Posts Tagged ‘writing tips’

Fiction Writing…it’ll cost ya, or not!

“If you have fresh ideas, a strong voice, and a simple word processor (or even a pad of paper) you can write a book.”

I am constantly amazed at how many programs, templates, gizmos and gadgets there are to enhance the life of a fiction writer. I’ve probably purchased more of these things than I shall admit to. (That nifty top of the line planner has now been consigned to the bottom of my drawer.) Sure the technology tools are sweet…programs that help you note take, organize and map out your plots, characters, etc, but you know what? A binder with tabs can help you do that as well. How about that coolio wireless pen that enables one to write notes that are transferred directly to a file on the iPad? Awesome? Yes! Necessary? No. I mean this to be an encouragement to writers out there. If you have fresh ideas, a strong voice, and a simple word processor (or even a pad of paper) you can write a book. Trust me…I’ve written more than forty with a simple keyboard and a WHOLE LOT OF BINDERS!

Three writing lessons from snow country.

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I live in Northern, California and this means that I am not rugged. I will admit this freely. It the temps drop below fifty I am not certain of my survival, and I am only vaguely familiar with the concept of snow. Hence, when I traveled to Lake Tahoe this weekend, I learned a thing or two! These lessons are so true of the writing life, so I thought I’d share.

Lesson #1: You’re gonna need chains. Yep, to write a book and make the summit you’re going to need some help. Yes, I know your car is nifty and has all the bells and whistles, just like your computer, but at the end of the day you’re going to need down and dirty helping tools like old obscure books (A Writer’s Guide to Poisons, anyone?). You’re going to find yourself hoarding good old fashioned notepads, and perhaps, dare I suggest it, a phone for calling various experts that do not respond to emails or texts. I know, archaic as old steel chains, but there it is.

Lesson #2:  You’re gonna need other people.  Writing is a solitary endeavor for sure. It’s a ‘buns in the chair’ get-it-done kind of slog up the mountain, but when you think you’re reached the summit, that’s where the strangers come in. You need to hand yourself over to that chain guy or that snow plow operator and trust your precious property into their hands. That is to say, you gotta let people help you. Often times, this means people you don’t know…hiring that proofreader, allowing that online critique group to read your work, or in the traditional publishing world, that editor who is going to potentially tear up your writing. It’s important. You have no objectivity about your writing, I’m sorry say. You need the chain guy and the snow plow operator to make your work the best it can be.

Lesson #3. God’s going to take you on an adventure. You will be changed by the journey. You will learn things about yourself that you didn’t know. God will show you sights more incredible that you could ever have imagined. Savor that as you head up the mountain.

Did you ever learn a lesson during your travels? Would love to hear about it! 



Either/or…a quick romance reader survey!


summer dog

All right! Let’s find out what YOU, my darling blog readers, prefer in your novels. Comment with your picks  and speak your mind!



Do you prefer...

1. Either LONG NOVELS (400 pages plus) or SHORTER novels (approximately 250 pages)?

2. Either UNKNOWN VILLIANS that aren’t revealed until the end, or UP FRONT VILLIANS who are up close and personal from the get go?

3.  Either MILITARY/COP protagonists or the EVERYMAN type hero?


Let’s hear from you!


Book #2 in the Pacific Coast Investigations Series available for preorder now!

Seaside Secrets


Three ways to drive a romance reader nuts.




In the course of my career, I’ve been guilty of a few of these I’m sure. The learning curve is steep and readers will let you know quickly if you’ve created the following:

1. Unlikable heroes. Yes, that amazing hero has to be flawed, of course, unlikeable in many ways, but the reader has to like SOMETHING about them. In the course of the novel they are going to grow and change, hopefully improve too, but right from the get go there has to be that intangible something that makes us want to keep reading.

2. Weak heroines. Modern romance readers are accomplished women, smart, savvy, self sufficient. They know better than to walk into dark, deserted warehouses with no cell phone after hearing a scream and a chainsaw starting up. Heroines can’t be the “tied to the railroad tracks waiting for rescue” kind of ladies. Readers won’t respect that.

3. Dead pets. Readers will forgive a lot, but not the tragic death of Fido or Pussy Cat. If you hurt a beloved pet, you’re going to GET MAIL. Same applies to birds, as I discovered early on my career. It’s not just a rule for mammals!

So what drives you nuts in books that you read? Kicking off the new year with January prize-a signed book and an ITunes gift card. 

Preorder Dana’s newest book, a rolicking romance. Here comes Tippy!  Sit, Stay, Love


Puppy Writer 101 – Tips from the dog




As I write this, I’ve got my helper Junie crammed next to me in my chair, tucked under my keyboard. (No doubt this will explain any typos and grammatical errors.) She’s new to the writing biz, but already she’s  mastered the three important points. Allow me to elucidate while my puppy helper licks a spot on the knee of my jeans.


1. Do it NOW! Yep, you may think you’re going to have time later to bang out that 1000 words or make notes about that blog you’ve been meaning to write. Don’t put it off because life is an uncertain thing, isn’t it? You never know when complications will occur (an emergency run for dog biscuits, relatives stopping over to coo at your adorable puppy, an  urgent need for a walk. ) Don’t procrastinate.

2. Take time to ponder. Yes, I know you have a million things to do and write. Me too. I’m working on two books at once, a blog, and several publicity campaigns. But you know what? Quiet time is key, too.  To pray, to ponder plots and themes, to deeply imagine characters. Some of the best writing work can occur when you are not in front of a keyboard. Pondering is important. Just ask Junie.

3. Pee happens. Ah me. In spite of all my learning about craft and technique, things are going to turn out wrong. Sigh. Passages will be flat. Characters will refuse to jump off the page. And what in the world happened to cause those middle chapters to sag like overstretched panty hose? Pee happens, as Junie will tell you. Delete. Rewrite. Clean it up. Move on. Do better next time.

You see? Puppies really are smart writers aren’t they? Do you have an animal companion? Would love to hear about him/her! Last week to enter the December contest for a signed book, gift card and treat. Winner announced Thursday! 










Info about Dana’s latest book

The green turkey confession




Yes, well, I can explain. There was this year, you see, when I was commissioned to cook the Thanksgiving turkey. This involves rubbing and salting and peppering and herbing and such. I was not informed of the fact that dried herbs are more concentrated than fresh. What’s a few tablespoons of dried parsley and sage among friends, ay? It turns out these spices, when used in concentrated amounts, can tint your turkey green. Fact. Too much is bad thing. That applies to certain topics in writing too. I will share.

1. Including many adverbs/adjectives. The young, sensitive woman tenderly clasped the quivering yellow feather in her quaking clammy fingers. Did you get bored somewhere in the middle of that? Readers do, too. They’ve got good imaginations. They don’t need a lot of clutter.

2. Including too many characters with similar names. Bob and Rob, Jenny and Lenny, even Jill and Jake are going to confuse things.

3.  Adding too much figurative language. “Knock it off,” he yelled in a voice as loud as thunder. She trembled, as unsteady as the leaves in a storm. “Man,” she thought. “He’s mad as a bull in a china shop.” Figurative language is like salt. A little enhances, a lot ruins the whole thing.

Did you ever have a cooking disaster? Fess up and you’re entered to win the November prize of a book, iTunes gift card and a Christmas surprise. Winner announced on Monday. 

Find out more about Dangerous Tidings, Dana’s new release


Throwback Thursday…wherein the newbie writer makes mistakes!



Did you ever bake a cake? How did your very first one turn out? You probably have fond memories, but I’m guessing it wasn’t exactly Wilton perfection. I feel the same way about my early books. Counting back some fifteen years ago, I had a passion for describing words. Oh my sunsets were sparkling with every color of the rainbow. Those characters were described down to the tiniest freckle. I suspect even the fictional pets were detailed to the ‘nth’ degree. While I am still guilty of an overuse of adverbs as my writing partners will tell you, I’ve changed. Why? In the words of Leonard Elmore, I try to leave out the parts readers skip.

Readers are smart and they don’t like to be spoon fed. Give them a hint or two, a suggestion of hair color and an interesting sketch of the setting. Don’t beat them over the head with it! Your job is to sketch out the fictional world and let their imaginations fill in the details. Lesson learned…I hope!

Do you get bored with too much description? As a reader, it didn’t used to bother me, but now when I go back and reread some of the classic books I used to enjoy, I find the description heavy handed. What are your thoughts? Giving away a January gift card and signed book this month. 




Keep that god machine out of your novel!




What crazy talk from a Christian writer! Am I saying we shouldn’t write about God? Absolutely not, but you can’t lower Him from a winch in Chapter 15 for the last scene. Allow me to explain.

Back in the days of Greek and Roman theater, it was common for a deity of some sort to be delivered onto the stage via some machinery to intervene at a crucial moment. Heroes were saved, the world set to rights by the arrival of this deity. It’s known as the deus ex machina. Writers continued to use this nifty technique, using either a character or circumstance to improbably resolve a situation. Personally, I would love to employ the deus ex machina too! What a great way to tie up all those nagging plot points and free my hero from the corner I’ve painted him into! The problem is…I can’t.

Modern readers will not accept such a overly contrived solution. I was recently reading Adrift in New York, written by Horatio Alger Junior in 1904. Our brave hero Dodger(actually an heir though he doesn’t know it) is unable to sail home to save his imperiled Florence because he lacks the $300 for the price of a passage. He is exiting his rooms just in time to save a wealthy man from a ruffian. His reward? Yep, $300 dollars. Readers in 1904 didn’t mind that kind of thing. Modern readers do.

So there can be no dropping gods out of the sky to magically fix up our messy plots. We’ll just have to do it the hard way, through lots of heroic striving, spiritual strength and good old fashioned struggle.

Did you ever encounter an improbable event or character in a fiction book that fixed things up in a way that felt contrived? Giving away a Barnes and Noble gift card this month!

Finding time to write…when you don’t have time.

I know, I know. You’re busy! Really, I don’t know anybody who isn’t. Our lives are crazy, aren’t they? The day-to-day can really divert us from where we want to go. I thought it would be a good idea to offer a few handy tips for those folks who really yearn to write that book. Today is tip #1. Sit in the chair. I know you have five or ten minutes to spare today, so glue yourself into that chair and make a list of the story ideas that have been kicking around in your brain. Mine might look something like this:

Swamp, jewel smuggling operation, brother and sister pilots.

It’s not much, is it? It’s enough though, to get me started thinking about the type of story I might want to write. Okay. Now that your five minutes is done, feel free to walk about the cabin, so to speak, but while you’re meandering through your day, think about your main characters. We’ll talk more about them in the next post.

Have you always wanted to write a book? What genre would you most like to write?Christmas gift

Mystery/suspense writing tip #2: Give the reader a sporting chance!

Personally, I rarely guess the ending of a mystery/suspense novel and if I do, I’m kind of disappointed. I want that author to stump me with a clue I didn’t notice or a twist I couldn’t see the significance of at the time. It’s a game I don’t want to win, but I do want the author to play by the rules and that means, sprinkling in those clues along the way. Bury them in back story, dribble them in dialogue, subvert them in setting, but readers need to have the chance to solve the mystery themselves. So clues are sprinkled, not dumped. The great Agatha Christie said she was “always wary of putting too many false clues into the plot, because with so many things to unravel the book would be not only difficult to solve but also difficult to read.”

And there must be herrings, red ones! Just as the fish could be dragged across the trail to confuse the hounds, a red herring is a false clue dropped into the story to confuse the reader and perhaps the protagonist as well.

Do you usually solve the mystery before the end of the book? Does that leave you satisfied or disappointed? All posts get you entered in the June drawing for a Starbuck’s card. sherlock