Thursday, October 31, 2013

Autumn Brings Out the Best In Me

It's that time of year when the trees are brilliant colors and the fall air is cool and delicious with the smell of leaves. It's my most favorite season. I watch for the leaves to change day by day, and I find myself outdoors with my kids more. The windows are opened almost every morning to allow the breeze to flutter through my house. I even seem to find more inspiration to write.

This fall seemed to come earlier with the colder temperatures, yet the leaves refused to turn. As I usually do, I watched for them each morning. But this fall I found myself fighting disappointment. Why haven't the usual signs begun to show? Why isn't my lawn littered with beautiful red and yellow leaves yet?


The anticipation has been killing me. Then today I noticed all of a sudden the street is lined with reds, oranges, yellows, and even purples as the season comes into full bloom. My hands raised to the heavens in thankfulness to our Savior for knowing when the right time was. It reminded me of other things I've been waiting on, one of which is whether or not to start my next manuscript. The idea hasn't come to me as it usually does. I figured it was because I'm in the midst of a lot of change, including a move in two weeks. But perhaps it's because it isn't time yet.

I'm reminded to look to God today. To wait on Him for His time when I can set forth on a new and wonderful journey with the next novel from my imagination. Or maybe to rework one of my other manuscripts and get it out to the agents.

Happy Harvest Time dear readers. May your weekend be filled with the wonder of this picturesque season. 
 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Christian Writing World: It's Big

Writing Christian fiction has opened my eyes to the enormity of the writing world. As a writer, there are so many avenues to learn the craft, meet other authors who struggle as we do, and to work toward getting published.

I'd been writing for a couple years before I found the community of authors I now know. It's a lonely world out there without them. I didn't realize how much I needed them to become the writer I am today. It's that connection that we all need in this tough world. They've been there to encourage and edify me. They were there when I needed help composing a proposal for the first time. And, they were there when I started looking for an agent.

With the internet, it's so much easier to find groups and others like ourselves. It's amazing how God can connect someone from across the country to us in a very personal way. We should utilize these associations to help us continue forward. There are others ways to join that world.

  • As hard as blogging and social media can be, it's a vital tool to hook us up to our audience, whether that's your readers or support for writers. Start one if you haven't already, and stick to it.

  • Local writing groups are a great way to meet people face to face who have a common goal. I loved it when I got a chance to attend a meeting with one of my friends recently. I left refreshed and ready to get back to my computer to get some work done.

  • Book signings are also a great way to meet authors and to make new connections. Authors love to share their journey, and many are eager to help fellow writers.

Step out and create some new connections. You'll gain more than advice or education, you'll gain new friends and relationships that can move you forward in your writing journey.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Show Me Don't Tell Me

I've learned a lot since I had my first book published. The writing journey is an amazing one. When writers decide to buckle down and finish that first manuscript, reality hits. It's hard. And it's a lot of work. There's all these rules you don't know about until your work gets in front of an agent or editor or you join a writing group.

When I joined ACFW, a Christian writing group, my eyes were opened to a whole new universe. They had lots of workshops and online classes to help strengthen my work. That's when I started to hear the buzz about showing versus telling in writing. My first instinct was to check out some of the best sellers out there to see how they did it. I was surprised by the impact a book had when the author showed their story.

Always show instead of tell to bring your story alive. Here are some examples to give you a clear idea what the difference is between the two.

  • Telling: She was mad.
  • Showing: Kira reared back and put her hands on her hips.

  • Telling: He felt upset.
  • Showing: He closed his eyes and lowered his head into his hands.

  • Telling: Embarrassment ran through Sabrina.
  • Showing: Heat climbed up Sabrina's face and her shoulders slumped.


'Was' is a very common word that will tell instead of show. Erase that word too when at all possible.

Odds are if you have to use the word 'felt', you're probably telling and not showing in most cases. So go back through those manuscripts and annihilate that word. Work on the best way to show your characters' feelings through actions.

Telling an emotion, as in the third example, is a good sign you need to rework a sentence.

Once you've taken the time to turn your telling into action, your book will come alive to your readers. It adds a whole new dimension to your story and keeps readers turning the pages. What are some common 'telling' words you find yourself using? Send them to me. I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Think Outside the Box Literally

I've been boxing up my house for weeks now. We're about to move so boxes are in abundance around here. They're lining the wall of my closet, my office, the garage. Every bedroom is packed and almost ready to go when the big day arrives. So seeing all this cardboard has given me an idea.

Sometimes in my writing I get snagged. I need to come up with a place and mood for the next scene, and nothing comes to me. Or I can't picture how my characters are interacting with their environment.

Here's where the box comes into play. What if I filled a box with items that'll help me create the next scene? If I rummage through the box without looking, and pull a designated number of items out I can build the next section of my plot in an interesting way. You can employ the same idea with your work in progress too.


To start, you could fill it with pictures of places. Get your hands on:

  • Old magazines
  • Pictures of your vacations
  • Newspaper clippings

Add different objects to symbolize the weather. How about:

      • Cotton balls for clouds
      • A bottle of water for rain
      • A tennis ball for sun
      • Sunglasses to represent heat
      • Scarf shows that it's cold 


And don't forget one important sense that gets left out of writing a lot-smell. What about adding:

          • Potpourri sachet
          • Cologne bottle                  
          • Scented candles         
          • A banana peel in a bag to represent a bad smell


Now you've got all the essential elements to get back on track, and you did it in a creative way. You could even take it a step further if you already know where you want the scene to occur, but you don't know how to set it up. If you know you want the scene to be in the kitchen then what about putting kitchen items in the box? If an item gets pulled out, make the characters have to use the item. What about:
  • A rolling pin- It could be a dangerous utensil in a suspense
  • A pressure cooker- It's comic what can happen when not locked properly or heated too high
  • A pitcher- tea anyone?
  • Apron- Is your male character only able to find a hot pink apron so he won't mess up his suit?
It's fun to find new ways to brainstorm and develop your plot. Think outside the box literally and have a great time creating your next setting.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Research In Kooky Places for Good Ideas

I'm getting ready to start a new novella with my critiquing group on fairy tales with a twist. When one of my partners suggested the idea, I was unsure at first. Then before I knew it, my mind was whirling with all kinds of scenarios.

I loved the idea of writing a novella about the old lady in the shoe. She had lots of kids. I have lots of kids. It would be so easy to relate to the protagonist. But then one of my other friends was quick to point out that the story was a nursery rhyme. Too bad. I'm glad though that she said something to me about it.

I got back on track, and decided to go to the library and check out some books on classic fairy tales. Wouldn't it be interesting to write about an old fable that not many people today know about, one that hasn't been overdone on television?


The hard part came when deciding which tale to spin off of. Should I do The Princess and the Pea? What about The Little Match Girl?


I went to the library to start my research. Of course, I'm sure you'd think of checking out books in the juvenile section for fairy tales, but it got me thinking. Non traditional places to find writing ideas could come from many different places. Would you search through picture books to generate an idea? What about looking in interior design magazines like House Beautiful( a personal favorite of mine)? Couldn't a living room in that magazine inspire a scene in your next manuscript? What about pictures in art galleries and coffee houses created by local artists? What about the Chik Fil A cow who was dancing around the restaurant you ate dinner at? What's his real life like?




Start looking around you. Consider the most non-conventional places to build your creativity and let your next great novel take off from there. You'll have that diamond in the rough that's so different from any other story.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

6 Rewards an Author Should Try

This has been a very productive writing week. I finally hankered down and got back to my latest manuscript. It's so close to being finished. The exuberance of typing the last word is building already.
 
A celebration is just around the corner. How will I reward myself for finishing it after so many months of hard work? I'm tapping my chin in thought at this very moment.
 
You're probably asking yourself why I need a reward? Shouldn't the work be enough recompense?
 
The answer: Sometimes yes. But what about those tough days when it takes everything you've got to finish a project? Rewards help us push forward. Rewards sometimes even help us focus.
 
Writers should give themselves something when they accomplish a goal, and it can take little to no money to make it happen. Here are a few ideas:

  • Sleep in the next day.
  • Plan a day where you do nothing but read. This is hard when you have kids, but it is possible if you line things up right.
  • Go out to eat with a writing buddy at a place with a value menu. Cheap can be just as much fun as a ritzy place when you're talking books while you eat.
  • Stash away your favorite sweet, and don't touch it until your goal is accomplished.
  • Get your favorite author's next book.
  • Stop at your favorite coffee house.


It can be something little or something big. But set it in advance so you have a tangible item or plan to look forward to. I rarely miss a goal when there's something in it for me. Are you the same way? What are some things you do to reward yourself when you meet a goal? I'd love to know.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Writers Who Inspired Me This Month

Boy did I have a rough few weeks. One thing after another went wrong. I got to the point where I just wanted to shut the world out for a bit. How did I do that? I pulled out a book and sat down to read.

This is the part where you Christian writers have a huge impact on readers. I found encouragement and strength in several books that pointed me to Christ, and gave me the edification I needed to keep going. It's amazing how much we can glean and take with us through the week from even a Christian fictional work.

Here's a list of the authors that inspired me through some tough days:

  • Carrie Fancett Pagels: Return to Shirley Plantation- A Civil War Romance Novella
    1. Carrie does a great job showing life on a plantation during the Civil War. She also opened my eyes to a little known fact. Her story revolved around a slave who was 1/8 African yet looked white and her niece and nephew who also appeared to be white but were slaves.
  • Kate Hodges: The Other Side of Miracles: Looking at the Miracles of Jesus in a New Way
    1. Kate does an exquisite job relaying the miracles of Jesus from the perspective of the people who received them. I loved how she dug into their lives and personal history to show why they needed a touch from the Savior.
  • Diane E. Tatum: Gold Earrings
    1. Diane's novel was a fun story about a woman who ventures out to find her own way in the Midwest. Although she didn't stick to the traditional view of the nineteenth century, I was encouraged by her message of the importance of looking on the inner man and not the outer one.
  • Christa Allan: Walking on Broken Glass
    1. Christa's novel really made me think. She wrote in deep point of view about addiction and breaking the cycle through her main character. I was inspired by her style of writing. Her voice is very unique and I can't wait to find more books written by her. 

If you haven't had a chance to read any of these, take the time to get your hands on them. You'll be encouraged and uplifted by the message God gave these writers.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A.D.D.- A Writer's Gift

It was a beautiful week and a half of vacation for my family and I. But, today was the day I had to get back to all my writing responsibilities. As a matter of fact, I had to chain myself to the computer seat tonight to make myself get back to work. And of course, I'm so misconbobulated from being away for those glorious days. If you saw me, you'd think I was the most ADD person you ever met at this moment. You can ask my buddies from the writers' conference. They can tell you what I'm like when I'm hyped up on forgetfulness. I become a human ping pong ball.

Sometimes my writing gets that way too. I jump from one subject to the next. My characters forget they were sitting when I make them leap up to spar. Or they speak out of character for two pages until I'm forced to retract and put the words back in their mouths to start the conversation right.

I even give my character the wrong name when my ADD kicks in. One of my critique partners will be reading along and all the sudden someone from my previous book shows up on the page(embarrassing!). That puts my partners in quite a quandary, I'll tell you.

So my answer to the craziness that only sometimes possesses me, oops sorry, a bit of an exaggeration there....
  1. The answer- stop.
  2. Take a deep breath...or two...maybe three.
  3. Start a list to keep on track.
  4. And fight the fidgets that do their best to capture me. 
  5. No changing tasks until the previous one is completed.
If you struggle with this sometimes wonderful, sometimes infuriating condition you know that it can wreck your intentions to write. It can make your plans fall to pieces, and make you want to hit the wall with your forehead when you have to back track three times to remember what you were on your way to do.

But its flip side is the ability to hyper-focus. It may take me forever to get into the mode of writing, but once I do, I can crank out some serious work. The first two hours of moving, dancing, bouncing around turn into three times as many hours of productive work.

Thank you God for my attention disordered gift.