Thursday, December 18, 2014


by Yvonne Lehman @YvonneLehman

Registration is open for the Blue Ridge "Autumn in the Mountains" Novelists Retreat, held at Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina. Even more exciting, you can save big bucks by registering early!

That's why Christmastime may be a good time to ask for tuition money when asked what you want for Christmas! All the information isn't on the website yet, but you can see what we did in 2014: 

Next year will be similar with an additional day of surprise offerings. 

Faculty so far are Yvonne Lehman, DiAnn Mills, Torry Martin, Eva Marie Everson, Edie Melson, mentor writer Ann Tatlock, scriptwriter mentor Lori Marett. Others will be announced later. Three of us are novelists and editors: historical, romance, women's fiction and southern fiction.

We offer critiques, contests, professional teaching, private appointments, and fun. Would love to have you join us.

Best wishes and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

For more information, click here for the downloadable PDF. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

YES—Saying NO Can Give You More Time to Write

By Edie Melson @EdieMelson

I don’t mean say no to writing opportunities—say no to some other things in your life. 

We all only have so much time in a day. And if you’re like me, it’s filled to overflowing. So that means changing some priorities. 

Sounds easy, but to anyone who’s tried, it can be tough to carve out time for writing. 

Here are some tips I’ve used to help me realign my life.

Decide where you want to go with your writing. You don’t have to schedule your time to get there overnight, but to get there, you do need to know where you’re going.

Take an inventory at what’s happening in your life right now. This is also going affect how much time you can realistically spend on writing.

Now answer these two question:
  • What are you doing now, that you love MORE than writing? 
  • What are you doing now that you DON’T love more than writing?

These are the factors you need to consider to begin to map out a plan that works for you.

To help you see how to apply what you've learned I'll share my answers when I first started writing. This will help you see how it gave me a plan for my writing.

I was a stay-at-home mom with three school-age boys. I had a goal to eventually earn a full-time living with my writing. I also didn’t want to loose family time or even what little adult time my husband and I had to spend together in the evening.

My writing schedule developed from these parameters. Every night after family time, I’d retire with my husband. When he went to sleep, I’d get up and start writing. I’d usually write until three or four o’clock in the morning, then I’d go to bed. 

In the morning, my husband would get up with the boys and get them off to school. I’d get up later in the morning and be fresh when the boys got home from school. It might have been unorthodox, but it worked perfectly.

What did I give up? Lunches with friends and other daytime activities. I also stayed on a budget so I could afford to attend at least two writing conferences every year.

I’ve never found a way to do it all. But I have discovered there is time enough for what I truly love.

What about you? How do you make time for writing?

Edie Melson is the an author and editor. Her popular blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands of writers each month, and she’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Her bestselling ebook on social media has just been updated and re-released as Connections: Social Media & Networking Techniques for Writers. She’s the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy and the social media director for Southern Writers Magazine. She’s also the Senior Editor at Novel Rocket. You can connect with Edie through Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Rice, Chicora Wood Plantation and One Woman

By Elva Cobb Martin

"They harnessed the moon," one writer wrote of Caroling Low Country rice planters, "and turned the marshes into fields of gold."

South Carolina rice planters used the power of the moon through the action of the tide to irrigate fields where they grew Carolina Gold rice. This variety derived its names from the color of its outer hull, but also brings to mind the "gold" it brought to South Carolina.

Rice cultivation began in the state in the late seventeenth century. For more than a hundred years, it brought great wealth and power to Low Country plantation owners.

From the clearing of the cypress swamps to the planting and flooding of the fields to the harvesting, rice required intensive labor. African slaves are due most of the credit for the successful rice production in South Carolina.

The Civil War changed this economy dramatically. No where is the rice story and this change recorded more succinctly than in the history of Chicora Wood Plantation. The house is still standing majestically on the Pee Dee between Myrtle Beach and Georgetown, South Carolina. I toured its grounds this past spring during a downpour.

In the 1730s, an early settler of Georgetown, John Allston, received land grants of 4,000 acres that made up his estate. A later owner, Robert F.W. Allston turned it into one of the most productive rice plantations in the South, and he also served as Governor of South Carolina for a time.

But it was his daughter, Elizabeth Allston Pringle, who gave us the most vivid picture of rice plantation life following the Civil War. She wrote a book - actually a diary - of her day-to-day duties as a Woman Rice Planter.

Chicora Wood Plantation
Elizabeth grew up in the era of massive slave holdings over the South, but also when the patriarchal system was firmly entrenched in Southern families. Women were expected to exemplify feminine virtues of nurturing and self-sacrifice and to accept male domination and opinions without question.

But after her father's death, and later, her husband John Pringle's death from malaria (after only six years of happy marriage), widow Elizabeth took on the mammoth and "unwomanly" task of managing Chicora Wood Plantation. She had to learn to grow rice with a greatly reduced labor force and one that had to be paid due wages. Her story is one of courage, compassion for the free slaves, and tenacity to keep holding on to a "man's job" when times grew very hard indeed.

It's been great visiting with you today and sharing some of my research for my historical novels. Hope you leave a comment and tweet and share this article on Facebook for your history-loving friends and fellow writers.

Elva Cobb Martin is 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. Decision, Charisma, and Home Life have published her articles. She has completed two inspirational novels, which are currently under consideration for publication - In a Pirate's Debt and Summer of Deception. A mother promoted to grandmother, Elva lives with her husband, Dwayne, and a mini-dachshund writing helper (Lucy) in Anderson, South Carolina. She and her husband are retired ministers. Connect with her on her website, on her blog here, on Facebook, or via Twitter @Elvacobbmartin. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Creating Realistic Characters

By Katie DePoppe

After mastering the basics of grammar, punctuation, and diction -- and then navigating the uncharted waters of rules you're allowed to break -- comes what I believe is the second most daunting task in writing: creating realistic characters. 

How do you even begin?

Here are a few ideas to reflect upon that may help in building meaningful and layered characters.

Study Personality Types

Researching Jungian psychological types or archetypes is a good place to begin.The Myers-Briggs (based upon the theories of Swiss scientist, Carl Jung), the DISC assessment (which includes both positive and negative personality traits), and Strengthsfinders (the assessment and explanations are within one book) can help you gain insight into how a certain character may logically react in specific situations, interact with others, handle conflicts, etc. Let the personality type act as a sort of skeleton for the character, and use it to jump-start the creative process as you begin building a fictitious person.

Think About Their Life Before the Story 

Think critically about the main characteristics of characters that you're attempting to convey, and why they are the way they are. Say a character is ambitious or anxious or merciful or lacks in self-esteem. We don't become that way overnight, and neither should a character. What led them to that point? Why does this character seem to make the same mistake over and over again? Or why does this one never say what she means?

Even if there's a part of a character's growth that falls outside of the book or story's timeline, creating a sort of linear timeline of personal or emotional growth (or lack thereof) of a character in your notes can be extremely beneficial in creating a person who is realistic.  

Keep a Spreadsheet or Notebook

Are there regional sayings you love? Or witticisms from someone in your life that are too good to be lost? I keep files within my email, my Evernote account, and my commonplace book (more details on that in a later post) with uncommon or otherwise potentially characteristic words or phrases that could belong to specific characters. By keeping a record, not only do you remember clever, nostalgic, or memorable terms or phrases, but such notes can help you find and control aspects of language that may cause confusion or dilution of an otherwise memorable figure.

Study Acting 

This is purely anecdotal on my part, but it makes logical sense to me: Writers who have either studied acting or who have experience in script writing, seem to have an upper hand in creating believable characters. An acquaintance of mine suggested reading Constantin Stanislaski's book, Building a Character. He tells actors they should be able to answer one question at all times: "What would I do if I were this character in these circumstances?" If we ask ourselves this same question when we're writing, it certainly seems it would help to realistically shape both the scene and the people in it. 

Katie DePoppe is the founding editor at large for Azalea, a magazine that celebrates the lifestyle, history, and culture of the South Carolina Lowcountry. She is the curator of and a contributor to Azalea's blog, The Azalea Room, which explores Southern culture as a whole. Join her Facebook group, The Southern Lit Project, an extension of her blog series, The 50 Books Every Southerner Should Read. An aspiring author of Southern fiction, Katie is a member of Word Weavers International, ACFW, and is a life-long member of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honor Society. Connect with Katie on Twitter @KDePoppe or follow her on Instagram @katidepoppe.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Writers, Show Don’t Tell

by Susan F Craft

I believe our primary goal as novelists is to give our readers a powerful experience and to entertain them. As Christian writers, especially, we must strive for excellence.

One tool for reaching excellence is something most authors have heard before – in your writing, you should “show, not tell.”

Showing creates mental pictures in the reader’s mind. When readers get a clear picture, they are more engaged in the writer’s story.

Writers reveal their characters through several means:
  • What they say…
  • What they think or feel…
  • What they do….
  • Description…
  • What the other characters say about them…
  • How other characters react to them…

1. Use Dialogue
Dialogue allows the reader to experience a scene; instead being told how a character feels, the reader can hear it for themselves.
(Instead of: “I love you,” she crooned. 
Write: “I love you,” she said, cupping her hands around his cheeks and caressing his bottom lip with her thumb.)

But, watch your dialogue attributes. It’s quite all right to use “said.”

2. Use Sensory Language
In order for readers to fully experience what you’re writing about, use language that incorporates several senses, not just sight.

Sight—is the most important sense to engage in good creative writing. You must paint pictures for your readers. A good fiction novel makes them feel as if they’ve literally stepped into another world. Words let people see what doesn’t even exist.

Smell—is the most nostalgic of the senses. Without using a lot of words, smell can evoke memories and is a useful way of getting your characters to remember an event from the past in the form of a flashback.
  • The smell of burning leaves and pine straw.
  • The sour smell of clothes left too long in the washing machine.
  • The stench of a van load of teenage football players returning home from a game.

Sound—is the way of adding to your scene as if adding soundtrack to a movie. Few settings are silent, but if they are, describe the absence of sound. 
Onomatopoeias are useful – hiss, crackle, jangle, tap-tap, click. 

Taste –is evoked when characters are eating and drinking, or actively using their mouths and tongues. 
Tasting the first falling snowflakes on the tip of our tongue.
The shock of unfamiliar toothpaste.

Touch - can be painful or pleasurable or help describe the person or place
Turning a pillow over during a hot, muggy night and feeling the coolness.
The smoothness of 1000 thread count cotton sheets.
Touching a curling iron to your forehead.
A cold, sweaty handshake.

3. Use Active Verbs

4. Be Descriptive
How often in your early learning were you taught to use adjectives and adverbs, and then, later on, you were told to get rid of the adverbs?  (Adverbs are great words, used sparingly.) Being descriptive is more than just inserting a string of descriptive words. It’s carefully choosing the right words to convey your meaning. Paint pictures with specific words or groups of words.

You can't tell us someone is a wonderful person, a talented artist, or a spoiled little rich girl. We won't believe you. You must show us. Throughout your manuscript, look for any opportunity to show us in real time, to let us see your character act out, to let us feel.

Warning: when using description, don’t overdo it and don’t give the details all at once. Otherwise, you can end up with a “police blotter” description.
He was tall, with brown hair and blue eyes. He wore a red shirt and jeans, and a brown leather jacket.

5. Be Specific
Specificity will fill in the gaps from telling and bring life to scenes.

Instead of writing, “I had never felt anything like it before in my entire life,” take the time to try and describe what that feeling was, and then decide how best to convey that feeling to the reader.       

Tell: Nathan looked exhausted.
Show: Nathan slumped against the wall and closed his eyes.

Tell: It was a dark and stormy night.
Show: The wind tore at the trees, flinging icy rain from the pitch-black sky.

Tell: Mary wasn't a natural mother and she found the children very trying.
Show: Mary couldn't believe it could be this much work. Couldn't they leave her alone for five minutes to read the paper? She'd put the cartoons on for them and given them crayons and paper, but apparently that wasn't enough -- they still wanted her.

Half Show-Half Tell
Sometimes you can do a half show-half tell. This is where you get a character to describe another person. Let them do the telling instead of you.

"I'd be careful around him, if I were you. He's a sly one that one, he can't be trusted."

Because a character has said it, it somehow makes it appear more real to the reader than if we'd just written "Tom was sly and couldn't be trusted."

When to Tell, Not Show!
All this doesn’t mean that a writer should never say a character is handsome or happy, and it doesn’t follow that all a writer should do is show.

If you show don't tell all the time, your word count will be way too high, and in a novel the reader may get bored of all the padding. No one wants to be able to see every part of every building or every scene that clearly.

So you tell the things that are of no real importance to the story but are necessary to move the story along:
"The doorbell rang."
Unless there’s a reason the reader must know the sound of the doorbell, this sentence is fine. 
But what if the doorbell is significant?
(When Clara pressed the doorbell of the Dallas mansion, the first fourteen notes of “The Yellow Rose of Texas” resonated through the intercom. Clara was still giggling when the door swung open, and there stood Dixie Lee Houston herself.)

(The doorbell rang once.  Then twice. Then five times in succession like a persistent woodpecker furtively tapping on vinyl siding.)

"Mary picked up the remote control and turned the television back on."
Again, we don't need to know anything more about these things, so telling will suffice.

Write first; let your creativity take over; allow the thoughts to flow; never edit as you go.  Once the words are on paper, then go back and check for show, don’t tell. 

Pray about and for what you are writing. Ask yourself, will this glorify his name? Will it lift up your readers? Will he or she be a better person for having read what you’ve written? Will you handle rejection with grace and accolades with humility?

Most importantly, have you done your absolute best to honor the absolute sacrifice that was made for you?

I gathered information from sites including:

Susan F. Craft authored the SIBA Award-winning Revolutionary War novel, The Chamomile. The two sequels to The Chamomile, entitled Laurel and Cassia will be released January 12, 2015, and September 14, 2015, by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.  She is represented by Linda S. Glaz, Hartline Literary Agency.Visit Susan on her website: