October 30, 2015

Staying True to You

By La-Tan Roland Murphy

Do you ever you find yourself feeling frustrated and confused with too many voices telling you what you should write about?  Perhaps, you feel overwhelmed—lacking motivation because of opinions expressed by well-intending folk, and by self-inflicted comparisons made?

Perhaps, you know without a doubt you are supposed to write and actually feel called to write. Still, the noise in your head hinders your ability to move forward powerfully and confidently on your writing journey, while remaining true to YOU!

The world of writing offers millions of writing voices, each writing voice created to draw-in every personality type of marketable readers. I want to encourage you that no one can write like you. No one in the whole world has lived your life, or experienced the things you have experienced.  

Today, as you approach your author’s workspace, square your shoulders and drink in a deep cleansing breathe. When you breathe-out imagine yourself letting-go of all temptations and all demanding comparisons. As you place your willing hands on the computer keyboard, remember—no one on the planet has your fingerprints. That’s how unique you truly are, dear friend. Because of this, no one on the planet can write like you!  Move forward. Write powerfully; write boldly!

Allow me the honor of sharing a few ideas that have helped my writing process: 
·         Passion - Write about things that you are passionate about. Otherwise, you will find yourself stuck for sure!
·         Authenticity - Express yourself authentically.  Do NOT try to be someone else, or write like someone else.  Authenticity is the best approach to writing, or speaking powerfully.   
·         Be TRUE TO YOU - This establishes credibility:  The most powerful books are written by people who keep their story-line true to themselves.  For example: If you grew up in Europe, you have much to say about European culture. If your book is about depression, credibility would prove most powerful as you share YOUR story, instead of scientific facts only.
·         Rest - In order to keep your thought processes flowing and moving in a productive direction, make sure to get plenty of rest the night before you begin an important writing venture.  A clear, alert mind is important! (Coffee always helps too, and a bit of chocolate!)
·         Research – Be sure to do your homework, after choosing your topic.  Topical writing requires time and research.
·         Relate – work hard at relating to your reader by drawing them into your story-line both intellectually and emotionally.

·         Voice – be diligent about finding your voice in both written and spoken word.
·         Attend writer’s conferences and writer’s workshops regularly. New roadways are being developed each and every day in the publishing industry.

Write! Write with passion! Write with purpose! 

Be true to YOU, friend!  Be true to YOU!
La-Tan Roland Murphy is a conference planter and Founder of:  Colors of His Love Women’s Conference, since 2010 and Expecting God Conference, since 2012. She has been a regularly featured columnist for the nationally recognized WHOA Women’s Magazine, since its inception in 2010.  La-Tan’s books:  Becoming A Woman of Interior Elegance and God’s Provision In Tough Times have been featured in Southern Writers Magazine.  Her articles have been published on Girlfriends in God Devotional, as well as Just 18 Summers and the American Daily Herald, Inspire a Fire. Her articles have been featured on Inside Edition La-Tan’s WHOA articles have been featured through WHOA women’s Magazine.Her co-authored book entitled: God’s Provision in Tough Times was awarded finalist for the 2014 Selah Award category. La-Tan teaches a writer’s workshops on topics such as:  Finding Your Voice and Establishing a Powerful Platform.  Using her creative abilities and love for others, she finds great joy in helping writers and speakers discover their book titles and platform themes. Website:

October 29, 2015

5 Steps to Writing a Short Bio That is "Just Write"

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Writing a short bio, sounds easy enough until you sit down to actually write it. You know that assignment everyone had in school..."write your own obituary?" It's harder than it sounds.

Why should you have a bio? First and foremost, it introduces readers to you as an author. It should appear on your Amazon author page, your website, and your social media links. Your short bio should be between 75-100 words total. All words count.

On this blog every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday you can easily find examples of other guest authors’ short bios. Obviously, no two bios are the same.  You can peruse the blog archives to research guest author bios that are found following a post. This is a good place to start when preparing your own short bio.

Much like The Three Bears and Goldilocks fairy-tale some bios are too short, some are too long, requiring severe editing, and some are "just write." I want to address the content in a bio that is "just write" for us at Southern Writers Magazine.

1. The first words in your bio should be your author name, as it appears on the cover of your book. If you have a pseudonym or author name for different book series, use your most recent book's author name.

2. If your books have won legitimate awards, list them. How many times have you read someone is "an award-winning author" only to find out they haven't won one award?

3. If you are comfortable, include fun facts about your current life. No more than two or three. Be cautious about your personal disclosures for your own safety.

4. List all your books written in the last ten years, starting with your most recent book in descending order by publishing date.

On our blog, we link your book titles to Amazon so a blog reader can just click on the title and it takes them to Amazon. Hopefully, translating into a book sale for the guest author. Your book titles will appear in the blog bookstore after your appearance on SWM's Suite T.

5. It is critical to close the short bio with your social media links. Embed the links in the name of the item for brevity. For example...
"Social Media links are; Website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Amazon(Author page.)" You may not have all of these but list what you have.

These are what we look for in a "just write" short bio. Authors will be asked for bios throughout their careers. It makes sense to update the bio with each book release, even if nothing else has changed, just add your new title.

Guest authors are requested to submit a head-shot of themselves to run next to their short bio. This is not the time to submit a picture of you at the beach or in a Halloween costume. You need to look like what you are: a professional author.

Now, it's time. Go. Write that short bio that will leap off the page and make readers want to read everything you write. Can you write a bio that will be "just write?"

October 28, 2015

SHOW Me a Story: Writing Cinematically

By Deborah Raney

If I’d known my first novel, A Vow To Cherish, would be made into a movie, I would have written it differently—more visually. Since learning more about screenwriting, I’ve discovered ways to apply film techniques that make my novels more “cinematic.” (And hopefully more likely to be turned into movies!)

1. Jump cuts and fade outs. Don't feel like you have to wrap every scene up in a nice bow. It's perfectly fine to jump into a scene in the middle of action already in progress (without knowing what kind of car your characters drove to get there). It's also fine—even preferred—to end a scene in the middle of the action and simply JUMP to the next scene. You don't always need a closed door or a good-bye to the phone call.

2. Cliffhanger. A good way to keep your readers turning pages is to end your scenes in the middle of action. Force the reader to turn the page to find out what you left him hanging not knowing. Just be sure you SHOW that cliffhanger instead of telling about it. Don't say: Little did he know it would be their last night together. Instead: The doorbell startled him. He pushed back the curtain to see a police car parked in the snowy driveway, its emergency lights eerily dimmed.  

3. Dissolve. In a similar way, you can end one scene and transition to the next by taking a visual element from the first scene and using it in the next. For example, in the story of Snow White, you might zoom in on the deadly apple as the wicked stepmother poisons it, then open the next scene with a close-up of the apple in Snow White's hand as she brings it to her mouth. Dissolves work especially well in comedy where a character says, “Oh, Harvey wouldnever do that." And of course, the next scene opens with Harvey doing exactly that.

4. Zooms. If the movie camera zooms in on an object, you can bet that object will play a significant role in the story later. By taking your writer’s "camera" and describing a close-up of an object or action, you give it the same importance as an object zoomed in on in a movie.

5. Lighting. Describing the light in your scene—bright and sunny, hazy, moonlit, etc.—not only gives the reader a visual image to picture, but also sets the mood, or creates a metaphor for good/evil, happiness/depression, etc.

6. Establishing shot. In film, an establishing shot is a long or wide-angle shot opening a scene to show the audience the locale/setting (or era, weather, time of day, etc.). In writing, sometimes this type of opening is written in omniscient point of view, and the author then zooms in on a more specific point in the setting—inside a house, for instance. This is a great way to paint the big picture. Just remember: today’s readers don't have the patience for more than a paragraph or two of description.

7. Background music. You can create a wonderful mood for your scene by helping the reader hear the music that would be the soundtrack if your novel were a movie. Have your character flip on the radio or play a musical instrument. Have her always singing or humming or whistling. Have music from a grocery store waft to the character's ears. The reader will hear those songs in her mind and your story will be so much richer for it. 

Deborah Raney’s books have won numerous awards, including the RITA, National Readers’ Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, and the Carol Award, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. She and her husband, Ken, recently traded small-town life in Kansas—the setting of many of Deborah’s novels—for life in the (relatively) big city of Wichita, where they enjoy gardening, antiquing, movies, and traveling to visit four children and a growing brood of grandchildren who all live much too far away. Visit Deborah on the web at

October 27, 2015

Who Me, Talk?

By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief, Southern Writers Magazine

Yes, you can do the talking or you can hire a person to talk. What am I talking about? Audiobooks.

According to Dianna Dilworth in her article, Audiobook Sales Up 19.5%, on sales for audio books are making money. She said, “In 2014 they reached $1.47 billion in revenue.”

Audio Publishers Association said Mysteries, Thrillers and Suspense are the most popular genre followed closely by History, Biography and Memoir and Popular Fiction.
They also say Word of Mouth reigns supreme. In other words, friends and families we listen to when it comes to buying audiotapes.

So, what does this mean for authors?  It’s another way to sell our books.

Although most of us don’t have the knowledge on how to do this, it is something we can learn. If we don’t want to learn it, then there are companies that can do this for us.
This is definitely an avenue worth looking into. The best way, read how it’t done. There is plenty of information for you to Google, bone up, and then if you determine to hire someone you will know the questions you should be asking.

In addition, I would talk with authors who have audiobooks. Find out who does there audiobooks. What systems do they use?  Do plenty of research. If you use a company, be sure and listen to some they’ve done.

Obviously having someone else do it is going to cost you some money. You will have to decide is it worth it to you to add another stream of revenue coming from your books.

When I Googled “How to Create an Audiobook” there were quite a few sites.  Here are just a few for you to check out and research:

And, check out Amazon’s company:

I do believe this is a wonderful tool for authors if you can find a way that is cost effective.

So start researching, see what you can ‘hear’. Good luck.

October 26, 2015

Does Your Romance Novel Start in the Right Place?

By Jill Kemerer

When I started writing romance novels, I made many rookie mistakes. I repeated the same words and phrases, had no clue about pacing a scene, and my characters weren’t always as likable as they needed to be. My worst offender, though, is a common one. I started the story in the wrong spot. Many romance writers find it difficult to understand where they should start their story. Here are questions to ask when evaluating your opening scene.

1. Do your hero and heroine meet, interact or, at the very least, hear about each other in the first chapter? If yes, good! If no, why not? Romance readers selected your book for a love story. Put the characters together as soon as possible. Don’t wait until chapter three.

2. Is the opening scene a moment of change for the point of view character? The character should either decide to change his life, react to a change in his life or make a change in his life. The first chapter isn’t there to set up the story. It’s to hook the reader. Period.

3. Does the viewpoint character in the opening scene have a clear story goal? What does your character want? Make it tangible, make it matter, and make your character work for it throughout the book. A good story goal will challenge the character and won’t be easy to obtain.

4. Do your main characters come across negatively? If your heroine’s inner growth revolves around being less selfish, you might be tempted to show her selfishness in the opening scenes to prove she’s changed in later ones. Please rethink your plot. Readers don’t like selfish heroines. They won’t stick around for chapter seven when she finally becomes a person they like. Have her realize she needs to be less selfish WAY before the book ever begins. Make her likable from page one.

5. Does the opening chapter force your characters to make decisions? Readers turn pages out of curiosity. They want to know what your characters will do. Use conflict-driven decisions and unanswered questions to hook readers. For example, a wedding planner decides to accept her ex-boyfriend’s little sister as a client. The conflict? It means she’ll have to interact with the man who broke her heart. The motivation? His little sister is marrying a congressman, and it will put the heroine’s wedding-planning business on the map. By having the heroine make that decision, the reader will eagerly turn the page to see if sparks fly, if the heroine fails, and if it really does put her wedding planning business on the map.

I would love to hear your tips on starting your story in the right place. Please leave a comment!
Jill Kemerer writes inspirational romance novels with love, humor and faith. Her latest novel, UnexpectedFamily, released September 1, 2015 through Harlequin Love Inspired. A full time writer, she relies on coffee and chocolate to keep up with her kids’ busy schedules. Besides spoiling her mini-dachshund, Jill adores magazines, M&Ms, fluffy animals and long nature walks. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Jill loves connecting with readers, so please visit her website and find her on Facebook and Twitter

October 23, 2015

Delighted by Deadlines

By Elizabeth S. Craig

I live by deadlines.  I’ve noticed that most writers have a love-hate relationship with deadlines. 

Actually, most everyone lives with deadlines, although they may not think of them that way.  Deadlines to buy a present for an anniversary?  Christmas?  Life itself comes with a deadline.

I started getting serious about personal deadlines about twelve years ago.   I had a scamp of a preschooler at the time--the kind of kid you affix deadbolts on your doors for and hide your keys from.  I had a baby who was just getting into the Cheerio stage.

I decided to set a deadline for myself.  I wanted to write a book by the end of the year. 

I was busy.  But when are we not busy?  It's just that the busyness changes from sleep loss and diaper changing to carpools and soccer games to college visits to work demands to travel-packed retirements. 

I decided there would never be that fictional cabin in the mountains with the scenic view and the complete and utter lack of a daily agenda. 

I've used deadlines three important ways in my life:

1) The first way I've used deadlines is to get work done.  Writers talk a lot about goals.  We have project goals and word count goals. Goals are these sorts of nebulous things.  They are vague and forgiving.  Goals are shockingly similar to wishes...I want to lose ten pounds or exercise three days a week.  I want to learn Spanish.  I want to win the lottery.  There's an air of unreality to them.  They're not solid.
Deadlines break goals into manageable bits.  My goal was: I want to write a book.  My deadlines were:  Each day, I'll write a page. 

2) The second way I've used deadlines is to maintain focus.  At first, distractions were easy to avoid...the ringing phone didn't have to be answered...there was an answering machine for that. 

Then the distractions became sneakier...the internet. Email.  Twitter.  And the biggest, baddest time suck of them all….Facebook. 

With deadlines, however, I knew I had work to accomplish first.  This stubborn determination motivated me to get up earlier and earlier.  Until finally I settled on the hour between four and five a.m.  There aren’t many distractions then, I’ve found.  

3) The third way I've used deadlines is to brainstorm long-term planning.

Most of us have ideas for ways we'd like to enjoy our future: travel more, further our education, or develop a hobby or interest. I found the only way to make plans come to pass was by breaking them down into bits, and setting deadlines for each of them. 
Being a writer means that I'm easily distracted by bright shiny objects.  It means a daily fight to maintain focus and stay on task. Deadlines, and the three ways I've taken to using them, have proven my best tool for doing so.
Deadlines may have a bad rap, but they’re actually tools to help us succeed, focus, and grow. 
Elizabeth writes the Southern Quilting mysteries; her books in this series are Quilt or Innocence, Knot What it Seams, Quilt Trip, Shear Trouble, Tying the Knot and Memphis Barbeque mysteries; her books in this series are Delicious and Suspicious, Finger Lickin’ Dead, Hickory Smoked Homicide and Rubbed Out for Penguin Random House and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink and independently; Her books include Pretty is as Pretty Dies, Progressive Dinner Deadly, Dyeing Shame, A Body in the Backyard, Death at a Drop-In, A Body at Book Club, Death Pays a Visit, and Body at Bunco. She blogs at , named as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers.  She curates links on Twitter as @elizabethscraig that are later shared in the free search engine Elizabeth makes her home in Matthews, North Carolina, with her husband and two teenage children. 

October 22, 2015

From the Ordinaryto the Extraordinary

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

Sitting covered in dust in an open hanger at the New Braunfels TX Regional Airport is an extraordinary aircraft. The Cessna 310 was exposed to the elements for years going unnoticed by many except those fortunate enough to be accompanied by a guide to make note of this one of a kind aircraft. My guide happened to be my brother who was at the time the airport manager. This aircraft was one of 6,321 built. The first one took flight on January 3rd 1953.  This one is the basic model aircraft built. Later would be the beefed up versions and eventually the Cessna 320. So what makes this one extraordinary? In this case it was the owner.

Beneath the thick dust on the exterior can be seen the name of the original owner Ray Charles Enterprises.  Ray Charles purchased this aircraft in 1958. It was his first of 4 aircrafts he would own. This one was purchased prior to his career taking off. The aircraft was a great help to Charles allowing him to get in and out of concerts easier by flying into smaller airports near the concert. Now the aircraft is owned by Larry Phillips of New Braunfels, TX and he has it indoors out of the weather and is restoring it to its original condition. I hope to see it again in its entire splendor.

Finding the extraordinary to write about may be as simple as having someone point it out and brushing away the dust. Many things in our society are extraordinary due to an historical event or celebrity ownership. Ray Charles Enterprises headquarters in Los Angeles is now noted as an historical landmark.  The same can be said for Elvis’ Graceland and everything else Elvis lived in, rode or touched. A simple item may be extraordinary if we know the story surrounding it.

As writers we also have the opportunity to develop a character or object and make it extraordinary. Fiction is a wonderful thing and there are no limits. We can even take an existing wonder even further than it is in real life. Look around and you may be surprised by the extraordinary right under our noses.      


October 21, 2015

Life Writing

By David Armand

Let me start off by saying this: I never planned to write a memoir. For the past five years, since I published my first novel, I considered myself first and foremost a novelist, a writer of fiction. But I was in need of a break. You see, I had just received a contract from Southeast Missouri State University Press for my third novel, The Gorge, and although I had a new book in mind, I wasn’t ready to start writing it yet. Instead, I worked on some old short stories, wrote a couple of poems, but none of the work was truly satisfying—nothing like the complete immersion of self that is required to make a novel. So I sat down one afternoon with the intent to write a longish essay about my mother who has schizophrenia and what it was like growing up under the shadow of her illness.

The words came easily enough, but I found out rather quickly that I had a lot more to say about my life than what I had originally thought. So I decided to keep going, to see where this thing would take me. Thus my “essay” grew and grew, and I started to recall instances from my life that I had completely forgotten about. Within two weeks, I was staring at a twenty-thousand-word long document—and it wasn’t nearly finished.

From the beginning, I knew that I didn’t want the writing of this book to be a therapeutic exercise. That’s not what good art is. The great short story writer and poet Raymond Carver said that “art is not self-expression, it is communication,” and I’ve always agreed with that statement. In other words, I didn’t want to write this book solely for myself, as a sort of catharsis, but instead I wanted to turn my life story into a piece of art—if I could. I wanted to achieve what Keats called “Negative Capability.” 

Then I started reading memoirs. I read Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club, Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life, Harry Crews’s A Childhood: The Biography of a Place, Larry Brown’s On Fire, and a whole slew of others. I discovered that all of these books had one thing in common: they were all riveting, fascinating, and compelling portraits of these wonderful artists’ lives. They were also beautifully-rendered stories that captured the dream-like quality of good fiction, yet they were all real. I was fascinated by this new genre, this new mode of communication. And so I kept writing.

In exactly six weeks, I had a completed draft of my memoir. Six weeks after that, I received a contract for publication from Texas Review Press. Never has something happened so quickly for me, and at the same time, never has something felt so right. As always, I am humbled and grateful to be able to share my story with others. I just hope I can communicate something meaningful and lasting and hopeful to all who might read it.
David Armand was born and raised in Louisiana. He has worked as a drywall hanger, a draftsman, and as a press operator in a flag printing factory. He now teaches at Southeastern Louisiana University, where he also serves as associate editor for Louisiana Literature Press. In 2010, he won the George Garrett Fiction Prize for his first novel, The Pugilist's Wife, which was published by Texas Review Press. His second novel, Harlow, is also published by Texas Review Press, released, September 4, 2014. David lives with his wife and two children and is at work on his third novel. His website can be found at

October 20, 2015

Getting Into Character

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

As they do every October, costumed youngsters will soon be ringing doorbells in search of the good stuff.  If recent eBay sales data is any indication, we can expect to see a few Minions, the gals from Frozen, and the perennial assortment of superheroes and princesses.

A neighbor friend, whose very young tykes will have their first foray into the fray this year, showed me a photo of them wearing their Mario & Luigi costumes, over which I appropriately fawned, all the while wondering how these video game plumbers from ancient history have resurfaced in popularity.  But maybe like the Muppets, they never really went away thanks to parents who cling to favorites from their own youth.

Truth be told, I'll admit to still having somewhat of an affinity for Robin, of Batman fame.  He wasn't quite as cool as the dark knight, but was more relatable to the young me; so much so that my mom painstakingly handmade a very decent Robin costume at my request, complete with satiny cape and tights.  I wore it all day when visiting my younger cousin one Saturday, hoping to convince him I was the real Robin.  I was disillusioned afterwards when his mom told me he knew all along that it was me.  But she did tell me I had nice legs.

Role playing comes naturally to kids, and psychologists confirm that it's good for us.  Some contend that the choice of costume is a mirror of one's inner self.  Others observe that costumes frequently suggest the opposite personality of the wearer.  Either way, it's a chance to walk a mile in someone else's shoes (or tights) for a little while.  

As grownups, playing make believe doesn't come as naturally, but the business world has made it more acceptable.  Using role playing for training purposes, employees are given the opportunity to make mistakes without real world consequences.  The roles they play may include someone they don't even want to be, like an irate customer, to better understand another person's POV.

Which is why writers especially can benefit from pretending to be someone we're not.  Every character we create can become three-dimensional if we get inside their heads.  While it's tempting to grab a stereotype and run with something we know to be safe and proven, the most memorable characters of literature have been anything but cardboard cutouts.

Try having a conversation with your protagonist. But instead of being the interviewer, be the protagonist.  Ask yourself probing questions to learn what makes your hero tick.  See what gets them excited, happy, angry, sad, uncomfortable. Keep digging until you discover what your character would rather keep hidden.  Tap into that, and you have an authentic character who will leap off the page. Then, if you're brave, do the same with your antagonist.

Who better than a writer has the power to role play and use it to create something that is both a reflection of ourselves and a reflection of who we want to be?

As kids, pretending to be someone else helped us find our own identity.  Today, it's a great way to help our characters find theirs.

October 19, 2015

Author Advice

By Amy Lillard

“What advice do you have for me?” It’s probably the most asked question of veteran authors. 
I usually say, “Don’t ever stop writing, find a writers’ group for support and brainstorming, and never stop dreaming.”

But I realized there is so much more to writing than that.

There are essentially two kinds of writers. The first are those who write only for the love of writing. They have a story that burns a hole through them. Publication is an added perk if it is even sought.

Then there are writers who view it as a business. They write with two goals in mind: crafting a great story and making money while doing it. They are still creative and very much driven to tell a story, but their tale may be dictated by the market, what’s hot, and suggestions from other industry professionals. They have to push their creative process and write even when other pressures encroach.

I’m not here to tell you that one of these is right while the other wrong. They are merely two sides to a coin.

But I believe to be a successful writer, you have to know which one of these you are. After all, how can you define your success if you don’t know your goals?

I knew my goals early on. I wanted to stay home and get paid to make up stories. I worked at this every day for many years.

A little backstory…I first started writing historical romance in the early nineties. From there I segued into short contemporary romantic comedies. I love this genre, and I felt that I had hit upon my voice, but couldn’t get that one big break I was looking for.

In 2008, I signed with an agent and figured all my hard work was about to pay off. But three years later, I still didn’t have a contract. I decided to call her to check on my manuscript.

What I got was the best advice of my career. My agent told me to write something completely out of my comfort zone: Amish romance. When I hesitated, she said the most important words she ever said to me. “You are a writer. Write it.”

So I did. My sixth Amish book, Lorie's Heart, just released. Since learning to write about the Amish, I have stepped even farther out of my comfort zone of romance to dabble in mystery writing. I am now a full time author. Is it what I thought? Not exactly. Am I happy? You betcha!

I’m not telling you to go out and write a book about the Amish. But be open. Listen to those around you. And most of all, determine your goals. You can’t get “there” if you don’t know where you’re going. Remember, no wrong answers to that one.

I don’t have a test for this. That’s something you’ll have to figure out for yourself. But until you do, don’t ever stop writing, find a writers’ group for support and brainstorming, and never stop dreaming.
Amy Lillard is the author of more than twenty novels and novellas, including Amish and contemporary romances, cozy mysteries, and a few historical tales just to keep things interesting. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with her husband and son. Visit her online at and newsletter signup   Also w/a Amie Louellen. Amy Lillard’s latest collaboration is with Authors Kelly Long and Molly Jebber on the anthology,    

October 16, 2015

The Heart of the Matter: How to Keep Your Heart in Your Writing

By MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA

Heart. How would you describe it? Emotion? Feeling? That special something that touches the deepest part of you?

One Internet dictionary defines heart as "the central or innermost part of something." The heart is the core that gives something life, around which everything else grows, and from which everything else flows. Without the heart, there would be no life.

When it comes to writing, heart is what gives your writing life.  Heart is that special something in your words that stirs your readers, moves them to tears—or to action. Heart is what makes your readers keep turning pages and keep buying your books.
Heart is the point where you intimately connect with your readers on a deep level.            

So, how do you give your stories heart?
It all starts with your own heart.
What is the condition of your own heart?  Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Is my heart full of passion for writing? If not, why not?

Is my heart strong when faced with the temptation to quit writing?

Will my heart persevere when faced with criticism, whether constructive or destructive?

Is my heart teachable? Will it consider and apply the wisdom of those writers and editors who have gone before me?

Does my heart desire the growth and well-being of my reader more than my own fame and fortune?

Your answers to these questions will reveal to you whether or not you have the heart necessary to bring heart to your writing.

One of my favorite quotes is found in Proverbs 4:23: "Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life." Your writing is a part of your life. Your heart, therefore, will also determine the course of your writing.

So, what should you do if, in answering the questions above, you found that you came up short? That you really lack heart in the depths of your own being? 

The answer is at once simple yet profound. It lies in the greatest heart that exists: the heart of God. He alone can give you heart. When you turn to Him in humility, He will share His heart with you. And when your heart is connected to His heart, your writing will have all the heart it needs to touch the hearts of your readers.
Dr. MaryAnn Diorio earned her PhD in French from the University of Kansas and her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University.  She is a diplomate of the Institute of Children’s Literature and has won numerous writing awards.  A widely published author, MaryAnn writes compelling fiction for both children and adults.  She has taught writing at Rowan University and Regent University.  MaryAnn and her husband are blessed with two amazing daughters, a wonderful son-in-law, and five rambunctious grandchildren. When not writing, MaryAnn enjoys painting, reading, painting, and spending time with her family. Her latest work, SURRENDER TO LOVE and THE MADONNA OF PISANO. You may reach her at or at 

October 15, 2015

Scraping Toward a Better Book

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Shelby Farms Patriot Lake in Memphis is undergoing a huge transformation. Let's call it a major edit with a capital "E." I have written many blog posts sitting by the lake. It's peaceful although, it sits in the middle of the suburbs of Memphis, TN. The wind-driven waves on the lake mimic beach waves without the noise of the ocean. The geese would play in the water teaching the young ones how to, catch dinner. 

That was then. This is now. 

Today it's hard to write by the lake they are building because it's a bevy of activity. Distractions abound. The lake and roads have been totally redesigned to accommodate more activities. It appears two small islands that were in the previous lake's footprint have been removed. I am disappointed about the redesign eliminating the islands. I feel the geese used those islands as a refuge in stormy nights. 

Change in our lives can be scary just by the shear fact it's not the norm. I think because changing of our manuscript occurs in the edit process that we, as authors have trouble with edits. We liked our book the way it was sent into the publisher. Then, the notes come back from your editor, and the edit process begins. 

Watching the transformations occur at Patriot Lake today, reminded me of what we do when we create a book. I watch a giant scraper scoop up dirt out of the empty lake bed and dump it into dump truck (Internet to publisher) and haul to an unknown location (publisher). After much of this activity, the scraper (author) created its own island of dirt it sits on. It reminds me how as an author it's easy to become isolated in the book writing business like this scraper. A lot of other people are involved in your book's success. I watch a second scraper (editor) come to the first scraper's (author) dirt island and begin filling in dirt (edits) so that the author-scraper didn't fall off its island. 

Like Patriot Lake's improvements, your book after edits will be a better book written by you. 

Just remember, it takes a lot of equipment to get your book published. 

October 14, 2015

Seven Books That Will Change Your Fiction Writing Career

By DiAnn Mills

Reading how-to books demand the professional writer’s attention. These resources need to be read and reread, underlined, noted, and inhaled like a breath of fresh air—or a dose of castor oil. Depends on our ability to accept the contents. I have my favorites, and I want to share them with you and why I value their information.

1.     Writing the Break-Out Novel by Donald Maass. This how-to book challenged me to climb out of mediocre writing and scale the peaks of a bestselling writer. Maass is a genius in the world of fiction writing techniques and providing excellent examples of his points.
2.     Writing the Break-Out Novel Workbook by Donald Maass. The hands-on exercises in this workbook demonstrate the power of Maass’ teachings by applying his principles to our own work.
3.     Story Trumps Structure by Steven James demonstrates the power of story. When our novels are closed and the reader reflects upon the characters’ adventures, what prevails is the journey woven through the pages.
4.     The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is cemented to my desktop. These writers have crafted an informative book that blends emotion and body language to clearly show instead of telling story.
5.     The Power of Body Language by Tonya Reiman is a remarkable tool for the writer seeking to enhance characterization. The resource is also a valuable handbook for the speaker who not only desires to read her audience but also exhibit her own appropriate body language.
6.     Dialogue by Gloria Kempton establishes the importance of what a character says, how it’s said, and word choices. Exercises at the end of each chapter help the writer to practice the concepts.

7.     Dictionary and Thesaurus - This is a given, but we writers need to have one handy at all times.
No matter what your challenge in creating story, whether it is characterization, plot, dialogue, setting, emotion, setting, or self-editing. These books will guide you into professionalism. Are you ready to read, write, reread, and rewrite?
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational ReadersChoice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall. Her series includes her latest Double Cross and Deadlock. DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; the 2015 president of the Romance Writers of Americas Faith, Hope, & Love chapter; a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and International Thriller Writers. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at