Friday, August 19, 2016

My Journey to a Book Contract - Part 4 Master GMC and MRU's

by Elva Cobb Martin

We continue "My Journey to a Book Contract" and honing your craft. This is Part 4. You can access Parts 1-3 in our archives.

Master “Goals, Motivation, and Conflict” 
(check out a great book with same title by Debra Dixon)

Your hero, heroine and even other characters should have a:
        Goal – What they want
        Motivation – Why they want it
        Conflict – The why not (what stands in their way)
   Internal and External Needs evolve into Goals, Motivation, Conflict which drive the story.
           Carolyn Greene says inner conflict is what gives characters’ something to think about.
           External conflict propels the plot and gives characters something to do.
           Inner needs can be universal and intangible: respect, acceptance, security, safety, love
           External needs should be tangible and resolvable:  justice, revenge, the truth, job promotion   

Example: Kirsten Arnold wrote on a Seekerville blog comment her idea at Internal and external GMC & logline.

Log Line/Pitch: A rugged Alaskan hunting guide must save the younger brother of the woman he loves while learning to accept the forgiveness that can set him free and open the door to love and life. 
Who: Cooper Maitland: Alaskan outfitter/hunting guide

External GMC: Cooper wants to help the FBI catch drug traffickers operating as Alaskan fishermen, and save Bryce Wallace the kid brother of McAye Wallace the woman Cooper loves.
Internal GMC: Cooper wants to forgive himself and accept God’s forgiveness for the terrible mistake he made that cost McAye’s sister her life. His love for McAye stands in the way, because it serves as a constant reminder of his past and keeps him mired in guilt.

Master MRU’s - Motivation Reaction Units

(Should be in this order but don’t have to include all 4)

  1) Physical or gut level
  2) Thought
  3) dialog (can be combined with action)
  4) action

Incorrect Order (example from my draft of Summer of Deception)

Rachel looked at him for a long moment. First the housekeeper, now this man. Wasn’t anyone expecting her? A sting shot through her empty stomach. But she shook off her uneasiness. Everything could be cleared up in two seconds. She dug in her handbag. “Mr. Barrett offered me a summer position. I have his note here.”

Corrected Order
A sting shot through Rachel’s empty stomach. Wasn’t anyone expecting her? First the housekeeper, now this man. She looked at him a long moment and cast off her uneasiness. Everything could be cleared up in two seconds. “Mr. Barrett offered me a summer position. I have his note here.”
She dug in her handbag.

What helped you master GMC or MRU's? Please leave a comment and share this blog on your social media by clicking on the icons below.

Elva Cobb Martin

Monday, August 8, 2016

My Journey to a Book Contract - Five Vital Steps (Part 3 Theme)

Howdy Writer Friends, 

Today I continue my series on "My Long Journey to a Book Contract - Five Vital Steps."
You can get the full blogs in my archives on Part 1 and 2 but here is a fast review:

Here are the five steps I listed in Part 1:

1) NEVER give up!
2) Keep Honing Your Craft
3) Importance of Conferences and Writing Groups
4) Help Other Writers 
5) Learn how to Submit to Editors and Agents

In Part 2 I covered four ways I've learned to plot a novel. 

Today, in Part 3, I continue with "Honing Your Craft" and important things I learned that helped me on the way to a contract. 

Plug into a Theme - A story’s most basic element
The author’s worldview, their core values and outlook on life, drive the theme. Here are 10 central themes in film and books constantly repeated which describe an opinion about society, human nature, God, or life in general.

1) Good vs. Evil   - Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia,
         The War Room
2) Love Conquers All   - The Notebook, Love Comes Softly                      series, The Passion
3) Triumph over Adversity – The Blind Side, Facing the Giants
4) Individual vs. Society – Schindler’s List, The Elephant Man
5) The Battle – Braveheart, The Patriot, Attila
6) Death as a Part of Life – The Shack, Driving Miss Daisy
7) Revenge – Cape Fear, Revenge of the Nerds
8) Loss of Innocence – Sixteen Candles, Toy Story 3
9) Man vs. Himself – Gone with the Wind,The Godfather
10) Man vs. Nature –Jaws, Armageddon, Jack London stories,               Survivor shows

A quick check of stories in the Bible will reveal many universal themes. In fact, the Bible hasn’t left out any nitty-gritty issues mankind faces.

■ Husband and wife join in wrongdoing (Adam/Eve, Ahab/Jezebel, Ananias/Sapphira)
■ Jealousy/sibling conflict (Cain/Able, Rachel/Leah,                       Joseph/brothers)
■ Love/hate triangles (Abraham/Sarah/Hagar;                                     Jacob/Leah/Rachel)
■ Arranged marriages (Isaac/Rebecca, Jacob/Leah/Rachel,               Christ and His Bride
■ Rape (Dinah and Shechem; Tamar and Ammon)
■ War and its mighty men (Joshua, David, Gideon, Samson)
■ Women’s rights (the daughters of Zelophehad Joshua 17:3-6)
■Adoption vs. Infanticide (Moses)     
■Adultery/Murder (David/Bathsheba) (Hosea)
■ The perfect love story – Ruth and Boaz
■ The Wrong Kind of Sex  – Sodom & Gomorrah, the Levite’s concubine (Judges 19), Samson & Delilah
■ Redemption and Forgiveness – (the Prodigal Son and                        numerous stories)

Because I'm an inspirational writer, I want my novels to reflect my Christian worldview, core values and outlook on life, through whatever theme I choose. That's the legacy I want to leave with my readers and future generations.

Can you discern the writer's worldview in the movies and/or books you have read recently? So much being written and filmed today is in a secular worldview, but I do love to read and view stories with a strong Christian worldview. How about you?

What is your theme in your current WIP? Can you add to our theme list? Please leave a comment and share this blog on your social media if it helped you.

Elva Cobb Martin


Friday, July 29, 2016

My Journey to a Book Contract - Five Vital Steps (Part 2)

by Elva Cobb Martin

For a long while my dream of securing a book contract seemed like an impossible goal- like reaching for a castle in the sky.

If you missed Part 1, you can find it in the archives.

Here's a quick list of the Five Steps that helped me finally land my first book contract. It is with Prism Book Group for my inspirational romantic suspense novel, Summer of Deception, to be released in 2017

Drum-m-m ROL-L-L! I have recently signed a second contract with Lighthouse Publishers of the Carolinas for my historical, In a Pirate's Debt! So now I am into edits on TWO books at the same time. (Yes, that's a prayer request in the subtext). Selling the second book has been quicker maybe because I started writing it before I sold the first one. ( : 

Here are the five steps I listed in Part 1:

1) NEVER give up!
2) Keep Honing Your Craft
3) Importance of Conferences and Writing Groups
4) Help Other Writers
5) Learn how to Submit to Editors and Agents

Part 2  Keep Honing Your Craft!

Learn how to Plot a Novel  - 4 Ways I’ve Studied               

A) The detailed Authors Boot Camp Manual can be found at
     There are tons of links compiled for every aspect of plotting and writing a book! And it’s all free—the best articles from some of the best authors you’ll find. 

B) The Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson. Find his 10 detailed steps under Products at
Randy, a former software architect, lists 10 Steps that he compares to a snowflake in building a novel. He has a software program on it and a detailed book you can purchase on Amazon.)

   Here are the first 4 steps briefly which he covers in detail on his site and in his book.
      Step 1 - Take an hour and write a one sentence summary of your novel idea.
         Ex. “A rogue physicist travels back in time to kill the Apostle Paul.”
      Step 2 - Take another hour and expand that sentence into a full paragraph describing the story setup, 3 major disasters, and the ending.
      Step 3 – Characters: Write a one-page summary for each character telling their name, their storyline, their motivation, goal, conflict, and epiphany (Details on site)
       Step 4 – Expand each sentence in your paragraph summary into a full paragraph each. The final paragraph should tell how the book ends.

End each chapter with a cliff hanger!

C)  MaryLu Tyndall’s basic method for historicals: Starts with research
           1) Do detailed main character sketches with photos and index cards of main characters
           2) Write synopsis of basic story line and chapter by chapter summary
           3) Write the first draft down fast in creative mode. No editing or checking research details. Get the main plot points down, about 40,000 words
           4) Rewrite/Expand adding the polish, research details, DPOV, five senses add more tension/conflict, and end each chapter with a cliff hanger.
           5) Edit for final draft
           6) She keeps three docs pulled up in computer when writing:

              a)Chapter by Chapter summary which she uses to write the first draft, (I have a Scene List doc for each chapter as I write the scenes)
              b) A To-Remember Doc which lists things she needs to keep track of like dates, back story, ancestry, research items
              c) Add-in Doc – lists all the extra ideas that she comes up with while doing other stuff that she wants to add in later
                       (In editing to cut my novel word count, I added a “Cuts” document to paste in all cuts which I may want to use later in blogs.

              Find MaryLu’s other Writing Tips at

D) Prescription for Plotting Notebook by Carolyn M. Greene (Pass it around)
       A fantastic 3-ring binder with 75 pages of worksheets, forms and easy instructions to help plot your novel. Order it from:
           Carolyn Greene, P.O. Box 412, Powhattan, VA 23139 
      Send check or money order for $25 plus $5 for shipping.  Check out her site at
       (I highly recommend this notebook, if still available.)

Three “plots” I worked up for Summer of Deception
The main romance plot between heroine Rachel and hero Luke.

The suspense/mystery subplot of who is smuggling drugs on the Charleston coastline and what really happened to Rachel’s brother declared dead by the DEA.

The spiritual subplot of Luke’s struggle to regain faith and the testing of Rachel’s faith

The Spectrum for Spiritual Plots for Inspirational novels from Ron Benry’s Writing Christian Fiction

    ♦ At the High End: A conversion/redemption scene of a main character, grace in action
    ♦ The Middle Ground: Jesus at work in the lives of one or more characters  
    ♦ At the very least: Show progress in a lead character’s Christian walk or reaffirmed faith.
          OR: Challenge your protagonist’ moral beliefs. Judith Rolfs in a new mystery release by Prism Books, Never Tomorrow, has a scene in which the heroine’s moral belief in chastity is challenged by a character she has begun to think of in a romantic way and the heroine gives a great “No” answer.

My take on all this is: Weave in the spiritual plot through “parable/story style” not preachy style.

Don't miss the next blog(s) when I will share other writing skills I had to gain mastery in: Goals, Motivation and Conflict; MRU's; and How to Show not Tell. 

What has helped you most in plotting or planning your book? Please reply by leaving a comment and click and share this with friends on Twitter and FB.

Blessings on your day,
Elva Cobb Martin

Friday, July 22, 2016

My Journey to a Book Contract - Five Important Steps (Part 1)

by Elva Cobb Martin

As some of you might know, I signed my first book contract a few months ago with Prism Book Group, for my inspirational romantic suspense, Summer of Deception. What you may not know, is how long it took to come to a contract. 

Here are what I consider five important steps to that elusive contract. I will be sharing them in detail in future blogs:

1) NEVER Give Up!
2) Hone Your Craft - a big, continuing step
3) Importance of Conferences and Writing Groups
4) Help Other Writers
5) Learn How to Submit to Editors and Agents 

I researched and wrote the first draft of Summer of Deception thirty years ago after attending Yvonne Lehman's first Christian writers conference in Black Mountain. I didn't even have a computer and wrote it on a Selectric typewriter. The next year God called me and my husband into the ministry and I stashed the big box of research and first draft up in my attic for the next twenty years where the typed pages turned yellow. After we retired from full-time ministry, I pulled that box down and began rewriting. After I started submitting it to publishers and agents, it was rejected 26 times. I studied craft, revised and rewrote after every rejection. Finally, after submitting the full ms to a Prism editor I met at the Blue Ridge Christian Writers' Conference in 2015, I received the following email from Prism Editor Susan Baganz:

Dear Elva,
    Paula Mowery met you at Blue Ridge and asked me to look at your ms Summer of Deception. I did and I couldn’t put it down. I loved it!  Attached is a publishing contract that includes eBook, print as well as audio publishing with Prism Book Group.
Susan Baganz, Editor
Prism Book Group

Many may reject your ms, but someone will love it, if you don’t give up. Make up your mind you are committed for however long it takes and whatever it takes to get your book written, polished, sold and marketed or indie published. Carve out praying time, writing time, reading time in your genre and honing your craft time.

And here's a scripture promise for you that I often used to overcome discouragement  Phil. 1:7  “Being confident of this very thing that He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus’ Christ.”

Don't miss the next steps in future blogs!

What advice do you have to help someone who feels like giving up on their novel dream? Please leave a comment and share this blog by clicking on the Twitter and FB button below.

Blessings on your day,
Elva Cobb Martin

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Creating a Good Villain and Perfect Setting - Guest Blogger

Today I want to share a blog post by a new author friend, Katherine McDermott. I am currently reading her exciting romantic suspense, Hiding. I highly recommend it.

     In creating romantic suspense the "bad guy" is just as important, if not more important, than the hero and heroine. He must be a "real" person with legitimate motives and his own back story; otherwise, you end up writing a melodrama with stock characters like Dudley Do-right and Snidely Whiplash.
     In my suspense romance Hiding, available at, I gave a lot of thought to my stalker, Alex Sinclair. When Alex was a child his father deserted his mother, and Alex has pent up anger over the abandonment. His fascination with knives is symbolic of his father's action in cutting off his family. Alex is insecure and easily becomes jealous. He hates to look foolish in front of other males.
     At first, he is a strong shoulder to lean on, an excellent financial advisor and friend to the heroine, Teresa, who has lost her father after a long struggle with cancer. Her mother died when Teresa was a child, and her father's medical bills have left her almost destitute. Fortunately, she has a college education and rare artistic talent. Alex goes out of his way to help her, even lending her money, but he finds her desire to establish independence threatening. When he strikes her in anger, she flees to Paris with the last of her savings, hoping to leave his over possessiveness behind. But eventually, he tracks her down.
     A "good villain"? Oxymoron? No. In creating a believable monster who genuinely thinks he has been wronged, an author cranks up the suspense. Breath bated, the reader forges ahead as this legitimately off-balanced person commits acts of increasing atrocity. Like the narrator in Poe's "The Tell Tale Heart," who keeps insisting that he is perfectly sane, the reader sees and fears the psychosis.

The Perfect Oubliette (Forgotten Place)

     After creating an intriguing villain, I needed the perfect setting for the climax of Hiding, available at
Having read a fascinating article in National Geographic about the labyrinth of tunnels under Paris that include a sewer and water system, French resistance outposts from WWII, and the ancient and eerie catacombs, I knew I had the perfect oubliette. The French word oubliette means "forgotten place." An on-line tour of the catacombs gave me a realistic vision of the bone yard. When Alex abducts Teresa and takes her there, she realizes with growing horror there is no better place to kill someone. What notice will be taken of one more set of bones among the many?
     Find the perfect oubliette for your novel and think about important setting can be to the story. In "The Fall of the House of Usher" the crumbling mansion represents the decaying family. The house is attacks strangers; it is almost a living being, another character. The crack that widens and causes its ultimate destruction
symbolizes the hereditary thread of insanity that runs through the Usher family which culminates with Roderick and Madeline.

Katherine McDermott was born and raised in Charleston, S.C. She is a retired English teacher and guidance counselor with degrees from the College of Charleston and Citadel. She has articles published in numerous publications and her Hiding ms was a finalist in the Daphne Du Maurier Kiss of Death Contest. She has published children's books and co-authored South Carolina Lighthouses.

Connect with Katherine McDermott

I hope you enjoyed this guest blog by Katherine. How have you created your villain?  Have you found a great setting or "oubliette?" Do leave a comment and share with your friends.

Elva Cobb Martin

Friday, June 10, 2016

Stop,Drop and Roll: Adding the Crisis Scene by Guest Janice Thompson

Stop, Drop and Roll: Adding the Crisis Scene  
By Janice Hanna Thompson
"Love, Laughter and Happily Ever Afters!"

You’re at the ¾ point in your novel and facing that all-important crisis scene. The Supreme Ordeal. The Black Moment. The Big Gloom. You know it’s critical to the story’s survival, and you want it to be the best it can be. Still, you’re unsure of how to progress. How does one go about writing a crisis scene, anyway? What does a confused writer need to know? It’s as easy as “Stop, Drop and Roll!”

Stop the clock. Make the reader feel like time is standing still. Like they can’t possibly breathe until you start the clock again.
Stop the romance. There’s a time to kiss…and a time to save the planet. It’s time to save the planet.
Stop the sunlight. It’s time to cover your story in shadows.
Stop the reader’s heart. Leave him breathless and worried.
Stop the POV character’s chances of survival. Things have to look hopeless at this point in the story.
Stop pretending the POV character’s got it all together. Every flaw is now exposed and every hidden motive revealed.
Stop the cheerful chatter. No time to sound uplifting or cheerful. The crisis scene calls for tense, sobering word choices.
Drop the plotline. You’ve been building, building, building. Now let it plummet.
Drop your reader’s hope. Make him think the story can’t possibly work out.
Drop your POV characters to a physical low.
Drop your POV characters to an emotional low.
Drop the lengthy narrative. Crisis scenes call for short, quick dialogue and very little narrative. Cut off words by using –em dashes. Leave off tags. Push aside descriptives. Cut to the chase.

Roll up your sleeves. Writing the crisis scene is tough work. You need to learn how to do it effectively.
Roll up (tighten) the tension coil. Tighter! Tighter! Tighter!
Roll over and play dead. Your character has to face death (death of a dream, death of a romance, death of hope, etc.) This isn’t a physical death, of course, though it might look as if your primary POV character might face a literal death.
Roll out the punches. Your character’s going to have to come out swinging.
Roll out the sword! Your character needs to be armed and ready to do battle.
Roll the stone away from the cave. Resurrection day is coming!
Roll toward the resolution. Everything has to turn out okay in the end.

The next time you face a crisis scene in your book, just think of these three little words: Stop, Drop and Roll!”

If you’re looking for additional help with your plotline, consider Janice's fiction writing course. It’s loaded with helpful information for novelists and will give you the tools you need to keep the plot going. Check out her site at

Thanks for stopping by. Do leave a comment if this article was helpful. Do you have a plan in writing your crisis scene or Black Moment?

Elva Cobb Martin

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Crafting Great Dialog by Guest Andrea Merrell

Crafting Great Dialogue

By Andrea Merrell  from 

Dialogue can make or break a story—too much, too little, too stilted, or too corny.

When we read, we want to see the characters interacting with each other. Whether they're arguing, sharing secrets, or just getting to know each other, we want the communication to be real and flow in such a way that we get pulled into the story.

As writers, we all have a unique voice. When we create our characters, they will also have a voice. The problem occurs when all of our characters have our voice instead of their own. How boring for our readers if everyone in our story sounds the same.

Tips To Remember When Crafting Dialogue
  • Use believable, down-to-earth dialogue that fits your character.
  • Don’t be afraid to use contractions, since that’s the way most people talk.
  • Be mindful of the setting, especially if it’s historical.
  • Make your words fit the culture.
  • Consider the age of your characters.

Using speaker beats and tags will enhance your dialogue. Let’s look at both.

Speaker Tags
A speaker tag shows the speaker’s name and a speech-related verb (said, asked, shouted). This is generally the best way to show which of your characters is speaking, but sometimes we tend to overuse them. They're not necessary each and every time someone speaks, especially in a long section of dialogue.

Example: “That’s a lovely dress you’re wearing,” Wendy said.
                   “Thank you so much,” Beverly replied.
                    “Would you tell me where you got it?” Wendy said.
                   “Sure. It came from Dillard’s,” Beverly answered.

Do you see how annoying that could get?

Note: This is a common error when using speaker tags:  “That’s a pretty scrawny dog,” Jim laughed. Since Jim cannot laugh that comment, the proper way would be: “That’s a pretty scrawny dog.” Jim laughed. Do you see the difference? In the second example, there is a period after the word dog instead of a comma. The problem with this is that the second example now becomes a speaker beat instead of a tag.

Speaker Beats
A speaker beat describes the action that accompanies what the speaker is saying (like the example above). Here is another example:

“I can’t believe you said that to me.” Jessie grabbed her keys and headed for the door.

Note: Just like the speaker tags, don’t overuse beats. Too many will interrupt the flow of dialogue. They're not necessary every time but work well to help set the scene when used correctly. You can also use them at the beginning instead of the end:

Jessie grabbed her keys and headed for the door. “I can’t believe you said that to me.”

Know your characters well and present them in such a way your readers will not forget them.

What secrets can you share about crafting dialogue? We would love to hear your suggestions.

(Photos courtesy of Isolated Images.)


Thank you, Andrea, for this great article on dialog! I am sharing it and hope all our readers will do the same.
Elva Cobb Martin