Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Midlist Author Mentors


If you are a writer, then you are a reader—who admires published writers.


Last month, I wrote about those Rock Star Mentors whom you can study from afar. Those blockbuster, million-dollar, best-seller authors. If I ever met Frank Peretti at a conference (and I did pass within a few a feet of him), I would be totally tongue-tied (which I was, so I didn’t stop and introduce myself).

What about those wonderful, excellent writers who steadily publish the fiction you love to read? Those who are five to ten years ahead of you in their writing careers, perhaps more. They may have even made the bestseller list a time or two. Yet they’re considered midlist authors. What about them? Can they become mentors? Possibly.

I had hesitated to call Rachel Hauck a midlist author. She’s an amazing writer and gaining a lot of success. Maybe she had made it to Rock Star level. When I looked up articles that named midlist authors, I found a post on Jane Yolen. She’s won dozens of awards and has published over four hundred books! Still, not considered a rock star.

Rachel is building her own backlist, but she doesn’t have four hundred novels under her belt yet. Anyway, she fits what I would love to have in a mentor. She’s approachable, she loves to teach and help other writers, and she continues to build her author platform.

So, how might you be able to connect with a favorite midlist author when seeking a mentor?

            1. Follow them on social media and retweet, share, and comment on their content.

            2. Subscribe to their newsletter and/or website. This allows for direct communication without dependence on social media filters, algorithms, etc. Leave comments on the blog or reply to the newsletter with encouraging words of your own. Show them you care. Everyone loves an “Attaboy(girl)!” And who knows? They might write back. A new connection created!

            3. Follow them on Amazon. Again, make a point of encouraging them.

            4. Attend a workshop or a writers’ meeting where your favorite midlist author is speaking. We just had Tina Radcliffe, another experienced mid-lister, as our speaker last Saturday. Some participants wrote to thank her, which has created a foundation for building a mentoring relationship. She responded with warmth and grace. In the future, those names will be familiar to her, and if she hears from them again, another building block will be added to the first.

            5. Jessica Conoley suggests membership to Patreon and becoming a patron for a specific author. “It  shows them you are long-term invested in their success, and therefore they are more likely to engage with you.” This was a new idea to me, and I checked into Patreon. In order to learn more, I had to create an account. I’m gun shy about handing over control of my social media to an organization, so my progress toward membership screeched to a halt. If you already are a member of Patreon, I’d love to hear your take on how helpful or entertaining you find  the concept.

I don’t want you to be thinking this whole article is about schmoozing to get something you want—an “in” with an established author.

The above list comes with a caveat:

While you would appreciate guidance from your favorite midlist author, don’t expect it.

 You admire their writing. Now, keep reading their books and enjoy the opportunity to communicate with a person you admire. Every friendship begins with someone expressing interest in another.


Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She is currently working on a middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister.

Linda had always figured she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to learning the craft.

A wife, mother of three, grandmother to seven, Linda regales the grandchildren with “Nona Stories,” tales of her childhood. Maybe one day those stories will be in picture books!

Where Linda can be found on the web:




Thank you to Jessica  Conoley, author and writing coach, who inspired this post! https://jessicaconoley.com/


Tuesday, March 9, 2021

The Cutting Room Floor

“It's cute and it's well-written, but how does it move the story forward?” The question posed by my critique partner threatened to burst my glowing I-love-this-scene bubble. Honestly, how could this oh-so-carefully-crafted scene that I loved not advance the storyline of my YA novel in the right direction?

Her advice concluded with, “I think you need to cut it.”

Her words stung, and I wanted to pout from my defensive corner. But I soon came to realize she was right. The scene was cute—exceedingly so. I felt sure it contributed to my characters’ already established voices and personalities. But as far as the storyline was concerned, this scene did not move the story forward.

I eventually made the mature decision to pull it. Hoping I would be able to use bits and pieces of it at some point in the series, I did not toss it but saved it in a document aptly titled “Deleted scenes.” Of course in reality I saved it because I couldn't bear to trash those carefully crafted words. Would I ever use it again? Unlikely. But it was easier for me to tuck it away in a folder on my computer than to toss it away forever.

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Aren’t critique partners awesome? When I was too close to the story to see the holes or the bumps or the story-stalling scenes, they intervened. And now I find myself consistently posing similar questions. Does this scene move the story forward? Does it compel the reader to keep reading? If not, could it be tweaked, combined with a different segment or used in an alternate way, one that would benefit the plot?

While not every cute, well-written scene deserves a place in your completed manuscript, those cutting-room-floor scenes can be useful to the author. How so? Because anything that gives the storyteller a deeper, wider view of the characters can serve to strengthen the characters’ presence on the page throughout the book.

Another use for cute scenes that fail the forward-progress test? They can serve as “bonus material” for newsletter subscribers or fans of the series.

There’s still time to register for bestselling author Tina Radcliffe’s presentation on “Creating Compelling Scenes” THIS Saturday via Zoom from noon to 2 p.m. EST. Zip off an email to acfwindianachapter@gmail.com to RSVP for this event hosted by the Indiana ACFW Chapter.  

See you Saturday! 

Beth’s combined experiences teaching the high school Sunday School class, substitute teaching in the public school, and connecting with the teenage staff at the fast-food joint where she claimed a “back booth office” helped inspire her young adult “Choices Matter” fiction series. She's a "cheerleader" for saving sex for marriage and for "renewed waiting" because it's never too late to make wiser choices. Her “Waiting Matters … Because YOU Matter” blog helps people of all ages navigate the choppy waters of saving sex for marriage while her “Slices of Real Life” posts find GOD in the day-to-day moments of real life.

As a genetic genealogy enthusiast, she writes and speaks about her experiences as a "foundling" who located her birth parents. Her journey to find and connect with her biological family is chronicled in the blog series “A Doorstep Baby’s Search for Answers.” All of her writing endeavors can be found on her website, https://bethsteury.com .



Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Faster, Faster, Faster
Longer, Longer, Longer

             I’d venture to say you have not finished reading every novel you began. Recall some that you laid aside. (Perhaps one or two are within arm’s reach, in which case you can review them to answer this question.) Why did you stop reading?

Perhaps you felt no sympathy for the protagonist. Perhaps the author’s style was cumbersome. Perhaps a dozen other reasons prompted you to snap the covers shut and put the book on your garage-sale pile. Dean Koontz believes—and my experience bears this out—a reader’s interest flags most often because there’s not enough action in the story.

“The more movement you work into your story and the more completely you avoid static scenes in which the characters do nothing but talk at one another, the more likely you are to end up with a novel that will sell,” Koontz says. “…Most readers just want to get on with it.”[1]

Victorian readers tolerated lengthy passages of setting description, philosophical reflection, and drawing-room dialogue in which nothing happened. College professors still compel students to read such books, or they would all be out of print. But these aren’t the sort of books that today’s readers will buy with their hard-earned money or, if they do by mistake, not the books in which they choose to invest a weekend.

We find plenty of tips and tricks for writing engaging action sequences in Koontz’s book and elsewhere, but notice a bit of his counsel that’s completely counterintuitive: Because an action sequence is the most interesting part of a novel for modern readers, we need to make the most of it. How? By making it longer.

We may speed up a reader’s perception of such a passage by making it shorter, but that also disappoints. Koontz advises, “Each time you write a potentially gripping chase—or fight or whatever—in just one page or less, you are throwing away a golden opportunity to seize and deeply involve your audience.”[2]

Here there’s a paradox. When we want to convey speed, we naturally shorten what we write. Short sentences and sentence fragments telegraph a sense of swift action; but if we do that, the reader feels shortchanged. What’s the solution? Write a longer narrative. But how can we do that without padding the story? Remember the secret of plotting: Get the character in trouble, then make the trouble worse and worse!

For example, Koontz opens his novel Whispers with a chase scene in which an assailant pursues a young woman through a farmhouse. She takes refuge in one room after another, only to have him find her again. She desperately tries to find a weapon (a flashlight? a lamp?), only to have him dodge or deflect each one. He keeps gaining on her, even grasping her clothes from time to time, but she manages to break free of his grasp and keep running, while he growls and pursues her ever closer. This breathless chase eventually reached 25 manuscript pages and more 7,500 words.

An action scene doesn’t have to be a chase, of course. It could be a fight between two suitors, a vicious courtroom argument, a child seeking shelter from a ferocious storm, etc. Any scene that puts readers on the edge of their seats is worth prolonging, so don’t relieve the tension too soon.

[1]Dean Koontz, How to Write Best-Selling Fiction (Cincinnati: Writers Digest Books, 1981), 129.

[2]Koontz, 131.