All posts by Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

17 Ideas of How to Promote Your Book—Before and During Launch

Guest Post by Anna del C. Dye.

Anna del C. Dye was born in Valparaiso, Chile, amongst some of the world’s most famous beaches. After meeting Rodney, a native of Idaho, in her hometown, two years later, Anna traveled to Utah on Christmas Eve and married him two weeks later. Their love story, Why Him? was published by Covenant in the book entitled Angels Round About. Anna and Rodney reside in Taylorsville, Utah and are the parents of three princes and a princess. They love to camp, canoe, explore ruins and have sword fights.

Anna del C. Dye is a multi-award winning author. Her short story “Amerine—Fairy Princess” won 2nd place in the Oquirrh Writers contest. The first book in her new YA Romance Series entitled “A Kingdom By The Sea” won 2nd place in The Absolutely Write contest. Book three of “The Silent Warrior Trilogy,” won a bronze seal in the League of Utah Writers. Shahira and the Flying Elfs won Honor in the Oquirrh first chapter contest. Emerine’s Nightmare, a pre-teens short story, won 1st place right before it was released in digital formats for the Kindle and Nook.


  1. Send out free PDFs, or ebooks, to bloggers who have tons of followers. If your book is non-fiction, send out digital copies to influential journalists. Ask the bloggers a review it in their blogs.

(Some bloggers or reviewers need a month to read the book. Always ask way beforehand.

  1. Pull out excerpts of the book to use as articles. Post them on free sites.
  2. Create videos. Keep it short and sweet (under 10 min.)

Talk about you. In another, talk about your book. Then in another, read an excerpt from it. Post them on YouTube.

  1. Create a book trailer. (optional) Find pictures that reflect the content of your book and then use excerpts from the book to tease people to read more. Never tell the ending.
  2. Schedule a launch day and make sure plenty of things are planned that day. Notify your email list, Facebook, Goodreads, Shelfari, Twitter, a week before and then the day of. Don’t forget to post the different links to your videos and trailer’s each time.
  3. Offer a digital copy as a prize on other websites and blogs. Offer the blogger or website owners a free paperback book for their help.
  4. Ask other bloggers to do an interview and send them lots of questions with their answers. (You can send the same list to all of them and they will pick how long and what to post from it.)
  5. If you assign these bloggers to do your review on a different day of the week each, this is called a Blog tour. Make sure every day has a blogger assigned to it. You’ll gain maximum exposure for minimum costs.
  6. Offer a chapter as a downloadable PDF. Encourage readers to share it with others. Include a summary of the rest of book to encourage people to buy it. Never tell the ending.
  7. Publish the book’s table of contents on your website. Include a small overview of each chapter. Optimize the page for search engines. (List many good tags.)
  8. Encourage people to write a five-star review of your book on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads.
  9. Publish reviews and testimonials of the book on your website. Include reviews from Amazon.com and other sites.
  10. Arrange interviews with radio hosts interested in your subject matter. This is a win-win since it provides them with valuable content and you with valuable publicity.
  11. Makes sure you always say thank you to all that help you and join their sites to show that you care for their help.
  12. Make bookmarks or business cards. (Check online for cost-effective sources.)
  13. Always have copies of your book, bookmarks or business card with you or in your car.
  14. Be creative, persistent, grateful for the help of others and you’ll see your book sales go up.

Don’t forget to share your success with others and help them get ahead. Is always sweeter when you get to the top and your friends are cheering you on.

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

I’m a Writer! But Now What?!?

Guest Post by Bunny Miner.

Bunny Miner is a retired elementary school teacher with several books to her credit. Bunny’s first book, ‘And So It Begins…’ hit Amazon’s top ten its first week out. When she’s not immersed in whatever fantasy world she is currently creating, she enjoys spending tie with her four crazy kids (who supply fodder for her stories), three needy dogs, one totally cute husband and her adorable grandson. You can find Bunny on her website: www.bunnyminer.com, Facebook: children’s author Bunny Miner, and Twitter: @bunnyminerauthr.


So you’ve made that leap in your mind that you’re not just a dabbler anymore, you’re a full-fledged writer! Yay! Good for you! Give yourself a big pat on the back. Imagine me giving you a high-five. That really is awesome.

I know it was a huge step for most of you. It’s hard for us creative types to put ourselves out there. Now that you’ve made this leap, you will find if you want to get published there is a seemingly endless list of things to do before you even write your book!

Don’t believe me? Go on the web. Look at all the things you’re told you have to do. Do a blog. Have an email list. Join a critique group. Make a website. Get beta-readers. Find an agent. Get an editor. The list goes on and on.

If you look at the never-ending list, you’ll soon go from the happy new writer to something like this:

You may even feel like you need to breathe into a paper bag because you’re hyperventilating and getting light headed. Go ahead and do that if you need to (breathe into the bag, not hyperventilate!). Once you’re breathing normally again,

Now I need you to take a couple of deep breathes with me. Inhale…1…2. Exhale…1…2. Again. Inhale…1…2. Exhale…1…2. Ok, are we good now?

I’d like to give you your first 5 steps to concentrate on to going from being a writer to a published author without all the stressful stuff to get in the way, give you anxiety and cause you to freeze where you are. Ready?

Step 1: Reward yourself

It’s a rare thing for a writer to just wake up and embrace the idea that they’re a legitimate author-in-training but that is what you are now. Whether you are writing for yourself or writing to get published by one of the Big 5, getting the words in your head down on paper in their best form possible means you’re an author, my friend. So celebrate it! You deserve it!

We all have our favorite treats. Mine is the Chocolate Tuxedo cheesecake at Cheesecake Factory! Yours may be a luxurious bubble bath, some quiet time with your favorite book or just spending some quality time to be with your family. Set aside some time to do that before you jump headlong into this writer thing. I’m going to tell you why in just a second.

Step 2: Set up your writing space

Ok, I trust you did not take a long time with your celebration because now it is time to get to work! This is also why I told you to celebrate now because it’s time to get your family/support team on board and knuckle down and do what you have to do! I know you want to grab your computer or notepad and start writing but first, you need a place to write. Don’t think you’ll just travel around and work from wherever because it won’t happen. Plus, you need a place that shows your subconscious that you mean business. Make it somewhere well lit and as free from distractions as you can get. This should be the same place you write every time you write if can help it. It’s a little like training a new baby to sleep through the night. You wouldn’t put the baby down at different times and in different places every time you wanted him/her to sleep. That just wouldn’t work. So find a place to write and make it your own.

Step 3: Schedule a time to write

If you don’t schedule your writing time, it will disappear without a trace and you’ll be left scratching your head at the end of the day wondering what happened to it. Ideally, it would be a nice block of time at the same time every day. Being a realist, however, I know that nobody lives in a vacuum and there are other things that have to be done in your life. Schedule them too. I’ve written through several different seasons of my life so I’ll offer some suggestions on a few of those seasons that have worked for me.

Newborn season-Just put it on the backburner for a few months! You need to spend time with that little one! Don’t think you’ll miss your chance. People will always read books but a new baby won’t stop changing every day!

Infant/Toddler season-Pick one nap time and make that your writing time. Don’t make phone calls, check social media or clean! This is your scheduled time to write so that’s what you need to do.

School aged kids/empty nester/retired season-You’re going to think that since you’re not chasing after kids anymore, that you’ll have all day to write. More than likely, you probably won’t. You’ll have more ‘free’ hours but again, unless you schedule that writing time, it’ll disappear too. Other obligations will pop up.

There are obviously other seasons of your life that you are either now in or will be in, this was just a few suggestions for people. The main point is, SCHEDULE A TIME TO WRITE!

Step 4: Join a writing group or start your own

This is probably the number one way that my writing has improved. I have been with the same group of talented writers for years and being with them has been a huge blessing in my life in many ways. Not only do people in a writing group share their works with each other to glean suggestions for improvement, they also will become some of your greatest friends and cheerleaders! You can have a writing group that meets in person or you can find one online. One way to find a writing or critique group is to join a professional writing organization. I’m pretty sure there is even an app for finding a group. Or ask your old friend Google!

Step 5: Read books in your genre

I know this one is an easy one. Writers love to read. However, I want you to start reading with a purpose. Pick great authors in your genre. Look at what works in these books. Maybe even pick up a lousy book or two and note what doesn’t work. This is your competition if you want to be published. Now I don’t want you to copy they way they write, you have your own unique voice, use it! What I do want you to do is be a student of the good writers. Notice how they use dialog to move a plot along. Look at how they describe their characters. Just learn and absorb as much as you can.

Hopefully, this little article will help you get started in your new path. Congratulations! If you’d like more writing tips, you can check out my blog at bunnyminer.com.

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

The Ultimate Visualization: Dream Parties

Guest post by Heather Horrocks.

USA Today bestselling author Heather Horrocks writes flirty romance with a touch of magic (Moonchuckle Bay, Chick Flick Clique, and Christmas Street), death with a laugh (Who-Dun-Him Inn and Bad Mothers Club), and inspirational (Women Who Knew).
You can ask for notification of her next Dream Party (and also see her books, contact her, sign up for her newsletter and a free book) at www.BooksByHeatherHorrocks.com.


During a more leisurely time years ago, my mother used to host Come-as-You-Are parties. In case you’ve never experienced one, these were surprise parties, where the guests didn’t know they were invited until a conspirator showed up at their door at 6:30 in the morning to pick them up exactly as they were. As children, it was fun to be part of an adult party where my mother and her friends had messy hair and shabby bathrobes instead of being perfumed and elegantly dressed and coiffured.

Those parties were fun — but I’ve found a much more powerful version of this party when you reverse it — the guests not only know they’re coming, but they prepare for it so they can come as they “are” — not now, but five years in the future — and prove it, too!

The Come-as-You-Are-In-Five-Years Dream Party is a powerful affirmation of each person’s goals. A visualization that speaks to your innermost self. (I host these parties periodically; if you want to know about my next one, sign up on the Dream Parties page of my website at www.BooksByHeatherHorrocks.com.)

Here’s my experience with the concept. My sister September read about it in Jack Canfield’s book The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, and we (September, our sister Skye, and I) decided to try it. At first we planned it during dinner on the last evening of our sisters’ weekend, but then decided we’d play “as if” for the entire weekend. It was amazing! By the time we got to that final dinner, we’d convinced our subconscious minds that we’d really achieved these goals — so much so that, when I returned to my real life and sat down at the computer two days later to begin transcribing radiology reports, my soul screamed out in protest: “Nooooo! I don’t have to do this any more! I’m a bestselling author!”

You don’t need an entire weekend, though. As Jack Canfield said, “When you spend an evening living out the lifestyle you want and deserve, you lay down powerful blueprints in your subconscious mind, that will later support you in perceiving opportunities, creating powerful solutions, attracting the right people, and taking the necessary actions to achieve your dreams and goals.”

It works. I challenge you to give it a try.

DREAM BIG

Do you know what you want? What would you like to be and accomplish in five years? What are your talents? Interests? Passions? Skills? What resonates with you? Make a specific goal and set a date for five years from today.
“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” Walt Disney
“If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough.” (Unknown)
“A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline.” Harvey MacKay
“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth…. not because [those goals] are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.” Pres. John F. Kennedy
“I have a dream.”  Martin Luther King Jr. (Aug 28, 1963)

INVITE OTHER DREAMERS

Only invite people who are willing to dream big and who are open to do something this amazing. Not everyone is. If you invite someone who isn’t, party without them. A Dream Party requires dreamers.

WHERE WILL YOU “PROVE” YOUR DREAMS?

Plan on a dinner evening and decide where you want to meet for a couple of hours — in a quiet restaurant that is as nice as you can afford, or at someone’s house where everyone brings pot luck, or have your party catered. Or have an “awards”-type dinner where everyone takes turns standing and talking about what they’ve achieved in the last five years (since today). A restaurant is nice because then no one has to be stressed about cleaning their house or cooking. A home is nice because you can stay for a few hours if everyone is enjoying their success. If you can, have another friend play the part of a reporter, to take pictures and interview the guests on their accomplishments. Create an atmosphere of excitement, of being around all of these successful people.

DRESS FOR SUCCESS

Dress for the lifestyle you want to achieve.

PROVE YOUR SUCCESS!

Whatever you want to be, create something that will prove you have already achieved it. Here are some ideas for possible “proofs.” This is a vital part of the process. You’re not only proving to others at the party — but to yourself — that you’ve already achieved your dream.
Marriage? Go to Wal-Mart and buy a $10 engagement/wedding ring. (It worked for my sister September; within five years, she was married.)
Degree? Create a college graduation certificate from the college of your choice with your name on it and the date of your graduation.
Business? Create a business card with your name as CEO, President, or owner of your company.
Sales? Bring a photo album of you in Hawaii for top sales.
First Book? Make the front and back cover and wrap it around another book.
Dream House? Show us pictures and a floor plan.
Artist? Create a notice of your exhibit at a gallery.
Seminars? Hand out your brochures.
Author? Add your book to the USA Today or New York Times bestseller list.
Physical? Bring your Olympic medal or a photo of you running a marathon.
Ten-Million-Dollar Check? Write yourself one like Jim Carrey did in 1990.

REVEL IN YOUR SUCCESS!

Go to the party and play the biggest game of “as if” ever. You’re not only visualizing you as your future successful self, you’re experiencing it, which makes a huge different. The YOU attending is the future you, who has already achieved your goals and dreams. Bring your proof(s). Speak as though you’ve already achieved your dream—and as if everyone else there has already achieved theirs! Experience the power of already being there.

GO HOME — AND MAKE IT SO, NUMBER ONE!

After your own version of soul-screaming, take whatever classes you need to in order to learn the skills you need to reach your goal. Do it. And be ready to change, to get past your fears and baggage. Ask yourself, “What must I change about myself in order to be willing to receive this by this date?” (Edwene Gaines)
This party will unleash the power of your thoughts and subconscious to move you toward your dreams. I triple dog dare you to do it. Choose a goal, create a proof, come to the party. You will forever be glad you did.

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

Amazing Places and Where to Find Them: Passport Not Required

Guest Post by Lucinda Whitney.

Lucinda Whitney was born and raised in Portugal, where she received a Master’s degree from the University of Minho in Braga, in Portuguese/English teaching. 
She lives in northern Utah with her husband and four children. When she’s not reading and writing, she can be found with a pair of knitting needles, or tending her herb garden.
She’s the author of The Secret Life of Daydreams and One Small Chance. Please visit her website at lucindawhitney.com for more information and news.


Learn how to choose a foreign setting, how to research it, how to deal with language and culture, and how to bring it all together to enrich your story.

We always hear “Write about what you know” and while there are lots of advantages to that, what about all the things you don’t know? Your characters’ lives are not your own and choosing the best setting for their stories makes more sense in the long run.

Obviously, the US is a large country and there are lots of exciting places where to set your novel, but sometimes setting your story abroad will give it another dimension that readers crave.

What are the advantages to choosing a foreign setting?

Foreign settings are less done and more exotic. If you want to surprise readers in the genre you write, set the story in a new location from what’s usually done. Most people can’t afford to travel and reading is an easy way for them to discover other countries and cultures. Also, the unexpected will hook a reader and keep them turning the pages.

For instance, I knew I didn’t want to set my LDS romance stories in Utah because that’s been done a lot. But LDS romance set in Portugal is something new and it gives another perspective by showing how church members there deal with similar struggles.

By placing your characters in new situations and making them more uncomfortable, the conflict in the story goes up.

For instance, challenge your character. If you have a shy girl (let’s call her Mary) who’s never traveled to a foreign country, start the story with her stranded at the airport in Madrid, Spain, during an air crew strike where she doesn’t speak the language and doesn’t know anyone there. It’s the worst case scenario for this character and it will certainly shake things up. How will Mary get out of this? How will she react to the country and the natives? What kind of situations will arise from this? Why is being stranded in Spain so much worse than being lost in London?

By making the location part of the plot, you enhance the story with a new set of challenges inherent to the setting.

How do you go about choosing a foreign setting for your story?

The city and country you choose matter to the story and there are some reasons for that: the people and their customs, the culture and the language, the history and geography, the politics, the fauna and flora of the region, and even the weather and seasons can influence a story in different ways. Think of particular details tied to these reasons and make a list in connection to your main character.

For instance, if you choose to write a Regency romance, setting the story in the British Isles or setting it in another part of the world will greatly change the story even though it may be set in the same time period, the early part of the 1800s.

If it’s a contemporary story, how is the place a challenge to the protagonist? Does this setting complicate the life of the POV character? Does it change their fears and goals? Going back to our first example of the shy girl, Mary would probably feel more confident in London where at least they speak English. How is she going to get out of Madrid and why does she dislike being there so much?

If you’re writing an action story, setting it in Hong Kong or the Amazonian jungles of Brazil will change the way your character interacts with their setting and result in very different stories.

Does the setting have a meaning to the POV character? Are there negative or positive connections associated with this setting? Did something happen in this character’s past (backstory) to trigger their negative/positive reaction to it?

How do you research your foreign setting?

There are two ways to research a setting: traveling there in person or doing it from your computer at home.

In person- If you can afford the time and money to travel, think outside of the box when you get there. Venture out on foot to less popular areas (the less touristy places). Go where the natives go to get more local flavor instead of relying on guided tours. Take the city bus, the subway, or the train instead of relying on taxis or tour buses. Don’t just take pictures. Keep a small journal of your impressions using the other senses: the smells and sounds that stand out to you, the tastes and textures that would matter to the POV character (ex:, a lawyer and a farmer would react differently when set in the Scottish Highlands). These details are harder to remember than the visual ones and will have a deeper impact on your descriptions.

The more senses used, the more engaged the reader will be with what your character is going through because the experience will be more dimensional.

If you’re concerned about the language, buy a conversational guide or get a translation app to help with simple questions when you go exploring.

Don’t forget about trying new dishes, especially the ones particular to a certain area. What makes the ingredients and flavors special? How do your characters react to them?

Gather maps, pamphlets and other mementos that can later aid your writing. Will your character take a stroll on the beach at some point? Pick up some shells. Even if you don’t use all the details you experience in each area, they all add up to enrich the story.

If possible, before you travel, connect with someone who lives in that area for a more personalized experience (FB is great for this. Is there a friend who knows someone who lives in the area you’re traveling to?)

Think of theme of your story: is it historical? Take a tour of museums, libraries, and castles. Is it sports related? Go to stadiums and practices. Does it involve food? Take a restaurant tour. Focus your trip in the ways it relates to the plot and characters.

When you can’t travel- Google and Google maps are great, but don’t rely only on these (by the way, street view is better when using Google maps).

Write or email to the Chamber of Commerce of the city you’re researching and ask them to send you materials by mail. You can ask for city maps, transportation maps and schedules, museums and other entertainment, places to eat, where to stay, etc. just like planning a vacation. You can also contact travel agencies for similar materials.

The Library of Congress has a Ask a Librarian service (https://www.loc.gov/rr/askalib/). The amount of information they turn up is amazing. And don’t forget about Youtube as another great resource.

Join a large writing community on FB and ask is anyone lives it the area you’re researching. This will result in tips and insights from locals. When I was writing my Christmas novella set in Manhattan, I asked on Writer Unboxed if anyone lived close to Central Park so I could ask some questions. Ask around on FB if any of your friends have friends or contacts in that area and then interview them (via private message or email).

To avoid being overwhelmed, focus your research of the place on how it affects your POV character and specialize instead of going wide; start out small and then expand the research as needed.

Another element of research is the local language

Use too much and readers will complain they don’t understand (believe me, I know); use too little and you risk losing the local flavor of the setting.

When thinking of language in relation to your main characters, there are 3 situations to consider:

First, when all the characters (main and secondary) are natives to that place. You’re writing in English but your reader knows the characters are talking/thinking in the native language. You don’t need a lot of words and phrases in the foreign language. Show the nationality in the behavior and mannerisms, in what they eat, where they go, etc.

Second, your POV character is the native to the area. How do they interact with the foreign characters? What in their background offers a challenge or a connection to those interactions?

Third, your POV character is the foreigner in that city. It’s going to be important whether they speak the local language or not. Do they interact with locals, with their countrymen, or with other foreigners?

Which one of these situations is the higher challenge for the POV character and their story? How does this affect the pacing (description and narration)?

Each situation will determine how much language to use; find the balance (“enough to flavor but not to overwhelm”).

When you do use words and phrases, resist the urge to provide a literal translation to every instance. Instead, make the meaning clear through context and secondary dialogue.

Regarding language and spelling: DO YOUR HOMEWORK! I can’t emphasize this enough. Do your research and don’t rely only on Google Translate. Don’t think your readers won’t know any better. WRONG. They do. There’s always a reader who knows the language and it looks bad when it’s translated incorrectly. Occasionally, I come across books set in Portugal written by authors who are not native and I haven’t found one without some kind of mistake, usually something very simple. It looks lazy and sloppy. Whenever possible, check with a native or ask around on FB if anyone knows a friend who can speak the language.

How do you use your research to enrich your story?

Now that you’ve chosen and researched a foreign city, either in person or remotely, you can use this setting as a plot point in your story to further along the action and to increase the conflict.

Another way to look at it is to treat setting as a character, one that needs to be developed just like all the other characters in the story. Setting becomes another character in the way it marks the main character’s interactions to it and those in it.

Show the setting through your POV character only. What does the setting trigger in the character? How do they react to the different places? Does it affect their mood? Which of the five senses is more prevalent when your character interacts with this particular setting?

If you use alternating POVs, the reactions will be different between the character who’s visiting and the character who’s always lived there. They have different emotional connections to that setting and these connections carry different weights in how they see (how you describe) the things around them.

Even though the foreign place you end up choosing for your story is a real place, you still have to put the work into it because you’re worldbuilding it specifically for your story and your characters. The richer the setting, the more involved the reader becomes.

 

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

Rewriting: The Phoenix Effect

Guest Post by Frank Morin.

Frank Morin loves good stories in every form.  When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or traveling to research new books.  Frank lives in Oregon with his lovely wife and four kids, who are all brutal critics, but die-hard fans. For updates on his sci-fi time-travel thrillers, his popular Petralist YA fantasy novels, or other upcoming book releases, check his website:  www.frankmorin.org


Rewriting. Some see it as a dirty word.

Often, this is one of those topics whispered about in shadowed conversations late at night when we hope no one will hear. It’s right up there with graciously accepting negative feedback and smiling through those lonely book signings when even the bookstore staff seems to have found something better to do than come over and ask a question.

Of course, we dread rewriting. We just finished that novel, didn’t we? The last thing we want to do is chop it up and rebuild it again.

Then again, rewriting is the one way to save that story and make it shine. The only way for the legendary phoenix to rise in fiery new life is from the ashes of its previous one. Sometimes, a novel needs to die so it can be reborn even better.

The process hurts, but it’s worth it.

I know what I’m talking about. I may be the king of massive rewrites. Like many new writers, I had to throw away my very first opus after years of writing and rewriting. I had to face the hard fact that those early hundreds of thousands of words served best as practice.

Then I had to rewrite about 80% of my first YA fantasy novel, Set in Stone – after completing two solid drafts which I had meticulously planned and outlined. That was over 100,000 words and months of work trashed and rebuilt. Not to be outdone by myself, I also rewrote massive amounts of the next two books in that same series.

Why put myself through such pain?

Because the story is what matters, and sometimes the early drafts, no matter how good, serve as vehicles to discover the true story that needs to be told.

Set in Stone kicked off my YA fantasy series, which has done quite well. But it wasn’t until that painful third draft that I realized that I needed to add the humor and really dive deep into the magic system instead of holding back until book two. Just releasing the earlier draft would have been so much easier.

And that would have killed the story.

With the sequel, I wrote a solid draft, but in reviewing it with my editor, I realized there was so much more I needed to do with the plotline that I had to split the book in half and completely rewrite that part of the series as two separate novels. Huge amounts of extra work, but those books turned out amazing and have set up the rest of the series for awesome success.

So, how do we know when we need a rewrite? We also don’t want to fall into the trap of endlessly rewriting a story in circles and never actually releasing anything.

As writers, we need to leave our pride at the door and honestly view the story by its true strengths and weaknesses. If we’re too close to the story to view it objectively (which is likely) we need to pull in objective experts. Some beta readers can play an important role in offering reader feedback, but the most important player is a professional editor.

Don’t just rely on the word of your inlaws’ cousin who took some English classes in college. Get a good editor, one with real experience doing content and developmental edits, one who can point out those blind spots you didn’t even know you had. Such an editor is worth every penny.

With every revision you consider, ask yourself, “Will this change improve the story and help it reach its full potential?”

If the answer is yes, then do it, regardless of the amount of work it’ll take. You’ve spent so long working on the story already, why would you risk releasing it before it’s ready? What a waste of your time and energy. What a waste of a good story.

The story is what matters. Your story is worth it, so don’t shortchange it.

And here’s hoping in my next novel, I can forego that onerous pleasure and nail the story in the first draft.

If not, I’ll rewrite until I get it right.

 

 

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

Writing in Flow

Guest post by Vicki Hunt Budge.

Vicki Hunt Budge grew up in southern Idaho with a mother who read to her and a father who taught her how to golf and swim. She attended Idaho State University and the University of Utah. Vicki began writing for the Friend magazine when her children were young and she’s published many stories and articles for LDS church magazines since that time. She is the author of three LDS Women’s Fiction in the Hope & Healing Series: Intercession, Renewal, and the newly released, Deliverance. Her books explore the miracle of addiction recovery, and are available on Amazon.


What is flow?

According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, flow is “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake.” He claims that flow begins when you are working on an activity that you really like and that your challenges and skills are higher than average.

Writers recognize this experience when they are so absorbed in their work that they don’t feel tired or hungry, and they lose track of time. For me, I first experienced this complete immersion in writing when I worked on Intercession. The feeling of working in flow increased with each book as I became so engrossed with my characters and their story that I forgot about dinner, or didn’t realize the sun had gone down. It is a time of pure contentment.

So how do we find this state of flow in our day-to-day writing?

Here are some things that have worked for me.I improved my skills by reading books and blogs on the fundamentals of plot, characterization, point of view, and motivation. I watched Dan Wells’ Seven Plot Points online and studied the fundamentals of the Hero’s Journey. I joined Indie Author Hub and other online writing groups, gleaning everything I could from other authors. I attended workshops.

Many times when I learned something new and important from my studies, I went back to my manuscript and rewrote what I had written. After hearing Jeff Savage talk about first chapters in a writing class, I went home and rewrote the first chapter of Intercession. The following week, as a follow-up, he critiqued several students’ first chapters. I went home and rewrote the first chapter—again. It took nearly four years to complete Intercession and publish it. The more I learned and the more I wrote, the more I experienced flow.

Several years ago I served as a Cub Scout den mother. I learned an important concept in the initial training. No matter how much fun the boys were having, stop after one hour. I was told that the boys might whine because they were having so much fun, but they would remain excited to come back next week if we ended on time. The same principle works with writing for me. I try to stop with a scene that I’m looking forward to writing. When it’s time to work on the story again, I’m excited to start. Writer’s block is eliminated.

Don’t waste time finding the perfect word for a scene.

I’ve heard that a lot, but it’s hard to do because I’m in love with words. Words are one of the things I love most about writing. Now I’ve trained myself to type xxx when I’m not sure what word or thought I need at that point in the manuscript. I keep writing and viola! When I later go back to reread and edit, the elusive word or phrase almost always flows into my thoughts.

I also don’t stress over how many times I use certain words—like was or that. It breaks the flow. Once again, when I’m rewriting, I love to spot It breaks the flow. Once again, when I’m rewriting, I love to spot problem or repetitive words and enjoy the challenge of making the writing better. Tighter.

Elmore Leonard advises writers to “leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” I’ve found this to be true. Too much description and too many unimportant details cause me to skip ahead when I’m reading. After my first book, I found it easier to spot and avoid unnecessary parts to my second and third books. The writing became more natural—allowing me to get into the flow of things without having so much to cut in the revisions.

As writers, we’ve all heard of “show, don’t tell.” Sometimes, when I’m stuck with what to write next, I tell instead of show. I place the computer on all caps and write myself a note right there in the middle of the manuscript. I don’t have to struggle with how to begin the scene or who says what. I simply tell myself about the scene as I envision it. Those notes to myself are the jumpstart I need the next day or the next week to fully write that scene and show instead of tell. Because I have a blueprint in front of me, it enables me to get right into flow. Naturally, I delete the note from my manuscript.
Often when I start these notes to myself, and I’m not at a stopping point for the day, the storyteller in me takes over. I’m able to drop the all caps and continue the story with dialogue and action.

Several years ago our family had a small farm. Every spring we flushed the irrigation pipes by pumping water through each of our three lines. We almost always flushed a rock chuck or two out of those pipes. Sometimes writers struggle with brain fog that, like a rock chuck in a pipe, causes blockage. I’ve found that cutting sugar and dairy out of my diet flushes brain fog right out of my head. I can think and imagine scenes clearly. Writing flows just like water in a pipe.

In high school, my friend, Jeanie, taught me to play table tennis. She was far above my skill level. When I got discouraged because of the disparity in our abilities, she encouraged me by saying I would improve faster by playing against someone better. I found this principle to be true with writing too. To improve my writing skills, I have read hundreds of books by best-selling and polished writers. And like table tennis or any activity, I’ve found that my writing improves by the number of good books I’ve read. To quote Stephen King, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.

Not every writing day is fun and full of flow. Writing is hard work and sometimes frustrating. But we can set ourselves up with opportunities where flow occurs. When we are completely involved in our writing, and our challenges and skills are higher than average, we find true immersion possible, and can truly enjoy the process of writing.

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

How Long is a Story?

Guest Post by James Wymore.

James Wymore grew up on a heavy diet of movies and books that morphed his real life adventures into imaginary worlds. His james-wymore-bwpublished works span the fiction spectrum, including many different genres in the best-selling Actuator series. He’s an acquisitions manager for Immortal Works Press and can often be found at conventions running games with hundreds of players.


One thing about writing that I never liked is the endless counting and sorting of stories. I just wanted to write great fiction. Then I found out it has to be classified by genre, sorted by audience age, and submitted by word count. All of these ways to dissect narrative bothered me from the beginning. Is Star Wars a sci-fi or fantasy? Is The Lord of the Rings for teens or adults? If I write 17,503 words, it’s a novella. But if I take six of them out, it’s only a short story.

I wanted to write for everybody, teen or adult. I liked stories to span all the genres. Most of all, I couldn’t accept arbitrary word numbers as a hard-fast rule for what gets published where. So I imagined a different kind of story-world. What came out of it is the Actuator series. Literally spanning every major genre for all audiences, I wanted a world expressed by characters of all types, which meant many different story lengths. Only it rapidly became clear I was in way over my head. So I put it aside and wrote something else less complicated.

When I met Aiden James, co-author for two of the books in the series, he offered to help me work through it. The idea intrigued him.

The Actuator, a machine capable of literally changing reality, was created to make a utopian paradise. Before it happened, a saboteur used it to transform the world into patches of every kind of genre fiction, scattering the keys necessary to put it back across the globe. Everyone alive found their lives radically altered, some living in fantasy realms with real magic and others in incomprehensible horrors. Thrown into chaos, people struggled against aliens, pirates, orcs, and vampires. Many died. Only a handful of people on the planet, called Machine Monks, even knew why it happened or how. Now they have to put it all back before humanity is destroyed.

As the first book (Fractured Earth) came together, I realized we were just telling one story in a whole planet covered with broken and altered lives. Other authors began to express interest in the setting and even said they had ideas for stories set in this world. I had my hands full keeping track of the dozen or so characters in what was rapidly becoming an epic. So I approached my publisher, Curiosity Quills Press, and pitched the idea of a short story collection to them. I loved that they were willing to publish something outside the box—this box being standard genre, age, and word counts. They agreed, and I became the “editor.” We made guidelines and opened to submissions. Then I just waited, wondering if anybody would even want to play in somebody else’s sandbox.

The response was overwhelming! I had stories set all over the world, from authors all over the world. The depth of ideas blew me away. The stories spanned the genres in all different sizes. What shocked me most, was how much it expanded my own understanding of the milieu I’d created. Reviews agreed, the tight theme improved the collection (Borderlands Anthology).

I wrote the next book in the series (Return of the Saboteur), incorporating some of the characters and ideas from those fantastic stories into the main storyline. However, once it came out, it felt like the main plot was too narrow. There were so many characters scattered across the world that weren’t getting page time.

Again I turned to my author friends and asked if any of them would be interested in picking up any of these loose threads. Several jumped at the opportunity. Some came back with novellas. All of them fleshed out secondary characters in ways that made me realize I needed them back in the main story line. Although it started as an anthology, I realized these stories had to be part of the super-plot because I needed all of them for the climax at the end. So we changed this book (Chaos Chronicles) to be book 3 and I steered the final book in a new and even more amazing direction.

So how long is a story? Some of the stories in this series are only 1,000 words. However, the whole series is really just one story as it affects billions of people. It’s really half a million words spread between genres and carried by many authors to become something larger. I know it won’t change how the industry rates and classifies books. Still, it proves what I always thought. Genre, audience, and word counts should just be guides. Authors shouldn’t be penalized for telling the stories they love because it doesn’t fit in a neat marketing box. I have a couple dozen authors that seem to agree with me, too.

I guess the old cliché is true—write what you love. Let the readers sort it out.

If you’d like to read some of this huge, crazy, and fun project, the first two books and the anthology will be on sale for just 99 cents each on Thursday and Friday, December 15 and 16. Book 3, Chaos Chronicles, just came out this week. The last book is in editing and scheduled to come out in 2017.

actuator-3-e-book-cover

The Actuator Series:

Borderlands Anthology https://www.amazon.com/Actuator-1-5-Borderlands-Anthology-Adventure-ebook/dp/B00NH8V3SA

1 – Fractured Earth https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EI77VS0

2 – Return of the Saboteur https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0120NKE64

3 – Chaos Chronicles https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MRWT2N3

 

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

Just Do It!

Guest post by Laura L. Walker.

Laura L. Walker grew up in a large family in the beautiful Gila Valley of southern Arizona. From the time Laura was young, she spent hours drawing characters on paper and fantasizing about their imageadventures. Life became more serious, however, when Laura met her own hero and they eventually became the parents of six children. In between spurts of grocery shopping, sewing costumes or quilts, transporting kids to practices, and making dinner, Laura still enjoys putting her imagination to good use. She is the author of two LDS contemporary romances, Pierced by Love and The Matchup.


 

From the earliest time I can remember, I always wanted to be a writer. I enjoyed thinking of new characters and making up stories for them in my head. As I grew older, I started to put these ideas on paper. But the only thing that remained consistent in my writing at that point was that I would start a project but never finish once I got bored with it. In retrospect, I realize now that the real reason I never finished any of my stories was because I didn’t know enough about story structure. But alas, I guess I didn’t really need to know this stuff because college came, then marriage, and a whole slew of other parenting challenges to keep me going. Writing took a huge backburner. In fact, at one point in my motherhood career, I realized in shock that I had no real talents other than cooking and cleaning because I couldn’t find time to develop any. I seriously thought that becoming a published author was an extinguished dream never to catch flame again.

Fast forward twelve years: As my personal challenges mounted and life seemingly became too overwhelming, I picked up the pen . . . er, rather . . . my laptop once again (technology changed dramatically in that time lapse). I pitched a rather sketchy story idea to my husband Rob and to my surprise, he not only encouraged me to write the story, but added vital details and helped me flesh out the plot more fully. A story was born. Mind you, still not a very good one, but you get the idea.

When I finished writing and editing it, I stared at the manuscript and thought, Now what? (If I had been smarter, I would have handed off my manuscript to a couple of beta readers other than my family members. Are you cringing? I do whenever I remember this.) Again, Rob helped me find publishers online to submit it to. We found a few that didn’t require queries (I steered clear of those since I knew absolutely nothing about pitching a query) and submitted my very first manuscript to a few small presses.As you might guess, I promptly received a rejection letter from one. But to our astonishment, I received an offer of publication from another and accepted. Heaven, right?

As you might guess, I promptly received a rejection letter from one. But to our astonishment, I received an offer of publication from another and accepted. Heaven, right?Not even close—for the simple fact that I was now required to market my book with my extremely limited computer knowledge (remember how I said that technology had changed?) and my story, as wonderful as I had thought it was, actually needed a LOT more work. Although my publisher and editors were great to work with, I felt totally overwhelmed by the sheer amount they wanted me to change in a very short time. Stressful much? Yeah! I tearfully and hurriedly made the changes, not really taking the time I needed to absorb the reasons behind the required changes. I suspect that if I had done this, I would have understood story structure much better.

Not even close—for the simple fact that I was now required to market my book with my extremely limited computer knowledge (remember how I said that technology had changed?) and my story, as wonderful as I had thought it was, actually needed a LOT more work. Although my publisher and editors were great to work with, I felt totally overwhelmed by the sheer amount they wanted me to change in a very short time. Stressful much? Yeah! I tearfully and hurriedly made the changes, not really taking the time I needed to absorb the reasons behind the required changes. I suspect that if I had done this, I would have understood story structure much better.Unfortunately, this same scenario repeated itself a second time with my next book, which had been written shortly after the first while I was waiting to hear back from publishers, so I made almost the same mistakes the second-go-around. And my publisher again required an inordinate amount of reworking to be done on the plot in less than a month.

Unfortunately, this same scenario repeated itself a second time with my next book, which had been written shortly after the first while I was waiting to hear back from publishers, so I made almost the same mistakes the second-go-around. And my publisher again required an inordinate amount of reworking to be done on the plot in less than a month.By this time, I had become immersed in the writing world. I’d found my people online. I read article after article on writing and couldn’t seem to get enough. I learned about the try/fail cycle in which your main character needs to try something new and a little bit scary and then actually fail at it before he or she finally succeeds near the end. I learned that one or more characters need to hold a secret of some kind. I learned that for romance, the genre I write, the guy and girl need to meet in the first scene and there needs to be a moment about three quarters of the way through where it seems all is lost and then somehow show that love will prevail.

By this time, I had become immersed in the writing world. I’d found my people online. I read article after article on writing and couldn’t seem to get enough. I learned about the try/fail cycle in which your main character needs to try something new and a little bit scary and then actually fail at it before he or she finally succeeds near the end. I learned that one or more characters need to hold a secret of some kind. I learned that for romance, the genre I write, the guy and girl need to meet in the first scene and there needs to be a moment about three-quarters of the way through where it seems all is lost and then somehow show that love will prevail.

Yes, I published two stories without knowing most of these things (thank goodness the editors knew more than me!) It isn’t enough to have a talent for writing, although that helps and can certainly be improved upon. A real writer, though, is always learning. That is why I have found writing workshops to be so helpful for me in the last few years. Learn your craft and, like your characters, don’t be afraid to try new things.

I’ve spent the past seven months writing a story with a more intricate plot than I’ve ever written before. It contains three subplots. The seven months is only the tip of the iceberg, however. I started this story three years ago, reworked the outline/plot dozens of times, and finally hunkered down to really shape it into the story it needed to be. In the process, I learned more about writing than I can express. I’m still waiting to learn its fate. It’s a good story and I’ll either find the right publisher or self-publish it. (This is another new thing I’ve tried recently. With the help of my writing community, I found that it’s not as scary as I thought it would be.)

In some ways, I’m grateful that I was blissfully unaware in the early stages of my career of the dangers of writing. If I had known that early readers would mock my writing style as being “simplistic” and that one would even throw my book across the room, I wouldn’t have taken a step forward into that dark abyss. Nor would I have experienced the joy of a reader expressing that she enjoyed my story or, better yet, encouraging me to keep writing.

As Helen Keller put it, “Life is either a grand adventure or nothing!” Or as the old motto for the athletic shoes goes, JUST DO IT!

You’ll never know what you can accomplish if you take that first scary step. There’s an army of writers to support you. You have an arsenal of knowledge and talent. You have a hard work ethic. You are a fighter. Just do it and be glad you did!


Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

Helping Readers Suspend Disbelief

Guest Post  by Loralee Evans

Bio:
Some of my earliest memories are of sitting with my mom or dad while they read me stories like The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, or Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. head-shot-for-booksThese memories, along with many great teachers who got me excited about reading, are what helped me develop a love of reading and writing. I have lived in Missouri, Texas, and Utah, and even spent a year and a half in Japan. I enjoy the works of many authors, including J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Harper Lee.


All writers want one thing: for readers to immerse themselves into the writers’ stories, care about the characters, and go along on their journeys with them.

In order for that to happen, writers need to convince readers to suspend their disbelief. Writers need to give readers a reason to put their day to day personal beliefs on hold in order to enjoy a story that contains situations that the reader may not normally believe in, like magic or anthropomorphic animals (animals that can talk, reason, and often dress like humans).

The phrase “suspension of disbelief” or “willing suspension of disbelief” was a phrase coined in 1817 by Samuel Taylor Coleridge who suggested that if a writer could infuse a “human interest and a semblance of truth into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgment concerning the implausibility of the narrative.”

Most readers going into a story want to suspend their disbelief. But suspension of disbelief has its limits. Readers are willing to believe in a world where there are unicorns or flying cars, but they won’t be willing to believe in a story that is inconsistent.

So how do we build a world that is fictional, yet believable at the same time?

Here are six suggestions that can help us do that.
1. Build Your World.
2. Remember Common Sense.
3. Do Your Research.
4. Create Convincing Characters.
5. Keep Your Narrative and Dialogue Consistent with Your World.
6. Keep Your Own Rules.

1. Build Your World with consistency. Establish your world’s societal laws, religions, customs, animals, plants, etc. around the natural realities of your world.

Author Brandon Sanderson is a master of this. In his series The Stormlight Archives, he created Roshar, a world that is regularly bombarded by hurricane force winds. These winds could easily rip a tree out of the ground, or kill the animals we’re familiar with. So he created plants called rockbuds and animals with exoskeletons like large crabs that could hunker down and withstand these winds. Even the world’s religion and swear words revolve around the reality of these storms.

When creating your own stories, keep the realities of your world in mind and mold your world around its natural laws. In short, don’t ignore universal laws or common sense.

2. Speaking of Common Sense, good writers are both creative and logical. Believable worlds are both fascinating and grounded in logic.

In the story Dinotopia, for example, meat-eating dinosaurs logically consider humans food, not friends.

Having said that, in certain stories, especially children’s stories like Matilda who had a horrible, abusive principal, it is one thing to ignore certain realities in order to tell a fun tale. It is another thing to create an inconsistency because of a lack of research on the author’s part.

3. In other words, when we take the time to do Research, the risks of getting something wrong, are reduced.

In my most recently published book, Felicity and the Fire Stoppers, my main character Felicity, an anthropomorphic sparrow, is trying to help a group of Hot Shot firefighters escape a wild fire that has gotten beyond their control. Before writing the book, I knew precious little about what real fire fighters would do in one situation or another. And so, since I wanted my story to be plausible, I did research. Not only did I find as much as I could on the internet, I also asked a couple of firefighters themselves. And they were helpful in correcting my misconceptions, validating what I did have right, and generally making sure I had my facts straight.

If we get something inaccurate because of our own lack of planning, research, or common sense, people will notice. And they won’t like it!

Remember: Most readers go into a story wanting to believe it. It is our job to make a story believable for them.

4. Another way we do that is to Create Convincing Characters.

Make sure your protagonist has goals and motivations to which your reader can relate, and that are believable. Don’t make him perfect, but don’t make him too flawed, either. You want him to be someone your readers can both believe in and care about. Readers do not expect or want perfection. What they do want, is a protagonist who gives an honest effort. If good things simply fall into his lap, your audience will not find him plausible or care about what happens to him.

With your antagonist, don’t make him evil for the sake of being evil. His reasons must be logical. At least to him.

In other words, characters need to be people. Not puppets!

5. One way to ensure that, is to Keep Your Narrative and Dialogue Consistent With Your World.

Have the language of your characters and narrator contain only words and ideas that people in that world/time period would know. Don’t say something like “The cloud was as thin as a jet’s trail…” in either narrative or dialogue if your characters are not familiar with what a jet is.

Additionally, make sure you use appropriate grammar that fits the story, the characters, and the setting. It’s okay to use “bad” grammar if it fits your story or your characters. But it needs to have a purpose.

6. Last, but perhaps most important of all, KEEP YOUR OWN RULES! Once you’ve established the rules of your world and universe, keep them.

I remember watching a documentary where George Lucas was talking about the Star Wars movies. From the beginning, whenever there was any ship in space, there was sound accompanying it. With the big ships, there was a deep rumble, and with little fighters, there would be this zipping sound increasing as it came toward the camera, and then decreasing as it went away just like cars do in real life. But at one point, after a number of the movies had already been made, someone pointed out that there actually is no sound in space. Mr. Lucas, however, didn’t say to his fans, “Oh, guys! I just discovered there’s no noise in space! I will now make sure there’s no noise in space!” He kept the first rule he had established, and noise in space remained. Mr. Lucas knew the necessity of keeping his own rules. His audience had already accepted the truth that there is noise in space in his world, and were okay with that. If he changed the rules of his story, he would have caused an inconsistency, which would have been more implausible than simply leaving the rule he’d already made that there is noise in space in his universe.

In conclusion, following guidelines like the ones suggested here, doesn’t means that you have to stifle your imagination or creativity. What it does mean, is that as authors, we owe it to readers to harness (not stifle) our creative energy and direct it in such a way that we can create stories our audience can believe. Remember to establish and keep your own rules, and create stories that are logical, populated with characters readers can care about and believe in. Readers want to follow you wherever you lead them.

Let’s give them a reason to!

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

How to Write a Nonfiction Book in 10 Easy Steps

Guest Post by Jewel Allen.

Jewel Allen is an award-winning journalist, author, and ghostwriter who grew up the Philippines and now lives in Utah. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from Utah State University and runs a memoir publishing company, Treasured Stories.jewel-allen-photo-by-tina-tate At one time, she fronted a rock band and wrote songs. When that phase passed, she decided she was more cut out to be a writer. She is the author of a young adult paranormal mystery, Ghost Moon Night, and a political memoir, Soapbox: How I landed & lost a columnist gig, fought a prison, and got elected. Soapbox chronicles her journey from journalist to activist to politician, with lots of how-to’s on grassroots / political campaigning. Visit her at www.jewelallen.com.


Have you ever wanted to write a self-help book or memoir?

Oh dear, I can already hear you saying, what do I exactly have to write about?

Plenty. For starters, if you are a successful at your line of work, and I don’t mean just as a writer, you probably have been asked by people for advice or about your unique experiences. My husband, who is a veterinarian who has specialized in sled dog races the past decade, is sitting on a goldmine of stories. He is largely unmotivated, so it probably won’t happen unless I ghostwrite it for him.

But I know you book types out there. You are always thinking of ways to write about your life experiences and selling it. Which is perfectly fine. Not only can you add to your publishing credentials and make some money, you can also help other people figure out a solution for their problem and give them an armchair experience.

In my case, I wrote and published a political memoir called Soapbox: How I landed & lost a columnist gig, fought a prison, and got elected.soapbox_cvr_med

This is why. A year ago, I was running for city council and wished I could have gotten concrete advice of how to run for local office before I threw my hat in the ring. So I decided to write a book about my experience. I enlarged upon it by including my experiences running a grassroots campaign. Before long, I had a book.

Well, okay, so my political memoir didn’t get done quite so easy-peasy. But it was a surprisingly streamlined process. (For perspective, I am on my nth revision of my historical novel, and I’m thinking it might need at least one more revision. On the other hand, Soapbox took nine months from draft to published.) So if you are thinking of writing that self-help or nonfiction book, here is my advice:

  1. Social media is your friend.

When you publish a memoir, your thoughts, insights, and opinions will be laid out there for all to see. You had better get used to it. In this post-blog age, social media, Facebook in particular, can help you build a platform even before you publish your book. Another advantage: your posts will already be chronological in order and you can easily confirm dates.

2. Post daily.

If you want to remember good, juicy details, you need to write them all down. Unleash all your fiction skills to make a scene memorable. Later, when you are writing your draft, you will be glad you did. Trying to remember what happened a year later is really hard.

3. Being transparent can avoid lawsuits.

One of the things I worried about writing a political memoir is if I would get people mad with how I characterize them or how I share details. One of my litmus tests was asking, “If they read this Facebook post, will they feel insulted?” If the answer was yes, I reworded it or skipped the detail altogether. You can be honest without being mean.

4. You can test the waters as far as the interest in your subject.

When I started posting about running a grassroots campaign and running for office, those “likes” encouraged me to keep writing. I got a sense, too, of what people were interested in reading about.

5. Set a publication goal and stick to it.

For me, my goal was to get out my book before the next election. Just days before this year’s election, my book went live on Amazon. Nonfiction subjects are usually time-sensitive. If that is the case with your topic, set a goal to get it out while the topic is still relevant or fresh in people’s minds.

6. Write your posts in usable chunks.

Your posts can be a good springboard for the first draft of your book. Save yourself time and effort later by writing them in a format that is publishable.

Each post could be a story that can drive home your point.

7. Write in a consistent style.

Casual or serious tone, it’s up to you. If you are consistent, it’s a lot easier to stitch together your posts into a book. Whatever style you choose, make sure it’s engaging.

8. Have fun experimenting.

Often, my posts written at the end of the day were raw and real. Sometimes, it was the equivalent of that 1 a.m. drunken call, and I don’t even drink. But those angsty posts can also be interesting. Sometimes, that late hour is freeing, and you tend to be more breezy, chatty, and entertaining. Be judicious in what you eventually use in your book.

9. Expect to do a lot of extra writing from scratch.

Initially, I thought that my draft would basically be my Facebook posts. I was wrong. I had to do a lot of writing from scratch. But at least I had a good framework for a narrative.

10. Get pre-pub feedback from readers both familiar and unfamiliar with your story.

You want those familiar with the story to vet your accuracy. You also want people who aren’t familiar with it to give you feedback on any confusing parts. For example, I used some acronyms in the first draft which I decided to spell out later.

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).