Your First Draft Is Not Your Last Draft

by Fay Lamb

In my writing life and both as a freelance editor and an acquisition editor, I have discovered a disturbing trend among some new and not-so-new writers.

Self-publishing is not a bad thing if the author does it correctly. However, there is a generation of authors who have grown up without accountability for what they create. Some sit down at a computer, plunk out one draft of a story, and head off to publication. There are also some who send their first draft to a publisher. When they receive a rejection, the fault belongs to a “system.” They use that excuse to self-publish.

Say what you want about traditional publishers, but in most instances, they truly are the gatekeepers for an industry currently suffering from credibility issues brought on by mass self-publishing. Granted, there are authors who have studied the craft inside and out and write great manuscripts. Yet they can’t find a home in traditional publishing. The rejection has less to do with a lack of diligence on the author’s part and more to do with publishers’ trends. Those diligent authors who take the time to craft a story find new life in self-publishing by bucking those trends.

A first draft is never an author’s best friend. All it says to an author is, “I’ve taken the story from Point A to Point Z, and I have some bones to build upon.” The next draft, or drafts, however many it takes, puts flesh on those bones.

I’d like to share some very obvious clues that indicate to readers and to publishers that an author has not gotten beyond the first draft stage before submitting or publishing:

  • The author has not taken the time to get a command over the small stuff: spelling, grammar, punctuation, consistency in names, hair color, eye color, even the spelling of key locations. Editors see these mistakes as lazy writing. If an author isn’t keen on these areas, finding an editor, or even a critique group that can offer this support, is imperative.
  • The manuscript usually consists only of bones, taking the form of stilted dialogue. Description and deep point of view (POV) are lacking or lax. A story that engages uses effective dialogue to relay information without the reader knowing the information is being fed to them. Deep POV is the best tool to draw the reader into the story and connect them with the main characters.
  • Speaking of point of view: in a first draft, even the most prolific authors will inadvertently switch POVs within the scene. Revisions will correct this mistake. However, an omniscient point of view is a sign that an author has not studied the elements of fiction. POV should always be one character per scene, and the character with the most to win or to lose should always be the POV character for that scene.
  • Often in a first draft, the plot will lack escalating conflict. Instead, an author utilizes contrived conflict, bringing it in and resolving it quickly before introducing another issue. One reason a synopsis is requested by publishers is to determine how well an author introduces and sustains conflict. If conflict is weak or non-existent, the story isn’t ready for publication.
  • Then there’s that old but relevant cliché: show don’t tell. A first draft is littered with telling words or phrases that draw the reader away from the story. This is easily seen in the use of adverbial time phrases such as suddenly and immediately or when she turned … Other telling words have to do with the senses: she heard, he saw, he noticed, he realized, and a host of other similar actions that tell rather than show.

Don’t make the mistake of believing that a first draft or even a second draft will produce a story ready for publication. Take time to revise and edit, to look for the minor mistakes and to implement the elements of fiction that put flesh on those shaky bones and build up a healthy story that readers can enjoy.


Writing Prompt: Rewrite the following short paragraph, utilizing some of the points discussed above to create a second draft:

Paula heard a noise that made the hair stand up on the back of her neck. Immediately, she turned and peered out the window. What she saw terrified her.


Click to Tweet: “In most instances, traditional publishers truly are the gatekeepers for an industry currently suffering from credibility issues brought on by mass self-publishing.” Your First Draft Is Not Your Last Draft via @InspiredPrompt and @FayLamb.

3 Questions Wednesday with Erin R. Howard

Welcome to 3 Questions Wednesday!

This week’s guest is developmental editor and fantasy author, Erin R. Howard.  Welcome to the Inspired Prompt blog!

First question—Who is your favorite author?

Erin: This is a hard question! I love to read, so there are many authors that I enjoy. Since I am a fantasy author, I will say that my favorite is Ted Dekker. I love the way that he creates his story worlds. You feel as though you are right there experiencing it with the character.

He does write fascinating stories.  Now, second question

If you could write about anyone or anything fiction/nonfiction who or what would you write about?

Erin:  I write urban fantasy, which has fantasy elements but is set in our current world and I love blending these two worlds together. Right now, I have another series in the planning stages that will be related to my current series. After that, I would love to write a dystopian book or a fairy tale retelling.

All of those genres are popular. 🙂 That brings us to question number three—

If you could spend time with a character from your book or another book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?

Erin:  I’ve always been fascinated with angels, and when I was creating my character Matthias, I not only wanted to show him as a warrior, but also show him as kind, patient, and a fierce protector. But as the story unfolded, I found there’s so much more to him than meets the eye. I won’t give away all of my secrets, {you’ll have to read the story to find out!}, but Matthias is not only a warrior and protector but someone that you need by your side.

Sounds like someone we all would like to know. Thank you so much for stopping by!

Click to Tweet: 3 Questions Wednesday’s guest is urban fantasy author, Erin R. Howard.  Learn more about her and her book, The Soul Searcher, and leave a comment for a chance to win a Kindle book via @InspiredPrompt. #Fantasy #amreading

Don’t forget to leave a comment for your chance to win a Kindle version of The Soul Searcher.


 The Soul Searcher

Elnora’s parents gave her one rule:

Stay hidden away at all costs.

Elnora Scott is used to her survival depending on the decisions of others. Locked away in her safe house, it is easy to follow her parents’ dying wishes until an angel, demon, and seer show up on her doorstep. Now, waking up in a dirty cell, she wishes she would have gone with them when she had the chance, because the very ones who unknowingly ushered the kidnapper to her location may be the only ones who can save her.

When Thea learns that Elnora may be in danger, she doesn’t hesitate to go find her. Thea thought stepping through the portal would be her greatest obstacle, but it only reveals a more sinister threat.

Buy your copy here.


 

Erin R. Howard is a developmental editor, fantasy author of The Kalila Chronicles, and has earned a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing/English from Southern New Hampshire University. When she’s not writing, Erin enjoys spending time with her family, fueling her craft addictions, and teaching writing workshops. Erin is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the KenTen Writers Group. She resides in Western Kentucky with her husband and three children.

You can find Erin at her website, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. She also has a blog and newsletter.

Who’s Driving the Story?

by Fay Lamb

As the Tactical Editor, I use the analogy of a car to describe the elements of fiction. So, when I saw this topic, I couldn’t resist writing about it.

For me, it’s not just the “who” driving the story but the “what.”

In my car analogy, I explain that plot is the vehicle that drives the story. Without a main plot, the author isn’t going anywhere at all. The road upon which the plot vehicle travels is the genre. So, of course, the plot vehicle must be equipped for the journey with devices like suspense or mystery, full-on terror, or maybe a scenic route with bumps in the road. The main plot drives the road from Point A to Point Z. Minor plots are all intersecting roads, but make no mistake, all intersecting roads lead to Point Z.

Conflict is the fuel for the vehicle. If the plot vehicle isn’t filled with the proper fuel, the story is going to sputter and halt, and the readers are going to get out and walk away. Conflict must build in each scene until its resolution at the end of the story. A reader must, therefore, measure the amount of fuel necessary to reach the end of the journey, taking into account those scenes in which more conflict—or fuel—is needed.

Then there are the actual drivers. These are each character with a point of view (POV)—one POV per scene and in most stories, no more than three POVs per book. A character takes the wheel for the scenes that belong to him or to her and moves the story forward as the conflict puts up roadblocks to prevent the character from reaching the desired destination.

When the journey has been reached and the conflict has been emptied from the tank, the characters will get out of the journey and start a well-earned vacation.


Writing Prompt: Start a story, using the photograph above. Remember that the vehicle drives the story. The driver is the POV character. Why is the car parked in that location? Who was driving it? What happened to them?


Click to Tweet: “If the plot vehicle isn’t filled with the proper fuel, the story is going to sputter and halt, and the readers are going to get out and walk away.” Who’s Driving the Story? Via @InspiredPrompt and @FayLamb #amwriting #MondayMotivation

A Love Most Worthy by Sandra Ardoin

sandra ardoin_headshot1Good morning, dear reader! Thank you for joining us on this lovely Saturday. I’m excited to have author Sandra Ardoin with me this morning. Sandra is talking about the writing process. Let’s begin!

Tell us a little about yourself.

Sandra:  Thanks so much for having me!

I’m a wife and an empty-nester mom who began writing in the mid-80s. It wasn’t until about ten years ago that I began writing novels. I haven’t looked back.

I’m a couch coach for the Carolina Panthers. (No, they don’t listen to or pay me.) Give me something to read or watch with some mystery/suspense and I’m happy. Or, you can take me out to eat.

What do you love most about the writing process?

SandraI love the creativity in taking an idea, scenes in my head, or dialog and fashioning (hopefully) quality stories others want to read. Most fiction writers just want to write, but there are so many responsibilities a writer has that have nothing to do with creating a fictional story.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Sandra:  I will admit, way too many half-finished books lounge around in my computer. In fact, that’s my word for this year: Finish. I’ve tasked my critique partner with keeping me accountable. She’s to scold me harshly if I start a project without finishing the previous one.

I also have a number of finished but unpublished stories. I have three published books: The Yuletide Angel, A Reluctant Melody, and A Love Most Worthy. The latter released this week.

If you could give advice to your younger writing self, what would it be?

Sandra:  Don’t be fooled by what you think a writer’s life is like. Don’t think you’ll write something “brilliant” and it will automatically be published. Writing for publication is filled with a constant learning of the craft, constant editing and more rewriting, rejection, and taking on tasks you never imagined were part of the career, like marketing and a knowledge of technology.

Do persevere! You’ll eventually be glad you did.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Sandra: 

  • Thinking it’s easy to write and publish (see the previous answer). 
  • Waiting until they’re ready to submit their work before starting on a platform.
  • Not writing on a regular basis but when they feel they can make time.
  • Submitting too soon, before the work is ready.
  • Caving in the face of rejection. We ALL get rejections.

What does literary success look like to you?

Sandra:  It looks like a couple of things.

  1. My mission statement reads: “To write fiction that is both entertaining and provides the reader with insight into God’s grace and forgiveness.” If I achieve that, I’ve achieved the most important success.
  2. On an everyday life note, it’s earning enough to afford to make more books available.

Future Projects or WIP you can talk about?

Sandra:  At the moment, I’m working on a historical romance Christmas novella. I have long-term plans for it but will tackle one thing at a time.

Great advice and thanks for stopping by today!

Click to Tweet: Author Sandra Ardoin shares her writing advice and encouragment #SandraArdoin  #ALoveMostWorthy @InspiredPrompt


A Love Most Worthy 

almw - ardoinShe didn’t know which was colder,

           an Arctic winter or her new husband’s heart.

Hallie Russell believes life should be lived to the fullest. For that reason, she sails to the gold rush town of Nome, Alaska to take her cousin’s place as the mail-order bride of a respected shopkeeper. But when her aloof husband’s wedding-night announcement rocks her plans for their marriage, Hallie sees her desire for a family to call her own vanish as quickly as the dreams of hopeful miners.

Tragedy led Rance Preston to repent of his rowdy ways and open a general store for the miners in Nome. He’s content in his bachelorhood, but his two orphaned nephews deserve a proper and serious-minded mother. Duped once by a vivacious female, he’s determined to never again let his heart overrule his head…until the high spirits of his new bride threaten his resolve.

When a misunderstanding comes to light, will they allow the gale force winds of insecurity to destroy what they each need most?


sandra ardoin_headshot1

As an author of heartwarming and award-winning historical romance, Sandra Ardoin engages readers with page-turning stories of love and faith. Rarely out of reach of a book, she’s also an armchair sports enthusiast, country music listener, and seldom says no to eating out.

Visit her on her website. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and BookBub. Become a member of the Love and Faith in Fiction community and discover what’s upcoming, and learn of specials and giveaways.

Show versus Tell

Hi everyone! Patty Smith Hall here, and today, we’re going to tackle one of the major building blocks of effective writing—Show vs Tell.

If you’ve been to a writing conference, had a critique partner or read books on craft, you’ve probably heard the phrase, ‘show, don’t tell.’ For those of you ‘newbies,’ let me explain.

First off, let’s look at the definition of these words;

The meaning of the word ‘tell’ is ‘communicating information, facts or news to someone in spoken or written words. Other words to describe it are informed, notify, apprise and advise.

newspaper-943004_192028129When I think of telling, I think of a newspaper article. For an article to be informative, it has to answer five questions—who, what, where, when and why. Most (with the exception of editorials) are very basic with little to no description. They’re looking at the situation from ten thousand feet above so they can’t give much detail or expression.

My first draft is a lot like that. I’m trying to get the story down, learning the who, what, where, when, why. During this time, I use words like angrily, solemnly, joyfully, hesitantly or phrases like she or he thought. While its okay to do this, it doesn’t draw your reader into the story or make them feel for your characters. It might look something like this:

‘Maggie stared pensively out the window as she took another sip of coffee.

That’s okay, but it doesn’t give readers a hint of why Maggie feels pensive. It doesn’t even reveal the setting. As a reader, would you finish a book like that or would you read on?

Now let’s look at the word ‘show.’ The definition of ‘show’ is ‘be, allow or cause to be visible; to display a quality, emotion or characteristic; a display or spectacle; a play or stage performance.

I like that last description. Here in the south, we don’t go to a movie. For us, it’s a show which is a fitting description. In a movie, you’re able to see the actor’s expressions, get a feel for the motivations behind their actions.

movie-918655_1920When I start editing my rough draft, I picture each scene as though it were a movie. I slow it down so that I can catch all the nuances of my character’s expressions and how they respond to each plot twist. Writing my story this way brings my readers deeper into the story world and gives my characters more layers which makes the reader care about them.

So how does this look? Let’s take pensive Maddie.

Maddie stared pensively out of the window as she took another sip of her coffee.

But if we look at this as we would a movie scene, this is what we might see:

She missed her mountains.

Maddie stared out the big picture window, drawn to the outline of the Davis Mountains silhouetted against the morning sky. She took another sip of Sally’s coffee, her latest bout of homesickness drowning out the hustle and bustle of the café.

Did the second paragraph draw you into the story? Did you feel for Maddie? That’s what showing rather than telling does. That doesn’t mean you never can use telling. If you want to show the passage of time, telling is a good way of doing that—you’re moving the story forward without going into details that aren’t important to the story. One example for my books is from my first one, Hearts in Flight. My heroine was a pilot who flew test flights during WWII. Only I never wrote about her actually flying a plane! Why? Because it was a romance, her flying wouldn’t have moved the story along.

Here’s a simple way to think of it: Say your husband or wife tells you ‘I’m going to be a better mate.’ That’s all well and good, but wouldn’t showing you with their actions their intentions be even better?

I hope I’ve helped you understand show vs tell a little bit more. Some good articles on the subject are:

Show, Don’t Tell; A Simple Guide for Writers by Jerry Jenkins

Showing Vs Telling in Your Writing by Writer’s Digest

Show Vs Tell by R. Michael Burns

Show Vs Tell: Examples by Camy Tang

Click to Tweet: When I start editing my rough draft, I picture each scene as though it were a movie. #writetip #amwriting @InspiredPrompt @pattywrites

Writing Prompt: Read a page of your WIP. Did you find problems with telling? How can you show the scene?

The Southern Belle Brides Collection

51jkgnu-g-l._sy346_Love as Sweet as Southern Iced Tea

Welcome to the Old South where hospitality is king and charm is queen. Can lasting love been found here amidst chaotic life challenges?

The Belle of the Congaree by Lauralee Bliss
Columbia, South Carolina—1866
Mason Bassinger reluctantly travels to post-war South Carolina seeking lands his carpetbagger brother can buy. Elisa Anderson barely survives after her family’s plantation was destroyed. She welcomes visits by the handsome and wealthy Mason who makes the cottage by the Congaree feel like a home. But when Mason’s true purpose is revealed, will her heart be broken by betrayal?

Thoroughbreds by Ramona Cecil
Lexington, Kentucky—1918
A family tragedy reunites Ella Jamison with her childhood tormentor, igniting surprisingly different sparks. Clay Garrett questions why God would allow him to fall in love with the one woman least likely to return his affections. But when love blooms against all odds, old secrets threaten to destroy it and, in the process, tear an entire family apart.

The Marmalade Belle by Dianne Christner
Ocala, Florida—1893
A decade-old note draws Maribelle Sinclair into the arms of Jackson, her childhood hero, but the Cavalry dragoon’s soul appears dark and dangerous as the Florida everglades. Virgil, on the other hand, is sweet as mama’s orange marmalade and optimistically forthright. If hearts are windows, like the glass-bottomed boats on nearby Silver River, Maribelle can trust hers to make the right choice.

Debt of Love by Lynn Coleman
Palatka, Florida—1868
Adeline Edwards, a Southern Belle with strong calloused hands from tending cattle, no longer attends balls. Banker, Phineas George Hamilton III, arrives at the plantation to recover the bank’s debt and discovers strong-willed Adeline doubts the bank’s claim. Can they figure out the debt, or will they find balance in love?

Hometown Bride by Patty Smith Hall
Marietta, Georgia—1870
Jilly Chastain never lied, but when her mother fabricates a marriage with her childhood sweetheart, Grayson Hancock, Jilly goes along with it, never expecting Grayson to show up, ready to make their make-believe marriage real.

Miss Beaumont’s Companion by Grace Hitchcock
Baton Rouge, Louisiana—1892
When lady’s companion Aria St. Angelo is coerced into posing as her political employer’s absent daughter for the evening at the Louisiana Governor’s masquerade ball, she wasn’t planning on falling for Byron Roderick, the most eligible bachelor in the capitol.

Above All These Things by Connie Stevens
East central Georgia—1855
Pre-conceived opinions and stubborn pride builds walls of resentment between Annulet Granville, the belle of Thornwalk Manor, and a visiting stranger. Annulet’s parents urge her to find a husband, but she labels Peyton Stafford the enemy. So what is she to do with Christ’s command to love her enemies?

pattyhallA multi-published author with Love Inspired Historical and Barbour, Patty lives in North Georgia with her husband of 35 years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters, her son-in-love and a grandboy who has her wrapped around his tiny finger. When she’s not writing on her back porch, she’s spending time with her family or working in her garden.