What Do You Want to Say and Where Are You Going?

 

 

My guest today is Linda Rondeau. To learn more about Linda and her book, Hosea’s Heart, be sure to read her bio and book blurb after her post.

 

Linda: Trying to weed out all those typos, punctuation errors, and formatting foibles can drive a person nuts. Rest easy. Copy editing will come much later.

Perhaps the two most important aspects to work on during your early revisions is defining your message and knowing your key plot events to keep your story clear and purposeful.   

Remember your message

Often, a story falters because the author forgets why he/she has written the work in the first place. Sometimes the author is carried away by the brilliance of their own writing and fails to realize that said beautiful passage has nothing to do with the story’s main idea. In order to stay focused, an author needs to have a clear understanding of their manuscript’s purpose. Ask yourself, “What do I want my reader to take away after spending time in my book?”

Perhaps your intent is to entertain. That is perfectly acceptable. Everyone needs diversion or a good laugh. Perhaps your purpose is to bring a thought or ideation regarding a social issue. At the turn of the century, The Jungle, brought attention to the inhumanity of the meat-packing industry. Uncle Tom’s Cabin inflamed the growing abolitionist movement. My book, Hosea’s Heart, will hopefully bring sympathy toward those who are caught in addiction’s grip.

Knowing the why you are writing this book will help you develop your manuscript in a way that keeps a reader engaged.

Know where your story is going

A second reason a manuscript wanders is because the author has failed to develop a cohesive plot that is consistent with his/her purpose.  There are many books that offer guidance on plot development. Whether using a skeleton format, a three-act or five-act format, or a train concept of plotting, I have found that these five key plot points keep my story moving forward at a good pace.  

  1. Initiating Event: where we are introduced to the character(s). (Katniss gets ready for her day and sings to her sister, establishing their all-important relationship.)
  2. Inciting Event: something happens to propel your character out of his/her normal world and begins his/her internal or external conflict. (Katniss volunteers as tribute to save her sister.)
  3. Crisis Event: the critical event that cements the character’s further decisions and actions. There is no going back and your character can only move forward. (Rose gets out of the last lifeboat and rejoins Jack in the doomed Titanic.)
  4. Climactic Event: the event that causes your character’s final battle with internal or external conflict. (Prince Charming slays the dragon. Luke uses the force to destroy the Death Star.)
  5. Denouement (or Resolution): tying up all the loose ends in a satisfying conclusion. (Luke and Hans are awarded medals by Princess Leia.)

Once you’ve established your message and your plot, other elements (dialogue, characterization, setting, and point of view) will be developed to support your message and be consistent with your story development.

Consider your story’s purpose, message, and plot points.  Click to tweet.

Questions? Comment below.

“Heartwarming stories that keep you reading from the first to last page,” say critics regarding award winning author, LINDA WOOD RONDEAU’s novels. A veteran social worker, Linda now resides in Hagerstown, Maryland. Hosea’s Heart is her eighth novel and fifth with Elk Lake Publishing. Readers may visit her website at www.lindarondeau.com. Contact the author on Facebook, Twitter, PinterestGoogle Plus, and Goodreads.  

 

Buy Link

How much should a wronged husband forgive?

Aubrey Beaumont has spent the last fifteen years in search of his runaway, drug-addicted wife. Now a respected Silver Spring pastor and chaplain, ready to give up and move on, his life takes unexpected turns when she suddenly contacts him. Terminally ill and having found faith, she begs Aubrey’s forgiveness. How can he overlook her past prostitution and liaison with one of Washington’s most vicious drug lords?”

Grateful for a chance at reconciliation, Joanna Beaumont prays that her seemingly wasted life might serve some purpose in her final days. Perhaps her testimony against her former lover’s cartel will bring her the peace she craves.  

Joanna and Aubrey’s paths will crisscross the Capital District’s underworld where they discover how God weaves threads of failure into tapestries of hope. 

“This gripping story will pull at your heartstrings. Linda Wood Rondeau weaves a poignant tale of tragedy, triumph, forgiveness and love in a moving novel full of suspense, romance and redemption.”

View a trailer on Linda’s website.

What a Writer Can Learn From Reading Book Reviews

On the premise we can learn about an author’s audience from reading book reviews, I studied reviews for a Christian contemporary romance I had read. I became more intrigued by the relationship between reviewers’ issues and their star-ratings than the author’s audience.

The book had 262 reviews with a 4.7-star average.

  • 5 stars = 202
  • 4 stars = 42
  • 2 to 3 stars = 18
image by mcmurryjulie

Gabriela Pereira advises us to read 3- and 4-star reviews only (“Alpha-Blog Soup” Writer’s Digest May/June 2018). Pereira says, “5-star reviews are often too glowing to be useful, and people who leave 1- or 2-star reviews have an axe to grind.” She thought seven was the “magic number” of reviews to read to know an author’s audience.

I read sixteen 4-star reviews, breezing through story descriptions and slowing to a sloth’s-pace when the reviewer gave opinions about anything.

I’ve compiled stats below of what reviewers said about different aspects. Remember, these sixteen reviewers rated the book as “very good.” I believe the reviewers genuinely explored the story in honest reviews.

About the Author

  • Writes good banter, humor, and dialogue
  • Willing to introduce risky subjects

About the Reviewers

  • Loyalty to series/author. Regardless of whether they had problems with the story, twelve reviewers (75%) said they’d read the first book in the series, one or more of the author’s other books, and/or planned to read the next book in the series.

Opinions About the Story

 

image by mohamed_hassan

 Theme. Seven reviewers (44%) mentioned a theme. Five went with Theme 1 and two chose Theme 2.

 Plot. Eight (50%) shared their opinions on the plot. Four labeled the plot, and they gave the same plot name. Four mentioned they liked the fresh story twists; three weren’t impressed with the plot, and one gave no opinion on her plot feelings.

 Authenticity. Six (38%) said they were pleased situations and characters were realistic.

 Morality. Seven (44%) voiced concerns over moral issues in the story.

Lessons learned. Six (38%) remarked they appreciated learning from the situations.

Spiritual thread. Ten (63%) mentioned this aspect and gave positive opinions.

 Opinions About the Characters

 

Likeability of Main Characters. Eight (50%) cited problems with liking them. Some warmed up to them later in the story, and two said they enjoyed the story in spite of not caring for the main characters.

Secondary Characters. Seven (44%) mentioned liking the secondary characters. For one secondary character, three loved him and one disliked him.

Character arcs. Seven (44%) mentioned seeing the growth in the main characters.

What struck me was that seven reviewers respectfully voiced their concerns with moral issues, three disliked the plot, and eight had problems liking the hero and heroine, yet they gave the book four stars. These opinions came from ten reviewers (63%), some having concerns in more than one of these three categories.

My exercise showed at least 75% of the sixteen reviewers were loyal to the author/series. And 63% said they were happy with the spiritual thread. This may suggest the importance of

  • authors gaining loyal readers in their genre and receiving a loyalty “mulligan” when one book disappoints, and
  • writing series.

Try reading several 4-star reviews for a book and learn from the commonalities. Click to tweet.

What thoughts can you add to this exercise?

COOKING UP KISSES – has earned an Amazon #1 bestseller ribbon in two categories!

Five scrumptious e-book romance novellas, all for $0.99 or free on KindleUnlimited. Here’s the link.  Here are the blurbs:

 

 

 

THE INVISIBLE WOMAN IN A RED DRESS BY ZOE M. McCARTHY

Candace Parks lives a passionless life in Richmond. The computer programmer returns to the empty family home in the Blue Ridge Mountains solely to evaluate her job, faith, and boyfriend. Her high school crush, Trigg Alderman, who barely remembers her, visits his Gram next door. Sorting her life out? How about nothing of the sort!

 

LOVE ON A DARE BY MARY MANNERS

Alana Mulvaney’s life is in a holding pattern. Consumed by day-to-day operations of the family business, Alana has no time for fun or romance. But a little fun and a whole lot of romance is just what Alana’s sisters have in mind when they learn childhood friend Donovan O’Reilly has returned to town.
Donovan O’Reilly has loved Alana Mulvaney since he moved in next door to her at the age of five. But he broke her heart when he was forced to leave town, and now that he’s returned home to Winding Ridge he has a second chance to prove himself. But is it too late to earn her trust…and her love…again?

HUMMINGBIRD KISSES BY DELIA LATHAM

Toni Littlebird believes that when she meets the man God created for her, she’ll know—and she’ll love him in that very moment.
But then Dax Hendrick roars into Hummingbird Hollow on a noisy, crippled Harley, stinking up the air and chasing away her beloved hummingbirds. One look into the intruder’s eyes and her heart sinks. He’s “The One.” She’d been right about knowing, but wrong about something far more important: She will never love this man!

HEARTS ON THE HARBOR BY ROBIN BAYNE

Cara Peyton is content with her life, her trendy Baltimore bookshop is perfect for her. But when her ex turns up to remodel the store, asking for a second chance, she’s torn and unsure about risking her heart again. Can he convince her to trust him, and God, before the job is finished?

 

 

HIS VALENTINE PROMISE BY DORA HIERS

Another Valentine’s Day and Quinn Randolph prefers to spend it with her sweet rescue lab. Who needs men and their broken promises? Especially Pierce Karson’s! Years ago, his desertion shattered her. Now he’s trying to steal the property she targeted to expand her florist shop! Pierce only wants to belong…and for Quinn to choose him. His Valentine Promise…

Reel in Readers With a Devastating Choice

image by geralt

A Writer’s Digest article* suggested a devastating choice will hook readers and show much about your character. This intrigued me. Although the writer discussed how to develop the story before and after the choice, I approached the idea from a different angle. How would people’s past and current situations affect their choices? For examples, I chose characters with three different situations.

The Setup

image by Foto-Rabe

A fictional poisonous creeper snake strikes the character’s hand. The character knows the crone a two-minute walk away will have a potion to save his life. He heads for the crone’s shack.

 

 

The Choice

The crone inspects the red poison line creeping up the character’s arm and extends a vial. “This is the only potion I have on hand for this kind of viper’s bite. You must consume it within the next four minutes.” The character grabs the vial and removes the stopper. The crone grips his arm, stopping him from drinking the potion. “If you drink the potion you will live, but your memory will be forever erased.”

The Decision

Rex’s Reflection

image by Frantisek_Krejci

Lacking his memories, will he still be the changed man inside he is now after his ten-year stint in prison? Or will he reject his wife and daughter—even worse—beat them as he did his first wife? If so, can he hope he’ll change again? But will the change occur after he’s destroyed his loved ones? They’d be better off with him dead and cherishing loving memories of him. Surely, they will love again.

Rex throws the vial to the ground before he can change his mind. The crone calls her son into the room, points at the ax in the corner, and says, ”Hurry. Chop off his arm above the red line. (For the story, Rex must live.)

Orin’s Reflection

His wife and daughter are the joy of his life. Having no memory or love for them, his life will be worthless. How will his daughter bear his vacant eyes and disinterest? Suppose he doesn’t choose to love his wife and daughter again? How can he put them through that trial? But how could he not soon love his beautiful wife and sweet daughter again? Surely, they’ll supply his important memories. He wants to live. Orin drinks the potion.

Chad’s Reflections

image by KasunChamara

Live, having no memory of his deceased wife and daughter? The memories of them keep him going— No, they keep him suffering guilt, drunk, and living on the streets. Wiping his memory clean could end his pain and give him an opportunity for a new life. But he’d have no guarantee an empty memory bank would improve his sorry existence. Society would be better off with him dead. Yet…in building a new life without the painful memories, he might save someone’s life. Chad drinks the potion.

Each situation, after the choice, offers great challenges for the character. The reader will hopefully want to know how he overcomes them and how he ends up.

Try giving your story character a devastating choice to make. Click to tweet.

What are possible creative and unexpected challenges the characters could face after their choice?

*“What Would You Do?” by David Corbett (Writer’s Digest January 2018)