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How Dialogue Strengthens Your Manuscript

Writing dialogue is one of my favorite parts of the writing process. If done well, using dialogue can strengthen your manuscript and turn an average story into an engaging ride people will be talking about long after they read it.

Here are 3 examples of how your story benefits from good dialogue.

 

  1. Dialogue puts you into the action

I love starting my chapters off with dialogue because it helps get out of the need to introduce everything, but instead drops your reader into a specific moment. If you’re stuck on how to get your characters into a certain conversation, just begin a scene with the conversation and work from there.

 

  1. Dialogue establishes character dynamics

When writing dialogue, you not only get to write what people say, but you also get to include dialect, body language, and how characters think and feel about each other. All of which are opportunities for you to give your characters depth in each conversation.

 

  1. Dialogue advances the plot

Conversations are necessary to inform the reader on motivation and a means to get to the next step of the plot. If you have a limited narrator, you also need to hear from your other characters in order to get an idea of what they’re thinking. Advancements include: getting a significant question answered, interviewing a character in a mystery, or encouraging a different direction or goal.

 

Warning! It’s easy to write poor dialogue, so here are a few tips on how to avoid common mistakes.

  1. Don’t overuse dialogue tags (said, told, replied, exclaimed, etc)
  2. If you have more than 2 people talking, make sure your reader knows when you switch to a new speaker while also following tip number 1.
  3. Drop and indent each time a character speaks. This structure makes it easy for the reader to follow along.
  4. Read your dialogue to make sure your characters have a unique voice and that it sounds natural. Writing conversations don’t need perfect grammar.

 

Get to know your characters, drive your story, and have fun with it!

Do you find it easy or difficult to write dialogue? Let us know!

Don’t forget to check out Write2Ignite’s masterclass with Joyce Moyer Hostetter where you can learn even more about dialogue and other writing essentials. Click here to learn more.


Leah Jordan Meahl writes to encourage both the rooted and the wandering Christian to go deeper. She’s a born and bred Jesus-follower hailing from Greenville, South Carolina. She’s a lover of devotional writing as well as fiction. Her newest book Pebbles: 31 days of faith enriching parables is set to release August 2020. Feel free to visit her blog. And ‘like’ her on Facebook.

 

Writing Workshops and Why You Should be in One!

Presenting to a writing workshop or class always made me feel like I was about to ride a rollercoaster. Though I like rollercoasters,  my heart and stomach do a sickening tango due to exhilaration and fear. Writing workshops are well worth the nausea, however, and you should be in one to take full advantage. Just as a rollercoaster, you might discover you like the ride!

In high school, my teachers and peers praised my writing and I even earned some county awards. I was proud and thought that it was a good start to my writing journey. But when I got to my senior level writing courses in college, my writing took on a whole new life.

The Process

Most of my creative writing courses were in the form of a ‘roundtable.’ We’d discuss the basics of writing, dive into a particular style or subject, and come back the next week with a polished piece ready to be critiqued.

Critiquing is an intimidating word and so is the experience. We mustn’t forget though, with critiquing comes value. Up until then, people just kept telling me that my writing was great, which was awesome, but I didn’t know how to get better. Until these classes, that is.

Each member would take a turn in reading their piece and the rest would mark corrections and insights on each paper. At the end, we would discuss a variety of changes or enhancements to the writing.

Some of my favorite tips include:

  • Be careful of too many “I” statements when writing in 1st person
  • Break up large paragraphs for an easier read
  • Cut as many adverbs as possible
  • You don’t need to wrap up an ending like a perfect gift to your reader

The Result

With such help from my teachers and peers, I watched as my writing transformed from class to class. I became more action focused and recognized my weaknesses, which I stay more aware of in my current writing. Not only did I find that my writing had changed, but I also found that critiquing someone else’s writing helped me apply those critiques to my own.

Workshopping provided avenues to new and different styles and gave me the tools to go over my own writing with a fine-tooth comb. My professor gave the best piece of advice for someone who wanted to pursue writing. Her advice was to find a writing group. It took me awhile to realize just how right she was.

Now, I’m learning to rediscover the love I had for the groups, because of their ability to facilitate loving and supportive growth.

If you’re looking to give your writing a jumpstart, Write2Ignite’s master class with Joyce Moyer is a great place to start! Click here to learn more!

The format may be different this year, but Write2Ignite has been a great help to me. Check out my post here where I share about my first experience at Write2Ignite in 2017.

Have you been part of a critique group? What are some of your favorite tips from critiquing?

Happy writing!


Leah Jordan Meahl writes to encourage both the rooted and the wandering Christian to go deeper. She’s a born and bred Jesus-follower hailing from Greenville, South Carolina. She’s a lover of devotional writing as well as fiction. Her newest book Pebbles: 31 days of faith enriching parables is set to release August 2020. Feel free to visit her blog here, and ‘like’ her on Facebook.

Why You Should Write Your Book Proposal Now

If you are gung ho on getting a book published, be it your first or 20th, one essential component you’ll need is a book proposal. Whether you’re in the brainstorming process or just about to type “the end,” I suggest that writing the proposal sooner rather than later will help sharpen your manuscript in the long run.

A book proposal is a packet of information about you and your book. Once you’ve pitched or queried your idea to a publisher or literary agent and they responded with interest, you will send your best representation of your book which will be the proposal.

If you’d like to know how to write a proposal, check out this article

With your proposal, you’ll ask these five questions which will ultimately help you write your book.

  1. What’s my message?

Understand the point you’re trying to make to your readers. Do you want them to know what true love looks like? Do you want them to know that though life can get rough, they are never alone? These messages come across through your themes. If you can articulate it, you will write with a clearer purpose.

  1. What’s my story about?

Many writers hate that question because it means we have to boil hours of thinking and writing into one or two sentences. A proposal is no different. You will need to not only communicate your plot in one sentence, but also again as a paragraph. Each step allows you figure out your hook, your conflict, and your stakes involved. What is going to grab and keep the reader’s attention for the whole story?

  1. What’s my plot?

Now that you have a concise picture of your story, you can write a synopsis. A synopsis is like a play-by-play of your plot. In a handful of pages, you must go through the whole book’s diagram: exposition, inciting incident, rising tension, climax, and resolution. Writing the synopsis will help you as the author understand where you want your story to go and how you’ll get there. At this stage, you might begin to see what does and what doesn’t make sense in your original idea.

  1. What’s my character’s arc?

Everyone knows that a good character needs to have a good character arc, a journey of change that takes place throughout the story. One example is a protagonist who learns to make peace with his/her past. Your plot might be solid, but if your characters have no journey, they become unrelatable and flat. Publishers are looking for that specific arc, and they don’t have time to read the whole manuscript to find it, so you must know it and know how you’re going to achieve it.

  1. What’s my market/audience?

We all like to believe that we write for whoever will read our books, but while we might have truth for readers from all walks of life, we do have a specific audience. In order to understand who you’re writing for, you need to understand what you write. Do you write cozy mysteries? Children’s books? Fantasy? Science Fiction?

When you understand your genre, you have a better idea of the people who read that genre. Do you write for ladies looking for light reads, parents looking for sweet and fun books to read for their kids, or teenagers looking for adventure?

If you get to know your audience, you find what’s already out there in your genre, and you get to know the needs of your readers and market in general. These elements will not only show a publisher that you’ve researched the market, but it will also reflect in your writing.

 

A book proposal is a challenging task, but it comes with its rewards as well. By the time you finish that manuscript, you will be one step closer to sending it out and drumming up interest. A bonus will be that you’ll have a coherent answer to those who ask what you’re working on right now.

What are your favorite proposal elements to think about?

Happy Writing!


Leah Jordan Meahl is an up and coming Christian author who writes for both the rooted and the wandering faith. She recently published her first novella titled The Threshold,and you can check out more of her work at her blog  James 4:8

Inside the Head of Your YA Protagonist: What You Need to Know

 

Photo by Stanley Morales from Pexels

Last week, I was sitting around a conference table with an enthusiastic group of writers. They passed out their copies and we all took turns offering gentle but constructive feedback. Before I go on, consider joining a critique group; it’s key if you want your writing to grow and your story to be the best it can be.

An older gentleman in the group read his piece, and I was intrigued by the fact that his main character was a 16-year-old girl. The feedback that followed focused on how his MC sounded more like him than a teenage girl. How can he help that? How can you?

Here is a list of details you should keep in mind when writing in the perspective of a YA:

  • Teenagers are in the beginning stages of finding themselves. Even the most mature teenager probably has many underlying insecurities. If it’s not body image, it’s peer pressure, or bullying, or not feeling understood. If you’re writing contemporary YA, you also have the growing amount of mental illness among young people to factor in. It’s not cliché, it’s real life for them.
  • Your characters shouldn’t act too logical or mature. Young adults are still learning about handling conflicts. They are infamous for acting out of emotion.
  • Just like with adult men and women, young adult girls think different than young adult boys. If you’re writing in the perspective of the opposite sex, one of the first details you should research is the mindset of that gender. That way, you won’t impose too much of your own thinking on your character.
  • Seek to understand what abstract concepts look like to young people. What do they fear? Do they have hopes? What does victory look like? How would they describe love? The fears I had at 15 are on a completely different spectrum than the fears I have at 26. And I’m still peeling back the layers of love. Capture that, and your youthful readers will relate better to your characters.
  • Understand your time period. Some of these traits are universal for teens, but some details change depending on the generation you’re exploring. For instance, Generation X seemed to be very keen on getting their driver’s license the day they turned 16, but Gen Z seems less motivated, possibly due to the many rideshare apps. Consider these subtle generational changes when you write.

Now that you have a whole lot to think about, how do you go about answering these questions?

  • Crack open the child psychology books. Rudimentary knowledge of brain development at that age can make a world of difference. Even if your character doesn’t suffer from them, learn about mental illnesses and how they affect emotions and relationships between people that age.
  • Interview your young connections. Sit down with friends and family members, a high school class, or a church youth group and really hear their words. You will get a real visual and auditory understanding of them as well as a peek into their mindset.
  • Find younger beta readers to look over your work and give them questions to focus on regarding character authenticity or plausibility. They may have good feedback that you can include in your manuscript.
  • Research trends, not only in fashion or ideals, but also in how young people are treated by bullies, parents, peers. What responsibilities are common for the age group in question?
  • Most importantly, remember. Remember your adolescence, your struggle, your journey, and your growth. Doing so will provide the heart that your story needs. The research will only enhance your experiences. As the writer, you can confidently give your young adult characters the arc that they need to make a compelling journey.

How do you like to tackle the mind of your YA MC? Let us know!


Leah Jordan Meahl is an up and coming Christian author. She loves to journey with new adults and Christians alike with her blog. Check out her full Bio.

10 Reflections from a New Author

 

This past year has been a special one for the books (pun intended) because I published my first book! As you know, the process is anything but quick, but you can bet that the experience has been rich with lessons that will carry on into my future projects. My brief takeaways might just work as a reminder for you while on your writing journey.

 

  1. Dedicating your work to God makes a world of difference

Writing a book is a daunting task that involves more than just hashing out 300 pages. You have the task of giving a reader an experience, good or bad, influential and entertaining. Praying over my message, my chapters, my ideas and more helped me surrender, knowing God will help, inspire, encourage, and take the book where it needs to go.

  1. Don’t marry your words

This idea comes from one of my writing professors. We writers can get so attached to our words that we fail to receive criticism. When it comes to crafting your ideas effectively, the best practice is to be open minded and flexible.

  1. Your audience is more important than your ‘dream’

I’ve always been so focused on “writing the book” that it hindered me from thinking about who I was writing for. Becoming a writer may have been the dream that got us started, but our attention to our readers allows us to bear good fruit, which is ultimately more fulfilling.

  1. Editing never ends

You can go through your manuscript a hundred times and still find something to tweak. I had several sets of eyes go through my work and I went through in a variety of formats, but the final product still has a few errors. Learn when to let go before you let the editing process keep you from ever publishing.

  1. Rejection doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer

I thought that I would be a mess when I received my first rejection. To my surprise, I had prepared myself enough to be confident despite each “No” from the industry. Publishing houses and literary agents reject for a number of reasons: length of the manuscript, criteria of the publishing house, market need, etc. Let them roll off your back as you continue to learn and grow.

  1. Your work is not less significant if it’s self-published

I always went along with the stigma of self-publishing. Obviously, it meant that the writer wasn’t good enough to get really published. Fortunately, I don’t feel that way now. Though some self-published books are less than good, self-publishing is a great way to learn about formatting and design. It’s also effective in building a readership that publishers ultimately admire.

  1. Don’t skimp on quality

In reference to self-publishing specifically, you are the one with the final say and the same goes for quality. Have editors but don’t rely on just their edits. Go back through yourself. Don’t try and design a cover if you have little to no experience as a graphic designer. Those details will scream low quality and end up hurting your readership. Cost effective solutions are out there, and you’ll be thankful once you have that stellar looking book in your hands.

  1. Marketing is a game: win or lose, you still have to play

Many writers hear the word ‘marketing’ and cringe. Growing your inner marketer is part of the job, and it will include trial and error. Read the books, try new things, get people excited about your work. Marketing is necessary, so bite the bullet. Seeing your platform growing, your calendar filling, and your books selling will make it all worthwhile.

  1. Doubt is part of the territory

No matter where you are in the process, I bet you’ve experienced doubt. I had many doubts right up until my release. We tend to doubt our story is as good as what’s out there. We doubt if anybody will truly enjoy reading our work. The list goes on. But don’t let those feelings keep you from doing it anyway. Keep writing, keep querying, keep advertising, and keep editing. You’ll be glad you did.

  1. Practice makes perfect

This is a lesson we all learn at a young age and it’s no different for the writing and publishing world. The more we read, write, edit and worm our way into the industry, the better we will get. I look forward to the day I can look back at my first book and praise God for how far I’ve come.

What’s something you’ve learned on your writing adventures? Is it on this list or is it something different? Please share with us!

Write on, friends!


Leah Jordan Meahl is an up and coming Christian author. She loves to journey with new adults and Christians alike with her blog. Check out her full Bio.

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