Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Learning How to Weave Like Silas Marner on Crack...

If you've never read Silas Marner, well. Don't. But if you have, then you understand the reference.

I'm still bitter over having to make a loom for 10th grade honors English, if you can't tell.

Though my blanket turned out decent...

Anyway :)

A reader recently asked me to speak a little bit on the topic of weaving in our stories. Some of you might be crafty, sew-y type people...I am not, hence my inability to use or even spell those words correctly...but I get the general analogy ;)

Weaving plot threads together to make a beautiful tapestry of a story. That's the goal.

Think of a favorite afghan or something you have that's cozy and lovely and has several different colored threads in it. Imagine yourself picking out a, say purple thread, and following it with your eyes as it goes throughout the blanket.

That's the spiritual element of your story. It's there, all over the blanket, but you can watch where it goes and how it connects with the other colors of threads.

The red thread is the love element. It's woven intricately throughout the entire plot, always threading itself back around when it's back out for awhile.

The green thread is the theme, your overall message. This thread should be subtle, yet it's a powerful addition, offering it's own beauty.

See where I'm going with this?

Your book is made of several components, especially if you write Christian fiction that has a romance genre mixed in with another, like suspense or historical or whatever. You have to balance all those "colors" to make a beautiful tapestry. If you dumped all the red in one spot, it'd be chunky. Not delicate. If you dumped all the purple in one spot, it'd be preachy and clunky. Not seamless.

I'm assuming you're with me, whether you own a Singer or have ever woven on a loom (I don't' recommend it). So I'm going to go a little bit deeper here and talk about weaving on a "tighter" level.

What I discussed above is weaving the main components of your story. But you also have to weave the actual plot threads. Not the spiritual, romantic, or other threads that compose your structure, but rather, your specific plot lines that are unique to your story alone.

For example:

If your story is about a female firefighter who moves back to her hometown to help take care of her elderly grandma of whom she feels guilty and in debt to, and moves in next door to an overprotective single father rancher, who is struggling to relate to his pre-teen daughter and inaccurately blaming himself for the death of his wife years have to remember to keep all those elements flowing throughout the book. You can't go 15 chapters in, then suddenly remember "oh yeah, my heroine has family issues with her grandma" and then BAM - add in a quick paragraph addressing those. You need tidbits here and there SEVERAL times throughout the ENTIRE novel, intentionally weaving that thread. That way, when the heroine finally deals with the issue at hand, it's more climatic and the reader cares, instead of just suddenly receiving something left field and thinking "that was random". And not connecting to the emotion of the scene.

Make sense?

(and yes, shameless plug, that's a bit about my recent April release, The Rancher Next Door ;)  )

Weaving needs to be subtle, for the most part. Think subtext. Subtext and weaving go hand in hand.

Another example. If your hero has a phobia of heights, we need to know that in pieces (tidbits!) throughout the story. Build it up. That way when he saves her at the end of the novel atop a 20 story building, we'll be freaking out too and cheering him on, rather than saying "oh, he's afraid of heights? That sucks" and wondering why he doesn't just man up and grab a rope. We would have been on that fear journey with him for chapters already.


Weaving makes the reader connect and care. Bottom line. It also avoids "contrived" writing which editors hate. (contrived essentially meaning sudden, convenient, and unbelievable)

Remember, though, you need to weave the major plot points AS WELL AS the smaller/more subtle ones. The motivations, the conflicts, the goals.

Tapestry. Tapestry. Tapestry.

Any questions? :)

Now I'm cold. Pass the blankies.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Watchu Been up To?

I'm tired. Ya know why?

Normally I would give credit to this little person, but I just came off of 48 hours without her.

{Best selling author and my friend, Holley Gerth}

Forgive the fuzzy iPhone pictures, but these ladies are part of the reason I'm so tired.

{My writing mentor of 12 years, Suzie Eller.}

These women offered such great inspiration at the She Speaks conference--along with all the other genuinely helpful people--that I didn't want to miss a single session of the weekend for sleep.

So now that I'm home, I can catch up, right?


Watchu been up to lately?

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Best is Yet to Come

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the future. And not like the "where do you want to be in ten years" future, but the "every knee will bow" Revelation-style future. You know, the kind with the no more tears, no more sadness and the presence of Jesus right there in person.

It's the ultimate satisfying ending.

And I long for it. Oh how I long for it.

And all these thoughts made me think about my writing. I wondered - do my stories make people long for a satisfying ending?

Because really, that's all we want.

I think about the story that all other stories are based on. About the beginning and the perfect world that existed. About how evil entered it. And the great rescue was set into motion. I think about how the characters ached and groaned and spent years longing for their true home. I think about the Rescuer who promises to save His beloved.

It's the perfect plot.

We want our books to grab the reader - right from the beginning. We want to set up the plot, the conflict, the love story, the unanswered prayer. We want our characters to be unsettled, to need fulfillment, to be on the search for something.

Sort of like us.

Do you need inspiration? Need ideas? Look no farther than the original one. And I would highly encourage you - whether or not you have children - to pick up a copy of Sally Lloyd Jones' The Jesus Storybook Bible. The way she writes will send inspiration flooding all the way to your shoes.

What are your characters longing for?

Friday, July 26, 2013

More Conflict!

Another fun way to create conflict in your story is one you may have heard before. If you have, it's okay, hearing it again won't hurt you. ;) If you haven't, this is going to change. your. life. Or at least your writing life. Or your Friday afternoon. Something, anyway. =)

Think about your main character.

Think about the LAST thing they would do. Ever. Ever. Ever.


Now go make them do it.

Write a scene where your character does whatever it is that they would NEVER do. Even if you don't like it (but you probably will, believe it or not!) and don't want to include it in your story for real, just having written it will tell you a lot about your character and will bring up more conflicts so rich you'll be amazed. =)

So why are you still reading? Go! Write it! Then pop back and in and let us know if you like it--will you keep it to use in your story? Did it drive you crazy? Have you done this before and what did you think then?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

We all have a favorite episode...

We all have favorite episodes of our favorite shows, right?

Like in Big Bang Theory, where the guys have to camp out in line at the movie theater to see the re-release of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, with the so many seconds of extra footage at the end, but they end up not making it to the line in time to get in, so Sheldon, who grows tired of saying "I told you so" switches to "I informed you thusly" and ends up stealing the movie reels and running through town with an angry mob behind him...

Or like the Friends episode where Rachel gets the recipe pages stuck together, and makes half a Shepherd's Pie and have a dessert parfait....lady fingers and beef...bahahaha.

Or the episode of Gilmore Girls where Rory and Logan jump from the secret society platform in fancy clothes and umbrellas...

Yeah. We all have favorites :)

So, "episode" can be a good thing. But in your writing, if you ever see your editor or agent or critique partner use the word "episodic", watch out. That's NOT a good thing. :)

Episodic writing is, essentially, a scene that does nothing to move the story forward. I've been called out on this before from my Love Inspired editor in days past, and it took me a bit to catch on. Because to us, our characters are real, and they live and move and breathe. So it's really easy to just hang out with them on the page and maybe have them do something cute or funny or even dramatic, You know what I mean!! You've done it! :)

Now, that method of writing is fine when you're in the rough draft stage, and you're maybe trying to get to know your characters better. Sometimes having them banter back and forth or randomly go play a sport or go to the mall or something can help you learn more about them. That's GREAT! Just be sure to delete that "fluff" before you submit to a professional.

If you're not sure if a scene is episodic or not, ask yourself these questions.

Does this scene have a purpose in my overall plot line?
If I take this scene out, will there be any detriment or confusion to the reader at any point?
Does this scene reveal my character's motivation, goal, or conflict for the story?

If you have any questions about this, shoot!

And share some of your favorite TV episodes in the comments, just for fun!!  :)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Meanwhile, In Real Life...

I think sometimes in our writing, we're scared of conflict. You've probably been there. You KNOW you're supposed to torture them, to dangle what they want in front of them and then snatch it away (while going 'mwahahahahaha!'), but sometimes it's hard! Sometimes you just don't want to. When that happens, well, there's really nothing to do but get over it. It's what makes good fiction. ;)

But sometimes I think we shy away from adding more layers of conflict because we don't want to overcomplicate. We want people to think our stories are realistic, and who would believe it if we had TOO many conflicts for our characters?

Well, everybody, actually.

Novels that people like to read (um, for fun) are usually not just 'a day in the life' of someone. Ivan Denisovich comes to mind. Slow, slow read. Very literary and I actually liked it, but that's not 'beach reading' fiction, which I think is more what most of us are going for. Popular fiction. Not study-it-in-class fiction. If the second is your goal, more power to you. But for most of us, our novel is going to take place at a crossroads in someone's life. Something weird has happened, something crazy has happened, they WISH something weird or crazy would happen...something is going to change. It's what's causing our inciting incident and pushing our story forward.

And in real life, whenever ONE thing goes crazy, several things usually do.

You might think that your heroine losing her job is a lot of conflict. And it is. But if you REALLY want to amp up that conflict, add more. How is her family doing during this week she loses her job? Is someone sick? Does someone break an ankle or something? You're adding more conflict. Believable for most of us in everyday life? Maybe not. Believable for anyone who has had a TRULY crazy week ever? Yes. Most definitely.

So our poor heroine (moment of pity for her...) lost her job and her grandma broke her ankle. Rough week, right? In real life, would it always end there? No. Her dishwasher is also going to break that week. Her dog is going to run away (thankfully, he comes back, because though I write suspense and may kill of people in my writing, the dog is ALWAYS okay.). Then the dog is going to chew up her favorite pair of shoes. Our heroine will toss them into the trash and take her trash to the curb only to discover that the trash men are already half a mile past her house and she has to keep her stinky trash for another week....

See how real life should be sometimes for our characters? Maybe no one will believe it if you give your character every HUGE issue that has ever existed to work through all in the course of your book. But you can layer big problems with little ones and pretty soon even something like dropping one of her favorite coffee mugs and breaking it is going to lead your character to a huge emotional crisis.

So are you good at conflict in your stories? Can you add in any more layers?

And if you're having one of those crazy weeks, sorry about that. But write it down--it could come in handy for a book one day. ;)

Sarah (Whose week has not been NEARLY as crazy as the made-up heroine in this post, although her oldest son has been sick, she's a million years behind on laundry, and her kitchen looks like someone should declare it a natural disaster zone...)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A conferencin' we will go....

I totally missed Wednesday, so let's just pretend it's not Thursday, k? :)

But I think we're all having trouble posting this week apparently!

And if this never sends, it's because there's a crazy mad thunder storm outside, and I lost power.


I told someone earlier in the week I'd post this week on conferences! So here we go. Here's their comment -

Can we talk about conferences a little more? I'm getting ready to register for ACFW and I'm stressing a bit. How do you decide about appointments - should I meet with an editor? Or just an agent and a mentor? Also, can someone explain what a "one-sheet" is supposed to look like? 

First of all - WOOHOO for going to a conference! You will so not be disappointed. I read a post from Chip MacGregor today ( that was really encouraging and helpful for first time conference attendees. Y'all glean from that real quick after you finish here!  :)

Secondly, ACFW is one of the best conferences you can attend, in every way. It has a little bit of everything ( - networking opportunities, craft courses, amazing friendship building potential, heartfelt worship, a fancy gala award night, a bit of downtown for socializing, delicious food, and, of course, Starbucks in the hotel. That's a prerequisite for finding a hotel location. No, I'm not kidding. I know the coordinator. LOL.

Thirdly, don't stress. It's too fun at conference to be nervous or scared or stressed out :)

Fourthly (is that a word?) About appointments - if you're brand new to the industry and are pitching your first book, I wouldn't suggest meeting with an editor unless you are really confident your proposal is solid, and your writing is publication ready. That's sort of rare coming out of the gate, even if you've hired a freelance editor (though that definitely helps) I'm not saying DON'T meet with an editor, because its' great experience and they'll give you constructive advice whether they like your submission or not (and of course, it totally COULD be a gateway!) I'm just saying don't choose an editor appointment OVER an agent or mentor appointment if you have to make the choice. Because they'll be more beneficial to you at this stage. If you can finagle all 3, score! :)

As for one sheets, they need to represent your book in theme/mood with a quality photo, your author photo, your bio, and a brief summary (think query letter style) of your book. With, of course, a catchy hook or tag line at the top by your title :) There's a ton of samples out there on the internet if you just google.

If you have questions, let me know! :)  I love conference chat!

Friday, July 12, 2013


That was supposed to be a combination of "Friday" and "Inspiration" but now it just kind of reminds me of perspiration, which isn't what I was going for. Hmmm....

Food for writing thought for your weekend:

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. -Ernest Hemingway

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. -Ben Franklin

You fail only if you stop writing. -Ray Bradbury

I needed some writing quotes for the day! It's my writing time (AKA, my boys' naptime), so I'm getting geared up to do my secret weapon (haha, yoga) and then see if I can meet my wordcount goal for today!

Which of these three quotes grabs you the most? I think I've needed the encouragement from all of them at different stages of my writing. Which do you like? Are there other writing quotes you love?

While I was searching for these I actually found a TON by Ernest Hemingway that I liked, which I thought was fun. (PS. If you're an English major like me and hating Hemingway because he's kind of a chauvinist, I learned that his mom dressed him as a girl when he was a kid, so seriously, I don't blame him anymore...)

What are you thoughts on these quotes? Happy Friday! Write something this weekend! Or do like our friend Ben said and do some living that you can incorporate into your writing later. =)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Deadline hangover

I'm here!

I think!

I'm still trying to adjust to the light.

I was up 'til 1:45 the past few mornings writing furiously for my new deadline with Zondervan, and well, I'm on a deadline hangover. I have no other words to describe it. Because they're all (my words, that is) now in a document on my editor's desk.

But I'm here!

I think!

What is everyone up to? How's everyone's writing and projects going? :) Anyone have any questions? I need a topic to write about for you sweet people. I feel a little out of the loop, like I haven't been around this blog for years instead of a few weeks.

Why is the sun so BRIGHT????

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Trusting His Dream for You

The dude looks me straight in the eyes. "You are one confused child."

Not the words you want to hear when someone's evaluating your college transcript.

But how do you explain to a career counselor that despite dropping your major, you really had a legitimate plan? That you've dreamed about this plan since you were 5? That your heart hurts for kids who hurt? Kids in remote places? Kids who would otherwise never get medical care?

But your own body--oh the irony--refuses to heal itself.

10 years of autoimmune disease, and I can't believe it's turning out this way.

"I need to quit my major. Again." I almost spit the words.

He doesn't even try to disguise the eye-rolling.

Three times in three semesters. Three strikes; I'm out. Three minutes of weeping in my mother's arms (how lame is that for a 21-year-old?) and I realize--I'm undone. 
I know it's hard, Honey. You can go to college from home (whooppeeee!). You can major in communications. (A.k.a. Talking?)

And who am I supposed to talk to during these three years? My toothbrush?

Funny what changing your major to communications does to a person. I curl up in my chair at home. And I begin to communicate.

(Start a blog? Who does that?)

I write to kids who are struggling. Kids in remote places. Kids who  Kids who might not otherwise hear the truth. Kids who... I realize... have been my God-sized dream all along.

Eventually I meet another writer. She introduces me to an agent. The agent introduces me to a publisher. The publisher introduces me to what's only the next step in this God-sized dream.

And once again--I am undone. That the giver of Dreams is not confused by the transcript. He simply rewrote it.

And if I have learned one thing through all of this, it is that His ways are higher. And in the end, He does all things well.

Reprinted from

Bekah Hamrick Martin writes about life, love, and God-sized dreams on her blog, The Bare Naked Truth. She also writes about waiting for the right guy in her book, The Bare Naked Truth: Dating, Waiting & God's Purity Plan.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Because sometimes you just need a good book.

My brain has been mushy lately because I'm planning a certain little boy's third birthday this Saturday, so I thought it would be fun if we did a little "What are you reading right now?" day!

Lately I have been reading:

Evidence of Mercy by Terri Blackstock - awesome book. Love Terri's suspenseful ways!

Rescue Team by Candace Calvert - I loved this medical drama! It made me very thankful I wasn't a nurse, however.

Lots of books about dinosaurs and horses. But I won't list those here. ;)

What have you been reading??

P.S. If you need something to read, our lovely Betsy St. Amant's novel, Addison Blakely: Confessions of a PK, is only $1.99 on Kindle or in other ebook formats! ;)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Writing Prompt! Settings...

Setting, in my opinion at least, is one of the most fun parts of writing a story! I didn't understand this when I first started writing. Most of what I wrote was set it some random town that could have been anywhere in America, and probably anywhere in a western country, for that matter. When I went to my first ACFW conference, waaaaay back in 2005 when I was a sophomore in college, I went to a class about setting that was taught by Colleen Coble and some other writers. She said that your setting should be SO integral to your story that you shouldn't be able to change settings without your story falling apart.

Okay, that's a really extreme view of setting. Not everyone thinks that's right. I tend to lean that way for things I write, because it helps me. This is just my friendly disclaimer saying it doesn't HAVE to be that way. =)

So. Setting. Think about it and how it adds to your story. You can use the setting to say so much, to set the mood, almost to be its own character in some situations.

Here's your writing prompt for the weekend. Look at the following setting/genre pairings and think about how you'd write a story with them. Or, for bonus points (haha, bonus points on what I'm not actually write a few paragraphs, maybe the opening ones, for a story using them. They don't GO together per se...It's easier to set a horror story in a dark, creepy haunted house at night on Friday the 13th, but sometimes it's fun to play with opposite settings and see how even THIS can impact your story and make it even stronger. Make sense? Whether your setting makes sense or not, I guess is what I'm saying, it should be INTENTIONAL and it should contribute to what you're doing in your story in some way, even if that's to create a contrast to the events of your story.

Ready? Here you go!

A FAIR (Think bright lights, happy colors, cotton candy, and giggling children). Use this setting for heavy, issue-y women's fiction.

A GARDEN (Think of a city park or something. Peaceful, serene, full of flowers. Maybe there's a river flowing through it an an artist painting something in a corner). Use this setting for romantic suspense or straight-up suspense.

A HOSPITAL WAITING ROOM (Think stark white, blue vinyl chairs, people crying. Lots of tissues.) Use this setting for romance or chick-lit, whichever floats your boat because chick-lit Is. Not. Dead. At least not to me. ;)

So think about it! And if you're feeling inspired and brave, post the opening paragraph for each of these! =)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Writing Prompt: Pass the Bayer, Please

I can't say I wasn't warned. In fact, everyone warned me. "Buy a backup," they said, "in case this one gets lost."

What was the thing going to do? Walk away? And who was going to steal it? There was more of a risk that it would be mistaken for trash and thrown away.

In fact, that's exactly what I thought had happened three weeks ago. 

The realtor was showing our house last-minute so I had to get the baby and the dog out the door right away. 

Our sweet salesperson picked up some things before showing the house, and one of those things… disappeared.

My child's attachment item.

I spent the entire night on the phone with the realtor, tearing the house apart. No one had seen Bear (pronounced "Bayer" by my child; I always think she's asking for an aspirin). 

Panic ensued (I'm talking about myself of course) and I ran a marathon to seven different stores with no look-alike Bayer to be found.

I finally convinced the baby to accept a rogue Bayer, and eventually she stopped mentioning her beloved. Until last Tuesday, when she opened the coffee table drawer and calmly said, "Bayer". Then she promptly closed the drawer.

It's too late. She's bonded with the ugly store-brand replacement. The expensive discontinued model lies rejected in the bowels of the coffee table.

But the good news is, the store-brand is made in China. And as we all know, there are three million of them at the local Wal-Mart.

I just bought them all.


Writing prompt: What's the most beloved thing in your life? What would you do if it disappeared? 


Bekah Hamrick Martin is a Scribble Chick who can be reached at, unless she's finding a storage place for a lot of Bayers. 

You can purchase a copy of her book at any local retailer, or online. Or you could buy 10 or 20 copies for your closest friends and family, because the author profits go to a good cause (ending sex trafficking).

Monday, July 1, 2013

This post will just make that chair indent a little bit bigger.

So, one of the worst things about writing is how it is SO easy to snack while you're doing it.

It might also be one of the best things.

And honestly, there is a lot of good that can come from a bit of snacking. Need a second to think? Just grab whatever you're eating and munch a little bit. Got a scene coming up that needs a dash of excitement? It's a great time for a little mini sugar rush then!

So, without further ado, I've compiled a list of some of my favorite writing snacks. My sincere apologies to your waistline.

* Sweet Tea - this is a must. I brew it with seven black tea bags and one chai tea bag. Then I add sugar, a pinch of baking soda (saw this little "trick" on Pinterest to remove some of the bitterness) and ice water. Oh. It's amazing.

* Vanilla Wafers - I love these. We really love the Sprouts brand.

* Pretzels and onion dip. On the rare day that I'm not feeling the need for something sweet, this is a great option.

* Good old fashioned chocolate. I tell myself this is a healthy option. Antioxidants, you know.

* Fruit. This is really the healthy option. I really love apples and peanut butter or chopped up melons.

* Coffee. Iced or hot depending on the temperature, but this is another must. Really, I just alternate between tea and coffee. Got to mix it up, you know. ;)

* And, if it's just been one of those days, I'll make some homemade chocolate chip cookies before settling in to write. Because really. Can you put a price - or a calorie limit - on making your word count for the day?

Do you snack while you're writing? And if you do, what are your favorite writing snacks??