Conquer Writer’s Block

Attention all aspiring authors. I loved this book! I used the advice in the pages of  The Story Template, by Amy Deardon to create a detailed and expanded outline for what I think is my best plot ever. I have drama, I have tension, and I have a usable structure to pin it all on so I can concentrate on weaving words into story. If you want to read a couple of excerpts of the story I created using The Story Template, visit charlene-amsden.com.

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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

 

Today’s Wild Card author is:

 

 

and the book:

 

The Story Template: Conquer Writer’s Block Using the Universal Structure of Story

Taegais Publishing, LLC (July 25, 2011)

***Special thanks to Amy Deardon for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Amy Deardon is married with two children, and spends much time taking care of her family. In her life BC (before children) she was a scientist who did bench research. She is also a Christian who came to faith under protest through studying the historic circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus.

Amy has written one novel, A LEVER LONG ENOUGH, about a small military team that travels back in time to film the theft of Jesus’ body from the tomb. This book won two awards.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

THE STORY TEMPLATE is a programmed learner that allows the writer to develop her story from chaos. The book uses a series of exercises for the writer to construct her story’s four foundational pillars; learn how to use the “secret weapon” of story structure: the story template; build character depth and believable change; and construct subplots. THE STORY TEMPLATE then reviews writing techniques, and finishes with discussions of editing, writing the synopsis and query letter, submitting one’s work to agents, and types of publishing that the writer may wish to pursue.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.95
Paperback: 260 pages
Publisher: Taegais Publishing, LLC (July 25, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0981899730
ISBN-13: 978-0981899732

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Writing a novel or screenplay sounds like a great idea until you sit down to start. Where do you start? Many different methods exist to write the story, ranging from extensive preplanning to venturing onto the first page without an idea. This book describes an approach to developing story–laid out as a sequential series of exercises to facilitate implementation–that you can use whether you prefer a structured or loose approach to writing. You can use it at the start to develop an idea fragment, or later to rescue a partial or completed manuscript that doesn’t seem to be working. The method works whether you want to write plot-driven (genre) or character-driven (literary) stories. It enables you to efficiently use your time and creativity by breaking down the process of story building into a logical plan. You will not waste time sitting at your keyboard, wondering what you should write and how you can organize your ideas into a complete manuscript.

The idea for this book originated from my own learning process in producing a novel. Having written scientific articles, newspaper columns, and other nonfiction, when I decided to write a novel I was surprised by how difficult it was to get the words down. I tried outlining, and I tried just going ahead. I had wonderful ideas, but although the scenes I wrote were exciting the story itself often seemed somehow “wrong.” I threw out more pages than I care to remember. Through sheer grit I finished the novel, but when I thought about writing another my heart sank. I decided to first solve the problem of understanding how story worked.

I chose twenty entertaining, modern novels in different genres, and fifteen more-or-less recent films (and I’ve since confirmed my preliminary observations with tens of more stories). One at a time, I took them apart: I made a list of each scene, then did a word count or timed the scene, calculated percentages and other statistics, and graphed each story onto a five page chart. I studied each story’s progression, then compared the progressions of different stories to determine common pathways. I also read all that I could on constructing stories. The writing how-to literature was heavy on techniques (plotting, point of view, characterization, dialogue)–all of which are important–but there wasn’t much on blending it all together. Screenwriting how-to books were stronger on structure, but still didn’t give me all I needed.

I studied story after story, puzzling out how they were built. First, I identified elements called story posts, and found that these posts fell reliably within the timing of the whole. Then I found consistent trends of progression in the plot, as well as consistent trends of development and interactions in the characters. My biggest surprise, in fact, was finding just how unvarying were the underlying levels of the story. I also identified a unit of story construction I call a “bubble” that bridges the gap between the high concept ideas for the story and individual scenes.

Once I had my background knowledge, I coached students to develop their stories, and thereby constructed an algorithm for the practical application of this theory.

So, what is this “story template” that is the title of this book? Is this a formula or blueprint you can mindlessly follow, like a paint-by-numbers canvas?

In a word, no. I like to call what I found a template since it describes the shape or progression, on a deep level, of virtually all stories. Recognizing this pattern in a story is something I liken to sketching a face. An artist will tell you that a person’s eyes are about halfway down the head, and are separated by another eye width. The bottom of the nose is halfway between the eyes and the chin, the mouth is proportionally between the nose and the chin and extends to imaginary vertical lines drawn below the eyes’ pupils, the tips of the ears hit about eyelid level, earlobe tips at bottom-nose level, and on and on. Faces are infinitely varied, yet if the artist ignores these rough proportions, no matter how carefully sketched the face will always look “wrong.” Similarly, you will use the template to ensure that your story elements are proportionally correct and all present. The template gives you a guide, but never dictates, what you can write.

Getting the story shape right is the first, and (in my opinion) the hardest step to writing a gripping novel or screenplay. Without good structure, the story tends to meander without a point: although it may have high action, it is characterized by low tension.

You may want to first read this entire book to get an overview of story before starting with the exercises. Keep in mind that shaping a story is intensive work, and it will take you weeks or even months to get your story organized. This is normal. Don’t get discouraged, and don’t skimp on the exercises. Take your time to thoroughly work through each step. At the end, your story will be much stronger, and the actual writing will go like a dream.

This book is not sufficient for producing a finished story ready for publication or production. You will need to master further writing techniques such as characterization, description, dialogue, transitions, editing, etc. I will touch upon a few of these to give you some direction, but the only way to get really good is to practice. Fortunately, many excellent books are available for help. See Appendix One to start.
Outline of The Plan

I like to use the metaphor of constructing a house to envision building a story. To assemble a house, you move from larger to smaller elements to sequentially put something together. Only after you have worked through many tasks is it finally time to do the fine details of painting the windowsills and installing the wallpaper. Similarly, while you have ideas about character arcs and plot twists, and maybe you’ve even written some scenes, you will be well served to develop a direction before writing through your manuscript. If you write your first draft as the ideas occur to you, then this will comprise your story planning. You’ll find that you probably don’t have enough material to form an entire novel or screenplay, and even if you do it may not hang together. Believe me, this is a laborious and frustrating way to go.

The Story Template gives a series of actions for you to do that will allow you to develop your story ideas with a minimum of angst and wasted energy. Some exercises will be quick, others will require a great deal of thought, and perhaps even a marination of thought, before finishing. Don’t be in a rush–some of your best ideas will come as you play with character or event possibilities. As you continue to develop your story you will probably revisit different components of these exercises, going back and changing previous work, as you move through this programmed story outliner. That’s okay. Just go with the flow, and have fun.

When you’ve finished with these exercises, you will be ready to start writing your manuscript, with ease and flow and speed, because you will have already done the hard organizational work. Even if you want to change the story as you’re writing, you’ll be able to do so with an understanding of how to balance the changes. You will have a detailed roadmap that will allow you to bring your vision–your book or screenplay–to completion.
Writing Tools

You are a writer. Before you start, you need to assemble the following items:

1. A tool with which to do your major writing, either a computer, an old-fashioned typewriter, or paper and pencil. If you do handwrite your notes, you may want to treat yourself to a special pen that you love, and is only to be used for your magnus opus.

2. A system to organize your template exercises. I prefer hard copy: printing out computer files, or writing on loose leaf paper, then placing the sheets in a three-ringed binder. This notebook may inspire you and give you a sense of accomplishment as you look through to see how much you’ve done. Not as recommended is keeping files only on computer because they’re harder to flip through, mark up, and juxtapose ideas; or a spiral or bound notebook because you can’t replace pages or change their order. But do what works for you.

3. A small notebook to carry with you at all times. Use this to jot down any thoughts that come to you.

4. Index cards. Get two packs, and we’ll go over how to use them to story board. Also get a roll of masking tape and a permanent marker (thin tip) for bold marks. Finally, you may want to purchase an index card binder to permanently keep your cards in order.

Getting the Words Down

Here are some tips to help you get the words down:

1. Decide on a daily quota of words that is manageable. A good starting goal might be 300, but remember to keep pushing this number up as you become accustomed to the writing process. Create a log to record your daily output. Post this on your refrigerator or otherwise keep it prominent in your daily life.

2. Set aside at least fifteen minutes at a time in which you can remain undisturbed. Aim for an hour or more if you can.

3. Don’t start your writing session by checking your e-mail or doing anything else except for writing.

4. Turn off anything that might distract you–music, radio, or television. Some people can write through these things, but try without for a few days to see if you do better.

5. If you’re stuck, do free-writing where you talk to yourself on paper. Something like, “I’m trying to figure out what Jason’s problems with Mike might be in this scene. I was thinking about…”

Let’s get started.

Christmas in September!

I just finished reading, A Lancaster County Christmas, by Suzanne Woods Fisher.  It didn’t matter that we were having our own mini heat wave and I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt while sitting under the ceiling fan — it was Christmas and a blizzard had stranded me in a Lancaster County home with two very different couples.  I was totally transfixed as they got to know each other and help each other discover and/or reconnect with what matters most in life.

Mattie and Sol Reihl will be remembered by faithful fans of Suzanne’s Lancaster County Secrets seriesIn A Lancaster County Christmas we reconnect with them 4 years into their marriage.  With a snowstorm raging outside they welcome an Englisher couple into their home and as they learn about the differences in their cultures, they also learn …. Okay, you’re going to have to read the book because I don’t want to post any spoilers.  It is a great story — pick a copy up for yourself and pick up a couple more to give as gifts.  While you’re at it, you might as well get the entire Lancaster County Secrets series.

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It’s Christmas in September!

To celebrate the release of her first Christmas book, Suzanne Woods Fisher has teamed up with her publisher, Revell, to bring you the “Christmas in September” iPad Giveaway! The winner will be announced on 9/27 at the A Lancaster County Christmas Facebook Party! Details below. Tell your friends and join in the fun (9/7-9/27).
Oh and be sure to follow the blog tour here – many of the bloggers have copies of the book to giveaway! 

Suzanne and Revell will be presenting one merry winner with a Christmas Prize Pack (valued at over $600):

  • A Brand New iPad 2 with Wi-Fi
  • $25 gift certificate to iTunes
  • A copy of A Lancaster County Christmas

To enter, click one of the icons below. But, hurry the giveaway ends on 9/26.

But, wait! There’s more! The winner will be announced at the A Lancaster County Christmas Facebook Party on 9/27 at Suzanne’s author page. During the party she’ll be revealing something *BIG* – you won’t want to miss it. She’ll also be hosting a book chat, trivia contest and giving away a few early Christmas presents! Hope to see you there.

 

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

About the book:

Jaime and C. J. Fitzpatrick began their married life as most couples do–in love and looking forward to a bright future together. But four years later they’ve drifted apart and are almost ready to call it quits.

Mattie Riehl was hoping to give her husband Sol the Christmas gift they have both longed for–news that a baby was on the way. But as usual, she is disappointed. The holidays bring an acute awareness to Mattie that her dream of a big family isn’t likely to become a reality.

Then a winter storm raging outside blows the Fitzpatricks into the Riehl home–and into a much slower pace of life. Can these two couples from different worlds help each other understand the true meaning of love this Christmas?

With her trademark plot twists and attention to detail, Suzanne Woods Fisher offers readers a beautiful Christmas story of love, forgiveness, and what truly matters in life.

About Suzanne:

Her interest in the Amish began with her grandfather, W.D. Benedict, who was raised Plain. She has many, many Plain relatives living in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, and travels back to Pennsylvania, as well as to Ohio, a couple of times each year for research.

Suzanne has a great admiration for the Plain people and believes they provide wonderful examples to the world. In both her fiction and non-fiction books, she has an underlying theme: You don’t have to “go Amish” to incorporate many of their principles–simplicity, living with less, appreciating nature, forgiving others more readily– into your life.

When Suzanne isn’t writing or bragging to her friends about her first new grandbaby (!), she is raising puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne’s way of thinking, you just can’t take life too seriously when a puppy is tearing through your house with someone’s underwear in its mouth.

Suzanne can be found on-line at: www.suzannewoodsfisher.com.

And don’t forget to check what other bloggers are saying about the book.  Some of them even have free copies to give away!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from LitFuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sarah Sundin’s Blue Skies Tomorrow

Wings of Glory

Best Book in the series! That’s because each book just gets better than the last!  Sarah Sundin’s writing is so vivid and her characters are so well rounded, that I actually felt as though I was part of the story.  I worried, I laughed, I cried, I got angry, I held my breath, I longed to give advice ….. I grew as close to Ray and Helen as any reader can get to story characters.  This story was so amazing — all three books of it — that I didn’t want it to end and despite a wonderful conclusion, I felt somewhat bereft when I turned the last page.   I will definitely be looking for Sarah’s next book!

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To celebrate the release of Blue Skies Tomorrow, the final installment of the Wings of Glory series, Sarah is giving one lucky winner A Vintage Kindle Prize Package! 

Read what the reviewers are saying here.

One winner will receive:

  • Kindle with Wi-Fi
  • Handmade vintage apron for you and a friend (see a photo here)
  • Blue Skies Tomorrow (for Kindle)
To enter just click one of the icons below. But, hurry, giveaway ends on 9/10. Winner will be announced on 9/12 at Sarah Sundin’s blog. Details and official rules can be found when entering the contest.
Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

About the Author:
Sarah Sundin is an on-call hospital pharmacist and holds a BS in chemistry from UCLA and a doctorate in pharmacy from UC San Francisco. Her great-uncle flew with the US Eighth Air Force in England during WWII. Sarah lives in California with her husband and three children. This is her second novel.  For more info please visit her website at www.sarahsundin.com!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from LitFuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Rivers of Living Water

Music for Refreshing the Soul

I took Suzanne Lorente’s, Rivers of Living Water CD with me on my road trip to Oregon. It was great company. The music is straight-forward and uncomplicated with clearly understandable lyrics. On the open road it was great sing-along music, and with the volume turned low it provided a soothing background when navigating unknown roads.

All but one of the songs on the CD were new to me, which I found surprising because of my life-long immersion in Christian music — and that’s when I noticed that the words and music of almost every song are Suzanne Lorente originals.

Suzanne’s voice is clear and strong and full of praise for God. Her music is fresh and refreshing, just as the title implies. This CD quickly became one of my favorites.

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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

 

Today’s Wild Card artist is:

 

 

and the CD:

 

Rivers of Living Water

Lorente Publishing

***Special thanks to Suzanne Lorente for sending me a review cd.***

ABOUT THE ARTIST:

Suzanne Perry Lorente has been a child of the Lord since age 7. Her gift of music began at age two and has carried her through her life. She is an accomplished long time song writer, singer, guitarist and performer from the age of 13. At a young age, Suzanne chose a career of a professional entertainer as a single singer/guitarist in well known night clubs, dinner houses and special events, with a repertoire of more than 400 songs. During this same time frame, she achieved an Associate of Arts degree in Mass Media from Stephens College in Columbia, MO, and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music from San Jose State University in California. As time marched along, she realized God’s calling on her life to turn her heart toward Him as she could hear that “still, small voice” asking her to leave the relentless work of night clubs and secular entertainment. “It was a vow that took place in a day, and His promise took place over my lifetime. I am so blessed and God has kept His promise that He would give me the songs to sing for His children and for His glory.” Suzanne has sung first of all for her family, then in choirs, started and sang in many small groups and trios, sang solo for so many audiences and congregations throughout the United States, and left behind a legacy of musical scenarios as she tells her stories of how each of her songs came about. She has recorded an ageless cassette that continues to be in demand, and a new CD, that has high-lighted the songs God has given to her. Suzanne has been teaching voice and guitar since she was 14 years old. She is presently singing in the little City of Dixon, CA for their Farmers Markets, weddings, and events, as well as with her trio, Suzanne Lorente and Friends, as they embark on recording a CD together. They are out doing concerts whenever possible and wherever the Lord leads. “It’s wonderful to see God change the lives and hearts of people as we just sing our songs and allow Him to work through us. I love that!”

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT CD DESCRIPTION:

This CD is a wonderful spiritual uplift and encouragement for any Christian who wants to grow, not only by hearing God’s Word, but by doing what He’s asking us to do. We have to take that first step and that’s what this CD motivates believers and non-believers to do. The songs are original Christian Gospel scenarios that anyone can relate to, and that’s what gives you the anointing strength to keep on going. You will love the beautiful orchestral and vocal backgrounds with each song as Suzanne Lorente and her trio envelope you with their angelic harmonies. God has put His Hand of blessing on Suzanne and given her songs throughout her lifetime of ministry. She and her gals are planning a tour and would love to include your church or event if it’s possible. May God bless every listener and urge them to follow the Lord by listening to His “Still, Small Voice!”

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Music CD
Publisher: Lorente Publishing
Language: English

AND NOW..A SAMPLE OF A SONG FROM THE CD:

(To hear more samples, please visit Suzanne’s website)

Here is one of the songs, “Misunderstood.” This song is an original of mine written on January 1st of 2010. I am the voice for those who have been aborted, abused and misunderstood. This is quite sad, but it’s telling us that each one of these has identified with the misery, torture, and abuse that Jesus went through on the cross. Many 100’s of thousands have died a martyr’s death, and are with the Lord because He loves them. Please listen carefully! This could be such a blessing for the Christian pregnancy centers and homes of abused women and children.

Here are the lyrics:

Misunderstood – Matthew 18:1-7

Words and Music by Suzanne Lorente
Arranged by Jeannine O’Neal

How can it be they don’t hear them, they don’t see

What can I say? Jesus loves them, they are free.

No-one will take time to listen as they cry

Knowing that I have the answer, I know why.

They’ve been misunderstood time after time

Their tiny voices still ring in our minds

No-one to love them, no-one to care

What they have to say doesn’t matter…anyway.

There is a hard part to living, not to be heard

Hate takes the joy out of giving, their vision blurred

Where is the love that could give them wings to fly?

Knowing that I have the answer, I know why.

They’ve been misunderstood time after time

Their little voices still ring in our mind

No-one to hear them, no-one to care

What they have to say doesn’t matter…anyway.

Could you be one who can’t hear them, you can’t see?

Are you aware they are people like you and me?

What would have come of the children who were slain?

There’d be a world of compassion… no more pain!

We have misunderstood time after time

Their tiny voices still ring in our mind

Someone will love them, someone will care

What they have to say really matters…anyway.

He’s (Jesus) been misunderstood, but not for long

Each tiny baby to Him will belong.

He really loves them, He really cares

What He has to say is what matters…anyway!

What He has to say is what matters….anyway!

Matt. 18:1-7

Additional high vocals Suzanne Lorente, Cecelia Dettle
Copyright 2010 BMI-0777 All rights reserved

See my website for further information: www.suzannelorente.com

I’ve Given It All Away!

The prize:

Insulated lunch bag, sandwich makeover recipe booklet, and $3.75 in meat, cheese and mayo coupons provided by Houseparty.com's Kraft Foods Ultimate Sandwich Makeover House Party™.

Four people entered my second chance drawing for this wonderful insulated lunch sack, a sandwich recipe booklet, and the $3.75 cents worth of coupons. (First drawing here: Lunch at Quilly’s.)   Two of the coupons ($1.50 All Natural Big Cheese; $1.50 Oven Roasted Carving Board Meats) were worth about 50% of the product’s original purchase price. The third coupon is for 75 cents off a bottle of deli spiced mayonnaise. Good stuffs.

The Contenders:

Mama Zen’s: Make Your Own (And Keep Your Hands Off Mine!) Sandwich
Kraft Carving Board Roast Beef, a slice of cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes, and the Horseradish Dijon.

Tilden’s: Speecy – Spicy Ham Sammich
Seeded rye bread, toasted liberally spread the Sandwich Shop Horseradish and Dijon mayo on the toast. Add some Kraft Big Slice pepper Jack and melt under the broiler. Add some crisp iceberg lettuce, thin sliced red onion and thin sliced beefsteak tomato. Finally top with Oscar Mayer Carving Board Ham and the other piece of toast.

Stacy Lynn’s: Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Homemade bread spread with Kraft Sandwich Shop Mayo’s garlic & herb flavor. Add Oscar Mayer’s Carving Board ham, one large slice of tomato (sandwich size), then Kraft Big Slice Swiss cheese. Spread outside of sandwich with garlic butter and sprinkle with basil then toast till golden and cheese is melty.

Church Lady’s: Ham & Cheese Pretzel Roll Melt
A pretzel roll spread with the horseradish dijon, then topped with the Oscar Myer ham and a slice of Kraft Swiss cheese (toast lightly to melt cheese).

The Winner:

Mama Zen!

Send me your mailing address
and I will get your wonderful insulated lunch sack
and these great, money saving coupons
out to you in the next mail.