Saturday, September 29, 2007

My Reflections a Week Later

A week ago today I was still in Dallas getting ready for my editor pitch and the ACFW Awards Banquet. I've listed some things editors are looking for on my personal blog at As some of our readers know from previous posts, this was my first ACFW Conference and I was thoroughly impressed. I can't wait to go to Minneapolis next year.

I've always written historicals and I will probably always write historicals, but God has laid a contemporary on my heart so now I know that God isn't going to limit me to one genre. I've got to be open to His calling. This means I need to learn more about writing contemporaries, specifically women's fiction, now that I realize my book actually falls in this category.

Yesterday I received my Genesis scores on my manuscript, "By His Plan." One editor gave me some valuable feedback. She'd like to see more emotion and personality from my hero. Contemporary men are allowed and expected to show more emotion than a lonely cowboy who keeps to himself, or a warring Viking staking claim to someone else's home, or an Indian brave who doesn't understand our culture. I've put my hero under a lot of stress as he fights to keep his eight-year-old daughter alive through Leukemia and then faces financial insecurity through the process. How much emotion can a man show without looking wimpy? I've been careful to guard his emotions for this reason, but I do want the reader to be sympathetic toward him and to identify with him.

This editor also stated that I should show more description through expedition. If anyone has taken or given a class on this, please, please, please direct me to some info. I'm looking for examples and comparisons. If I can see what she means, I know I can make it happen in my story.

I took Deb Raney's workshop on "Writing Women's Fiction/Contemporary Fiction" and I learned some things I'll share here.

What is Christian Contemporary Women's Fiction?
Women's fiction is about women's relationships that may or may not have a romance element. It doesn't always have the standard happy ending. Christian fiction should leave the reader with a sense of hope. It should touch on issues that women are dealing with in real life.

  • If you want to write Christian women's fiction, you have to read it. It's also important to know about the ABA market, because CBA seems to be a step behind and will give you ideas and inspiration on the next phase in CBA.

  • Characterization is most important in women's fiction over plot. All the internal conflict and emotion are matters of the heart where a character changes on the inside.

  • Readers have the perception that the person who starts the story in their POV is the main character. Consider this when choosing which character's POV to use at the beginning.

    Talking Heads Avoidance Device (THAD)
  • At the beginning of the scene provide the setting. Set the mood and tone.
  • Provide something for your characters to do. Insert beats to show what they are doing instead of simply listing "he said/she said".
  • Old classics used "he declard" and "she replied" and similar devices in dialogue. This method went out of style for contemporary fiction and editors will not want to see it in your manuscript today.
  • Don't use backstory until 30-50 pages into your manuscript. Then make sure it isn't an info dump, but layer it in your manuscript as the story unfolds as needed.

    I will be working on finishing my first draft to "By His Plan" and then I'll go back through with my first set of edits and layer in more emotion and description to give my manuscript a richer texture. I hope some of these notes will help others as well.

    1. Jenn, thanks for the great info! I haven't heard the term "expedition" before. I'll have to look it up! I usually think of description through narrative, but that gets boring really fast (I often skim description!). So maybe it means something about seeing things through the eyes of another character. Ex. Heroine doesn't think that she has long, dark hair. The hero thinks about it. The heroine may only think about how hard it is to get it to hold curl. :)

      Or maybe it means something about about discovering setting through action, not description?? I have no clue! Please let us know when you learn more about it.


    2. I was in a different class on writing Historicals. I'm so glad you posted these notes. I wanted to be in all the classes.