Friday, October 31, 2014

Style Tricks

Hi! It’s Kelsey again. How are you enjoying your autumn? Is it inspiring you to write? I’m certainly feeling the lyricism of cool wind, falling leaves, colored trees, and migrating geese as I edit and add scenes to my nearly finished novel. As I work, I realize how editing is all about improving your writing. You’ve already done the most creative part—filling lots of blank pages with your story—but editing is creative, too, and for some of us, almost as much fun. You’re honing your words, touching up your painting, smoothing your carving … finishing your creation to be the best it can be.

Are you like me and always looking to improve your way with words? Sometimes it takes editing to do that, but if you’re aware of some tricks ahead of time, you can incorporate them into your style as you create! Here are some generally accepted tips I’ve gleaned about telling your story in words that people love to read:

Passive voice, as opposed to active voice, is when the subject of the sentence receives the action instead of performs it. It slows down a narrative, which can be a good thing, like when you want to be thoughtful or give your story or character an old-fashioned feel. You also might need it to emphasize the subject that’s being acted upon. But at other times, it tends to lessen impact and hamper readability. So, instead of “Carols were sung by the children” say, “The children sang carols.” See how the second sentence moves faster?

Speaking of slowing things down, I come across quite a few sentences beginning with “there” when I edit my writing. I don’t know why it’s more natural for me to say, “There were four chairs surrounding the table” instead of, “Four chairs surrounded the table.” The second sentence reads better and stronger simply by putting the subject first! Of course, you’ll want or need to write sentences the first way from time to time, but it’s worthwhile to see if the other sounds better.

Sometimes all you need to do to improve the flow of a sentence is to rearrange its words or phrases. Placement makes a difference in emphasis—it can be subtle, but subtlety is often part and parcel of excellent writing. Words at the end of a sentence tend to stand out, so if you put your most important thought at the end, your sentence will have the impact you intend. This is especially a good idea when your sentence is extra significant!

Another thing to consider with your sentences is how they flow together. Varying the length and structure of sentences that follow one another makes a smooth, continuous stream; your readers won’t get hung up on repetitive rhythms. “The dog is black, and he lives in a red house. The house is spacious, but the roof leaks. The dog gets wet when it rains because the roof leaks.” Now, this can be fine if you’re drawing special attention to these sentences; but if you want sentences that simply flow from one subject to another, vary the length and structure: “The dog is black and lives in a spacious red house. Though the house is spacious, the roof leaks, so the dog gets wet when it rains.”

Knowing these tricks about good composition makes writing easier for me, so I hope they do the same for you! What tricks or rules have you learned that made a big difference in your writing?

Kelsey Bryant is an author, blogger, and copy editor who loves the Lord. She revels in many things: the beauty of God's Word, the music of English, the wonder of nature, the joy of creativity, the freedom of motion, the richness of literature, the intrigue of history ... and much more. To learn more about her, visit her website or blog

Thursday, October 30, 2014

An Unexpected Turn....

The winner of our giveaway for Elisha's new book is DEB! Deb, could you leave me a message here with your email so I can put you in contact with the author. Thank you!

Does your WIP have an unexpected turn?

I mean, really unexpected. If you have several titles out on the market, chances are good that your readers think they know what is going to happen next. But do they?

I've had a few dear readers tell me that they know me so well. They know exactly how the story will turn out. Ah, hah! But do they?

Make a point of throwing them for a complete loop. Do something drastic that you've never done before. Whether that's throwing mystery in, ending the romance that at first had high hopes for happily-ever-after, or even killing off a main character, do it. 

Don't fall in a rut. Some predictability is very good, even desired. But don't let your entire WIP be predictable. Take an unexpected turn.

Oh, and watch this movie. It illustrates my point.

You know what? It illustrates it really well!

Alicia A. Willis is a home-school graduate, published author, and avid historian. She is a firm believer in the principle that one can accomplish anything by substantial amounts of prayer and coffee. Visit her at her blog or Facebook to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Historical Research: Primary Sources

Thanks to the internet, writers have access to thousands of firsthand accounts and other primary resources that before were only available at colleges, libraries and historical societies. This gives writers a great advantage today. You don’t have to rely on what a history book tells you; you can find facts for yourself, without making a long trip.

What are primary sources?
Primary sources are documents that were written as the events were unfolding, not afterward. Primary or firsthand sources include diaries, letters, speeches and such.

Why use them?
Instead of someone many of years later telling what people thought, felt and did, you can read it for yourself. You might be surprised at some of the things you learn about historical character that you know well. Also, reading primary sources gives you a better understanding of the emotions of the time than a textbook can.

Where can you find them?
As I said, the internet has opened up the many ways of finding them. Type what you are looking for into Google, and you are almost guaranteed to find something. Are you looking for the letters of George Washington, diaries during the Civil War, or an eye witness account of the Boston Tea Party? Type it into your favorite search engine and see what you come up with.
Other good websites to look on are historical societies, colleges, and the Library of Congress.

What are you waiting for? Go dive into the world of primary sources.

Sarah Holman is a not so typical mid-twenties girl: A homeschool graduate, sister to six awesome siblings, and author of five published books and counting. If there is anything adventuresome about her life, it is because she serves a God with a destiny bigger than anything she could have imagined.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

New Release from Elisha Wahlquist!

Today, we are thrilled to welcome Elisha to the blog. Check out her new release! 

Also, Elisha is giving away one signed paperback of her book. Leave a comment stating what your favorite historical era is. Add the book to your shelves on Goodreads and leave a comment saying you've done so for a second entry. Winner drawn and announced in one week. 

Adele: Two Girls. Two Paths. One Revolution.

I have to confess. I adore history. However, not only was the French Revolution never my favorite time in history, but I never intended to write this book on it. (gasp!)

But as I pondered and researched, trying to determine the historical setting for the novel I planned to write, I found myself being pushed farther and farther back in history—“the underlying issue I’m trying to address is farther back!” Of course, if you take that too far, you’ll go straight back to Adam, ;) but finally I found my eyes focusing more and more intently on—the French Revolution.

As I delved deeper, my fascination grew—soon, you couldn’t have torn me away from the French Revolution if you’d tried!

You may wonder, “Why another novel on the French Revolution?” Well, Adele is unique. Most novels on the French Revolution focus on a specific point or terrible event, but in Adele, you get to learn first-hand how the insidious build-up of events from 1786 on led to the catastrophic massacres in 1792. There is so much to learn from history that applies to today’s events! If you or someone you know wants to learn more about the French Revolution, this is the book for you. 

Adele follows the life of (who else?) Adele de Coquiel di le Mercier, an aristocratic girl who is trying to grow up amid the shifting pressures and changes of the mounting Revolution. But it also follows her dear cousin, Stephanie de Lobel; brilliant, beautiful, and wayward. What happens when she encounters an unscrupulous, handsome patriot named Gaston? And Adele—what part do a fainting traveler, a secret passage, social pressures, and a common thief in Paris have to play in her life?

Each girl has choices to make… as the over-arching storm of the Revolution breaks over their heads and the September Massacres loom, which path will they choose? And will it be too late to save their own lives?

As I wrote Adele, the French Revolution became one of the most arresting and dramatic times in history to me. I invite you to read Adele and see for yourself!

An avid historian, Elisha Wahlquist shares her love of history with young people in a compelling and entertaining way. She enjoys playing her great-grandfather’s violin and sharing the adventures of her large family in Texas

Monday, October 20, 2014

WIP Sneak Preview: Baker Family Adventures #5

By Caitlin Hedgcock

Today I've decided to share a little something special with you. I am normally very secretive when in the middle of writing a book because so many things happen through the process - titles change, plots twist, and sometimes the whole project needs a major overhaul. This time, though, I'll give you a glimpse into my work-in-progress. Maybe it will inspire you to go back to something you wrote a while ago, or to persevere with a current project, or to sit down with a blank page and pen that tale you've always wanted to.


So far, I've written four adventure novels in a series aimed at 8-14 year-olds. My focus has been to craft family-friendly, edifying, and instructive Christian fiction that includes a sound dose of thrilling danger. 

Books 3 and 4 in the series were published a year ago. Since then, life has been busy and historical novel-writing challenged me beyond my expectations. (I will go back to edit that draft in the fullness of time :) It seems fitting that as autumn descends again, the Baker family has returned for another adventure.


Without further ado, I announce that the working title for this project is...

Baker Family Adventures
Prisoner of the Pyrenees

 And here's the working synopsis:

The Bakers are going about their ordinary business when Briosa del Quera bursts into their lives. She is an orphaned Catalan girl who is still reeling from her grandfather's death. His last words instructed her to find people called ‘Baker’ and get in contact with a secret agent they know—but Jigson has gone missing in suspicious circumstances and not even his agency is able to contact him.

Detective Mortimer says that Jigson was last seen in the Pyrenees mountains, and the Bakers are determined to find him and help Briosa get to the bottom of the plot against her grandfather. But as their journey through northern Spain becomes a breathless race to avoid villains and meet allies, they begin to wonder if Briosa has really told them everything. . . .

From a desperate car-chase to a stealthy escape from a Spanish fortress, the Bakers are tested to the limits of their courage and their trust in the Lord. Can they find Jigson and stop a global conspiracy, or will they all become prisoners of the Pyrenees?

Whew! A lot will probably change in there as I continue to work on the story and its details, but hopefully that's given you an idea of what I'm scribbling. If you'd like to read about the other Baker Family Adventures, you can find more information here.

Caitlin R. Hedgcock is a Christian author who aspires to use storytelling for God’s glory. She lives with her family in England's picturesque county of Hertfordshire. Visit her blog or Facebook page to find out more.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Persevering to the End

Hello everyone! I'm Kelsey Bryant. This is my first time to post here, and I am excited and honored to join the Word Painters! All these writers give us such valuable advice, and I hope I can always offer you something worthwhile as well.

So many aspects of writing are pure fun—coming up with ideas, creating characters, playing with words—but other aspects are fun alloyed with hard, sometimes daunting, work. However, that only makes them the more satisfying! Would you say finishing a manuscript, down to the last plot hole concealed somewhere in the middle, is somewhere near the top of the “challenging” list?

Sometimes they seem to write themselves, but we’ve all had stories that don’t cooperate so nicely. If these tales indeed need to be told, how can we pin them down to paper when they just want to fly away? 


It takes me a long time to write a manuscript, but I have discovered methods to keep me engaged, enthusiastic, and creative so I can persevere to the end:

Outline and plan ahead. I like to outline my stories because that provides me a clear image of what needs to happen without wading through the clutter of story narrative. But even if you are someone who writes to discover the story instead of plotting it all out ahead, sometimes writing out your thoughts (or frustrations!) about where the story needs to go is just what you need to move you forward.

Give your creativity some TLC. Take time to get excited about your story again. Read something that inspired you in the first place, listen to music that fits your story, look at pictures that remind you of it, talk to someone understanding, imaginative, and who could help you!

Add something to your story. A character, an exciting situation, a plot twist … maybe in planning ahead you missed that empty space in the middle of your book, and it really does need to be filled.

Reread what you have. How far back you reread depends on how stuck you are! You can edit it a little (don’t get too critical unless there’s a problem with the whole thing), which helps give you the feel of writing it again and returns you to the mode of creating. Often I’ve gone back and reread a portion, lightly editing as I went, and when I reached the area I had abandoned, I went right on typing.

It certainly takes self-discipline, but nothing beats the fun and satisfaction of finishing the story you set out to write! What are your tricks for keeping yourself motivated to persevere to the end? I’d love to pick up something new! 

  Kelsey Bryant is an author, blogger, and copy editor who loves the Lord. She revels in many things: the beauty of God's Word, the music of English, the wonder of nature, the joy of creativity, the freedom of motion, the richness of literature, the intrigue of history ... and much more. To learn more about her, visit her website or blog.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It's Okay to Take a Break from Writing

Greetings all, John J. Horn here.

Today I'm sharing thoughts that are somewhat contrary to common writing advice, including advice that I give. Maybe this falls under the "learn the rules so you can break them" category. Or, maybe it's more applicable to the "do what I say, not what I do" principle.

Common writing advice is to write every day, even if it's just 100 words, write every day. Fiction is a craft with tools that need constant sharpening.

I agree with that, but I also think it's okay to take a break from writing.

I finished my last novel in July, 2013, and I have not yet begun my next one. That's because I prioritized two things for this year: Working a new job and studying online at an accelerated pace for a degree. I couldn't add writing a novel to that workload without it negatively affecting my responsibilities as a family member and other areas of my life.

All that is to say that we writers need to remember that writing shouldn't be our number one priority. Life happens, and sometimes we need to pick our fingers off the keyboard and go take care of more important things. And, we shouldn't feel guilty about doing so.

It would have been different if I had a publisher-set deadline in which to complete another book. When you commit to doing something in a timeframe, that something takes on a much higher level of priority. But before making such a commitment you need to be sure you can handle it and everything else that needs to be done in your life.

That's my two cents. Who else has had to take/is taking a significant break from the writing life? Do you ever feel guilty about doing so?

John J. Horn is a Christian author from San Antonio, Texas. Learn more about John and his Men of Grit series and sign up for his newsletter at

Monday, October 13, 2014

Historical Research: Starting Points

When I started doing research for my latest book, A Different Kind of Courage, I was completely overwhelmed. I knew I wanted to set my story in Boston during the early part of the Revolution, but that was about it. Do you know how much information is out there about the American Revolution? An overwhelming amount. So how do you narrow down your field of research? Here are some tips.

Events or Culture? First determine whether your book is focused on the events of the time, or merely using the times as a backdrop for the story. If you are going to write a story about a boy who witnesses the Boston Tea Party, you will want to read an account of that event. If you are going to write about a girl who is living on a farm in Massachusetts in 1773, you might want to know some about the Boston Tea Party, but you will want to learn a lot more about farming during this time in history.

Which Historical Figures? If you are going to focus on events, you will most likely introduce some historical characters. I found it very helpful to focus on one historical character, and while researching that person, you can find out who crossed their path. This narrows the amount of people you have to research.

What was it like? Make sure you get some basics about daily life (clothing, food, etc.); these details, even if they are not prominent in your story, make it far more believable.

What did it look like and feel like? You want to make sure you research how the town looked, or they lay of the terrain. Average temperatures and what the weather is like can also be very helpful.

There you have it, some starting points for your research. 

Ready to dig deeper? Join me for the next part of my series on finding and using primary resources.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


Yes, I totally made that word up. 

At least, I think I did. I am honestly too exhausted too look it up. I have a looming deadline for Rising to the Challenge. And I have precious little time to write in. 

So.... I shall be a hermit.

The point of this entire post is to tell you that it is okay sometimes to be a hermit. It's okay to fight for a moment to write in...and then lock yourself away to actually do it.

It's called hermitism. I am Alicia A. Willis and I approve this message.

Alicia A. Willis is a home-school graduate, published author, and avid historian. She is a firm believer in the principle that one can accomplish anything by substantial amounts of prayer and coffee. Visit her at her blog or Facebook to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!

Monday, October 6, 2014

My Journey to Boston

When I started doing research for my latest book, ADifferent Kind of Courage, I knew I wanted to set it in Boston. After all, before the first shots were fired for the American Revolution, Boston was the center for the political struggled that became the early Revolution. I wanted to transport my readers back in time and see Boston as it truly was. I had one problem; I have never been to Boston, or even the state of Massachusetts. How was I supposed to be able to get anything right?
Thankfully God led to some amazing websites, books, and other resources that really helped to discover Boston as it was.
The Map
File:Boston, 1775bsmall1.png
Of course, no trip can be made without a good map. I found a map of Boston in 1775 on Wikipedia which I used to get to navigate the city by.

Written like a traveler’s guide, this book helped me to know exactly what it would look like to sail into Boston harbor, where the best shops were located, and some of the major sites to see. This really helped me get a feel for the city in the time I was writing in.

The Siege of Boston
This little gem of a book I discovered while doing a search on Amazon for books on the American Revolution. It is a free on Kindle and I read it through once and referenced it many times. I really got a great feel for the mood of the people in the city during this time in history as well as the events.

This website has thousands of documents and pictures of things relating of the American Revolution. I spent hours reading on this website to gain a better understanding of the people, and seeing pictures of items that they would have seen.

I really did feel like I got to journey back in time while researching my book. Research can be trying, but it can also be exhilarating.  What resources have helped you make the journey to the place your story is set?