Sunday, September 24, 2017

Obliterating Hindrances to Your Word Count

   I have learned, that when I sit down to work on my novel, anything that can distract me,will. 
   The two biggest culprits, being phone and internet.
   My radical Solution?
   Turn off the phone.
   Unplug the modem.
   Of course, leaving the house, and writing in a location with no internet access (with phone off) is also a good idea, but I generally love to write at home.
   Cutting ties to the outside world (even if only for a few hours), has dramatically increased my creativity and productivity.
   Sweet liberty!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Writing Hacks that Beat Writer's block.

   Writer's block. Hmm.... 
   Happens to me almost every time I open my word processor to work on my novel. 
   Why do I just know I will NEVER be able to think of another word to add to my  story? 
   Is it just me? Or do other writers go through the same thing?
   As with most things in my everyday life--of which writing is a large part of--I have some "hacks" I use to get past things like procrastination (who me?!?) and the dreaded, WRITER'S BLOCK!!!!!
   When I get bogged down with no fresh ideas, I begin reading through a document of plot and character ideas/needs and loose ends, things I was not quite ready to work on at the time I jotted them down, but know I will get to later. 
   I add to this document each time I work on my manuscript, and reading through it generally proves helpful. My organization for this document is extravagantly simple. Notes and ideas get filed under the character's name the idea most closely associates with. That way, I don't end up with a confusing mass of less-than-helpful notes. 
   Another thing I do to combat writer's block, is to begin reading through what I have already written. Almost without fail, my story and characters draw me in, and before I know it, I find myself adding to the story.
   Wallah! cured of writer's block!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Writers Beware: Don't let this happen in your book!

The review below scared me to death...and put me on my [writing] toes, so to speak. God forbid this should ever be said about any book I write. I have changed the names and of course left out the book title and the author's name. I'm sure she is mortified to see one of her "babies" cast in such bad light, but, especially, if she is a new author, there is a treasure trove of tips for writing improvement in the devastation of this very BAD review: 

"How does one explain so much potential that ultimately goes...nowhere.

 For those who have read the book, think about it. In every single story-line throughout the book, with the exception of Joe (to a very small degree) and Deborah, there is no actual progression in plot-line.

For those who haven't read it, I'll give you a heads up, don't read on if you are afraid of spoilers:

  1.  Richard and Jane: Their relationship is exactly the same at the end as in the beginning. What started with HUGE promise petered out into nothing by books end, no growth whatsoever, status quo.
  2.  Mike and Terry: Although Terry changes, her relationship with Mike...still the same.
  3.  Shirley: We start with an interesting thread but it's just lost. Nothing happens to it.
  4.  Charles and Judy: We already knew he cares for her, so nothing at all new in that area either.
  5.  Lee: His story-line just disappears. He is there in the beginning then never heard of again."

 The good news for writers, is that this review is chock full of writing tips, along with sufficient motivation to put them to good use.

  •  Deliver! Make good on promises made to the reader at the beginning of the story. Don't let that story fizzle out
  • Keep the story moving forward. Make the reader want to find out what happens next
  • Readers want to see change and personal growth in the characters into whose lives they have temporarily become a part of. Don't let characters remain stagnant
  •  Readers want to see relationships grow and develop
  • What happened to Shirley?!? I wanted to see what happened to Shirley!!!! Reader is now furious
  • Can't change just one person in a relationship. Cause and effect, cause and effect, cause and effect, etc., and etc....
  • Charles and Judy: Boooring! Where's the conflict?
  • Lee who? Where'd he go? Bad editing? Thought he was a good idea but changed mind? Meant to delete him from the mss? Sloppy sloppy sloppy

This reviewer. though brutal, provided very constructive criticism of pitfalls that every writer can fall prey to, learn from..., and steer clear of!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Selling Books through Blogs and Social Media

      Book marketing and promoting go hand in hand with writing these days. Publishers no longer "do it all" for authors. And many authors, today, are Indie Authors who have no publishers to help them. Regardless, whether an author is traditionally published or self published, book marketing can be a major challenge. Many authors would simply rather write than try and sell the books they are writing.  
   I am one of them, but alas, it must be done!
   Blogging is a popular way to promote books, but I have heard from authors that blogging had no positive effect on their book sales at all--so they planned to give up blogging completely. 
   If book sales are a writer's only reason for blogging, then, I agree with them; they should do themselves a big favor and exit the blogosphere...and the tweetosphere (Yes, I just created a new word). 
   They are boring everyone...most likely even themselves. I tend to mute authors who do nothing but try and sell books through social media, and I guarantee I never read their blogs.  
  On the other hand, if they really love blogging, and are simply discouraged, perhaps looking at their primary motivation for writing a blog (or posting to social media) can help turn things around.  
   If an author is not blogging out of love for writing and passion for her subject, no one is really interested in what she has to say anyway. 
   Blogging (and posting to social media) for no other reason than just to sell books is a turn-off for most readers, and usually results in no readers at all. 
   I have experienced encouraging results when writing blogs on subjects I am passionate about. It is exciting to watch book sales reveal (what I interpret as) a direct correlation between communicating with my target readership (in relevant and informative ways) and rising book sale numbers.
   Contribute meaningfully to your reader's lives by posting relevant information, and they will want to read more of what you have to say--whether in fiction or nonfiction.
   It's OK to promote our books through our blogs and social media, as long as our goals in doing so are to contribute in positive and relevant ways to the lives of our readers. Use that as a barometer to measure our motivations for each and every post and blog, and book sales should naturally follow.


Friday, November 11, 2016

Great Plot: Smug Protagonist & Zero Chemistry between Main Characters

   I am almost finished reading a romantic suspense novel that has an intriguing plot and some really great plot twists. 
   I can't put it down--even though I don't like the female lead. 
   And I can't feel any chemistry--as in none at all--between the two main characters who say they are falling for each other. I won't mention the fact that the conflict between the two and the obstacles to their happiness, of which there aren't many, seem contrived.
    But I'm telling you, the author nailed it on the plot, which is based on compelling subject matter.
   In spite of my fascination with the plot, which is strong, the smug bluntness of the main character grates on my nerves and appears to be an attempt by the author at presenting a strong female lead. But she isn't coming across that way to me, the reader. at all. 
   Getting back to the romance, there is such a disconnect between the two main characters, that in spite of the characters saying they are attracted to each other, my skin kind of crawls when they touch or kiss. The male protagonist is nice enough but kind of vague. He seems more like a secondary character than the hero of the story.
   The subject matter that drives the plot is gripping, as I said, and this story is completely plot driven. 
   There are a few secondary characters I can see clearly, The author did an excellent job of fleshing one out and making him likable, but there is no hint of romance between him and the main character, and I am almost to the finale, so I don't think there are any surprises in store there. 
   Now, if  I am having this adverse reaction to the female lead and can't see the male protagonist clearly because the author planned it that way, and is planning to bring about a redemption of her main character's goody goody character traits, and if it turns out that another plot twist is coming, and the nice enough hero isn't a hero at all but a bad guy instead, and the well developed secondary character steps up to the plate and becomes the hero, then, Wow! The author is a brilliant writer indeed. 
   I hope that is the case. 
   If so, the story will definitely be reviewed.
  I am posting this non-book-review now, even though I am not quite finished with the book,  and even though these problems with the story may turn out to be deliberate on the author's part (I hope so!), because I felt my reaction to the characters and their relationship could indeed be due to serious flaws in the story and character development, and are things that we, as writers, should be looking out for as we craft our own characters and develop relationships in the novels we write. 

 J Ellen Andersen (Jocelyn Ellen Andersen) is best known for her book, Woman Submit! Christians & Domestic Violence.  She is also editor of the Hungry Hearts Online Bible Commentary  and is currently at work on her first novel! For more information about her work, visit her website at


   When I write a non-book-review, that does not mean that I am writing something else besides a book review. It means that I am actually writing a book review. 
   But it is one of those reviews that is not "stellar." When that happens, I review the book in a constructive critique meant to help all writers. But I never mention a book title or the name of an author in a non-book-review.
   My goal in writing non-book-reviews, is not to discourage or hinder hard working, awesome, Christian authors, from growing in their craft, but rather to critique aspects of a book that hindered my personal enjoyment of it.     
  My book reviews help readers find great books. My non-book-reviews help writers write better books.

J Ellen's Christian Book Review: No bad reviews!

   As I launch into book reviewing again (it's been about seven or eight years. My how time flies!), I maintain my commitment to promoting good Christian fiction rather than criticizing the creative efforts of authors as they hone their crafts. That being said, I will read every book I receive but will only review those I can give stellar reviews for.  
   No bad reviews. How great is that!?
   At this time, I am only accepting fiction works for reviewing. I love reading (but am not limited to) Christian Mainstream fiction (both historical and contemporary), Christian Romantic Suspense and Historical Romance, especially out of the box stuff like MaryLu Tyndall's pirate romances.    
   Although I am a fan of mystery and suspense, if a book is written from a Christian world view, I want to read it--regardless of genre!
   Kudos to MaryLu Tyndall as a shining example of how to be true to yourself as a writer. Write what you love--not what you think the market is begging for. M. L. Tyndall had a passion for pirate lore so created her own unique genre--Pirate Romance--and continues to write great books in a romantic niche she carved out for herself.
    Regardless of genre, I particularly love characters who challenge stereotypes, and I adore character driven stories.
   If you have a book to submit for review, mail a hard-copy to:
 J Ellen's Christian Book Review, 113 Cotton Ct., Auburndale, FL 33823

Happy writing!