel. He has a software program on it and a detailed book you can purchase on Amazon.)
   Here are the first 4 steps briefly which he covers in detail on his site and in his book.
      Step 1 - Take an hour and write a one sentence summary of your novel idea.
         Ex. “A rogue physicist travels back in time to kill the Apostle Paul.”
      Step 2 - Take another hour and expand that sentence into a full paragraph describing the story setup, 3 major disasters, and the ending.
      Step 3 – Characters: Write a one-page summary for each character telling their name, their storyline, their motivation, goal, conflict, and epiphany (Details on site)
       Step 4 – Expand each sentence in your paragraph summary into a full paragraph each. The final paragraph should tell how the book ends.
End each chapter with a cliff hanger!
C)  MaryLu Tyndall’s basic method for historicals: Starts with research
           1) Do detailed main character sketches with photos and index cards of main characters
           2) Write synopsis of basic story line and chapter by chapter summary
           3) Write the first draft down fast in creative mode. No editing or checking research details. Get the main plot points down, about 40,000 words
           4) Rewrite/Expand adding the polish, research details, DPOV, five senses add more tension/conflict, and end each chapter with a cliff hanger.
           5) Edit for final draft
           6) She keeps three docs pulled up in computer when writing:

              a)Chapter by Chapter summary which she uses to write the first draft, (I have a Scene List doc for each chapter as I write the scenes)
              b) A To-Remember Doc which lists things she needs to keep track of like dates, back story, ancestry, research items
              c) Add-in Doc – lists all the extra ideas that she comes up with while doing other stuff that she wants to add in later
                       (In editing to cut my novel word count, I added a “Cuts” document to paste in all cuts which I may want to use later in blogs.

              Find MaryLu’s other Writing Tips at http://www.crossandcutlass.blogspot.com
D) Prescription for Plotting Notebook by Carolyn M. Greene (Pass it around)
   
       A fantastic 3-ring binder with 75 pages of worksheets, forms and easy instructions to help plot your novel. Order it from:
           Carolyn Greene, P.O. Box 412, Powhattan, VA 23139 
      Send check or money order for $25 plus $5 for shipping.  Check out her site at    http://carolynpd.fortunecity.ws/
       (I highly recommend this notebook, if still available.)
Three “plots” I worked up for Summer of Deception
           
The main romance plot between heroine Rachel and hero Luke.

The suspense/mystery subplot of who is smuggling drugs on the Charleston coastline and what really happened to Rachel’s brother declared dead by the DEA.
The spiritual subplot of Luke’s struggle to regain faith and the testing of Rachel’s faith
The Spectrum for Spiritual Plots for Inspirational novels from Ron Benry’s Writing Christian Fiction

    ♦ At the High End: A conversion/redemption scene of a main character, grace in action
    ♦ The Middle Ground: Jesus at work in the lives of one or more characters  
    ♦ At the very least: Show progress in a lead character’s Christian walk or reaffirmed faith.
          OR: Challenge your protagonist’ moral beliefs. Judith Rolfs in a new mystery release by Prism Books, Never Tomorrow, has a scene in which the heroine’s moral belief in chastity is challenged by a character she has begun to think of in a romantic way and the heroine gives a great “No” answer.
My take on all this is: Weave in the spiritual plot through “parable/story style” not preachy style.

Don't miss the next blog(s) when I will share other writing skills I had to gain mastery in: Goals, Motivation and Conflict; MRU's; and How to Show not Tell. 

What has helped you most in plotting or planning your book? Please reply by leaving a comment and click and share this with friends on Twitter and FB.

Blessings on your day,
Elva Cobb Martin

Friday, February 2, 2018

My Journey to a Book Contract - Five Important Steps (Part 1)

by Elva Cobb Martin


As some of you might know, I signed my first book contract for my inspirational romantic suspense, Summer of Deception. What you may not know, is how long it took to come to a contract. 

Here are what I consider five important steps to that elusive contract. I will be sharing them in detail in future blogs:

1) NEVER Give Up!
2) Hone Your Craft - a big, continuing step
3) Importance of Conferences and Writing Groups
4) Help Other Writers
5) Learn How to Submit to Editors and Agents 



Step 1 - NEVER GIVE UP
I researched and wrote the first draft of Summer of Deception thirty years ago after attending Yvonne Lehman's first Christian writers conference in Black Mountain. I didn't even have a computer and wrote it on a Selectric typewriter. The next year God called me and my husband into the ministry and I stashed the big box of research and first draft up in my attic for the next twenty years where the typed pages turned yellow. After we retired from full-time ministry, I pulled that box down and began rewriting. After I started submitting it to publishers and agents, it was rejected 26 times, before being contracted.
Many may reject your ms, but someone will love it, if you don’t give up. Make up your mind you are committed for however long it takes and whatever it takes to get your book written, polished, sold and marketed or indie published. Carve out praying time, writing time, reading time in your genre and honing your craft time.

And here's a scripture promise for you that I often used to overcome discouragement  Phil. 1:7  “Being confident of this very thing that He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus’ Christ.”
Don't miss the next steps in future blogs!

What advice do you have to help someone who feels like giving up on their novel dream? Please leave a comment and share this blog by clicking on the Twitter and FB button below.

Blessings on your day,
Elva Cobb Martin

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Social Media Monday—Get Your Blog Ready for a GREAT 2018

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

This time between Christmas and New Year’s Day is often a no-man’s land of lethargy and laziness…at least for me. Part of it has to do with the surfeit of calories and gatherings. The rest seems to stem from re-evaluation.
I can’t seem to help it. The approach of New Year’s, with its focus on resolutions, pulls me into a period of introspection. Actually, it’s a good thing. It gives me a chance to look back over the past year and decide what worked and what didn’t. It also gives me a push toward trying something different.
Today I’d like to invite you to join me in one aspect of this journey and get your blog ready for a great 2018. Click on your own site and look at it with these thoughts in mind. Here’s the checklist I use to evaluate my sites. Don’t hesitate to tweak it to fit your needs.

Checklist
  • Make sure your site hasn’t become too cluttered in the sidebar area. Clean out any old links and add any you’ve been considering.
  • Take a look at the position of your sidebar gadgets. Many times during the year I’ll add something and it will push other things down. It’s important that you have your email and RSS signups at the top where people can get regular updates when you post.
Be sure all your links, especially social media, are working.
  • Also be sure to check all your links, especially for social media. Nothing’s more frustrating than a visitor trying to connect with you further and come up with a dead end.
  • Recheck your default font. Sometimes you’ll find you’ve drifted into a different one. Whatever font you use, make certain it’s easily readable…on all screens.
  • Update your about me section on your site. Include the things that have happened over the past year in regard to publication, job changes, awards, and anything else applicable.
  • If you have a calendar with your speaking engagements, update it as well.
  • Also be sure to update any lists you have of other sites, like those for writers, photographers or others.
  • Now take out your mobile device (cell phone, tablet, ereader, whatever) and make certain your site is optimized for mobile viewing. This is vital because at least two-thirds of all visitors to your site will be looking at it from a mobile device and that number will continue to increase!
  • Reassess what action you want your reader to take after viewing your blog. Maybe you want them to share your site with their friends/readers. Perhaps you’re selling a book. Even if it’s only to follow you on Twitter, make sure it’s easy for them to see what you want and then execute it!

Update Your Schedule
Update your schedule.
This is also a good time to look at your blog posting schedule and evaluate the popularity and efficiency of your different topics. You can do this by utilizing the stats section of your blogger dashboard or of your specific blogging platform.
  • First, look at the most popular posts of the past year. Do they fall into a specific category or theme? If this isn’t the main focus of your blog consider making it a bigger part of your posting schedule.
  • Next look at the day of the week when you get your most hits. Does it correspond to your posting date or is it the following day? You may need to tweak when your email notification is sent out.
  • Finally, Google the subject of those popular posts. Don’t plug in the exact title of those blogs, instead try a more generic subject search. The purpose of this is to see where within that search your blog entry is falling.

We all benefit from a yearly checkup and our blog is no different. I’d love to hear how you use this time to get ready for the New Year ahead!

Don't forget to join the conversation!
Blessings
Edie
Edie Melson is the author of numerous books, as well as a freelance writer and editor. Her blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains ChristianWriters Conference and the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy. She’s also the Military Family Blogger at Guideposts. Com, Social Media Director for SouthernWriters Magazine and the Senior Editor for NovelRocket.com. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook. Don't miss her new book from Worthy Inspired, WHILE MY SOLDIER SERVES.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Blogging Success—Slow and Steady Really Does Get You Where You Want to Go

by @EdieMelson

For the past five years I’ve been sharing tips and tidbits from the writing life here on The Write Conversation blog. One of the things I keep coming back to is the fact that small consistent steps make a big difference.
Today I want to toot my own horn a little, as well as share some small things you can do consistently to duplicate the success I’ve had with building an online platform.

Timeline for Success
December 11, 2009: Here’s the very first post, MasteringYour Dream.  I haven’t gone back and edited or formatted it—it doesn’t even have an image to go with it. It was seen by 27 people and got 5 comments, really not bad for a first post.
  • My goal was to blog once a week, reality was a little different. I posted twice that December and twice in January of 2011. Then, because I’d gotten so consistent at this blogging thing, I started a second weekly post in February of 2011. That was when my Thursday Review column began. That idea actually began to shape the focus of my blog. I didn’t do (and still don’t) general book reviews, but instead review things related to writing.
  • I added my third weekly column on March 27 with my Weekend Worship devotion on Sundays. The first one was Beneath the Cross.  As you can tell, I still hadn’t clued in to the fact that images make the post better.
  • In October of 2011, I hit my first month of more than 10,000 unique hits.
  • I stayed with three posts a week until December 11, 2011. Then I was asked to become part of the Clash of the Titles group of bloggers. That year (2011) I ended up with approx. 80,000 unique hits. 2011 was also when I began using social media (Twitter and Facebook) consistently.
  • In 2012, I sort of leveled out. I had good numbers—approx. 20,000 hits per month—but couldn’t break past that. I ended up with approx. 296,000 hits that year. I stayed consistent with my blogging schedule and with social media
  • In 2013, I broke into the 30,000 hits a month category and began to see my consistency with blogging and social media begin to bear significant fruit. August of 2013 was also when I started blogging seven days a week.
  • A couple of months ago, I did a rather major change. I opened up The Write Conversation to other hand-picked contributors. This means I’m no longer one hundred percent responsible for posting seven days a week. I share the burden with other writers who, truth be told, know a whole lot more about this industry than I do.
  • And just this past week, I hit 15,000+ Twitter followers and 1,000,000 unique hits on my blog. That’s why I decided to do a little sprucing up with a new header and design.

But all this personal bragging really isn’t to lift me up. It’s to encourage you with the thought that if I can do this—ANYONE can.
Tips to Achieve Your Own Successful Timeline
1. Come up with a blogging schedule and stick with it. If something happens and you miss a day here and there, don’t stress. Go right back to the schedule and keep moving forward.
2. Don’t be afraid to play around with the focus for your site. I’ve let you—my audience—help me refine my focus.
3. Don’t count the plateaus as failure. I truly believe those months where I didn’t see active growth were a time of strengthening. It’s almost like my blog had to develop muscle to get to the next level.
4. Use social media to enhance your online reach. I tried to stay as consistent as possible with social media—always promoting others instead of me. I know this helped my audience gain confidence in the fact that I’m not in this for myself.
5. Don’t be afraid to quit something that doesn’t work. I mentioned that I was a part of Clash of the Titles. Well, I wasn’t a successful part. My blogging audience wasn’t interested in that column. I gave it time to be sure (about 8 months) then quit when I saw it was the weak link in my weekly schedule. I rarely got more than a few dozen visitors on the days that column aired.
6. Remember that the numbers aren’t really numbers, they’re people. Through all this time I’ve tried to stay focused on the people I’m reaching. It’s hard at times, but always remind yourself of this when you get discouraged.
7. Always keep refining. I’m always looking for ways to make my blog better. Trust me, we’ve never arrived. No matter where we are, there’s always room for improvement.
This is my story and these are the tips I’ve used to get where I am. Now I’d love to learn from you. What things do you do to continue growing your blog?
Don’t forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,
Edie
Edie Melson is the author of numerous books, as well as a freelance writer and editor. Her blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains ChristianWriters Conference and the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy. She’s also the Military Family Blogger at Guideposts. Com, Social Media Director for SouthernWriters Magazine and the Senior Editor for NovelRocket.com. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook. Don't miss her new book from Worthy Inspired, WHILE MY SOLDIER SERVES.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Writing the Cozy Mystery - Part 3 the Main Components

by Elva Cobb Martin

 In Part 1 we covered the differences between Mystery, Suspense and Horror novels. To read that click here   http://bit.ly/2Axc6Y0 
In Part 2 we defined what a Cozy Mystery is. Click  http://bit.ly/2zwkTwM .

Today let's talk about the Main Components of a cozy we will need to plan.

The Amateur Sleuth
Unlike regular mysteries (detective stories, police procedures) a cozy has an amateur sleuth protagonist working to solve the mystery, although there may be trained law officers also working on the case. Think of Father Brown on Netflix, who solves the case right under the angry inspector's nose who tries to keep Father Brown out of the picture. Think of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple and Poirot. I love these amateur sleuths. And I love Sherlock Holmes, but can't class him as amateur. He's too much a brain.

Location/Setting
One reason I like Father Brown and Agatha Christies' series is the English village setting. Don't you love the stately old manors, churches, modes of travel, and the dress? I'm probably going to need to consider writing an historical cozy since I love historical stuff.

The Murder Victim and Crime
Eddie Jones, CEO of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, says in his Cozy Mystery Workshop that the body must appear very soon in the story, definitely by the end of Chapter one or sooner. The crime must capture the reader's imagination and give enough information about the victim to make the reader care that justice will prevail.

Great Plotting
Like any other type story, we have to have a well-thought out plot. Plot usually has three main stages:

1) Beginning - getting to know the protagonist and set up for the conflict/crime
2) Conflict/Problem/Journey
3) Resolution

These are broken down into many parts. For a mystery it must also include clues, red herrings, and many twists until the very end. The end does not have to be happy but it must be satisfying.

Are you thinking about writing a mystery? Do you have a question? I look forward to your comments and please do share this on your social media by clicking on the below small icons.

Blessings,
Elva Cobb Martin

Elva Cobb Martin is president of the South Carolina Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers (2014-2017). She is a former school teacher and a graduate of Anderson University and Erskine College. She has two inspirational novels contracted with Lighthouse Publishers of the Carolinas. Summer of Deception, a contemporary romantic suspense, and an historical romance, In a Pirate’s Debt. Both are spending time on Amazon’s 100 Best Sellers List for Women’s Religious Fiction. Decision, Charisma, and Home Life have carried Elva's articles. Jim Hart of Hartline Literary represents her. She and her husband Dwayne are semi-retired ministers. A mother and grandmother, Elva lives in Anderson, South Carolina. Connect with her on her web site http://www.elvamartin.com, her blog http://carolinaromancewithelvamartin.blogspot.com, on Twitter www.twitter.com/ElvaCobbMartin; Facebook http://www.facebook.com/elvacobbmartin;  and Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/elvacobbmartin
Link to her romance novels and non-fiction works on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2pOgVHI






Thursday, November 16, 2017

Writing the Cozy Mystery - Part 2 Definition

by Elva Cobb Martin


In my last blog we defined Mystery and Suspense and reviewed the major differences between Mystery, Suspense and Horror novels. You can find that blog here http://bit.ly/2Axc6Y0 .

Carolina Reckoning by Lisa Carter is a great mystery I enjoyed.

What is a Cozy Mystery? --by Eddie Jones, CEO, Lighthouse Publishers of the Carolinas (LPC):
A cozy mystery features an amateur sleuth solving a murder within the confines of a controlled setting (think train, mansion, small town). Most of the suspects know each other and thus know each other's secrets. This leads to lots of accusations as to whom the killer might be.

Another definition I like is: A cozy mystery is a sub genre of crime fiction that gives readers a chance to delight in vicariously solving a murder--without graphic violence or sex. As a Christian writer this is what makes a cozy mystery my favorite kind of mystery and the kind I will want to write.

Others have said: "Cozies offer readers the kind of escapism that harder-boiled detective stories simply can't deliver."

"The abiding appeal of the cozy owes a lot to our collective memory, true or false, of simpler, sweeter times."

Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers are two cozy authors who have inspired several generations of cozy writers.

According to Brian Klems, Writers' Digest editor, there are four things a writer should know if considering venturing into cozy-mystery writing today:

1) Cozies have evolved since Christie and Sayers in faster pacing and more driving action with a broader range of subject matter.



2) Series are the way to go - virtually all cozies published today are part of a series with recurring characters and may be anchored around a hobby or craft--or even cats like the Lilian Jackson Braun series, which I have also enjoyed on tape as I exercise.

3)  Sales are steady, but moderate.

4) Genre-specific support is available - like Sisters in Crime writing group
(sistersincrime.org) one of the leading networks for mystery authors. It offers
a Guppies program that provides help for new mystery writers.
http://sinc-guppies.org/


Who is your favorite cozy author? Please join the conversatoin and share this on your social media by clicking on the small icons below.

Blessings,
Elva Cobb Martin


Elva Cobb Martin is president of the South Carolina Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers (2014-2017). She is a former school teacher and a graduate of Anderson University and Erskine College. She has two inspirational novels contracted with Lighthouse Publishers of the Carolinas. Summer of Deception, a contemporary romantic suspense, and an historical romance, In a Pirate’s Debt. Both are spending time on Amazon’s 100 Best Sellers List for Women’s Religious Fiction. Decision, Charisma, and Home Life have carried Elva's articles. Jim Hart of Hartline Literary represents her. She and her husband Dwayne are semi-retired ministers. A mother and grandmother, Elva lives in Anderson, South Carolina. Connect with her on her web site http://www.elvamartin.com, her blog http://carolinaromancewithelvamartin.blogspot.com, on Twitter www.twitter.com/ElvaCobbMartin; Facebook http://www.facebook.com/elvacobbmartin;  and Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/elvacobbmartin
Link to her romance novels and non-fiction works on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2pOgVHI