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Carnival of Christian Writers – the Hook

Captain's Log, Stardate 10.27.2006

Blog book giveaway:
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My Monday book giveaway is The Guy I’m Not Dating by Trish Perry.
My Monday book giveaway is Reluctant Burglar by Jill Elizabeth Nelson.
My Thursday book giveaway is In Every Flower by Patti Hill.
You can still enter both giveaways.

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Been there, read that. Today, I'm participating in the Carnival of Christian Writers put on by Writer...Interrupted.

I want to talk about something I've been noticing with the entries I've judged in contests and the critiques I've been doing for the several mentor groups I'm in.

Many writers are good writers. They have good prose, solid dialogue, strong verbs and nouns, interesting adjectives, judicious use of adverbs.

But their story or characters don't stand out.

I've seen this stereotype of heroine in a book I just read. Or this plotline is very cliché and overdone. Or these minor characters are cardboard and unoriginal.

As writers aiming for publication in mainstream, popular fiction, it's no longer enough if our writing is tighter than a lady's corset. We need to make sure our story ideas are fresh, original, and unique.

Granted, there are only 36 Dramatic Situations if you've read Polti (or 55 if you've read Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schmidt), and as Solomon puts it, there's nothing new under the sun.

However, you can write something that you haven't seen lately in print, something interesting and intriguing and unusual. Turn something on its head, surprise your reader, make an editor read your hook and raise his/her eyebrows in curiosity.

Maybe your character can have an unusual vocation. Maybe it's set in a very unique place. Contrast opposite characters or situations. Take things to extremes.

How do you make sure it's something editors haven't seen yet? Read.

You writers are laughing at me. Writers barely have time to keep up with Writers Digest, let alone all the books being printed at this moment.

But you should make it a priority to read in the line, imprint, or publisher you're targeting.

Say you're targeting Steeple Hill's Love Inspired imprint. If you don't keep up with the books they're putting out, you don't know that the last 6 months have had three books with preacher heroes. Or four FBI-agent heroes. Or six teacher heroines. (Not that this is true, but just as an example.)

And then your story about the FBI-agent-turned-preacher who falls for the local special-ed teacher isn't so unique, is it?

Read the bestsellers to try to understand why they're so popular. Spend some time on Amazon looking at the books being put out and reading the back cover blurb or the first few pages using Amazon's Search Inside feature.

Know the market. See what's gotten rave reviews and what hasn't. Then you'll know if your storyline is too out-there, or if it's unusual but still fits into the market.

Make your storyline and characters really pop out at an editor. Make your story so crazy that the editor has to turn the page to see how you pulled it off.

But most of all, pray. Every storyline you come up with, give it right back to God. Because only He knows if that's the story He wants you to write. Only He knows if that's the story He can use to reach people for His purposes and His glory. After all, it's not about us (much as we'd like it to be! LOL).

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance:

The Election by Jerome Teel

Read an excerpt here (.pdf) and check out this great review on the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance blog.


Bible in 90 Days: Day 4. Did Leah know God loved her? Did she respond to Him? Even with her sixth son, she was still focused on her husband’s view of her.

I was talking to MaryLu Tyndall, and we’ve both been convicted about seeking God first no matter what happens with our writing careers. I don’t want to focus on the people around me. I want to keep focus on God.

Writing: I also posted another short article on novel proposals on my Story Sensei blog.


  1. Or one of my fav things to do...when the story begins to get cliched, kill off a main character, so you have to go back and pull someone else as the main. Okay, I'll admit it, I just like killing off the characters! LOL

  2. Very cool post! Thanks, Camy. I've not written a novel yet....but might give birth one day...hehe...

  3. Wow. I've been trying to do just this! You should see my to be read pile!

  4. Great post! I have to say, I always think I'm being original, then BAM...there it is, my idea already in print. OK, maybe not that extreme, but it's happened. And thankfully my TBR pile has been replenished. It's my addiction.

  5. I've always wanted to write, and I read lots. I review books for Active Christian Media, so I see lots of different authors. I just reviewed "Before I Wake" by Dee Henderson, and it was of the most intriguing fiction novels I have ever read. The author knew how to hook you from page one, and keep you guessing throughout the novel!

  6. Good stuff and you're right! I hardly have time to read with all the "interrupted" stuff I do, but I try!

    I haven't put much thought into the uniqueness of my characters and their vocations, but then again, I haven't read any books lately where an archeologist is the heroine. If you come across one, would you please let me know! :)

    Thanks for joinng the carnival!


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