Tessa Emily Hall's Blog

April 17, 2019

How to Create an External Plot Journey by Developing the Internal Plot Journey

Plotting has always been the most difficult aspect of storytelling for me to master. I used to wonder, how can I create a plot that is not only interesting, but that can somehow connect with the main character's inner struggles and desires as well


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Since this was a problem area for me, I spent extra time studying how I can create an external arc of my story by drawing from the internal arc of my character. In this new episode of Firsts in Fiction podcast, I share some of the secrets I learned and discuss how you, too, can weave together external and internal conflict to thrust your story into motion. Check out the discussion below!







Main points:
Character-driven novelists, in particular, can benefit from discovering their story's plot by first establishing their character's inner journey. Once we discover who they are, then we can map out their external journey. The external journey will cause problems and tension as the inner journey proceeds. The overarching external goal of your main character, motivation, and story stakes can all be uncovered by first discovering your main character's inner need. The external and internal journey that your main character undergoes needs to be woven together in order to deliver a well-rounded story.


How do you create the external plot of your stories? What are other ways that we can brainstorm plot ideas by first uncovering the inner arcs of our main characters? Let me know in the comments!


Tweetable:
How to Create an External Plot Journey by Using the Internal Plot Journey #writerslife #writingcommunity http://bit.ly/2Xjij5q @TessaEmilyHall




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Published on April 17, 2019 04:00

April 3, 2019

Catching an Agent with Your Hook




What is a story hook, and is it possible to craft one in a way that captures a literary agent's attention? 

In my guest post on Story Ember's blog, I discuss the answer to this question and provide a check-list that can help you craft the perfect hook for your book. 

{ Check out the post by clicking here !}



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Published on April 03, 2019 04:00

March 20, 2019

Develop Your Story by Beginning with Character Backstory

As a character-driven novelist, I find it thrilling to discover my characters before I write their stories. I can get to know their hearts and their histories before I allow them to walk onto the page. Doing this not only enables me to present well-rounded characters to my readers, but it also helps me to develop the entire course of the story as well.


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Think about it: In real life, our past determines our present. The choices we made yesterday have brought us to where we are today. So how can we, as authors, expect to authentically slip into the shoes of our characters if we aren't first aware of why they are the way they are today? How can we expect to write in deep POV if we don't first allow ourselves to delve into our character's history? 

This is why, when I approach a new book, I like to first begin with backstory. Not only does this allow me to present flesh-and-blood characters to my readers, but it also helps me steer the entire course of our story.

In my first episode of The Firsts in Fiction Podcasts (an absolute favorite writing-craft podcast of mine, which I have recently joined as co-host--yay!), we've shared tips on how you, too, can develop your story by first beginning with backstory. Check out the video below







Main points:

When we discover the history, then we can craft well-rounded, authentic characters.Our character's past influences his/her worldview, attitude, religion, personality, etc. Characters are who they are because of the decisions they made yesterday--just like all humans. It's important for writers to understand the backstory between character relationships as well--relationships with humans, as well as with the story's setting(s). When we understand their yesterdays, then we can understand the "whys" of their today. This can then shape a character's internal struggles, goals, inner needs, and flaws, which can influence the external journey of the plot. Our characters' pasts might come into play as they walk through the course of the story.


What are your favorite ways to discover your characters' backstories? Do you brainstorm backstory first, or do you discover it as you write? Let me know in the comments! (And don't forget to give the video a thumbs up if you liked it!)



Tweetable: 

Develop Your Story by Beginning with Character Backstory #writingcommunity #writingtips https://bit.ly/2FjkNcJ @TessaEmilyHall 



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Published on March 20, 2019 04:00

March 6, 2019

Florida Christian Writers Conference

Hi, everyone! I'm taking a break from blogging this week as I prepare to teach at the Florida Christian Writers Conference that begins today. I will return to my regular bi-monthly schedule next week! In the meantime, feel free to hang out and browse through my post archive. ;) 






Are any of you preparing to attend a writing conference this season? Let me know in the comments!

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Published on March 06, 2019 04:30

February 20, 2019

Achieving the “It Factor” in Publishing

You may have heard the term “it factor” used to describe people in industries such as sports or entertainment. On reality singing competition shows, such as The Voice, judges will occasionally comment about a certain contestant having this “it factor.” In this case, the judge may describe the singer as having certain stamina and charisma—as well as a standout voice—that is admired in the music industry. The singer may also have a good feel for who he/she is as an artist, as well as a natural stage presence.
All of these components play into the term “it factor” in the music industry. I would assume this helps industry professionals weed out the highly competitive market and only sign with those who have it. 


In the publishing industry, however, authors don’t exactly need charisma or a stage presence in order to stand out amongst their competition. (Or a singing voice—thank God!) However, there are still other components that separate the “pros” from the amateurs.
{Continue reading on AlmostAnAuthor.com!}


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Published on February 20, 2019 07:30

February 6, 2019

5 Questions to Ask Before Submitting to an Agent or Editor

Are you tired of not receiving a response from an agent and/or editor? Although I personally never give an automatic rejection to a submission (only because I like to give everyone a chance), the truth is, many agents/editors will delete a submission--even before they have a chance to evaluate it entirely. 




Why, though? Isn't it rude for an agent/editor to delete a submission before even giving it a chance? 

Sure, it might sound that way. But think about it the other side: Editors and agents receive multiple submissions per week. If a writer does not adhere to specific guidelines, then, well--that's an easy way for the agent/editor to separate the pros from the amateurs. And even though it's harsh, many of these agents/editors will give an automatic no ... even without telling this to the writer. It's actually considered "rude" for writers to avoid these guidelines that they've set in place.

So what can you do, as an aspiring author, to ensure that you do not receive this automatic "no"? 

Here are 5 questions you can ask yourself before hitting "submit": 


1. Did I spell the agent or editor's name correctly? 

Remember: This is likely the first impression you'll make (after the subject line, of course). You'd be surprised how many emails I receive that are addressed to "Emily" rather than "Tessa" ... lol! 

2. Am I submitting to the right person? 

Check the site. Ensure that the agent or editor accepts your genre and would make a good match for your works. 

3. Did I follow the specific guidelines? 

There are some writers who think they're better than the rules. But the guidelines are there for a reason! Don't be lazy--unless, of course, that's the impression you'd like to make. I doubt it is, though. You're hoping to work with this agent or editor, so make sure it's obvious that you're a professional. And professionals don't carry an egotistical attitude. 

Remember that agents and editors have different guidelines for submissions. For example, some agents request only the query and first three chapters of the writer's manuscript in the body of the email, while other agents request the query and full proposal attached to the email. There are sometimes guidelines for the subject as well. (For example, the agent/editor may request the title, genre, and word count in the subject line.) This guideline is there for a reason, as it helps us to keep our emails organized. 


4. Have I edited my submission--the query letter, book proposal, and sample chapters? 

Don't rush this process. Search for typos. You are a writer, after all. And even though writers aren't always perfect in the arena of grammar and punctuation, your submission will look sloppy if it isn't clean. (I personally recommend having others read over the proposal/submission to double-check, as we're often blind to our own faults.)

5. Did I submit the right file and adhere to the standard format? 

Again, you'll want to read the guidelines carefully to make sure that you've hit every mark. The .doc or .docx file is typically preferred for a standard book proposal/manuscript--unless, of course, another type is requested. You'll also want to make sure that your submission has been adjusted to the standard font as well, which is Times New Romans, 12 pt font. 



For those of you who are unfamiliar with this process, you might think agents and editors are asking too much of writers--as if they're requesting you to jump through unnecessary hoops. But trust me when I say that these guidelines are set for a reason. Not to frustrate the author, but because it helps the agents in their evaluation process. Plus, it does help us to get an idea as to who is a pro and who is an amateur. Do what you can to come across as a pro!

So if you want to avoid those automatic rejections, do your research ahead of time--even if it requires hours upon hours of prep work. Keep in mind that almost every successful traditionally-published author has gone through this process as well. 


Then, when you're ready--and only then--should you send your work into the publishing world. But not without going over this check-list first, of course! 


Tweetable:

5 Questions to Ask Before Submitting to an Agent or Publisher #publishing #askanagent @TessaEmilyHall https://bit.ly/2DTj4eH



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Published on February 06, 2019 04:00

January 23, 2019

Is Your Publishing Dream Worth the Rejections?

Publishing can be a rewarding field to work in—especially when it involves helping other authors achieve their dreams. There’s nothing like the feeling that comes from offering a writer a contract. 


But when I first took on my two roles in publishing, I didn’t quite take into account the fact that I would have to say “no” more often than I said “yes.” As an author myself, I understand the determination writers have toward reaching their dreams. I can relate with the emotional roller coaster that writers often find themselves on throughout this crazy journey.


And I know what it’s like to work so hard and have your hopes set on a specific publisher or agent, only to have yet another door shut in your face. A door that you thought for sure could be the one to lead you toward your dream.



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So trust me when I say that it’s painful for me to writerejections as well. Since I’m passionate about motiving writers to achieve their dreams, it’s hard for me to realize that my rejection letter could accomplish the exact opposite. These letters could be a source of discouragement rather than encouragement.


Of course, I always try to come across as encouraging, even in the rejections. But it could still hurt the writer who is on the receiving end. The simple fact that they reached yet anotherclosed door could tempt them to give up.  

The hard truth is, rejections are part of the journey.It’s inevitable. Yet even though us writers might know this, it still doesn’t take away the sting. You might be prepared to receive these letters, but it still doesn’t take away the discouragement. After a while, you might begin to wonder if the journey is even worth the effort. Besides, how is an aspiring author supposed to reach the land of publishing if every route she’s tried seems blocked—as if it leads to a dead end?

When we reach the point when the rejections seem endless, I think it’s important to take a pause. A breather. Remind yourself of why you’ve decided to set out on this voyage to begin with. Allow yourself to dream again.



Then, the next time you receive a rejection, remind yourself of the following truths…

1 – It’s all about perspective.

A rejection doesn’t mean you’re not a good writer, nor does it mean you won’t be published someday. It simply means that your project is not right for the agent or editor at this time. However, it might also mean that your book still needs some work.

Did you set out on the voyage toward your dreams prematurely? Should you go back to the starting line and spend more time honing your craft?


Remember: This is a journey, not a race.

2 – There are still other options.

The great thing about today’s publishing world is that there are multiple options for aspiring authors. There will always be another agent. Multiple smaller houses are providing aspiring authors with the chance to reach their publishing dreams as well. Self-published authors are beginning to earn more respect in the industry. Plus, you could always put the manuscript you’re shopping in your drawer for now and try to pitch another project instead.

The point is, there are always options. A rejection isn’t the end of the road. You simply need to decide which step to take next.

3 – You’re trying to find the perfect editor or agent for your project. Rejections mean that person was not the right fit. (For now, at least.)

Can I remind you of this genius quote by Thomas Edison?

“I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”


If you receive another rejection, remind yourself that you didn’t fail. You just found yet another person who isn’t right for your project. But that doesn’t mean the right person won't come along at the right time. (Why is this starting to sound like a post on relationship advice? Haha)  

4 – Every successful writer has dealt with rejection at some point.

Again, rejection is simply part of the journey toward publication.

“J.K. Rowling’s first ‘Harry Potter’ was rejection 12 times. Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’ was rejected 38 times. I was immensely proud to have beaten them all.” 
– Ashwin Sanghi


5 – The dream will never come to pass if you don’t keep striving toward it.

Wouldn’t you rather try and be rejected rather than live with the regret of not trying at all?

“It is impossible to live without failing at something … unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.” 
– J.K. Rowling




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So this year, as you continue to trek along your path toward publication, remind yourself that progress is better than being stagnant. Reaching a closed door is better than to never have knocked on the door in the first place. Besides, the simple fact that you wrote a book and you’re attempting to navigate the waters of publishing should be something to be proud of! You’re already farther ahead than several writers who only dreamabout writing a book.

The writing journey is simply that—a journey.

A journey that’s often filled with setbacks, failures, and mistakes.

Yet there are bright moments along the journey as well. Moments when you reach milestones that are worth celebrating. Moments when you learn to take constructive criticism and use that to catapult you further in your craft. Times when you hear back from readers who tell you that they couldn’t put your story down. Times when you might win contests or finally sign with your dream agent.

Those are the moments that will make this journey—and yes, even the rejections—worthwhile in the end.



“I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.”  
– Sylvia Plath




~ ~ ~ How do you handle rejections? Let me know in the comments!


Tweetable:



Is Your Publishing Dream Worth the Rejections? https://bit.ly/2RHJ2Km #writingcommunity #writerslife @TessaEmilyHall







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Published on January 23, 2019 05:00

January 9, 2019

2019 Blogging Changes

Happy New Year!





Wow -- I can hardly believe it's been nine years since I launched this blog! It's crazy to think that I began as a 16-year-old who simply wanted to share her writing passion with other writers. {Check out my first-ever post!} It's been so fun to record my journey on this blog -- in both the writing and the publishing world. I've made amazing connections these past several years and have enjoyed helping you reach for your dreams as well! 

Unfortunately, due to time limitations, I need to cut back on my blogging schedule for this year. I will now post only once every other Wednesday. I am also launching a new column through AlmostAnAuthor.com titled "Becoming an Author", so several of the posts I share on here will be linked to my column posts. 

If time allows, I may post more often -- but for now this is how my blogging schedule will work. However, feel free to scroll through my archives and check out previous posts! 

Also, if you're interested in following my author journey then I would love for you to sign up for my newsletter! You can do so at this link . You can also check out my schedule for this year on my website at this link

I have also officially launched editing/mentoring services as well. If you're a writer who is looking for affordable rates, feel free to check out my services at this link

This isn't a goodbye, of course -- I simply wanted to "warn" you of the upcoming blog changes in 2019. =) I look forward to continuing to accompany you along your writing journey! In the meantime, feel free to let me know if you have any specific blog topic requests or questions you would like for me to answer in a post. 

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and happy New Year!



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Published on January 09, 2019 04:00

November 28, 2018

Writer's Inspiration for #NaNoWriMo - Part 4

Every year I've attempted to participate in #NaNo, but I always seem to be busy with another project -- or in between projects. This year, however, I finally have a chance to participate! 

Because of that, I won't have as much time to devote to blogging. However, I'd love to share quick #NaNoWriMo inspirational tidbits with you. That way both of us can gather quick inspiration that will fuel us for the duration of the month -- and keep us from being too distracted. (Hopefully!) 

Feel free to share these memes on social media to inspire and encourage other #NaNo participants. =) Also, let me know in the comments if you're participating this year!

The Writer's Life:





The Writing Craft:




The Writing Process:




Tweetable:

Writer's Inspiration for #NaNoWriMo - Part 4 @TessaEmilyHall #writerslife  https://bit.ly/2DLeBeh


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Published on November 28, 2018 04:00

November 21, 2018

Writer's Inspiration for #NaNoWriMo - Part 3

Every year I've attempted to participate in #NaNo, but I always seem to be busy with another project -- or in between projects. This year, however, I finally have a chance to participate! 

Because of that, I won't have as much time to devote to blogging. However, I'd love to share quick #NaNoWriMo inspirational tidbits with you. That way both of us can gather quick inspiration that will fuel us for the duration of the month -- and keep us from being too distracted. (Hopefully!) 

Feel free to share these memes on social media to inspire and encourage other #NaNo participants. =) Also, let me know in the comments if you're participating this year!

The Writer's Life:




The Writing Craft:



The Writing Process:



Tweetable:

Writer's Inspiration for #NaNoWriMo - Part 3 @TessaEmilyHall #amwriting  https://bit.ly/2qW9cJQ


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Published on November 21, 2018 04:00