So, You Think You Can Make Readers Laugh?

Interview with Author Erin Taylor Young

Erin Taylor Young and Henry - Author Photo - June 2015 Writing humor isn’t for cowards. Like comedians onstage at the Improv, humor writers don’t really know if their audience will laugh in all the right places, chuckle at just the right time, smile and nod in agreement, or scratch their heads in confusion.

Award winning author Erin Taylor Young tickles funny bones with ease as she shares her faith one giggle at a time. Her debut book, Surviving Henry, was chosen as the Nonfiction Book of the Month by the The Book Club Network’s Readers’ Choice Awards and is a finalist in the Published Memoir category in the 2015 Oregon Christian Writers Cascade Awards.

Please join me in welcoming Erin as she shares her insight on writing humor.

Xochi: Congratulations on the release of Surviving Henry, Erin. Please tell us how you came to write about your hilarious experiences with your adorable Boxer.

Erin:  Early in Henry’s ludicrous string of near-death fiascoes, I remember thinking: Oh. My. Gosh. People will never believe the stuff this dog does. I oughta be writing it down…

Like that would prove it really happened or something?

So I guess in part I just wanted to have a record of it. But I don’t think that alone would’ve been sufficient to make me torture myself at the keyboard day after day, trying to turn words into coherent sentences. I think it really boiled down to a nudge from God. He gave me the most ridiculous and difficult dog in maybe the whole wide world, and there came a point where I couldn’t not write about it.

And when readers tell me their trials and escapades, and how much the book helped them to know they’re not alone with their crazy—and sometimes very hard—pet struggles, well, then I’m really glad I wrote it all down.

Xochi: Have you always considered yourself a humor writer?

Erin: I never saw myself turning into a writer, let alone a humor writer. I wanted to be a composer, but God had other ideas. Which is good, because it turns out that I’m not a very talented musician.

What I do have is a life filled with “Oh, sure, it’s funny now” stories—the kind you wish happened to other people instead of you. Writing about them feels like a natural consequence, like I’m just playing the hand I’ve been dealt.

Xochi: How can writers determine if they have the knack for writing humor?

Erin: If people laugh at what you write, that’s a pretty good tip-off. And I mean laugh in a funny ha-ha way, not in a “bless your heart that’s terrible” way.

Xochi: What are the pros and cons of identifying yourself as a humor writer?

Erin Taylor Young - Surviving Henry Book Cover - June 2015

Surviving Henry: Adventures in Loving a Canine Catastrophe

Erin: You know, in the case of humor branding, I think it’s better to let that label happen naturally.

I can say anything I want about my writing, but it won’t mean much if readers, editors, and other industry professionals don’t agree.

I wrote a guest post for The Steve Laube Agency Blog about this very thing. And yes, it’s an “Oh sure, it’s funny now” story involving the first time I met Steve Laube and how I didn’t know I was a humor writer.

Xochi: What are your top tips for humor writers?

Erin:

1. Don’t let anyone change your voice. It’s the most important tool you have. That doesn’t mean you avoid being edited, it means you know yourself well enough to know when your voice is getting stripped away.

2. Find a critique partner who gets you and your humor, and who’s willing to always push you toward excellence.

3. Be natural, but deliberate. Pay attention to how humor works, and the beauty of the unexpected. Make every word and every punctuation mark work for its place.

Xochi: What pitfalls should aspiring humor writers avoid?

Erin: There will be people out there who just don’t get your humor. Be okay with that.

I don’t love every comic out there, or every humor writer—even some that other people laugh at like crazy. So it’s reasonable to expect some people won’t like me. It doesn’t mean I’m a lousy humor writer. Even the greatest baseball players never bat a thousand. Humor writers don’t either. Not with individual jokes, and not with their writing as a whole.

Work on pleasing the readers who get your humor, and don’t feel bad about those who don’t.

Xochi: What would you like to say to those brave souls who may be on the verge calling themselves humor writers?

Erin: If you’ve had multiple people (and not just your mom or your best friend) identify and confirm this gift in you, then go for it!

Be strong and courageous. You have a unique, fun, creative perspective on life, and it’s time to unleash it on the world!

Xochi: Thanks for inspiring us with your contagious joy and charming sense of humor, Erin.

Erin: Thanks for inviting me, Xochi!

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You can enjoy a faith-filled life with a laugh when you connect with Erin on Facebook, Twitter, on her website, or by subscribing to her blog.

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Are you a humorous writer? Join the conversation by leaving a comment or question below.

Xochi DixonWith a heart for loving God, loving people, and nurturing spiritual growth, Xochi (so-she) E. Dixon encourages and equips women to experience the fragrance of God’s presence through prayerful study and application of His Holy Word at www.xedixon.com.

 

 

The Art of Writing Romance Novels

An Interview with Author Keli Gwyn

Keli Gwyn Historical Author Photo June 2014A good love story keeps readers turning pages as they cheer for characters who struggle to overcome the obstacles that keep them apart. Yet not many writers realize the complexity of writing romance novels.

Award winning author Keli Gwyn delights readers with relatable characters, unexpected plot twists, surprising humor and tender love stories. Her debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, won first place in the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Awards.

Please welcome Keli Gwyn as she celebrates her latest release, a Love Inspired Historical title, Family of Her Dreams, and shares about the art of writing romance novels.

Xochi: Thank you for joining us, Keli. Congratulations on your newest release. Would you please tell us a little bit about the fun event you have planned to celebrate the launch of your first Love Inspired novel, Family of Her Dreams?

Keli: Thanks for inviting me, Xochi. It’s great to be here.

I’m exited about the event, which takes place this coming Sunday (details below). My Book Release Party is being held at the very railroad station in Shingle Springs where the (fictional) hero of my story, Spencer Abbott, is stationmaster. It’s where he meets Tess Grimsby, the headstrong woman who will become his housekeeper.

My guests will be able to purchase the book, enjoy refreshments and browse in the quaint Antique Depot shop operating in the historic building still standing today. In addition, the Western El Dorado Railroad will be offering rides that day for a nominal fee.

Xochi: Celebrating the novel release at the same train station your fictional characters meet sounds exciting. What role do setting and time period play in romance novels?

Keli: The setting, especially real ones like I use, can bring a historic location to life in readers’ minds. Through the descriptions sprinkled in a story, they can travel to a new place. Depending on the period the author has chosen, readers will experience what life was like at that particular time. For example, Shingle Springs is a sleepy small town these days, but in 1865 when Family of Her Dreams begins, it was home to one of the busiest rail depots in the state. Readers will see a bustling community that played an important role in California’s history.

Xochi: What are the most important elements of a good romance novel?

Keli: Creating likable characters readers want to spend time with is important in any story. In a romance we must go beyond that and show the deepening relationship between the hero and heroine. In inspirational romance, we focus primarily on the couple’s emotional journey rather than physical attraction. There are kisses, of course, and we inpsy authors learn how to get the most out of them. 😉

Xochi: What should writers be wary of when crafting their love stories?Keli Gwyn Book Cover - Family of Her Dreams  - June 2015

Keli: It’s important to remember that a romance is first and foremost about the relationship between the hero and heroine. Plot is important, but the focus needs to be on the couple and their journey to the Happy Ever After, which romance readers expect and eagerly await.

Xochi: Please share a few tips on developing the perfect couple for a romance novel.

Keli: Our heroes and heroines need to be strong characters. They’re bigger than life. Readers don’t want to read about ordinary people. They want stories about extraordinary people. It’s important to show attraction, but there can and should be sparks at times. Readers want to see how a couple handles the many obstacles we writers throw at them. In inspirational romances, readers want to see the role faith plays in the hero and heroine’s lives as well.

Xochi: What stereotypes should writers avoid?

Keli: Readers want characters with depth. Cowboys are a reader favorite in the Love Inspired Historical Line, but if a LIH author creates a cowboy hero, he has to have traits and characteristics that set him apart. If he acts and sounds like a stereotypical cowboy, he won’t endear himself to readers.

Although our heroines are strong women, they are unique. Each heroine has to become a real, distinct person in a reader’s mind. A heroine has to be someone the reader relates to, admires and might even want to be more like.

Xochi: What should writers keep in mind when plotting a romance novel?

Keli: Keeping the couple together is key. Most scenes should include the hero and heroine. Each scene should advance the story and not be episodic. The turning points and Black Moment should relate to the couple and their relationship. The external plot needs to be there, but the romance takes top billing.

Xochi: Would you please explain the concept of the Black Moment?

Keli: The Black Moment comes just before the end of a story. It’s that point in time when everything appears to be falling apart.

In a romance it takes place when the hero and heroine appear to have resolved all their issues. However, something comes along that makes it seemingly impossible for them to end up together. All is lost–or so they think.

In The Sound of Music Maria realizes she’s fallen for the Captain and returns to the abbey confused and conflicted. The Mother Abbess convinces Maria the only way to resolve things is to go back and face her fears–and the Captain. She does, arriving filled with hope of a future with the man she loves. But then comes the Black Moment: the Captain is already engaged. There’s no way Maria’s dream can come true. Of course, it does, but before it does the reader/viewer experiences the pain of dashed hopes along with Maria. The Black Moment makes the long-awaited Happy Ever After that much sweeter.

Xochi: What sets apart a romance novel from a novel that has romantic elements?

Keli: In a romance novel, the developing relationship is the primary focus of the story, taking precedence over the external plot. In a novel with strong romantic elements, the romance is there, but it is secondary. Think of The Sound of Music. If you removed the romance between Captain VonTrapp and Maria, the story wouldn’t be the gem it is. This classic movie has stood the test of time not because it’s a great WWII story, but because it’s a wonderfully satisfying romance.

Xochi: What advice would you give an aspiring romance novelist?

Keli: Read plenty of romances to see how other authors craft a story. Then sit down and have fun writing yours.

Let the words flow freely. Don’t expect your first romance to be a work of genius. Allow yourself time to learn and grow as a writer without putting undue pressure on yourself. Spend time studying craft. When others knowledgeable about the romance genre tell you you’re ready to put your work out there, begin querying.

Xochi: Thank you for joining us, Keli. I look forward to reading Family of Her Dreams.

Keli: Thank you so much for hosting me, Xochi, and for asking such insightful questions. You really made me think. 🙂

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Visit Keli’s website to connect with her and purchase copies of her books. You can also find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Please join us to celebrate the release of Family of Her Dreams on Sunday, June 14, 2015 at the Antique Depot, 4241 Mother Lode Drive in Shingle Springs, California, from 11 am to 2:30 pm.

Call the Antique Depot at (530) 677-5542 with questions.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Xochi DixonWith a heart for loving God, loving people, and nurturing spiritual growth, Xochi (so-she) E. Dixon encourages and equips women to experience the fragrance of God’s presence through prayerful study and application of His Holy Word at www.xedixon.com.

 

 

Copyright © 2015 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Cover art and cover copy text used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license

Get Inspired: Fiction Author Panel June 20

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Join us next Saturday, June 20th as we host a panel of fiction authors who’ll answer your questions about the craft, editing and publication.

We’ll meet at Oasis Christian Mission Center

10255 Old Placerville Road, Sacramento, CA

9:30am to Noon

Members attend free, non members pay $15 at the door.

Meet the panelists:

 

Morgan BusseMorgan L. Busse writes fantasy for the adult market. She is the author of the Follower of the Word series, including Daughter of Light, Christy and Carol Award finalist. Morgan lives on the West Coast with her husband and four children. You can find out more about Morgan on her website.

 

 

 

Shannon Dittemore_cropped

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a love of all things literary. When she isn’t writing, she spends her days with her husband, Matt, imagining things unseen and chasing their two children around their home in Northern California. Connect with Shannon on her website. 

 

 

BootsElaine Faber is a member of Sisters in Crime, Cat Writers Association (yes, you read that right!) and Inspire Christian Writers, where she serves as our distribution coordinator and as an editor for the annual Inspire anthology. Elaine has published three novels, most recently, Black Cat and the Accidental Angel. Her short stories are in multiple anthologies. Stop by Elaine’s website to learn more about her and her writing.

 

 

1013122_1385472168352270_778892518_n(3)Joanne Butterfield writes historical fiction. Her debut novel, The Dust Settles is the story of an Iowa farm family at the end of the Dust Bowl. The second book in The Planting trilogy releases later this year. She also writes and teaches Bible studies after serving for 20 years as a discussion leader and class administrator for Bible Study Fellowship. Recently retired, she took part in UCDavis’ Creative Writing Program. Joanne lives to read, write, walk and take vacations with her husband, Phil. She finds great joy in her involvement in the lives of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchilren. You can connect with Joanne on Facebook.

 

 

Bring your fiction questions and your writing friends.

Writing Past the Doubts

I’ve just broken through a 3-day writing slump. For three solid days I couldn’t write a cohesive sentence to save my life, which thank God, was never threatened.

37323112_sLast week I committed to a writing project that I’m very excited about. I also committed to work with a mentor to (finally!) dust off a project that stalled out a few years ago. These two writing decisions brought me a brief episode of euphoria. I re-worked my schedule to accommodate them and bellied-up to the keyboard ready for adventure.

And you know what happened?

Doubt.

Suddenly, I was hammered by it.

All the voices in my head formed a choir that serenaded me day and night. “You’re no good, you’re no good, you’re no good. Baby you’re no good!”

And you know what I did?

I believed them. In fact, I helped them build a case against me. I remembered every rejection, tough critique and bad grade I ever received. It’s amazing how the mind works. I forget why I walked into the garage, but can recall with perfect clarity every criticism that’s come my way.

For the past 24 hours I thought of all the ways I could graciously wiggle out of my writing projects. After all, “I’m no good!”

Then, I decided to fight back. I put my pen to the pages of my prayer journal and cried out for help. I asked for renewed passion and for a little inspiration to get me over the hump.

And you know what happened?

I sat down and wrote. And wrote. And wrote.

The words flowed effortlessly and landed on the page as though they belonged there. I wrote thousands of words including a chapter, an outline and a couple of blog posts. Tomorrow I’ll finish my submission for the Inspire Forgiveness anthology.

The euphoria is back! I just needed to pray and write.

What do you do when you’re assailed by doubt?

beth_thompson brightElizabeth M Thompson hosts weekly Open Studio writing times in her home because she loves to write in a quiet house filled with other creatives creating. When she’s not reading, writing, or serving the Inspire writers, she can be found along the American River, pedaling her bike, paddling a kayak or walking hand-in-hand with her husband Mike. Elizabeth blogs about overcoming on her website and can be found on Facebook and Twitter if you’d like to connect with her. Be sure to stop by Prayers4Writers every Wednesday evening from 6pm PDT/9pm EDT on Twitter. Use #writetoinspire to join the conversation.

Free One-Year Inspire Christian Writers Membership

17823873_sWe interrupt this blog post with a quick announcement:

Because we had such a great response to the survey and received so much helpful feedback, we’ve drawn two winners instead of one!

And the winners are…

Linda Lohman

Jane Daly

Congratulations to you both! You will receive a free one-year membership to Inspire Christian Writers (or an extension of your existing membership). Your membership comes with many great benefits. Be sure to take full advantage of them.

The survey results and comments from participants will help us deliver the content you want most. This is what you told us you’d like more of:

  1. Fiction Writing Tips & Training
  2. (tie) Writing Basics/Platform & Marketing/Blogging
  3. Inspiration and Motivation for Writers
  4. Nonfiction Writing Tips & Training
  5. Critique
  6. (tie) Author Interviews/Writing Business
  7. Self-Publishing

Only 4 points separated our highest score from our lowest, showing a very broad interest in all categories. We will increase our posts on Fiction Writing and bring in more fiction speakers. We’ll continue to seek out and present great content in each area. I hope you’ll continue to give us feedback. Let us know what your writing goals are and how Inspire can help you achieve them.

Is there anything about the survey that surprised you? Anything you’d like to add to our list of topics?