Archive for the ‘Author Tips’ Category

Guest Post: Busy Firefighters Teach Fire Safety, Too!

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Fire Prevention Week

Did you know this week is Fire Prevention Week?! In honor, here is a guest post from Firefighters’ Busy Day author, Maria Bostian.

As Firefighters’ Busy Day shows us, today’s firefighters have lots of important jobs to do. Not only do they train for emergencies, respond to calls, and fight fires; they teach people how to be safe.

This week, busy firefighters all across the county are teaching people about fire safety. It is the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA), Fire Prevention Week which is a popular time for firefighters and families to talk about fire safety and escape planning. This week’s theme focuses on the importance of a quick response to a fire emergency. In home fires, deadly smoke and fire can spread in a matter of minutes. That is why it is important to develop a plan and put it in to practice. As the theme reminds us,

every second truly counts!Click To Tweet

Fire safety tips:

  • Having Two Ways Out of every room in your home may include using windows as exits. Windows? Yes, windows.
  • Make sure your family can open the windows in your home. Are they painted shut? Is heavy furniture blocking them so that someone can’t get out? If you find any hazard that prevents someone from opening their window, be sure to correct it as soon as possible.
  • Also remember that the door most often used, may not be the quickest or safety door to go out during an emergency. For example: If a fire starts in the front of the home, it may be safer to use the back door or a side door to get outside.
  • Where should you go once you get out? That place is called The Meeting Place. It should be a safe distance away from the home and should be where the firefighters can find you. It should be something permanent like a tree or a mailbox; not a car, a kiddy pool, or something else that can be moved or put away for the season.

Every Second Counts so create a plan and practice it often. At a minimum you should practice it twice a year: once during the day and another time at night.

Why don’t you make your plan and practice it this week? Think of it as your Fire Prevention Week homework! When you do, snap a photo and send it to us. Ambassador International would love to show others the steps families take to be “fire safe.” Help us saturate social media with pictures of meeting places, escape plans, two ways out, people checking their windows, etc. Together, we can remind others that EVERY SECOND COUNTS!

To learn more about firefighters and fire safety, download the free coloring sheets from Maria Bostian’s Firefighters’ Busy Day. And feel free to hop over to her blog at www.mariabostian.com for more escape planning and safety information.

Author Forum: How Do You Choose a Book Title?

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This is the fifth of a multi-part series by guest blogger Ivy Cheng tapping into the expertise of several seasoned Ambassador authors. The first post offered tips on dealing with writer’s block. The second post covered the influence other writers can have on your work, the third discussed managing a writing schedule within a busy life and last week’s post provided insight into starting a book project.

Although we always say never judge a book by its cover, it cannot be denied that first impressions are important. When you pick up a book, the first thing you see is a book’s title and cover. It is important to find a title that grabs the reader’s attention, makes an impact, and also reflect the book itself. That is a lot of expectations heaped on just a few words.

 

Juana M9781620202913-e1414700233650ikels – Author of Choosing Him All Over Again 

I was so honored to be a guest on Elisabeth Elliot’s radio program in 1997. We had begun a writing correspondence and she mentored me through her letters. She asked me to come on her program and tell our story. After we finished taping 3 days worth of programs, she said, “Juana, you know you are going to have to write a book. Call it, “Don’t Dump Him.” I was so busy with 4 young children, and my fourth child was born totally blind and partially deaf. Twelve years went by as I was a dyed-in-the-wool stay-at-home-mother and found motherhood absolutely a calling and delightful (nothing will ever surpass it, no book—no accomplishment—nothing. I left a six-figure income with Xerox in sales to teach my children at home. When we stopped home-schooling after 13 years, I began the manuscript entitling it, you guessed it, “Don’t Dump Him.” After I was blessed with an agent, we still kept the title the same as she shopped for publishers. We decided to reverse the title to make it a more positive statement flipping it to, “Choosing Him All Over Again.”  I’m glad we offer that alternative title, and in the end my publisher chose it. That honored my husband too, for he never liked, “Don’t Dump Him!”

 

From Driftwood to SapphireKathy Howard – Author of From Dishes to Snow and From Driftwood to Sapphire

That’s funny you should ask, because I have no process. Though they are not all published yet, by God’s goodness, I have written three books. All three were different when it came to finding a title. From Dishes to Snow was originally titled ‘The Little Red House,’ but that didn’t pop. Not until I was reworking a scene at the end of the book and the words just came out, did I realize that those words needed to be on the front cover as well. From Driftwood to Sapphire’s title came in the middle of writing it. I knew I wanted the sequel to have the same type of title, so I intentionally thought of driftwood and sapphire and did my best to work it into the story. The third novel’s title came before the first word was typed. Since it has not yet been published, I’ll keep its name a mystery for now. 😉 So, the process for creating a title? For me, there is none. The title shows up on its own time table.

Grace in the Middle

Wendy Duke – Author of Grace in the Middle

Choosing a title is definitely tricky.  I wanted the title to convey the message of the story, but also connect a stranger  to the story when he / she picks it up off of a shelf in a bookstore. I’m drawn to bold titles, lyrical titles, and memorable titles.  You want people to remember the name of the book when they talk about it or share it with others. And the title and cover have to tie so closely together; a strong or intriguing title with a cover equally as strong and intriguing is a powerful draw.

 

An9781620202692-197x306drea Rodgers –Author of The 20th Christmas

I always find that coming up with a title is one of the hardest parts of writing a book, what was your process for creating a title?

I really have no one to credit for my titles except God! Every other title I’ve come up with in my life was a struggle (and really terrible titles, haha), but The 20th Christmas were the words I saw when I opened my eyes after having the dream. A similar situation happened with Caged Dove–I was walking around my house with the laundry basket and that title just came to me. When I looked up Scripture about doves, I had chills–Psalm 55:6 fits my book to a T. I knew there was no better way to begin Caged Dove than with that Bible verse!

 

 

 

Are you ready to start writing your own book? Go and comment on our Facebook page and tell us all about it!

 

Author Forum: How Do You Start Writing a Book?

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This is the fourth of a multi-part series by guest blogger Ivy Cheng tapping into the expertise of several seasoned Ambassador authors. The first post offered tips on dealing with writer’s block. The second post covered the influence other writers can have on your work and the third discussed managing a writing schedule within a busy life.

I once had a friend who told me “everyone has a story, but not all of them can write it.” I think this is a very true statement. Everyone is unique in their own way, and everyone has a story to tell. However, not everyone has the time, patience, or skill to write their story. The ability to write an entire book requires intense devotion. It is a daunting task to sit in front of a blank screen and start writing a book. And so, we ask some of our authors what was the spark that made them write those first few words.

 

Juana M9781620202913-e1414700233650ikels – Author of Choosing Him All Over Again 

The short answer is it was a call from God. By that I mean, that I knew to write it was to be obedient to what He wanted me to do. Knowing that it was God’s will for my life with my husband’s full blessing gave me strength and endurance when the going got rough—and it did get rough. It took me a year and half to write the rough draft, another year and a half to get a Christian agent, then another two years to get a Christian publisher, and finally one year before I held the book in my hand. When the book finally arrived, I will never forget my husband’s prayer with me. We held the book in our hands, and he prayed that if one person could be brought closer to Christ or have a stronger marriage—just one person more complete in all the will of God—it would be worth it. So beautiful to hear the man that I left all those years ago to pray over Choosing Him All Over Again.

From Driftwood to SapphireKathy Howard – Author of From Dishes to Snow and From Driftwood to Sapphire

From Dishes to Snow was written after we decided to homeschool our girls. I wanted to do something that would share Jesus and hopefully make enough money to pay for the kids’ curriculum. I prayed over every writing day, never knowing what the characters would do or say. I had no idea what the plot would be, only that I wanted to use my family’s mountain house as the setting. As a child, I remember hiking, daydreaming about different stories involving our precious mountain. In 2013/2014, I was given the chance to daydream again, only this time, others were privy to those dreams as the story came alive on paper.

Grace in the Middle

Wendy Duke – Author of Grace in the Middle

Encouragement from other people motivated me highly, but I also just had a deep conviction that our story of pain and struggle could help someone else in their own difficult circumstances. I had flashbacks of sitting in doctors’ waiting rooms, alone and scared, and decided to write our story to help encourage people in the same shoes. This has been my greatest desire for this book: to help struggling families deal with the difficulties of having a child with an illness or other traumatic circumstances. King Solomon said our words have the power of life and death, and I wanted to use mine to speak life over people who need to hear life and light and hope.

 

 

An9781620202692-197x306drea Rodgers –Author of The 20th Christmas

My first book, The 20th Christmas, came to me in a dream. I’ve been writing stories since childhood and that had never happened to me before–but I started scribbling down what I remembered and a month later the manuscript was completed! My next book, Cage The Dove (coming this fall), was inspired by real-life events that I went through in junior high, so the story idea has been on my mind for over two decades. God gave me too many signs for me to put it off any longer.

Are you ready to start writing your own book? Go and comment on our Facebook page and tell us all about it!

 

Author Forum: Does Reading Other People’s Work Influence Your Writing Style?

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This is the second of a multi-part series by guest blogger Ivy Cheng tapping into the expertise of several seasoned Ambassador authors. The first post offered tips on dealing with writer’s block.

They say that copycatting is the highest praise because it means that the work is worth copying. Shakespeare’s storylines have been taken and reworked into countless new works, and Hemingway’s different writing style changed the literary world. So it raises the question if our authors are particularly influenced by other authors.

Juana M9781620202913-e1414700233650ikels – Author of Choosing Him All Over Again 

I don’t read other people’s work when I am writing other than looking up a quote I am searching for (I also don’t listen to other testimonies when I am writing).  I am afraid that I will copy their style. But don’t get me wrong. Reading what other people have written had everything to do with my writing. I read aloud to my children for 15 years before I began my book. I will forever be grateful to the excellent writers I met during those years whose detailed descriptions inspired me (a math girl, think of it!) to the point I knew I had to write! I agree with the Psalmist who said, “My heart was hot within me, While I was musing the fire burned; Then I spoke with my tongue…” (Psalm 39:3)

 

From Driftwood to SapphireKathy Howard – Author of From Dishes to Snow and From Driftwood to Sapphire

I am a picky eater and I am a picky reader. I’ve noticed I tend to read authors with similar writing styles to each other. Anything outside of that realm, I have a hard time understanding or staying focused. So, yes, I would have to say I lean towards the writing style that I read, mainly because it keeps my attention. To those who like meatloaf, tuna, and chicken – expository, persuasive, and narrative, I admire you. But to me, I’m just a chicken girl – one meat, one writing style. Hopefully one of these days, I’ll acquire a taste for variety.

 

 

Grace in the MiddleWendy Duke – Author of Grace in the Middle

Yes and no. I definitely feel like reading unique writing styles seems to open up the possibilities, break down limitations. Sometimes I try to write in different “voices” just to stretch my own technique. e.e. cummings taught me to use unexpected words to shake things up.  Harper Lee taught me to pay attention to the subplot, to the stories happening behind the center stage. Other authors such as Anne Lamotte, Donald Miller and Jen Hatmaker have all influenced me over recent years. They have very conversational writing styles, casual and funny.  This seems to be the style that feels most like my own voice, so their writing gives me confidence in my own style.

 

An9781620202692-197x306drea Rodgers –Author of The 20th Christmas

Yes, so I don’t usually read much when I’m working on a manuscript. I feel it’s one or the other for me–either I’m reading or writing because I do a better job of listening to my writing voice when it’s the only one I hear.

 

Have a favorite author or unique writing style? Go and comment on our Facebook page and tell us all about it!

 

 

Author Forum: How Do You Break Writer’s Block?

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This is the first of a multi-part series by guest blogger Ivy Cheng tapping into the expertise of several seasoned Ambassador authors.

Anyone who writes, from poetry to novels, even a school paper, has experienced writer’s block at one point or another. Curious as to how to break writer’s block, we asked a few of our amazing authors here at Ambassador International for their methods of finding their inspiration again.

 

Juana M9781620202913-e1414700233650ikels – Author of Choosing Him All Over Again 

“Some people suffer from writer’s block, but I consistently had to deal with the opposite problem. I had way too much content. As I wrote, story after story would unfold and the average reader doesn’t want to read a book over 400 pages! When my beloved mentor who was an excellent writer suggested that I write my story, she had it right immediately. Her name is Elisabeth Elliot. She said to me, “Juana, some people have the problem of irrigating the desert when they write; you will have the problem of chopping down the jungle.” She was spot on.

Even so, there was a few times I got “stuck.” I found the best thing to do was to put it away, and come back fresh on another day. On occasion I listened to an audio of my story told in front of a live audience. As I listened as if it was someone else’s story, I became re-motivated to go back to the spot where I got stuck and just tell it as if I was talking to one person in the room (and just one person will eventually read it when they hold it in their hand!)”

 

From Driftwood to SapphireKathy Howard – Author of From Dishes to Snow and From Driftwood to Sapphire

When I hit my wall of writer’s block, I find myself putting the manuscript aside for a time. Thankfully, it is usually just a short time, one that I can fill running or playing with the kids for an afternoon. During those less frequent longer times, I push the story out of my head as best I can and live life away from the characters for days or even weeks. Other than normal living, I may read other books or watch movies, stories that show creativity and imagination. When I feel refreshed, I dive back in, headfirst.

 

Grace in the MiddleWendy Duke – Author of Grace in the Middle

I tend to write in spurts: I’ll let thoughts and ideas build for a while, and then spend a few days writing non-stop.  I’m not sure if this is “normal”; it seems to just depend on personality type.  I read several writers’ blogs who carve out a couple of hours each day to write, but I usually need a bigger block of time to really get much on a page.  I’m just not a fast writer, but the more I write, the faster I become.  Reading seems to be the best way to help me generate ideas and be inspired to write. The more I read, the more I seem to want to write.

 

An9781620202692-197x306drea Rodgers –Author of The 20th Christmas

I take breaks–but that means doing something else creative.  I find that reading, watching a movie, or listening to music  often inspire me so then I can return to my manuscript and  the words flow easier and better. I’ve never been stuck on  what to write about–writer’s block to me is more about not  being able to get the right words out or have the story flow in  the best direction.

 

Do you have your own tips for breaking writer’s block? Go and comment on our Facebook page with your methods!

 

TED Talks Every Writer Should Watch: Elizabeth Gilbert “Success, Failure, and the Drive to Keep Creating”

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TED talks are “ideas worth spreading” in the areas of Technology, Entertainment and Design. In this five-part series, Nicole Bell shares TED talks every writer should watch. Part one featured Elizabeth Gilbert on Your Elusive Genius, part two featured Andrew Stanton’s talk, Clues to a Great Story, part three featured Brené Brown on The Power of Vulnerability and last week Mac Barnett presented Why a Good Book is a Secret Door.

I began my TED Talks series with the genius of Elizabeth Gilbert, so I find it fitting to conclude the series with her, as well. This Talk was given a little over a year ago—April 2014 to be exact—and thus Gilbert has had time to react fully to her success from Eat. Pray. Love. So, what happens after being flung into the international spotlight of fame and success beyond your wildest dreams? What’s next?

 

To unpublished authors, this Talk of Gilbert’s may sound a bit selfish. She’s complaining about having success? Well, yes—that’s her point. She says, “I had to find a way to make sure that my creativity survived its own success.” This success left her wondering what was next—could she pull off another Eat. Pray. Love. again? Gilbert was smart enough to know that her next book would not be as well received as her previous work. What I find astonishing is how she overcame the anxiety she felt through the publication of her next book—she continued to write. The very thing that had brought her fame—writing—had then ripped her down; yet, she returned to it to build herself back up.

 

She attributes her return to writing to the fact that writing is her home. According to her, “Your home is whatever in this world you love more than you love yourself.” As Christians, we find our home in Christ and His saving grace. Thank goodness our home is not in our own strength or willpower—we’d fail before we even started! It is through His strength and fortification that we can find something on earth to be our temporary home (haven’t we all heard that before?). For Gilbert and many other writers, this temporal home indeed is writing. Gilbert asserts, “The only trick is that you’ve got to identify the best, worthiest thing that you love most, and then build your house right on top of it and don’t budge from it.” Build our house, eh? That does sound like something we’ve all heard before.

 

Matthew 7:24-25 (ESV) “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”

 

If we are founded on Christ, we can survive anything—even our own success. Too many times newspapers and magazines are filled with stories of once-successful individuals who let the spotlight go to their heads and ruin their lives. Though Gilbert may not have “gone off the deep end” after her success, she found herself in an equally dangerous place of insecurity in her identity. She describes, “The only thing that [you are] capable of feeling is the absolute value of this emotional equation, the exact distance that you have been flung from yourself.” If we remain true to ourselves as children of God, we can survive absolutely anything—even our own success. In Gilbert’s words, “I will always be safe from the random hurricanes of outcome as long as I never forget where I rightfully live.” We live in the hands of a mighty and gracious God, from whom our creativity and drive to write flow. Soli deo Gloria.

TED Talks Every Writer Should Watch: Mac Barnett “Why a Good Book is a Secret Door”

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TED talks are “ideas worth spreading” in the areas of Technology, Entertainment and Design. In this five-part series, Nicole Bell shares TED talks every writer should watch. Part one featured Elizabeth Gilbert on Your Elusive Genius, part two featured Andrew Stanton’s talk, Clues to a Great Story and part three featured Brené Brown on The Power of Vulnerability.

This week I’ve chosen a TED Talk that I hope makes you at least a little nostalgic for your favorite childhood bedtime stories. Mac Barnett is a children’s author who offers a humorous and whimsical discussion on the Art of fiction.

 

I want to focus on what he calls,“that place in the middle, that place which you could call art or fiction.” There is a rather intelligent sounding word to describe this phenomenon: verisimilitude, which Merriam-Webster defines as “the quality of seeming real”.  Seeming real. On the one hand, we know fiction stories are not real because we’ve been taught since we were young that fiction stories aren’t true. They didn’t happen historically, they include fantastical elements outside the realm of known physics, and they have whatever other reasons you give to define fiction from non-fiction. But, like Barnett says, at the same time they also are real in their own strange way.  He explains, “We know these characters aren’t real, but we have real feelings about them, and we’re able to do that. We know these characters aren’t real, and yet we also know that they are.”

I think an important observation Barnett makes is that we feel real emotions for non-real characters. We experience the anxiety and excitement of Frodo and Sam just before they leave the Shire in The Lord of the Rings, we cry when Aslan dies in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (well, I do, at least), And these are not fake or insincere feelings. Some people like to call fiction an “escape” from reality, but I would disagree. It’s perhaps an exaggeration of reality, but definitely not an escape. A good book according to Barnett is, “A secret door that opens and lets the stories out into reality.” Stories into reality—not the other way around. We let the stories enter and consume our lives; our lives do not interrupt the stories we read. My grandmother once told me about overhearing a conversation between two of her friends about another person. She didn’t realize until the conversation was almost over that the women were talking about a character on a TV show and not a “real” friend of theirs. So, in one sense, fiction is a world of “honest lies.”

Barnett had the incredible experience of working at 826 Valencia where this phenomenon of fiction is more tangibly in the physical world. Notice I used the word “physical” rather than “real.” JK Rowling has a brilliant quote from Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” I think this might help us understand this “middle” ground of fiction where truth and lies are allowed to co-exist.

Whether you write children’s fiction or something geared for older audiences, it is equally important to remember how real your characters truly are. They don’t exist as mere letters on pages in a book; they become personalities in the minds of your readers right alongside the personalities of their friends and family. We should all want our fiction be a safe place where reality meets exaggerated reality. Work to have a strong, tangible verisimilitude in your writing. Let your stories become secret doors for readers of all ages to truly enjoy and experience.

TED Talks Every Writer Should Watch: Brené Brown “The Power of Vulnerability”

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TED talks are “ideas worth spreading” in the areas of Technology, Entertainment and Design. In this five-part series, Nicole Bell shares TED talks every writer should watch. Part one featured Elizabeth Gilbert on Your Elusive Genius and part two featured Andrew Stanton’s talk, Clues to a Great Story.

This week’s TED talk, while not explicitly related to writing, discusses one of the most important virtues of being a writer: Vulnerability.

As writers, our job is not to use our writings exclusively as cathartic personal diary entries or profit gain, but to use them instead as a means by which we can connect with other people on the deepest emotional and spiritual levels. In order to do this, we must be open with ourselves and with our readers. Brené Brown discusses her six-year study of vulnerability and it’s importance in our daily lives.

My sophomore year of college I had to put together a rising Junior portfolio for my writing professors to review. After they had read through it, we had a meeting to discuss their thoughts on my writing and to allow them to give me their decision as to whether I should continue as a Creative Writing major (talk about intimidating!). I sat on the old, squishy sofa in the head of my department’s office and nervously tapped my foot as they began their evaluation. Everything was in order and seemed up to par—with one exception. “Miss Nicole,” my fiction professor with the tattoos on his forearms and crazy patterned tie crossed his arms, “it’s all good, but I feel like you’re holding something back.” My other professor nodded in agreement, “Yeah, it all feels a little…reserved.”

My heart sunk. Like Brown says in her Talk, you can receive 37 positives and one “opportunity for growth” only to have it ruin your whole month. I was frustrated first because I hadn’t been perfect, and second because I had no idea how to fix the problem they had found. What did they mean by, “I’m holding something back”? What I didn’t realize then was, in Brown’s terminology, I was feeling shame: “And shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection: Is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, that I won’t be worthy of connection?”

Fast forward one year to when I sat in a Scriptwriting class: We had a guest speaker for the day who was a local playwright, director, and actor. He sat at the head of the conference table and warned us that he would keep talking if we didn’t interrupt him with questions, but that was fine by me. I was entranced not just because he had the perfect rich and rolling southern Mississippi gent’s accent, but more because of his testimony to the necessity of vulnerability in his writing. He championed the exact same ideas of vulnerability Brown addresses in her Talk. The people who are most vulnerable in their writings have the best connections with their readers, who can then connect further with other readers. These writers, “were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection,” (Brown, on people who are whole-hearted).

My mind was blown. All the critiques from the junior portfolio suddenly started to make sense! I realized that it’s okay to not be okay, and it’s necessary to show this in my writing. It’s okay to reveal my personality, flawed though it may be, in my stories, poetry, and characters. My writing has become so much more genuine and relatable since I’ve watched this TED Talk and since that day in scriptwriting class. Brown says, “You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness.” By shutting out my imperfections I had ultimately shut my whole self away from my readers.

Maybe some of you are holding back in your writing; I want to encourage you to take to heart what Brown has to say. Not only will your writing grow, but your personal relationships with others will deepen to new levels where you will reap the greatest relational rewards.

TED Talks Every Writer Should Watch: Andrew Stanton “Clues to a Great Story”

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TED talks are “ideas worth spreading” in the areas of Technology, Entertainment and Design. In this five-part series, Nicole Bell shares TED talks every writer should watch. Part one featured Elizabeth Gilbert on Your Elusive Genius.

Every writer who has ever put ink to paper or his fingers to a keyboard has experienced this crazy rollercoaster called storytelling. Whether you write fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or blogs, you are ultimately telling some sort of story. Andrew Stanton’s Ted Talk is a little more geared toward fiction writers, but he discusses truths of writing that are applicable across all genres.

*Disclaimer- there is brief language around the 1:05 mark

So what do we do with this information? Stanton just told us that “Storytelling has guidelines, not hard, fast rules.” Rather than scanning your work to make sure it has each one of these, I suggest finding how to best implement these guidelines into your own writing. I’ve broken down what I found to be his main points into 6 guidelines that writers should consider when telling a story:

Make Me Care

This principle is applicable to all writing genres. If your readers don’t find a reason to care, they won’t find a reason to invest, and your book will find itself back on the shelf of your favorite local bookseller in no time. I like how Stanton words this: “It’s making a promise [to readers] that this story will lead somewhere that’s worth your time.” You don’t want to have to keep pulling your readers along; you shouldn’t have to beg them, “Now, stay with me here!” as your story progresses. Rather, they should be eating up your story paragraph by paragraph, dying to see what will happen next.

2 + 2

This principle of two plus two is one of the trickier points Stanton makes. Yes, people like to work for their “meal,” but they don’t want to overwork for it. I’ve seen some painful examples of authors who try to offer 2 + 2 but instead end up giving their readers something along the lines of a basic calculus problem. These authors gave too little information. Not everyone who reads your books will think exactly like you do. Something that may seem obvious to you might not translate well to other people. This is why it’s important to have a good, small circle of friends from different backgrounds who can let you know when something like this happens in your writing.

Change is Vital

Stanton said “If things go static, stories die, because life is never static.” This is why we say we’d rather watch paint dry than doing something else we believe would be boring; we don’t perceive any of the changes being made. You want to make sure that your writing is dynamic. This doesn’t mean every paragraph has to have a major plot change or character revelation. It does mean that the story has to go somewhere. Remember that promise you made earlier on in the Make Me Care principle? This is one of your main methods by which you keep your audience’s attention .

Strong Running Theme

I cannot stress this principle enough to the nonfiction writers out there. The fiction authors have it a little bit easier on this one, I think. They have a character who has some sort of end goal in sight—a journey, a change of character—that becomes the theme of the story.  However, when it comes to nonfiction, I’ve read more books than I would have liked that started on one topic but ended on something almost entirely unrelated. It’s easy to follow rabbit trails in any genre, but in nonfiction it is significantly easier to not return to the main route. Before you begin your book, write down your theme somewhere you will see it every time you go to write. When you’re done with a section, read what you’ve written and ask yourself: Does this directly and effectively get my theme across to readers? (Be mindful of the 2 + 2 principle here as well).

Invoke Wonder

What is wonder? Merriam-Webster defines it as, “something or someone that is very surprising, beautiful, amazing, etc.” The way you invoke wonder into your writing is something you have to discover for yourself. Perhaps you’ll find you have a particular way you like to string words together. Or maybe you have a knack for choosing just the right vocabulary for your writing. I wish I could give you a formula or trick to figure this one out, but the mystery of wonder makes it tricky to nail down. Reflect on moments that filled you with wonder—what specifically about that moment/scene made you feel that way? Go from there!

Use What You Know

My writing professor once told me, “I can’t use the word ‘tentacles’ in my poetry. I know nothing about them except what I’ve seen on TV shows and movies. I can, however, use the word ‘grits’.”  Now, this doesn’t mean that we can’t ever write about something we personally haven’t experienced—it just means we will write best about topics we know firsthand. Stanton explains, “Use what you know. Draw from it. It doesn’t always mean plot or fact. It means capturing a truth from your experiencing it, expressing values you personally feel deep down in your core.” I know nothing about skate culture. I’m an East Coast suburbia girl who was involved in the performing arts. It would take a lot of research for me to understand skate culture well enough to write something extensive about it. I can, however, talk about how a skater would feel after his best friend commits suicide. Or about how a flight attendant fell in love with the woman of his dreams. Loss, love, anger, joy—these are shared experiences to which anyone can relate. These are the things that should shape your story.