Writing Tip & Prompt: Questions

Writing Tip & PromptOn Fridays, we like to share writing tips and tricks with our readers. We hope this section will encourage and inspire you to continually improve as a writer.

Writing Tip – Questions

When writing a book, it is inevitable that your manuscript will include questions. Sometimes the question is part of the dialogue, and sometimes it is a question for the reader to think about. Writing questions that begin a sentence, or are part of a dialogue are easy, but have you ever asked a question within your sentence? For example: The question is, Who is the protagonist of the story? Notice the w in “Who” is capitalized.  You always capitalize an independent question within a sentence.

Writing Prompt – Clear mind

What does a blank or clear mind do?  Look up at a clear sky, or find the blankest wall where you are (it can be just part of a wall, if need be) and stare at it for 5 to 10 uninterrupted minutes.  Write about the thoughts that went through your head while you stared. What tips do you have for helping writers clear their mind?

Q&A with David Wolstenholm, WestBow Press Author

Q&A with David Wolstenholm

David Wolstenholm with his wife, Lolita

David Wolstenholm is the author of Combat Ready, and he served in the Marine Corps infantry as a TOW Gunner from 1998 – 2002. He was deployed twice, first in 2000 to the Mediterranean, and second in 2002 to the Middle East and Africa. David served with the 2nd Battalion 6th Marine Regiment.

In 2005, David became a Christian, and in 2009 he began attending Andrew’s University Theological Seminary on a part-time basis. He did this for two years before attending full-time in 2011. David has a passion to reach people who are suffering through life; he has a special place in his heart for fellow veterans and youth. He served as a youth pastor for one year in Virginia before moving to Michigan to complete his studies. David is currently in the process of transitioning to Redding, Calif., where he will be an associate pastor at a church plant.

David recently had a book signing at a Barnes & Noble in Mishawaka, Ind. Here, we talk with David to learn what inspired him to write Combat Ready, and to ask him for advice for his fellow authors to land book signings at their local bookstores.

WestBow Press: What inspired you to write Combat Ready

David Wolstenholm: I was inspired by two sources. First, I heard a sermon where the speaker was using military boot camp in comparison to the Christian life. It was a good example, but the speaker had never been to boot camp. This inspired me to write a first-hand look at the similarities between military and Christian experiences. My second inspiration came from God. I always had a sense that God wanted me to write a book, it just took several years to figure out what it would be. (more…)

Writing Tip & Prompt: Creating Your Title

Writing Tip & PromptOn Fridays, we like to share writing tips and tricks with our readers. We hope this section will encourage and inspire you to continually improve as a writer.

Writing Tip – Creating Your Title

When titling a story or poem, there are some basic principles that might help. First, try to combine verbs and nouns. For example, the title “The Journey Home” might draw more readers under the title “Journeying Home.” Furthermore, avoid vague or sweeping titles like “A Hard Life” or “Dreamer’s Paradise.” Contemporary audiences respond better to titles that actively invoke images that can be viewed as metaphors for larger themes, such as “Crosswords for Lover.” Of course, every rule has its exception, so always listen to your creative instincts when titling your pieces.

Writing Prompt – Start with the Title

Sometimes, the title of your next story or poem will suddenly pop into your head, and you’ll still have no idea how to begin the piece. Instead of forgetting about them, keep a running list of these titles in a notebook. When you have time, pick one at random and free write for an hour, using the chosen title as a springboard. What you write my need a different title in the end, but the original title might trigger the creative impulse you need to begin a completely new writing venture.

Ingredients of a Bestseller

Ingredients of a BestsellerJames Hall’s book Hit Lit: Cracking the Code of the 20th Century’s Biggest Bestsellers attempts to do what publishers and authors have failed to do since Gutenberg:  identify what determines whether or not a book will become a bestseller. While Hit Lit focuses on novels, much of what he attempts to do should go into every author’s thinking as they determine what to write, how to write it and how to get readers to buy it.

Five tips for writing a bestseller:

1)      Identify what readers want and need. Bestsellers tend to include similar themes and elements that appeal to common wants and needs of the readers. What are readers fascinated about right now? Readers want to learn something along the way and even gain an understanding of current issues. Readers cheer for characters that take risks and act decisively as they work through conflicts and dilemmas.

2)      Write well. As editor Michael Korda said, “At least half the books on any given week’s bestseller list are there to the immense surprise and puzzlement of their publishers.” If a book triggers an emotional response in readers, they will mention the book to others, which helps boost the book’s sales. Many bestsellers deal with common wants and needs in new ways. While there is “nothing new under the sun” there are new ways of saying things.

3)      Get readers excited. While publishers and authors that have connections with millions of readers have a distinct advantage, they do not have absolute power to drive the sales of an inferior book. The most important thing is getting the book in the hands of influential individuals and communities that have a natural affinity for the book. If they get excited about it they will tell others about the book.

4)      Get lucky. It is easy to find books that are similar to any bestseller, so what caused one to ignite while the others fizzled? A book that provides a new approach to addressing a common need and is in the spotlight just when the urgency of that specific need increases can become a bestseller.

5)      Repeat. The good news for successful authors is that readers that like a book typically want more from that author.

Since much of what determines whether a book sells well or not can’t be controlled, or even influenced by an author or publisher, it makes sense to focus on the few things that can be impacted.

What are you doing to improve the likelihood of your book becoming a bestseller?

Writing Tip & Prompt: Conversations

Writing Tip - ConversationOn Fridays, we like to share writing tips and tricks with our readers. We hope this section will encourage and inspire you to continually improve as a writer.

Writing Tip – Conversations

We write our stories in statements which typically transcends into dialogue between characters. Too many statements within your dialogue may leave your conversation flat on its page. Try adding questions mixed within the dialogue to perk up the flow. True conversation is full of questions and tag questions (you know?) as a tool for inviting a response. A mix of commands, interjections and questions will help keep your dialogue flowing and the pages rolling.

Writing Prompt – Plot Momentum

Momentum within a narrative is developed through the urge to find out what has happened in the past and discover what will happen next. By slowly unfolding the story for readers, the writer creates a lean towards what may come. As a reader, we develop conclusions for each character and the story’s events. If you are in the middle of reading a book, place it aside and imagine the remaining pages do not exist. Consider all possibilities for your characters … If A does this, B will do that, which will affect C in this way. But if B doesn’t then maybe D will do this. Write a short piece that follows one of these avenues, and see how the direction you choose enhances the momentum of your story.

3 Tips on Writing a Children’s Book

How to Write a Children's BookDid you know that the National Children’s Book Week is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country with the 94th annual celebration this week? We’re excited to honor those children’s authors and books that have made a lasting impact on a child’s life. And, if you’ve ever tried to write a children’s book, you know that it’s not as easy as it may seem. Children can be fickle in what they like, and some adult authors struggle to reach an audience with different interests and on a lower reading level.

How can you write a Christian children’s book with a positive message that children want to read? No matter where you are at in the process of writing your children’s book, we can help you with a few writing tips:

  • Determine your motives and message. With thousands of children’s titles published each year, you must figure out how to make yours stand out. Do you have a specific message you want to share with children? Perhaps you have noticed a certain type of book lacking in the children’s department, and you think you can write a book to fill that gap. Before you do anything else, spend time thinking about why you want to write a children’s book, then determine what message you want to communicate.
  • Get on their level. Children are a unique group of readers. Their attention span is short, their interests vary from moment to moment and their view of the world is different than adults. So, spend time with children to learn what they like, what they are curious about and what scares them. Keep these children in mind when you start writing. It is also important that you know exactly what age group your book is aimed at. A book for a toddler would be written differently than a book for a five-year-old.
  • Utilize pictures. Not only should the words in your book connect with the children in your target age range, but the pictures should as well. Since most young children cannot read on their own, illustrations and pictures help them understand a story. Your pictures should be age appropriate, bright and colorful and match the plotline of your story. If you are not an illustrator you can hire a freelance illustrator or choose from one or more of the interior illustrations services WestBow Press offers.

Writing a children’s book is not always easy and can become an exercise in being concise and communicating a big message on a child’s level. But, seeing a child’s eyes light up when they read your book is worth all the hard work.

What were your favorite books as a child?

Writing Tip & Prompt: Homophones

On Fridays, we like to share writing tips and tricks with our readers. We hope this section will encourage and inspire you to continually improve as a writer.

Writing Tip – Homophones

There, their and they’re. Your and you’re. When and win. Homophones are words with the same sound but different meanings, and there are several of them in the English language.  As a writer, you need to be extra careful to make sure you are using the correct form of the word.  One of the most commonly misused homophones is your and you’re. ‘Your’ is a possessive determiner, while ‘you’re’ is a contraction of you are. Ex: You’re at war. It is your turn to roll.  By learning the differences in spelling and meaning of the homophones in the English language, you can prevent yourself from making embarrassing mistakes in your writing.

Writing Prompt – Mothers

On Mother’s Day, we celebrate mothers, motherhood and the influence of mothers in society. Mothers want the best for their children and work hard to be the best mother they can be. Have you told your mother how much you appreciate her and everything she has done for you lately? This year, show your mother your appreciation by using your talent and passion to write her a poem.

From Book to Screen: How to Present Your Ideas to Hollywood

Book-to-ScreenThis weekend’s release of Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” comes with much anticipation and excitement. And why wouldn’t it? As an American classic that most of us read in high school or wrote college term papers about, “The Great Gatsby” is an established and well-known story. Just as with the Chronicles of Narnia, the Lord of the Rings, Pride and Prejudice, and countless other based-on-the-book movies, readers are always eager to experience familiar characters and adventures in a new way.

It’s no wonder so many movies these days are based on books. Books provide film makers with a wealth of well-developed story material. Plus, they come with a built-in audience; if a book already has a following of readers, you can count on most of those readers to turn into viewers. And because the story has already succeeded in another format, less risk is involved with producing a movie that’s based on a book.

So, what about your book? Would it make a great movie that people would love to see? Most of us have ideas we’d love to see on the silver screen, but few people ever take action to try to reach that goal. To be fair, getting your idea in front of movie makers can be an intimidating and competitive process. But if you’re serious about turning your book into a movie, WestBow Press offers several book-to-screen services to help you give it a real shot.

The first step is to transform your book into a format that Hollywood representatives deal with on a regular basis. With these services, our team can help you present the necessary materials to our first-look partner Thruline Entertainment:

  • Coverage: A professional reader will work to create your book’s coverage — a standard format in the industry that consists of a thorough synopsis and a critical analysis.
  • Treatment: A thoroughly developed guide that outlines how a screenwriter would adapt your book into a fully-developed screenplay.
  • Screenplay: A fully fleshed out script that television and movie producers can use as a means of evaluating if your book is something they want to produce.

Another option for WestBow Press authors is to pitch your idea in person at an upcoming PitchFest event. PitchFest streamlines the process of getting your idea heard by bringing movie-makers and storytellers together. Not only do participating authors receive personalized advice for refining their pitch, they have the chance to actually pitch their idea face-to-face with Hollywood executives.  

The next PitchFest will take place in Los Angeles on July 12-13, 2013. Call your WestBow Press representative for more information about PitchFest or other Hollywood book-to-screen services.

What’s your favorite film adaptation of a book?

Writing Tip & Prompt: Your Writing Process

Writing Tip & PromptOn Fridays, we like to share writing tips and tricks with our readers. We hope this section will encourage and inspire you to continually improve as a writer.

Writing Tip – Your Writing Process

Play around with your writing process. Change the font size so the words are larger in front of your eyes. Maybe use a different font to show what emotions are in the scene you are depicting. In the middle of a piece, start a new topic on a fresh sheet of paper to get that clean, fresh-start feeling. Take time when you are finished with your writing session to examine your choice of words, font and size. Each of these factors will offer a sense of direction for where your story is heading.

Writing Prompt – Surroundings

Take a look around and take in all of your surroundings. Make sure to focus on one thing, a building, a tree, the scenery, anything. Write a paragraph or two describing what you see in full detail and an additional paragraph explaining the history of what you see.

Q&A with Laurie Norlander, Winner of the 2012 Women of Faith Writing Contest

Laurie Norlander, 2012 Women of Faith Writing Contest WinnerLaurie Norlander is a CPA who lives in Chippewa Falls, Wis., with her husband Stephen.  They have two grown sons and three beautiful granddaughters. In her free time, Laurie likes to spend time with her family, travel, write, work in her hosta garden and solve diagram-less crossword puzzles.

Laurie has a love for words and when she was 19 she wrote her first novel on a typewriter. Laurie would not start writing seriously until 2003 when her youngest son was deployed to Iraq. At first writing helped her calm the worries she had but it quickly turned into a creative outlet, which led to the completion of her first novel Stir the Waters. While it was not very good, it did unleash a renewed passion to write. Years later Laurie started working on her third novel, Mirror Images, under the mentorship of Christy award-winning author, DiAnn Mills.

Here we talk with Laurie about Mirror Images and the Women of Faith writing contest.

WestBow Press: What inspired you to write Mirror Images?

Laurie Norlander: I was brainstorming potential plots for a writing course and I got the basic idea for Mirror Images from a headline in my local newspaper. As the manuscript evolved, I drew the title and further inspiration from 1 Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” (more…)

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