Wednesday, January 27, 2016

One Word Difference by Diana Flegal

I am currently reading a book by Austin Kleon titled Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Noticed.

It is phenomenal. Profound and simplistic. I would give it 6 stars on Amazon if I was able.

Austin said: If you want to be more effective when sharing yourself and your work, you need to become a better storyteller. You need to know what a good story is and how to tell one.

He then shares this quote by John le Carre':

"'The cat sat on a mat' is not a story, 'The cat sat on the dog's mat' is a story."

I agree, do you?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

MS Formatting Fixes by Andy Scheer

Look like a pro ... and save your editor some work.

The manuscript screamed “Amateur!” It came from an independent publishing services provider, in my capacity as a freelance editor. Had I been reviewing it through an agent’s eyes, the formatting alone would have sent a strong initial message that this author wasn’t yet ready for prime time.

Fortunately, I could perform a formatting extreme makeover in just a couple hours. But its initial condition prompts me to offer yet another refresher in professional formatting, including a few areas not always covered.

Paper size. Unless you’re trying to self-publish on a starvation budget, select the 8½ x 11 size (it should be the default) not 6 x 9.

Margins. One inch left and right, top and bottom (also the default settings).

Font. Times New Roman, 12-point. Use only one space between sentences.

Indents and spacing. First-line indent of ½ inch. Double-spaced, with no extra spacing before or after lines.

Line and page breaks. Turn off “Widow/Orphan control” and all others except “Don’t hyphenate” and “Suppress line numbers.”

Alignment. Flush-left, ragged right, except for titles.

Block quotes. Indent ½ inch left and right. Use 11-point Times New Roman.

Nonfiction subheads. Insert an extra line space above.

Subhead levels. If a nonfiction manuscript uses more than one level of subheads, distinguish their typography. Here’s a common formula:
Level One subhead:
Roman, Cap & Small Caps, 14-point, centered, line space above and below

Level Two subhead:
Bold Roman, Cap & Lower Case, 12-point, Flush Left, Line Space Above
Use this style if there is only one level of subhead.

Level Three subhead:
roman, small caps, 12-point, left justified, space above

Level Four subhead:
Bold Roman sentence case, 12-point, followed by a period and run in to the text. No space above.

Endnotes. 10-pt Times New Roman.

Friday, January 22, 2016

LOL by jim hart

I read last week that sales of humor books fell by 5% from 2014 to 2015. Does this signal that humor is fading in our culture? It does seem to me society is slowly losing its sense of humor. Or maybe the political and hot-button topic books are more attractive to readers. Or perhaps it's just that no one is writing anything that's funny right now. It does bring up the question of why we read what we do. To be entertained? To be informed?  To be motivated? All of the above?

Here’s where I think balance is a good thing. If we’re reading such serious content on a regular basis, at the expense of some more light-hearted material, what does that do to us as a person?  How does this affect us as people of faith, and followers of Jesus Christ? Most of us are familiar with the scripture “A cheerful heart is good medicine” Proverbs 17:22  NLT.  The benefits of laughter have a positive impact on both our physical and mental well-being. I think we should want to laugh more.

So what do we, as Believers, find funny?  Paul wrote to the Ephesians “Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”   Ephesian 4:29 NLT “Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes--these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.”  Ephesians 5:4  NLT

Jeff Allen is a Christian comedian that my wife and I thoroughly enjoy. We drove half-way across the state of Pennsylvania just to see him in person.  He is probably the funniest comedian we have ever heard.  And my wife loves to laugh. I think our first date was to a Pink Panther movie.  I had to marry her because she was the only one who repeatedly laughed at my jokes!

Some humor, though not particularly offensive, gets its laughs at the expense of a particular grouping of people and at our individual actions and habits. I think the current wave of extreme political correctness has served to censor some humor.  And humor often pokes fun of a sacred cow, or two. And we all can define lines that we’d rather not see crossed when it comes to what is presented as humorous. There is humor that appeals to a more lowbrow audience, and there is humor that engages our intellect just a bit more.  It seems like our culture tolerates, and even prefers, humor that includes “obscene stories, foolish talk and coarse jokes.”  But we are told in the Bible to be salt and light to the world. Good (clean) humor can bring some much needed flavor and freshness to our culture.

Laughing disarms people. Getting people to laugh can be like knocking on their door, giving us the chance to move the dialogue to something more serious.  Jeff Allen, while very funny, also uses his platform to testify how the Lord saved his marriage and from his drug habit. He gets people laughing hard while still modeling Paul’s instruction to “let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” 

Sometimes humor is how we deal with difficult issues and circumstances. I never considered myself a cat person until a cat adopted us. Years later when her kidneys shut down it fell to me to have her put down. The timing was horrible – two days before Christmas. Several years after that, here’s the song that came out. 

So my point in all of this is how can we use our God-given sense of humor to bring Jesus’ light to others?  How can you, as a writer, bring more humor to your work and encourage those who read your words?  I know that writing humor is difficult for many people to write well, but there are those who God has gifted in this area. If that’s you, I encourage you dive in and write something that makes us all LOL. Maybe you’ll be the one to write a truly funny book that will lead to a rise of book sales in the humor category!

And I’ll leave you with this deep thought: if cows laugh, does milk come out of their nose?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Permission to Run Wild by Diana Flegal

G.K. Chesterton said, “The more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.”

As writers, I believe you are ones with permission to ‘run wild’.

Many ask me what purpose Christian fiction serves.

I have of course my own opinion, but I queried published fiction authors, fiction publishing house editors, and other agents as well as all of us here at Hartline. With their permission, here are some of our ‘wild’ thoughts.  

Joseph Max Lewis, author of The Diaries of Pontius Pilate shared: “Christian fiction explores the human condition, including its dark recesses, but always celebrates the life affirming principles of our faith. Christian fiction imparts hope, especially in dark times like now, it celebrates courage, perseverance and self-sacrifice, it reaffirms the truth that with God all things are possible, no matter how impossible they might currently seem. The purpose of Christian fiction is to shine in a dark world.”

One of my favorite fantasy authors, C.S. Lakin, wrote in a recent blog post: “… I don’t write for fun. I don’t write to entertain other Christians. I feel a pressing calling from God to reach out to the lost in the world, to those who have no hope and do not know a plan of salvation has been executed on their behalf and is being offered to them. I look at my writing as 100% ministry, and my efforts and prayers are all directed toward those ends. I take the views of authors like Flannery O’Conner and Madeline L’Engle who felt strongly that their writing should honestly and even painfully reflect the true state of the human condition, of sin, and all its ugliness without censoring.”

Agent Jim Hart: “Christian fiction serves to tell the Truth through engaging our imagination.”

Author and host of the Firsts in Fiction podcasts, Aaron Gansky believes “Christian fiction fills an important spot for those who enjoy good literature, but prefer not to witness the brutality of our fallen world. Or, more precisely, prefers that the ever present hope we have in Christ not be completely ignored. While conflict is essential in fiction, hope is necessary in Christian fiction. Christian fiction is not necessarily the absence of brutality and violence, but instead demonstrates hope through adversity, an opportunity for grace for the fallen, a reminder of where our strength comes from.”

Acquisitions editor Vicki Crumpton said: “My usual answers are escape and entertainment. I'd probably also add a gentle affirmation of our faith.”

Author of Mercy’s Rain and director of The Asheville Christian Writers Conference, Cindy Sproles, believes “we can find guidance through the stories of others. We seem to learn best from example and in a day when fewer and fewer folks are picking up their Bibles, I think the Christian worldview, based in Christian fiction, can plant the seeds that can grow into the hearts of those who may not otherwise see it.”

Linda Glaz, Hartline agent answered, “it serves a large group of previously displaced readers who want clean, well-written fiction with a slant of faith, and who have found it difficult to find such stories in the secular market.”

Marsha Hubler, published author and director of the Montrose Christian Writers Conference put it this way: “Who was the most influential fiction author of all times? The Lord Jesus Christ. Although he penned his all-time best-selling nonfiction book, The Holy Bible through godly men, while Jesus was on earth he also told parable after parable to his listeners, imparting deep biblical and moral truths that changed lives. Jesus loved “story.” Why shouldn’t we Christian authors? “Story” has the power to change lives.”

I couldn’t have said it any better than this group of talented people in the know. What do you get out of your fiction reading? 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Better Believe It by Andy Scheer

Prepare readers to accept the unlikely.

This past Saturday I watched some unbelievable football. At the close of the Packers-Cardinals game, the commentators kept saying they couldn’t believe the play they’d just seen. The Packers’ desperation long pass and reception as time expired was virtually unprecedented.

Except for those who’d seen Aaron Rogers throw a similar game-saving pass a few weeks earlier against the Lions. The first unbelievable reception prepared people to accept what would otherwise have seemed impossible.

The same principle applies in fiction. If you want readers to believe the scene as your protagonist pulls a rabbit out of a hat, you’d better first establish that there’s a hat ... and a rabbit. And several times throughout the story, you’d better show your protagonist performing some modest magic.

Likewise if you plan a closing-scene rescue by having the cavalry appear over the hill.

Awhile back, I pointed out that problem to an author whose novel I was giving a developmental edit. He had some supporting characters provide an unexpected rescue. Too unexpected. I encouraged him to insert a new scene a few chapters earlier that showed the cavalry overcoming obstacles as they rode toward the hill. With that preparatory material, readers were no longer bounced out of the story by wondering “Where’d the cavalry come from?”

In the author’s mind, the cavalry had been trooping toward the rescue. But in the rush of writing the story, that vital, minor scene got skipped. And with it, a perceptive reader’s ability to enjoy the finale.

An easy fix, but only once the problem was identified. If you want to end your story with a convincing bang, make sure your beta readers keep their eyes peeled for white rabbits and top hats. Inserted in your story, they work like magic.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Three Key Elements to Writing a Suspense Novel by Colleen Scott

            Nothing feels better than picking up a new suspense novel, settling into your favorite chair, and immersing yourself in another world. As a writer, I’ve read hundreds of suspense novels. I can still remember the feeling of gripping the book, speeding through the pages and not wanting to put it down until I find out what happens next. As I was learning to write, I really wanted to know what it was that could take my story to the next level. I began studying novels to find out what exactly it was that the author had done to make their book so memorable. I found three key elements which were present in each of these novels. I’ll be using several examples from the movie The Fugitive, starring Harrison Ford. (If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.)
            The first element is a likeable character, plus a noble action. This seems obvious that your readers should like your protagonist, but they also should see him/her doing something noble. It doesn’t have to be a huge action…just something nice. In The Fugitive, the opening scene has Harrison Ford and his wife attending a high class party. The viewers learn that he is a successful surgeon. He swoops in and rescues his wife from a boring conversation and they head home. The viewer warms to this character because he would rather spend time with his wife, than hobnob with his colleagues. On the way home he receives a call and he is needed in surgery to save a man’s life. His wife assures him it’s okay, that she’ll way up for him. Mission accomplished, the viewer (or reader) is on his side.
            The second element is to let the tension build. Never let up. In the subsequent scenes, Ford’s character is tried and sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit. (Murdering his wife.) We know he’s innocent, and we’re cheering him on. Each scene in the movie layers the tension on, the trial, the conviction, the train wreck, his escape, and the first chase scenes. The result leaves your readers grasping the book, hoping everything will turn out okay for your character.
            The final element is humor. Every now and then, your reader will need a little breather. The scene doesn’t have to be a long one. If well written, it can be as little as one line. In The Fugitive, Harrison Ford has been on the run for a while. He’s had several close encounters, but he’s been able to escape each time, and he’s beginning to put the pieces together to solve the mystery of who killed his wife. He’s rented a room in a sketchy neighborhood. All of a sudden, you hear police sirens, Ford looks out the window and he sees a team of police swarming the place. He begins pacing. There’s no way out of the house. Then we see that the landlady’s son is being arrested. She cries out, “My baby!” and one of the cops responds, “Your baby is a drug dealer.” After all the tension the scene created, this one line made the audience laugh. We had a moment to rest.
            So whether you’re in the beginning stages, the muddy middle, or tying up the loose ends of your novel. When you’re in that final polishing stage, look back over and see if your novel contains these three elements.
            Colleen Scott is a client of Linda S. Glaz. Her debut novel, Misconceptions releases on January 19, 2016. You can learn more about Colleen at her website,

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Hope and Encouragement Found in Community by Diana Flegal

The Circles of Hope nonprofit program, founded by Scott Miller, Co-Founder of Move The Mountain Leadership Center, brings together the best efforts and resources of individuals, organizations, communities, and government in a program proven to raise people out of poverty. Operating in 23 states and 62 communities, Circles is committed to helping families build new systems of support.  

Such a worthy mission. But its success is related to a system of support, encouragement, and community.

Support enables us to stretch further, be bolder, and accomplish much more.

This also relates to the writing life.

When we find support, and feel safe expressing ourselves, we become better writers.

Though writers initially express concern their ideas will be stolen, or they are too embarrassed to share their first efforts at a novel, the benefits of joining a writers group quickly dissolve those misgivings.  

Community and encouragement are essential needs of the creative. Crave it. Seek it out.

Question: Have you found or built a community of writers?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Read and Grow Healthy by Andy Scheer

There’s nothing like pumping books.

The day after federal health watchdogs released their latest dietary recommendations, I encountered an infographic titled Benefits of Reading.

Rather than make me worry about my intake of salt, sugar, caffeine, or cholesterol, this online poster gives me comfort. While I’m not an Olympic-level reader, my time with a book, magazine, or an e-reader, does more than exercise my mind. It’s also good for my body.

Follow the link and you’ll see that just six minutes of reading (why stop so soon) can ease muscle tension and reduce stress more than listening to music (68%), drinking tea (100%), and walking (300%). Who knows how much you’d benefit if you listened to music, sipped tea, and took along a book on your walk.

There’s more. People with improved literacy, the infographic claims, have higher incomes, are more likely to own their home, and are less likely to divorce. And by reading aloud to young children you boost their brain development, build a stronger relationship with them, and encourage their academic success.

The graphic claims there’s nothing like a brain on books. The act of reading:
—expands your vocabulary
—boosts your memory
—develops your analytic skills
—improves your communication skills
—enhances your ability to focus

So take time from your health-inducing reading to reflect on how much good you’re doing for yourself and those around you.

Caution: If you’re skeptical about these research-supported findings, federal experts advise against taking them with more than one grain of salt.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Faith for Your Writing Future By Jodie Wolfe

Every year I ask the Lord to show me a word/theme He wants me to learn, grow and improve upon. For 2015 it was 'believe'. I'd like to say I made some major progress in the area, but I'm not sure if I can attest to that. I failed to believe doors would open in my writing career and guess what… they didn't open.

While I admitted to the Lord my lack of success in catching the lessons He had for me last year, I'm thankful He doesn't leave us in our misery. Instead He began to stir in me my word for 2016 - faith. I can believe all I want for something to happen or things to change in my writing career (and life in general), but without faith, I won't get very far. Of course I also need to put actions to work along with faith. J

Instead of dwelling on the past failures, I'm choosing to make this my theme verse for the year.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1 (HCSB)

I don't know what will enfold in 2016, but I trust God to work His will, His way and His timing when it comes to my writing career. While I would love for it to get kick started a little faster than it has, I have faith He will bring about successes when He sees fit.

How about you? Where are you in your writing journey? Is this the year you need to step out in faith and believe God will work?
 Jodie Wolfe loves to stroll through history with the characters she creates. When not writing she enjoys spending time with her husband, reading and walking. You can find her on her website.