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Sometimes - especially in the middle of the holiday season - we put pressure on ourselves in all the wrong places. Have you felt that? The desire to make every moment count? Or maybe the desire to keep up with so-and-so and her Anthropologie dessert plates (because, hello, is there anything cuter than that Antro kitchen stuff)? We put so much of this pressure on ourselves, in fact, that we very quickly grow overwhelmed, and we lose the whole point. Celebrating the birth of our Savior and the abundant life He has brought into the world.

The same thing happens in our writing. Sometimes - especially if we've been doing this writing thing a while - we feel as if every page needs to be bestseller status in its very first draft. And so we become acquainted with the feeling of not-enough. Then pretty soon, our not-enough becomes not-at-all. And what started as a totally normal part of the writing process derails us to such an extent that we can't remember the last time we just sat down and wrote at all.

If you're feeling the tug of the not-enough's this season in your life, be encouraged to know God has said you are more than enough, through the grace He has offered. He has power, skill, breath and life for your story in abundance when you look to Him.

Be encouraged that like Christmas lights, our stories shine in between the dark spaces. Sometimes these are even dark spaces of our own lives - discouragement, rejection, failure, or even writer's block. Being too busy. Just to name a few.

But we must keep writing, friends, for the magic moments to come. We must keep telling stories through the dark spaces - because if we don't tell our stories, who will?



###




Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.

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#TipfulTuesday
Today's topic is Pitfalls in Story Layering

Quality stories have layers. That is just a fact. Readers want to know more than just the thin line leading MC from the first page to the last. We thicken that line with layers.

In today's example, I will not only provide an epic story with layers but also point out how the layering benefited the MC's journey. Within this discussion, you will see what must be included when layering to avoid pitfalls. 

Here is the story:

Scene
A very pregnant young woman, ready to give birth at any time, and her husband set out on a journey forced upon them by the King. They climb over mountains and through valleys sixty miles to the south of their home to a small village. When they reach the village, the husband stops at every inn, begging for a place to stay. He informs them of his wife's condition. Late that night, an innkeeper takes pity on them and allows them to stay in the stable. It was all he had. 

Scene
Far to the east, a group of scholars, very wise men, become intrigued by a certain star. Their studies reveal something special was happening to the west. Upon further examination, they determine the star points the way to a king. This is no ordinary king, but a special one. To visit such a king would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Without a moment's hesitation, they pack for a great journey, including valuable gifts to honor the special king. 

Scene
On a hill overlooking a small village, shepherds tend to the care of their sheep. Typically, these shepherds are not allowed in any village because, well, the truth is they smell terrible. At night they make a fire to keep warm and ensure all the sheep have a safe place for the night. While sitting around their campfire, an angel suddenly appears. The shepherds leap and back away, afraid at what might happen. The angel tells them not to be afraid. They would be privy to a special message. A grand announcement of an event taking place in the village that no one knows about. A Savior which is Christ the Lord is born. A host of angels join in the message, praising God for the grand event. After hearing the news, the shepherds could not contain themselves. They ran to the village to see the baby, telling everyone they met the great news. 

Here we have three distinct layers on one epic story, the birth of Christ the Savior. All three layers point to the one message, each filling in a grad story with deep colors, information, and details, giving us, the readers, a fuller sense of understanding.

You may know even more layers in this story. The wise men's visit with Herod, and etc.

The point here is that although each scene appears to have its own story they are all distinctly and completely related to the overarching story. God demonstrates not only a powerful message but also the perfect means to communicate that message.

From this, we can learn not only the Spiritual message but also principles of writing with layers.

~Mary Vee
#TipfulTuesday #Layers #amwriting #writing 


Photo by Mary Vee. How many layers do you see in the photo?


Mary Vee -  Mary Vee - Rock climbing, white-water rafting, and hiking top Mary’s list of ways to enjoy a day. She was homeless for a time, earned her MA in Counseling, and married an Air Force vet.  Mary has been a finalist in several writing contests and writes for her King.
Visit Mary at her websiteblog, and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter
Mary's new release, Christmas With The Enemy, is available on Amazon.
EBOOK ON SALE FOR  $ 0.99!

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We at the Writer's Alley would like to congratulate all the Christy Award winners, several of whom are dear pals to us here at the Alley! Our own Laurie Tomlinson was there to celebrate Jaime Jo Wright's win in the Mystery/Suspense/Thriller category. Congratulations, winners and finalists! We admire the artistry and hard work you bring to our industry.



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#TipfulTuesday Today I am presenting Vital Ingredients for Writing Well. 

1. A vital ingredient for writing well is social interaction. (Observation/ideas) Sometimes we feel solitude is most important in order to write. We want a quiet, uninterrupted time. Hemingway thought that as well. Rent a small cottage back in the woods, far away from everyone and everything then we can have blissful writing. Just like the grass is not always greener on the other side, this solitude may not always be wise. There are many advantages to getting out and socializing among the masses. We overhear one-liners, see clothing, watch gestures. The truth is--much of our writing has hit a rut. We smile. We walk. We .... repeat and are not challenged or inspired by fresh new ways of communicating. I recently saw a series of movies with writers as the main character. In every case, the writer walked away from their screen and went out among the masses to find, morph, and create.

2. A vital ingredient for writing well is building your platform. (Encouragement/Marketing) Here is a new idea for you: I attended a mini-conference a week ago and learned about Instagram pods from Cyle Young. Joining an Instagram pod is great for connecting, networking, and building numbers. After researching the details and examining the pros and cons, I chose to present it to you. Instagram users can join a pod in which other users have the same interest. Each member is expected to like the post of other users. Participating in one builds your numbers. If the pod is big, members will be busy, because members must like everyone's post. Still, this is a new networking opportunity, and when you no longer want to fulfill the commitment, leave the group.

3. A vital ingredient to writing well is participating in a critique group. (New and refining Ideas from others) You will be amazed how many of your ideas can be deepened, sharpened, and tweaked by fellow writers. I joined the ACFW main Critique loop. From there I requested to join a small group. I bounced to a few different groups before landing on the perfect one, the one I've been with for many years. Nearly every writing organization has a small critique group opportunity. It may be through your local chapter, or like ACFW, through the main loop. Contact your organization and ask! You might be surprised how easy it is to find one. 

To write stories, we need to have something to draw from. Experiences. Networking. Fresh ideas. Refined Ideas. New words. All of this only comes from walking away from the computer for a time and recharging. 

I'm so glad you chose to stop by the Alley today. Hopefully, this short time has refreshing your mind and has enabled you to return to your scene with vitality.

~MaryVee
Photo by Mary Vee-Samaria, A hillside by one of Herod's Temples, Israel

#TipfulTuesday #amwriting #TheWritersAlley #Writing #InstagramPods #CritiqueGroups @MaryVeeWriter 


Mary Vee -  Mary Vee - Rock climbing, white-water rafting, and hiking top Mary’s list of ways to enjoy a day. She was homeless for a time, earned her MA in Counseling, and married an Air Force vet.  Mary has been a finalist in several writing contests and writes for her King.
Visit Mary at her websiteblog, and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter

Mary's new release, Christmas With The Enemy, is available on Amazon.
EBOOK ON SALE FOR  $ 0.99!



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If you need some new reading recommendations, we have you covered! The AlleyCats have been very prolific lately:
When You Look at Me (A Pleasant Gap Romance Book 2) by Pepper Basham
When Julia Jenkins’ great aunt dies and leaves her a Victorian mansion with decades of secrets, Julia never expects to unearth a World War 2 espionage mystery. Struggling with her own past since an assault left her pregnant, her future as a solo parent leaves her dreams uncertain. The inheritance from her great aunt gives Julia the ability to take a step back into her future, but also sends her into the discovery of a love story she’d never anticipated. As she goes through her aunt’s treasured possessions, Julia uncovers some oddly written piano music with a musical code she can’t decipher on her own. Not to worry, introverted Englishman and composer, Henry Wright, is thrust on the scene by a pair of homespun matchmakers who know the ‘right’ man for Julia’s wounded heart.

Henry arrives in Pleasant Gap with the task of composing the soundtrack for his best mate’s newest film. The Jenkins’ family’s southern welcome and gregarious personalities set his reticent nature on edge, but he’s inexplicably drawn to his gentle and music-loving hostess, Julia. Uncertain how to build a friendship with the wounded woman, and rather hopeless in communicating well through words, the bond of music becomes a bridge between her uncertainty and his awkwardness.

But her broken past and his families’ expectations build a wall much greater than the cultures that separate them. As they work together to solve a musical mystery from the grave, will an unlikely romance from the past inspire their hearts to trust in a God who’s written the perfect melody for their lives?

Available TODAY! Click here to order now: http://a.co/d/ab7Badp

Christmas with the Enemy by Mary Vee

A Peace on Earth-Good Will to Man With a Twist of Romeo and Juliet Christmas Novel

High in the Rocky Mountains, the front door to the Windermere lodge banged open with a burst of icy wind snapping at Sam’s face. She cowered back toward the sofa, staring at a six-foot intruder covered with snow.

For years she’d stayed away from this place. It wasn’t safe. Her high-rise apartment, complete with fake fireplace and located in downtown Chicago lacked the quiet, but she could at least scream and be heard there.

The mountain man called her Goldilocks and accused her of eating his stew before revealing he was a Tucker and asking her to leave. Like all Tuckers, he was as heartless as Scrooge.

Currently on sale for $0.99 on Amazon! Click here to order now: https://amzn.to/2D8lgj8
That's When I Knew by Laurie Tomlinson
Two childhood sweethearts. One failed summer romance. Twelve years later.

On most days, Chelsea Scott feels like her rapidly growing planner and stationery business should belong to someone else. Maybe if it did, it wouldn't be hovering near the red due to one costly decision. But the collaboration that will save her company awaits her pitch at the trade show she's keynoting. When her transportation falls through at the last minute, she accepts help from Nick Pearson, who’s unexpectedly come back into her life.

The last time Nick saw Chelsea, he told her he loved her, and she ran. Twelve years later, their lives are different, more complex than the summers they spent playing baseball and eating ice cream cones at their dock with their toes in the lake. But as they spend time together on the road, their feelings for each other become clear: all those years couldn’t take away how good they can be together.

When Chelsea's past decisions resurface at the convention, her newly rekindled relationship with Nick – and her business – are in jeopardy. Will their love be enough to keep them together or will another summer end with them apart?

On sale for $0.99 before price increases November 1! Get it here: https://amzn.to/2CFfNz7

The Once Upon a Laugh Novella Collection
Eight brand new contemporary Christian romantic comedies are here to keep you company. Some of your favorite inspirational authors have come together in this collection of all-new novellas.


From light-hearted romance to laugh-out-loud love, this set will put a smile on your face and keep you reading long into the night.

Get all EIGHT novellas, including stories from Pepper, Krista, and Laurie, for $0.99 here: https://amzn.to/2CETl9q

Thanks for reading :) Keep watching The Writer's Alley for more awesome stories coming soon from the Alley Cats! 
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Today's topic is Timeline Details.

I like to pick a topic I am currently duking it out with...and sometimes winning. It doesn't seem like the timeline in our story should be difficult, but today's discussion might help you rethink the importance of examining and reexamining the details.

Let's look at issues that even a plotter might miss. 

Here is the issue: Some of the days in our story require more text time than others. We skim over unimportant things that would naturally happen, a meal, travel time, etc. The reader knows this. At other times crucial details fill chapters, all for one day! Keeping an eye on the day seems easy when we're writing. Morning. Afternoon. Night. Next day. 

But...

Where we might face trouble in those crucial detail chapters is falsely assuming all the events can happen in the given time period. 

While captivated in a story, time seems to flow. But when tested, we might find too many hours of activity for the allowed time.

To solve the problem in my WIP, I walked through the days and assigned real time for each activity. This conversation and the ancillary details would last 1 hour. This drive would take 4 hours, (I googled the journey to determine this one). This activity lasted 2 hours including walking out the door and getting to the next action.

The day causing my concern had a lot packed into it. When my character arrived home that night, I wondered, could this character really do all of these things in one day? So I mapped out not only the activity but the time required in between to get from one task to the next. Everything had to be considered to keep the readers moving forward in the story and not hung up doubting the validity of the story. How long does it take to walk from the house to the car? How long does it take to order a meal in a busy restaurant or a rather empty restaurant? 

Time is crucial. 

It's easy to think the reader will morph because they are captivated in the story. But a detail like unrealistic time can snag the reader and cause them to fall out of the story and close the book. This reader may not return to the pages.

Time is crucial.

Map out not only the years, the months, the days but also the hours and the minutes. If you're not a plotter, like me, then test these components in the editing process. Actually, plotters need to do this as well. 

Time is crucial. 

A story must move forward from page one to the last. Even in a time-slip, even in flashback, the story always moves forward with realistic allocated units of time. Never assume. Always test. Do this for your readers.

Photo by Mary Vee
Basil, Switzerland
Mary Vee -  Mary Vee - Rock climbing, white-water rafting, and hiking top Mary’s list of ways to enjoy a day. She was homeless for a time, earned her MA in Counseling, and married an Air Force vet.  Mary has been a finalist in several writing contests and writes for her King.
Visit Mary at her websiteblog, and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter

Mary's new release, Christmas With The Enemy, is available on Amazon.
EBOOK ON SALE FOR  $ 0.99!




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Got guilt? Not squeezing in time to write "each day", as many writing gurus demand for success? Not feeling completely inspired to write that next great scene? Not aware of what that next scene might even be? Don't fret! There are a couple of things I've discovered by jumping over that guilt, and sticking my tongue out to the should-be writing time that just isn't-going-to be:

1. I don't think it's reasonable to expect every day to have writing time in it (especially if you are living in a busy season of life). I always strive for some daily time, but I can't beat myself up for not doing it. It's exhausting to try and be so stringent. It sucks away my creativity and love of story. So, maybe I'm wrong, but, I'd say, don't be guilted into a black and white theory on the timeline of a writer.

2. Just because I'm not writing, doesn't mean my story's not moving forward. In times that I feel stuck, or I just don't have the desire to pour my heart on the page, I'll jot down some outlines, or notes, or even a segment of dialogue that will appear at some point in my story. Even if my word count isn't showing it, my story IS moving forward on non-writing days.

3. Write bad. Yep. If you have the time, and need to just write something to feel confident in your process, just do it. I swear it helps to just write whatever comes out, even if it's going to be slashed in edits. It gets that story-telling muscle moving. My crit partner Ashley Young Clark​ and I always cheer each other on before we delve into brain dump writing, knowing it's not gonna be great, but it's gonna be--and sometimes that's enough to get your story going! Actually, the brain dump writing can become the time when you give up control of the story, and let God direct it in a whole new way.
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