Friday, December 2, 2011

Beth White is here with a giveaway!

I am thrilled to feature Beth White today!

Back in September when I attended the ACFW conference, I left a post on Go Teen Writers about favorite books. One of you guys mentioned Tour de Force by (Eliza)Beth White, and that night I happened to sit by her at dinner! I was thrilled to have the chance to tell her how much I loved Controlling Interest, but also to tell her she had just been mentioned on Go Teen Writers.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Ms. White, here is a little about her:

Beth White’s day job is teaching chorus and piano at LeFlore High School in Mobile, Alabama. A native Southerner, she is a pastor’s wife, mother to two married young adult children, and grandmother to ten-month-old Judah. Beth’s hobbies include playing flute and pennywhistle and painting, but her real passion is writing historical romance and romantic suspense with a Christian worldview. Her novel Controlling Interest won American Christian Fiction Writers’ 2009 Book of the Year award, and Crescent City Courtship won the RT Book Club Reviewers Choice award. She is currently working on a historical romance series set on the Colonial Gulf Coast. Visit her on the web at

And now I'll let her tell you about her writing process. Ms. White has been generous enough to offer to give away a copy of Tour de Force. Details for getting entered ton a down below! (US Residents only, please.)

1. Idea Seed

Story ideas come from all sorts of places: articles, people I meet, songs, photographs, spin-offs from my previous novels. Sometimes the idea is rooted in a fascinating profession — like fireworks designer, ballet dancer, Border Patrol agent, Supreme Court justice, landscaper. If that's the case, the first thing I do is interview someone in that job, and ask him or her as many nosy questions as I can think of! The two most important questions are:

What's the worst day you ever had on the job, or what's the worst thing you could imagine happening?
What are a few of your top goals in your job?

The book I'm working on now—The Pelican Brides, set to release in January 2014—is a historical, and the idea came from a random fact I came across while researching a previous novel, Redeeming Gabriel. Gabriel is set in Mobile during the Civil War, and it originated from a visit to the Museum of Mobile with my son, who was then in the fourth grade. While researching Gulf Coast history, I discovered that Mobile was settled by French-Canadians under Louis XIV. To discourage intermarriage with the Indians, the French Crown sent twenty-five young Frenchwomen across the ocean as brides for the explorers. Exciting stuff!

2. Once I’ve settled on the basic premise, I have to nail down the protagonist’s story goal and motivation and, conversely, what keeps him or her from attaining that goal. This is a little harder than it sounds, because those two elements must be strong enough to sustain an 80,000-100,000-word novel. The more heroic the goal, the better—and the more life-and-death the conflict, the better. There are entire books written on the subject, and I recommend studying them. Deb Dixon’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict is a classic, as is James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure. Another great resource is Randy Ingermanson’s “Snowflake” plot method: Have fun checking that out!

3. Using one of the above methods (sometimes all three), I take a couple of weeks or months (depending on how much time I’m allotted by a mind-numbing list of personal life factors) to develop a 10-20 page synopsis. Have I always done this? No. Many times I’ve taken off writing, knowing little more than who the main characters are. That “strategy” is, to my more mature mind, the equivalent of trying to get around New York with nothing but a child’s crayon drawing in hand. Shall we just say, that’s an invitation to taking the scenic route? You might get to some interesting places, but you’re just as likely to wind up in a nasty, dark, blind alley without a flashlight.

4. Anyway, once I have a solid synopsis (some people call it an outline, but don’t think of it as an English essay-type outline—not the same thing at all), I look for a place to start the story. Again, that’s easier said than done. Often, I’ll write a chapter or two and realize I’m just laying down backstory, which then must be ruthlessly cut. But nothing is wasted. Backstory (what happened to the characters before the story starts) lends motivation and emotional complexity, and readers love it. They just don’t want it dumped all in one place at the beginning of the book. It has to be fed in by teaspoonfuls via onstage action, dialogue and internal thought.

5. Writing the first draft, as most writers will tell you, is like pushing a refrigerator uphill (I borrowed that phrase from somebody, can’t remember who). I procrastinate, rethink, chase rabbits, research, and pray as I go. I’ve taken as long as six years to finish a book, and as short a time as two months. I have no writing schedule, because I’m a high school music teacher, and I just cram in writing time wherever I can. Some people function well if writing is their only gig; that’s not me. In order to have something worthwhile to say, I need to live life. I need friends, I need family, I need to give myself away, and most of all I need my relationship with Jesus Christ. All those things require time. I may short-change one area or the other while meeting a book deadline, but that can’t last for long—or else the writing would be a hollow, meaningless shell. I encourage you to think that last sentence through. Meditate on it. Talk it over with a writing buddy. If I’m going to invest one of my precious life-hours in anything, it had better mean something to eternity. I hope you’ll come to the same conclusion.

The book I’m giving away today is Tour de Force, my most recent release from Zondervan. It’s about a young ballet dancer who meets the man of her dreams in a season of her life when she’s experiencing phenomenal worldly success—but neither fame nor romance nor even her own giftedness can sustain her when everything comes crashing down. If you’ve ever had the rug yanked out from under you by circumstances, you’ll identify with Gilly’s struggle to come out of despair into joy. Just chime into the conversation, and you’ll be entered into the drawing!


  1. Thank you so much for the writing advice, Ms. White! Oh, that book cover is lovely and it sounds like a wonderful and very interesting read! =)

  2. I like that process, and also the knowledge that I don't have to have a novel written in two months! That makes me very happy, because it doesn't look like that's going to happen. By the way, what do you do when you run dry. You know, when you aren't excited about your book anymore, and can't think of the next word to put down. Do you work on a different project until you get excited about that first book, or push through the rough patch, coming back to it later? Neither?
    Thanks for talking to us! :)

  3. Thank you for this advice. This really helps. Can I just say I love your cover of Tour de Force. It is so pretty.


  4. Oh! I have been dancing for 11 years now. And writing for 1 1/2. Thank you for the give away.

  5. I love that term, 'pushing a refrigeration up a hill' :) I am glad to hear that not everyone has a writing schedule. I just write whenever I have a free day or a couple days. Maybe a couple times every two weeks or something like that. It can make me feel bad. It is also encouraging to hear that books aren't made over night ;) That cover art is gorgeous! Sierra
    Keep Growing Beautiful♥ (Cause You Are!)

  6. "Pushing a refrigerator up a hill!" Guffaw! That's hilarious and encouraging at the same time.

    I really enjoyed reading this. Especially that sentence about if this is going to take one of my life-hours, it better mean something to eternity. Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of that when staring at a glaring computer screen and thinking that last sentence stunk...or in the middle of an exciting part, when it's just plain fun. The bottom line is this is an investment in a story that I hope will impact another's story someday. :)

    Syndney, that's so cool! I really admire dancers. I was a gymnast for years and loved the dancing I got to do!

    By the way, the new GTW look is great!

  7. oh, I'm a Canadian resident. Sorry.

  8. Thanks, Rachelle :) She had gotten a little cluttered...

  9. It's great to know that it's ok for stories to take long time to write. . . Thanks for all the great advice. :D


  10. Thank you for not only offering us much needed and welcome advice, but also a copy of your book (of which I am very sure is very excellent).

    Do you have a specific process or resource for choosing names or do they just sort of "come to you?"

  11. Oh, I loved how Ms. White said that inspiration for the story can come from so many places. Ideas strike me in the weirdest ways, and ever so randomly :) Wonderful post :)

    crazi.swans at gmail com

  12. Beth here again: Sorry to take a whole day to respond! I've been consumed by the school day, and didn't have a chance to get online for anything but researching Ray Charles (I'm writing a musical for my advanced choir, for our Black History program).

    Anyway, regarding the cover of Tour de Force: I love it too! The art department at Zondervan outdid themselves on this one. It's so "girlie," don't you think?

    Regarding Becky's question—"Do you work on a different project until you get excited about that first book, or push through the rough patch, coming back to it later? Neither?"—the answer is "yes"! haha! I have definitely hit patches of writing where I don't have a clue what to do next. Sometimes my husband or my prayer/critique partner will bail me out. I read the last scene or so to them, and usually fresh eyes will think of a good suggestion.

    If the scene has gotten boring, that's a pretty good indication that the conflict between what the protagonist wants and opposition from circumstances or antagonist is not strong enough. Tension creates interest—for me and for the reader. Nicey-nice is boring, and my job is to leave out the boring stuff.

    If I have enough time, I often work on another project or simply go for a walk or do some mindless task like folding laundry. Something about inattention will sometimes wake up my subconscious creativity. A few times I've gone to bed at a creative impasse and woken up the next morning knowing exactly how to fix it! I call that intervention from on High!

    Choosing names for characters is one of my favorite parts of the storytelling process, "4readin." For a while I was naming heroes after the lead singers in my favorite bands! Once I had named my heroine "Carly," and my editor asked me to change it because the story was a novella in an anthology, and a main character in one of the other stories was "Curly"! Isn't that ridiculous? So I changed her name to Miranda. Took me a long time to get used to calling her something different.

    The historical I'm working on now has a lot of French characters, so of course the names have to fit both the language and the time period. As I was researching, I made a list of all the different French names I came across—one page for men, another for women, and a third for surnames. But I've tried to choose names that would be easy for English-speaking readers to pronounce—to keep from mentally "stumbling" the reader.

    One day I got a phone call from a lady who was recording the audio version of Tour de Force. She wanted to know how to pronounce "Gilly"—the heroine's name (hard "g" or soft "g"). In my mind it's a hard "G" because Gilly is short for Gillian, which is the anglicized version of the French family name Gaillain (her ancestors were on that ship from France that landed in Mobile in 1704!).

    That's probably more than you wanted to know—but anyway, it's a good idea to keep lists of your characters' names so you don't begin repeating them (unless you do it on purpose).

    I'm open to other questions if you're feeling chatty!


  13. The cover art is so pretty! I do wish that I could find some inspiration for my WIP but I just did with the cover art and guess what, my niece is spending the night so she's in the office, funny how life works out. Lol, looks like a good read.

  14. When I read the 'pushing a refrigerator up hill' sentence I burst out loud laughing!

    Today, I hit a bit of a block in my writing. My book was about three different girls (one being the main character) but I found the backup girls were nearly identical!

    I found my inspiration in the free period (aka recess) we have after lunch. There was some sort of running/track convention here in town and much of the training team for the England Olympics (including one gold medalist sprinter)were practicing in our gym. OUR GYM!! I about passed out because I'm a major trackie who has excitement problems, lol. Anyway, I didn't have a tee shirt or jacket like my friend so I had them sign my arm. That's right, a gold medalist's signature is ON MY ARM RIGHT NOW!!

    I didn't notice it until I was typing and my sleeve feel down. That's when I noticed the signature and had a brilliant idea.

    Like I'm training for the Jr Olympics, and like the runners/jumpers/throwers were training for the regular Olympics, what if one of the girls, Leslie, was so bent on being the best runner in the country that it turned into an obsession? It opened up tons of windows for me and I finally realized why she was sent to live with her aunt. She could struggle with a eating disorder, OCD, the options were endless! And I had tons of real world experience I could use as a runner/jumper.

  15. This post is so rather wonderful Ms. White and thank you for generously offering one of your books! I picked this book at the library once and fell in love with it was so well done! I would love to win this one so I can own it!! :)

    I'm going to echo everyone else and say that the sentence "pushing a refrigerator up a hill" made me smile. I can so totally relate because I am in the very stage. :)

  16. You know, I get the snowflake email newsletter, but I always thought it was one of those not-so-great ones that are just out to sell something. Guess I'll pay more attention from now on!

  17. I'm kind of an outliner girl now :) And I'm glad I turned that way... its helped me immensly in my writing in making it actually, book worthy lol.

  18. Emily Rachelle is our winner - yay, Emily!