Wednesday, February 26, 2014

An author, a giveaway, and a blast from the past....

Alicia Willis is an author and a loyal Scribble Chicks reader. We're so blessed to have her hanging around and contributing with advice and support and prayers and questions. We love our readers!

SO - to show our appreciation, we're featuring Alicia today and her novel Remember the Alamo, available via Amazon Digital Services, that released February 23. 

Here's the summary of the story!

When Pastor Mark Siegler takes his youth group on a midsummer vacation to San Antonio, he anticipates teaching them about honor and sacrifice at the Alamo. But arrival at the historic landmark brings cutting disillusionment. A troubled teen is determined to make things difficult - and spread his embitterment to the rest of the group. 

Mark has two choices: give up or try again. Midst his own discouragement, he decides to give them the story behind the legendary Alamo. And his perseverance results in the unforgettable.

The sweeping events of the Alamo comes to life through the eyes of an 1800's wheelwright named Silas Edwards. As his tale unfolds, his decision becomes a difficult one. Is defending the Alamo so important? Or are the principles behind opposing General Santa Anna worth sacrificing everything for?

Join Private Silas Edwards, David Crockett, William Travis, and Mark's youth group to discover the gripping events behind America's battlecry: "Remember the Alamo!"

And here's a little more about Alicia:

Alicia Willis is a homeschool graduate and avid historian. When not writing or doing endless historical research, she enjoys being a church pianist, teaching music, sing
ing, and playing volleyball. Her other passions include working in her church and spreading the love of Jesus Christ. She also manages a monthly e-newsletter entitled "Little Corners". Be sure to like her FB page for updates:

To visit her at her website or sign up to receive her newsletter, navigate over

Alicia is awesome and is doing a giveaway today as well of her book! So, if you'd like to enter, simply leave a comment here on this blog post. Then, you can leave a second comment stating that you have fanned Alicia's page on Facebook. Be sure to put what your FB name is so she can double check :) 

And THEN, if you want a third entry to up  your chances even more, add Alicia's novel on Goodreads to your handy dandy to-read shelf and let her know in the comments below. Lots of shots to win! :)

The book is available HERE on Amazon if you can't wait for a giveaway! (Check it out!)

AND you can learn more about Alicia at the below links 

Congrats, Alicia Willis! We are so proud of you!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Carving out the time

So sorry for missing my post last week!

About two weeks ago, I had to be hospitalized for contractions since I was only 34 weeks at the time, which is still a little early for baby boy to come. Thankfully, I was able to go home the next evening but I had to take this awful medicine to keep the contractions away that made my legs swell up anytime I was up for more than 10 minutes at a time.

I've been a little distracted lately. ;) I'm trying to make sure I have everything done that needs to be done, especially now that I've been taken off the medicine (yay!) and cleared for labor ( double yay!). I started with a list about 47 items long that needed to be taken care of before our little guy gets here and we're down to just the last few - thanks in most part to my amazing husband.

Soooo...all that to say, I've gotten little to no writing done in the last couple of weeks because even though "bed rest" sounded to me like "lay around and write all day", I was way too busy trying to get everything else done that I could in the sitting position (like folding laundry and finishing up baby blankets and such).

I'm hoping to get back to working on my WIP this afternoon during my son's rest time because I would really love to finish it before little brother comes!!

Anyone else out there trying to get back into writing after an extended break? Here's a quick list on how to get back into the swing of the story!

1. Read back through the last couple of chapters you wrote.
Nothing gets me back into the voice or mood of the story like reading back through it. Plus, it helps jog my memory on the little details (his eyes are blue, her dad's name is Gene, all those things).

2. Start when you are rested and ready.
Sometimes this isn't as practical as other times (I feel like lately I've been fighting sleep anytime I sit down!). But it really is best if you can start back into it when you have a good amount of time to devote to it. Writing a sentence or two at a time is going to make your writing feel choppy to the reader.

3. Think through where you want the story to go.
I don't outline and so sometimes I can get very forgetful of where I was taking the story before I stopped working on it. There are times when it can be more productive to spend a day or two thinking through where you want the story to go instead of actually writing. That way, when you really sit down to write, you have a plan of action instead of floundering around.

I hope these tips are helpful for you (and for me, since that's what I'm doing today)! What is your advice for getting back into writing after a break?

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Perfect Pace

Ah, pacing. It's one of those things that either comes pretty naturally to a writer, or that you really have to work at. But if you're one of the second group, you do have to work at it because it's important. Really important.

Pacing is kind of like a book's secret ingredient. Readers don't always know what it is, it's not always something they can identify, it's just that little something that made the book even better (or made a good book not quite as satisfying). This means that whether it comes naturally to you or not, it's something you're going to have to learn how to do and how to do well so that readers will be hooked on how you write and keep coming back to you and demanding new books like I do on facebook with some of my author friends. Haha.

I read a fabulous recently. Fabulous. Seriously. The whole time I was gushing to my hubby (who was trying to watch the Olympics since apparently watching them is its own sport in our house) about the character transformation, and the unique premise of this book, and I went on and on and on.

And then I kind of quit talking. Thankfully this wasn't a kindle book, so the ending didn't take me by surprise since I could see the pages that were left, but there were so many hits for the characters RIGHT at the end of the book. And not just your token misunderstanding before the hero and heroine got together. But BIG, life changing kind of hits. And the book did resolve and give me the happily-ever-after I'd been hoping for, but can I be honest? By the end I was kind of out of breath. I felt like the pacing at the end had gotten really rushed. I thought about it for the next few hours and even days, and I stuck with my first impression. I think, at the end, the pacing was off.

The nice thing is, as a writer I do understand. I starting thing about what the editing process must have been like and I realized that this author didn't really have anything that could have been cut earlier in the book that would have given the extra wordcount to lengthen the ending a little. So maybe that's why it was rushed. Who knows. It was still a fabulous book. If I'd been judging it for any kind of contest, I'd have given it a 9.8, maybe a 9.9. THAT is how good it was (and I tend to be kind of critical!). But if the pacing had felt right at the end? It would have been a perfect 10. Perfect.

Now, pacing is also subjective, okay? So not everyone has the same kind of preferences. My book comes out in three months, and you know what? Probably, someone out there is going to think my pacing could have been better. Maybe in ten years I'll re-read it and agree with them. But right now? I love how the pacing is and wouldn't change a thing. So, we do all have differences of opinion and that's okay. It's art. Art is subjective....

To a degree. If you have a romance and your characters are apart until your last sentence (not a series or anything, just a stand alone book) and there's no hint they're in love up until that point, no hints at their happily ever after, your pacing is probably off. If you have a classic romance and your characters have two-hundred pages of happily ever after with no conflict at all? Your pacing is off.

Now look at your manuscript. Let's talk about it in chapters, okay? What are your personal pacing preferences for your book? How many chapters of happily-ever-after do your characters get (if it's a romance or that's applicable in some way)? How many chapters are left in the book when your character has his/her black moment and all hope is totally lost? I'd love to hear some of y'alls! And don't worry--this one's different for everybody. I've heard people speak on this at writing conferences, and what they say helps, but seriously, if there were ever a rule that was "more like a guideline" (slight Pirates of the Caribbean paraphrase there for you...), it's pacing.

What are you thoughts?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

25 Advanced Writing Tips

Love what I found at the website above! Check this out guys :)

101 of the Best Fiction Writing Tips, Part III

  1. When writing scenes, you have five tools: action, dialogue, interior monologue, interior emotion, and description. Walking, Chewing Gum, and Fiction Writing. Advanced Fiction Writing
  2. Don’t care too much about what others think of your writing. You’ll always have fans and foes. Stephen King’s Top 7 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer. The Positivity Blog
  3. Struggling with your writing can actually lead you a new level of awareness, and potential breakthroughs. Top Ten Writing Tips to Help You Write More. Angela Booth
  4. Ask yourself what might make a grumpy agent put down your manuscript. 3 Storytelling Exercises That Can Get You Published. Storyfix
  5. Not sure which POV to use? Write a couple of pages in different points of view, then compare. 42 Fiction Writing Tips for Novelists. Writing Forward
  6. Christian fiction maintains certain standards, but not everything can or should be sanitized. When Loathesome Characters Say Despicable Things. Novel Rocket
  7. A strong protagonist needn’t be likeable, but must be relatable. What the Fiction Editor Looks For, Part I. Rachelle Gardner
  8. Be careful of ‘bunny trails’—tangents that don’t enhance the story or lead anywhere. What the Fiction Editor Looks For, Part II. Rachelle Gardner
  9. Too much imagery makes for sensory overload. It’s like hitting your reader over the head. Two Signs of Overwriting and Why It’s a Problem. Kidlit
  10. There’s no such thing as an overnight success story. Writing good fiction is hard work, and always will be. There’s No Such Thing As an Overnight Success Story. Nathan Bransford
  11. Every sentence of your story must reveal character or advance action. Kurt Vonnegut’s Tips for Writing Fiction. Lifehacker
  12. Good ideas are awesome, but don’t be afraid to murder a good idea with an even better one. Ten Rules for Writing Fiction, Part I. Guardian
  13. Description works best when it’s not ornamental or seen from the eye of God, but when it comes from a character viewpoint. Ten Rules for Writing Fiction, Part II. Guardian
  14. Readers are smart and good at filling in gaps. Are you telling too much? Filling in too much? Ten Editing Tips for Your Fiction Mss. Margaret Atwood
  15. Be careful of creating two characters who look, act, and/or sound too much alike. 8 Ways Your Story Needs to Be Tweaked. Victoria Mixon
  16. Theme shouldn’t come from what characters intellectually talk about, but from what they feel. Theme: Don’t Get Down in the Dumps. Nail Your Novel
  17. Keep a binder for all the research you do for your novel, so you can refer back to it as you write. 4 Tips for Researching a Novel. Author Jody Hedlund
  18. Sometimes the scenes you don’t want to write (because they make you uncomfortable) are the scenes you most need to write. The Secrets and Revelations of  a Powerful Middle Act. Tribal Writer
  19. If you’re having trouble finishing your book, cut down on other obligations and focus solely on that one project. 8 Things I Did to Help Me Complete My First Book. Write to Done
  20. The five building blocks of your characters’ personalities are childhood, relationships, livelihood, pastimes and outlook. 5 Building Blocks of Your Character’s Personality. Daily Writing Tips
  21. To strengthen your prose and deepen POV, avoid filter words wherever possible. Filter Words and Distancing Point of View. Let the Words Flow
  22. Don’t miraculously resurrect your protagonist from the dead unless it’s integral to the plot or theme. How to Kill Your Protagonist Without Killing Your Fan Base. Writer’s Relief
  23. To help you stay motivated, keep a journal of your achievements—large and small. The 3 Notebooks Ever Writer Should Keep. Better Writing Habits
  24. Whether you’re an experienced writer or not, your manuscript probably needs more work, even when you think your it’s good enough. Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda. Allison Winn Scotch
  25. In the opening scene, give your protagonist strong emotions with which we can identify. 12 Dos and Don’ts for Introducing Your Protagonist. Anne R. Allen

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

14 Ways to Keep from Overwhelming Your Reader (Ba-Ha)

This week I let the chores go. 

There. I said it. I sat on the couch and held my swollen-eyed two-year-old (in-between watching her dress the dog in my clothes).

Currently I have six dire situations calling to me, not the least of which is, dog hair so thick it could be mistaken for a mink coat.

I. Am. Overwhelmed.

Know the feeling?

That’s how your reader feels when you give her too much information in one sitting. For instance, if you’re writing a magazine article about 14 Ways to Love Your Husband.

Um... 14? Could you give me two? Or three?

And maybe you could narrow it down even more? Like, three ways to have a sexy marriage?

Just sayin’. ‘Cause right now, if I could have two or three ways to make this house feel like it’s not on the verge of being condemned... I’d be all over that.

Suggestions, please?

Bekah Hamrick Martin is a national speaker and the author of The Bare Naked Truth: Dating, Waiting & God’s Purity Plan (Zondervan, 2013). Most of all, she’s Ethan’s wife and Zoey’s mom.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hola, bonjour, hallo, ciao!

Last week, an awesome reader asked - "How far is too far when incorporating an accent into characters?"

This is a great question, because nothing kills a mood in a story faster than wading through text full of words that aren't easily pronounced. Your goal when incorporating accents into a story is to get the reader to hear the character's voice, not be distracted by it.

This can be a tricky balance, but there are several do's and don't's that I think will help. The only real accented character I've ever created is Marta, who is Addison Blakely's best friend in ADDISON BLAKELY, CONFESSIONS OF A PK. (My 2012 YA release with Barbour Books)

Marta was an exchange student from Germany, and a good friend and voice of reason for Addison. Because of her role in the story, her words/dialogue were very crucial. I needed the reader to really hear her point and hear her accent without letting it get carried away.

Here's some of the guidelines I made for myself, based on info given to me in the past through writer's conferences/courses, and based on what I gleaned just by reading novels where the accent was either a success or epic fail.

1. Set the stage up front, then BACK OFF. It's okay to come on a little strong with the accent on the character's first or second appearance in the story. This is setting the stage or establishing the accent/tone of their voice in the reader's head. Then the hard part is this - trusting them to get it, letting go, and not incorporating it NEARLY as often after that.

2. Don't use full lines of italics to show the accent. Italicize a word or two here and there, but keep the rest of the dialogue in regular English. Pick and choose your battles here. LESS IS MORE. In Germany, they say "ja" a lot, instead of "yeah" or "yes". So Marta got to say that a lot, especially at the front of her dialogue blocks, to keep the accent fresh, but that's a tiny word that doesn't distract and isn't hard to say. It reminded the reader periodically to hear her accent without forcing it on them.

3. Be sure you get the language right. If you're giving your character a foreign language or accent, make sure you're getting it correct. Don't just translate from one quick source on the internet or take your friend's word for it - double check because a lot can be lost in translation. You don't want to confuse or offend any readers who might actually be German (or whatever your case might be)

4. There's nothing worse than trying to read through a paragraph of text and having to go slowly because you are struggling to sound out the words or understand what you're reading. (ever tried to read the genealogy in the Old Testament? ::wink::) Too much accent or dialect (dialect is more along the lines of slang rather than an actual foreign language) is burdensome and heavy and confusing to the reader.

An example of dialect:
In the south - "y'all" "fixin' to" etc.

Again, using these words sparingly (I do when I talk every day. Ha. Louisiana girl right here!) is great and sets the stage for your character. But generally speaking, when you have to use too many italics or apostrophe's to write your sentence, it's crossing a line.

Any questions? ;)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Taking Care of You

I've never read a book three times within seven months... until now.

This is the second time in 2014 alone that I've reread Renewed.

I've never met the author (but we're Facebook friends--does that make me awesome?!), yet I feel like she knows me.

My exhaustion. My thin moments. My frantic scrambling to get it all together...

I decided yesterday after reading chapter one to make time for me today. To soak in the small moments. To take a step away from my calendar and the tasks in front of me... and enjoy relationship.

I can't even begin to tell you how God met me today. And how much more productive I was, despite sacrificing what I thought was essential time to get things done. (My to-do list is still accomplished, and with a much lighter heart.)

I encourage you to get this book. Most of us want to practice good self-care, but we don't have the practicals on how to get there.

Enjoy the small things. Savor them. And know that you will be an even better wife, mom, sister, daughter, writer... if you know how to take care of you.

Friday, February 7, 2014

When You Need to be Done Editing...

I may have shared this with you already, but I have just-met-my-deadline-early-brain and it's all I can think of. So bear with me.

I have a secret that tells me when I'm finished with a round of edits. Ready? Brace yourself.

When I dislike everything about my story and think it's all utterly horrible and the file should be deleted from all computers everywhere...I know I'm done editing for the time being.

I'm serious! Here's my basic pattern.

Sarah's Crazy Editing Steps...

1. Get edits back. Think "that's no problem."
2. Start making changes.
3. Smile. The story is a lot better with these changes.
4. Frown at the computer. Start to wonder if I'm making more changes than my editor asked for.
5. Start being irritated by 99% of what I've written. Seriously? Was this story written by a 1st grader???
6. Decide the story is terrible.
7. Question my calling and wonder if I should have picked a different dream job.
8. Recognize what I'm doing and realize it's just time to be done editing.

And then I send it in. Yep. Seriously. When I start to think about changing every detail (especially if this is a story that's contracted, which clearly someone liked enough as it was to do that...) I know I'm done.

And while I really wondered if that was weird on my first round of contracted-book-edits, I knew it was okay when it happened this time, because you know what happened after I sent it off that first time, with my first book? I got more edits back. I went through the whole cycle again. Then sent it in. After line edits and all of that were done and I was doing my final read through, you know what? I loved that story. LOVED it. The whole thing. In a completely non-full-of-myself-way, I was so happy that I wrote it (and that my fabulous editor made it a zillion times better!).

So it didn't bother me too much this time when I reached Sarah's Crazy Editing Steps #6 and #7. Because I knew it was time to send it in. And that a few short months from now, I will love the finished product.

The moral of this story? Know when to quit. Know when you've done all you can and it's time to let someone else's eyes have a turn to comb over your story. And don't quit or delete things, or go crazy. After all, we're writers. Anything weird is pretty normal, right? =)

How do you know when you're done editing?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

An honest plea...

Hey guys,

Need prayer today. It's an important day, and I can't really go into details right now, except to ask that God's will be done today in all that concerns my daughter and my situation right now. I want nothing more than His will, His plan, His best for her - and for me - and for Him to walk with me through this time.

PLEASE pray for wisdom for those involved and making these decisions for us and about us, and for peace and joy through this journey that WILL eventually end. Eventually.

Thank you! I'll share more when I can. I know so many of you truly care about my storm right now, and that blesses my heart to no end. You guys are the best.


~ Betsy

PS - I'll be back next week with an update, even if it has to be a vague one, and hopefully a tip or two on writing. Anyone have any requests or topics they'd like addressed? :)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Loose ends

Today, I listened to my three-year-old son fight with the two-year-old girl we watch a few days a week and it went something like this:

SON: You can be a superhero with me. You have to use your imagination.
GIRL: I don't have an imagination.
SON: Yes you do because my mom says that everyone has an imagination. All boys have imaginations, all girls have imaginations. Everyone does.
GIRL: Well I don't.

And it kind of dissolved from there. ;) Poor girl had zero idea what Nathan was talking about since she's still very much in a tangible stage. If she can see it, she has it. She has a cup, she has a backpack, she has shoes. Imagination? Not so much.

Are you stuck in a tangible phase? Both as a reader and as a writer?

The final book to my Paige series is releasing this April and like the other two series I've written with NavPress, I do leave a few ends loose. As a reader, I like when a series ends and I know the basics of what's going to happen to a character but not the whole story. It gives me enough information to use my imagination and figure out what happened next. 

How do you like to end your novels? How do you like to end the novels you've read? And why do you think you gravitate to that option?