Thursday, September 6, 2012

Win a Book!


Author Cara Lynn James said if we receive 10 comments we'll draw for a winner of the book shown below. When you leave a comment on THIS post by 6 p.m. CT Sunday, September 9, 2012 you'll be entered in the DRAWING. If you mention in your comment that you’re a new or old follower I’ll add your name a second time in the drawing (see “Join This Site” in the left column to become a new follower). You can read details about my book giveaways here.  



Fixing Problems by Cara Lynn James

Our guest blogger today is Cara Lynn James. Cara writes historical romances set during the Gilded Age. Her fourth book, A Path toward Love, was released August 2012. Her previous novels are Love on a Dime, Love on Assignment and Love by the Book.
Cara and her family have resided in northwest Florida for the past ten years. She’s also lived in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Texas, California, Virginia and Vermont. In her younger years she served in the military as a Naval officer along with her husband who’s a retired Navy pilot. Now Cara writes full time--when she’s not playing with her five year old grandson or Sparky, the family Papillon. 


Some of the most important work we do as writers is editing or book doctoring. Our manuscript might not exactly be ‘ailing’—then again it might be—but maybe it doesn’t quite belong in the healthy category yet. Before we send off our story we’ll need to fix mistakes and weaknesses in craft. But first we have to spot them. They’re likely to pop up in three areas: characterization, story and plot.

Characterization
Problem #1:
Underdeveloped characters that produce insufficient depth, dimension, believability or interest.

The Fix:
Here are some areas to check out and revise—The character must have a clear yearning, a traumatic past, a heroic strength and a weakness, many unique personality traits, habits, likes, dislikes, talents, hobbies, attitudes, quirks, strong emotions, motives, fears and secrets, and one or more contradictions. These are all the things you put into character sheets.

Problem #2:
Passive characters who are watchers, not actors, who are on the defensive, or who are not effected by the conflicts—that is, they could walk away from the situation without batting an eyelash. I’m talking about characters that are acted upon.

The Fix:
The protagonist should be striving to meet an external story goal, resolving the problem and relieving the inner suffering. Our beloved characters are suffering, aren’t they? Remember, we need to torture them no matter how loving we are in real life. We don’t want to bore our readers to death by treating our characters with sugarcoated kindness. We want to keep our readers and boring them isn’t the way to do it. It’s hard for some of us to be mean to the people we love, but we must at least until the end of the story.

It’s okay if some of your characters are in defensive positions, but your protagonist should be on the offensive—strong and active. Formulate your story so the protagonist’s goals are most important, not the antagonist’s goals. Sometimes a plot can be set up incorrectly and that puts the protagonist on the defensive. Not good.

Problem #3:
Insufficient relationship chemistry, contrast or conflict between the characters.

The Fix:
Increase and strengthen the relationship between the characters and heighten the emotions and the potential for conflict. Make your characters essential to each other, and make their goals at cross-purposes. To avoid a lack of chemistry develop the characters and think in terms of opposites and differences. If they’re too compatible you won’t have much of a story and your reader will yawn. A bored reader will not buy your next book. A very important point.

Problem #4:
Awkward shifts from one POV to another POV.

The Fix:
Use only one POV per scene so you won’t confuse your reader. For smooth transitions between scenes start with the new character’s name or use a key word or phrase such as “Later that afternoon.” Don’t head hop because it’s confusing and we don’t know whom the scene is about or who to root for.


Dialogue
Problem #1: Too much dialogue for too long; i.e. ‘talking heads.’

The Fix:
Very simple to correct dialogue. No speeches or sermons, please. Just break it up with a response from another character so that it becomes a conversation. Don’t overload dialogue with too much information. You can fix your ‘talking heads’ by adding setting, sensory experience or some other characterization.

Problem #2:
The speakers all sound alike and are flat.

The Fix:
You can use slang, regional figures of speech, words that reflect the character’s ethnicity, race, religion, personality etc. Develop a word list of favorite phrases that fit the character. (I’ve never done this, but I’m going to. Anything to stay organized.)

Problem #3:
Dialogue lacks tension, fails to move the plot.

The Fix:
Revise based on your character’s scene goal or emotional need. Through dialogue show your POV character striving to reach their goal and running into obstacles. You must have some sort of opposition. If you don’t have this then you could add an antagonist who challenges the POV character through dialogue.

Problem #4: Attributions
—who is speaking—take characters out of the story.

The Fix:
Don’t use words such as snarled, chided, chortled etc. Replace them with he said/she said. Or replace he said/she said with an action sentence that makes clear who is speaking.

Problem #5:
Avoid over-the-top writing of dialect, slang, jargon, clich├ęs, or foreign terms.

What are some other problems that need fixing?

The Fix:
A few dropped ‘g’s’ such as ‘walkin’ will do the trick. Avoid trying to phonetically spell dialects. Readers might throw your book across the room out of frustration and you wouldn’t want that.




Remember: leave a comment on THIS post by 6 p.m. CT Sunday, September 9, 2012 and you'll be entered in the drawing for a copy of A Path Toward Love by Cara Lynn James. You must be eighteen, have a U.S. mailing address, void where prohibited. Please, please remember to leave your email address so that should you be the winner I can get in touch with you for your mailing address. Remember, we must receive 10 comments to have a drawing. (Tell your friends to come over and comment!)I will announce the winner in Monday’s blog.


Till next time ... keep on smiling.



44 comments:

  1. This is my first visit to your site. I've read Cara's Love on a Dime and liked it. Count me in. I'm finishing my first historical novel and have a website of inspiritual commentary.

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    1. Elaine, thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. Congratulations on finishing your first historical novel.

      Delete
    2. Elaine, I NEED YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS to enter you in the book drawing.

      Delete
  2. Oh, such good tips. Especially that one about head-hopping. :) It's so easy to look back at the classics, say JA and go, but *she* did it. Still...it's confusing! :)

    Thanks for the opportunity to win (come on, people, comment!) :)

    biblioprincess15 (at) yahoo (dot) com

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    1. Rachelle, Glad you enjoyed the article. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. And thanks for the pep talk to everyone to comment.

      Delete
  3. This sounds like a great book and I love the cover. Thank you for hosting the giveaway.

    wfnren(at)aol(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Forgot to mention that I am an old follower!

      wfnren(at)aol(dot)com

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    2. Wendy, you're welcome. Thanks for being a follower of my blog and for commenting on this post.

      Delete
  4. Would love to win and read this book. I visit the Adirondacks several times every year. I'm only 30 minutes away from there. Thank you for the chance to win.

    I'm an old follower.

    Karen
    kmgervais(at)nycap(dot)rr(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Karen, you're welcome. Thanks for being a follower and stopping by and leaving a comment on this post.

      Delete
  5. Would love to win. Thanks for doing this.

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    1. Pat, you're welcome. But I NEED YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS to enter you in the drawing. Thanks for reading my blog and for commenting.

      Delete
  6. I would love to read this book, thanks for the giveaway! =)

    Im a new follower.
    readinginks ( at ) gmail ( dot ) com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Melissa, you're welcome. Thanks a bunch for becoming a new follower. Glad you stopped by and left a comment.

      Delete
  7. This looks like a book right up my alley. Thank you for the chance to win.

    I am also a new follower

    griperang at embarqmail dot com

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    1. Angela, you're welcome. Thanks so much for becoming a new follower of my blog and leaving a comment on this post. Watch for more book drawings in the future.

      Delete
  8. I'm an "old" follower by e-mail.
    I find it interesting to read about all the things authors have to consider when writing a book. You work so hard to make the story read effortlessly so that we readers hardly even consider all you went through to make it the great book we are reading. Thanks for all your hard work!
    I'd love a chance to win a copy of A Path Toward Love. Thanks.
    pmk56[at]sbcglobal[dot]net

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    1. Pam K., thanks for being an "old" follower of my blog. Thanks for leaving a comment--it's a compliment to all published authors.

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  9. Sorry I'm so late to the party!

    When I write I've learned to just get the words down on the page and not second guess myself. Then I go back and revise carefully. Of course everyone has a different method of writing and you have to find the one that suits you the best.

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    1. Good, solid advice! I especially like #5. Just a little bit of local dialect goes a long way. I'm an old follower and really enjoy Jo's posts.

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    2. Great tips! I'd love to be entered for A Path Toward Love. Thanks.

      I'm an old follower.
      worthy2bpraised at gmail dot com

      Delete
    3. PAT, thanks for coming by and leaving a comment. I'm glad you enjoy the posts here and thanks for being an old follower.

      Merry, You're entered. Thanks for your comment and for being an old follower and for reading my blog.

      Delete
  10. I want to read this so bad! Thanks for the giveaway!
    New follower GFC: Morgan

    smilesalot2010(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Morgan, you're welcome. So glad you're a new follower. Thanks for reading my blog and leaving a comment.

      Delete
  11. This novel sounds really good and would to read it. I love the post. Great advice. Thanks.

    campbellamyd at gmail dot com

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    1. Amy, glad you enjoyed Cara's guest post. Thanks for coming by and leaving a comment.

      Delete
  12. I would love to have a chance to win this book! It looks like a great read :)
    I am also a 'new follower' to this blog.
    Thank you for the opportunity!!
    samanthaakuiper@gmail.com

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    1. Samantha,thanks for being a "new follower" to this blog. Stop by again and look for more book drawings.

      Delete
  13. I would love to win this book! =) Sounds like a really good read!

    Battles2001@hotmail.com

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    1. Melissa, thanks for reading my blog and for leaving a comment. Look for other book contests in the future.

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  14. Cara, you always have such excellent advice on the writing craft. Even after years of writing, these "refresher courses" help remind me what I need to keep working on. Looking forward to reading your next book!

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    1. Myra, thanks for coming by and for leaving a comment.
      I NEED YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS IF YOU WANT TO BE ENTERED IN THE DRAWING.

      Delete
  15. Great post. The book looks like a great read. Would love a chance to win. Thanks.

    I thought I was an old follower but didn't see my name.
    So I guess I'm a new follower.

    msbookwormlady(at)aol(dot)com

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    1. Kay, you're entered in the drawing. Thanks for your comment and for being a new follower.

      Delete
  16. Thanks for the tips, they are very helpful as I am working on editing my MS. I have seen your book popping up several places and would love the chance to win.

    mafinnegan(at)yahoo(dot)com

    ~Melissa

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    1. Melissa, glad you liked Cara's article. Thanks for reading my blog and for leaving a comment.

      Delete
  17. I love Cara's book. I enjoyed reading the post.
    godblessamerica.jan(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Jan, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I appreciate your reading my blog. Watch for other book drawings in the future.

      Delete
  18. I would love to read this book. The cover is beautiful and has me wanting to pick up the book and start to read it without putting it down.

    Blessings,
    Jo
    azladijo(at)aol(dot)com

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    1. Jo, the cover is beautiful. Thanks for reading my blog and for commenting.

      Delete
  19. Hello, I have just become a new follower! :)

    Please enter me! amada_chavez[AT]yahoo[DOT]com

    John 3:15-16 (Read it, Believe it, and Be Saved)

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  20. Amanda, you're entered! Thanks for becoming a new follower. I'm glad you're reading my blog and thanks for leaving the comment.

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  21. Read Cara's "Love on a Dime" and enjoyed it. I have "A Path toward Love" on my wish list. Would love the chance to win. Thank you for having this giveaway.

    I am a new follower of your blog.

    prettyinpurplerose(at)aol(dot)com

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    1. Kevlin, you're welcome. I'm so glad you're a new follower of my blog. Thanks for dropping by and for leaving a comment.

      Delete