Make-A-Story™ Monday - This Week's Writing Prompt

Writing to spec – you’ve heard the term. It means writing what the publisher wants. Can you do it? In our new feature - Make-A-Story™, we ask you to create a story with these elements. The story can be set in any time frame, any length, must adhere to our guidelines and have our standard Christian world view.

A trip to one of the western USA states
An odd thing on a passing car
An epic tourist trap (can be fictitious)

Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

We all have our little darlings, words, lines, scenes, chapters, that we love. Then a critique partner or an editor comes along and slashes a line right through them. Feedback is provided, such as: episodic, redundant, doesn’t have anything to do with the story, takes away from the immediacy of the scene … and many, many other disheartening reasons why the darlings have to be destroyed.

As the one who gave birth to the darling, an author often attempts to do everything she can to save them. She holds them up and claims their cuteness, their intelligence, even their entertainment value. Even when she can’t explain how they are necessary to the story, an author might cling to them with all her might.

The truth is, in fiction, we can’t afford to waste a single word. They must be integral to the story, or they must be slashed.

When examining a manuscript for these darlings, it is good to approach them with that thought in mind. Are they necessary or is it just something that the author likes?

If it’s something that the author likes, then there are two options: make it integral to the story or take it out.

Is the author holding on to characters that really don’t belong? There are three options: rework the story to make them count, save them for another novel, or get rid of them.

Is the scene/location a “must-have” even though it’s a rabbit trail for a million reasons that only the author knows? Two options exist: Get the bunny on the right trail and make the scene/location necessary to the story, or stop chasing the rabbit and stay on the right path.

Are the words just perfect prose whose loss would be a disservice to humanity? One option here. Take the first step in getting over yourself and delete it.

I know this is some tough talk, but as one who loves to hold on to my own darling words, scenes, and chapters, sometimes it takes tough love to help me to get rid of them.

Happy editing.

Make-A-Story™ Monday - This Week's Writing Prompt

Writing to spec – you’ve heard the term. It means writing what the publisher wants. Can you do it? In our new feature - Make-A-Story™, we ask you to create a story with these elements. The story can be set in any time frame, any length, must adhere to our guidelines and have our standard Christian world view.

A Spring morning sunrise
A three-legged dog
Tiger lilies on the side of the road 

Congrats! to Sandy Nadeau.

Help us to welcome Sandy Nadeau to the Pelican Book Group family. 
Her debut release, Red Gold, is available today.


Sandy Nadeau loves to go on adventures and equally loves to write about them. Four-wheeling in the back country of Colorado with her husband of 37 years, is where she'd always rather be. They live in the beautiful foothills surrounded by pines, elk, deer, fox, bear and the occasional mountain lion. She loves to share adventures and her love for God and His creation. Sandy is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers. Her blog contains more of the adventures of her life.


Mandy Phillips loves life with her husband running an adventure ranch in the Colorado mountains, but when Mr.

Is Shonee just being a difficult neighbor, or is something more sinister going on? A discovery on the property of Colorado's state mineral leads to more mysteries for the ranch, and then a teenage guest finds herself thrust head first into danger.

Mandy will have to rescue her, but who will rescue Mandy? Her faith in God is her only source to keep the guests safe, solve the mysteries surrounding her ranch, save her neighbor from himself, and discover the secrets of the Red Gold.

Shonee, their crotchety old neighbor, tries to stop them from building a kid-size old west town their dreams of expansion are crushed.

Pick up your copy of RED GOLD today. Available in eBook and paperback.

Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

Editing for word count can be the most freeing experiences an author can endure. Yes, we hate to think that even one word in our carefully crafted prose can be tossed away without a thought. We wonder how in the word tightening a sentence can make it zing, but it does.

I use word counts to take a deeper look at everything I’ve written. I want maximum effect with minimal words. (This is why the practice of writing flash fiction will enhance a novelist’s prose).

What do I eliminate?

Weasel Words such as very, that, just, etc. Go on line. Look up weasel words, and you’ll find lists. Be careful though. Take that for an example. Sometimes that is necessary to the understanding of a sentence. Don’t go through a manuscript with find and destroy all. Rather, look at each use and determine whether the word is necessary to the sentence.

Passive wording can stretch out our prose. Instead of writing he walked to the store we end of with some unnecessary words: he was walking to the store. Changing the structure not only eliminates an unnecessary word, it strengthens the sentence. Passive structures are made when we use the forms of to be (was, were, is, are, to be, etc.). As with weasel words, not all passive structures are evil entities that need to be vanquished. For example, if I have my character talking about what had occurred, he would say, “I was walking to the store when the guy jumped out of the alley and mugged me.”

Redundancies tend to show an author when they are not giving enough credit to the reader. Usually, one mention, unless it comes chapters apart, will garner the understanding of a reader. Eliminating these incessant reminders to the reader that something has happened can take large chunks of word count out of a manuscript.

Excessive description is an interest killer. Sorry Jane Austen fans, but in today’s quick paced lifestyle, flowery descriptions will bring out a yawn and a reach to turn out the lights. Instead, authors should closely examine the scene and describe only those details that are necessary to the understanding and/or plot of the story. For instance, if a gun on the table is important to the scene—say a character is going to be shot with it—not showing the reader the gun on the table will make the scene less effective and the prop will feel dropped in. On the other hand, if the gun isn’t necessary to the scene at hand, introducing it will give the reader a false expectation.

Character descriptions fall within this category as well. The reader doesn’t need to know every detail about a character, only those that are important to the scene. In a romance, yes, we want to see what attracts the hero to the heroine so providing that description is a necessity. However, I still take exception to the contest judge who gave my story a very low score simply because she did not know what my character was wearing from scene to scene. True story. In case you’re wondering, I don’t want to know that much detail unless the scene is futuristic ad the outfit is part of the prop.

This leads me to the last suggestion for tightening prose. While strong verbs eliminate unnecessary wording and strengthen the prose, flowery adjective use pounces on a sentence and makes the reader weary. The weathered, old, gray, decrepit Victorian house stood in the dark shadows of night bringing an eerie, frightening appeal to the young ghost hunters.

Better: The weathered Victorian stood in the darkness, bringing an eerie appeal to the young ghost hunters.

When editing for word count, carefully examine your manuscript for weasel words, passive structure, redundancies, excessive description of scene and character, and flowery adjectives. Elimination this excess can result not only in smaller word count but in tighter, more expressive writing.

Happy editing.

Guest Post: Anne Greene - Speaking Jitters

A few weeks ago I committed to speaking to a book club in Texas. But I faced a problem.
I live just north of Dallas and traffic is horrendous. I have very little sense of direction, but I do have my trusty GPS. So arriving at my destination thirty miles away through heavy traffic was not the problem.

Normally at a book club the members all buy my book and then we discuss the book. This club operated differently. They wanted a review of my book—by myself, the author. Well, that sounded like loads of fun. I could give myself a five star review. So that was not the problem.

I love to speak to book clubs, but this club boasted almost one hundred members. I’d never spoken for one hour to such a large group.

The problem is that I’m a total introvert. I love speaking to book clubs because they are usually small, intimate groups of between five and twelve people. I can do that.

So, a pall of dread descended over me. The horror of speaking to a large group grew and magnified inside my mind. I imagined I would look out over the group and freeze. I would forget everything I had to say. My soft voice would not carry to the audience. Since this was a secular group, there might be a heckler—a person who didn’t like inspirational writers.

And so my dread grew.

Since I’ve become a writer, the Lord has taken me far out of my comfort zone so many times I should be accustomed to the nerves and tension. But I’m not.

Just a few days before my scheduled talk, I was in a mental and emotional frenzy.

As I was thinking on my problem, God brought to my mind another time He’d forced me out of my comfort zone. During that experience He’d given me a precious verse. Deuteronomy 31:8 – The Lord Himself goes before you, and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
And God had gone before me, and He had smoothed the way. The moment the Lord brought that verse back to my mind, every shed of fear left me. I looked back at what He had done and I enjoyed complete peace. The peace lasted until the speech, during the speech, and after the speech.

The talk was a success, and I actually enjoyed myself in front of that audience.

So, once again, God taught me that I don’t need to slip outside my comfort zone alone. He goes before me, and He is always with me. Even in something as insignificant as speaking to a group. Isn’t God wonderful? Claiming His promises leads to peace and joy.

ANNE GREENE delights in writing about wounded heroes and gutsy heroines. Her second novel, a Scottish historical, Masquerade Marriage, won three prestigious book awards. The sequel Marriage By Arrangement released November, 2013.  A Texas Christmas Mystery also won awards. Anne’s highest hope is that her stories transport the reader to awesome new worlds and touch hearts to seek a deeper spiritual relationship with the Lord Jesus. Anne makes her home in McKinney, Texas. Tim LaHaye led her to the Lord when she was twenty-one and Chuck Swindoll is her Pastor. Anne loves to talk with her readers. View Anne’s books, travel pictures and art work at Buy Anne’s books at Or at other online retailers. Visit for information on writing an award-winning novel. Talk with Anne on twitter at @TheAnneGreene. Visit Anne’s Facebook page at Anne loves to talk with her readers.

Wtite the Vision Wednesday: Action->Result

There is a video game I like to play. Throughout the game, you are given choices to carry things with you, to tell the truth or not, to treat others with respect or treat them poorly, to learn new skills, to teach others, to save people with words or actions from injury or death. As my character makes these choices, I develop this character. My choices are saved in the game and have an impact later in the story. I have realized many aspects of this game are applicable when developing the mythic structure of your manuscript.


Too often I wish I could go back and make a different choice—but I can’t. If I want to win an epic battle in scene three, I better have learned to fight in scene one or two. (Since my character didn’t start out with that skill.) This is even a biblical principal. We often see verses written in the actionàresult format.

Studyà to show thyself approved. II Tim. 2:15.

Wherefore, take unto you the whole armor of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done allà to stand. Ephesians 6:13


Sometimes action is implied. A missionary to a foreign land certainly is expected to know the language. An accountant should be good with numbers. To return to the game analogy, my character was mentored (in amazing game part 1) and the mentor (I was formerly the mentor) made choices to arm this character with survival skills. In game part 2, my character is able to use these skills. There are no contrivances to save the character. You literally might see a weapon, but the character can’t pick it up unless the correct choices were made in earlier play.

Manuscripts have to be like this. You as a writer are immersing a reader into your mythic world. Make it real. Also, as a writer, the choice "not to prepare your character" can be part of the plot.

Early in Fictional Manuscript Tess mentions to Max that she never learned to drive a stick shift, so later, when Max is injured and unconscious in a remote area where there is no cell phone reception and his manual transmission truck is the only means of transportation, Tess has a problem. Is it realistic that Tess suddenly knows how to shift gears? No. Is it realistic that she’ll grind gears all the way to find help? Sure. Will this choice make a difference in how quickly Max gets help? By all means. Could this add tension and suspense? Of course. We would immediately feel her angst. She regrets not having learned this driving skill. She is panicked because Max is out cold and bleeding. She’s worried she won’t get help in time. (If I really wanted to torture this poor character, I could make it a snake bite and give her a time limit.)

Remember writing is like a chess game. You really need to think in terms of future moves and like the pieces on a chess board know the limitations of your players.

Happy Writing,


Make-A-Story™ Monday - This Week's Writing Prompt

Writing to spec – you’ve heard the term. It means writing what the publisher wants. Can you do it? In our new feature - Make-A-Story™, we ask you to create a story with these elements. The story can be set in any time frame, any length, must adhere to our guidelines and have our standard Christian world view.

A very bright lamp
A one-eared cat
A new home

Write the Vision Wednesday

Ten Commandments of Writing

1. When thou knowest not the spelling of a word, thou shalt look it up.
2. Thou shalt edit each manuscript before submitting. Yea verily, thou shalt put chapter ten before chapter eleven.
3. Before thou speakest ill of the comments of thy critique partner or thy editor, thou shalt remember they are readers too.
4. Thou shalt spend less time worrying why thy critique partner or thy editor didst not mark thy mistake and remember the mistake is thine.
5. Thou must use thy logic, else hands and hair shalt fly to the heavens. Yea verily, eyes shall roll upon the floor.
6. Thou shalt ignore the teachings of false prophets who use such words as snuck, alright, and brung.
7. Forsake not the semi-colon, ellipse, and the em-dash as acceptable punctuation.
8. Allowing thy character to doeth a thing doest not prove that thy character should do this thing. Thy character must have motivation.
9. Thou shalt first see that thou hast punctuated thy manuscript correctly before bearing false witness that thy critique partner or editor lieth.
10. Thou shalt forsake repetitive dialog tags and repeated -ly adverbs.

Guest Post: Writing the Line by Delia Latham

(Editor's Note: We are pleased to reprint this post first published at Delia Latham's blog.
What makes Christian romance "Christian"?

Writers, please understand before you try to write an inspirational romance: Placing characters inside a church building on Sunday mornings, or having them say grace before a meal does not make a novel inspirational.

If I had to sum up the essence of inspirational romance in one word, I'd use "relationship." The major difference in a secular romance and an inspirational one really is that simple: the emotional connection (relationship) between the hero and heroine, and between the characters and God.

Aside from the stringent expectation of quality writing, certain additional standards exist in the world of Christian fiction. A writer hoping to place a manuscript in this market would do well to become familiar with those finely drawn lines and stay well within their borders.

I can point out the right direction. You'll have to choose the roads.

1. The sensuality meter

I was once challenged by someone who felt the words "Christian" and "romance" conflicted.

"You cannot write about romance and call it a Christian book," he stated. "Christians don't partake in romance, at least not until after they're married. And no one wants to read about that stuff between a husband and wife. What's the point?"

How sad, this inability to distinguish between sex and romance!

Let me try to make it easy.

Romance is the wooing of another's heart and the emotions involved in that courtship.
Sex is the physical consummation of a physical attraction (no relationship necessary).

In a Christian romance, sex is off limits for the unmarried hero/heroine, and takes place behind closed doors for married ones. What's left? Relationship.

That said, eliminating blatant sexual activity is not the be-all and end-all of an inspirational novel. What is important is the interweaving of the characters' spiritual journeys into their lives—and that includes their romantic overtures.

Physical attraction should be a part of the story, but it will be communicated through emotions instead of hormones. He may notice the way the heroine's dress accentuates her curves, but he won't focus on those curves. He'll be drawn to her sense of humor, her generosity, her sweetness of spirit. Neither is she blind to how he looks in those hip-hugging jeans, or the way his muscles bulge when he ropes that heifer. But her emotional reactions will supersede any physical ones. She'll be moved by his gentleness with an injured animal…touched by the respectful way he handles an annoying elderly neighbor…moved to tears by his love for children.

2. Christian protagonists

A Christian romance will focus on two relationships:

the one developing between the hero and heroine, and
the one between those characters and Christ. (This one must be  clearly defined, either from the start of the story, or by the end of it.)

It is acceptable to start a book with a protagonist who doesn't know or is estranged from God, but that spiritual rapport will grow and evolve throughout the storyline and must be reconciled by the last page.

3. Dealing with sin

In real life, Christian people live with and among non-Christians. So it is within the pages of a book. Contributing characters may smoke or drink, get pregnant before marriage, have abortions, cheat, steal, lie…even murder. That's life. These characters' non-conformity to a godly lifestyle adds color to the storyline.

It is crucial, however, that the main characters either stay on the straight path or find it.

4. Preaching

Ultimate challenge: Do all of the above without turning the story into a sermon. Readers read for entertainment and escape - not a class on Christianity. Any message the author wishes to deliver must be woven seamlessly into the storyline. The reader should not be aware of any spiritual lesson…until it's already learned.

What makes Christian fiction Christian? The differences aren't many, but mighty. I like to think of it as giving my readers a touch of Heaven in an earthly tale. Why wouldn't I write on this side of the line?
Born and raised in a place called Weedpatch, Delia Latham moved from California to Oklahoma in 2008, making her a self-proclaimed California Okie. She loves to read and write in her simple country home, and gets a kick out of watching her husband play Farmer John. The author enjoys multiple roles as Christian wife, mother, grandmother, sister and friend, but especially loves being a princess daughter to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. She loves to hear from her readers.

 You can find Delia's books at the Pelican Book Group web site. Delia also writes with fellow author Tanya Stowe

Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

I attended the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference this last weekend. This is a great conference, and if you’ve never looked it up, you should. When most of the states are covered in snow and ice, the writers at this conference might have to brave some sixty degree temps while attending a conference with the backdrop of beautiful Lake Yale.

I digress, though. This is about something that occurred to me at conference. Well, it didn’t just occur to me. I’ve touted deep point of view for years, but it never entered my mind that those who wish to write would not know about this concept from the very beginning of their writing journey.

Depending upon what I knew of the author’s journey toward publication, I asked three very important questions of those who scheduled appointments with me.

First, I’d lean forward, and I’d ask, “How long have you been writing fiction?”

Yes, there are authors who achieve success in a short time after deciding to write. Very little of their success was caused by a fluke, though.

I received many different answers. Some had never written fiction, but their non-fiction careers were established. They recognized that fiction and non-fiction are different fields, but they also understood that non-fiction does incorporate elements of fiction. Some writers were readers, and they had always wanted to be writers. Some had written for decades. Some were published.

After establishing the length of their writing journey, I tightened the trap I set. “What have you done to study the craft?”

Again, the answers varied. Some had decided to venture out for the first time to learn where to get started. Others were readers, and if they were readers, why couldn’t they write fiction? Still others had attended conferences, sat in classes, and had talked to those already successful; they were active in online writer’s groups and online and person-to-person critique groups; they’d studied their chosen genre; they knew the elements of storytelling.

The third question for me is like the salvation question, “If you were to die today, do you know if you would go to heaven?”

Okay, my question wasn’t nearly that important, but it was a trick question designed to know exactly where the writer sitting across from me was on his or her journey. With this question, I could almost put a pin in the map to show how close that writer was to the destination.

Again, I received all kind of answers. Some believed it was all about first, second, or third person. Others knew that point of view is about one scene per point-of-view character. Then there were those individuals who made the choir sing in my head when they said something like this: “Point of view is about bringing the readers as deeply into the story as possible, allowing them to be a part of that story. Oh, yeah, and doing it one point of view per scene per point-of-view character.”

“Hallelujah!” They got it. Most likely they had arrived at their destination or the train was just a little delayed. Their next journey would soon be on the other side of publication—at least for the book being pitched.

Those three questions allowed me to know, without fail, the level of story I would get when I read sample chapters.

You can imagine which authors were asked, and I should say that sometimes I almost begged, to submit their stories to me.

Point of view and deep point of view: remember those terms. I contend that they are 85% of story element because with an understanding of point of view comes the infusion of the other elements of storytelling. Yes, one point of view per scene is fantastic; understanding of that function of point of view is the beginning, but drawing me into the story is beyond marvelous. It doesn’t guarantee a contract, but it sure gets the interest of the editors, and I suspect a few agents would be grabbed as well.

When self-editing, examine your novel for deep point of view. If it is absent, you still have some work to do.

Happy editing.