The Heart of Christmas

Merry Christmas! It has been a while since we journeyed a blog post together. This year has had many challenges for my family, but I am delighted to say Thoughts On Plot will be reconnecting with all of you every week in the new year.

This Christmas I am so grateful for family and friends. Friends like Beth Vogt who sends little reminders that God has not forgotten me and friends like Jessica Patch who ping me on Facebook to see if I am doing all right. Then there is Lisa Jordan who makes sure I don’t fall off of the grid too long. So many others have taken the time to connect. For all of my amazing writing friends, thank you!

The heart of Christmas is summed up in the very heart of what each of those friends and family members do for me, for each other. Have a Merry Christmas and experience a slice of the joy the good news of our Savior brings!

For the writer in you: The Christmas Season is filled with more emotion than many other seasons. Take out a journal and write your emotional journey this season. Jot down poignant moments that you can bring to mind in the future to help you write certain emotional scenes.

Who gave you a glimpse of the heart of Christmas this year?



3 Tips To Adding Masterpiece Layers To Your Manuscript

Photo by ba1969

Photo by ba1969

And our winning SUPER SLEUTH OF THE MONTH IS JANICE G.! Congratulations on winning a new book and a $10 Amazon Gift Card!!

The Answer to this week’s Super Sleuth Challenge Was E – All of the Above.  For more about the solving of this cold case click here.


Art forgeries make millions for those masterful enough to fake the real thing. If we just love to look at the picture, why does it matter if it is forged?

Because there is nothing like the original to completely express to us the value it holds. The original is worth millions and its fake a mere pittance.

3 Tips To Adding Masterpiece Layers To Your Manuscript:

1. Create authenticity by giving it contextual meaning. Giving our manuscript that edge that shows we know the times we live in and what is desired by our readers in the here and now. Add in the flavor of its time period. Dialogue, trends, culture, all make a work of art more unique whether on canvas or paper.

Great Examples of this:

The Swiss Courier  -     By: Tricia Goyer, Mike Yorkey      Shadows of the Past, Logan Point Series #1   -     By: Patricia Bradley  The Dancing Master  -     By: Julie Klassen

2. Capture the true essence of our author intentions for the story. Many times along the way we lose sight of our goal for the story and its direction. If the story truly captures the essence of our intentions as an author it will be more unique. It’s story should flow from us and through our character in a way that captures who the characters are.

Great Examples of this:

The Wedding Dress  -     By: Rachel Hauck   Butterfly Palace  -     By: Colleen Coble    The Shadow of Your Smile, Deep Haven Series #5   -     By: Susan May Warren

3. Unique voice. A masterpiece has a way of singling out the unique qualities of sound or voice, drowning out the details inside of it and making itself known. It is uniquely the artist or author’s.

Great Examples of this:

Made to Last   -     By: Melissa Tagg    Danger in the Shadows   -     By: Dee Henderson Lakeside Family  -     By: Lisa Jordan

Wish You Were Here    -     By: Beth Vogt They Almost Always Come Home  -     By: Cynthia Ruchti Falls Like Lightning - eBook  -     By: Shawn Grady SEAL Under Siege  -     By: Liz Johnson

I could give so many great examples of Writing Masterpieces, but above I’ve listed some of my favorites. Still, there are several more…how could I ever list them all.

What are your favorite writing Masterpieces?

Editing Tips For Last Minute Contest Entries

Photo by deboer

Photo by deboer

First, the answer to our Super Sleuth Challenge yesterday: AIRBAGS. Can you believe that they go for $1,000-2,000 a pop on the black market and it only takes two minutes to get it from your car. You wouldn’t even know it is gone unless a certified technician checks it out.

It pays to be careful with your mechanic shop as well. For more on this story click here.


Editing Tips For Last Minute Contest Entries:

When should I italicize words?

When I first started writing, I struggled to understand when to italicize words. Finally, Susan May Warren gave me this rule of thumb that helps me remember:

*Italicize only when it is something the Point of View Character is screaming in their head. It isn’t a general thought, but more of a panic, fear, angry, or grief type of thought. Any thought that screams. It should NOT be a lot of words per page. Much of internal dialogue is not italicized if it is in third person.

What do you mean when you say show instead of tell?

Telling is when we describe how a character is feeling or what is happening in the scene instead of showing it happen.


*He looked at the overstuffed bear and just knew that he had to take it home. (Telling)

*The bear slumped in the corner alone. It’s soft furry body propped close to the display candles and ornaments.  Thomas picked it up and snuggled it close inhaling the scent of apples and cinnamon like the pie that warmed his tummy at grandma’s last summer. He just had to take him home.

Some telling words to look for: looked, appeared, felt, told, saw, etc.

For more tips on Show vs. Tell, check out Author Beth Vogt’s amazing teaching chat notes here. (It may ask you to join, but it is absolutely free and there is no spam mailing involved. It is a writing community all about the writing craft with free chats on Monday night.)

What about Backstory?

The right place to start the story is in the middle of the action. Sure, you want to anchor your reader in the setting, but that can be done with very little lead in. Backstory can kill your reader’s interest right from the very beginning. As my friend Susan May Warren says, “Think breadcrumbs.”

Example of starting in the action and still anchoring the reader:

A horrible day to kill. Sully belly crawled across the rain scored earth, waiting for his mark to arrive at the rendezvous point. His camoflauge uniform stuck to his skin like cloth to a saracofogus, making movement more difficult. He flattened himself to the earth as a beam of light scanned the area around him. The smell of earth and grass assaulted his nose as he focused on breathing in and out.

Easy. Easy. Just because everything felt off, didn’t mean it would turn out like the last time. It couldn’t, or he’d be dead by morning.

*Notice the anchoring and the bread crumbs of backstory? That is how to keep your reader engaged and yet aware that there is an undercurrent from the past that matters now.

Do have any last minute editing tips for contest entries?

Remember the Genesis Contest Deadline is Tomorrow!


Journey To Change – 5 Tips To Develop The Inner Journey Of Your Character

As a young girl I remember wanting to be all grown up. Right. Now. Until of course it was chore time, then I wanted to be too little with all of my heart.

This picture of my sister and I was taken when I was six years old. The one in the yellow dress is me. Boy, does time change things, except of course when it is chore time. Somehow I still want to be too little about then.

The little girl who loved climbing trees and playing school in the playhouse in our backyard has her feet firmly planted on the ground. No more tree climbing. No more mud pies. Well, occasionally mud pies with my kids.

The things I do now show my journey from being a girl to an adult. I didn’t get there overnight. There were plenty of scrapes and bruises and a few broken hearts, but I have grown up.

Has your character grown up yet? 

Sometimes I’m amazed at the lack of transformation in a character from the beginning to the end of a story. Or, the character goes from 5 to 50 years old in 300 pages. When this happens the reader misses the impact of our character’s journey.

Here’s five tips to show you how to make the character’s transformation a journey:

*Give Your Character A Lie They Believe or Something They Need To Change Inside. Establish this before you even start writing. Yes, even you pantsers. Give your character something they need to change about themselves.

For example, in the book Submerged by Dani Pettrey we see the character at the beginning feels unworthy to be loved. Throughout the story she has an opportunity to grow to the understanding that she is indeed worthy to be loved.

More tips on the lie journey can be found at My Book Therapy.

*Show That Your Character Needs To Change Early In The Novel. Through some action or event the need to change is made evident to the reader, but the character either can’t see it, or doesn’t want to see it.

For example, in the book Baby It’s Cold Outside by Susan May Warren we as the reader see that the heroine needs to change, to let go of bitterness and chose to live. She doesn’t want to acknowledge it herself.

*Grow In Baby Steps. Allow your character to change little bits at a time. They can’t take a giant leap from beginning to end and satisfy the reader. It must come one step at a time.

A great example of this type of change can be found in Beth K. Vogt’s Wish You Were Here.

*Avoid Spiritual Truth Dumping Scenes. As a pastor’s daughter I can tell you that a lot of times the truth is realized through the lives of other believers sharing their life experiences with us, the truth they’ve learned. A sermon can be a powerful introduction to truth, but it takes more than a sermon in your novel to show a character is going to accept the truth.

A great example of this is found in Lisa Jordan’s Lakeside Reunion.

*Pick Voices of Truth That Are Believable. The person who shares the truth with your character that brings them to a point of change, should be someone your character would listen too. Sometimes an enemy can even speak the truth.

One of my favorite truth speakers is Karen Ball’s Shattered Justice. An elderly woman who sat on a bench near the town action arguing with her best friend. The unexpectedness of the truth caught the hero by surprise.

What books changed you or what book do you think is a great example of the inner journey of a character?

Junk Food Cravings – How To Create A Craving In Your Readers

There are some kinds of junk food that just speak to you on the grocery shelf. You know, Oreos, Ben & Jerry’s, Popcorn, Licorice… The list goes on and on, but no matter how many times we fill up our carts with the cause of our next dental visit, we come back for more.

Why? Scientists would tell you that they cause the release of the happy endorphins in the brain. They say they can even be addicting.

Yup! I imagine addiction would explain the rush for boxes of chocolates on Valentines Day and the raid of my refrigerator at 1 a.m. when I’m trying to write.

Have you ever gotten in your car to go to the store because you just really needed a chocolate or caffeine fix? Yep. Me too.

Amazingly enough there is something to be learned about writing from junk food cravings. After all, have you ever seen news coverage of people camped outside a bookstore for the release of a brand new novel?

That author found a way to make their reader’s crave their books. If I knew all of those secrets, well, I’d be wealthy, but I have picked up a few as I read bestsellers.

How To Create A Craving In Your Readers:

*Study the bestsellers in your genre. Make a list of commonalities between them. Genre readers have favorite things. For example, creating a home with very little to work with or a craft type theme are popular in romance novels.

*Make the reader care about the community or secondary characters that are the POV characters in the next book. A great example of this is Dee Henderson’s O’Malley Series.

*Develop unpredictable plot that surprises your readers.

*Groom your voice by journaling or free writing frequently enough that your voice grows in strength. It is your unique signature that draws readers to your novel.

*Find something that is currently captivating to your readers and build your plot around this. An example of this is Abomination by Colleen Coble. 

*Create lovable characters. In Beth Vogt’s Wish You Were Here we love the heroine.

*Learn to create beautiful visual imagery that takes us right to the scene. A great example of this is Lakeside Reunion by Lisa Jordan.

*Learn how to structure and build your character’s journey in a novel. You can find lots of resources to help with this at My Book Therapy.

*Create a satisfying ending. This is huge! If you make them go aww and give them a happy take away moment, readers will love it. Work on the ending until it has an impact on the reader.  Try it out on other writer/readers to see if there is an impact.

*Do not try to imitate other writer’s voices. Just read and take notes on things that stand out. This allows you to study the writing and build the powerful pieces into your own writing in your own voice.

What great books make you anxious for the author’s next novel?