Archive for March, 2010


March 30, 2010

Have you ever been writing along and forgot the color of your main character’s eyes, or his/her nickname, or the name of a brother or sister? Horrible isn’t it. Now you have to page back through half your manuscript to find the color or the name. This is counter productive and time consuming. Feel free to copy the following pages and save yourself some time and effort. 

As I used to tell my students you may not need all this information but it does help you know your character and how they will react. 








Marital status_____________ 

Spouse’s name___________________________________ 


__________________________________________________Physical Appearance 


Eye color___________________(eye expression)___________________ 

Hair color/length___________________Skin tones_________________ 

General health____________________________________ 

Physical Characteristics___________________________ 

Style of dress____________________________________ 

 Personality Traits 




Outlook on life- 



Punctuality and dependability_________________________ 


Personal Integrity- 


Sense of Humor- 






 Present Situation 


If not the main character, relationship to main character ________________________________________________ 

Feelings toward main character________________________ 



Financial Situation________________________ 

Major possessions 


Residence (describe or use photos if necessary) ___________________________________________________________________________________________ 


Lives with________________________________________ 

Dominant habits and traits____________________________ 




Personal morality________________sexual 

________________________religious beliefs 




Secret wishes and desires 


Dominant habits and traits___________________________ 




Personal morality________________sexual 

________________________religious beliefs 



Secret wishes and desires 

Other significant information 

Main interests______________________________________ 


Sports or hobbies__________________________________Background 

Date of birth______________________________________ 


Parents____________relationship with_________________ 

____________relationship with_________________ 

Siblings (how many, names, relationship with each) 

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________in-laws__________relationship with____________________ 

_______relationship with____________________ 

Significant childhood events relative to this story: 


Education (level achieved and significant info.) 


Major life events (chronologically) 


Notable achievements_______________________________ 

 Personal information and habits 

Food preference____________________________ 

Entertainment preference_____________________________ 

Personal appearance_________________________________ 


Writing Tips

March 24, 2010

Just a short note this week.  One of the biggest problems with most beginning writing is a showing vs. telling problem. 

If you stay in the viewpoint of your main character allowing your reader to see the world through their eyes, and using their five senses and emotions you will solve most of your showing and telling problems.


March 16, 2010

An easy beginning for your writing can be the four-way sentence. This can assist in shaking loose “writer’s block” to get you into the writing mode. Some four-ways will work for a great beginning, but some do not and will end up being scrapped after the writer is more involved in the work.

The four-way sentence consists of the name of the central character, a descriptive phrase, a suggestion of where he/she is and what he/she is doing.


Clancy’s steel-gray eyes scanned the dance floor. (The reader now knows the name of the central character, something about him, where he is, and what he is doing.) To most readers Clancy’s last name is not germane and should be left out. Calling him Clancy Jones is unnecessary and may mark you as a beginner.

Perhaps one of my outstanding memories for a compelling opening hook sentence that is also a four-way sentences came from one of my beginning students who wrote: “The man who tried to rape me came back to knock on my door two nights later.” One student shuddered, one sat with mouth agape; I’m sure my pupils dilated. She had us hooked. We all wanted to hear the rest of the story and we weren’t disappointed.

You may have difficulty writing that gripping a beginning initially, but with practice you can succeed, and at the very least, a four-way sentence will get you into the meat of your story.

Any mechanism which assists you in getting into the writing mode is not only useful, but necessary. If you have other ideas for beginnings, hold the four-way sentence for one of those rocky days when nothing seems to be going right.


March 8, 2010

If you are working on your writing career, the golden day will come when you’ve perfected your work to the point an agent will offer you a representation contract. Here are some important factors to consider before you sign.

Is the agent charging a reading fee? representation fee of over $150 for one year?

How does the agent want payment for postage, handling, telephone calls, manuscript copies or other expenses that are incurred?

Will the funds from your royalties and advances be held as trust funds and not co-mingled with the agent’s funds?

How long after the agent receives monies can you expect to receive your portion of the money?

What is the term of the contract? (One year is best — six months is too short, two years is too long.)

Is there a termination clause where you can get out of the contract?

What percentage does the agent want of monies from sale of your work? (Most agents are now charging between 12 and 15%.)

Will the agent send you statements of accounting?

Do you have the right, with advance notice, to inspect the agent’s books regarding your work?


How long has the agent been in business?

What published books or published clients does the agent have?

Is the agent a member of the Association of Authors Representatives (AAR)?

What type of marketing does your agent have in mind for your manuscript?

How often may you call the agent? (Remember if the agent is on the telephone with you, it isn’t possible to get calls from editors or to sell your book.)

Will the agent give you copies of your rejection letters? (Ask for this in writing, if possible, and assure the agent that these will only be used for your information and you will not call editors who have rejected your work.

Is the agent interested in your other work? If not are you free to market it elsewhere?

Finding an agent can indeed be a “slippery slope”  so don’t sign before you get all the facts.

Book Outlines

March 1, 2010

Recently I’ve has several requests for how to write an outline for a book proposal.  Beginning writers may not know that this is not the I,II,III or A,B,C type outline so here is a sample.




Sandy Whelchel


Reasons for another writing book.

CHAPTER ONE–Getting Started

A Place to Be-reasons for a permanent place to write.

Stocking Your Place-necessary books and equipment for beginning to write.

The remaining portion of the chapter covers personality traits necessary to be a writer, and the necessity for a regular commitment to writing.

CHAPTER TWO–Ideas, Ideas, Ideas

This chapter focuses on:

1) Where to get ideas: other printed matter, visual media, watching people, daydreaming, overheard conversations, your own life, and other possibilities.

2) Ways to keep ideas handy for using in your writing: journals, notebooks and note cards.

CHAPTER THREE–Where are you going?

The differences between fiction and nonfiction writing are discussed.

CHAPTER FOUR–Proper manuscript format.

Reasons for proper manuscript format are discussed. Explanations for number of lines per page, unjustified right margins and proper headers are covered.

Appendix A & B will give examples of proper format.

CHAPTER FIVE–Great beginnings.

The four-way sentence consisting of the name of the central character, a descriptive phrase, a suggestion of what he/she is doing and where he/she is doing it, is explained.

Hooks are explained and the difference/similarities between hooks and leads are covered.

Story hooks and chapter hooks are defined and discussed.

CHAPTER SIX–Plots and Storylines

Plot is defined and delineated from storyline.

Techniques for plotting are covered.

Examples of basic plot lines are explained and discussed: man against man, man against nature, and man against himself.

Methods of Plotting: outlining, synopsis, mind outlines are discussed