NaNoWriMo Again?

The days pass quickly, and the time draws nearer. It’s almost November, National Novel Writing Month. Better known as NaNoWriMo to writers everywhere. Will you be participating or do you know someone who is?

I haven’t signed up, but I am considering participating once again. It was during last year’s NaNoWriMo that I drafted Hope and Faith, and it was my most productive time of writing ever. Not that I ever got around to revising or finishing the darn novel. But still. There was a tremendous amount of discipline and skill acquired during that one month exercise.

Since drafting Hope and Faith, members of the Humble Fiction Café’ writers group have held workshops and education opportunities. I’ve learned a lot in this past year, enough so that I wonder if I even want to revise this manuscript, or – dare I say it – start all over! Seriously. I am considering trashing draft one, and tackling the story (but better) as this year’s NaNoWriMo project.

Well, there’s still 2 ½ weeks left to decide. I’ll keep contemplating. But what about you? Have you ever trashed a whole manuscript to start it again? It’s a pretty scary proposition.

I have a confession to make.

Of the limited amount of Christian fiction I have read, I didn’t like it that much.

There, I feel better with that off my chest. But therein lies the problem. My novel, Hope and Faith, is supposed to have a subtle Christian undertone. Can it be done, or do all Christian fiction books require characters that are nearly perfect (the real Christians I know are flawed, like me). Am I better to scrap the project and move on to something else? Have you read Christian fiction that is good? Really good? Let me know in the comments please.

I’ve debated back and forth on whether to start my novel with a Prologue or Chapter 1 (even wrote a post on Prologues here). The story told in Hope and Faith actually begins with Lorraine Dugmore’s wedding. Whether a Prologue or Chapter 1, the opening Salvation is brief at a little over 1000 words. Set 6-7 years prior to the actual story beginning, it provides some history and setting.

I’ve posted it following and would appreciate your feedback.

  • Are you pulled into the story enough to want to read more?
  • Do you care about the characters?
  • Does the dialog feel real?
  • What do you think the story is about?
  • Does Salvation feel more like a Prologue or a Chapter 1?

And without further ado…


Chapter 1 or Prologue


Ten year old Lorraine Dugmore stroked the pedals of her AMF Courier, thankful for her cousin’s hand-me-down with its five-speeds and sleek design. The wind whipped through her chocolate colored hair in a pulsating rhythm. Cally was keeping up; Lorraine heard the reverberating tick from Cally’s bike as the playing card clipped to the frame caught the spokes. Lorraine’s sister lagged behind.

“Wait up, you guys,” Phylis called.

“Hurry up! I want to tell Mom and Dad the good news!” Lorraine coasted just long enough for Phylis to catch up.

“I still don’t see what’s the big deal.” Phylis said as they rode by Cally’s house. Cally waved goodbye and pedaled into her driveway. Lorraine and Phylis continued to the corner of Richland Street, to their home, it’s white aluminum siding and black shutters an alluring backdrop with the white picket fence.

“That’s why they just talked to us big kids. You’ll see when you’re older,” Lorraine said as she hopped off her bicycle and parked it under the carport.

Phylis rolled her eyes. “I hope you’re not turning into a Jesus freak like that girl Cindy. Nobody likes her.”

“Just come on.”

Lorraine heard the TV once inside and ran through the kitchen to the living room. “Mom! Dad! I’ve got great news!”

“Shh,” her mom glared at her. “We’re watching the news.”

“Good luck,” Phylis whispered as she headed down the hall to her bedroom.

Lorraine walked over and sat next to her dad. “Dad, guess what happened at vacation bible school today?”

“Not now, Lorraine, didn’t ya hear your mother?  The news is on. Wait till commercial, OK?” He patted her on the knee without taking his eyes off the television, then itched his nose. He had recently quit shaving his upper lip; the new growth created a shadow of a mustache.

Lorraine turned to the TV.  Lesley Stahl, CBS news anchor, reported from Washington that five men were arrested for breaking into Watergate hotel and office complex, home of the Democratic National Committee offices, while Walter Cronkite warned of higher retail prices for beef.

“But this is really important,” Lorraine said.

“Shh,” her parents chimed.

She sat down to wait, staring at the television screen but not paying much attention.  When finally the commercial came, her father stood and crushed his empty Falstaff can with his hand.

“I have something to tell you,” Lorraine said as she hopped out of her chair.

“Gimme a minute, honey, I need another brewski.  Harriett, ya need one?”

“Yea.” Her mom inverted the can to her mouth and guzzled the remaining liquid, then handed her dad the empty.

“Well, hurry up please, Dad,” Lorraine said as she settled back down and slouched into the chair.

When he reentered the room with two fresh Falstaffs, he popped the tops off and handed one to her mom. “Now what’s it you wanna tell us? But make it quick cause the news will be back on in a minute.” He sat down.

Lorraine stood in front of her parents, shoulders back and head held high. She took a deep breath. “Mom, Dad,” she smiled and looked from one parent to the next, “I’m saved! At vacation bible school today, they asked us older kids if any of us wanted to ask Jesus to live in our hearts, and well, I said yes.  Can you believe it? Isn’t it great?”

Lorraine stared into two blank faces, jaws dropped. “Did you guys hear me? I’m saved.”

“You did what at vacation bible school?” her dad asked.

“I asked Jesus to live in my heart,” she answered quietly.

“So this is what we get when you go to vacation bible school with your little friend, Cally? I knew this would happen.” Lorraine’s dad slammed his can down, beer sloshing onto the coffee table. “I told you this wasn’t a good idea.” Her father pointed at her mother. “But you said let her go.”

“I thought you and mom would be happy,” Lorraine said. She looked from her mom to her dad. This wasn’t going how she had hoped.

“Happy? Hmpf,” he said, “Well, I’m not. We don’t even go to that church and…”

“Yea, I know dad, but we don’t go to any church anymore. And this is a big deal. Jesus is living in my heart now and isn’t that what’s important?”

“Don’t you interrupt me, missy,” he said. “Is that what they teach ya? To interrupt your parents? This whole thing is mighty sneaky if ya ask me. I’ve got half a mind to call ‘em up and give ‘em a piece of my mind. They didn’t even talk to us first.”

“Calm down,” her mom said. “It could be worse.  I mean, getting religion is a good thing, isn’t it?”

“Well, I think our church would’ve been a better place for our daughter to make these type Christian decisions, don’t you?”

“I’m just saying,…”

“I know what you’re saying, but you’re wrong! Do ya hear me? Her decisions about religion should come from our church.”

Her mom started to say something and her dad butt in. “You never thought our church was good enough, did ya?” He staggered a little as he moved closer to her mom. “Well, thanks to you we’ve all quit going, and now our daughter’s being converted to a completely different religion.  For all we know, they’re heathens.”

“You’re getting carried away,” her mom said as she took a step backward.

Her dad’s face turned bright red. “You’ve got no idea what you’re talking about, woman. Why’re you sticking up for those heathens? What’s wrong with you?”

The bedroom door in the hallway flung open and Phylis yelled, “Mom! Dad! Quit fighting! I can’t stand it anymore.” She had tears streaming down her face.

Her dad glared at her mom, and Lorraine watched as the red faded from his face. But his scowl did not soften.

Without a word, he turned and left, letting the screen door slam behind him. Lorraine heard the tires squeal as he raced out of the driveway.

“I’m sorry, Mom,” Lorraine said.  “I didn’t mean to start a fight.”

“It’s OK, it’s not your fault.”

Upcoming Book Reviews and Contest!

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It’s been incredibly busy, so much so that I’ve found it difficult to find sufficient writing time. Since this blog is dedicated to my novel, it only makes sense that the posts would accompany progress on the novel. That said, there hasn’t been much progress of late, but I am hoping for that to turn around. And quick.

Good news though – I drafted a new short story today that I hope will be usable in the Humble Fiction Cafe’s latest project. More on that at a later time.

Also, watch for an upcoming announcement on my first ever blog contest that will be hosted at WordProverb. Check that site on Friday for more details!


I’m pleased as punch to share some great news from my writers group, Humble Fiction Café.

Publishing Success!

Death by Dorlana Vann

Representing the death card in Tease Publication’s Dark Tarot Series, this is a two-in-one novel containing Jaclyn’s Ghost and Passage to Mesentia. Two great paranormal novels in one book, click here for details and brief descriptions of both stories. Available now at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

A Cup of Comfort for Dog Lovers II by Colleen Sell

This is a collection of fifty great dog stories. Susan H. Miller contributed The Dachshund That (Almost) Conquered the World, a most enjoyable story for dog lovers everywhere. Available now at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

I encourage you to purchase these books and enjoy the talent of both Dorlana and Sue!

Other Success!

Kelli Meyer was accepted into the esteemed Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop. They only accept 16 students each year, so it’s quite an accomplishment to be accepted into this six-week writing program.

Way to go Dorlana, Sue and Kelli!

Has this happened to you? You’ve found the perfect book, a true page-turner that you can’t put down. Happily you read until you come to the end, and… well, it’s awful, to put it nicely! And it completely ruins the book.

Recently my friend and fellow Humble Fiction Cafe (HFC) writers group member, Linda Lindsey, offered an outstanding class on endings. I couldn’t possibly go into all the details covered at that class, but I wanted to share with you the six common types endings we discussed in Linda’s class.

  1. Explicit ending – This is the ending that wraps everything up and answers all the questions. This ending will frequently tell what happens to each of the major characters, and is usually very satisfying in its completeness. Particularly well suited for novels (over short stories), when using this ending, it is especially important to watch for plot holes and missing clues. Example: Watership Down by Richard Adams.
  2. Implicit ending – If you like an ending that is strongly based on interpretation, then you like implicit endings. These endings are more common in short fiction. An example is The Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clark.
  3. Twist ending – As the name implies, this ending is unexpected or twisted. As a writer, everything you’ve led your reader to believe gets thrown out at the end, and is replaced by a new revelation when well done. If done poorly, your reader will feel cheated. The TV show The Twilight Zone was known for it’s twist endings.
  4. Tie-back ending – This ending ties the end of the story back to clues planted in the beginning. The example provided in the endings class is the short story entitled The Star by Arthur C. Clark, where the story opens with what the main character’s conflict is and ends with why.
  5. Unresolved ending – In unresolved endings, the main conflicts are left unanswered, such as in The Lady, or the Tiger by Frank R. Stockton. The reader is left to ponder the outcome. Cliffhanger endings would also fall under this category.
  6. Long view ending – These endings tell what happens to the characters a significant timeframe into the future. An example is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, which ends telling who married whom, who had kids, etc. out into the future.

The other interesting detail I learned about endings is that in most genres, readers expect a happy ending. Exceptions are stories based on true events or horror. In looking over the stories I’ve written, I don’t always end on a happy note. While I don’t want to reveal the ending to Hope and Faith, I am curious to learn your take. Do you prefer stories with happy endings? What is your favorite type ending?

I’ve been remiss in updating this blog, and even worse, in working on the novel. I was distracted in that I was working to keep one of my New Year’s Resolutions – the resolution to post a minimum of one short story each quarter on my blog.

Sadly, I am a slow, meticulous writer.

Joyfully, I am now free to refocus on the novel.

I invite you to read my newest short story, The Middle Child. The feedback I’ve received to date has been positive, but the thing I’ve noticed most is the frequency in which I’ve heard people say they know someone like my character Heather.

What about you? Do you know someone like Heather? What other feedback do you have on the story?

I’ve mentioned before, I am a visual person. peperwork

As I do my business development work (writers often have two jobs – one for income; the other, writing, is for pleasure), I spread my pitch points, brochures, introductory letters, and notes over my desk so that I can reference these documents during my conversations with prospects.

If I’m calculating whether or not my family can afford the deluxe vacation or something more economical, I will create excel spreadsheets of the expenditures for the visual I need to make the comparison.

And even though I have created detailed character biographies, as they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and so it is with me in my writing. I peruse the internet in search of the perfect picture of my character, print it, and make it available as I write. Sometimes I can just look at the picture, and know that my character would never do what I was about to have them do, or vice-versa, that they would actually take it a step further.

In my last posts, I talked about using questionnaires to develop character, and describing character through actions (showing) versus narative (telling). Observing people in public places can also be helpful. What other ideas or methods are there in creating and developing meaningful and real characters?

More on Characters

Recently I stumbled upon a blog entry by an Editorial Consultant, Pat Holt, that I found interesting and wanted to share. It’s an article of ten common mistakes in writers’ manuscripts that are also easy fixes.

The points in the article are not new, but worth repeating, as writers often miss these errors simply because they are so close to their manuscript. I particularly like Pat’s instruction to “Show, Don’t Tell,” number 8 in her list, as she relates it to describing character. Showing a character through actions and dialog can conjure up images better than actual narrative description.

I am a visual person. As I read, my mind forms an image of each of the characters. The same with writing. In fact, I have pictures of my characters embedded on their character description forms. I visualize the character, his actions, mannerisms, and gestures, which portends the following question.

When is the right time to describe a character?

Is it when the character is first introduced? How much or how little description is ideal? Is it better to offer descriptive pieces throughout a narrative, revealing fragments of the character intermittently? A twitch, inability to make eye-contact, or gnawed-off fingernails speaks volumes, but is it right to deluge all this information in the character’s first appearance?