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40 video/audio lessons that take you step-by-step from idea to finished novel, taught by an award-winning, best-selling novelist and nationally acclaimed writing teacher. Easy, understandable, foundation elements essential for every genre. Learn Skills, Secrets and most of all... Story.

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A great book isn't written. . .it's rewritten. Learn how to analyze and fix your novel’s problems with this unique “self-editing” system. . .then arm yourself with over 40 Advanced Fiction Classes and rewrite your story into publication.

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You’ve worked too hard to quit now. Your story is nearly ready, but now it’s time to sell your novel. Learn the steps to creating a powerful proposal, secrets to pitching, the key elements to your marketing plan, a social media primer and how to create rabid reader fans. It’s time to ignite your career.

Cluttering Your Creativity? by Donna K. Rice

As I write this post, I’m in the process of packing the many books and supplies in my writing space. We’re downsizing. Sorting many years of collected family treasures, trinkets, and trash has consumed my summer. And yes, I did say trash. It’s amazing to me how many items we stored away thinking them valuable only to find now that we have collected a lot of trash. We cluttered our lives with too much of the unnecessary.

My writing space, left for the end of my sorting melee, turned out to be no different than the rest of our home. Full of the unnecessary. Full of clutter. Clutter weighing down my spirit, mind, and creativity. Clutter stealing my joy. As I rid my home of excess, I find my joy returning. It’s getting easier to pick up an item, determine it serves no purpose, then pitch it in the trash, recycle bin, or donation box.

If you’ve been considering cutting clutter or downsizing your home, here are some things I’ve learned in the last few weeks:

  • Start with the project you least want to tackle. When it’s done, you’ll feel more confident tackling the next room.
  • Don’t give up when you see the next cluttered space.
  • Develop a critical eye as quickly as possible. When I started, I kept too much. I’ve gone back to a few things and let them go.
  • Oh yes, don’t give up when you see the next cluttered space.
  • While it’s easy to plan on doing one room at a time like the organization books say, I found that if I really wanted to get all similar items together, I had to jump back and forth a bit. Better to suffer things being worse for a time if it all comes together nicely in the end.
  • Finally, did I tell you not to give up when you see the next cluttered space?

My writing space will soon be spiffy and ready for potential buyers to peruse as our house goes up for sale. I’ll enjoy the room in its new bare bones state, but what I’m really getting excited about is the freedom breaking loose in my creative mind and heart. Ideas and plans are forming for that day when I can focus on my writing again. I can’t wait to get back to my keyboard.


Donna writes women’s fiction and is represented by Sue Brower of the Natasha Kern Literary Agency. She’s a licensed minister, conference speaker, and estate planning attorney. She also works with GenderSave, a nonprofit seeking to empower women and girls at risk from gendercide practices in India. Contact Donna at donnakrice.com.

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One Writer’s Definition of Speculative Fiction

Most of you know me here on My Book Therapy as the Social Media Mentor. That’s not changing, but I’m adding some new things to my resume. One that I’m super excited about is scifi author.

That’s right. I just signed a contract with Prism Book Group for my Christian science fiction manuscript, ALONE.

With that, Susie decided that I could represent this genre at My Book Therapy. So once a month I’ll be posting on Social Media, and once a month, I’ll be sharing a post about spec fiction!

I was talking with a non-publishing friend a while back, and she asked me what kind of book I was writing.  I told her about my science fiction series and my Steampunk series. Then I said, “Actually the short answer is I write spec.”

At her blank look, I corrected myself. “Speculative fiction.”

If anything, her look got more confused, and I realized she had no idea what I was talking about when I said speculative. So I took the opportunity to explain the term to her.

Speculative, or spec for short, is the umbrella genre where you find all kinds of weird fiction—from science fiction, fantasy, horror, Steampunk, etc. If you go into a mainstream bookstore it’s all the books you find in the science fiction/fantasy section.

And this lead me to an interesting distinction about this term. It’s one you almost exclusively used in the Christian fiction world.

That’s not all that surprising if dig a little and consider the history of Christian fiction. When Christian fiction  began to emerge, there was a deep prejudice against science fiction. Many thought that there could never be such a thing as Christian science fiction.

Odd if you think about it, considering the works of C.S. Lewis, and some of the late nineteenth century writers. Although, strictly speaking his works were fantasy, not science fiction (the difference between fantasy and Science Fiction will be coming).

But back to speculative. These are books where the main components are supernatural. There are always some overlap books, especially now that indie publishing has blown open the doors. It’s possible to have a strong romance or suspense thread in a spec book.

Many of the large Christian publishing houses have spec lines. But one of the leaders of speculative fiction in the Christian world is Enclave Publishing (formally Marcher Lord Press). They ONLY publish spec fiction.

I believe Speculative is a genre that’s here to stay in the Christian publishing world. What do you think?

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Active Description

Extreme Wordsmithing Makeover:  4 Tips to writing ACTIVE description

Continuing our Extreme Wordsmithing Makeover series, we spent much of August diving into STATIC description and I taught you a technique called FOCUS, an acronym that reminded us to first put the description through the eyes of the POV character. Then, it gave an overview of the parts of description:  Fact, Observations, Close Up and Symbolism, all gathered together in a snapshot description, something we use to make an impression on the reader.

Today, we’re going to use the same acronym, but we’ll apply it as we move our character throughout the scene, experiencing the storyworld as we interact with the actions of the scene.

What is ACTIVE Description?

Active Description is simply putting the description through the eyes of a character then describing the scene (using all the FOCUS elements and 5 senses) as they move through it. While static description can be used powerfully to snapshot a person, place or thing, active description keeps the story moving and is integrated into the scene. (It’s important to use both in a story!)  Just like static description, active description can add a powerful emotional undercurrent to the scene.

Consider this passage from Sons of Thunder: 

Markos speared the water. The cool lick of it scooped his breath, slicked from his body the heat of the day.

He surfaced fast, gulped air, and dove back to the ocean floor, kicking toward the cave. A deep thrumming rumbled his bones even as he scrabbled over the slippery rock outside the entrance. The jaws raked his skin as he levered himself through a crevice just big enough for a boy of seventeen.


Although it’s an active description, it is meant to create a sense of tension as he pushes himself into the cave.  I could have written it more simply: Fear coiled inside him as he pushed himself into the cave.  But I wanted to description to convey the emotion, and not name it directly.

Here’s another passage from the same book:

She sat at the dressing table. He knew he should turn away, but he couldn’t quite find it in him. Instead, he watched as she curled her hair tight to her face with her fingers, held it there for a moment. She rouged her cheeks, her earlobes. Lined dark kohl on her green eyes. Used her pinky to apply her blood-red lipstick.

Her gaze flickered over to him. “You like watching me get ready?”

He turned away, burying his face in his hands. Her laughter trickled high. “Oh, Markos, you’re such fun!”

His chest burned. “I’ll wait for you out in the hall.” Finding his feet, he pushed away the chair, reaching for the door. But she had crossed the room and now planted her hand over his. He turned even as she slid close, her hand on his chest. He hadn’t noticed how small she was, really, without her costumes, or wrapped in her vamp persona. Now, she seemed almost petite, even…needy. Especially since the tease had left her eyes. Her fragrance wound around him, tugging at him.


The hero is watching a girl getting dressed, and I use the description to heighten the temptation and lure for him.  The subtleties of words like blood-red, his chest burning, her fragrance winding around him, tugging-all words that suggest temptation, or being lured into trouble.

Great wordsmithing is about using every word to its full effect, and creating paragraphs that do double duty—inform as well as add feeling to the scene.  In this way, you’re adding and emotional sense to the story without telling the reader how to feel.


How do you word paint for emotional effect?

Tip #1: Create a Metaphorical word pool. As you write, your words will tend toward specific verbs and nouns.  Taking a step away from these, you’ll find that they might fall in categories of description.

For example, describing the sky, you might say that the clouds swirled against a canvass of blue.  Okay, “swirled” and “canvass” both evoke a sense of “painting.”  You now have your metaphorical category.  Look for other “painting words” as you continue the description – brush, paint, mix, blend, stir.  You can also go further, and take from the mind of the painter, or even use well known painters to bring in emotional metaphor.

Eg:  lavender splotched the canvass of blue, as if the painter, frustrated, took his brush and swept across with angry, thick strokes.


Tips #2: Pick Verbs that convey the FEELING of what you are describing.  Marcos feels like he’s being gulped, or eaten, going into the jaws of the cave, and I wanted to convey a sense of panic as he goes inside.  So I used words of violence:  Speared, rumbled, scrabbled, raked.

If I were describing a giant crater in the earth, one made by a meteor, I might use words like jagged, and ripped, and bruised.

But if I were describing a hole that would become my long desired swimming pool, I’d go with, scooped, or even carved from the earth.  By the way, sometimes, if I’m having trouble finding my metaphorical pool, I just write the description, and see what verbs I naturally use.  From there, I can find the metaphorical pool.  (I.e., in this one, I think if ice cream with the verbs I used for the pool description).


Tip #3: Give your POV character a physical response to the description.  Ie, Marcos is hot, so the water is cool, yet dangerous. He has mixed emotions about being there – so I show that in the verbs I use.

Note the subtle tension in these sentences:  The cool lick (a positive feeling) of it scooped his breath (negative), slicked from his body the heat of the day. (positive)  He surfaced fast, gulped air, and dove back to the ocean floor… (negative).


Tip #4: You could also use a metaphor that captures the physical response, something that would give a similar physical response.  For example, in my pool example, I could say: Staring at the dark expanse, edged with rich, chocolate curls of earth, I tasted the cool water on my lips, sweet and sloppy, drenching me. A shiver of delight shimmed right down to my belly and I could hardly wait to dive in.

Obviously, I’m using the feeling of eating ice cream, and equating it with my dreams of diving into my pool.


Note:  Don’t use TOO many metaphors – one strong one will do.  But find the right one, and use it well.

Next week we’ll put it all together, and wordsmith our descriptions for emotional effect!


Go! Write something brilliant!

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