Friday, July 11, 2014

Meet OTP author Lorna Collins!

Today, The Back Deck Blog is hosting Oak Tree Press author, Lorna Collins. Lorna offers invaluable writing advice to all hopefuls. And lest everyone think all writers do is write about other people doing interesting things, wait till you learn about Lorna and her husband, Larry!

Lorna Collins and her husband, Larry, helped build the Universal Studios Japan theme park. Their memoir, 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park, was published in 2005. They have also written two mysteries: Murder… They Wrote and Murder in Paradise, and are currently working on more. They just completed The Memory Keeper, set in San Juan Capistrano.

Lorna co-wrote Snowflake Secrets, Seasons of Love, An Aspen Grove Christmas, The Art of Love, and Directions of Love, 2011 EPIC eBook Award winner. Her fantasy/mystery/romance, Ghost Writer, was published in 2012.
In addition, Lorna is a professional editor.

Advice for Writers:

Learn the basics! As an editor, I see far too many novice writers who have never learned the foundational elements of writing and storytelling.

 The Mechanics

Master spelling, paragraphing, punctuation, etc. Don’t depend on Spell Check or Grammar Check. They are often wrong. If you are weak in any or all of these areas, find a good editor and/or proofreader, and make sure they review everything before you submit it for publication.

Active Verbs

Use active, rather than passive verbs. e.g.: NOT: There was a table and chairs in the middle of the room, and the table was set for four. INSTEAD: He entered the room and noticed the table was set for four.

Repeated Words

Eliminate them. (See ‘the table’ in the passive example above.) We all have favorite words, and we use them often. Discover yours, and search for them. Replace the ones too close together in the manuscript.

 Point of View

It doesn’t matter whether you are writing in first person or third, each scene can only be told in the point-of-view of one character! Head hopping is one of my particular irritants. You can only know the thoughts of one character at a time—often and usually your protagonist. You can shift point-of-view, but only after a hiatus or in a separate chapter. Limit the number of POV characters to two, or at most, three per book. As you write, ask yourself, ‘'Whose head am I in? How does this character now this?” Make sure you can answer these questions before you proceed.

 Story Arc

Every story must have a beginning, middle and ending. Make sure the arc of your story is complete at the end—without any unresolved storylines. You can write series books, but each one must stand alone. I judge several contests, and I mark down any series book which is not complete in itself.

Character Arc

Your main characters must all change within the story, or you do not have a story. Be sure the development of your characters is completed by the end of the book.

Chapter Arc

Just like the book, each chapter must have a beginning, middle, and end.

Dialog Tags

The endless repetition of ‘he said’ and ‘she said’ makes for boring reading. Instead, replace the tag with an action to identify the speaker. e.g.: “How are you today?” John extended his hand.
Take a Writing Class or Find a Critique Group or Partner

Take a college-level writing class or join a group, preferably of other published authors who write well. Our own critique group began as a class at Saddleback College well over twenty years ago, and many of the members are multi-published. They can quickly identify issues in a manuscript the writer would never have noticed. And they can also make suggestions for improving the writing. I don’t know what we’d do with out them.

Keep Writing

Finally, if writing is your passion, stay with it!
Thanks for the great advice, Lorna, and for letting us get to know you and Larry a little better! Here's hoping my Back Deck readers will check out your other work!



  1. Excellent advice for all writers. Thanks for the tips.

  2. Replies
    1. It was a pleasure, Lorna! Glad to know you better and can't wait to add your titles to my library!

  3. You can find out more on our website: Stop by and see all our books and video trailers.

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks, Billie. Hope your authors pay attention. :)

  5. Great advice, but easier said than done.
    JL Greger

    1. Just being aware of these issues will help your future writing. Mine is definitely better now than when we published our first book nine years ago. I'm still learning!