Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The Learning Curve

For many of us, our primary job is not writing, even thought we wish it were so.

Many of us also spend time driving to/from work or driving the kids here and there. My primary job, for example, involves long stretches of “windshield time.” 

One great way to pass this time, yet make it more productive (enjoyable, educational, etc.), is to use your iPhone to stream music, listen to podcasts, or load up your favorite audio book. There are many, many options for each of these. Some are free, some are paid, and some have trial periods so you can test. I tend to stay with a particular platform (all Apple or all Amazon) to get the biggest tie in to suggestion-based listening (meaning the apps share info with each other to make educated suggestions based on your listening trend). 

As writers, many of these can be used as learning tools while we are driving...turning this type of time into valuable learning time.

Podcasts: (writing, publishing, etc.)

Apple Podcasts 



Audio Books: (Fiction, Non-Fiction, Development, etc.)

Apple Books




Streaming Music: (the sky is the limit)

Apple Music






  • You can stream just to listen.
  • I stream many youtube videos because I find the audio still useful.

A few things to remember:

  1. Stay hands free. Most of us have vehicles that have a way to port through the vehicle stereo system.
  2. Make sure you understand how to keep your eyes on the road and use the steering wheel controls to change volume, etc.
  3. Be careful you do not accidently sign yourself up for more than you want.
  4. Take the time to learn the apps. Do not just randomly push buttons.

The bottom line here, for those of us with limited writing time, is to turn unproductive time into writing productive learning!!!

-Darren Kehrer

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Journey With a Critique Partner


Last month I shared how critique groups allow for more eyes on your work. This month, let’s go a little deeper.


Find a Critique Partner


He may be one member of your critique group or someone different, but the person should be aware, as a writer, what a manuscript needs. A friend who loves to read is rarely a good critique partner. That person needs to be your beta reader. (Stay tuned for next month.)

A critique partner is willing to read the same chapter over and over, and as her critique partner, you’re willing to do the same when she submits and resubmits and resubmits again.


Together, You Will:


1. perfect the prose.

Just when you think you’ve finally got it right, your partner will see “it” differently. “Yes you’ve improved the word picture—I can see it all much better—but the sentence structure is awkward.” Keep working.

You both gain an education in grammar and editing on this journey. From macro-editing the big picture to micro-editing.

  • Line edits.
  • Copy edits.
  • Proofreading.
  • Is the voice consistent? 
  • How are you doing with sensory details? 
  • Are your main character’s goals clear to the reader?
  • Do you remind the reader of those goals?
  • Have you formatted the document correctly?
  • Do you have a sagging middle? (The manuscript, not you!)
 The questions seem endless.

Critique partners don’t need to be experts in these skills, but the more they know and learn, the more valuable they will be.


2. encourage each other.

Especially when one of you is ready to toss the whole book into File Thirteen.

So, you received a rejection. A harsh review from a reader.

Who knows best how to cheer you up? Your spouse who thinks writing is a wonderful hobby for you? Your coworkers at your day job? Your critique group?

Or your critique partner who knows that rejected piece almost as well as you do?


Ask your partner, “What am I doing right?” She’ll give you an honest and uplifting answer.

And become her cheerleader, too. Praise her for what she does most effectively in her writing.


A Partnership Is a Relationship.


When we weave our words into glorious tales of  love and adventure, the most excellent stories involve strong relationships among the characters. Strong relationships anchor life, too. As we write, our plots and themes are pulled from life’s experiences with friends and family. With a critique partner, our best work comes to fruition because we forge strong bonds with another author. And we journey through the book together.


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 eight, Linda regales the youngest 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:






Wednesday, June 9, 2021

We Asked and You Responded

We appreciate the responses received from many of you concerning resuming in-person gatherings for the ACFW Indiana Chapter. Based on your feedback, our July 17th ACFW Indiana Chapter meeting will be in person. While it has been great to see your smiling faces via Zoom this past year, it will be even better to see you in person. We love that technology allowed us to stay connected and even grow our following this past year. Rest assured we will continue to utilize virtual technology, hosting some of our future meetings via Zoom while others will be held in person.

We are excited for the opportunity to be together at the MCL Cafeteria on the north side of Indianapolis for a 11:30 a.m. start time on Saturday, July 17. Plans are in the works to also offer the day’s presentation via Zoom OR to provide a recording of the presentation available for viewing after the 17th. More info will be shared in the coming weeks. 

We are in for a treat as author, speaker, and podcaster Michelle Weidenbenner will share with us on the topic of getting started with indie publishing. Michelle is an Amazon #1 Best-Selling and Award-Winning author and speaker. She’s spent years writing fiction, but when God called her to take guardianship of her grandkids due to addiction, she refocused her work to serving moms of addicted loved ones.

I know firsthand that Michelle is chock full of tips and advice on the ins-and-outs of indie publishing. So, mark your calendar and stay tuned for more details and the request for RSVPs.




Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Why Not Mainstream?

I’ve been mining Dean R. Koontz’s book, How to Write Best-Selling Fiction, for unique writing insights that I’ve shared in recent blog posts. If you’ve found them helpful, I encourage you to read the entire book. Though long out of print, it’s available in most large university libraries and second-hand bookstores. Before we move on, notice what Koontz says about writing mainstream fiction instead of genre fiction. Most ACFW members write genre fiction, but Koontz strongly believes a talented author should write mainstream from Day One.

He began his own career by writing sci fi short stories because he was a fan of that genre, but this limited him to publication in small specialty magazines. Major book publishers seldom acquired sci fi books, even in the glory days of the “Star Wars” series, so Koontz realized he would not reach a very large readership by writing books in this category, so he shifted to writing mainstream mystery novels. In the closing pages of How to Write Best-Selling Fiction, he poses the options to us:

..As I have tried to make clear, the difference is primarily in degree. Mainstream demands more than most genre work—deeper characterization, more background, better-realized thematic structure, more attention to character motivation, fresher action scenes, and a better balance among the sundry elements of fiction. Otherwise, the patterns of mainstream and category fiction are not terribly different from each other. (Of course, this matter of degree, while simple, is enormously important. It explains why a mainstream novelist can sell a million, two million, even ten million copies of a book, while a genre novelist sells 50,000 or 100,000 copies.)[1]

Koontz once thought that budding authors could hone their skills by writing genre fiction and then cross over to mainstream fiction, but not anymore. It’s very difficult for a writer to recalibrate from writing in the structure and style of genre fiction to the richer, more complex approach of mainstream fiction. More important, when an author begins to establish a reputation as a genre fiction writer, editors and readers doubt that he/she will be capable of delivering a mainstream novel. So Koontz puts the question to us:

…Why should you write books reaching tens of thousands of readers when you can perhaps write books reaching millions? If you have an idea for a good genre novel, play with it, work with it, pull and tug and reshape it, until you have broadened the concept and can write it as a larger, more ambitious mainstream book. You will not be sorry.[2]           

[1] Dean R. Koontz, How to Write Best-Selling Fiction (Cincinnati: Writers Digest Books, 1981), 211.

[2] Koontz, 235.