Seasons for Writers: Saying Good-bye and Hello

Zoe’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

Learn more at the end of the post.

Are you fighting against entering a new season in your writing journey? I hope my experience will give you ideas to consider as you say good-bye to a season and hello to a new season.

Recently, I knew to survive in my writing and speaking career, one or more of my projects had to go. I was trying to juggle too many major commitments. Important ones kept getting tabled. 

Major Writing and Speaking Commitments

  • Writing and teaching the weekly community Bible Study
  • Planning with a group of women a spiritual retreat for our community in which I’ll be the speaker
  • Re-editing and updating two books of contemporary Christian allegories that my business partner and husband will put on Amazon
  • Applying my editors edits to the book in a new romance series
  • Teaching writing workshops at conferences, writers’ groups, and in webinars to promote my book on writing
  • Writing a speculative novel that I sensed God put on my heart
  • Serving as treasurer on the board of a national writers group’s state chapter 
  • Doing my part in our crazy book promotion and marketing efforts

Letting Go

Overwhelmed, I knew I was overdue in sitting down with God to determine what he was calling me to do? Hadn’t I prayed about these activities and believed God had called me to pursue them? 

Through my conversation with God, I realized I was holding on to projects from prior God-directed seasons. I discerned from God that my calling priorities are:

  • Writing inspirational novels
  • teaching God’s word
  • teaching writing principles

During the last couple of years, I was to concentrate on scheduling conference and writers’ group workshops to present the book I’d written to help writers complete and tailor their manuscripts. Although I’m to continue to teach writing principles, the push was part of a past season. 

Two years ago, I’d discerned that in paying forward the writing help I’d received was to volunteer on the Virginia chapter’s board of a national writers organization. The responsibilities and tasks have grown over the two years. When I prayed about accepting another year on the board, God confirmed this season was complete and I was to step down.

Letting go of these two major commitments, will free much of my time. As the year closes, I’ve been energized to complete the speculative novel and work on the spiritual retreat next year. 

Welcoming a New Season

Then a couple of weeks ago, an email arrived offering me a new opportunity that would turn my writing and our marketing habits upside down. Through prayer, I discerned I was to accept the opportunity and revamp and focus my writing and marketing efforts into a new, more defined mold. 

I’ll have to learn to write faster. But once our learning curve is accomplished, my husband and I will be able to concentrate our marketing into two major activities—limiting the craziness we’ve experienced—for a greater return and reach … for a season.

What seems to be calling you to let go of old activities and enter into a new writing season?

Buy Page

I finished reading Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days. I have AND will highly recommend it to anyone who dabbles in fiction. It’s one of the best “how to” books I’ve ever read.

—Marsha Hubler, Director Montrose Christian Writers Conference

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  

—Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! 

—Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

Need to rework your book? Zoe M. McCarthy’s step-by-step reference guide leads you through the process, helping you fight feeling overwhelmed and wrangle your manuscript into publishable shape in 30 days. Tailor Your Manuscript delivers a clear and comprehensive action plan.

—Elizabeth Spann Craig, Twitteriffic owner, bestselling cozy mystery author of the “Myrtle Clover Mysteries,” the “Southern Quilting Mysteries,” and the “Memphis Barbeque Mysteries,” http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/  

Zoe has developed a guiding resource for beginning writers. Her method is designed for brainstorming, shaping, and revising the early draft of a manuscript. General and specific tips are offered for applying rules of writing to enhance one’s story for a workable second draft. By exploring the plot line of Love Comes Softly, writers may examine their own work for stronger plot and characterization. Valuable tools are offered that enable the writer to develop a workable draft in only 30 days!

—Yvonne Lehman, award-winning, best-selling author of 48 novels

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days is chock-full of practical techniques. Numerous examples clarify problem areas and provide workable solutions. The action steps and blah busters McCarthy suggests will help you improve every sentence, every paragraph of your novel. If you follow her advice and implement her strategies, a publisher will be much more likely to issue you a contract.

—Denise K. Loock, freelance editor, lightningeditingservices.com

A concise, detailed, step by step resource for all writers. 

— Jamie West, editor coordinator, Pelican Book Group

Zoe’s writing blog has always intrigued me. As a high school English teacher, I can attest that her tips on good grammar and her hints for excellent sentence and paragraph structure are spot on. But as an author, I also appreciate her ever-present advice that excellent skills are not enough: you must tell a good story, too. This book clearly shows how to do it all.

—Tanya Hanson, “Writing the Trails to Tenderness,” author of Christmas Lights, Outlaw Heart, Hearts Crossing Ranch anthology, and coming in 2019, Tainted Lady, Heart of Hope, and Angel Heart. www.tanyahanson.com

McCarthy crafted an amazing self-help book that will strengthen any writer, whether new or seasoned, with guidance and self-evaluation tools.

–Erin Unger, author of Practicing Murder, releasing in 2019

5 Tips for Using Personal Stories in Your Novel

image by efes

“I finished reading Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days. I have AND will highly recommend it to anyone who dabbles in fiction. It’s one of the best “how to” books I’ve ever read.” Marsha Hubler, Director Montrose Christian Writers Conference

See more information at the end of the post.

I’m referring to short personal anecdotes that you incorporate into a character’s experiences. 

I consider personal stories are my own, my child’s, or my spouse’s experience in which I play a part. For example, my child needs to tell me what happened to him that day at school. I play a supporting role and experience the anecdote through my empathy and intimate feelings for my child.

Example: (A family personal experience I gave to Jace in Across the Lake releasing September 2020.)

Jace: “But it’s an accurate analogy.” He downed a fry. “When I was learning to drive, I thought I was a fast learner and an excellent driver. Then, in the Drivers Ed car with gorgeous Lisa Schroder sitting in the backseat, it was my turn to drive. Had to impress Lisa. I pulled barely to a halt at a stop sign, then pulled out to cross the highway. The instructor stomped on his brake, throwing us against the seatbelts. A motorcycle rumbled past. Man, my entire body burned with embarrassment. Feared Lisa would always judge me an idiot—the guy who tried to kill her.” Jace looked at Em. “Let me tell you, ever since that day of wanting to bury myself six feet under, I always come to a full standstill at stop signs and look both ways before I proceed.”

Tips to Successfully Enhance Your Novel with Personal Stories

Tip 1: The anecdote must have a purpose: 

  • develop a character’s strengths or flaws
  • support a story theme
  • show a lesson (In the example, Jace and Em discuss learning from experiences after Em’s eighteen-year-old daughter has had a bad experience she could have avoided.)
  • enhance the plot 

If the anecdote doesn’t have one of these purposes, then it’s probably a darling you need to edit or cut.

Tip 2: Be sure your vignette has a beginning, middle, and an end as all good stories possess. Jace’s story gives an intro (when I was learning to drive), a middle (what happened), and an ending (what he learned).

image by StockSnap

Tip 3: You have license to and should change details to make the personal story powerful but retain the emotions you experienced. (I changed the student in the back seat to a female and built on the embarrassment my family member suffered.)

Tip 4: Write it so that it is relatable to the reader. Your experience’s commonness may be more important than its weirdness. Readers will appreciate if they can take away something from the anecdote. (Most readers remember Drivers Ed and how they feared and loathed making a mistake.)

Tip 5: Avoid a broad brushstroke story. Zero in on the details in your anecdote to bring the story alive and produce an impact. Remember senses. (Too broad would have been: “I slipped up in Drivers Ed. The instructor had to intervene. I was so embarrassed. I learned a lesson.”) 

What personal anecdote have you used in a manuscript?

Which Person Point of View Is Best for Your Story?

image by geralt
image by geralt

 

Person refers to how the point-of-view (POV) character tells the story—in first, second, or third person. I’ll explore the three options in deep POV (DPOV).

First Person – Using “I”

 

A character invites us into his thoughts. This character could be:

  • The protagonist
  • A supporting character who tells the story of another character.
  • Multiple characters telling parts of the story.
    • Characters share sequentially, staying within the story’s timeline.
    • Or each character tells his/her version of the same story events.

Example:

image by JasonPinaster
image by JasonPinaster

I turned the corner on Main. Alana stood at a cruiser, talking to the police. I followed the busybody to Melissa’s house and listened through the open window as Alana told her I had stolen Melissa’s passport. I ran my hand over my face. Would she believe Alana and send her buff boyfriend to kill me?

 

Analysis:

The open window seems convenient, but first person creates intimacy between the character and us, and we tend to accept what he tells us.

To learn what happened privately between Melissa and Alana, “I” had to eavesdrop.

We only know what “I” sees, hears, and believes. “I” wouldn’t naturally reveal his name or information about his looks or personality.

Melissa’s boyfriend won’t kill “I” because “I” tells the story.

Sometimes using first person, the author slips into sounding like herself. “I” is a male, and wouldn’t say buff. 

Second Person – Using “you”

 

image by PublicDomainPictures
image by PublicDomainPictures

A character tells the story addressing us directly. The author seeks to involve us as if we’re the protagonist.

Substitute “you” for “I” in the example above. First-person disadvantages apply to second person. We may also feel as if the character is demanding our attention. We’re usually ready to be emotionally involved with characters without the “you” viewpoint.

 

Second person is rarely used and seldom works for children. It’s difficult for the author to maintain throughout an entire novel.

Third Person– Using “he/she”

 

A character tells the story from a slight distance. But third person DPOV can easily provide multiple characters and their perspectives.

Example (for brevity, I’ve used some “telling”)

Scene 1 excerpt:

Karl turned the corner on Main. Alana stood at a cruiser, talking to the police. Who was the busybody getting into trouble now?

Scene 2 excerpts:

passport-881305_1280A. Melissa paced her living room. Who’d stolen her passport? Right when she needed to disappear.

B. Melissa opened the door to Alana. Lines wrinkled her forehead, and her eyes misted. Oh no. Here came bad news.

Alana blurted that Karl had stolen the passport.

Melissa’s heart sank.

Scene 3 excerpt:

Karl ordered a soda.

Melissa entered and strode to his table. “You stole my passport. I want it back.”

Karl’s heart flipped. So that’s what Alana had told the police—and Melissa. He ran his hand over his face. If he told her the truth, would she believe him or send her boyfriend to kill him?

Analysis:

We have two characters to supply information, mystery, and feelings from their perspectives. We have Karl’s name. And his death is a possibility.

How to Know Which Person to Use

 

  • Write a scene in each person option.
  • Have someone read the samples to you. Which version sounds right?
  • Send the samples to your critique partners for their feedback.
  • Experts suggest novice writers employ third person until they’re more seasoned.

First, second, and third person viewpoints—advantages and disadvantages. Click to tweet.

What person POVs do you write in and why?