While I’ve been away…

It has been a while since I’ve been on this site. I’ve been busy writing, editing, querying, revising, editing, querying, editing — well you get the idea. It’s a process that all novelist go through. But at the end of the process, a publishing company decides they love the manuscript and decide to publish it. My latest finished manuscript has been contracted for publication by Champagne Book Group! I am excited to work with Cassie Knight, etal, on this book. As I go through the pre-publishing process, I’ll share it with you. Hopefully soon I can share the book cover and finished title.

The title, subject to change per editors, is Running With Horses. Set in the horse world of Wellington, FL, an aspiring dressage trainer is in hiding from a mysterious stalker. She’s using an alias to cover her identity in hopes of finally getting free of the fear. But when she meets and falls in love with a handsome veterinarian, it’s the lies she’s weaved that could derail the relationship. Especially when a murder occurs in this tranquil place and she is the lead suspect. Nothing good ever comes from lying. Telling the truth could alert the stalker to her new location. But telling the truth and facing the fear may be what brings the two together.

Tentatively, the novel will be out later this year. I plan to bring updates as I get them. Also, there are two new manuscripts in the process of being written. Stay tuned for more on those!

Runaway Choices

Review of RUNAWAY CHOICES by Eisley Jacobs
A Christian Speculative Fiction Romance
Published 2012 Amazon Digital Services LLC
Recommendation: Five Stars

This is the first novel I can honestly say; I found it hard to put down. The story is compelling, but also it is a non-stop thrill ride. Every paragraph is action filled, and you never get a moment to take a breath much less put it down to do something else. I have never read so much action; it is just one inciteful event after another.
I selected the novel as the Christian Speculative Fiction idea intrigued me. I wasn’t sure how Christian and Speculative Fiction could go together. Miss Jacobs weaves them wonderfully.
The main character, Beck, is wonderfully fraud. As she overcomes her past issues, you can begin to like and root for her. The object of her affection, Colin, is a dream character; though you see even good characters sometimes let us down.
Personally, I am not a fan of the first-person point of view but seeing it through Beck’s eyes is what keeps the action moving. This is an Indie-published work and I found the story extremely well written and expertly edited. It is refreshing to read a self-pub so well edited and formatted.
If you want non-stop action, I highly recommend reading this. It will make you see things a bit differently and hope we all have a guardian angel looking out for us!

Baltimore Mounted Police Unit’s Big D and Sergeant Russell Robar Honored as 2018 Klinger Award Recipient

Big D, a 16-year-old palomino draft cross named in honor of fallen officer Forrest Edward “Dino” Taylor, and Sergeant Robar, leader of the Baltimore Police Mounted Unit, received the Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) Klinger Perpetual Award for Honor & Service sponsored by the EQUUS Foundation and the Stephens Family on Friday, October 26, 2018, in center ring during the annual WIHS Military Night.

L to R: John E. Franzreb III, Klinger, SFC Christopher Taffoya, Denise Quirk, Katherine Pinkard, Victoria Lowell,
Emma Suarez-Murias, SGT Russel Robar, Big D, Officer John Potter, and Officer Eric Grove
Photo courtesy of Shawn McMillen Photography

The WIHS Klinger Perpetual Award for Honor & Service sponsored by the EQUUS Foundation and the Stephens Family is presented annually to a horse, individual, or organization that best demonstrates the values of honor and service as embodied by Klinger, a special horse who has touched the lives of many in his life of service with the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) Caisson Platoon. The honoree receives a $750 grant from the EQUUS Foundation matched by a $750 donation from The Stephens Family.

“Big D is a wonderful example of a horse who found a meaningful second career. Big D pulled farm wagons and plows before joining the urban Baltimore Police Mounted Unit as a peacekeeper. It is an honor to recognize Big D’s big-hearted public service and Sergeant Robar,” said Denise Quirk, Chair of the EQUUS Foundation Horse Welfare Advisory Group, who represented the EQUUS Foundation in the presentation ceremony.

Baltimore’s mounted police unit has helped keep the city’s peace since 1886. As the unit’s leader, Sergeant Robar makes sure the unit continues to serve as a positive and efficient force in Maryland while maintaining its recognition as the oldest continually operated unit in the United States. The pair leads the unit in over 170 community and service events each year.

Dino and most of the unit’s horses came from Amish farms and were retired after years of pulling plows and farm wagons. They are well suited for the routine patrols of city streets and their crowd control duties. Big D and the seven other equine members of the unit also serve as a model to teach Baltimore youth about the value of public service. “Dino’s our alpha lead horse and a no-nonsense workhorse,” Robar said. “The children on the Amish farms would be climbing all over them. They’re used to people.”Baltimore Mounted
Currently stabled downtown, the unit is scheduled to get a new home. The grant awarded to the Klinger Recipient will be used to help construct an equestrian facility on the property of the B&O Railroad Museum to address the needs of the Baltimore Police Mounted Unit’s human and equine officers as well as to create new and strengthen existing partnerships between the Baltimore City Police and the people of Baltimore. The interactive learning site will provide visitors with an immersive educational experience with planned programs, activities, and demonstrations to build positive interaction between the community and Baltimore City Police officers – both two and four-legged.

When I served on the mounted unit in Davie, FL, I met officers from all over the world. I didn’t have the privilege to meet Sgt. Robar but I have heard of the great unit she commands. Mounted Police Horses are some of the best ambassadors for both equines and human police officers everywhere.



Finding Your Author Voice

To be a good writer, you must also read. Reading other authors, especially the masters, will help you develop the voice you will write with. Sometimes finding the time to read when you know you need to be writing is difficult when you also have a life. My reading brought me to this article by Kyle A. Massa on the ProWriting Aid Blog. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did. Here is the re-blog of his article.

About the Author:
Kyle A. Massa is a speculative fiction author living in upstate New York with his wife and their two cats. He loves the present tense and multiple POV characters. When he grows up, he wants to be a professional Magic: The Gathering player. For more of his work, visit http://www.kyleamassa.com.

Finding Your Unique Authorial Voice

What do you sound like?
I don’t mean the sound of your singing voice (though I bet it’s excellent in the shower). I mean your voice as a writer. What does that sound like?
Finding this voice might sound challenging, but it isn’t necessarily. I don’t mean to sound like a Disney movie, but the truth is, you probably already have that voice inside of you. It’s just a matter of finding it. (Cue “When You Wish Upon a Star.”).
That’s what we’re going to do now. Here are five ways to discover your unique authorial voice.
Write… a Lot
Obvious but true. Finding your voice is a process that takes time, patience, and dedication. Therefore, you’re not going to find it after a few hours of writing. Or even months. Try years.
Sure, this might sound daunting. Truth be told, sometimes it’s going to feel daunting. But the fact is, if you care enough about writing to read an article like this, you’ve already got the drive and dedication to make it happen. I recommend choosing a daily word count goal and committing to it.
In his outstanding nonfiction masterwork On Writing, Stephen King recommends 2,000 words per day. One of my favorite fantasy authors, Joe Abercrombie, aims for 1,500 every day. Contemporary fantasy author Holly Black goes for 1,000 each day. And author John Grisham began his writing career at 500 a day. Whatever your number, I say pick one and aim for it.
The point of the word count goal is not to brag to your friends (though if you’re partial to bragging, that is a hidden benefit). It’s more to force yourself to get the practice you need. The more you write, the more your individual voice reveals itself.
Also, Read a Lot
This might sound counterintuitive, but I think reading the work of authors with strong voices will help establish your own. That’s because most writers find their unique voice by combining those of their biggest influences.
I think of this point in terms of food, because the kitchen is a great place to combine ingredients. Also, I’m hungry. Think of yourself like a chef. If you’re preparing any sort of meal, it can only be done by combining different ingredients into a single dish. You could go off a recipe, sure. But the dish only takes on a unique taste when you combine the elements in your own unique way.
Treat your writing the same way. Take elements of other works and incorporate them into your own. For example, George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is a monumentally popular series, in no small part due to the unique voice Martin infuses into each character. If you read closely, you’ll notice that almost every character is in love with someone, yet can’t be with them for some reason or another. Jon Snow loves Ygritte, yet (spoiler) Ygritte dies in the third book. Daenerys Targaryen loves the sellsword Daario Naharis, yet can’t be with him because she’s a queen and he’s a sellsword. And Cersei Lannister loves Jaime Lannister, yet they can’t be together because they’re sister and brother. Yeah, gross, but still.
My point is, A Song of Ice and Fire is epic fantasy, yet the series incorporates strong elements of classic romance narratives. This is a key part of Martin’s authorial voice, and one of the main factors that sets him apart from other writers. He picked this up by reading widely. We should do the same.
An additional thought here: If you’re a beginning writer, it’s totally okay to emulate your favorite writers’ styles. Pretty much everyone does this, and for good reason. It’s a trail along the path to your own voice. Just make sure to step off the path at some point. And the more you read, the more trails you’ll find. Hope you brought your walkin’ boots.
Draw on Personal Experience
You’re the only one who’s experienced your own life. So if you can take elements of that and put it into your writing, you’re left with a unique perspective that no one else could possibly have.
Take the aforementioned John Grisham, for instance. A lawyer by trade, he decided to try writing a novel a few words at a time. But he didn’t write a teen drama or a fantasy epic. Instead, he used his own unique perspective as a lawyer to fuel his work. This decision gave life to an almost entirely new genre: the legal thriller.
That said, our internal critics might make this step more difficult than it needs to be. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve definitely wondered if anyone would care about my personal experience to begin with. You might’ve felt the same.
Trust me, people care. Readers can feel a writer’s connection to their work. What matters is taking that personal thread and finding what makes it universal. Doing so goes a long way toward establishing your unique voice as an author.
Push the Boundaries
A writer doesn’t find their voice by doing only what’s been done before. Therefore, don’t be afraid to try something totally strange.
Kelly Link, for instance, is one of my favorite authors. She writes pretty much only short fiction, and you know you’re reading a Kelly Link story when you pick it up. They tend to be non-linear, challenging, and richly detailed, like artistic puzzles. Furthermore, Link’s works often use atypical narrative decisions, such as the present tense or stories structured by headings. Her works are unlike anyone else’s.
You can tell that Link didn’t come upon her authorial voice by playing it safe. She tries things few other writers do (and she seems to have a lot of fun while doing it). Therefore, you shouldn’t be afraid to do the same. If you’ve got an impulse to try something you’ve never seen before, take the chance and do it. You never know what you might come up with.
Let Your Intuition Guide You
This is the best tip I can leave for anyone reading this article. Trust yourself. If you like the voice of your writing, keep going in that direction. And if you feel you’re working on a piece that doesn’t sound like you, make the necessary changes until it does.
One of my favorite exercises is imagining how I might rewrite books I’m reading. This is not to say that I think I’m smarter than other authors. Rather, I think it’s useful to always remember how your voice differs from that of other writers. Consider how you might take the same events and write them in your own voice. Or imagine how you might resolve that conflict in a different manner. If you find yourself disagreeing with other authors often, that’s a good sign. It means you’ve got a unique voice, and you’re going to stick to it.
In Conclusion
To recap, finding your unique voice as an author takes practice. One must write and read a lot. One must also draw on personal experience and push the boundaries of the norm. And one must never, ever ignore their personal intuition.
Try these tips in your writing. See where they take you.

Does Show Vs Tell Give You Heartburn?

Children love Show and Tell day at school. They may take a treasured object to school to show to all their friends and then proceed to tell their classmates all about it. The event works because the eye can see and the ear can hear. But writing isn’t as dimensional as real life. So writers need to show the reader everything the reader cannot see. Easier said than done.
At the beginning of a writing career, one will hear “show don’t tell.” There are countless books written on the subject. But books are one dimensional unless the writer can show the difference and teach writers how to correct their writing style. Finding telling words is the easy part of the equation. It is finding the right words and phrases to replace telling words is the difficult part.
I came upon a book that gave me an idea of how to show more in my writing. The book, Showing And Telling In Fiction by Marcy Kennedy51t2wjq1glL._AC_US327_QL65_ is well worth reading and putting in your writer’s toolkit. One idea for how to find the right showing words Ms. Kennedy gives hit me particularly since we share an affinity for Star Trek. Fellow Trekkies all know about the Holodeck on board the Enterprise. On the Holodeck, a person can put themselves in any situation they chose, and the computer will simulate the event, thus letting the person experience first-hand whatever event they wish. The computer gives the person the sights, sounds, smells, taste, and feel of actually being wherever, i.e., in a movie scene or a period in history.
I hear some of you saying right now, “What does that have to do with learning how to ‘show’ more and ‘tell’ less?” Well, take any scene from your novel. Stand in the room and close your eyes. You are now in the Holodeck, and you are the character. What do you see in your mind? How does the scene smell around you? What can you hear? Are you being touched and how by whom? See it in your mind’s eye.
Now sit back down at your computer, typewriter, or notebook. Write what you just experienced. Use the exact words for the sensations. Don’t say, “I was standing . . . wherever.”
I’ll use a battlefield for my example.
Standing in the midst of the heated battle, Lord Loxley felt the sweat trickle down his back. Blood soaked the earth from the corpses that lay littered at his feet. The ooze coagulated on his boots making his feet slip as he tried to push forward. An injured warrior grabbed at his cloak as he jumped over the tangle of body parts.
You get a good picture of what is going on in this scene. But if I described it this way what would you think?
Lord Loxley stood looking over the battlefield. There was so much carnage. The men he led were nearly all gone.
The Holodeck idea helps to put the scene into your own eyes so you can put it on the paper. In our real world, we now have smartphones with gadgets that let us experience a three D world. It’s the same idea. Writers need to put these on while writing to help them get over the telling of their story. Then just practice, practice, practice. Write a scene, make something up, using the idea of the Holodeck. Close your eyes and immerse yourself in the scene. Then write it down. Chose a different scene, close your eyes, experience it, then write it down. Experience it, write it, repeat. Before long, the words start to flow, and it gets easier to put the right words down, and you’ll be showing your reader everything the characters are experiencing.
It won’t happen overnight. However, it gets easier the more you do it. I write something like this every day to practice. I’ll probably never use whatever I wrote, but that’s not the idea. Practice makes perfect and perfect practice makes best sellers. Now go forth and show the world.

Tools For Writers and Book Review

The Emotion Thesaurus – FIVE STARS https://www.amazon.com/Emotion-Thesaurus-Writers-Character-Expression/dp/0999296310/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1538576649&sr=1-1&keywords=the+emotion+thesaurus

To do anything well in life, it takes great tools. “That makes sense if you are a carpenter or machinist, but I’m a writer. What kind of tools does a writer use?”
I’m glad you asked. As a writer, don’t you have a dictionary or thesaurus at arm’s length? You can’t always rely on your word processor to correct errors. These are tools. Do you have a style manual or other punctuation checker available, whether physically or an online version? These are tools. For that matter, the internet is a tool you may be using for research. Writers have and use lots of tools.
One tool I recently found missing from my desk is The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi.Emotion Thesaurus Finding this tool to put in my arsenal has been a wonderful experience.
This book lists emotions then gives you different words and phrases to prompt your writing about that emotion. Why is this important? Well, how many times have you heard “Show don’t Tell”? The book lists the ‘telling’ word and gives you all the different ‘showing’ words around that emotion. It takes work and discipline to rewrite sometimes but having a prompt helps writers immerse their readers into the feelings of your Main Character and the supporting cast.
Reading ‘she felt’ or ‘he was confused,’ gets old and you will lose your reader by overuse. Doesn’t ‘her heart nearly jumped out of her chest’ sound better than she felt? Doesn’t ‘he tilted his head and pursed his lips as he pondered her statement’ give you a better sense of confusion?
Here is an original paragraph from my latest manuscript:

Dee held her breath as she waited for a return text. Sitting in the tack room, concentrating on the phone, she willed that text to come in. Suddenly, the feeling of being watched crept over her. A shiver ran through her. She was safe here; she knew it, but the feeling persisted. “Oh, give it up and quit letting it rule your life,” she said out loud. Disgusted with herself, she still stared at the phone. Finally, she stood up and saw Marcus standing there watching her. “Oh, my goodness,” she said as she ran to him. Marcus folded her into his arms. Dee held tight for several moments. In his arms, the shivering stopped.

Okay, it sounds fine, but doesn’t this convey more emotion?
Dee held her breath as she waited for a return text. She sat in the tack room, concentrating on the phone, willing that text to come. Suddenly, her skin began crawling. A shiver ran up her spine. It was a sensation she’d grown accustomed. You’re safe here. Still the feeling persisted. “Oh, quit letting it rule your life,” she said out loud. Covering her mouth with her hand, she continued to concentrate on the phone. When she could take the futility no longer, she stood up, rolling her shoulders to alleviate the tension. Her eyes connected to Marcus’s who stood, leaning on the doorpost, watching her. “Oh, my goodness.” On wobbly legs, she crossed the short distance and collapsed into his arms. Dee held tight. In his arms, the shivering stopped.

I’m so happy I found this book, and I highly recommend it to all writers. There aren’t enough stars for its rating.

A Blog Is A Writer’s Best Friend (oh, for Poets Too)

By Gina Burgess
Last May we talked a little bit about authors blogging, why and what to blog. Something missing is how an author should maintain the blog. Where to get inspiration for blog posts?
I’ve been writing blog posts since 2005 when my professor challenged us to create a blog for a class project. I’d never read a blog post and didn’t like the examples she steered us to copy or get inspiration. Since then, I’ve written more than 2,000 blog posts, book reviews, and weekly columns. Since my posts run an average of 850 words, that means I’ve written online almost two million words in thirteen years. That’s 850 words every other day except Sundays not counting the six books written and published in that time. I tell you this because I’ve got a deep commitment to writing. James said, “Show me a man who says he has faith, and I’ll show you my faith by my works. Faith and works fit together like a hand in gloves.” (My paraphrase, but the last part is from The Message.)
Motivation and writing, writing and motivation fit together like a burning candle. Without wax, oxygen, and a catalyst, the candle won’t burn. Just wax and oxygen won’t produce light and heat alone, and the catalyst just lays in a matchbox until it is lit and brought to the wick. You can’t produce a chemical change without putting two or three elements together in one place at the same time.
Most bloggers don’t last three months. I’ve lasted thirteen years. Yes, I got tired. Yes, I was uninspired sometimes. Yes, I got fed up with people not responding. Yes, I wanted to quit several times. The single thing that overcame all those hurdles was my motivation and my God-given talent to write–not always perfect, not always pertinent, but always poked and prodded and motivated to produce because I have a burning desire to write.
You won’t produce unless you understand your desire to write.
Understand your motive to blog
Figuring out what motivates you to blog will help you in more ways than you can count. Is it because your publisher requires it? That doesn’t bode well for continual blogging. Is it to help build your writing skills? Is it to help organize your memoir? Is it because you want to connect with your readers, build a community? Is it because you want to sell books? Is it because you want ________?
One thing I learned while studying blogger motivations is a major motivation underpins most bloggers. They want to help others. This is one of the things that motivates me: helping others.
A lot of writers could say, “Yes. I want to help readers find my books and buy them.” Is that a good motivation? I’d have to say, “No.”
Another thing I found out is that it is important for a blogger to know how their post has helped another person. The only way to know this is if the blogger gets a response or a comment.
In my experience of blogging since 2005 and column writing since 2006, a blogger will have a lot of consumers of their written word, but few responses to any post. One reason is because most bloggers don’t frame their posts in an information exchange style (give a little ask a question, give a little more ask another question). Encouraging responses is a major key to building community. But mostly there will be few responses compared to the numerous readers. It’s a fact of internet life. It doesn’t mean great benefit hasn’t been felt. It just means that most consumers do not feel compelled to offer a response.
Another thing that motivates me is creating community and connecting with like-minded people who are interested in the same things I am. Since so many different things interest me, it isn’t hard to find something to talk about to almost everyone.
What about you? Is your only interest in such a small niche there are too few interested in purchasing your book? Of course not! Just because you like to study mating habits of flies doesn’t mean your interests aren’t broader than that. You’ve got a work of blinding brilliance and lots of people will be interested in all aspects of that story or that memoir or that creative non-fiction.
But what to write about in blog posts?
Here’s a better question. Why do you write the kinds of stories you write? Or non-fiction that you write? Take a minute and visit Debbie Macomber’s blog. Quite a successful author. Many of her stories have been made into movies. She has posts about her new book, about lifestyles, and about recipes. Reading her books, all these things have a place in her writing. These are her passions, and you can tell she enjoys them because she takes the time to write about them.
Ted Dekker connects with his fans on Facebook. That is a rather dangerous thing to do since Facebook has the power to disconnect your page or group for whatever reason. With a blog, that can’t happen. However, you still see on his Facebook what he’s passionate about. You see his picture, you see his family, and you can enter to win a free book plus a lot more. And you can interact with him, comment on photos, and it’s convenient. You’ve already looked at what your next door neighbor had for lunch and where Aunt Minnie went on vacation. Why not check in on Ted?
I searched for other writers’ blogs and found that most of the ones I’m very familiar with connect with readers on Facebook and with newsletters. So how did they get email addresses without a blog? Ted Dekker got more than 1,600 email addresses by giving away five of his recent book. That’s okay when you are a famous author. But most likely won’t happen if you are just starting out. What do you do?
You can do everything Ted does with a blog plus you can gather email addresses and send out a newsletter that features your blog post. Ask people to share your newsletter, get more email addresses. With these email addresses you can hype your new book, ask people to purchase and review it, and get more email addresses. Give them links to your book on Goodreads and Amazon and get more email addresses. So much more that won’t be lost unless you let your web host bill go unpaid. Plus you can auto connect your blog posts to Facebook and get the best of both worlds.
On your blog, you can talk about what peeves you, what excites you, what makes your engine run smooth, what takes your breath away. Travel, research, ask for feedback when a paragraph or chapter stumps you. Readers love it when they are involved in the process. Give away background files on your characters in exchange for an email address. How can you send it without an email address?
Don’t just ask for first name and email. Ask a quirky question that will be fun (and doesn’t take a lot of thought) to answer. Things that pertain to your genre: favorite food, favorite dragon name, favorite sci-fi sub-genre (space opera or military sci-fi, what is your child or grandchild’s favorite book, etc. The answers will give you feedback on your reader base.
Don’t let lack of technical knowledge hold you back!
There are dozens of blog hosting places out there. WordPress.com and Blogger are the two most used. They aren’t going anywhere. They have built in themes, and all you have to do is plug in information, find a few beautiful images on Pixabay.com or Unsplash where the images are copyright/royalty free. Our own Julianne Rigali can help you set up your blog.
There is a vast ocean of information at your fingertips. Use it. Search engines will find answers to your full blown questions. Don’t know how to do something? Ask the question in your browser and your preferred search engine will list dozens of sites that can answer your question. YouTube has millions of how-to videos. Why sit there with a doe-in-the-headlights expression, crying woe is me? You can do it.
Need inspiration for a post? What is the most recent question you asked yourself? Was it a recipe? A technical point for your last WIP? Today authors have the equivalent of millions of libraries at their fingertips. Of course you use the internet. But, use the internet! It will take you places you can’t imagine.
Working on my own WIP today, I needed to know what the strongest material on Earth was. I found out that God created it. It wasn’t manmade, but a discovery of something very intriguing. It’s one atom thick, and it’s carbon atoms in a honeycomb pattern. It can stop a bullet, and most gases and liquids cannot penetrate it except water easily flows through it. It’s graphene and it’s not sci-fi anymore!
Read more: https://authorscommunity.net/a-blog-is-an-authors-best-friend/#ixzz5SmYWJXJV
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Great Advice! Gina, please have me edit your blog posts in the future.

Readers Choice Voting

I entered one of my short stories in the Readers Choice contest at Short Fiction Break magazine. The magazine is online. Today is the last day for readers to vote on their choice for best story and I’d love it if each of you who read my column would go vote for my story, The Monster Who Stalks Her.

The direct link to the story is: https://shortfictionbreak.com/a-monster-stalks-her/ https://shortfictionbreak.com/?p=13344

I hope you will go read the story and vote for it. While you are there, please read some of the other stories as there are some pretty good pieces here. Once the contest is over, I’ll be able to post the story but that won’t be until around the first of November as it is part of a larger contest sponsored by The Write Practice.

Thank you, everyone, for your vote. I’m hoping the short story does well so I can use it to promote the novel I’m currently querying for traditional publishing. The short story is the prequel for the full-length novel.

Today is the LAST day so please go VOTE!



Fiction Writing Is Not a Roll Call

Reblogged from Meg Sorick. This is advice I wish I had as a writer starting out. I hope it will help other debut writers. Enjoy.

A common mistake many new writers make is to inundate the reader with unnecessary information or too much information all at once. In writing circles, it’s called infodump. It might manifest as a roll call of characters, lengthy biographical history as each one is introduced, overly detailed scene setting or world building. It happens because writers want their readers to understand the context of unfolding events. While the writer’s intentions are good, it bogs down the pace of the story and it doesn’t leave the reader with questions that need to be answered by reading on.
Imagine reading this paragraph:
Jennifer Dunne was a 28-year-old woman whose mother had just died, but since they never had a very close relationship, Jennifer was not able to cry at her funeral. Her elderly father was her only source of comfort growing up and she followed in his footsteps by becoming an engineer and going to work in his company. Jennifer has two best friends, Des and Joni, who she has known since grade school and they are as close as sisters would be. They all live in Doylestown, the county seat of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, which is an hour north of Philadelphia. (Are you bored yet?)
My first draft of Three Empty Frames wasn’t quite that bad, but I did an awful lot of info dumping on my first try at novel writing. The thing is… all that information eventually got included in the story but in small doses as the information became relevant to the plot.
One of my chief methods of incorporating detail into the story, especially the biographical history of the characters, is through dialogue. In the fictional world as in the real world, when people talk, they tell one another about themselves. When boy meets girl or girl meets girl or whatever, it is only natural for the pair to begin to share personal information. Even then, it wouldn’t be natural for the character to tell his entire life story, but just a few memories can reveal a great deal about the person and what makes them tick. The same is true with their conversational style and delivery. The way they talk will give the reader clues as to their personality without having to describe it intimate detail:
Jen was smart and loyal but guarded, keeping all but her close friends at arms’ length. Her sense of humor was sarcastic and as a result, she often offended people unintentionally. (Readers will figure this out on their own as they see how Jen relates to others; they don’t need it spelled out for them.)
The same is true of your setting. The location doesn’t need to be described in meticulous detail as the story opens. However, in just a few words, the scene can be set:
“It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen.” ~ 1984; George Orwell.
Just from that opening line, we know the weather and time of year but we also know something’s up because our clocks don’t strike thirteen. It’s only later on that we discover the full extent of Orwell’s dystopian vision, yet, the season and time of day are described clearly. And establishing place and time is an important feature to include within the first few paragraphs of a story. It orients the reader, connecting them to the fictional world. Nevertheless, the details can be saved for later. This includes the size of the town or its population, its proximity to another metropolitan area, the main industry of the region (if that even matters) and its infrastructure: busy highways, high-rise apartments, public transportation versus narrow streets, quaint houses and mountain views. Just an aside —the bit about ‘clocks striking thirteen’ is one of those mysterious details that compels the reader to continue. We should all aspire to create such a hook at the start of the story!
Things can get tricky when your story has a big cast of characters. In order to distinguish one from another, you might feel obligated to write a lengthy biography to fix each one in the reader’s mind. But really, if the character is not central to the plot, this is irrelevant filler material. For minor characters, a unique and memorable name might be enough to set them apart from the main players. Some minor characters don’t even need to be named. For example, Jen might just refer to ‘her boss’ rather than ‘Harry, a fifty-year-old chief engineer in her department who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and is well liked by all his employees’. Seriously, who cares? Unless Harry is going to have a larger role later on, there is no need to expound on his qualities as a boss. Additionally, if you do have a big cast of characters, don’t introduce all of them in Chapter One. Bring each one onto the stage as their appearances become integral to the plot. For example, your mystery story might have a detective investigate the crime, but if the story is built around the victims of the crime then the detective doesn’t need to show up until several chapters in. A late introduction doesn’t automatically diminish the minor character’s importance to the story. While the main characters should be introduced early, so that the reader can establish a relationship with them, the rest of the cast can enter as they become relevant.
The tendency to infodump is a difficult one to overcome. Nevertheless, with awareness and practice, it can be managed and mastered.
Wishing you happy writing and productive editing.