Honing Your Craft Through Reading

by Alena Tauriainen, writing as @AlenaWendall

When I started this writing journey, I believed I could set my schedule and everything would line up so I could write. Can you hear God laughing? Really, I’m sure you’re snorting. I know I am.

There are times when I come home after working a 50-hour work week, the house is dirty, dinner still needs to be cooked, the dogs have torn up the garage and the laundry is flowing outside of the laundry room. I have no mental energy to write.

I stare at my TBR pile longingly. You know that pile of books sitting on your night stand? The books that you don’t have time to read. Yep, that pile. 

I can’t possibly take the time to read, I mean, look at the state of my house. I should be cleaning not reading! Then I make an executive decision, I pull leftovers from the freezer, send another teenager to clean up the mess in the garage, throw a load or two of laundry in the washer. (My husband is forever complaining about over stuffing the washing machine – hey, it’s why I bought the heavy duty one.)

Then I notify any person that wants to continue living—Mom has had a rough week and she is going to indulge. Those who want to meet Jesus can interrupt her with trivial things. I know I just earned the bad Mom award, but, y’all, my kids are 15, 17, 20 and 22. They will survive.

I select one of my favorite authors from my TBR pile and pull out some highlighters from the overstock of school supplies that are always in our house. I prepare to work on my craft.


I read to learn.

I may not have the mental energy to write but I can learn from the best. As I read, I look for elements that make a great story or techniques I struggle with. I usually take note of:

  • The inciting incident, the noble quest, the disasters, the disappointments, the happily ever after.
  • The laying in of a spiritual thread. How the author plants the bread crumbs. 
  • Metaphors
  • Settings
  • Emotions

I use a different color for each item. It might look like this:

  • Spiritual Thread – Red
  • Metaphors – Yellow
  • Settings – Blue
  • Emotions – Purple

I also create a legend in front of the book with a Post-it note so I can remember what each color represents. 

So the next time, you are totally drained, it’s not all lost. You can pick up that book from your TBR pile—Guilt free. You are working!

Click to Tweet: Honing Your Career Through #Reading by @alenawendall via @NovelAcademy #writing https://buff.ly/2iIqtoo


Writing as Alena Wendall, Alena Tauriainen pens contemporary Christian romance novels that always end with a happily ever after. By day, she partners with her lifelong mate Clyde, to run the family HVAC business. She manages both business and family life with four lovable but crazy kids. She is the Retreats Coordinator for My Book Therapy. She is represented by Rachelle Gardner with Books & Such Literary Management. Visit her at alenawendall.com.  

That time we changed the world in our pajamas…

So, every time I teach someplace, people say to me–Hey! when are you going to publish a course on how to write a romance?

Good question. I LOVE teaching on how to write a romance. Because writing a great romance isn’t just about a boy who meets a girl, falls in love and lives happily ever after. A powerful, heart-tugging romance goes deeper. The romance that moves us is the one that heals the deep wounds of the characters, grants hidden dreams and helps them become better people.

Makes an impact on our world.

Image result for braveheart romance


C’mon–even BRAVEHEART has a romance. Deep down we all love a romance that overcomes dire obstacles and wins the day. And because of that, a great romance is about the expectations. We expect to fall in love, just a little. To feel something when we close the book.

And yet, people think romances are easy to write, simply because there are so many of them. (did you know that romance is the #1 selling genre?) And yes, there are plenty of bad, sappy, poorly written romances out there. But, there are also romances that deeply move us, change us, spark hope in our jaded hearts. And those…the ones that matter…take thought, deliberation and skill.

But here’s the truth..yes, romances all use the same powerful ingredients. How they are combined, along with powerful characters and an author’s unique voice makes each romance a different story. Still, it behooves us to learn the ingredients and how to combine them to deliver that powerful story.

A few years back, I gathered aspiring romance authors together and taught them all my secrets. Many of them are now published. (Waving to you, PT Bradley, Beth Vogt, Melissa Tagg, Lisa Jordan and so many more.) But as my schedule got crazy, and hotel prices went up, I thought…there has to be a better way.

What if…what if taught a class on line? So students didn’t have to leave their homes. They could even, I dunno, wear their pajamas to class.

And, I could make it cheaper, because no one has to travel!


I’m super excited to announce an online course on How to Write a Brilliant Romance! (Excited? Me too! Click here for details!)

Learn in your pajamas. In your house. Or cabin. Or apartment. Or dorm room…wherever you are, right?

If you want to learn how to write everything from a thread of romance to a full out romance, this course is for you!

You’ll learn:

  • How to structure your romance
  • How to create heroes and heroines readers will fall in love with
  • How and when your hero and heroine should meet
  • How to make two characters fall in love
  • How to write a sizzling kiss
  • How to create believable conflict
  • How to keep the tension high in the middle of a story
  • How to put romance on every page

Most of all, how to write a romance that makes an impact.

AND, amazing, brilliant, NYT best-selling author Rachel Hauck to help me. SUPER AWESOME!

Click here to read more about the Brilliant Romance Seminar.

This was first presented as a seminar, so it’s like we’re having a conversation –a fun one, with you on how to write that romance.

AND, here’s the best part…Since this a brand new course on Novel.Academy, we’re offering it at $100 off the regular price!

To make this easy, simply click HERE for your IN on that awesome discount!

And…that’s not all!! Scroll down on the page to see the EXTRAs you get with this amazing course. (classes to make your story brilliant, compelling and off to a great start!)

Your romance matters! Let’s write something brilliant!


Susie May


5 Conference Tips & Tricks

by Kariss Lynch, @Kariss_Lynch

At my first conference, I was a ball of nerves. My hands shook as I passed my one-sheet across the table to the editor. My voice rattled as I flew through my pitch. And my adrenaline crashed as soon as I left the room.

The second year, I felt prepared. My nerves still sang, but my hands and voice stayed steady. I met my agent and editor that year and went on to push out three books under my contract.

That first conference was six years ago, and I’ve learned a lot about the industry since then. I’m met incredible people, mentors, friends, and creatives. I’m working toward a new contract now, but I no longer sit down across the table from an industry professional a ball of nerves. It’s not because I’m published now or because I know more than the next person.

I’ve simply learned more tips and tricks along the way.

  1. Be YOU: Your uniqueness will make you stand out when you sit across from agents and editors. Nerves come when you are trying to impress. Peace comes when you confidently and humbly claim who God has made you and walk into the room ready to mingle with others who may be nervous, too.
  1. Prepare content: A business card is a handy tool to have with you at the conference that will help you put faces to names when you get home. I also go prepared with a one-page to at least put on the table while I am talking with editors and agents. Some will look at it during our discussion, few end up taking it home, some ask for it before you even begin talking. Regardless, it is wise to have one handy.
  1. Engage with others: So many writers are introverted by nature, but even if that is the case, it doesn’t mean you are incapable of interacting with people. When you sit down at the table, engage with those around you. Connect with the intention of hopefully building relationships that will last as your journey progresses.
  1. Capitalize on the experience: Don’t sign up for so many editor and agent appointments that you miss the classes and workshops. The appointments are important. The classes will help you grow so that you have a greater chance of signing a contract. Find a balance, and don’t miss all the opportunities conference offers!
  2. Remember who is in control: At the end of the day, I had to learn that though I desperately wanted a contract to make all my writing dreams come true, the editor or agent sitting across from me did not hold the keys to that dream. The Lord does. I can freely sit down, have a conversation, share my heart and my story, and leave confident that God is in control.

Conferences are a beautiful way to grow, build relationships, and network. Don’t let nerves get in the way. Go prepared and then watch and see what the Lord does through your obedience to show up.


Kariss Lynch writes contemporary romance about characters with big dreams, adventurous hearts, and enduring hope. She is the author of the Heart of a Warrior series and loves to encourage her readers to have courage. In her free time, she hangs out with her family and friends, explores the great outdoors, and tries not to plot five stories at once. Connect with her at karisslynch.com, or on Facebook, Instagram, or Goodreads.

Five Ways to Avoid Writer’s Slump

By Nick K., @Nickesque

Most days I love to write. Then there are those days, weeks and sometimes, I’m sorry to admit, months, where I’ve been in a writing slump. Whether it’s writer’s block or just plain procrastination, writer’s slump can be disastrous, especially on a deadline. I’ve learned that the sooner I realize I’m in a slump, the easier it is to get back on track.

So, look around your writing space. Is it too neat? Have you alphabetized your craft books, bookshelf, and to-read pile? Are there more than three empty Caffe Bene, or Starbucks cups in your trash can? Have you organized your photos, color-coded your file folders and renamed every document on your laptop? You may be in a slump.

While these may be symptoms of a slump, the true test is to see how long it’s been since you wrote more than 300 words. More than a week and you aren’t plotting, editing or on vacation? You may be in a slump. If dust has taken up residence on your laptop, there is no way you’ve been writing.  If so, wipe off the dust, power on the laptop and get to writing.

Better yet, don’t let it get that far. There are many things you can do to avoid a writer’s slump. Some of my favorites include:

1. Keep a Word Count Chart: When on a deadline, a word count chart with daily and weekly goals is a must have. There’s nothing technical about this.  No need to order a fancy one online. Just write it on a notepad, calendar (only if it’s visible when you sit at your writing space) or Post-it notes.

My chair faces two monthly chalkboard-style calendar whiteboards leaning against my wall. They are the first things I see before I turn my laptop on. That’s where I write freelance deadlines, goals and word counts. Because I like color, different whiteboard markers indicate each project’s deadlines and word counts. Post-it notes also work with the added satisfaction in pulling each one off when the goal is met, which is the next tip.

2. Set Goals: Make them small – at least at first. Break them into achievable portions. This is especially true if you’ve been in a slump, but equally applicable when starting a project. A goal of 10,000 words per day for 30 days sets you up to fail.

10,000 words is a roll, not a goal. When achieved, celebrate it but don’t demand it. Increase your goal to a reasonable number (there is no magic number) and then think of it like interval training and change the goal up some days so you get mini breaks.

3. Overachieve:  The good thing about setting smaller goals is surpassing them. Overachieving creates a feeling of success, which, in turn, empowers you to keep writing. Overachieving isn’t limited to word counts but includes everything from plotting to editing.

4. Write what you like: It is much easier to stay motivated if you love what you are writing about. Plot twists, characters, and narrative come much easier when you are excited about them.

If your friends buy you biscuit tins and oversized hats for every occasion, you might want to set your story in England, which leads to the next tip.

5. Engage: Writers need writers. We are the only ones who understand why we talk to ourselves and write snippets of conversations or descriptions of people on napkins. Writing friends encourage each other, hold each other accountable, help each other and, celebrate and cry with each other.

And, of course, don’t give up because someone out there needs to hear your story, even if that someone is just you.

(Click to Tweet): 5 Ways to Avoid Writer’s Slump by @Nickesque via @NovelAcademy #writing https://ctt.ec/7492K+


A Frasier Bronze Medalist, Rattler finalist and Splickety Love finalist, Nick writes contemporary, speculative and modern-day adaptations of Biblical stories with a touch of romance, as well as Christian living, Bible studies, and devotionals. You can find her on Twitter & Instagram and at nickesque.com.