Monday, August 31, 2009

This Is Definitely NOT Good Enough!

I try to work out a few times a week. (Italics are there for a reason.) Pretty much, that means that if I have time, if I'm not busy, if I'm not getting home late, if I'm not in the middle of a good book or if the Food Network isn't making cakes and I'm not glued to the TV and can't budge off the couch where the steadily growing puddle of drool is, then I put on my sneakers and workout.

It can be painful. Sometimes, if it's been a while since I worked out (like if it's Cake Week or something), it can be very painful. I'll be giving it everything I've got and my muscles just ache. And I know my form is waaaay off.

It's not good. It's definitely not good enough to do in front of someone else.

Sometimes I feel like this with my writing. I can be working as hard as I can on a story and when it comes down to showing it to someone or worse, proposing it to a publisher, I decide it's good enough for me, but definitely not good enough for public viewing.

I remember the first time I ever showed someone who wasn't related to me my work. She was an English major. And so, she returned my story to me with red pen written all over it. Apparently, I have a fondness for fragments in my writing. And run-on sentences. And sideline characters who don't behave like they should. And a propensity to start in the middle of a sentence instead of the beginning.

All acceptable in fiction. Not so much for an English major.

My mom told me that one woman's criticism did not mean that my work wasn't good. I said, "Yeah, you're right." But seriously - she's my mom, you think she'd tell me otherwise?

It took me a little while to show my writing to anyone after that.

My biggest insecurity when it comes to my writing? People won't like it. And then, people won't like me.

Here's something you know if you're a writer: Anything you write is an extension of you. Whether it's a book, a short story, an article or a postcard, it's a reflection of you and your thoughts, feelings and emotions. Writing is hard, personal work. So, when you get criticism, it's even harder to not take it personally.

After some amazing classes and two incredible mentors in the Christian Writers Guild (and a fabulous family who has always had my back!), I've started to develop a thicker skin. I've seen a lot more stories covered in red ink and a lot more rejection letters than I've ever wanted to see, but I've gotten past it.

The thing that helped me most, though, was remembering why I write. I love to write, yes, but the real reason I write is because I want to spread the love of Jesus.

1 Peter 5:12b says: "My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that the grace of God is with you no matter what happens."

So, next time you've made yourself vulnerable and you're faced with that ugly red pen, take a deep breath. Remember Who gave you this desire to write. Then, toughen up and make your writing the best it can be. God deserves nothing less.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Mastering Your Doubts

Hi, fellow scribblers!

I'm C.J. Darlington, the newest member of this awesome Scribble Chicks community. I'm so honored to be here with Erynn, BJ, Christa, and Betsy. (I think Erynn just asked me so she could have another coffee lover on her side!)

Like many of you, I've been writing and dreaming about being published since I was a kid. In fact, I started the story that would become my first novel when I was fifteen. I still have the notebook with those early scribblings ... they were quite horrible!

It wasn't until I was sixteen and discovered books on the craft of writing (as well as Writer's Digest and The Writer magazines) that my apprenticeship in writing began. It would take fourteen years before I ever signed my first contract, which is just proof we can never give up.

The biggest struggles I've faced, and still face, are my own doubts. Am I really a writer or just a hack trying to tell stories? Am I fooling myself? I think feeling that way happens because it’s just the way writers are wired. We’re more in touch with our emotions and deep thoughts and feelings. Almost every writer I know feels self-doubt at one time or another.

But here’s the thing. It’s important that no matter where we are in life, whether you’re a writer, teacher, mother, lawyer, scientist, bank teller, waiter, actor or whatever---you remember that you are your worst critic. Are you going to let your doubts rule you and keep you down?

So take heart! Feeling doubt is normal. It just comes with the territory of creative writing. But it's how we respond to our doubts that matters. Do we give up? No! We press on. We have to. We're writers. And the cool thing is, we're not alone in this. We have the Author of the Universe ready and willing to help us. So next time you feel the doubt creeping in, send up a little prayer like, "Lord, I'm really struggling here. Please help me. I can't do this on my own."

On a more technical level, I'm learning I have to silence my inner critic when writing. If I don't, I will be holding down my delete key every few minutes! I really like the advice I've heard author Terri Blackstock share with aspiring writers:

"Don't get it right, get it written." I heard someone say this years ago when I was struggling to get started. At the time, I wrote the first three chapters over and over, editing and polishing, then I'd lose interest in the rest of the book and not finish. This piece of advice changed everything for me. Once I decided to write the whole first draft without judgment, and without going back to rewrite, I was able to keep my momentum building and finish a book. THEN I could begin rewriting. But once I get the first draft down, rewriting is easy. No matter how much rewriting is needed, I know I can do it because I've already written the whole book once.

Great advice, don't you think? I'm going to try to remember this tonight during my next novel writing session. How about you? Do you struggle with doubts? What do you with them?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Writing: It Ain't for the Faint of Heart, That's For Sure

When "Anonymous" first asked about insecurities we've faced as writers, nothing (and I mean n-o-t-h-i-n-g) was immediately springing to mind. I mean, surely I've faced some trials along the way (besides a handful of those obligatory rejection letters), right?

Why yes, I have, and I've done such a great job of blocking those painful moments out that I almost forgot they ever existed.


Thankfully, a quick jaunt back in time quickly brought all those emotions back to the surface, and I realized yet again how important those difficult moments were in shaping the writer I am today.

Back when I was in college, I never had any doubts about my chosen major: journalism. Unlike my friends who switched majors as often as their hair color, I knew I was destined for writing greatness and never worried about "if" it would happen. It was simply a matter of "when."

But my confidence took a major beating on the last day of my summer internship at a medium-sized market newspaper. See, my junior year was almost a wrap when I found out the editors of that aforementioned newspaper were interested in having me work as a reporter—with actual beats and everything. To say I was delighted about this development was a major understatement. Instead of simply getting the coffee for my co-workers, I'd be out on the frontlines, getting the big scoops like I'd always dreamed about. And I could hardly wait for all the fun—and hard work—to begin.

So for the next four-ish months, whether I was sitting at a school board meeting (not exactly the most exhilarating of tasks, but we all have to start somewhere, right?) or high-tailing it to the police station to see if any major crimes had been committed the night before (there never were), I was loving every moment of the newspaper life. I was 21 and conquering the world of journalism. Or so I thought...

Even though I had 72 stories published that summer (and seeing my byline in print was something I loved, loved, loved), my editor had some rather sobering words for me once the summer ended. Basically, he told me I didn't have "what it takes" to be an honest-to-goodness newspaper reporter—and even said I was "too nice" to be taken seriously. As for alternative career suggestions, he really had none. "Maybe writing for a magazine," he said. "Maybe."

As you can imagine, I was completely deflated. Somehow, and I'm still not sure how, I was able to hold back my tears in front of the editor in question. Well, until I got to my car anyway and proceeded to bawl my eyes out. Truth be told, I was crushed. Here, I'd poured myself into my work to the tune of 60 hours per week, and I didn't have what it takes? What more could he have possibly wanted? Was it me, my writing or both? To add insult to injury, my editor gave me a "C" for my internship, and I'd never gotten a "C" in any of my journalism classes before. There goes my GPA...

Suddenly, I wasn't quite so excited about my upcoming senior year. I'd failed, and I had no future as a newspaper reporter, so now what? Well, I had to move on, but to what?

Through a few rounds of self-analysis and a successful "Pro and Con" list, the way I solve many of life's mysteries, I knew that I still really loved writing about people, so perhaps magazine writing was a better avenue for that. Yes, yes, that's it. Future career crisis averted: I was destined to write for magazines.

Not quite. Turns out that just as I was getting excited about working for some glossy publication, my class advisor also questioned my future potential as a journalist. While I don't remember his exact words, I sure remembered the sentiment—and those painful words were another huge stab to my spirit. In fact, I remember crying in the middle of an aisle at Cub Foods later that night. Not even Ben or Jerry could rescue me from my despair.

With so many credits in my chosen field, I wasn't about to switch majors, so I tried to remain optimistic and prayed. A LOT. In fact, I'm pretty sure that God was sick of hearing about my silly plight, but I kept right on telling Him about it. Again and again and again.

As I continued working as a columnist and editor for my campus newspaper during my senior year, I still couldn't shake my love of writing no matter how hard I tried. And since God hadn't given me a new passion, (I was hoping for some direction in skywriting if possible), I decided to keep on pursuing what I loved, no matter what the naysayers said. I knew this was what I wanted to do, what I'd been gifted at, so I pressed forward, even though the fear was all-consuming at times.

Since you know the rest of my story from my earlier, introductory post, I'm so glad that I did. Being a writer has really been a dream come true, and I always promised myself that I'd be an encouragement (unlike those certain editors) to anyone who wanted to do the same. And that's precisely what I hope I'm doing with this post.

As writers, there will always be people telling you that you aren't good enough. In our field, disappointment and rejection are inevitable (just ask any author worth his/her salt). But if you love writing and are willing to work at your craft, you simply must do it however you can. It may not be your full-time job, but it'll always be worth pursuing and investing in.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A mocha a day keeps the headache away...

As I type, I'm happily camped at a table in my local Barnes & Noble, a new carrying case for my new laptop perched in the chair beside me, and my trusty tall, non fat, white chocolate mocha (with no whip) taking residence beside my right hand. My current proposal is ready in a Word document, just waiting for me to tackle it with glee. Friends are only an email away, and I'm surrounded by my other friends - a store full of books, including Nicholas Spark's newer one that is in the just purchased B&N sack in front of me.

Ah, bliss.

Days like this are rare. I'm a mommy, remember? =) On days like today, it seems "struggles? what struggles?" But they're still there. I still get distracted. I still crave caffeine even though my baby thankfully sleeps the night like a champ and really, I have no excuse. I still have personal or family issues in the back of my mind. Nothing goes away or changes just because I'm in my bubble of writer self denial at B&N.

But it does help =)

Seriously, though, this is my getaway. Without these rare days of freedom at B&N (Little Miss is playing with Nana!) I would be in permanent writers block. I guess you'd say my hardest struggle as a writer is time. Sometimes this works to my advantage, as I've discovered that I can do a whole lot more than I'd ever guessed I could when left with no other option! When my editor gives me a deadline, it's for real. It doesn't matter that my MIL is barely out of her coma miles away in Alexandria, doesn't matter that my husband is exhausted working two jobs and trying to take care of his mom, leaving zero extra time for babysitting our daughter. It doesn't matter that I'm tired and want to sleep when Little Miss sleeps, instead of rack my brain for even an ounce of creativity.

Not to make my editor sound heartless, because she's fantastic and extended a deadline for me during the worst of my MIL's accident. But this is my business, this is my job, and I have to treat it as such. Which, is like I said, sometimes a good thing because it makes me push my borders, deep digger, and find that I CAN do all things through Christ after all =)

Sometimes, as a Christian, I find myself trying to do it all alone. Write alone, work alone, clean alone, cook alone, be a mommy and wife alone. That might work for a little while, but ultimately, it will all crumble if I don't stick Jesus in the middle as my anchor. He's the glue!

So during the midst of your struggles, writing related or not, don't forget to work in time for God! It truly makes all the difference. I can give personal testimony to days when I was running late but made myself do my Bible study, and voila - time warp. I got so much done that day and it logically, realistically just wasn't possible. But thankfully God doesn't play by our time rules. =)

We all have our struggles in life and with writing. We all have something that hangs us up from time to time, whether it be time, our inner critic, distractions, writer's block, procrastination, etc. The problems might be different but the solution is the same. Involve God in your writing, in your life, in your issues, and allow Him to help become your answer. Watch what He can do!

And in the meantime, keep drinking those mochas =)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Say Goodbye to Your Inner Critic

I’ll never forget the day those slippery white pages rubbed against my fingertips as I danced across the living room floor.

I was published. In my favorite national magazine. Wait until my friends opened their mailboxes…

If I had known, I would have waited. Forever.

He came to me that day. His fingertips brushed the slippery white pages, but he definitely wasn’t dancing.

“You shouldn’t feel this way,” he said as he pointed at the article. “Pastor’s kids just shouldn’t.”

Then he walked away.

I stood there – stunned. Pastor’s kids shouldn’t feel? Not that way? They shouldn’t admit to their grief? To their pain?

I’d poured myself into that article. I’d shared about my teen struggles. I’d shared about how God met me in those struggles. I’d laid my heart out in the open…

And suddenly it was doused with a cold bucket of reality.


It’s been 7 years since that day. I made peace with my friend long ago. And even though I don’t think about his words often, I know they affected me. Because somewhere… in the depths of my heart… my friend agreed with my inner-critic.


All of us have an inner-critic. You know, that voice that says WHAT IF. What if the article doesn’t turn out? What if this is the worst idea ever? And even more frightening – what if someone misunderstands?


I probably titled this post badly. I’m not sure we ever say goodbye permanently to our inner-critics. The truth is… they are always there. But over the past 7 years I’ve learned how to give mine a sleeping pill.


1. Listen to your inner-critic for a little while. Is he being reasonable? Usually not. (Not unless he’s telling you not to write about something that’s libelous or offensive. But usually that’s your own conscience talking… not your inner-critic.)

2. Write a letter to a CLOSE friend. If you’re worried about people being critical about your story, this is the perfect way to get around it. Just put your idea on paper for the most accepting person you know. You can always edit later.

3. Know that someone – at some point – WILL criticize. It will happen. (I write a weekly newspaper column, and occasionally get a letter from someone who has misunderstood my intent.) Do your best to make peace with that person… but in the end, know that we are all created uniquely with different perspectives and different sensitivities.

So go give your inner-critic the chill pill. And when you’re done, post your story here in the comment section. Because I think you’ll find we want to be some of the most accepting people you know.

Monday, August 24, 2009

When Mini Marshmallows Fail to Inspire

I had to laugh when I sat down to write this post about what writing struggles I have. After twenty minutes, one cup of hot chocolate sprinkled with a hefty dose of mini marshmallows, a piece of gum and about six trips pacing around the house, the post still looked like this:


Which is a great lead in to my biggest struggle: Writer's Block.

I've heard theories that Writer's Block doesn't exist. I'd like to meet the people who claim this. Maybe they have a stronger inspiration than mini marshmallows and caffeine. Maybe they have the jumbo marshmallows and a Red Bull.

I think Writer's Block exists. And if you need proof, stop by my house sometime. I'll let you watch me alternate between staring at a blank Word page, checking some of my favorite blogs and websites, and trying to decide what I'm going to make for dinner.

It usually starts like this: I have an AMAZING idea. One that will probably land me on the New York Bestseller's List. And these ideas usually hit either: a) when I'm going to sleep, b) when I'm in the shower, or, c) when I'm in the car.

Which means that I either: a) Try really hard to remember it in the morning, b) race through my shampooing, or, c) barely pay attention while I'm driving.

None of these are good plans of action, by the way. Skimping on shampoo is just gross and you should always be cautious and aware while driving.

So, I make it back to my computer as fast as I can and by the time I get there, I've got nothing. And what I do have sounds like the cheesiest idea I have ever come up with. And trust me, I've had my fair share of cheesy ideas.

There's been a bunch of writers way smarter and more successful than me who have listed methods upon methods of combating writer's block. "Always carry a notebook around with you" (I can see my driving getting even worse with this method). "Always carry a voice recorder with you" (Um. No. I don't even use a Bluetooth for my phone because it bugs me when people talk to themselves in Wal-Mart. I always think they are talking to me and that just gets awkward).

As Christa mentioned in her last post, if you want to write professionally, you don't get the luxury of waiting for inspiration to hit. There's always one more deadline, one more proposal to write, one more synopsis that needs to be finished.

When I'm dealing with writer's block, I try to at least write something. Whether it's a blog, a potential scene for a story, or a character synopsis, just getting past that initial I-can't-get-anything-written-today stage is extremely helpful. I've discovered that as soon as I realize that yes, I can write today, it's a lot easier to get the wheels rolling again.

If that doesn't work, then I resort to giving my brain a break. I move as far away from my computer as I can get and I either workout, read a book, play with my dog, find something to cook or clean. Sometimes, just the change in scenery can help! One time, I had an idea for an entire suspense novel just by reading the word "DELTA" on my bathroom sink stopper while I was scrubbing away at it.

Other things I have tried:

* Drinking Coffee. I once consumed a full 12 ounce pot while trying to get a story off the rocks.
* Taking a Walk. Fresh air will do you wonders. Mom was right all along. :)
* Baking Cookies. No commentary needed.
* Calling Someone I Know And Complaining. Thanks Mom and Nama for listening.
* Pilates Stretches. Nothing gets blood to the brain quite like the Downward Dog.
* Taking Pictures of Random Things. It eats up your computer's memory, but seems to jog mine.

And if everything I'm trying just completely and utterly fails, I do what one of my previous bosses taught me. After a ridiculously hard day at the office, she would get her coat, grab her briefcase, walk out the door and slam it behind her while yelling, "I QUIT!" And the next day, after that emotional release, she'd be back and raring to go.

Sometimes you're just going to have off days. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is walk away and try not to think about the story, article or blog anymore. Go read a book. Take a bubble bath. Listen to music. I've heard of one guy who could always inspire himself to write by listening to big, dramatic movie soundtracks.

How about you guys? What are things you struggle with when you are trying to write? And what are your remedies?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

From the Office of Christa A. Banister

So this is where I do my writing most home office in the "den" of our St. Paul apartment.

It's a cozy, homey little space that also doubles as a great place to display my purses as artwork (there are 16 of my favorites hangin' in various spots).

I also have my all-time favorite pair of jeans nailed to the wall—my motivation to stay on the good health/exercise path since I can't fit into them at the moment. Soon and very soon, (thanks to good eating and Jillian Michaels' "30 Day Shred"), I will be taking them down and actually wearing them...fingers crossed, anyway.

Now that I've given you the grand tour of the place I spend hours and hours in most days, lemme tell you a little bit about "my process."

I put "my process" in quotes because the thought of describing it that way just makes me laugh. It's like an actor talking about "getting into character." It sounds goofy and pretentious, yet all creative types need some sort of method to the madness. I mean it's romantic to think you're only going to be writing gobs and gobs of profound musings when you're feeling particularly inspired. You know, like they do in the movies.

But truth be told, as I'm sure any of my fellow Chicks will attest, writing is hard work. Thanks to deadlines and a creative person's sheer need to get his/her thoughts down, you'll end up writing when you'd rather be doing well, anything else. In fact, I believe the best writers spend a little time working on something every day, whether it's a blog entry, an e-mail, a Facebook status update or a few thoughts on the character that's in your head at the moment. If it's a really, really good day, maybe it'll be a couple of new chapters for that magnum opus you're working on.

Since I'm a full-time freelancer, I really don't get much of a choice in the matter. Simply put, if I don't write and meet my deadlines, I can kiss my clients, contacts and paychecks goodbye. So I write almost every day, and for the most part, I love every moment of it. From time to time, I think me and my MacBook should take a quick break from each other, and I make sure to do this for my own sanity. But most days, we're joined at the hip, whether I'm writing a movie review, a magazine article or working on a new scene for a novel.

Speaking of novels, I'm pretty free form. While I have strange little quirks like my desk must be free of dust and in perfect order (and my bed must also be made before writing—totally weird, I know), I can't just sit down and work from a tightly constructed outline. For a proposal's sake, I know where my story is headed—roughly, that is. But as I write a scene, my characters' behavior often dictates what happens plot-wise. Basically if a scenario I'm dreaming up feels true to that person, that's what stays. If you're confined to an outline, as good as that outline may be, something may not feel as authentic in a scene, depending on how your character has grown, etc. along the way. So I'm always open to possibilities when I'm writing fiction...

Above all, the most important thing is to stick with whatever is working with you (and adjust when necessary). Sometimes writing first thing in the morning works better for me. Other times, it's late into the night that's most inspiring. But whenever it is, and caffeine is always involved, it's important for me to chain myself to a desk (with some great music playing in the background) or a table at a coffee shop and just go for it. You'll always have time to edit later if you're not digging what you wrote a couple of days later. But the important thing is getting it all down. Procrastination is so incredibly easy, but making great progress on whatever you're writing always feels much better later on, trust me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

False starts and stalled engines...

Starting a novel. Are there any more exciting or terrifying words in the English language?

Well, maybe "rejection" or "revisions" - but that' s a post for another day! =)

I've titled this post "False starts and stalled engines" because some days that's exactly what writing is. Getting going good only to crash into a dead end wall. Or have a failed engine due to lack of caffeine =P Trust me, you are not alone in this!
I've realized over my career that every writer has their own system of particulars that works for them. I enjoyed reading about Erynn and BJ's systems. And for my post on starting a novel, I'm going to take Christiana's questions from Erynn's post earlier in the week and answer them here.

Fellow Scribble Chicks, chime in on the comments if you have something to add!

Christiana asked the following questions: As a fellow writer, I am greatly looking forward to learning more about the process you girls use. Do you keep a writing schedule? I love the idea of a writing schedule, and while I wish I could have a set one, its impossible. I have a 13 month old daughter and while she is great at playing by herself at my feet while I work, it's sporadic at best. I might have ten minutes here, or twenty minutes there before she attempts a diving leap off my office wicker chair or pinches her finger while playing with the leather filing cabinet drawer. I'm on mom-duty 24/7 as a stay-at-home mommy, but what DOES work for me is nap time!! =) So almost every weekday from 11-1, it's writing time. Mommy time. ME time. There are always exceptions but usually this works pretty well. (so far...)

Do you write every day or just on certain days of the week? I average writing 5 days a week, writing during naptimes and on rare occasions after Audrey goes to bed and I'm still awake enough to comprehend thoughts. Sometimes 6 days a week, since Saturdays are like any other day around here if Hubby is working one of his two days. Sundays I rarely write just because church interferes with naptime and Audrey's schedule gets thrown off, so we compensate the rest of the day with added randomness! =)

What time of day do you find you write your best work? 11-1. haha Just because it's my only option! Back when I worked outside of the home and often could find time to squeeze in some writing on slow work days, I found myself to be most creative and inspired mid/late morning. Afternoons are hard for me. But 11-1 is working pretty well. Amazing how inspired we can get when we have no other choice =P

What does your creative space look like (pics would be fantastic!) Here's a pic of my home office! Note all the baby toys! hehe And the homemade computer desk my dad built from scratch a dozen years ago.

How on earth do you girls manage to stay in shape when your job requires you to be stationary for the greater part of the day? Awww thanks! lol I feel blobby still after having a baby. It's been a year and weight-wise I'm back to my original number but toning wise, not so much! I work at it though, and every morning before we get started for the day I do some home exercises. Crunches, pushups, stretches, squats, etc. Any little thing helps, but what also helps is chasing a mobile 13 month old around =)

Seriously though, I am very careful what I eat because know how easy it is for writers to get wide! I count calories, which is how I lost those 45 lbs of baby weight. I'm a schedule/routine girl, and I eat similiar items in low fat and low calorie every day, so I'm used to it. Cereal, granola bars, sandwiches, low calorie cookies or popsicles, Diet Coke, etc. It's not really a sacrifice anymore though fast food is soooo tempting now that Audrey eats her own happy meals! lol

Here's a pic from toward the end of my pregnancy! I had a ways to go as you can tell!

ANYWAY, the bottom line to starting a novel is, no matter where you are writing, what office or set up you have, or what time of day it is, just write! Just get started. Pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, whatever method you choose, just do it! If you're a plotter, then plot it out first. Write a summary, get to know your characters. Or if you're a "seat of the pantser" like Erynn and BJ, go with it. Find YOUR flow and do what works for YOU.

Since I sell by proposal now, I have to give my editor a 3-5 page synopsis of the entire story, and the first three chapters, before contracting and writing the rest of the novel. So I HAVE to know what happens in the book, therefore my "wing it" days are over! But I like it this way. It works better for me, personally.
Great questions, Christiana! Thanks for spurring the convo! If anyone has any other "getting started" or writing related questions at all, please ask and we'll address them in additional posts! We're here to help and share!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Getting Started with the Hearse

"So... do you do stupid stuff just so you can write about it?"

I couldn't believe this reader's question. How absurd. How insensitive. How...

Wait a minute. Do I subconsciously attract trouble just so I can write my humor column?

The answer is... no. I don't attract trouble. Trouble attracts me.

That's how most of my stories get started... stupid moments. I catch chocolate-filled diapers on fire in microwave before baby showers. I live on remote mountainsides with goats, chicken, and children for 6 weeks at a time. I set off alarms in Alzheimer's units.

The rest is incidental. Where I write, when I write -- how I write.

One thing is constant: I write EVERY DAY. It might be from the coffee shop, the library, or the chair at home, but I write. I'm also BIG on deadlines, because I think there are only 2 qualifications for them EVER to be broken: 1) there's a hearse out front and 2) it's come for me.

So... how do you get started?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Blank Page, Steaming Mug, Cold Winter Day...

This would be my optimum writing day. Probably one of the reasons I love winter so much - is there a better excuse to sit around reading or writing while drinking a hot mocha than on snow days?

I think not.

This week we're going to talk a little bit about how we each get started. On our writing projects, I mean, not our day, week or life (though, actually, there's a running theme of caffeine through all of those topics for me). :)

If you are at all interested in writing, you've probably heard the debate. To outline or not to outline? To rough draft or to not rough draft? To stare out the window or to stare at the wall?

Personally? I'm a no-outline, no-rough draft, stare out the window kind of a girl. I start on page one and I finish when I type The End. I edit as I read back through the last chapter I wrote before I start work on the next chapter I'm going to write. And I prefer to look out the window because sometimes I notice that I didn't do as good of a job edging the paint around the baseboards as I thought I did when I look at the walls.

I usually start with a basic plot sentence. "Girl buys used wedding dress only to discover the previous owner of the dress was a famed jewelry thief who hid her final steal before death in the dress." I think I might have to name the heroine Nancy Drew for this particular sentence.

I know the main character's name. Sometimes I know a few other characters before I start. Sometimes I don't. Usually, I keep track as I go of who pops up in the story.

I have a location picked out. For my next series, I wanted to see what living near San Diego would be like. So, there's a coffee shop in a small town by San Diego and my main character, Maya, is a barista there.

As far as ideas for stories go, I've discovered that you can find them anywhere! What is something I struggle with? What is one of my most fervent prayers? What is a career I've always wanted? What is a place I've visited or always meant to? Are there any interesting stories in my family tree? Is there a more complex reason beyond just plain old OCD that my writing desk needs to be completely clean or I can't write there (realizing why I tend to write on the couch...)?

God has given us an amazingly interesting, incredibly entertaining, wildly weird world to soak in - so let's use the gift of observation He's also given us and go find that story!

How about you guys? Where do you get ideas? How do you start your books? :)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Life is Like a Rubix Cube

So there I was, shoeless, in the middle of the hospital -- asking the wheelchair-pusher, "Why don't we just take a spontaneous visit to the morgue?"

Not exactly what I had in mind for my 21st birthday.

Nope. My girlfriends and I were supposed to hang out and play the Rubix Cube Game. (You know -- the one where everyone dresses in rubix cube colors. Then they have to swap clothes until each person is wearing only ONE color. So people are fitting into every size of clothes imaginable...)

I think my friends paid the doctor to hospitalize me.

Multiple Sclerosis, he said. I needed an MRI to see if it was true.

So there I was, shoeless, being pushed by the wheelchair-pusher. Thankfully he didn't take me up on the morgue idea. But it was an interesting night... flat-out in the hospital bed... waiting for the phone to ring and my doctor to share the news.

Life felt a lot like a Rubix Cube.

I never could get those things to line up. I spent hours as a kid, turning the cubes, begging providence, removing stickers. When all else fails, cheat.

But what do you do when there's in no cheating for LIFE? What to do when circumstances won't line up?

Be still and know that I am God...

It turned out to be the shingles. (I know, right? Isn't that an old-people's thing? Apparently my body thought my birthday was a little more than 21...)

To say I was relieved would be an understatement. I felt like I had my life back.

But I still had big questions. Like, what did the morgue really look like? Would I ever legally conquer the rubix cube?

And lastly, but most importantly, what were my friends going to look like dressed in rubix cube colors?

BJ got the first sentence idea for this post from Christiana at Penciled Whimsies. This is a true story.
Question for 2Day: How's your rubix cube treatin' ya?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Last But Not Least...

My, my, my, we’re quite the caffeinated bunch—I love it!

By the way, I’m a grande, non-fat caramel macchiato girl all the way. I still probably frequent Starbucks the most, but Caribou is running a close second these days now that I’m back in Minnesota.

Now that I’m off my coffee tangent, (I do love a good tangent, just ask my hubby or any of my friends) lemme properly introduce myself. I’m Christa Banister, the fourth of the Scribble Chicks checkin’ in here. I’m really excited about blogging alongside these fabulous women—and fantastic writers to boot. I think it’s going to be a really fun time, and I hope you enjoy reading as much as we’ll enjoy jotting down our thoughts on writing and whatever else springs to mind.

Thanks to my grandfather who loved reading everything from Dr. Seuss to Beverly Cleary to me as a kid, I grew up loving the written word. In fact, I’m pretty sure the only reason I ever played with Barbies was to make up stories about them.

And when I wasn’t working out the details of Barbie and Ken living happily ever after, I loved writing little books about everyday life, complete with ratty little illustrations. One of my favorites was about a turtle named Buddy who was going to a birthday party—why that brilliant piece of work didn’t become a New York Times’ bestseller, well, I’ll never know.

But one book in particular, Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, was “The One” that solidified my future career choice. I decided that if Judy Blume could make up stories as funny as that for a living (I checked the book out so many times, the longsuffering librarian ended up just giving it to me at the end of the school year), that’s exactly what I wanted to do.

Surprisingly enough, I never wavered in my ambition.

So I did all that a junior high and high school-aged person could do: I wrote in my spare time, worked my way up the school newspaper ranks and dreamed about my glamorous future, a favorite pastime of mine since I grew up in a no-stoplight town of 3,900.

Once I made my way to Minneapolis for college where I studied journalism, I was in heaven. Not only did I discover this bliss that is coffee and lived only a few miles from the second biggest mall in the world, but I had a whole new audience to share my writing with. And it was those clips for our college paper, The Northern Light, that eventually helped pave the way for my journalistic future.

After an internship as a real newspaper reporter with proper beats and everything, I quickly learned the newspaper life was not the life for me. But I did love writing features and human interest stories, so I decided that magazines were the way to go. But what magazine would I like to work at?

Well, I was fascinated by Christian music and the artists who created it. So even though I’d only been there once before, I eventually moved to Nashville after college graduation. Hoping to land a gig at CCM Magazine, the industry’s leading publication, I worked three odd jobs for a year and a half, dutifully sending my resumé to the CCM editors, just hoping they’d notice me.

And then, while working at the local Christian bookstore, my track record of dead ends with CCM changed with one rather fortuitous meeting. After chatting with someone from CCM’s circulation department, I found out there were a couple of openings in editorial. Wasting no time, I sent my resumé (they sooo had to be tired of seeing my name over and over again), and I had an interview the next week, and the “Editorial Assistant” job two weeks after that.

Needless to say, I, not to mention my mom worrying 800+ miles away, were happy about that.

I liked working at CCM so much, I stayed for five and a half years, taking on various editorial capacities and loving every minute of it. Whether I was writing about a new band, interviewing one of my favorite artists, updating the website or traveling somewhere like London for an assignment, I was in heaven.

Then right around the time I got engaged in 2005 to my hubby of almost four years, Will, I knew it was time for my next professional leap. Really, if you’re changing one thing about your life already (i.e. getting married), I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal to change something else big, too. So I dove in headfirst and launched my own freelance writing business, which I continue to run today.

In addition to writing about Christian music, I review a slew of movies and books and have also written two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers, which released in 2007 and 2008 respectively.

Writing fiction (just like Judy Blume) has been such an exciting challenge—and delight—and I sooo can’t wait to do more of it. Now if there were only more hours in the day…
I’m sure my fellow Scribble Chicks can relate to that.

Not to seem completely single-minded there are several things I love doing besides plunking down in front of my trusty MacBook. I’m a Food Network junkie of the worst order and absolutely love to cook (Italian food is my specialty). And I’m just as enthusiastic about playing Scrabble (just ask my husband). One day I look forward to abandoning the frozen tundra of Minnesota for good and living somewhere where I can have my own herb garden (yes, I dream of growing fresh basil and rosemary…dorky, I know). Sleeping is also a wonderful, wonderful thing, something I sooo didn’t appreciate until recently.

My name is Betsy St. Amant, and I'm an author.

Some days, it feels like a confession, doesn't it?! lol

Regardless of having those types of days, I love writing. In elementary school on Career Day, I usually brought a stuffed animal and a nurse's hat along and pretended I wanted to be a vet, but deep down, I really only did that because if I brought a pencil and said I wanted to be an author, I'd look like I was cheating on an easy costume. =)

Like my fellow Scribble Chicks, I grew up writing short stories, poems, and novels that rarely got completed. One day, I decided I better get serious about my intended career and actually finish something.

Now I can't stop! I'm proud to be with published with Steeple Hill Love Inspired. My first novel, RETURN TO LOVE, released this past July and the sequel, A VALENTINE'S WISH, comes out next February. I have a western April 2010 release scheduled as well, and oh yes, in my "free time" (what's that???) I write articles for and have been published in several compilation books by Tyndale and other houses. Whew. Now you see why I drink coffee and Diet Coke religiously! =)
Ask my critique buds - they'll tell you I have WAY too many story ideas and not nearly enough time to write them in. I guess that's because I'm 25 years old, have been married 5 years, (yes, we were married at 19 and 20!) and am the super proud mother of an almost 13 month old. I thought writing was my life, until my Little Miss stole my heart and taught me that everything really is all about her!! haha

Here's a pic. Now you can see why I easily switched to her way of thinking =P

Here's a family pic taken at the beach last May. That's my super hunky, super generous Hubby, a fireman who works a second job at the hospital doing ambulance transporting in order to let me stay home and be a full time Mommy and full time writer. Am I blessed or what???

So that's my story - one of many! =)

Thanks for the coffee, girls. Mmmmm.....

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pass the Coffee

So... since we're passing the coffee around while we introduce ourselves, you can keep passing it -- right past me!

I'm B.J., and I've never met a cup of coffee I liked. Of course, I've only tried one. (Did I just admit that with Erynn sitting across the table?)

I'm pretty narrow-minded about beverages, but that's about where it ends. For instance, I used to believe that all men were inherently evil. Then I met this one:

He opened my mind (and my heart) up really quickly to the concept of marriage. The girl who used to make math equations like, "Singleness = Happiness" and "Marriage = Bondage" suddenly found herself saying "I DO!" That was 2 years ago, and we are so happy.

Speaking of happy -- writing also gives me that feeling. Like Erynn, I wrote as a kid, but my first story involved a "poky-dotted pony". Sometime in the next 20 years I learned to spell, and Books & Such Literary Agency agreed to shop some of my non-fiction humor proposals to publishers. In the meantime, I've harassed and manipulated magazine, compilation-book, and newspaper editors into publishing my work almost 150 times.

So now I'm handing you the coffee. Regular or decaf? And while you're at it, why don't you tell us a little about yourself?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hi! Welcome to Scribble Chicks!

Good morning!

I'm so excited to have you here! :) Let me tell you a little about this place you're hanging out in and then I'll tell you a little about me.

Scribble Chicks is a blog for writers, for readers, and for girls like us - just trying to figure out God's plan as we try to navigate the publishing field. So, if you're here, welcome! I hope you find us to be a bunch of friends who would love to grab a cup of coffee or a Coke and hang out with you.

So, in the spirit of coffee, I'll introduce myself. :)

I'm Erynn Mangum. I'm the baby of this crazy group of girls at twenty-four years old. I've been married to my best friend and the love of my life, Jon, for a year and a half. No kids yet, but our Husky puppy, Kody, believes he's our baby.

I love to watch the Food Network, hang out with friends and family, cuddle up for movie nights and try new recipes. I've had a love affair with chocolate for years and coffee is a passion of mine. Oh, and I love to write. I've been writing since I was a little kid. My first story? "The Puppy" written and illustrated by yours truly when I was about five.

When I was seventeen, I started taking classes through the Christian Writers Guild. Awesome people, awesome classes!! I ended up getting my first book, Miss Match, published by NavPress, thanks to the writing conference hosted by CWG. I've got two more novels in that series out, ReMatch and Match Point. And I have two coming out in a new series this coming year: Cool Beans and Latte Daze.

I can't wait for you to meet the rest of the Scribble Chicks! BJ, Betsy and Christa are some of the sweetest girls around!

Hope you all are having a fabulous day!

Erynn :)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Coming Soon!!!

Keep checking back, we'll be chirping soon enough!! :)