Congratulations to the blog contest winners!

The latest blog contest closed to submissions less than two weeks ago, and now we are excited to announce our winners!

This time, the contest was meant to promote FaithWriters’ partnership with Xulon Press, one of the largest Christian self-publishers.  FWers were to write an article about the various benefits of the partnership, including the second testimony book, and two giveaways of Xulon Bestseller Packages to Platinum members.

Out of the handful of entries, two of them rose to the top and were declared our winners. Be sure to check out the post on the boards to read the winning entries, and those of other folks who gave it a try.

And now, without further ado, our winners:

First Place: The Reluctant Mom by Toni Hammer ($100 prize)

Second Place: Hope Rises Again by P.J. Baker ($50 prize)

Watch the FaithWriters Forums (and this blog!) for the next contest, which will promote an online church for those unable to attend in person. It will be starting soon!

Congratulations, Toni and P.J.!

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How Dense Can Ya Get? (Story Structure and Timing)

How Dense Can Ya Get?

By Linda Yezak

Your bad guy hides behind Prada and a smooth personality. His car has leather seats. He whips out his Platinum card with the carelessness of one who doesn’t have to worry how much he charges to it.

And he has captured your Main Character’s eye.

She has a choice between the flashy guy who “knows how to treat a woman” and a plain ol’ blue-jeans clad country boy whose actions can be misinterpreted to put him in the worst light possible. He has a certain charm, but in your MC’s eyes, he’s the bad guy.

Wow. That’s the makings of a good story.

But it’s also a delicate balance. As the story goes along, we, the readers, learn the true nature of each man, and before long, we’re on the edge of our seats as our heroine consistently makes the wrong choice. The writer always lets us into her mind, always shows how she reaches her conclusions, always puts the good guy in compromising positions that confirm her opinion of him.

After a while, though, it’s time to start showing her doubt of her choices, otherwise we, the readers, start getting seriously frustrated with the woman.

Soon after the midpoint, she needs to start getting niggling little doubts that increase beyond a “niggle” by the three quarter point. By this time, she should be in deep, completely entangled with the wrong guy, so the last quarter of the book leads to the nail-gnawing climax and satisfying conclusion.

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Great Reads from Some FaithWriters Members!

If you are looking for some inspiring stories, whether fiction and nonfiction, FaithWriters is the place to look – especially this week. Two new publications became available in just the past few days, and you will definitely want to check them out.

First, the highly anticipated book of forty FaithWriters members’ testimonies, Trials and Triumphs, is now available – and, for a limited time, it is FREE as an ebook! Check out these inspiring stories of FW members’ salvation testimonies, as well as how God was with them during trials. Read their inspiring stories (including my own story of how I came to Christ), and leave a review, if you would, on the FaithWriters bookstore  AND at Amazon (where you can purchase a paper copy of the book – and soon, an ebook!) That is the best way to garner sales for this book – and we would love your help.

And on a side note, we are currently holding a contest for a second book of testimonies – if yours wasn’t published in this first book and you are a gold or platinum member, stop by here  and scroll down a bit for information and to enter.

Secondly, the latest issue of the FaithWriters Magazine is now available! The March issue includes inspirational short pieces – from poetry to true life inspirational stories. There’s plenty of fiction, too, with humor, romance, slice of life, and several genres. Be sure to stop by and check it out!

Which Will You Read First?

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Broken Record Writing

Broken-Record Writing
By Delia Latham

With the advent of CDs and streaming music, the term “broken record” is fast becoming obsolete. I’m hoping most people still know what it means.

Even if the experience is not personal, most of us have heard the result of a scratched record. The needle gets hung in the scratch, the record keeps spinning, and the result is an annoying repetition of the same words – over and over…and over again.

It happens in writing as well. Sometimes our characters’ repetitious actions make a reader crazy.

My heroes chuckle a lot. They grin when I can’t think of anything else for them to do. They love to “quirk” or “hike” an eyebrow. My ladies’ lips “curve upward in a smile” way too often.

I recently read a rough draft chapter for an author whose characters overused their hands. Every few sentences, an action tag involved the word “hands.” She wrung her hands. He ran a hand through his hair. Their hands touched. He stuffed his hands into his pockets. She placed a hand over her mouth.

Talk about your broken record! A whole book of that would have me breaking the record over the hero’s head.

A friend admitted that she uses coffee as a tool for too much of the action in her story. He poured himself a cup of coffee. She wrapped her cold fingers around the hot mug. He sipped the hot brew. She tasted the lukewarm liquid and set her cup back on the table. He put on another pot of coffee. If I consumed as much caffeine as these characters, I’d never sleep!

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The End of the Challenge Quarter is Near!

So, have you entered the FaithWriters Writing Challenge lately? If you haven’t (or even if you have), and you want to get in on this quarter’s topics, you only have a few more weeks. That’s right – this quarter, which has topics focused on “ends,” is close to ITS end. This week’s topic – The Short End of the Stick – is the eighth topic of the quarter, which means only two more follow before we have a short break.

What is the Writing Challenge, you ask? In brief, it’s an opportunity to write to topic, deadline, and word count.  A topic is announced at the challenge page on Thursday at 11am ET, and you have until the following Thursday to write and enter a piece (fiction, nonfiction, poetry…) between 150 and 750 words. The entries are judged by anonymous judges, and winners are announced a week after the deadline. In the meantime, you can see others’ entries and give them encouraging and/or constructive comments. It’s a great way to hone your craft and practice writing to a topic, deadline, and word limit.

AND, at the end of each ten-week quarter, the highest ranked piece in each of the four levels over that quarter receives a cash prize! And he top three entries overall each year receive larger cash prizes, and are crowned “Best of the Best.”

Gold and Platinum members are eligible to enter the challenge as many weeks as they wish – silver members can try it out a total of four times. (Click here to upgrade your membership) Check out the rules for the challenge here, and submit your entry before the quarter is over! Don’t let the “end” quarter end without YOUR entry!

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When Readers Hate Your Characters

When Readers Hate Your Characters

by Dorothy Love

So, when my book Beauty For Ashes released a couple years back, the reviews came in from bloggers and from Amazon readers. I received my share of positive reviews, but I’ve been surprised at the strong reaction to one of my secondary characters from some readers. One reader said Mary made her so mad she wanted to throw the book across the room. Another said Mary is a woman you love to hate.  One very thoughtful reviewer asked whether disliking a character meant the author had done her job and if so, was it fair to award fewer stars.

I’ve been a student of writing fiction for almost twenty years, published  since 1995,  and one of the first things I was taught was that stories must have conflict. A second lesson: characters must grow and change as a result of the events of the story.  In the case of Mary Stanhope Bell, she first appears as a demanding, thoughtless and even lazy person who gives my main character, Carrie, a hard time at every turn.  Conflict! This was by design. I wanted my readers to identify with Carrie’s struggle to get along with Mary, and I wanted them to see by the end of the book how Carrie’s kindness and duty to her family changed Mary’s heart and transformed her into a more sympathetic character. But it seems that some readers focused only on Mary’s faults and  ignored her growth as the story unfolded.

I had a talk with my editor about this. She supported my portrayal of Mary as both realistic and essential to  the central theme of the story. But it’s clear that  some readers wanted Carrie and Mary to be best friends…no accusations, no harsh words, no slammed doors. Everything all sweetness and light. But life isn’t like  that. At least mine isn’t.  And  stories without sufficient conflict aren’t compelling enough to keep me as a reader engaged. I’ve always felt that if  my stories evoke strong emotions in the reader, then I have done my job. Of course I’d love it if every single reader fell in love with my stories, but that is as unrealistic as a story without conflict.

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Xulon Publishing Package: YOU Help Decide

As mentioned previously, FaithWriters and Xulon Press are teaming up to award two comprehensive publishing packages to upgraded members. One of the packages will be used to produce a second testimony book, with testimonies from fifty Gold and/or Platinum members. Another will be rewarded to a single Platinum member for the best fiction manuscript with a sound biblical message. These packages are worth over $4,000 each. Click here for more details on these packages and how to enter.

But what about the third package? Who will win that? Well, FaithWriters members get a chance to have a say! Check out this poll to vote on how the third package will be awarded – or suggest your own idea. FW plans to go with the majority’s vote on this third award.

Should it go to:

Best poetry entry?

Best devotional book?

Most helpful FaithWriters member?

Or someone else?

Stop by the survey at this link and let us know!

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Stick to It!

Stick to It!
By Jennifer Slattery

Today wasn’t one of my best writing days. Although I hit my word count goal, I didn’t stagger away from my computer until near three. Since I normally start novel work by 7:30, that made for a long day. One with editing and publicity work still waiting to be conquered.

In light of my rather murky muse, it’s no wonder I considered a major gear shift. In fact, as I puttered around the house, sweeping away the mountainous cobwebs that had gathered on more creative days, I plotted and planned another book entirely. And even convinced myself I needed to set my novel aside–the one I’m 45,000 words into and planned to have completed by the end of the month–to start on a fresh book. Ah, a blank notebook, a blank screen, with ideas popcorn kernelling through my head.

Good thing I’m a praying woman. Hesitant to veer too far off my schedule without clear confirmation, I spent the afternoon in prayer. And nope, I never did get the novel-chucking, muse-chasing confirmation. So tomorrow, I’ll plunk back in my office chair, poise my fingers over my keyboard, squeezing out another 2,500 words (I upped my daily word count goal this year), whether they fly or crawl. Because sometimes we need to persevere and not everything comes easy, even when God’s behind us. (Like my old track coach, I believe occasionally  He makes us sweat, not because he’s mean, but because He loves us and wants to help us be our best.)

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Newest Blog Contest with Cash Prizes

Are you ready for the next blogging contest? It’s an opportunity to help FaithWriters itself, let folks know about a few wonderful publishing opportunities, AND possibly win a cash prize.

What is a blogging contest, you ask? Get some general details at the FW blogging contest page. In brief, you need to write an article about the assigned topic following the guidelines, and post it in three different places. Judges will choose the best ones, and those people (for this specific contest) will win cash prizes.

And now – details on the current one, which runs through the end of this month. As I shared last week, FaithWriters is teaming with Xulon Press to award three comprehensive publishing packages to upgraded members in 2014. Two of these will be individual packages, worth over $4,000 each, awarded to individual Platinum members. The third will be used to publish the second testimony book, and will include testimonies from fifty Platinum and/or Gold members. This blog contest is meant to inform members of these amazing opportunity, and encourage them to upgrade to Gold or Platinum membership.

To enter, you must write a post of 750 words or less, using three keywords specified in the instructions on the forums. This entry needs to be posted in at least three places: on the instruction post on the forums, in FaithWriters’ regular articles, and one other place. The deadline to enter is midnight ET on Friday, February 28. See more details at the blog contest page, and on the Blog Contest board on the FaithWriters forums.

And the prizes for this blog contest?

Best Gold or Platinum member entry: $100.00 cash prize
Second Best Gold or Platinum member entry: $50.00 cash prize
Best Silver entry: One year Gold membership at FaithWriters

So…get writing!

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The Conflict Web

The Conflict Web

By Gail Gaymer Martin

While skimming an article on a variety of writing fiction topics, a new thought came to me—the complexity of conflict. Though I’ve shared many posts on conflict, one element that comes to mind hasn’t been covered, and that is the spider element of conflict. By this I mean, as a spider weaves a tangled web—and has numerous legs—so can conflict.

One basic conflict can be multifaceted with outreaching legs that add to the conflict. Let me provide a couple of examples.

The family man who wants the best for his family strives at his career to gain promotions that will offer him more money and prestige. Naturally he has competition, other men who are also working toward this goal. This is conflict one, but conflict two is not far away. While he struggles to work extra hours and goes the longer distance at work with responsibilities that take time and thought, he also finds that he must neglect his family time. This creates guilt and a contradiction to his purpose for working hard. His goal is to provide a better life for his family.

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