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4 Tips to Start and End a Scene #WW

Scenes build stories. How you begin and end them can mean the difference between a reader finishing your novel or tossing it aside.

When you’re writing, it’s fine to put down whatever comes to mind so your brain can push through and get the draft on paper. But when you’re revising, it’s wise to analyze each scene’s hook and ending to make sure they’re pulling their weight.

Here are my “rules” for how to start and end a scene.

1. Don’t bore the reader.

Madeline slathered butter on the bagel. Stan had really crossed a line.

Whoop-dee-doo. Does any reader care if Madeline has butter on her bagel or not? I don’t think so. And while the second sentence gets more to the heart of the matter, the first sentence is what counts.

Try this:

She wanted to chuck her bagel at Stan’s head. The nerve of him, treating her like a five-year-old in front of her boss.

2. Give transition details early in the scene.

Readers need to know how long it’s been since the previous scene, whose point of view we’re in, the location, and any other pertinent setting information. Don’t make them guess!

She wanted to chuck her bagel at Stan’s head. The nerve of him, treating her like a five-year-old in front of her boss. Madeline peeked out of the break room but saw no sign of him. Good. After this morning’s humiliating meeting, she hoped he crawled back to corporate headquarters where he belonged.

3. Tease the reader at the end of a scene.

Stan handed her the report. “Verify your numbers with this.”

Stimulating. I, for one, don’t get excited over a hero handing a heroine a report and telling her to verify her numbers. YAWN…

How about:

“Verify your numbers with this.” Stan’s tone was as icy as his blue eyes. She snatched the report out of his hand.

 She’d verify them all right. And if he questioned her expertise again, she was taking the other job offer, even if it meant a cut in pay. No job was worth this.

4. Check scene hooks and endings.

A quick and easy way to make sure these openings and closings are doing their job is to copy/paste the first and last sentence in each scene in a separate file. When you have them pasted one after the other, it’s easy to spot the duds. Try it! I always find a few that need punching up.

What are you tricks to start and end scenes? I’d love to hear them!

Have a great week!

*

Sugarplums and Second Chances by Jill Kemerer

Are some mistakes beyond redemption?

When former NFL star, Chase McGill, invites Courtney Trudesta, the widow of his former teammate, to spend Christmas with him and his son in Lake Endwell, he simply wants to repay her for the weekly letters she sent while he was in prison. He didn’t expect to fall for her.

Chase regrets his past and knows it will take more than sugarplums and wishful thinking to heal Courtney’s lonely heart. But with a dose of small-town charm and plenty of Christmas cheer, they might have a second chance at happiness…with each other.

Sugarplums and Second Chances is only $0.99 on Kindle. Purchase HERE!

 

Are You a Comma Master?

Are You A Comma Master? Jill Kemerer Blog

Commas. Where do they go? Why did I throw one there? Does this phrase need one? Are seventeen commas in one sentence too many??? (Yes.)

I consider myself at intermediate level when it comes to comma placement. No matter how much I edit, I always find spots where I’ve misplaced them.

Are you a comma master?

Since I’m in the line-edit phase of a project, I’m overthinking the whole comma thing. Yesterday I got out my cheat sheet, a grammar book, and a CMOS style guide. I still had to look up specific examples online!

Let’s tackle the basics (thank you, Jan R., for graciously sharing these with me years ago!).

Commas go…

  • before a coordinating conjunction joining independent clauses.
  • after introductory phrase, especially if dependent.
  • between items in a series.
  • between coordinate adjectives.
  • on either side of a nonrestrictive word group.
  • to set off parenthetical expressions.
  • in dates, addresses, titles, etc…
  • where there might be confusion without one.

For a more thorough breakdown of comma usage, are a few sites I’ve bookmarked.

The Punctuation Guide

Grammar Book

Grammarly

How are you with commas? Do you have any tips, sites, or books to recommend? I’d love to hear!

 

Writing Links: Plotting, Rest and More

Writing Links: Plotting, Rest And More Jillkemerer.com/blog

It’s been a tad busy here with summer baseball still going strong and a few deadlines I’m hurtling toward, so I’m keeping this short.

Last Saturday at writer’s group, we discussed various three-act plotting beat sheets. I thought you might enjoy them, too.

Michael Hauge has a fantastic Structure Chart to print out and keep handy.

Download Michael Hauge’s Six-Stage Structure Chart here.

If you need help understanding the terminology in the structure chart, Janice Hardy broke down the stages in this excellent post.

Read Janice Hardy’s “Plotting with Michael Hague’s Six-Stage Plot Structure” here.

 

 

Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat has a fantastic take on the three-act plotting structure. I’m a big fan of Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat beat sheet. I’ve found two terrific resources about it.

  1. Read Tim Stout’s “The Blake Snyder Beat Sheet (aka BS2)” here.
  2. Find Jami Gold’s take on Blake Snyder’s beat sheet (with scene and page breakdowns) in her Worksheets for Writers section here.

 

 

Finally, it’s easy to burn out as a writer. I loved this practical article by Beth Wangler (via Hannah Heath’s blog) with nine ways to avoid it.

Read “Don’t Write Every Day: 9 Ways to Rest and Rejuvenate” by Beth Wangler via Hannah Heath’s blog here.

 

How is your June going? What advice have you gotten lately that resonated with you?

Have a great weekend!

Discussing Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction

Discussing Wonderbook, Jillkemerer.com/blog

I was at the library last week–shocking, I know–and came across a delightful book in the new nonfiction section. Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff Vandermeer has an engaging, whimsical cover, and I had to pick it up. With stunning graphics, author essays, and entertaining chapter subheadings, Wonderbook was sure to be right up my alley.

I haven’t had a chance to dive into it in depth, but I’ll be taking it chapter-by-chapter until I finish. I have a feeling this will be one I buy for my writing-craft shelf. One of my goals this year is to consistently study and apply writing craft techniques. This spring I brushed up on several chapters of Donald Maass’s The Fire in Fictiona book I’ve read more than once. It’s really good. And I’m excited to find other craft books to return to again and again.

One thing I’ve noticed over the past few years is that more nonfiction books are being printed on thicker, glossier paper with ample photographs and illustrations. I’m drawn to these books. Visual aids always help me! Anything that breaks up the text keeps me engaged–bullet points, subheadings, graphics, charts, you name it. Wonderbook is full of them.

Here’s the cover of Wonderbook.

Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer, jillkemerer.com/blog

This all-new definitive guide to writing imaginative fiction takes a completely novel approach and fully exploits the visual nature of fantasy through original drawings, maps, renderings, and exercises to create a spectacularly beautiful and inspiring object. Employing an accessible, example-rich approach, Wonderbook energizes and motivates while also providing practical, nuts-and-bolts information needed to improve as a writer. Aimed at aspiring and intermediate-level writers, Wonderbook includes helpful sidebars and essays from some of the biggest names in fantasy today, such as George R. R. Martin, Lev Grossman, Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock, Catherynne M. Valente, and Karen Joy Fowler, to name a few.

Purchase a paperback copy of Wonderbook: Amazon

 

***

Since my laziness factor can get REALLY high, especially in the summer when beach reads are calling my name, I schedule study time. If a craft book has long chapters, I will tackle a portion of a chapter per session (I aim for three sessions a week). If the chapters are short, I study a chapter at a time. I write out notes on paper then type them into a digital notebook (I use OneNote) for easy access. Sometimes a book doesn’t grab me, and I give up on it, but most of the time, I get a lot out of the craft books I read.

One nice thing about Wonderbook is that it has a dedicated website with gobs of extras. You can find out more at www.wonderbooknow.com.

How do you study the writing craft? What are your favorite resources? Please share!

Have a terrific day!

Jill Kemerer is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

 

Researching Contemporary Settings Without Traveling #WW

Researching Settings Without Traveling, Jillkemerer.com/blog

On Saturday I gave a presentation at the Researching the Romance academic conference (#BGSURomCon18) hosted by the Browne Pop Culture Library at Bowling Green State University, which happens to be the official repository for Romance Writers of America (RWA). It was an amazing conference. I learned so much from professors, university librarians, archivists, grad students and others who traveled from all over the country. And, guys, Beverly Jenkins was the guest of honor. She blessed everyone with her insight, wisdom, graciousness and humor.

Since researching settings can be difficult, I thought I’d share my topic with you. Here it is!

Researching Contemporary Settings Without Traveling

A novel’s setting is important because it shapes the story and influences the characters’ thoughts and actions. Ideally, a writer will be able to visit an area before writing about it, but there are two big reasons why authors don’t always travel to research a setting. Time and money. We don’t always have time to jet off to Paris or drive to Georgia, and traveling can be expensive. But with the right tools, we can be confident we’re getting the setting right for our readers.

I take a three-pronged approach to researching setting–Internet, Print, People.  This method goes from big picture to small details.

 I usually have a general area or town in mind when I’m deciding where to set a new novel. The first thing I do is spend time on the internet and start gathering basic material.

1.Internet

  1. Print out a map of the area.
  2. “See” it through Google Earth/Google Images. Verify the images have been tagged correctly. Some images are clearly not what they say they are.
  3. Gather and print a year’s worth of weather data. It’s important to know typical highs/lows and precipitation.
  4. Find out what economics drive the area. Is it a dying town? Thriving? What are the demographics? What are the typical jobs? How much does it cost to live there?
  5. Read a brief history. Who settled it? What interesting facts emerge?
  6. Browse through travel guides/visitors info. What are the local attractions? These might trigger plot ideas.
  7. Check out homes through Realtor.com. What are the preferred styles? How much do they cost? Can I use this information as an area of conflict for a character?
  8. Search for blogs set there. For instance, when researching my Wyoming Cowboys series, I searched for “Wyoming ranch life” and found several blogs, full of pictures and rich details.
  9. “See” the area by searching YouTube—people GoPro everything!

 

At this point I have a good idea of the setting basics. I’m ready to narrow my research down to get “the flavor” of a place. So I move to print materials.

 

2. Print (Purchase or borrow from library)

  1. Memoirs set in the area (or general vicinity) will give you a more complete picture and plenty of details to make your setting come to life.
  2. Magazines. Regional magazines (Midwest Living, Alaska, Sunset, etc…) will give you fun facts and pictures.
  3. Ask librarian for help. Librarians know where to look beyond the travel section for information on specific places. Ask them!
  4. DVDs–documentaries and travel specials can be fun to watch!

 

Now I’m getting ready to write, but I usually have a list of picky questions I can’t find answers to. Example: How young is too young for a child to start riding a horse in Wyoming? Answer: Many children ride as soon as they can walk! How did I find this out? I asked people who live there (Thanks, Bree!!). How did I find these people? Social media.

 

3. People (Ask questions)

  1. Social Media. Get on Facebook, Twitter or even Google+ (there are communities for just about anything on G+) and ask specific questions “Hey, is anyone from X? I’m writing a book, and I’m wondering about Y.
  2. Put the word out to friends that you’re trying to find information about your setting. Chances are someone you know has a cousin/best friend/uncle’s first wife’s boss who lived there. Find out if they would be willing to answer a few questions. You can set up an interview (email, video, or phone) to pick their brains about the area.

 

Researching in person is ideal, but when finances are strained and you have no time, you CAN accurately reflect a setting if you work hard and DO sweat the details.

What are your secrets for researching a setting without traveling? Please share!

Internal Conflict: Digging Deeper #WW

Internal Conflict: Digging Deeper #WW Jillkemerer.com/blog

One thing I love about internal conflict is that a character recognizes she is emotionally protecting herself from something and thinks she knows why, but as the story progresses, she realizes the reason goes deeper. Until she’s willing to be vulnerable and admit the emotional walls she’s erected are stifling her, she won’t be able to emotionally grow.

Does it matter if she grows?

YES! When I’m reading a book, I fall in love with characters. I WANT to see them succeed. I want them to become their best selves and live full lives. If a character ultimately stays the same and shows no growth, I’ll be disappointed.

Of course, this doesn’t mean the character starts off with massive flaws that turn everyone off. No one will stick around long enough to read about her growth!

Internal conflict starts with a deep emotional need. This need has been complicated by previous experiences. The character has convinced herself the need will not be met because of the past complications. Throughout the story, this belief is challenged until she chooses to be vulnerable enough to have the ultimate need met.

Here are some questions to dig deeper with internal conflict:

  1. What happened in the character’s past that caused him to erect emotional walls?
  2. What reason does he give himself to emotionally protect himself?
  3. What deeper fear underlies this explanation?
  4. How can the plot further challenge and develop his conflict?
  5. How do other characters force him to question if he needs to continue to protect himself?
  6. What will be the catalyst for him to acknowledge the deep fear keeping him from living his best life?
  7. What decision will the character make to tear down the emotional wall for good?

Let’s take an example. We’ll look at Lauren’s internal conflict in my book, Hometown Hero’s Redemption.

  1. A former social worker, Lauren feels she failed to protect the two boys she’d been assigned.
  2. She can’t forgive herself and doesn’t want to work with troubled kids ever again, lest she repeat her failure.
  3. As a former foster child, she was shuffled to different homes and as a result, grew a false belief that she had to be perfect to be loved.
  4. She is asked, refuses, and is finally convinced to babysit a kid who has been emotionally devastated. Being around Wyatt challenges her beliefs–at times she feels like she’s failing him, other times she knows she’s helping–and it confuses her.
  5. Drew, Wyatt’s guardian, thinks she’s amazing. And as they grow closer, she opens up to him about her regrets. He helps her see herself in a more accurate light, and as she spends time with him, she starts to realize her emotional walls aren’t just because she failed the boys. She unpacks her childhood and sees how she’s equated being perfect with being worthy of love.
  6. Wyatt vanishes. In Lauren’s mind this proves she was right–she should never have worked with a troubled child. And it reinforces her fears that this is the proof that will drive Drew away. He’ll see she’s not perfect. She failed him and Wyatt and is not worthy of their love. She pushes Drew out of her life.
  7. Lauren comes to terms with the fact she’s not perfect, never will be, and doesn’t have to earn anyone’s love.

Internal conflict is rooted in fear. The character doesn’t want to face this fear and often tells herself a half-truth to explain it. But as the plot progresses and her beliefs are directly challenged, she is forced to acknowledge the real fear holding her back. And ultimately, she chooses to be vulnerable, allowing this deep emotional need to be met.

How do you deepen internal conflict? I’d love to hear YOUR best tips!

Have a terrific day!

Twitter Advice 2018

Twitter Advice 2018 Jill Kemerer

I used to spend a few hours every day on social media sites, but a while back, I found myself wondering if it was all worth it. I wasn’t engaging with people as much, and I drastically cut back on sharing content. The majority of my time was spent merely scrolling through my feeds.

I wasted a lot of time. The problem wasn’t social media. It was me.

In the back of my mind, I knew I needed to make more of an effort. It felt daunting. Plus, I no longer had a few hours each day to spend on social media. As I’ve mentioned here before, last year I decided to push myself to reach higher annual writing goals, which meant doing the bare minimum on social media.

My default has become putting in a consistent effort on my fave sites–Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter–for a month or two, but inevitably, a deadline or a persnickety manuscript will keep me offline for days at a time.

Twitter, especially, used to be my favorite site to hang out on. Then it got overwhelming trying to keep up with my lists. And when I stopped keeping up with them, I no longer “got” Twitter.

But I want to get it.

I’m working on ways to be more consistent there, which led me back to a few blogs I’d bookmarked. If you’re interested in reviving (or starting) your Twitter engagement, here are the articles I thought you might enjoy. The first two are over a year old, but they’re worth reading.

Twitter Advice 2018

 

 

I used to schedule tweets using Buffer, and it worked well for me. On the days I was too busy to post, Buffer did it for me. Bottom line: I’m going to start doing that again.

One of the reason I enjoy using Buffer is that it kicks me in the pants to read industry blogs and retweet them. I follow a lot of blogs, but rarely read them.  Enter Feedly. By going to Feedly, I can scroll through the titles and quickly read/share the ones I find useful.

As far as apps to use Twitter, I’ve gone back and forth using Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, and I always fall back on Tweetdeck. It’s a personal preference. I recommend finding the app that will make Twitter most engaging for you and sticking with it. Hootsuite does allow you to share one post across multiple platforms. I know Tweetdeck used to allow you to automatically share tweets to your Facebook timeline, but I don’t know if that feature is still available. A quick internet search didn’t provide answers, either.

In my opinion, the key to Twitter is responding to mentions, sharing engaging content, and following back when someone follows you. I realize Twitter and Facebook are increasingly becoming pay to play sites, but they’re still worth it for me to spend time there now.

My plan:

  1. Schedule tweets in advance using Buffer.
  2. Aim to interact on Twitter for 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the afternoons on most weekdays.
  3. Once or twice a month, read through Feedly to find blog posts to share.

That’s it. Pretty simple. 🙂

Do you use Twitter? What do you like about it? What are your best tips?

If you don’t use it, why not? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Enjoy your day!

Teasing the Reader to Continue Your Book #ww

Teasing The Reader To Continue Your Book Jill Kemerer

Last Thursday was a bad writing day. After lunch, I threw my hands in the air and suppressed a scream. I knew where the story needed to go, but I wasn’t sure how to get there. I had several scenes to write before my next “sure” scene. Everything inside me wanted to open a browser and get lost in Pinterest or Facebook or my Twitter feed, but that’s a no-no during my writing time.

I sat there. My eyes glazed over looking at the blinking cursor.

I will NOT have a soggy middle. I’m not going to write something boring just to meet my word count goal.

Soggy middles…I shuddered.

What could I do to tease the reader to continue reading?

Well…

What story questions remained unanswered?

I swiped a piece of scrap paper and jotted down all the story threads I hadn’t wrapped up at that point in the manuscript. There were a LOT of loose ends, but I couldn’t tie them up yet or the end of the book would be ruined.

So I popped a butterscotch candy in my mouth and thought for a while.

Real life is messy. We don’t always get neat answers tied up in a bow. Instead we make impressions based on information we gather. Why shouldn’t it be the same for my characters?

I quickly brainstormed ways to provide the characters with answers that weren’t necessarily true. Two scenes jumped in my head to introduce misinformation to one character while conflicting information was presented to the other one.

Not only were the scenes fun to write, they make the book more fun for readers. They know two different answers exist for the same story question, and they can come to their own conclusion. This teases them to keep reading…to find out if they were right.

If you’re slogging through the middle of a story and not sure how to get from one major plot point to another, think about the story questions you’ve introduced.

  • Can you make the characters think they have a problem figured out while giving the reader clues the characters are wrong?
  • If you answer one story question, can you introduce another immediately?
  • If you’re not ready to answer a story question, can you lead the characters to believe they’re close to having the problem solved even if they aren’t?

***

How do you tease readers to continue your book? And how do you combat the dreaded soggy middle? I’d love to hear your strategies!

Happy Valentines Day!!

 

 

Using Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies to Meet Writing Goals

Meet Your Writing Goals Using Gretchen Rubin's Four Tendencies

Last weekend I was blessed to speak at Maumee Valley Romance Writers, Inc. Every January we have our annual goals discussion. The first half of my talk was about basic goal-setting: taking time to think about professional, health, emotional and personal goals for the year and deciding how and when to achieve them.

During the second half I shared how we can use Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies to meet our writing goals.

We had a frank discussion, and I was thrilled to learn we had writers ranging in all four tendencies. I was surprised to learn some of the solutions I thought would work for one type clearly wouldn’t. And I loved hearing these writers share what would work for them.

 

Meet Your Writing Goals using Gretchen Rubin's Four Tendencies

 

If you’re not familiar with Gretchen Rubin’s new book The Four Tendencies, you can read about it HERE. Basically, Ms. Rubin studies human nature (she’s the author of several New York Times best-selling books, including The Happiness Project), and she divides people into four groups according to how they respond to expectations.

  • Upholders meet inner and outer expectations readily.
  • Questioners meet inner expectations easier than they do outer ones.
  • Obligers meet outer expectations more readily than inner ones.
  • Rebels struggle against both inner and outer expectations.

In other words, Upholders tend to get things done that are important to them personally as well as what others expect them to do.

Questioners tend to get things done that make sense to them. If someone expects them to do something they don’t agree with or see the value in, it won’t get done.

Obligers tend to get things done when someone is depending on them. They find it difficult to meet personal goals.

Rebels want to do things in their way and in their time. Standard advice for meeting goals does not work for this tendency!

 

*If you’re not sure what tendency you fit in, take the QUIZ (linked). It’s short and sweet.*

 

Here’s what I loved about having this discussion with fellow writers.

Upholders are planner geeks, and we (yes, I’m an Upholder!) love time management tools. We can be rigid and too-rule-follow-y, but we get things done and that’s good. Setting daily/weekly/monthly writing goals works for Upholders.

Questioners who struggle to meet their writing goals need to keep asking questions about the goal until an answer clicks in that makes sense to them. For example: I’m going to write for one hour every weekday morning before work. You might then ask, why the morning? and you’d remember your nighttime routine is exhausting. But what if I wrote right after dinner? But you already decided to walk on the treadmill at that time. Face it, my creative energy is gone by 8pm.

At that point, you see the value in dedicating an hour in the morning. But you might have to keep questioning why writing every weekday is important until you get to your gold.

Obligers don’t want to let people down. If you fall into this category, you might put off writing until a hard deadline looms. Sure, you know you need to write or you’ll struggle to finish the book, but you struggle to feel the urgency. In this case, an accountability partner or group can make a difference. If you decide to physically meet someone at the library or a coffee shop to write for two hours, you’re much more likely to actually write at that time then if you marked those hours on your calendar to write at home.

As far as the Rebels out there, I urge you to throw out all the “expert” advice about planning and goal setting and do your own thing. Experiment. Get creative. And keep trying new methods of getting and keeping your butt in the chair until you find what works!

I’d love to hear how you find success in meeting your writing goals! Please leave a comment!

Have a terrific day!

Author Platform: Newsletter Providers

Author Platform: Newsletter Providers

 

One of the essentials of an author platform is establishing a mailing list. The easiest way to do this is to sign up with one of the numerous newsletter providers.

I confess I resisted starting a newsletter list for a long time.

When I was an aspiring writer:

  • I felt I had little to offer. Why would anyone want my newsletter?
  • There were so many newsletter providers to choose from. How would I know which one to pick?
  • I feared the entire process would be time consuming and nerve wracking.

I was wrong.

With so many great providers to choose from, there’s no reason not to start building an email list today–no matter how far along you are on your publishing path. Most newsletter services offer free, limited accounts. They also have easy-to-use templates, scheduling options, sign-up widgets for your website, ways to import or export subscriber lists, and segmenting capabilities.

I recommend looking ahead before signing up with a provider. Hopefully, at some point, you’ll have enough subscribers to move out of the free account. That’s why it’s important to research the costs involved when you’re just starting out.

Be aware that most providers fall into one of two camps.

  1. They charge you based on your subscriber list and allow unlimited emails.
  2. They charge you based on how many emails you send per month.

If you only send newsletters once or twice a year, you’re probably better off paying per email.

Check out Sendinblue or YMLP.

If you send newsletters out often, you’re probably better off paying based on the size of your list.

Check out MailChimp, MailerLite, or Constant Contact.

 

If you’re looking for a thorough list of possible providers, go to “Top 25 Free or Low-Cost Email Marketing Web Applications (linked).”

 

Full disclosure: I started out using Mailchimp, and I currently use Mailerlite because they offer a substantial discount if you pay annually. I’ve been very happy with both.

Do you have any questions about newsletter providers? I’ll do my best to answer!

Have a wonderful day!

 

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