Continuing Education 2: Writing And Editing Toolkit: Taking Your Novel From Unsalable to Bestseller
Cara Putman and Tricia Goyer, who together have a total of 44 novels, packed the room with authors from almost every conceivable genre for their ACFW conference workshop Writing and Editing Toolkit – Taking your Novel from Unsalable to Best Seller.
On the first day, Putman and Goyer taught on the external and internal journeys of our characters. The inner journey is best described as what your character was actually doing—how they are moving from fear to courage, for instance. To enhance this, authors were encouraged to think about the wounds their characters have. To make a character’s external journey resonate, set up new situations and present complications. Check to make sure there are enough black moments in your novel.
The instructors used examples from their own books, as well as from books by Vannetta Chapman, Brandilyn Collins, Mary Connealy, Deeanne Gist, Veronica Heley, Steven James, Jenny B. Jones, Tosca Lee, Missy Tippens, and Dan Walsh. The examples were engaging and educational.
Theme and conflict
Putman suggested several methods to help increase the tension in our books. (My poor characters may never be the same!) Some questions they suggested:
- Think of the dark moments in your novel. How can you make things worse?
- Will adding a new thread or subplot create more tension?
Keep up the pace
Goyer and Putman also talked about pacing, and how it differs depending upon the genre. For instance, the pacing for a historical is different than that of a romantic suspense. Goyer included a checklist:
- Did I run spellcheck?
- Did I check my timelines?
- Did I make sure there are no cardboard characters?
- Did I delete superfluous words?
- Did I tie up loose ends (including subplots)?
- Do I have unexpected twists?
Dialogue and nonverbal communication
Several tips and resources were shared on the topics of dialogue, setting, body language, and tags/beats. Goyer and Putman shared examples from novels to help solidify the information. Recommended resources were: James Scott Bell’s writing books, Brandilyn Collins’ Getting Into Character, Plot Versus Character by Jeff Gerke, Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon, and Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass.
Goyer shared an experience she had while writing a historical novel when God provided the right person she needed for the research on a particular plane she was writing about. Not only was the man familiar with that plane, he had piloted the plane during the war. Putman shared how a phone call she made saved her from making an error while writing her novel set on Mackinac Island. Mackinac Island does not permit motorized vehicles—except for an ambulance. This one detail helped provide credibility to her novel.