Jayna Morrow

    Inspirational  Romance Author

Blog

I've upgraded! I now manage several blogs, one for each of my writing ventures to keep things straight. Check out the list of blogs below. Click on the link for the one you're looking for. Thanks for stopping by :)

Book Writing for the Rest of Us

Resources for writers, articles, links, a truly helpful place to visit.

Sweet Homemade Cafe

All things Sweet Home, Texas. For readers who really LOVE those Hearth boys...

Brainy Beach

All things elementary school. Resources for teachers and homeschooling parents, lesson plans, curriculum materials, articles, and more. All linked to my Teachers Pay Teachers storefront.

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Virtual Traveling for Research

Posted on January 20, 2014 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (0)

I’ve never been to Sweet Home, Texas, the setting of my small town romance series, but the world my characters live in is as rich and real as any place I’ve visited in real life. That’s the goal that all writers strive to achieve – to add just enough realism to their fiction to draw readers in and create a deep connection.


Sci-Fi writers are experts at this. Not only have their readers never been to the futuristic realms of which they describe, but there is sometimes very little point of reference. It takes masterful skill to bring those worlds to life in a way readers can fully connect and visualize.


One way writers can do this is through virtual traveling. The internet is full of videos and pictures of places around the world and around the corner. A good place to start is Google or Yahoo with a search for a town or area similar to the setting in your story. At the time I was doing research for my series, I was looking for a Texas town with a funny name at DribbleGlass and stumbled upon Sweet Home, Texas. Not exactly funny, but something drew me to it. Another search and I was immediately lost in pictures and history of the town and surrounding area. I pictured my characters there and everything started coming together.


Never underestimate the power of your senses. It may be fiction, but the more real it is to you the more real it will be to your readers. I read about many writers who create soundtracks for each story to set the mood while they write. Also, I’ve heard of writers eating certain foods or lighting a candle of a certain scent. Or wearing costumes or wrapping up in a special blanket. They need to hear and smell and feel and taste their creative worlds. Virtual traveling adds a visual layer to the mix, and one I think readers will appreciate. It’s all in the details.


Go forth (on your computer) and explore this beautiful world God created. Just remember to let Him lead you in your travels.


“Even there your hand shall lead me and your right hand shall hold me.” Psalm 139

Structure and the Creative Writer

Posted on January 13, 2014 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (0)

I recently completed a three-day diet called the Military Diet with no success, practically starving myself for nothing. It was a great disappointment. Upon further research, I discovered that it only works if you have large amounts of weight to lose – 20 pounds or more. I should have done more research before starting because I only have about ten pounds to lose. Did you know that the skinner you are, the harder it is to lose weight?


The same applies to writing. “The plans of the diligent lead to profit” (Proverbs 21:5).


God gave me a pretty good balance of left and right brain. While I am a creative writer, I rely on extensive plotting to make it all come together. Call it structure, if you will. But which kind works best?


Like the diet I tried, what works for one may not work for another. I struggled through several methods before finding a plotting structure that works for me. There are many resources available to writers, and I encourage you to do your research, try several things, and find what works for you. I used my plotting journey as a basis for a workshop I developed called: Forget the Fluff: Mastering the Fab Five Plotting Books to Get That Novel Outlined and Drafted in 30 Days. The 5 books I’m referring to are: “Story Structure Architect” by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, “The Writer’s Journey” by Christopher Vogler, “45 Master Characters” by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, “First Draft in 30 Days” by Karen S. Wiesner, and “Book in a Month” by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. There’s a lot of information, and I break it down into a method that’s easy to follow.


Let’s not forget the ultimate resource – the Bible. Whether it’s dieting or writing, the Bible has an answer for everything. Whatever you seek in life, do so according to God’s will and let Him be your guide. Understand that even the most diligent of plans will fail without God.


Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.”

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step….PRAY before you take that first step!


Blessings!

Is Your Plot Too Contrived or Coincidental?

Posted on January 6, 2014 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (0)

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In the quest to write something that is marketable, it's all too easy to slip into bad habits. Using plots that are too contrived, meaning they aren't natural, will no doubt blow up in your face later down the road. You might think that if it worked for others, then it's sure to work for you, but that isn't necessarily the case. If one person breaks onto the scene with a plot that is farfetched and manages to sell it to a major publishing house, it doesn't mean that others can put their spin on it and achieve the same grandeur. In the world of publishing, what works for one person won't necessarily work for another. Editors are finnicky. Send them something that's too contrived and they may think you're insulting their intelligence. And you have to think about your readers, too. You have to give them more credit than that. Readers and editors these days are looking for real plots. It's fiction, but the situations could really happen. They want extensive research. They want your characters and plot to be believable.

The problem that a lot of writers run into is that they want their characters to go from Point A to Point B. Now the quickest way from Point A to Point B is a straight line, but what if that doesn't work with your story? All too often, writers will jerk the plot around in an effort to achieve what they want to achieve in the way they want to achieve without regard for what happens naturally.

The thing you have to remember is that when something happens, there is always a reaction. Sometimes there is only one specific reaction, and sometimes there are several. Humans are notoriously predictable. If you write a scene in which the characters react in a way that is not natural for the sake of your plot, readers and editors are gonna know it. They're going to say, "He wouldn't do that." Or, "She would never say that." Or "That would never happen."

How many times have you found yourself thinking those exact words while reading a book or watching a movie?

You may justify it because you feel like it's the only way to get from A to B without destroying the carefully-laid plan for your characters.

Here's my challenge for you: next time you want to take the easy way out so you can get from A to B without breaking any of the plot bricks you've carefully laid DON'T! Go for what is natural and see what happens. This is a lot easier for pantsers than plotters like me. I know.

Think about this:

A plot that is too contrived requires a certain amount of coincidences to make it happen. Coincidences lead to weakness in the plot because both are blended with an abundance of willing suspension of disbelief.

This ain't bad in small doses. As with alcohol, it should be in moderation.

So you've gotten your plot laid out just the way you want it. There are a few coincidences in there and at times is seems a bit contrived, but you managed to get the characters from A to B. That's all that matters, right? WRONG!

True, you made the journey. You got them there, but the plot is now weakened and worse for the wear.

I urge you to take the road less traveled and forego the easy way. Take your time. Do the research. Make it real. Make your characters real. If you do, it will be no coincidence when I see your novel on bookstore shelves!

Elements of Awe and Wonder

Posted on December 30, 2013 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Wonder n. 1. One that arouses awe, astonishment, surprise, or admiration; a marvel


Awe n. 1. A mixed emotion of reverence, respect, dread, and wonder inspired by authority, genius, great beauty, sublimity, or might.


So let’s get this straight, in order to create awe and wonder in literature, I need to include astonishment, surprise, admiration, marvel, reverence, respect, and dread? And I need to do it with a sense of authority, genius, great beauty, sublimity, and might?


Tall order. Let’s break down the elements of awe and wonder.


Awe can be carefully woven into your story with strategic use of theme. Whether your characters are struggling with a relationship with God, dealing with adversity, finding love in unlikely circumstances, or falling into the waiting arms of friends and family, allowing them to learn and grow as real people do will bring about that sense of awe that’s necessary for a successful novel.


Wonder is what brings readers to the point of awe. Think of it as a gatekeeper. It pushes them forward to the edge of their seats. Once there, they are captive. You can take them in any direction you want to go. Will you show them dread or great beauty? Respect or reverence? The choice is yours.


But while you’re creating a sense of awe and wonder in your fictional stories, let’s not forget stand in awe and wonder of the Great Creator. Psalm 34:3 says, “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!”

Dancing vs. Writing

Posted on December 24, 2013 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)

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There are several hot dancing shows on television right now, but they don't quite do it for me. I watch them, don't get me wrong! But I'm an old-fashioned girl, raised with southern tradition. Ballroom dancing just isn't popular 'round these parts. Clogging? Yep. Square Dancing? Yep. And it's those dances that I cut my teeth on.

I grew up watching my grandparents square dance. I loved the music. I loved the skirts and petticoats. I loved the flash of pettipants when the ladies twirled. My grandmother also clogged. Her father was a tap dancer, so she got rhythym naturally...in addition to playing several instruments. In fact, just about every single member of my family plays atleast one instrument and/or sings and/or dances. Our family reunions are more like jam sessions than anything else. So it came as no surprise when I expressed my interest in clogging.

Now I've said it before in detail about my start in the world of clogging, so I'll keep it simple. Plus, this blog entry isn't about clogging, but rather how dancing relates to writing. So why don't I get back on track and get to the point. In dancing, we would call that missing a beat...or being off by a half-step. Twenty years later, I can see some comparisons between writing and dancing.

1. Anyone can learn how to dance, but only those who love to dance will succeed at it. Anyone can learn the craft of writing, but only those with a burning passion will succeed at the art of writing.

2. Some people are born dancers. Some people are born writers. DON'T ARGUE!

3. Dancers are notorious perfectionists. So are writers. There are just as many ways to execute a push off as there are ways to tell about it. There is a constant struggle to get the steps right. There is a constant struggle to get the words right.

4. Dancing is for show. I haven't met many "closet" dancers, and I haven't met many "closet" writers, either. Writers have an inner, burning desire to BE HEARD. We may not want people to look at us directly, but we want to be read. Dancers are exhibitionists with their bodies. Writers are exhibitionists with their words.

 

Now get those fingers dancing across the keyboard!

What My Teaching Career Taught Me About Writing

Posted on December 17, 2013 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Over the summer, something magical happens. The organization fairy pays a visit to my empty classroom and transforms it into the most magnificent, color-coordinated learning environment on the planet. Books are sorted, supplies are materialized, papers are filed, new draperies are sewn, bulletin boards are trimmed, and desks are placed neatly in rows. When I arrive for in-service week, my co-workers and I take in a few workshops and meetings, and then have lunch and reminisce about our relaxing summer vacations at the beach.


Christian romance author, Jayna Morrow, is published with Prism Book Group both in print and eBook formats. With a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Texas and elementary teaching certification from LeTourneau University, Jayna has been in the position of both teacher and student for many years. Her debut novel, Garrett, is the first in the Sweet Home, Texas series. The theme of Garrett is finding God’s purpose and trusting in God’s plan. Jayna makes regularl guest blogging appearances all over the internet, and has even been featured at eReader News Today, eFiction Finds, and Christian eBooks Today.


Did you pick up on the sarcasm in that first paragraph? In reality, I am my own organization fairy, complete with construction paper wings dusted with chalk. I spend several days a week during June and July in my hot classroom (there’s only air conditioning on certain days) sorting books by level and topic, taking inventory on supplies, filing and prioritizing paperwork, sewing new draperies and reading cushions, decorating bulletin boards, experimenting with different seating arrangements, and scouring yard sales for treasure chest trinkets, more books, craft materials, and odds and ends. Summer is also the time for the bulk of my lesson planning. Going through the TEKS and matching them up with fun projects and engaging activities, so I’m prepared for every teachable moment, makes me a better teacher.


And therein lies the key to success that applies to writing as well – preparation.


I’m a plotter by nature and that means putting on my teaching cap and doing a lot of prep work. I’d never take on a class of 22 students without a lesson plan, and I’d never take on a new manuscript without an outline. From characters and plot points to problems and solutions, I have a method for them all. Every day for a month, I uncover another layer in the pre-writing process. Then comes the rough outline and first draft. Finally, a finished product I can work with on many rounds of editing. In all, it takes me about 4 months to complete a novel. My goal is 4 books a year, so I’m working on efficiency to improve my productivity. Like my students, I have goals.


I have many writer friends who are pantsers, and all I can say about them is that they are like those gifted students who never have to study and make straight A’s. I commend them. Writing a novel is no easy task. I’m the kind of student who has to study a lot, take good notes, highlight important information, and keep a detailed binder on everything. Maybe that’s why I’m a plotter? Teaching and writing go hand-in-hand. It’s a process that spans a certain length of time, requires a fair amount of learning, and involves setting and achieving goals.


Have I accomplished all my goals? Yes, some of them. Then I set new ones. My experience as a teacher has taught me to set high expectations. I’ll let you, the reader, decide if I achieved those expectations.

Fall 2013 Newsletter

Posted on December 16, 2013 at 9:30 PM Comments comments (0)

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Hello Dear Readers,

I’m still learning about the world of Twitter, but Facebook has been an awesome place to share in the daily lives of those I care most about – you! This writer has no words for how much I enjoy hearing about your joys and triumphs. Your encouragement has been like a daily dose of vitamin C.

From new babies, to weddings, graduations, new homes, job promotions, and cuddly new pets…you took me along on the journey. Let’s not forget all the beautiful pictures and funny videos. I laughed at your jokes and wore out my “like” button.

You share partial responsibility for distracting me from what I do best – writing. LOL!

I love you all, though. I couldn’t do what I do without you. I hope you feel appreciated. J

Even with one book out and two more coming soon, I still feel my writing career is in the learning stage. It’s been a year of firsts. First release. First marketing and promotion efforts. First time handling the business end of things. And first time to attend a writer’s conference. Wow, that was amazing experience!

The East Texas Writer’s Conference at ETBU in Marshall, TX is a top quality conference. In addition to learning about writing devotionals and marketing, I had the great honor of meeting Don Piper, author of 90 Minutes in Heaven. I’ve often said the only thing I like better than being a teacher is being a student. I just love learning.

My debut novel, Garrett, saw the single digits and made it to #3 in category on Amazon! HUGE THANKS for that! That is all YOU! If I read the spreadsheet correctly, there have been almost 11,000 copies sold to date!! I know. Way too many exclamation marks in one paragraph. Oh, you were stumped by that number. I know. It’s incredible. If only I received a dollar for every copy sold…

It takes time and several books to make any money in the publishing business. Still, I’m doing what I love. One day, with your support, I’ll be doing it full-time. Grateful girl here.

I want to take a moment to talk about what’s coming up. Gabriel is the second installment in the Sweet Home, Texas series. He’s the big, bad older brother of Garrett Hearth. The rogue with a broken heart, a broken home, and rebellious teenage son. Then there’s second son, Holden. You’ll meet him in Gabriel’s story and let’s just say you’ll be glad you only have to wait a few months for his story. My, oh my.

When I was writing Garrett, I said he my favorite hero. Then I wrote Gabriel and fell even more in love with him. Gabriel is my new favorite, I said. That’s until Holden came along. I told my editor, “I know I said Garrett was my favorite, then I said Gabriel was my favorite, but I really mean it this time, Holden is my favorite.” Yep, uh-huh. That’s what they all say. Wait until you start your next book. The truth is, though, that if I didn’t love them this much, then you wouldn’t either. I’m glad I get so attached to each and every character I write.

BOOK TRAILERS!!

I have discovered Animoto and you get to reap the benefit. Follow the link to view book trailers for all three of the Hearth brothers.

Garrett

Gabriel

Holden

PINTEREST

I don’t know what I spend more time on – Facebook or Pinterest. They each have their unique qualities. On Facebook, I get to connect with great people. On Pinterest, I get to connect with great ideas. I recently set up a Sweet Home Pinterest board. There are pictures that remind me of faces and places around Sweet Home. Check it out!

Some other ways to connect with me are:

Goodreads

Facebook

Pinterest

Twitter

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas season and a Happy New Year!

Love,

Jayna

www.jaynamorrow.com

 


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