How to Cope When Your Manuscript Is Black and White and Red All Over

You did it. You sent your manuscript out to be appraised by someone else—and you’re not sure whether to shout hurray or groan. Maybe you’re trying to get published, or maybe you’re just seeking feedback. Maybe this is the first time you’ve shown your work to someone, or maybe it’s the one-hundredth time. Whatever the case, you’ve placed your writing in someone else’s hands and now you’re trembling and biting your nails as you await the results.

Black_and_White_and_Red_All_OverThen you hear the flutter of paper, the ding of an e-mail, or the shuffle of the mailman, and your precious bundle arrives. But as you open it, you gasp at all the bloodstains marring the pages, and you wrestle with one of two thoughts:

  1. I must be a horrible writer!
  2. This person doesn’t understand me or my piece, and they don’t know what they’re talking about.

Both of these reactions are wrong, and neither is good for your morale as a writer (although at least the first displays humility). You’re understandably feeling stung, but before you start sobbing or chopping off any heads, pause to pray for wisdom. To endure criticism and emerge a more astute writer, you need to analyze five factors. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Brianna Storm Hilvety
Brianna was born with a rumble in her veins. She finds the tap of a keyboard to be soothing like the pitter-patter of rain. She has been a writer for a decade, a freelance editor for a few years, and a bibliophile from the moment she pronounced her first syllable. Proudly a Silver Member of The Christian PEN, she serves on their team as Graphics Coordinator. She exudes her passion for speculative fiction and helping young writers by being an Associate Editor at Castle Gate Press and the Copy Editor/Director of Graphics for Kingdom Pen. When she isn’t poring over words, she may be spotted shooting her Canon, riding The Breeze (an all-terrain vehicle), or romping with her dog, Zookie. Purple is her signature color, and she refuses to recognize all other claims to it.

Set Your Novel Up for Success by Sharing Your Outline

It’s January, the month of new beginnings. You’ve made your New Year’s resolutions, and maybe, just maybe, one of them involves writing. Maybe you resolved to write a novel. An entire novel. And maybe this time you’re actually going to do it. So you sit down in front of a word processor with your fantastic new idea and start tallying up the word count.Set_Your_Novel_Up_for_Success

Not so fast. Before you get carried away, you should take a minute to set yourself up for success in your novel-writing endeavor.

First, you need an outline. If you don’t have one yet, check out my post on how to quickly create one. It doesn’t need to be complicated or too in-depth. But it should provide direction for your novel so that you don’t end up wandering aimlessly, or not moving forward at all.

Your outline is the skeleton of your story. You want it to be great; unfortunately, it isn’t. Not yet. You won’t be able to see its flaws, but they will be there nonetheless. Plot holes you didn’t consider. Flat/useless characters you thought were important. Exciting sequences that shouldn’t happen so rapidly. Your outline will be full of little errors and slip ups that you won’t notice, and maybe your readers won’t notice them either. But each of those mistakes is a missed opportunity for improvement. Also, a small flaw in your outline could morph into a huge muse-killing flaw in the final product. Sound bad? It is. Once you’ve written your draft, outlining errors are difficult and time consuming to fix. So how can you find them before it’s too late? [Read more…]

Profile photo of Brandon Miller
Raised on C.S. Lewis and matured (to whatever extent) on Tolkien, Brandon Miller is a huge fan of Christian speculative fiction. His favorite stories artfully bend the physical reality to reveal spiritual realities which apply to all realms, kingdoms, districts and solar systems (including our own.)
When not writing fiction Brandon spends his time tending his blog The Woodland Quill, sportsing, or just struggling through that last-year-of-high-school/first-year-of-college which is really neither but is definitely both.

7 New Reasons to Love Microsoft Word

In a world where gaining and maintaining writerly motivation is about as hard as putting down a good book, we need all the help we can get, and these simple time-savers are sure to appeal to the tech-savvy soul and maximize your motivation—no matter how long that motivation lasts. microwordpost

Before you start celebrating with your characters, however, beware: these tid-bits will minimize one of your secret guilty pleasures: formatting. For hours. Don’t deny it. Everyone knows that the first 24 hours you spend on your novel consist of font choosing, chapter headings, and paragraph formatting. Writer’s block? Must be something about those pesky margin settings.

So, if ye be brave, tread on and learn a few not-so-well-kept secrets of Microsoft Word.

1. CTRL+Z – Microsoft’s Eraser

 Make a mistake? Realize that the sentence you just erased was actual gold? Delete the entire document by accident? Decide you really liked the format from three-hours of tweaking ago? Use this tool to remedy your most spectacular blunders and make it like they never happened.

 2. CTRL+V – Paste All the Things

 Any time you’re moving things from one place to another—be they words, chapters, documents, pictures, or entire folders, this handy shortcut will save you a right-click and scroll. Simply cut or copy as usual and follow this command to paste whatever you want wherever you want it (or wherever your cursor is blinking). [Read more…]

Profile photo of Sarah Spradlin
If you’ve ever emailed us at KP, you’ve probably “met” Sarah—a passionate storyteller with a huge heart that loves Jesus and everyone she meets. Sarah grew up in Georgia with her mom, dad, and little sister, Merry, where she attends the University of Georgia, majoring in International Affairs and Agriculture Communication. When she graduates, Sarah wants to help people all over the world succeed in the agriculture industry and tell the all-important story of the farmer. She joined the Kingdom Pen Team as Secretary in September 2013 and now serves as the Director of Community Happiness. Sarah has been homeschooled, private-schooled, and graduated from Madison County High School in May 2015. She attended Summit in July 2015. She’ll read pretty much anything (if she had to pick, though, her favorite author would be Frank Peretti) and has tried her hand at pretty much every kind of writing out there, though she likes writing fiction and poetry best. But because writing bios is a struggle, if you really want to get to know Sarah, shove some words in her general direction via the Forum, on one of the many social medias down below, or through the KP e-mail: kingdompenmag@gmail.com.

The #1 Reason You Won’t Complete NaNoWriMo This Year

It is once again that crazy time of year where writers everywhere decide to embark on a heroic quest of their own: writing an entire novel in just one month.

If you have decided to take on this massive enterprise for the first time, or are coming off of a failed attempt last year, this goal may seem even more daunting than it really is. The truth is, writing a novel in one month is actually pretty simple. All you have to do is write 1667 words every day. Or, to reduce that down even more, only 833 words an hour for two hours a day, or, 209 words every 15 minutes. 1reason_nanowrimopinterest

Do you think you can write 209 words every 15 minutes? Of course you can! 209 words is nothing!

So why then do so many not succeed in writing a novel in a month?

We make a lot of excuses. Being too tired, not having enough time, something else coming up, etc. But very rarely do any of these excuses account for not writing a novel in a month. Surely, even the busiest person can find 8 fifteen minute sections in a day to write 209 words. It’s not about time or capability. You have the ability and the time to write a novel in just one month. However, the reason you may not lies inside your head.

I successfully completed NaNoWriMo in 2012, but then failed to complete a novel the following year. Why? The same reason why I think a lot of others don’t finish: perfectionism.

More and more as I write, it is becoming increasingly difficult to turn off that inner editor voice in my head telling me my writing is absolutely appalling. I’ll just be merrily writing along when, BAM! Off goes the bad writing alarms.

Inner editor: Oh my gosh! You just used an adverb there! That’s weak writing! [Read more…]

5 Times Everyone Wants to Quit Their Novel

And What to Do When You Run Into These Points

Us writers can be a moody bunch at times.  And so, in the process of writing a novel, there are several points in it when we’ll just want to give up and quit.  For whatever the reason, the story just isn’t working anymore.  Perhaps it’s the plot-holes that are making our story look more like Swiss cheese than anything else.  Perhaps it’s the roadblocks that our characters keep running up against.  Or perhaps it’s that it just isn’t that good anymore.  Glorified kindling at its best. 5_times_EVERYONE_pinterest

What do you do when you arrive at this point in your story?  Do you do what you’re actively considering and trash it?  Or do you ignore your feelings, press on, and write until you fall in love with your story again?

The short answer?  It’s complicated.  A lot of the time, our feelings can be deceptive, and the best course of action really is to keep writing.  But our feelings can also be right: sometimes a story really does need to be scrapped in exchange for another.

The key is to hold our feelings alongside reason and use them alongside each other.  There are many possible places when the temptation to scrap your novel and start something else will raise its ugly head, but in my experience, there are five main places where it tends to do so.

Let’s look at them and see what sorts of questions we ought to be asking ourselves to determine whether or not we should give into our feelings and quit the novel.

   1. The 10% Mark

In some aspects, beginning a new novel can be a bit like beginning a marriage.  You already have a perfect idea for how the novel should start, your main character is brilliant, and writing prose has never been easier.  And then you hit the five or ten percentage mark and the honeymoon stage is done.  The newness of everything is over.  And the creative spark that you began your novel with is over.  You don’t think your novel has that much promise anymore.

So what do you do about it? [Read more…]

Profile photo of Josiah DeGraaf
Josiah DeGraaf is a high school English teacher and literature nerd who fell in love with stories when he was young and hasn’t fallen out of love ever since.
He writes because he’s fascinated by human motivations. What causes otherwise-good people to make really terrible decisions in their lives? Why do some people have the strength to withstand temptation when others don’t? How do people respond to periods of intense suffering? What does it mean to be a hero?
These questions drive him as a reader, and they drive him as a writer as well as he takes normal people, puts them in crazy situations (did he mention he writes fantasy?), and then forces them to make difficult choices with their lives.
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels with worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as entertaining as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. In the meantime, you can find him writing articles here as he works toward achieving these goals.

BYN Contest: Common Mistakes

Common mistakes from the BYN contest:

First of all, I just wanted to extend a hearty thanks to everyone who ended up submitting their work to the contest.  I was impressed by more of the entries than I expected, and thoroughly enjoyed reading through all the submissions.

BYN Common Mistakes Post GraphicThat being said, I did want to give some pointers to some of you who didn’t win, and perhaps even some who did win, on some common problems that I noticed among the submissions that you may want to look out for as you examine the openings of your novels.  Not all of the entries that didn’t win had these problems, but here are some common things that I noticed that you’ll want to watch out for:

1. Bland First Lines

A fair number of the entries didn’t fully utilize the first line as much as they could have.  The first line of your novel is going to be the first thing a prospective agent or publisher is going to read, so you’ll going to need to make it stand out.  A fair number of the entries just plunged right into the happenings story, which, while sometimes a valid tactic, also tends to give up a lot of potential greatness.  Most of the best lines in literature are those that are in a sense, self-contained, and are only used as a springboard to the opening of the story, instead of diving right into the action of the story.  If any of you are interested in reading more, feel free to check out a recent blog post I wrote on this topic here: “How Not To Write an Opening Line“. 

[Read more…]

Profile photo of Josiah DeGraaf
Josiah DeGraaf is a high school English teacher and literature nerd who fell in love with stories when he was young and hasn’t fallen out of love ever since.
He writes because he’s fascinated by human motivations. What causes otherwise-good people to make really terrible decisions in their lives? Why do some people have the strength to withstand temptation when others don’t? How do people respond to periods of intense suffering? What does it mean to be a hero?
These questions drive him as a reader, and they drive him as a writer as well as he takes normal people, puts them in crazy situations (did he mention he writes fantasy?), and then forces them to make difficult choices with their lives.
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels with worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as entertaining as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. In the meantime, you can find him writing articles here as he works toward achieving these goals.

Of Sandpaper And Stories

“Details. Pay attention to details.”

Of Sandpaper And Stories

Patching drywall and smoothly patching drywall are two completely different animals.

I think I created a hybrid creature when I taught myself how to patch the lovely hole an unwieldy piece of furniture created in my wall. You can tell it’s patched if you pay attention, but unless you look closely it looks all right.

My first attempt at patching didn’t go so well. The layers were too thick, I hadn’t spent enough time sanding, and, well, it looked awful. Definitely an amateur job. So I grabbed the sandpaper, tub of mud, and went back to work.

While sanding and then smoothing on another layer of drywall mud, the thought struck me just how similar patching a wall is to patching a story.

A lousy fix is glaringly noticeable in both forms, just like a careful, well-done patching job blends into the wall or the text like part of the original design.

I had a wall to patch. I also have a novel. It’s needed a lot of “patching” – scenes cut, scenes added, more layers of depth smoothed into the main plot, the characters, and all the tiny little threads woven throughout the story. If I mess with one, I might as well have messed with them all.

It’s so easy to toss something in or pull something out, whether it be a phrase or an entire chapter, and then be done with it. Just like it would have been easy for me to leave the nasty patch on my wall and forget it (except I’m a perfectionist, so it would have bugged me daily).

But simplicity usually doesn’t equal quality.

How does one go about smoothly patching a story?

Details. Pay attention to details. I find the highlighting function of my word processor very handy for this kind of editing. Highlight the main thing you want to cut, add, or somehow change. Then go through the surrounding section and highlight any collateral damage “edges” that will need fixed after the main change. Make the changes, smoothing those edges and then make a note of certain things you need to keep an eye out for further along in the story, the offhand bit of dialogue referencing that scene you just cut out, or a good spot to add a reference to that shocking revelation you just added. Even one misplaced or wrongly-left sentence dealing with a plot thread that no longer exists, or nonexistent references that should be there about a new thread, count.

Just like my wall patch. Every bit of mudding (adding or removing text), sanding (smoothing away the roughness), and painting (the polish of pretty prose) counts. Homeowners notice poorly done repair. Readers do too.

Words of Similarity – Method to the Madness

Let’s face it. Your confused about who’s rules dictated how those annoying little similar words work and how their supposed to be used. You know, like two, to and too. Or their and they’re. Or its and it’s. What’s the difference, anyway?

For those of you who aren’t writers, believe it or not, us wordy people don’t always understand this madness any better than you do. When two or three or four words all sound the same but have completely different meanings, it’s pretty irritating (and difficult) to keep them all apart, but it’s kind of important, too. We here at Kingdom Pen aren’t obsessed with grammar. We value good, well-written and powerful stories much more than the correct usage of a past participle phrase (whatever the noun that’s supposed to be).  That said, however, words only have power when you use them correctly, and you can’t do that unless you understand the difference between them.

Here’s a video that should help simplify the madness for you. Bookmark the location for easy reference. You’ll probably need to refer back to this in the frequent future until you have time to memorize the difference between whose and who’s.

I know we’ll be right their with you.

 (Click on the picture to view the video)