The Happy Hooker

It’s not what you think! Today on the GWN blog we’ve got agent and author Lois Winston talking about the importance of the first page of your manuscript.

Here’s Lois!

lois-winston-low-res-fileNo, this is not about the world’s oldest profession. It’s about the first page of your manuscript. Do you know how few seconds an author has to hook an agent, an editor, or a reader? Precious few. Attention spans just aren’t what they used to be. If you don’t hook a reader (and by readers, I mean agents, editors, and the reading public) with the first page of your book, chances are, she won’t read the second page.

Too many writers make the mistake of opening their books with long passages of description and back-story. So not a good idea! Especially when you open with a description of the weather. There’s a reason Snoopy kept getting all those rejection letters whenever he submitted his novel that opened with, “It was a dark and stormy night…”

It’s also the reason that a well known annual writing contest for the worst opening lines is named for Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, the actual author of that famous line. It appeared in his 1830 novel Paul Clifford. Ever read the complete opening sentence? Most people haven’t. Here it is:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents–except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

Pretty bad, right? The sad truth is that too many authors open their books in a similar manner. That’s why I’m a firm believer in hooking a reader with the very first line of my books. I want my readers to be intrigued enough by that first line to continue reading.

A book’s hook doesn’t have to be defined by the first sentence, but that first sentence should make the reader want to read the next. And the next. Those first sentences should form a paragraph that makes the reader want to read the next paragraph. And the next. And the next—until the reader has read a complete page that makes her want to turn the page and read the next page. And finally, those first pages should create a first scene that has sufficiently hooked the reader so she can’t put down the book. She has to keep reading to find out what happens next.

The opening of a book should suck the reader into the world the author has created. Back-story can come later, trickling in to tease the reader to continue reading more, not as information dumps that pull the reader from the story. A good opening will include only the barest minimum of back-story that is essential for that moment.


As for description, it should be woven into the narrative and dialogue. Nothing bores more than long paragraphs describing everything from the length of the protagonist’s hair to the color of her toenail polish. It, too, pulls the reader from the story. And pulling the reader from the story is a bad idea. It adversely affects the pacing of the book, and good pacing is something that is important to a well-written novel.


“If that damn woman doesn’t shut up, I’m going to strangle her.”

rejected_v002_x1000That’s the first line of Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, the third book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. Reading that sentence, the reader knows something is about to happen. Hopefully, she’ll keep reading to find out just what that something is, why it happens, what sort of impact it has on my protagonist, and how it drives the plot of the book.


Do you open your books with dialogue and/or active narrative that hooks the reader right from that first sentence and makes her want to keep reading? If you don’t, you’re most likely committing one of the top ten reasons your novel will be rejected by agents and editors. If you’d like to find out what the other nine reasons are and how you can avoid committing them, check out Top Ten Reasons Your Novel is Rejected, available as an ebook from all the usual sources.

I wrote this book after too many years of having to write rejection letters to authors. I hate writing rejection letters. All agents do. Many authors think agents and editors take perverse pleasure in rejecting them. Nothing could be further from the truth. We don’t make money rejecting novels; we make money by discovering and selling them. Every time we begin reading a manuscript, we’re hoping to find something fabulous. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen often enough.

: Lois Winston is both an agent with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency and the author of the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Other books in the series include Death By Killer Mop Doll, Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, and the ebook novelette Crewel Intentions. Lois is also published in romance, romantic suspense, women’s fiction, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Visit Lois at, visit Emma at, and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: You can also follow Lois on Twitter @anasleuth.

Cindy here again!

Excellent post, Lois. I also try to make that first sentence a great hook.

Happy writing!



Creating subplots that work

Hi everyone! Welcome back to the GWN blog. Today we have Lyncee Shillard talking about subplots!

Here’s Lyncee!

Most writers don’t have a problem coming up with the ‘bare’ bones of a plot – something happens, it’s resolved. Nice and neat but will only result in about 100 words.  The hard part is developing valid subplots. Not just really cool subplots that don’t move your bare bones plot or contribute to your main character’s growth (those have to go into the ‘cool subplot’ file).

What makes a ‘good’ subplot?  A subplot must fit into two slots to stay. Some authors live by the rule if a subplot can be taken out and your bare bones plot doesn’t fall apart it should be cut.  I believe a good subplot can involve your main character’s growth and not the bare bones plot and it would still benefit your story.

For example, you’re writing a romanctic suspense.

Bare Bones Plot ~ Jane finds a dead body in her apartment elevator. She falls in love with the victim’s brother.  They catch the killer.

Examples of possible sub-plots ~

Jane’s brother is arrested for a throwing rocks through a local gay bar. This adds tension between the hero and heroine because the victim was gay. So when Jane goes and bails her brother out, the hero views it as supporting her brother’s views. Then the hero learns Jane and her brother grew up in foster care. Now the plot would chug along fine without this thread but it adds conflict between the hero and heroine and reveals a piece of Jane’s character – while she is appalled at her brother’s actions she can’t abandon him like their mother did.

The victim is a relapsed gambler. Was he killed for his gambling debt? No but this makes a valid subplot (the investigation) as a red herring.

Examples of non-useable sub-plots~

The building is being bought out and will be torn down. Unless the victim’s murder is directly related to this it won’t add to your plot. Yes Jane will be stressed about having to find a new place to live but it doesn’t add to her character like the brother’s arrest.

Remember subplots can’t just add pages and characters. They need to reveal something about the main character or add a piece to the bare bones plot.

Thanks for stopping by!

Kick Start is my lastest release ~

HotRodsHotBodsJada Anderson had known from the beginning it would only be a three week hook-up. Nothing more than twenty-one days of great dirt bike riding, nights spent drinking bat bites, and making awesome love. So she left without a word on the twenty-first morning.

Dezmond Blance has the chance to take his career as a motocross rider to the next level. He’s been invited to compete for a spot on one of the national top ranked teams. After a great ride, he’s ready to celebrate but he’s missing one thing – the woman who stole his heart weeks earlier.  To his surprise Jada is there to congratulate him.

When he wakes the next morning to find her gone, he thinks she’s done another vanishing act until his mechanic’s wife comes up missing to.  Now both men must race to find the women they love before the next try-outs.


Available at…

Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here, Lyncee! Great post on subplots. I will keep these points in mind when I’m writing.

Happy writing.



It’s a puzzle

Welcome to the start of another week on the GWN blog. Today we have Agatha nominated author Kaye George talking about the differences between writing short stories and novels.

Here’s Kaye!

What’s the difference between writing a mystery short story and writing a mystery novel? A mystery is a puzzle, right? They both contain a puzzle to be solved, so they’re basically similar.

However, you can’t put as much into a short story as you can a novel, obviously. There’s not enough room!  I know some writers do only shorts and some do only novels, but a good number of us want to do both.

Here’s what I do. I have to switch my mindset when I change forms. Short story writing comes more easily to me. I’ve written short stories most of my life and only came to novel writing about ten years ago. Maybe it’s because I’ve done a lot more of them that I find short stories simpler to write. Not simple, just simpler!

I can hold an entire short story in my head. I can plot the whole thing, think up the characters, picture the setting, and get it from my brain to my computer without intermediate notes and scribbles. I’ll tweak it, of course, sometimes for quite a while after I’ve set it down, but I still have the whole thing in my mind at once. I liken it to fitting together a game of Tetris, or solving a Sudoku puzzle.

When I write a novel, however, I have to do a bunch of planning. It’s more like a chess game. I will note here that I don’t play chess well. The characters usually come easily and I can remember them. Likewise the basics of the plot. But the subplots and secondary characters have to be written down and kept track of. I can’t remember who is tall and who is short. Who is bald and who has flowing locks. I’ll forget what some of the settings look like. Then there’s the problem of what everyone is doing.

I’m somewhat of an outliner. Okay, I am an outliner, in that I make an outline before I begin writing a novel. That’s essential for me, even if the outline bears little resemblance to my finished book. I like to note, on a spreadsheet, the description of each character, their age, what vehicle they drive, and if they have any peculiarities. I also keep the plot on a spreadsheet, but more after the fact, to keep track of what I’ve written and what happens on which day and at what time–and to whom.

If I didn’t keep track of everything on a spreadsheet, a character might fall down a well in the afternoon, spend the night at home in bed, then discover the well the next morning. I could easily have a character drive up in a red pickup and go home in a beige Honda.

So, when I switch from one to the other, it’s a matter of resetting my thinking from small to large, from cinematic to TV episodic, from Tetris to chess.

About Kaye: Kaye George is a short story writer and novelist who has been nominated for Agatha awards twice. She is the author of four mystery series: the Imogene Duckworthy humorous Texas series, the Cressa Carraway musical mystery series, the FAT CAT cozy series, and The People of the Wind Neanderthal series.

Her short stories can be found in her collection, A PATCHWORK OF
STORIES, as well as in several anthologies, various online and print
magazines. She reviews for “Suspense Magazine”, writes for several
newsletters and blogs, and gives workshops on short story writing and
promotion. Kaye lives in Knoxville, TN.

Visit Kaye’s website:

About Eine Kleine Murder – When aspiring conductor Cressa Carraway arrives at her grandmother’s resort home, she finds Gram dead. When Gram’s best friend drowns in the same place, Cressa knows something sinister is at work in this idyllic setting.

Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here, Kaye. I find it difficult switching back and forth myself but I need to get used to it. I like the way you look at them.

Happy writing!



Dancing, Ducks and Hit Lists: Polishing Your Words

It’s finally Friday! Welcome to the end of the week on the GWN blog. Today we have Alissa Callen talking about polishing your prose.

Here’s Alissa!

Your muse is happy dancing, your plot ducks all in a neat row and now you need to polish your words to crystal-brilliance before your trigger finger presses submit.

For some this book buff-and-shine is more rewarding than chocolate while for others it is as gratifying as ironing handkerchiefs. But whatever your polishing-mindset a list of ‘seek and destroy’ words can hasten and streamline the process. For every author this hit-list will differ but no matter how vigilant you may be a hard core group of words may shoulder their way onto your page.

The key code Ctrl + F is a perfect tool to not only identify your ‘crutch’ words (words you use all the time) but also to eliminate any general hit-list words. Below is a list collated from my own work as well as others. Be sure to cross out the words that don’t frequently appear in your work and add in any extra ones that do.

Happy polishing and all the very best when you hit submit.



Alissa Callen x

When Alissa Callen isn’t writing she plays traffic controller to four children, three dogs, two horses and one renegade cow who really does believe the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. After a childhood spent chasing sheep on the family farm, Alissa has always been drawn to remote areas and small towns, even when residing overseas. Once a teacher and a counsellor, she remains interested in the life journeys that people take and her books are characteristically heart-warming, emotional and character driven. She currently lives on a small slice of rural Australia in central western New South Wales.

Beneath Outback Skies

Book/buy link:

What Love Sounds Like

Book/buy link:

Face book page:

Vist Alissa’s Website:
Cindy here again!

So true, Alissa. I have my favourite words and I have to do a search and destroy before I send my stories anywhere.

Happy writing!


The importance of critique partners

Welcome back! Today we have Alexa Bourne talking about how important it is for improving your craft to have good critique partners.

Here’s Alexa!

I signed my first writing contract back in December 2011 and I can honestly say I NEVER would have gotten there without my critique partner. Yes, having people tell you how great your story is and how awesome you are is very important, but a true writer needs the person (or people) who will tell her what’s wrong with a story.

My road to my perfect critique partner (CP, for short) wasn’t always easy. In fact, more often than not I had a BAD experience. I had a woman who told me what was wrong and how she would fix it (basically rewriting my story). I had good critiquers who stayed with me through one book but then realized they didn’t want to be writers anymore. I had another critique partner who worked with me during one book and then she and her family moved away and she didn’t want to keep critiquing by email. I had critique partners who didn’t really know how to write (and we didn’t stay partners for long). But I knew I needed someone to help me so I kept looking until I found my perfect critique partner.

Now some people could say they don’t need a critique partner. I’m here to tell you a CP can be crucial to success. Is it possible to get published without a critique partner? Of course, but I honestly believe a good CP is worth her weight in gold. A writer might not be able to step back far enough to view her work professionally or objectively. She could be submitting manuscript pages to friends to read and, while the friends may be willing to help, they may not understand the details included in becoming a professional writer. A good critique partner can be those eyes and that professional guidance.

Silent Surrender CoverWhat is a perfect critique partner? A perfect critique partner is the writer who is right for you at that specific time. It is a person who can give you guidance, who can point out what does and doesn’t work. It is someone you trust to be honest with you and someone you know who wants what is best for you and your work. It may seem simple, but we’re asking people to tell us what is wrong with our babies. We’re asking them to rip apart something we feel great pride and joy in. Hearing your baby is ugly isn’t easy, right? So we need to totally believe in the person giving us that difficult news.

It’s also important that you and your critique partner talk about what you both want in the relationship. The key, as is with most relationships, is communication. If you can’t ask for what you need then you won’t grow as a writer. Some partners only brainstorm with each other and read sections of manuscripts that aren’t making sense. Other partners want to meet or exchange work each week. It’s good to find a partner whose strengths as a writer are different than yours that way you can help each other even more. For example, pace is a main issue for me in my drafts. My CP is excellent at pinpointing where the story begins to drag and when I repeat myself too much. At the same time, I’m really great at catching grammar issues for her, and when the story just doesn’t gel I can usually help her figure out why.

Sometimes a CP can be helpful in another way. When I’ve had a rough writing day, a rejection or a bad review, I’ve sent her some work and asked her to just tell me everything that’s awesome about it. J Do I really believe there’s nothing wrong with that piece? Of course not, but sometimes we just need an ego boost. My relationship with my critique partner is solid enough that she’ll tell me all that’s right on that day and then save all that’s wrong for another round of critiquing.

The right critique partner is invaluable. You can help each other, grow together, and back each other up. It may take quite a while before you find the perfect critique partner for you, but keep looking. Remember how many toads I had to dance with before I found my perfect partner? I guarantee when you do find that perfect partner (or partners), your writing and your future readers will thank you for taking a chance on the partnership!

Be sure to visit Alexa:


Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here, Alexa. So true about finding a critique partner. I don’t know what I would do without mine.

Happy writing!



What sells scripts?

Thanks for stopping by the GWN blog. For something a little different, Ann Kimbrough is here to talk about scripts!

Here’s Ann!

It probably comes up wherever screenwriters gather, be it a coffee house or a top-secret bunker for testing high concepts. It’s the perennial screenwriting question – What Sells Scripts?

First, there’s the answer that we all hate: Good Writing. It’s right up there with “we know it when we see it.” I like an answer that actually tells you something you can take and use – even if it hurts. So, here are a few painful words that I’ve heard from producers. Some of these are more about what doesn’t sell scripts, but play along and see which will help you write a script that producers love.


NAGGING SCRIPTS. Don’t send out your screenplay if you have a nagging feeling about any part of the script. One Hollywood producer said, “If you know there’s a weakness in your script, you’ve gotta fix that weakness.” According to him, most writers don’t.

I know what he’s talking about. I’ve had that nagging feeling about a scene. And it’s never gonna be one of those easy to fix problems. No… it’ll be a page-one rewrite. Sigh. Why is good advice so hard to take? I hate good advice, but I run with it.

DERIVATIVE SCRIPTS. I believe this trend came about after everyone said to write screenplays that are like something successful, but with a twist. “You should rip out everything in your script that you’ve seen before,” said one producer. Everything? Hold onto your laptops, he wasn’t the only one. A veteran screenwriter/producer said, “Only the originals are successful. The copies – no. You gotta get there first.”

Holy McKee! Forget the page-one rewrite, now I’m reworking my concept. Of course, there’s a fine line in there somewhere. If you’re breaking into the world of working screenwriter, you will need to write scripts that honor produced films. The trick is being aware of how you are making it different, better. Derivative means same, boring. If you can answer how your script is interesting, you’re on the right track.

GO WITH THE FLOW. This is the advice from top Hollywood screenwriters and one drilled into my head by Hal Croasmun of ScreenwritingU. He believes that half of screenwriting is the writer’s ability to write a good script, and half — maybe more than half — is the ability to take notes, play the game and deal with human issues.

Wow. Doesn’t the industry know that I spend my days with a laptop, a copy of “Save the Cat” and a zillion mochachinos? I could be lacking a few social skills. But I have learned that if producers like you, they will want to work with you.

DEAL KILLERS. One producing team spelled it out very clearly. “Several things are real deal killers,” they said. “Poor story structure, poor characterization or a writer that is tone deaf to budget.”

That’s good news, even though slightly offensive to the hearing impaired. We can do this one. (We can do all of them, frankly.) Think fewer locations, fewer actors, fewer explosions.

Quick reference for budgets: $60mil and above is the stuff of tent poles and A-list screenwriters. $40mil to $60mil is a lonely area for most films, as it requires financing help. That means your script will need the go-ahead from a village of decision makers. $40mil down to micro-budget is a thriving market. Entry-level work can be found at the $5mil and below range, with the majority of scripts going directly to Netflix or similar. Some do earn a theatrical release. It’s a great area to find work, as the producers are accessible with multiple projects and they pay. At the very least, this is where you can get your first screen credit.

Some other semi-deal killers are scripts that start slow, backstory, voice-over, long third acts and cookie-cutter characters. “I invest in good parts,” one producer said. I’m sure good parts help him attract good actors.

GOOD TITLES SELL. In a world where everything is moving fast and no one has time to listen, this makes a lot of sense. Come up with a title like “Legally Blonde” and you’ll have instant impact. Give them something that is easy to remember, plus shows the story and it’s a pitch in a title. Hard to do? Definitely, but it is worth your time. No matter the budget level, it takes more than one person to make the decision to option your script. If the person you pitch can turn around and pitch a title that interests another decision maker, you’ve made their life easier. Easy makes you look good.

FIRST TEN PAGES. We’ve all heard that very few scripts are read from page one to the end. Sometimes they’ll give you 30 pages, but in reality you only have around ten. It seems rather harsh, but it’s a time issue thing. It’s like a scene from “The Godfather”: It’s not personal, it’s business. Don’t fight it, just embrace it. Your first ten pages need to deliver on your concept. Period. If a producer is reading your script based on a pitch, it’s because they like the concept. If they are reading your script because your mother dated their uncle, you might want to deliver on the concept in five pages or less.

Is your head spinning yet? I recommend a mochachino, and taking the time to filter all the above through your own creative process and elevate your screenplay. A market is out there waiting for you!

Visit Ann’s website:
Visit Ann’s Screenwriting blog:
Follow Ann on Twitter:

Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here Ann.  Great advice. At least I know have the good title part down. For some of my scripts anyway. 🙂

Happy writing!



Lunch break treat: Writing Short Ficiton

Welcome to a new week! Glad you could join us here at GWN. Today we have Vicki Batman talking about why she likes short reads.

Here’s Vicki!

Ick! I’ve heard people say. Short Fiction? I’d rather read a book.

Well, I would too if the pieces I’m talking about were like the ones I read in high school. My brain still shudders over memories about the one with the killer ants in South America. I don’t mean those kinds of stories.

I confess, I write short romantic comedy. I like to write funny. I like witty banter between the hero and heroine. I like to entertain and give readers something to laugh about. It just comes out of me. And I find it to be just as satisfying as a long book.

I don’t leave out the setting, I describe the characters. The hero and heroine have a problem and 5,000 to 13,000 words later, overcome it.

Frankly, some books should be this short.  🙂

Recently, short fiction has become popular with smart phones. People are reading on the bus, at lunch break, wherever. It’s nice and sweet and gratifying, all in one quick read.

I’ve written as short as 800 words for Woman’s World magazine. Those stories usually are called sweet meets. I’ve sold fourteen stories to the Trues–Love, Romance, and Confession–which are sometimes labeled the sin and repent stories. Only mine aren’t. And I’ve sold to other e-publishers.

So what about you? Are you thinking short fiction isn’t for me? Or maybe you might want to delve a little. Coffeetime Romance has a small piece of mine entitled “Bug Stuff.” Check it out here:


SANDIEGOorBUST200x300And if you like “Bug Stuff,” maybe you’ll like “San Diego or Bust,” available at:

Let’s hear what you think: Short? Long? Anything?

Find Vicki at:

Plotting Princesses:

Find San Diego or Bust at:

MuseItUp Publishing:
And B&N and Smashwords

Cindy here again!

I love writing shorts but I haven’t read many shorts. I will remedy that!

Happy writing.



Think you have no time to write? You’re right.

Welcome to Friday on the GWN blog! Today we have Lynn Cahoon talking about finding the time to write.

Here’s Lynn!

The problem isn’t in your schedule. The problem is with your thinking. Now before I break into the story about The Little Engine That Could and your eyes glaze over, let’s start over.

You have time to write. You just have to take it.

I can hear the defensive walls being built already and we’re only three paragraphs in to the blog. But truly, the first thing you have to do if you want to find the time to write, is write.

I was one of those people.  You know the ones who come up to authors at signings and smugly say I’m going to write a book. Then they add the next word, and you know as the person walks away, it’s not going to happen. What’s the word? Someday.

Well, sometimes, someday never comes. I got slapped upside the head by fate in 2007. I had just moved across the country (to a flyover state as my son likes to call my new home). When I started a new job and became eligible for insurance, I scheduled my checkups. New dentist. New family doc. Mammogram. All checked off. I was feeling pretty healthy and pleased with myself. Then I was called back to do another mammogram and diagnosed with breast cancer.  And my someday became a question.

So now I write. And I train people in drilling their days down to the basics so they can find time to write as well.  Here’s a few of the tricks I use to get words on the page.

Set a consistent schedule. It doesn’t have to be every day. Except Stephen King writes every day. Just saying. Writing consistently keeps your story in your head, mulling, brewing. And 350 words a day is 10,000 words a month — 120,000 words a year or a full length novel in twelve months. Writing is a job. You need to train yourself to be able to create even when your muse has left the building. The magic comes in the work. Not before.

Just open the document. Sometimes I don’t want to write. I don’t know where the story is going.  Those days, I tell myself all I have to do is open the document. As I read over the last few pages, I’ll see an error or a sentence that needs massaging.  Before you know it, I’ve reached my daily word goal.

Set a weekly word count goal.  Give yourself a goal that’s a stretch, but doable in the time you have.  I like working a week at a time.  Why? If I miss a day, I have six other days to make word count.   Once you know what you can do in a week, you can plan out a schedule, so if you want to pitch a ‘complete’ manuscript at a conference, you’ll know when you have to start to have it finished in plenty of time to be confident in your pitch appointment.

Set an appointment with yourself. Look at your week, and figure out slots of time where you have time. It doesn’t have to be a two hours slot. Maybe it’s only thirty minutes. Or fifteen.  Now that I’ve been writing a while, I can draft 1000 words in an hour.  If you have no time now, you have to give up something else to make the time. Give up an hour of television a day for your dream. Get up thirty minute early to write.  Write on your lunch hour instead of going out with your friends.  What, you thought this would be easy?  Sorry, you have to sacrifice something if you really want to write.

Finally, be honest with yourself about what you want. It’s okay to dream about writing a book someday. But if you don’t prioritize that dream into a goal that’s specific, measurable, achievable, reasonable, and time based (SMART goal), it will always stay a dream.  How bad do you want it?

So what’s your plan to carve out time to work on your dreams?

BIO – Lynn Cahoon is a contemporary romance author with a love of hot, sexy men, real and imagined. Her alpha heroes range from rogue witch hunters, modern cowboys, or hot doctors, sexy in scrubs. And her heroines all have one thing in common, their strong need for independence. Or at least that’s what they think they want.  She blogs at her website

Cindy here again.

Thanks so much for being here, Lynn. I needed this kick in the pants pep talk!

Happy writing.



Excuse me – Where did you find that world?

Welcome to the GWN blog! Today we have David O Smith talking about one of my problem areas, world building.

Here’s David!

Fiction writers whose works take place in the here and now have it easy. They have a complete, ready-made world in which to set their stories. Those of us who write speculative fiction have extra problems. We not only have to write the story, we have to build a world in which to set it. A world that may be marginally different from the one we live in, or a world that might be totally removed from ours.

Simple, you say. Hie thee off to the nearest library and get yourself into some research. Find the nearest appropriate period in history and learn all about it. So, I’ve got Noggin Halfaxe bouncing around in my skull screaming “Write about me, write about me”. That name sounds like a Viking name so should I spend the next six months studying life in Viking times to give me some grounding for his world? Noggin’s gone off in a huff by then and will never get his story told. Not by me, at any rate.

And how much research can you do for something set in the future, or in somewhere totally different from this world? Anne McCaffery’s “Pern”, say, or Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”.

But you’ve still got to build that world. There will need to be a consistent, cohesive stage for Noggin to strut his stuff on. How do we do that? Ask questions of your characters, something all writers should be very good at. “Well, why the heck do they call you ‘Halfaxe’?”

We still have to answer those story questions, but there are others that we must ask, as well. Start from very basics – “What’s that axe made from, Noggin?”

Beware – world building can be addictive. Yes, another good excuse to do something other than writing – as if we needed one. It’s fascinating to settle down and draw up all the details of a world. I could spend a year or more, full time, creating the planet Noggin lives on, and masses of information about where it is in space, what its sun is like and so on. By that time, of course, poor Noggin has got fed up with waiting and stalked off to raid someone else’s brain, and my work’s wasted. If I put in that much detail most of it will be wasted anyway, because it’s not relevant to Noggin and his life.

Let me give you an example. In one novel I have in progress the world has two moons. One goes round the world in 10 days and the other in 40. It so happens that the world goes round its sun in 400 days (yes, all right, I chose figures to make it easy. You don’t have to make everything hard for yourself, you know). So their calendar divides the year into 10 circuits of one moon (which they call months – I wasn’t feeling very original that day) and that is subdivided into 4 periods of 10 days corresponding to the circuits of the other moon. They call these “Lights”. How long is a day you ask? Sunrise to sunset, and back again. That’s all you (and your characters) need to know.

See what I mean? Build those parts of the world that will affect the life of your characters, your story, but don’t waste time on things that don’t matter.

Noggin’s a sea raider. He spends part of his life sailing over the seas raiding other people’s homes. So the weather, ships and seafaring are going to be crucial things to know about in his world. For one quarter of his year the sun beats down from a cloudless sky, there is no wind and no rain. For another quarter there are violent storms, and the rain comes down in stair rods. For the other two quarters there are steady breezes, the sun is warm, but not blazing hot, and there is a certain amount of refreshing rain. So when will Noggin do his raiding? And how does he tell when the seasons are changing? Does he care if there’s a vast country on the other side of his world that is ruled by Amazons who make Ann Robinson look gentle, and polite, and have only one use for men? Not unless he gets blown there, at which point it becomes part of the story.

It needn’t all come from your brain, of course. If Noggin’s Gods are similar to those of the Vikings that were in this world then, yes, off to the library you go. Be prepared to do some tweaking. If it doesn’t fit, change it. After all, it’s your world. You are the great creator.

Don’t feel you have to do it all at once, tying young Noggin into a corner until you have his world all polished and sparkling new for him to go raiding. You can – but don’t be so drawn into creating his world that you never actually get round to his story. Or you can be like me, start telling the tale, and build the world around it as you go.

And above all – have fun!

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Cindy here again!

Great tips, David! Thanks for sharing your world building techniques with us.

Happy writing.



What do you mean?

Welcome to the GWN blog and Happy Canada Day! Today is Canada’s 146th birthday.  We’ve got Lynda Kaye Frazier talking about writing communities.

Here’s Lynda!

What do you mean I don’t know how to write?

When I decided to write a book, I did just that. I sat and wrote a book. Easy, right? That’s what I thought.

I had written 137,000 words in two months, I was so excited to write the words ‘The end’ that I sent it right out to friends to read. I felt accomplished, but my balloon burst pretty quickly after a few eye opening critiques. It didn’t take me long to realize that those two little words really meant the beginning. I had no idea where to go but I knew what I needed, help, and lots of it.

I stared at my story and was so lost. I didn’t want to box it up, start over. I worked so hard and my readers said they loved the story line, just not my inability to write. I had no direction on where to get help so I asked my critique partners and after a few weeks I had a list of online writing groups. I quickly researched and realized that there were so many things I needed help with, but I didn’t have a big savings account set aside for my workshops, and some of those sites were expensive. I was heartsick but knew there had to be some groups that were for the struggling writer, eager to learn.  I polled a few of my yahoo groups and found Savvy Authors. It was the one that was recommended for a POV, grammar and punctuation class that quite a few of my critique partners said I needed. And yes, they were right. My grammar sucked.  : )

Savvy Authors 04 - 1.2 Colored SoloI went to their site and found an amazing amount of useful information. They had workshops, seminars, online chats and even pitches with editors. I felt like it was Christmas and I just opened my big gift. They had so many workshops that I wanted to take so I joined the group and started to sign up. I have to say I was in heaven. I took classes, met new friends and formed a bond with this group that has helped me battle through every obstacle that got in my way as I fixed all the mistakes in my book. And let me tell you there were quite a few. My 137,000 words are now 86,742. It took me six months but my book, Rescued from the Dark, is now a published novel and I owe a lot of my success to the help I received at Savvy Authors.

Now for a little humor. I never realized I had to know how to write before I could write a book. I had no idea what POV meant and didn’t know whether I was writing in first or third person.

Just a little example of how inexperienced I was:

Now don’t laugh

I watched the mist clear as the sun came up. Walking through the streets of Dayton was eerie in the morning for me. He moved up the street as the hooded figure moved closer.

I stopped at the corner and waited as he moved closer.  “What do you want?” His face was covered as he talked.

“I want you to stop interfering. Leave my family alone.” Because if you don’t leave us alone you will be the next to die.

I know, cringe, I did

I have mixed in first person, third person, head hopping, telling instead of showing. I could go on, but you get the idea. To think, I had 27 chapters written like this. And you wondered why it took me six months to fix what I did wrong. I commend my instructors for their patience.

So If I were to give any advice to someone who was thinking about writing a book I would tell them to make sure they knew how to write and send them to the Savvy Authors site. It has everything they will need to make their first story one that others will enjoy reading and not cringe after the first page.  : )

Bio: Lynda Kaye Frazier is an avid reader of romantic suspense and started her writing career with a dream. A cliche, but it’s true. She works full time at a Cardiology clinic, while writing her own novels at night. She grew up in Pennsylvania, but now lives in Arkansas where she enjoys the four seasons without a long, cold winter. She has five children and three grandchildren that she adores. Other than spending time with her family, her favorite things to do are writing, reading and listening to music, but her most favorite is going to the beach. Surf, sand and a good book, her stress relief.

Join the Savvy Authors admin and volunteers as we tour the blogosphere in anticipation of the launch of our improved and updated website. We are excited to share our love of Savvy, and all writing communities, with each of you during the summer months. Below is a list of stops we’ll be making – please feel free to stop by and say hello! (and definitely check out the new look of our site)

May 27th – Melinda B. Pierce on Author’s For Life

June 10th – Ella Gray on The Speculative Salon

June 12th – Elizabeth Gibson on Maggie’s Meanderings

June 19th – Sharon Pickrel on Pen of the Dreamer

June 21st – Riley Darkes on Writing Secrets of Seven Scribes

June 25th – Leslie Dow on A Writer’s Musings

June 24th – Angel on The World in My Hands

June 28th – Marilyn Muniz on

July 1st – Lynda K. Frazier on Guelph Write Now <– You are here!!

Rescued From the Dark CoverRescued From the Dark

She has no memory of their love…

Kidnapped by terrorists and sent into a drug-induced coma, FBI intern Mercy Kingsley awakes with no memory of her ordeal—or the intimate interlude that got her pregnant. Convinced her child was fathered by her ex-fiancé, she walks away from the only man she has ever loved, determined to make things work with her ex, a man the FBI suspects is implicated in her abduction.

He knows the truth, but no one will listen…

FBI undercover Agent Jason Michaels remembers what Mercy can’t and those memories are breaking his heart. Forced to keep his distance from his lover and their unborn child, Jason risks his life to protect Mercy from a cell of international terrorists who want the secrets locked in her memory and have vowed to get them, no matter the cost. Can Jason convince Mercy to trust him until she remembers their past, or will he lose her to a man who’ll trap her in a nightmare world of darkness from which there is no escape?


Cindy here again!

Thanks so much for being here, Lynda! I’m afraid to go back and look at the first book I wrote. I know it’s horrible and needs a lot of work. But this convinced me I can fix it, even if it does take me six months.

Happy writing!



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