Nancy's Books

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Idea to Finished Manuscript, Part 1

Ideas are a dime a dozen (or even cheaper), so what do you do with a story idea? When an idea pops into my head, crawls, or leaps there, it may be in the form of a phrase, an interesting character, or maybe a situation. I tend to let the idea linger. Some loiter so long, the story practically develops in this stage as it forms a mental movie. As days turn into weeks, the story evolves and grows. Characters become clearer and names attach. Has this happened to you?

Of course, there are other techniques to develop story ideas. While I tend to let stories percolate until the characters are strong enough to come to life on paper, sometimes I take an idea and immediately construct a character and plot. Different methods work for different writers at different times.

As you mull the idea, bend it, twist it to see what could happen. Make it different in some respect from any book you’ve read.  Begin by giving your character an overpowering urge to do something, something the character needs to accomplish. This driving urge is the power behind your character that will propel the story forward.

Next week, I’ll post techniques for turning an idea into a finished manuscript.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Advocate is interested in feature stories, ‘think’ pieces, humor, profiles, original recipes, puzzles, short stories, poetry, cartoons, line drawings, wood-cut prints, lithograph prints, metal-plate engraving prints, and photos.

Poetry may be sent individually or in batches and may be of any length.
Prose pieces should not exceed 1500 words.
Submission guidelines at

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Character’s Silent Language, Part III

Let’s look at some ways to show characters’ nonverbal expressions:

Happiness: smile, crinkled nose, bright eyes, raised eyebrows, swinging arms, relaxed shoulders, open-mouth smile.
Sadness: pouting lips, tears, red eyes, drippy nose, stooped shoulders, head hanging low, lack of eye contact, frowning, trembling body.
Fear: wide eyes, closed eyes, trembling hands, hunched shoulders, open mouth, tears, arms wrapped around body, body in fetal position, white-knuckle grip, shaking head in denial.
Anger: flared nostrils, fists, swinging arms, flushed checks, wide-eyed stare, pounding fists, breathing deeply.
Curiosity: moving toward something, parted lips, squinting eyes, reaching out to touch, delighted smile.
Stubbornness: shake head, stomp foot, cross arms, turn head away from speaker, walk away.
Try using a variety of silent language expressions to offer more information to the reader.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Chicken Soup for the Soul. My Very Good, Very Bad Dog

Our dog books are so popular that we do a new one every other year. We are now collecting

 stories for our 2016 edition. We want your funny stories, your heartwarming stories, and your

mindboggling stories about all the very good, very bad, simply amazing things that your dog

does. What have you learned from your dog? How does your dog improve your life? What crazy

things does your dog do? Has your dog ever done anything heroic? How does your dog warm

your heart and make you smile? We want to hear all about the absurd antics, funny habits and

insightful behavior of your dog. Stories can be serious or humorous. The deadline date for story

and poem submissions is August 31, 2015.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Character's Silent Language, Part III

Social scientists state that 93% of all communication is nonverbal. So how do we transfer this information into our writing and allow the reader to gauge a character’s emotions?

Touch is a common practice. People who engage in conversation often touch each other. Is the touch friendly, playful, comforting, encouraging, assaulting, or indicating some other feeling? Also consider the person who is being touched. The intent may be interpreted differently by the person being touched. How long did the touch last? Was it flirtatious?
Repetitive movement. Does the character repeatedly run his finger through is hair when nervous? Bite fingernails? Stick out his jaw when angry. People exhibit different mannerisms and characters should reflect these specific and different gestures, as well.
Since so much of our communication is conveyed through silent language, such as gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, and proximity, let’s incorporate these expressions and mannerisms into our writing for a more realistic approach to developing characters.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Chicken Soup for the Soul. My Very Good, Very Bad Cat

Our cat books are so popular that we do a new one every other year. We are now collecting

stories for our 2016 edition. We want your funny stories, your heartwarming stories, and your

mindboggling stories about all the very good, very bad, simply amazing things that your cat

does. What have you learned from your cat? How does your cat improve your life? What crazy

things does your cat do? Has your cat ever done anything heroic? How does your cat warm your

heart and make you smile? We want to hear all about the absurd antics, funny habits and

insightful behavior of your cat. Stories can be serious or humorous. The deadline date for story

and poem submissions is August 31, 2015.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Character’s Silent Language, Part II

      The silent language of characters revs up a reader’s imagination and perceptions. Alert readers interpret nonverbal communication between characters as foreshadowing future events and actions.

Facial expressions can show fear, glee, anger, sadness, joy, and disappointment. A smile rounds a person’s eyes and raises their cheeks. A frown can wrinkle a nose and forehead. Fear sometimes opens a child’s mouth. So does surprise. People consciously and unconsciously express feelings through body language so our characters should do likewise.
The way the character walks, stands, and sits can also relay information to the reader. Angry people walk with a heavy gait and may stomp a foot…or two. Sadness may be depicted with a shuffle of feet or stooped shoulders. A character that skips along is probably happy and one that walks with a straight back and head held high shows confidence.
The character’s eye contact tells a lot. Direct eye contact implies truthfulness and self-assurance. A character that looks away may be lying or perceived to lack confidence.
When you add nonverbal communication in your story, you add depth to a character. Next week, I’ll continue this article.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Front Porch, the online literary journal of Texas State University’s MFA, invites all writers to submit works of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Front Porch is dedicated to publishing the most celebrated talents in contemporary writing published alongside exceptional new voices. Our editors seek out both innovative and traditional literature. In short, we’re looking for insightful and relevant writing that excels, regardless of form, theme, or style.

 Our submissions are rolling with no deadline and submitted online through Front Porch’s online submission manager.



Sunday, June 7, 2015

Character’s Silent Language, Part 1

In real life we often give away more information than we intend to through our expressions, mannerisms, and body language. The same works for characters. Those important nuances allow the reader to “see” the character in action without the writer relying totally upon dialog to tell the tale.
Communication between characters is critical to move the story forward and to tell the story. Dialog is a typical form of communication, but the nonverbal type can be effectively incorporated into a story with a few tricks of the trade.
Spend some time becoming acquainted with your character. Write his/her bio.
Where is the character likely to hang out?
What is important to him/her?
Does the character walk with a swagger or shuffle along?
Is technology always in hand?
Tattoos? If so, what and where? And why, of course. Are they prominently displayed or just peeking out or completely covered?
Eye contact? Does the character lean toward or stand back from the other characters? Interaction with friends? And strangers?
Extrovert or introvert?
Know your main character before you begin writing and the writing will go smoother and faster.
Next week, I’ll focus more on nonverbal communication.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
THE NOTEBOOK  is seeking submissions for its next issue. Published biannually by the Grassroots Women Project, The Notebook, seeks work by female or male writers, photographers & digital visual artists with rural or small town roots. We are interested in progressive thinking—past, present or visionary—that explores a spectrum of authentic experiences for women and girls in rural areas and small towns in any of the world’s cultures.

Submission guidelines at  

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Delicious Story Development/Call for Submissions

The first paragraph should introduce the main character and show the character in action. Soon, very soon, introduce the problem. The main character needs to face difficulty early in the first chapter. In picture books, introduce the problem within the first three pages.

The second course is the middle. This is where the story can sag and become boring. Enhance the flavor with surprising, unexpected problems for the main character. When we increase the tension, we reel in the reader. Throw more obstacles/challenges at the character so s/he will struggle even more. Their lives should become more complicated. As one problem is resolved, replace it with an even greater one. Emotions should reach their peak as the character faces what seem insurmountable odds, a true crisis. Always keep in mind what would happen if the protagonist fails.
The third course is dessert, the story ending that is sweet and delicious. If the protagonist hasn’t resolved all issues to a satisfactory conclusion, at least, there should be hope. Two ideas to keep in mind when writing endings: what does the reader expect and what works best for your story. The key to a successful conclusion is the hero getting what s/he wants most, not necessarily getting everything.
Ideas are aromas. They tease us with a whiff of what could develop in a story. They are merely seeds that need to be planted, cultivated, and harvested to produce a delicious story.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Dream Quest One Poetry and Writing Contest! This poetry contest and writing contest is open to everyone and international.  We are excited about showcasing the creative writing and poetic talent, skill and ability of all poets and writers.  We hope that you have inspiration to display the beauty and art of writing short stories and poems for the entire world to see your "gift of a dream."

Writing Contest entries
may be written on a maximum of (5) pages, either neatly handwritten or typed, single or double line spacing, on any subject or theme.
  • Poetry Contest entries may be written on any subject or theme. All poems must be 30 lines or fewer and either neatly handwritten or typed, single or double line spacing.
The Mission of Dream Quest One Poetry & Writing Contest is to inspire, motivate and encourage anyone having the desire or love of poetry and writing, to continue doing so without fear of failure or success! Remember, in whatever you do, "it's okay to dream," for dreams do come true...
Deadline: July 31, 2015
Submission Guidelines at

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Story Beginnings/Call for Submissions

I recently heard a speaker compare a story to a dinner. The beginning is the appetizer. Appetizers are delicate, interesting pieces that tantalize the hunger and make us anticipate the meal with high expectations. The story middle is the main course, satisfying and delicious. That leaves the ending dessert, which should be small (short) and sweet. A happy ending works well in children’s literature. The reader closes the book feeling fulfilled and looking forward to the next literary meal.

The beginning is the most difficult part of the story to write. Let’s look at some ways to tantalize the reader.
The first sentence should be intriguing or exciting to hook the reader’s interest. Let’s look at some ways to do hook ‘em in.
Humor is an effective method.
Ragweed by Avi begins with "Ma, a mouse has to do what a mouse has to do." That sentence sets the tone for the humorous book.
Build excitement or tension.
The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy: “Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches stood at the top of a high mountain surrounded by a pine forest.”
By creating a mystery or a problem.
I began my book, Amazing Grace, with “My day began like every other day in 1944—ordinary—then the mysteries unfolded, not one, but two.”
By challenging (or reversing) the reader's expectations.
Try writing a beginning line for this type of opening. I’ll start. The biggest, baddest wolf in the whole forest feared only one thing—Little Miss Hen.
Practice writing beginning sentences for your manuscript even after it is complete.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Stories of Music. We are seeking new and published authors and artists to share works focused on music and the impact it has on people's lives. Whether it expresses a story of healing, community, cultural or family traditions, musicianship, travel experiences, an historical account, or any other experience with music, we invite you to tell your story. This opportunity is open to anyone, from anywhere in the world.

This page is intended to be a guide as you prepare your submission. If you need any help during the submission process, please contact us. We would be happy to assist you.
Deadline June 1, 2015.
Submission guidelines at