Welcome to the blog of author Tricia Goyer!

Monday, June 15, 2009

So Long, Farewell...

The time has come to end this blog, but I’m not ending my dedication to mentoring new writers. I’ve just come to the realization I can’t do it all and do it well. So I’ll still be covering writing over at my main blog, It’s Real Life.

Here is the schedule:

Monday It's Real Life

Tuesday Family

Wednesday Writing

Thursday Marriage

Friday Have you seen this? (Fun/or industry related stuff)

Saturday Teen

Please feel free to contact me via the contact page at my website if you have any questions you’d like answered or would simply like to send me a note.

We can also stay in touch via twitter (www.twitter.com/triciagoyer) or facebook (www.facebook.com/triciagoyer)

With Humble gratitude for your continued readership and support,

Tricia Goyer

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

More Boating Techniques: How to Adjust Tension

Guest Blogger: Ben Whiting! Read part 1 of Boating Techniques here.

In my last post I talked about varying the tension in your story. This time I want to examine a couple of examples in Harper Lee's classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, to find some concrete ways of doing that.

One way to increase or decrease the tension in a scene is to control the distance. As with our speedboat example, the further the reader is from the story, the less tension he or she will feel. When you bring the skier in close, the rope will be tauter even if the boat's actual speed is the same. Read the following example, paying attention to the distance and accompanying tension.

The remainder of my schooldays were no more auspicious than the first. Indeed, they were an endless Project that slowly evolved into a Unit, in which miles of construction paper and wax crayon were expended by the State of Alabama in its well-meaning but fruitless efforts to teach me Group Dynamics. What Jem called the Dewey Decimal System was school-wide by the end of my first year, so I had no chance to compare it with other teaching techniques. I could only look around me: Atticus and my uncle, who went to school at home, knew everything—at least, what one didn't know the other did. Furthermore, I couldn't help noticing that my father had served for years in the state legislature, elected each time without opposition, innocent of the adjustments my teacher thought essential to the development of Good Citizenship.

This portion of the story summarizes a long period of time. We as readers are not immersed in the action, seeing each action and reaction as it occurs—instead, we are held at arm's length and allowed to view the school year as a whole. While the narrator's disagreement with her teacher's methods is a source of tension, the space between story and reader alleviates some of the suspense. Contrast that scene with this next one, in which she and Jem are headed home alone in the dark:

“Jem, you don't hafta—”

“Hush a minute, Scout,” he said, pinching me.

We walked along silently. “Minute's up,” I said. “Whatcha thinkin' about?” I turned to look at him, but his outline was barely visible.

“I thought I heard something,” he said. “Stop a minute.”

We stopped.

“Hear anything?” he asked.


We had not gone five paces before he made me stop again.

“Jem, are you tryin' to scare me? You know I'm too old—”

“Be quiet,” he said, and I knew he was not joking.

The night was still. I could hear his breath coming easily beside me. Occasionally there was a sudden breeze that hit my bare legs, but it was all that remained of a promised windy night. This was the stillness before a thunderstorm. We listened.

Notice the difference? This scene magnifies the tension by drawing in close to the action, focusing on details instead of the big picture. If the scene was written in summary form instead, the tension in the rope holding us as readers would slacken considerably.

You may have noticed that the inherent intensity of the action in each of these scenes is different. Scout's disagreement with her teacher does not have as much potential for tension as a walk home at night with a strange man lurking in the darkness. This is because Harper Lee knew what she was doing. The focus should narrow in the most important scenes, showing each individual action as it happens—telling virtually nothing. When a scene is less important and has less natural tension, more things should be told and fewer things shown.

Another technique used in the second section that increases the tension is the brevity of the sentences and words. Dwight Swain says in his book, Techniques of the Selling Writer, that the kind of writing and the words used are what convey tension to the reader. He advocates short words, sentences, and paragraphs to do this—“the tunnel vision that shuts out everything except the moment and the danger. The prolongation of crisis that stretches time like a rubber band.” The Harper Lee excerpts clearly illustrate this as well as the opposite—longer words, sentences, and paragraphs slow the pace down.

A final warning: varying the pace is good, but never slow down enough to let the rope touch the water. If you do, you will lose all the tension in your scene, and—what's worse—you will probably lose your readers as well.

Ben Whiting
Using Fiction to Illustrate Truth

Ben Whiting is a full-time English student at the University of Texas at Arlington and co-general editor of the award-winning collegiate publication Marine Creek Reflections. His current writing project, Penumbra, is a contemporary suspense novel that he hopes to finish over the summer.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Introducing...Sunflower Serenade!

Book 12 in the Home to Heather Creek series! Look for it in July!

Details coming soon!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Wise words from Mary DeMuth!


A writer can mess up all sorts of things but pull off a compelling story and will win readers.

Does that mean we give up on craft? Absolutely not. But it does mean that we must think deeply about what makes a story compelling.

Take The Shack. How many people have grappled with the question of evil when it pertains to someone they deeply loved? There’s a relatability and universality there.

What about Twilight? How many teenage girls do you know who have felt unnoticed? Awkward? Insecure?

Tap into the deep longings of people’s lives where they live and spin a story that sweeps them inward and outward and you’ll pen stories that captivate.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Journey to publication...

I was blessed to be on faculty this year at Mt. Hermon Christian Writer's Conference. It was cool. VERY cool. In fact, teaching there has been a dream of mine for a while.

I attended my first Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 1994. At that conference I gazed up at the faculty members with adoration on my face. They were PUBLISHED which made them completely cool. I wanted to be like them. At the time I didn't know how much hard work, learning, and dedication it would take. Yet, I wouldn't change any part of the journey in getting from "there" to "here." It was through the journey to publication that I also grew closer to God. Amazing!

At the conference I spent the first three days in the Head Start Mentoring Clinic. I had an awesome time with Joan, LoraLee, Carol, Randy, Mary, and Joyce. I enjoyed helping each one along in their journey, and I can't wait to see where God takes them! (My group)

At the regular conference I critiqued manuscripts, met with new writers, and taught workshops. Oh yes, and I hung out with friends. (I love my writer/editor/agent friends!)

And ... one of the coolest things is that one of my local students, Alexa, attended the conference. I teach writing to homeschooled high schoolers every month, and Alexa has been in my class for four years. She's a great writer, and I was thrilled Alexa was able to come and learn from other teachers too.

Then, as a complete surprise to me, Alexa won BEST NEW WRITER! She was chosen by the other faculty members as the one who had impressed them the most. I felt like a proud mom sitting there, cheering her on. Congrats Alexa! (She's in the middle)

If you've every considered attending a writer's conference DO IT! And maybe if you're at Mt. Hermon's next year ... we can hang out, too! It's a date!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Mommying and Writing: The Nitty Gritty - Foundations

I've been running a 'Mommying and Writing' series. Just a few things I've learned along the way as both a Mommy and a Writer! To read the previous posts, scroll down!

Majoring on the Foundations.

There is one more final way that both mothering and writing are intertwined and that’s in learning to major on the foundations. In fact, here are some parenting tips I learned that helped me on my writing journey too.

a. Foundation One: Focus on the heart. When it comes to raising kids we can do a lot to shape behavior, but it will do little good if we don’t focus on our children’s heart. What matters is that they learn to do the right thing because of the moral code that’s inside them, not because they’re worried about being punished.

In writing, it’s also important to focus on the heart … what does the reader need most? Is the reader going to pick up your book or article to be entertained? To learn something? To be encouraged? It doesn’t matter if you get all the mechanics right if you miss the main point.

b. Foundation Two: Everything happens in stages. We would not expect our children to run before they walk or drive a car before they learn to ride a bike. The same is true in writing. Too often we want to sell a novel to a major publisher and we haven’t studied the craft of writing. We want our first book to hit the bestseller’s list without understanding the most audiences are built book by book. Understanding stages encourages patience. Growth will happen in time. Small steps lead to larger ones.

c. Foundation Three: No comparisons. When my daughter was thirteen-months-old my husband came home to a weeping wife. “What’s wrong?” John asked.

“Leslie isn’t walking yet, and Madilyn has been walking since she was 10-months old.”

My husband’s advice was wise, “Honey, she will walk, and when the kids are five-years-old they’ll all be running around and no one will be able to tell who learned to walk first.”

This is good advice for the writing journey too. Some writers will get published before others. Some will get bigger advances or better contracts. Some writers will get media attention and others … won’t. The best thing to do is not compare. Ten years from now, twenty, your books will be sitting on the shelf next to everyone else’s and no one will be the wiser. Just as our journey as a mom is unique, so are our journeys as writers.

Looking back I’d have to say there one final HUGE advantage to having my kids surrounding me as I wrote. They watched as I stumbled my way through my dream of becoming a writer. I not only told them, “You need to follow your dreams” and “You need to work hard to achieve your goals,” I showed them. They see me work hard, and they see the end result ... books and articles! They also see how I’m using the dreams God placed in me to share the good news of Jesus with others. Life as a writer (and as a Christ seeker) has been a wonderful model for my children to follow. Now that they are older, it is no surprise that they are BIG dreamers who love serving God in their own special way!

So, Mom, go ahead and take a deep breath. You can do this. Your way. In your time. Also, remember … God is there with you, every step of the way.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Mommying and Writing: The Nitty Gritty - Priorities

I've been running a 'Mommying and Writing' series. Just a few things I've learned along the way as both a Mommy and a Writer! To read the previous posts, scroll down!

Focus on Priorities.

Another thing that has helped me focus on both Mommying and writing is prioritizing. In both cases it’s easy to get caught up in “good things” while missing out on the “best things.” This is a mistake I made for many years. In the publishing business there are always trends—things that are hot at this moment. There have been romance trends, sci-fi trends, teen novel trends, and everything in between. My natural instinct was to look at a trend and think I can do that. Then I’d set to work trying to produce something that fit with what the editors seemed to be looking for. The only problem was often I wasn’t writing out of passion, I was writing for publication. And it showed. A second problem was that by the time my stuff was ready to be submitted the trend had run its course (either that or the market was flooded) and those projects were no longer needed.

The same is proved true in parenting. There were “trends” around me—things others were getting their kids involved it that seemed like a great idea at the time. There was the t-ball trend, the ballet trend, the art class trend, and the karate trend. Again my tendency was to go with the crowd instead of considering my kids’ natural talents and interests.

In both cases, it took stepping back and considering. What am I designed to write? What are my kids designed to do? Through the process I learned that what God had designed me to do was unique from what everyone else was doing. And that He’d created my kids with natural giftings, too. So as I studied my kids, I learned how to better study myself and my writing. And as I focused on what I was called to write, I also became more aware of the areas I needed to encourage in my kids. And as I focused on priorities in both areas I became better at doing both. I also had more time to spend doing things that would matter most five years down the road. Things like family dinners, and Bible Studies, and afternoon picnics at the park.