Saturday, August 15, 2015

Hello everyone.

I hope you had a great summer. School started back, so be careful while you’re out running the roads.

Do I have a great blog in store for you today!!

As most of you know I’m working on the 4th book of the Samantha Cain Series – Against Her Will. While doing this, I connected with a very talented and gifted writer/freelance editor. She is amazing. Not only do I have a one-on-one chat with her to share with you, but also I’m going to follow it with tips I learned through the course she taught on adding tension to your novel. You will be doubly blessed for joining me today.

After she taught the on-line course, I picked up two of her novels, Chasing Amanda and Finding Amanda.

I started reading Chasing Amanda right away and found it constantly moving forward, making me keep reading until I finished the whole thing. I didn’t want to put it down. The first scene started with a marine, Mark Johnson, who was about to ship out to Afghanistan. Because of his training (and because this is just the kind of guy he is) he realized someone was about to do something so wrong…and he stepped in. What a man! The story grabs you and pulls you in. Then it truly keeps you turning all the pages. Great job Robin.

With the sequel, Finding Amanda, Robin doesn’t fail her readers. The story keeps you turning the pages. You won’t be disappointed.

GOOD NEWS – Those of you who want to win a free copy of her newest book – Finding Amanda be sure to leave a comment at the end of my blog. Those who comment will be entered into a drawing for an autographed copy of Finding Amanda.

*The winner will be notified via email. That’s when I’ll request your mailing address to ship the book to you.

NOW, Id like to take this moment to introduce you to Robin Patchen. She is a freelance editor, writing coach, and author. I met her through ACFW, an organization we both belong to. She was teaching a course on adding tension to your fiction. It was amazing.  I feel I learned a lot from this on-line course. I spent the first two weeks of July rewriting what I thought was my final draft of book 4 of The Samantha Cain Series – Against Her Will. Since the course I’m going back through it adding more tension. I couldn’t believe how she made things sound so simple. While taking the course, I dared to ask her if I could interview her for my blog. When she said yes, I took time to find books shed written and ordered them for myself to read. I also found out she was more than an author. Shes a freelance editor. No wonder she is so phenomenal as a teacher of writing.  Not only was I blessed by her course, now you will be blessed by an interview with her.

DEBORAH: Hello Robin. It was a joy to learn from you how to add tension to my novel. Id like to share you with my readers and writer friends who read my blog. Im going to ask you a few questions I feel will encourage my writer friends to keep plugging away writing, and give my reader friends another new author to check out.

ROBIN: Thanks so much for having me, Deborah, and for your kind words. I'm so glad the tension tips helped you. Ive been told Im a master at adding tension, though Im not sure if its a compliment when uttered across the dinner table by your teenagers. (A little joke, of course. They wouldnt dare.) Im pleased to visit your blogits lovely.

DEBORAH: It sounds like your dinner table would be fun to be around. So what madeyou decide to become an editor? Did you have the desire to write before or after you started editing?

ROBIN: Interesting question, Deborah, because I don’t really know the answer. I majored in Journalism forever ago, and even then, I had a natural ability to edit, but it never occurred to me to pursue that as a career. Though I always loved to write, I got a job in pubic relations and marketing because it paid better than working as a reporter, and then I quit to raise my kids. It wasn’t until after I started writing fiction and joined a critique group that I remembered my love of editing. Even then, years went by before a friend encouraged me to start an editing business.

DEBORAH: It sounds exciting to me. Thank God for friends, right? Tell us about Robin’s Red Pen.

ROBIN: I’d often talked about doing some freelance editing, but I hadn’t done anything to pursue the dream until my friend Lacy asked me to edit a book she planned to self-publish. I did, and she was impressed. She was a multi-published author with a big house, and her support really encouraged me to give it a shot. She also referred other clients to me, and when she started her own publishing company, she asked me to be their freelance copyeditor. I probably wouldn’t be doing this if not for the support of Lacy and a lot of my other friends. Funny, but the name sort of came to me, because my friends in my local writing group often talked about my “red pen.” They’d share sob stories about how I’d taken my red pen to their babies (like I’m some sort of manuscript murderer.) Weirdly, I thought that was fun—which tells you a little bit about my personality—and Robin’s Red Pen was born.

DEBORAH: You have me grinning from ear to ear, again. I love it! Did you acquire an agent before getting published? If so, how did you find your agent?

ROBIN: I had two Christmas novellas published through Pelican Book Group before I signed with Chip MacGregor. Interesting story, how I came to be his client. He was slated to speak at a local writers conference, but right before the conference, he came down with strep throat and had to cancel. He invited all the attendees to send him a proposal. I had mine in the mail the following Monday, and then waited. And waited. A couple of months later, he spoke at an event at a friend’s house in Tulsa, just a 90-minute drive. A friend and I make the trek to meet him in person. He said during his brief talk that he usually tries to respond to a proposal within six weeks, so I very boldly (if you can call a chick shaking in her pumps bold) approached him after his talk and told him it had been a few months since I sent him my proposal.  He apologized and promised to look at it. Another month went by before I heard from him, and it was almost five months before I actually signed the agent agreement with him.

            Thats one way to look at the story. Another way is this: I worked very hard on my craft for years and prayed a lot, not just that the Lord would lead me to a great agent, but also that I would become a better writer. When the time was right, God opened the doors.

DEBORAH: His timing is always perfect! Who is your publisher?

ROBIN: I published two books with Pelican Book Group, and my latest two books are self-published. With the Christian fiction industry the way it is, Chip wasn’t able to place my book with a larger publisher. We talked about submitting to smaller publishers, but in the end, Chip encouraged me to self-publish. I’m so glad he did, because it’s been an awesome ride. I still dream of landing a contract with a major house someday, but right now, I feel I’m right where God wants me.

DEBORAH: That you are! I’m glad I connected with you. You’re writing is fantastic so keep it up!! Would you give us the names of your published titles?

ROBIN: One Christmas Eve came out in the fall of 2012, and Faith House released in the fall of 2013. Finding Amanda released this April, and Chasing Amanda, its free prequel, released July 2nd.

DEBORAH: I have two of the four. Now I need to go buy the other two. Love your writing, your stories. (There. It’s done. I love the computer age. J I just ordered your first two books. I can’t wait to start another read.) So what is your next book’s title, and what is it about? When will it be released?

ROBIN: Oh, such great questions. I hate that I don’t have a better answer. The next book is written but not edited yet. I’m playing with the title, “Resurrecting Reagan McAdams” or something like that. I’m terrible at titles. It’s a romantic suspense—“What happens when a woman discovers she accidentally married her arch-enemy?” (Although arch-enemy makes me think Lex Luther and mwha-ha-ha laughter.) That’s as much of a synopsis as I’ve come up with so far. The book is written, the back-cover copy, not quite.

DEBORAH: This gives me another book to look forward to reading. BTW, I loved that laugh!! Now for the big question, which do you enjoy more? Editing or Writing?

ROBIN: Depends on which one I’m doing. If I’m editing, then I definitely prefer writing. But if I’m writing, I long to be editing someone else’s words. Writing is hard.

DEBORAH: Loved your answer. You ought to try politics next, haha. Tell us about the blog site, Live, Write, Thrive that you appear in with 3 other editors. Do you write for them on a regular basis sharing tips on writing?

ROBIN: I blog for Live, Write, Thrive once a month this year on the Fatal Flaws of Fiction. It’s been great fun so far working with the other ladies. I think there might be a book at the end of the year, which is exciting to think about.

DEBORAH: I joined the blog site and already shared it with my writers’ group. I am amazed we got this interview done so quickly. I see how very busy you are; yet you took time for us…and had me laughing throughout it all…thank you! Also I see God working in your life and you are following the path He is leading you on. Awesome!! Thank you for your time. You are the best. Again, you are a joy to work with. Thanks again for the lessons on tension.

ROBIN: My pleasure. Thanks for having me!

Wasnt that a great interview? I truly enjoyed hearing straight from her. This should encourage you writers as it did me. Robin Patchen is gifted. I hope you take advantage of her expertise. Here is her bio:

Robin Patchen lives in Edmond, Oklahoma, with her husband and three teenagers. Her third book, Finding Amanda,released in April, and its free prequel, Chasing Amanda, released in July. When Robin isn't writing or caring for her family, she works as a freelance editor at Robin's Red Pen, where she specializes in Christian Fiction. Read excerpts and find out more at her website,

Robin's Red Pen:

The rest of this will be writing tips I learned on an on-line course. No matter what you write, take time to read and soak in the knowledge Robin Patchen shared with us, the group from ACFW who took the on-line course.

In the thesaurus tension & conflict are considered synonyms. But for writing purposes note the difference in the Merriam-Webster definition.

Conflict – Clash, competition, or mutual interference of opposing or incompatible forces or qualities…as ideas, interests, wills, etc.

Tension – Inner unrest, striving, or imbalance…a feeling of psychological stress often manifested by increased muscular tonus and by other physiological indicators of emotion.

So tension is not necessarily conflict (although conflict should always be tense). Sometimes tension is just a bit of uncertainty of things being different than we thought they would be. When characters are feeling inner conflict, that’s tension.

In writing, talking about tension, we’re talking about psychological stress. But remember, while writing about your characters feelings of tension (heartbeats race, etc), your true goal is to make your reader feel tension.

For our purposes as fiction authors the difference between tension and conflict:

            Conflict refers to your external plot points; tension refers to internal turmoil
            Conflict is overt; tension is often covert

You need the main conflict as well as smaller ones throughout your whole novel. A big plot point in your story could be the hero has to fight the dragon; or your heroine has to fight her teenage daughter. They are essential. Without them you don’t have a story. BUT that’s not how Donald Maass describes tension in Fire in Fiction. He describes it this way:

Micro-tension is the moment-by-moment tension that keeps the reader in a constant state of suspense over what will happen, not in the story but in the next few seconds.

While the plot of your story is vital, the tension is what keeps your reader engaged and turning the page. Robin shared with us specific ways to develop tension in four types of writing. Exposition. Description. Action. Dialog.

Tension in Exposition:

Often tension comes:

1.     From characters moving in opposing directions, or unanswered questions, and/or hidden agendas.
2.     When the reader expects one thing and gets another, that also causes tension.
3.     Often tension arises when the character isn’t aware of it. Perhaps the reader read a scene in which a bad guy planted a bomb beneath a cafĂ© table. Now the hero is sitting at that table reading the newspaper, sipping coffee. Enjoying the peace. While the reader is gripping the book with white knuckles knowing there is a bomb right there. You don’t have to write the tick-tick-tick. The reader’s heartbeat is supplying it.

Exposition is the moment in your manuscript where you’re explaining something. These are not necessarily entire scenes but sections of scenes in which your character is thinking. LOOK at each passage and ask do you really need it? What new thing are you telling the reader they didn’t already know? If there is nothing, then you have to either cut the section or create some tension.

How do you create tension in exposition?

Inner conflict: Your character wants one thing, and at the same time, he/she wants the opposite. (EX: Character knows he/she shouldn’t say something, and he/she does anyway.) (EX: Character longs for one thing and he/she fears it at the same time.) (EX: He/she feels one thing on the surface, but something unexpected or even opposite underneath.) If you add inner conflict to every scene, tension will follow naturally.

Tips on adding tension in your exposition:
1.     Never restate the obvious.
2.     When on the surface your character is feeling one way, figure out what is the opposite of that…think of 3 or 4 choices…and then work on one of those.
3.     Look for a source of inner conflict.
4.     What new thing can you introduce that sheds more light on what’s happening in the story? It can be a bit of the character’s history or a tidbit that makes him feel anxious, even when all should be well on the surface.
5.     When your character is wrestling with a decision, how can you make both choices seem equally appealing…or equally disastrous.

It’s important not to add tension for tension’s sake. Your tension needs to highlight real story issues, not make promises your book doesn’t deliver. Tension must be real.

Tension in Description:

Description can be some pretty boring stuff, but if doesn’t have to be. Well done descriptions can add immense tension to your story.

When writing the description, don’t just write what you see. The point isn’t to see the details and describe them; the point is to find the details that reflect what you want the reader to see, to hear, to smell, to feel. It’s not just about describing the obvious to the reader. Here’s an example from Charles Martin’s Chasing Fireflies:

     I stepped out into the sunlight humming a Pat Green tune, slipped on my sunglasses, and stared out over the courthouse steps. After three days of incarceration, not much had changed. Brunswick, Georgia, was like that. Discarded bubblegum, flat as half-dollars, dotted the steps like splattered ink. Lazy, blimpish pigeons strutted the sidewalk begging for bread scraps or the sprinkles off somebody's double-shot mocha latte. In the alley across the street, and entire herd of stray cats crept toward the wharf just four blocks down. The sound of seagulls told them the shrimp boats had returned. And on the steps next to me, two officers lifted a tattooed man, whose feet and hands were shackled and cuffed, up the steps and, undoubtedly, into Judge Thaxton's courtroom. Based on the mixture of saliva and epithets coming our of his mouth, he wasn't too crazy about going. No worries. Given my experience with Her Honor, his stay in her courtroom wouldn't be too long.

The tension is subtle. It's our first glimpse of the protagonist, and he seems as happy as can be. He shares these wonderful images--blimpish pigeons and sprinkles from a latte. He's even humming. So why does the reader have that sense of tension? That one little phrase changed the whole thing: "After three days of incarceration..."

Wait, what? The guy's leaving the jailhouse in the middle of town--presumably his own town, since he knows the place pretty well--and happy? How can that be?

That unspoken question would probably be enough to get you to turn the page, but then Charles Martin adds another image--the shackled man. Yes, it stays lighthearted, but there's ominousness about seeing someone shackled and dragged into a courthouse. And then one more line makes the reader wonder: "Given my experience with Her Honor..." So the hero's been in front of the judge before, enough to predict what she's going to do. And he's cheerful.

This guy's emotions are not conflicted. He seems as content as can be. But it causes some conflicting emotions in the reader, doesn't it? Normally someone just released from jail in his or her hometown would feel more--ashamed, embarrassed, humiliated, dishonored, indignant--Content...never. So why does he? It makes you want to keep reading. The contrast of the two--how he should feel, yet how he feels brings about tension.

Word Choice, how your protagonist filters what she sees, hears, and feels, can add tension to your description. Word choice should do double-duty. First it needs to help the reader picture the setting. Second it needs to reflect the character in some way. It's not about the thing being described, it's about how your reader feels about the thing--be in the landscape or a new dress. The tension comes from those feelings.

Tips to adding tension to description:

1. Put yourself in the eyes of the POV character. Spend some time there and figure out what he/she would notice. You can't tell the reader everything; so choose your details carefully.
2. Start with a broad brush, then narrow into key details, details you can use to reflect your character's feelings.
3. Choose words that reflect the picture you're trying to paint. Hard words, soft words, whimsical words, or concrete words...they all subtly lead the reader to one place or another.
4. Go beyond the obvious emotion if you can. Sometimes, the obvious emotion is the one you want to convey, but sometimes it isn't what the protagonist feels.
5. Add a few key phrases that'll make your reader ask some questions, encouraging them to turn the page.
6. If you're working on a segment at the start of your story, before the inciting incident, think of your character's innermost desire. What does your character want? That can be the driving force of that first segment of description. Let that desire be reflected.

Don't skip the description in your book fearing it might be boring. The reader wants to be in the setting. They can't if you don't take them there. Find a way to make your descriptions drip with emotion and tension.

Tension in Action:

If you really want your action scenes to drip with tension, you need to do more than just provide a lot of action.

What is action? It is the parts of your book where your characters are doing something.

Tips for adding tension to action scenes:

1. Be unpredictable. Sometimes, your hero and heroine have to lose. Sometimes bad things have to happen. When you're writing an action scene, brainstorm five things that can happen, then brainstorm five more. Maybe choose an option from the bottom of that last list.
2. Increase the stakes. How else can your scene matter to your story, to the community, and to the world?
3. Get your heroes personally involved. Show us why this matters to the hero, to his family, to his community.
4. Raise questions...and don't offer answers right away. Never answer one question before you raise another.

Tension in Dialogue:

Tips to adding tension to your dialog:

1. Eliminate every predictable word. Tension arises in the readers when they are kept off-guard. So what things are predictable? Nicknames, pet names; nonsense words like Uh, um; Filler words like well, so, anyway, greetings; direct answers.
2. Eliminate as many dialog tags (he said, she said) as possible without confusing the reader. Eliminate EVERY dialog tag that accompanies an action beat. (EX: "Almost there," he said as he turned left.-- instead write -- "Almost there." He turned left.)
3. Eliminate all adverbs within dialog tags. (EX: "I love you," he said softly. -- instead write -- "I love you," he whispered.
4. Eliminate fancy words used for said. (EX: "I love you," he declared.) If you have to tell reader who said it, stick with he said or asked. Readers tend to skim over those words. EXCEPT when you are using a more specific word to describe how something was said and it's very important to whispered, shouted, or screamed. Use them, but use them sparingly.
5. Eliminate telling in dialog. (If you can start the sentence with "As you know," delete it. Find another way to tell the reader...better to be in exposition than in dialog.
6. Eliminate straight answers. (EX: "How's it going?" "Fine, you?" - write - "How's it going" "Don't start with me.") (that was unexpected and not boring. Now you want to know why they responded that way.) Another example. ("How's it going?" "Do you know what you get when you cross a train wreck and a category 4 hurricane?" Silence filled the room. "That's how it's going."
7. When you've cut out all the unnecessary stuff, see what you have left and figure out how else you can say what you're trying to say without saying anything obvious.
8. Ensure your characters all have different agendas, and find subtle ways or overt, depending on the scene, to show those differing agendas.

If a piece of dialog comes easily, you've more than likely made it too predictable. Try finding a unique way to have your characters respond. Make sure it matches their personalities though.

The tips above came from Robin Patchen's on line class I took. I hope they help you as much as I believe they are helping me. God bless you all.