Monday, March 19, 2018

Subplots 101

Think back to your school days. Specifically, to your high school English class.

Think of that reading assignment you enjoyed…until you were in class the next day and the teacher started throwing out words like ‘theme’ and ‘plot.’ Why couldn’t you just enjoy the story?

The thing is, you can enjoy reading a story without dissecting it. But if you’re going to write a story – a good story – you need to know the details that you ignored in your high school English class.

Today we’re going to talk about subplots.

First, we need to know what a plot is. The basic definition is: The main events of a story presented by the writer in a sequence.

The subplot is a parallel but secondary plot line that supports the main plot. The subplot usually involves secondary characters who interact with the main characters as the plot and subplot intersect.

Think of the plot as an interstate highway. If you’ve ever traveled across the country on I-70, you might have noticed that the highway often intersects with the old highway, US 40. Look at a highway map (like Google maps) to see what I mean. The span between Indianapolis and St. Louis is a perfect example.

I-70 is the main plot. It takes you straight from Indianapolis to St. Louis in a sequence of cities and rest stops. But US 40 takes a parallel route, with stops in small towns and views of rural America that you don’t see from the interstate, adding interest and depth to the journey.

That’s what a subplot does for your story: it adds interest and depth to the plot. But don't forget that the subplot also needs to be directly related to the main plot. You don't want to have two completely different stories going on at the same time. Like the highways, they need to intersect on a regular basis.

The decision to use a subplot, and how many subplots, depends on your story. In my stories for Love Inspired, I usually have one subplot. In my longer stories for Revell, I will have several subplots.

In a shorter novel, it’s important to concentrate on the main plot. You want your characters to get from point A to point Z without a lot of detours. The action moves quickly, and you don't have a lot of time to wander around in secondary character's stories.

In a longer story, you need subplots to give the story substance. In a story of that length, you have the time to explore all the issues and ideas that the main plot might suggest.

For instance, in “The Sound of Distant Thunder,” my September 2018 release from Revell, my Amish characters are dealing with the effects of the Civil War on their Ohio community. How many issues are brought up in this main conflict? I found several! I use subplots and secondary characters to explore the choices and challenges my characters face.

I’ll use my book, Naomi’s Hope, as an example. (spoiler alert!)

The main plot centers around motherhood and loss. Naomi’s adopted son, Davey, is curious about his birth family and longs for a father. As Naomi deals with the fear of losing her son, she needs to learn to trust God to keep Davey safe and to bring the situation to the conclusion that pleases Him.

For one of the subplots, I used Naomi’s sister Mattie as the secondary character who has a parallel experience. At the beginning of the story, Mattie is dealing with the burden of infertility. She becomes pregnant, but then suffers the loss of the child part way through the pregnancy.

Do you see how Naomi’s and Mattie’s experiences are similar? Both love a child that they must face relinquishing through no choice of their own. They both learn that their response to the situation makes all the difference.

By including Mattie’s story, I broaden the effects of Naomi’s story. Naomi’s situation tells the story of motherhood and loss from one perspective. Mattie’s story provides a different slant, strengthening the effect of the theme of the story.

If you’re a writer, how do you use subplots in your stories? Have you thought about the role they play?

If you’re a reader, what are some of your favorite subplots?

I’m giving away a copy of Cheryl St. John’s “Write Smart Write Happy” to one commenter today. Even though Cheryl wrote this book for writers, I think it provides wonderful inspiration for anyone who wants to take control of the details of their life so they are free to enjoy whatever creative endeavor they engage in.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Weekend Edition

   If you are not familiar with our giveaway rules, take a minute to read them here. It keeps us all happy! All winners should send their name, address, and phone number to claim prizes.  Note our new email address and please send your emails to
Monday: Lindsay Harrel brought us "7 Tips for Getting That First Draft Done." The winner of a copy of The Heart Between Us is Glynis!

Wednesday: Ruth Logan Herne intrigued us with her own special rendition of What Readers Want: A Non-Scientific Fut Fun Poll & Post. A copy of Refuge of the Heart goes to Paula Emmons. Congratulations, Paula!

Friday: Winnie Griggs took us on a journey of Rediscovering the Joy, something all writers need to sit back and enjoy more!

Monday:  Jan Drexler will embark on the subject of subplots. Are they really necessary? And how does a writer use them to add depth their stories? And yes, there will be a giveaway, so don't miss it!

Wednesday:  Debby Giusti will talk about Amish suspense, a sub-genre of Amish romance. Be sure to stop by to learn how the suspense stories differ from straight romance in the Amish world.

Thursday:  Kara Isaac comes to us all the way from across the world (for REAL this week) and Kara's going to do something few of us do: Talk honestly about current book sales and the effect on authors. This is not like "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds" ... it's a look at how the changing publishing industry is affecting the whole literary food chain, the good, the bad and the ugly. Stop by on Thursday for Kara's post and a little something something from the prize box.

Friday: Guest Dana Lynn will be with us!

Author copies arrived this week for the First Love Forever Collection, featuring Erica Vetsch's novella Prescription for Love! Though the print copies won't ship until 4/1/18, the kindle version is available now! 

On the 19th, Jan Drexler starts a week-long blog tour for her newest book, The Amish Nanny's Sweetheart. She's giving away a copy of the book, plus a $10 Amazon gift card. The blog tour is coordinated by fellow Seekers, Annie & Carrie, with JustRead Publicity Tours.

On the 21st, Erica Vetsch will be sharing five of her favorites and a giveaway of Seven Brides for Seven Texas Rangers Romance Collection at Faithfully Bookish with fellow Seeker Beth. 

See if you can spot any Seekers at Faithfully Bookish today! Beth's latest Cover Love installment features book titles and covers inspired by nature and an ebook giveaway of the complete Grace Revealed series by Jennifer Rodewald.

READERS, join the tours to celebrate the re-release of Ruthy Logan Herne's More Than a Promise with JustRead Publicity Tours. You don't even need a blog (just social media)! Sign-ups close on March 27, 2018.


We'd like to congratulate villager Kathy Bailey on her first sale, made to Pelican Book Group!! Kathy, we can't wait for your debut release!

[Villagers, please email us at the Seeker addy to let us know when you make your first sale. We'd love to announce the sale and celebrate with you!]

Thanks for the link love!

"Want Your Email Seen? 16 Spam Filter Rules to Avoid" from Boomerang

"Is Your Amazon Account Secure?" from Fiction University

Meaningful Marketing from Janet Kobobel Grant

3 Tips to Hook Your Reader’s Emotions from Writer Unboxed

12 Tips for the Best Writing Ever by Edie Melson, The Write Conversation

Friday, March 16, 2018

Rediscovering The Joy

Hi everyone, Winnie Griggs here. 
I normally post on craft-related topics here at Seekerville, but today I'm focusing on a different aspect of the writing life. I hope you will indulge me as I do a bit of personal introspection.

As many of you know, Love Inspired is closing their historical line effective this June. And while I am sad about this for a number of reasons, I’ve also come to look at it as an opportunity of sorts.  By that I mean it has given me a writing time out, a chance to slow down and evaluate where I am in my writing career and try to figure out where I really want to go from here.

I’ve been pondering this for the past six months or so and have reached some rather surprising conclusions.  The ideas I have for new stories, the ones that excite me the most, are all contemporaries – a genre I never thought I’d want to dive fully into this way. And I’m not just talking one book, but three separate multi-book series that I just can’t wait to bring to life.

While I’m having my agent shop these to traditional publishers, however, I also realized that I want to test the indie waters as well. So, as a first step to that end, I pulled out one of my earlier releases that I have reacquired the rights to. Something More was my second published book and was released by Dorchester, a secular publisher, in 2001. Dorchester no longer exists and this book was never released digitally so unless you stumble on it in a used book store you can’t find it any longer. And since I really do love this story I thought it deserved a new life.

Before I could put it up, however, I knew it would need some revision.  After all, that book was written over 17 years ago and I have hopefully learned a thing or two since then.

But a strange thing happened when I started reading the original manuscript. I began to see something of the writer I was at the beginning of my career. Yes, I am finding minor problem areas in both plot and craft that I need to revise, but I am also finding glimmers of the exuberant joy and freedom I found in the writing of my early work, before I let the deadlines and expectations of my publishing house editors turn writing into a job. Which is not to say I haven’t enjoyed writing my subsequent work. I have truly loved every book I’ve written and there are many, many more I’m itching to write.

But I look back on that joyful, fearless (story-wise at least)  writer I was at the beginning and wonder where she went. I’m hopeful that, as I dig deeper into the revisions I’m doing on this book and take the time to develop new stories I don’t yet have contracts for, that I will find her again.


So what about you? Have you ever faced a fork in the road that had you re-evaluating the course you were on?  Were you able to reinvent yourself to meet the new challenges?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

What Readers Want: A Non-Scientific But Fun Poll & Post

That pretty much sums it up, romance writers! And hey, if you're a Women's Fiction writer, stick around, too, because we've got stuff to share with you.

First, you're wondering how I did my research. Understandable.

Umm... facebook???

And here in Seekerville.

And on Twitter.


So I'm not exactly running Gallup polls. I'm not verifying results with Price, Waterhouse and Cooper (aka: PWC) and I''m pretty much making some stuff up as I go along, but I did DO the polls , so that should count for something. Okay, back to serious results:

We're going to talk heroines in this blog. Heroes will come next, right before Easter. Then settings and secondaries in blog #3 at the end of the month.

Let's do heroines first, and you know why? Because they matter. They matter far more than readers might give them credit for because while we are attracted to the hero...

We empathize with the heroines.

While we want to fix the heroes...(what are we thinking, gals??)

We want to sit down and have coffee with a well-drawn heroine.

So here's how it went, with 107 replies/choices:

1. The Kate Beckett profile (Castle): Independent heroines, maybe a little in your face, strong, assertive, sense of humor but reaches out.  (35 votes)

2. Mother Earth profile: Kind, caring and empathetic, loves kids, cats and dogs and will hold frogs. (27 votes)

3. The Martha type: Saucy, sassy, able to handle a job, three kids, the hero and do homework.  (25 votes)

4. The Stephanie Plum gal: Sassy, feisty but humble, always seems to be getting herself into some kind of trouble. (10 votes)

5. The Magdalena: The loner who carries a great deal of weight on her shoulders from undeserved guilt.  (5 votes)

6. The Boss: No nonsense, stay out of her way, she's got this! Until she doesn't. (3 votes)

So here's the point I got from all of this: #1 and #6 are almost the same person, same profile, but here's the difference: We humanized her more in choice #1. Look at the words: Independent, strong, in your face, strong, assertive, in your face but reaches out...

And then #2 is a crowd-pleasing favorite. She's Becky Thatcher... Laura Ingalls mom Caroline... Ma Walton...  She's often the 2nd sister in a trilogy, the one who stays home to run the farm.

#3 is a true Martha... She's got it all, maybe not because she wants to... but because she must. So if she must... she does it well. 

#4 seems to be more likely to find her way in a humorous women's fiction story. Janet Evanovich style... The gal who's always getting into scrapes.  

Strong writing can work within all these prototypes. And a strong writer can blend things together because real people are a blend. What's crucial is to stay in character all the way... The character can grow... but cannot become someone else. 

#5, the loner who carries the weight of the world on her shoulders is my heroine from "Refuge of the Heart", the Maggie award-winning story of a church-sponsored refugee who was held captive by the Russian army in Chechnya before obtaining her freedom and finally a chance to come to America.

It is a beautiful story that's about to be re-published as an indie book, a story that grips the reader and pulls them into Lena's world... But look at how few votes that got in a simple poll.

Here's what that tells us: Any story, told well, can defy the odds.

Let not your heart be troubled... John 14:1

Don't give up on your work if it doesn't seem right. If it's not being received well... yet. :) Because every bit of work you do is preparing you for your goals. Your future. Your chances, possibly magnified.

Believe in yourself but pay attention to what readers want... what they love.

Is that selling out?

Of course not, that's ridiculous! If you know that pink/yellow/green quilts sell well at the fair, is it wrong to create pink/yellow/green quilts?


It's smart.

Very few people drive a Lexus.

Most of us are more in the Subaru/Chevy/Toyota frame of pocketbook.

Writing appealing stories doesn't make us less of a writer... and it can certainly make us more prolific.

Tell me about your heroines! I thought we'd have room for heroes today, but I talked too much. (SHOCKER!!!)

Will I love your heroines? Or want to slap them?

A copy of "Refuge of the Heart" is in the prize vault to celebrate its upcoming re-release...

I hope folks will love it.

I know they will.

They already do.

And huge blessings on Franciscan Media for turning the publishing rights back over to its fiction authors, to give these books a chance to meet the audience they deserve. I can honestly say that their actions are rare in Christian fiction... and a true blessing to their former authors.

Come on in! Let's talk heroines, my friends! 

Multi-published, award-winning inspirational author Ruth Logan Herne loves writing stories... big stories and sometimes small stories. Long stories... short stories... and the occasional poem, just because. She writes on her pumpkin farm in Western New York where the winters are long and the springs are muddy, but she loves, loves, loves cats, dogs, donkeys, kids, the good Lord above and chocolate. Friend her on facebook or chase down her website

Monday, March 12, 2018

7 Tips for Getting That First Draft Done

by Guest Lindsay Harrel

I’m a planner, through and through. Call me Type A, Uber Organized, whatever—that’s me. I love lists and calendars and scheduling myself to the brink.

But then, inevitably, life happens: a kid gets sick, I get sick, I don’t have the energy for writing, my dog eats our dinner right off the counter (true story), my husband has a work emergency and can’t come home to watch the kids. Et cetera, et cetera.

And I fall further and further behind on my oh-so-lofty goals.

It’s then I’m tempted to say, “What’s the point? I can’t do this! There just isn’t enough time.”

I’m guessing you’ve been there a time or two (or fifty…who’s counting?). But I’m here tell you that it IS possible—you CAN get that first draft done. I’ve written three books in the last three years as a work-from-home mom (I currently have a 3 year old and an 11 month old), so if I can do it, you can too.

In fact, I’ve compiled a list of tips to help you work toward completing that first draft.

1.     Understand your weaknesses—and plan against them. We all have those writing pitfalls we fall into when it comes to procrastination and not making progress on our first draft. Do you get too tired to write if it’s past 7 pm? Try waking up early and writing at 5 am. Is your problem getting distracted at home because of all the unfinished chores you see piling up around you (or because of the TV)? Don’t let it be an issue; change up your locations and see where you write best (the library and Starbucks are a few of my faves).

2.     Commit to smaller writing sessions if you have to. I usually write during my children’s naptime and I can hammer out a scene if I write fast enough (and my kids sleep as long as they’re supposed to!). But there are days when things don’t go according to plan—and that’s okay. Train yourself to think in smaller chunks. Can you find 15 minutes before dinner to write the dialogue for that important scene you’ve been ruminating over? Or maybe you can’t manage to get up a whole hour before everyone else in your household, but you COULD manage a half hour. Remember that any time spent writing is forward motion—and all of that time adds up in the end.

3.     Think creatively when it comes to your schedule. Just because you’ve always done something one way doesn’t mean you have to continue to do it that way, especially when you’re trying to write a first draft quickly. For example, if your family is used to fancy dinners that take an hour to prepare, throw in a few crockpot meals here and there. Or, use Evernote to dictate your story into your phone while you fold laundry or are driving to the school pickup line, doctor’s office, or wherever you’re going. Things don’t have to be as black and white as you sitting at your desk in complete silence writing one whole scene at a time. Get creative and make more time in your busy schedule for writing.

4.     Remember that you are only one person. Something’s gotta give—you cannot be Superwoman (or Superman, if any guys are reading this!) all the time. Inevitably, you’ll falter in some area and will feel guilty (even when you shouldn’t). It’s okay to ask for help. Get the kids to do more chores. Ask a friend or family member to babysit. See if someone else can volunteer at church just this once. Of course, you don’t want to shirk your duties in other areas, but there’s a beautiful balance that’s possible when you remember that you don’t HAVE to do it all—and you shouldn’t expect yourself to.

5.     Keep your editing hat far, far away. If you’re a perfectionist like me, it’s really difficult to write a bad scene and be okay with it. But I have learned over the years that if I don’t just write during a first draft WITHOUT editing, then I’ll never make any progress. If I write something particularly cringe-worthy, I tell myself, “You can fix that later.” Having that knowledge in the back of my mind helps me to pound out the story without worrying so much about the final outcome.

6.     Make sure God is part of the equation if you’re a believer. I recently finished what will be my third published book, The Secrets of Paper and Ink, which won’t release until next February. I have always prayed over first drafts, but not like I did with this book in particular. This time, I felt God calling me to write with Him. That idea came from a session by Allen Arnold I attended a few years ago at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference. In this case, “writing with God” meant that I put aside my need for reassurance from critique partners and just relied on Him while writing my first draft. And you guys, I felt such a peace throughout the drafting process. There would be times when I’d question whether I was crazy to do it this way, but when I’d pray about whether to send the story to someone, it just didn’t feel right. I’m not saying you need to do this—critique partners are VERY important!—but just remember to immerse yourself in prayer and ask God for direction as you write. He may lead you to a theme or a story plot you hadn’t anticipated. Just keep yourself open to what He has for the story, even if you had something else planned.

7.     Remember—you and your calling are worth it. It’s easy to let other things in our life take priority over our writing. Sometimes, they should, no doubt. But other times, it’s just an excuse. I firmly believe that if God’s called you to it, He will equip you and give you the time you need to do it. There’s no way I’d get it all done with two little boys and a husband if that wasn’t the case. I have a dear friend who likes to say that she’s actually a better mom because she writes. It doesn’t take away from her life—it adds to it in so many ways. It is worth the time and energy it takes to write stories that will bless others.

Don’t let fear, indecision, unpreparedness, or anything else become your excuse for not getting that first draft done. You CAN do it. Don’t allow anyone—including you—tell yourself differently.

YOUR TURN: What is something that’s held you back from writing in the past? What can you do to overcome that? Is there some way we can be praying for you in this regard?

Thanks for having me today, Seekerville! To show my appreciation to all of you lovely readers and fellow writers, I’m giving away a copy of The Heart Between Us (U.S. residents only), which releases TOMORROW! This book is a testament to the fact that anyone can get a book completed, as I wrote it with a toddler running around trying to eat up all my attention and edited it when I was seven months pregnant with my second son. J

Please let us know in the comments if you'd like to be entered.

About Lindsay
Lindsay Harrel is a lifelong book nerd who lives in Arizona with her young family and two golden retrievers in serious need of training. She’s held a variety of writing and editing jobs over the years, and now juggles stay-at-home mommyhood with writing novels. Her debut novel, One More Song to Sing, was an ACFW Carol Award finalist in 2017, and her second, The Heart Between Us, releases this month (March 2018).

When she’s not writing or chasing after her children, Lindsay enjoys making a fool of herself at Zumba, curling up with anything by Jane Austen, and savoring sour candy one piece at a time. Connect with her at

Megan Jacobs always wished for a different heart. Her entire childhood was spent in and out of hospitals, sitting on the sidelines while her twin sister Crystal played all the sports, got all the guys, and had all the fun. But even a heart transplant three years ago wasn’t enough to propel Megan’s life forward. She’s still working as a library aide and living with her parents in her small Minnesota hometown, dreaming of the adventure she plans to take “once she’s well enough.” Meanwhile, her sister is a successful architect with a handsome husband and the perfect life—or so Megan thinks.

When her heart donor’s parents give Megan their teenage daughter’s journal—complete with an unfulfilled bucket list—Megan connects with the girl she meets between the pages and is inspired to venture out and check off each item. Caleb—a friend from her years in and out of the hospital—reenters her life and pushes her to find the courage to take the leap and begin her journey. She’s thrown for a loop when Crystal offers to join her for reasons of her own, but she welcomes the company and the opportunity to mend their tenuous relationship.

As Megan and Crystal check items off the bucket list, Megan fights the fears that have been instilled in her after a lifetime of illness. She must choose between safety and adventure and learn to embrace the heart she’s been given so that she can finally share it with the people she loves most.