Thursday, December 31, 2009
Yep, it still doesn't look right.
I don't know about you, but it sounds like something straight out of a bad sci-fi movie. I mean, really, weren't we supposed to be flying by now? Or at least driving cars that did a la "The Jetsons?"
Whether I like it or not, however, the new decade will be right on schedule at midnight, and to be honest, I've been anticipating its arrival with a mix of fear and excitement.
I mean there's something quite fantastic about a new year...it's a fresh start. A few days before every new one begins, I make a list of things (writing, spiritual and otherwise) I hope and resolve will be different this time around.
And even the act of doing that makes me feel like I can do anything—even lose those stubborn pounds that have been hangin' out with me way too long. Or finally finishing my third novel which feels like it's been forever in the making. And with God's help, (Philippians 4:13) anything really is possible, a valuable reminder when you've got a list that feels a mile long.
But as much as I love making the lists, making the changes isn't nearly as easy, which is inevitably where the fear comes in. And I guess that's why I've focused less on specifics for the upcoming year and more on long-term lifestyle changes.
Instead of going on some crazy diet that promises I'll lose 20 pounds in a month (surprising since all I'd be eating is grapefruit and protein shakes, right?), I'm determined to simply eat healthier and exercise. When you're sitting on your duff a good chunk of the day in front of your computer, getting up and moving is essential, and that's something I've often let fall by the wayside. Ditto for eating when I'm not really hungry, a casualty of working by yourself all day (although that's really no excuse).
Ditto for how I use my time...while I wholeheartedly believe that procrastination in various forms and the life of a writer go hand in hand, I know there are ways I can be using my time better. Maybe that means checking Facebook just a couple of times a day instead of several. Or watching one less TV show. But whatever that looks like, I hope to make strides in that particular area as well. Time simply passes too quickly not to make the most of it.
So with that said, I wish each and every one of you reading a very happy start to 2010. I'll be sure to keep you posted on how the life changes are going here...instant accountability, no? :)
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Yikes. So, now that its practically Thursday, here is an article of mine that I was honored to see run on the home page of www.crosswalk.com What a blessing!
"Let Your Light Shine Before Men" in 2010
Betsy St. Amant
Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
My Christmas tree is somewhat of a prodigy.
The very first Christmas we were married, my husband and I bought this cheap little pre-lit tree. I think it might have been $60 on sale from Wal-Mart. That's five years ago now, and the lights haven't been replaced a single time. Amazing. Most pre-lit trees, at least the ones I've heard about from my family and friends, last maybe three years before the strings start burning out.
I was actually having that very conversation with my mother a few weeks ago, and she said she bets they've lasted so long because I always worked full time, so my tree was only turned on for a few hours in the evening when my husband and I were home together.
Well, this is my first Christmas as a stay-at-home mother, and my tree stays lit almost all day long. If we're home, which is most of the time, it's ablaze in all its green and golden glory.
That is, until last week, when the top strand of lights burned out.
Figures, I thought.
For a week, I moped to my husband about it. He used to be an electrician; surely he could do something, right? "My tree is sad," I'd say. And it was. It just looked mellow, all bright and stuffed full of ornaments and memories from the years — except for the top.
He fiddled with it one night for a little while, and came to the conclusion that he'd have to go light by light through the entire string -- which could take hours -- or he could go to the store and buy a short strand to drape around the dead bulbs. I didn't like that idea, because then the lights wouldn't be spaced evenly on the top compared to the rest of the tree. Plus, it's hard to find short strings around here -- the extras I found in the closet were 127 ft! At that point we'd have to wrap the entire tree and, with the additional lights, well, it'd probably be visible from Mars. I don't know about you, but I prefer admiring my tree without the need for sunglasses.
I kept whining about my sad tree, but to no avail. Two days before Christmas, there it still stood, tall and straight lit and beautiful—except for the highest portion by the star topper.
And now it's teaching me a lesson.
Are all my lights burning for Christ?
As the bustle and hustle of 2009 passes us by, leaving a trail of wrapping paper and bows, I must ask myself, did I shine as brightly as I could have? Will I look back with regret? Will I see opportunities in hindsight where I could have spoken up for Christ, yet remained dimly silent? Did others see the light of Jesus in my words and actions this year?
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16
I don't want to enter into 2010 with regrets. I want a clean start and renewed bulbs. My husband might not have wanted to go bulb by bulb over the top strands, searching for the culprit, but I want to go bulb by bulb through my life. One little sin can dim an entire tree. Have you investigated your light strands lately? Is there one little bulb keeping you drenched in shadows?
Next year, my sad tree will be boxed away and a new one will replace the saggy branches and tired bulbs. That's fine, that's what happens. Nothing on this earth can last forever.
But I don't want to be replaced as a Christian. I don't want God to stop giving me opportunities for His work because I was irresponsible with my last assignments. I know I have His full love regardless, but I want my lights burning at full capacity, not weak and fading in the night. I want others to see the glow within me and crave it for themselves, finding peace and forgiveness with Christ for their New Year. I want to burn for the Kingdom of God! And not just at the holidays - but all year long.
As wonderful as my tree has been these past five years, it's just a fact that a fully lit tree is more appealing to the eye than a half-lit attempt. And the same goes for us as Christians. If we're not walking with the Lord and glowing from His glory, then how will others see the path to follow?
Which tree will you be in 2010?
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
At the top of the list, of course, is losing a few pounds. When I was in my teens, losing those pounds was as easy as wiggling my pinkie finger a few times to kick start my metabolism.
When I wiggle my pinkie finger now, the chub waves back.
For this reason, I've developed an exercise program for 2010. If you're looking to lose a few pounds, please feel free to target the following problem-areas with me:
The best workout for the jaw is to talk. A lot. However, if you're like me and you're already about to lose your job for talking too much, a good alternative is to chew on something crunchy. (I have already purchased potato chips for this purpose.)
When you work a desk-job, everything you eat migrates to your thighs.
Sit in your chair with your feet on your desk. Over time, gravity will pull your fat toward the floor and reshape your legs. This way, you will look skinny from the front.
Trying the whole ab-crunch thing can be time consuming and painful.
The solution: Maternity clothes. These can be purchased at any retail outlet. It doesn't matter if you are male or past child-bearing age. Maternity clothes will still fit you.
Finally, don't forget to take your flu shot this year. Or, you could skip it altogether. If you're like me, you might be one virus away from being your ideal weight.
Writing Application Questions:
- How do you plan to trim the writing-fat this year?
- What are your 2010 writing resolutions?
Monday, December 28, 2009
Christmas is my favorite time of the whole year. So it is not surprising that it is AWFULLY hard to make myself do any work over the Christmas break. And it's even worse because my husband is home for the two weeks around Christmas since schools have it off.
Motivation level is around a negative six right now.
How do you guys get back into a writing routine after being off for a little bit?
For me, sometimes just sheer bull-doggedness is what keeps me going. I clear my schedule, send my husband somewhere so I've got the house to myself and turn off the TV. I make something hot to drink and gather everything I might need for the next couple of hours so I don't have the excuse of getting up.
Then comes the hard part.
Re-reading the last few chapters gets me back into the character's lives and voices. Also, even though I hate proposals with a passion, they are convenient to refer to when I need a plot refresher. If you haven't written a proposal for your current work in progress, be sure to keep a notebook with a few notes on where the plot is headed when you leave off so you don't forget key elements.
The most important thing? Just start writing.
I hope you all had a very merry Christmas! And I'm so excited for this wonderful New Year to start! Just think of the possibilities of a brand new year - maybe publication? ;)
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Which is why we are taking a break from posting this week so we can hang out with our family and friends. And go get that last package that we just remembered we forgot to get.
Hope this week is filled with laughter and fun as you celebrate the birth of Christ!
CJ, Betsy, BJ, Christa and Erynn :)
Friday, December 18, 2009
I had mixed emotions. I was elated to have completed the project I'd been working on for years. But I also felt sad, like I was saying goodbye to the characters I'd known for so long. I knew they weren't lost forever, and I also knew they weren't real, but still . . .
Fast forward a couple years. That manuscript was rejected left and right, but four years after I sent it out into the world it was finally published. And you know what? I'm glad it took that long for it to find it's home. Yes, you read that right. I'm glad I wasn't published right away. Because during those four years I wrote my next novel, without the pressure of a contract deadline.
My number one piece of advice for all aspiring writers holding a complete manuscript in their hands . . . is definitely start submitting. But then get started on your next book. You don't want to be a one trick pony, right?
Thursday, December 17, 2009
And trust me, it's a word that a writer hears a lot...whether you're a beginner, an expert or somewhere in between.
Sometimes, no matter how fabulous your manuscript is, a fellow writer/editor/agent simply isn't going to catch your vision...even if it is nothing short of brilliant.
Before my first novel, Around the World in 80 Dates was published back in 2007, I heard the words "thanks, but no thanks" by two other publishing houses. Now I'll be the first to admit, hearing those words, even by e-mail, stung. I'd worked so hard on crafting my proposal and getting those sample chapters just right, but whatever reason, they just didn't see what I was so confident about.
But after sulking for a few days, I used that rejection as a springboard for seeing if there was a way or two that my work could be improved. And low and behold after having some time away from my WIP, I identified a few different places were my writing could be more engaging, my characters more developed, my dialogue more life-like. And low and behold, a publishing house eventually "got" me and Sydney Alexander's life journey became more than a vision in my head.
I guess I'm sharing that because as writers sometimes rejection can get the best of us. After hearing "no" time and again, we might give up on something great we have in progress. But that "no" may also be an opportunity to improve upon what you've got already...and maybe even enough for that important editor to finally take notice.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
My topic for you today is AGENTS. What the pros and cons of having an agent? Is it really necessary? How does one go about obtaining an agent?
These are all questions new writers have, and important ones to cover. I hope to help clear up a bit of the fog surrounding the topic (pardon the cliche!) If you have any more questions/comments, please post them in the comment section. Remember, this entire blog is ultimately for YOU, the reader. =)
First of all, let me say that in today's industry, having an agent can make all the difference. Most, not all, but most traditional publishers don't accept submissions unless they are from an agent. A few houses still do, such as Steeple Hill and Barbour, but majority do not. Also, having an agent when submitting even to those two houses still is a benefit, because it gives your work that extra boost to the top of the pile. Someone has already "vouched" for it, so the editor is taking less of a "wasting my time" risk. So you essentially cut your waiting for a response time in half or more. Sounds good, huh?
(Now, if you're wanting to pursue a small POD press like Desert Breeze or White Rose or if you are planning to self-pub, an agent is not necessary. There is no advance in those situations, no monetary details to negotiate, etc. It's more cut and dried...wow, how many cliches can I use in one blog post?!?!)
Here's a quick interview and picture with my agent, Tamela Hancock Murray with Hartline Literary. Tamela and I have been a team since September of 2007, and she's been not only a professional ally but a cheerleader and friend. I'm so blessed God brought us together. (pic taken at the ACFW 2009 conference awards banquet last September)
1. What is your favorite part about being an agent?
My favorite part is calling authors to tell them a publisher has offered a contract! I find great excitement in bringing worthy authors to publishers. I love being part of bringing new books to readers, adding to the number of quality choices in reading available everywhere.
2. As an agent, what is a quick word of advice you can give aspiring authors?
Learn as much as possible about your dream market. Then write a story that will be a logical fit for that market, yet be unique enough to get the editor's attention. Yes, it's a tall order, but not impossible. The more familiar you are with the market, the easier it will be for you to write a great book and back it up with a stellar proposal.
3. Do you have a life motto Bible-verse?
At this point in time, the verse resonating with me most is: Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. Matthew 10:16This verse didn't speak to me as strongly when I was younger as it does today, probably because I knew I wasn't wise. Now that I am blessed to know many more people both professionally and personally, I strive to be wise and considerate in my dealings. At no time do I seek to harm another person. The following prayer, along with the Lord's prayer, keeps me grounded every day: Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
4. What would you say is the biggest benefit of an author obtaining an agent?
The agent is your gateway to publishers. While some excellent publishers will work with authors directly, the agent can open many more doors. Editors pay attention to agented submissions because they know the agent has screened them already and has formed the opinion that the work in question is suitable for the publisher. Editors' time is valuable, and they appreciate the work an agent does even though they can't accept every manuscript.
5. What are your thoughts about the current state of the book publishing industry?
I think the Lord is blessing CBA authors and publishers even during this recession, proving once again that He is more powerful than the world economy. I believe publishers are, rightfully, responding to the prospect of readers being in possession of less disposable income by being exceptionally careful about the books they select to be published. In response, writers must be more diligent than ever to present their very best to editors. To God be the glory for every new CBA book!
Here's Tamela's website and Hartline's website, if you're interested in pursuing them further.
So there's some words of wisdom from a trusted agent in the industry! Thank you, Tamela.
Moving on, I really can't think of any cons to having an agent on your side. They are your support, encourager, at times your editor. They are your motivation and your go-between for all those awkward moments that can arise between you and your editor. Unpleasant questions can be fielded in that way, and guess what? Agents do all this for a very small percentage of what you make!! If they don't sell your books, they don't make money. Period. If you're pursuing a parnership with an agent who is asking for ANY money from you upfront, run. Run far, and run fast. This is a scam artist, and they're everywhere. If you have any questions about the quality of an agent, especially those willing to represent Christian fiction, please ask us here on Scribble Chicks or visit Preditors & Editors. We'll shoot straight! (another cliche! ha.)
Okay, so we've established that agents are great to have and you really do need one if you're going to pursue traditional publishing. "Now what?" you ask. "How do I find one of this illusive creatures??"
First of all, you need to shop the market. SALLY STUARTS CHRISTIAN MARKET GUIDE is a great resource for compiling a list of agents suitable for your needs. You can even Google "CBA agentes" and find some hits. Be sure to check the fine print before submitting your proposal that Erynn talked about on Monday - nothing is a bigger turn off to an agent than your not following their guidelines. Some agents want handwritten proposals, other emails. Some prefer query letters only, others want a full proposal. Some agents represent Christian fiction, others don't. Do your homework before diving in, or you'll end up embarrased or with a strike against you from the beginning.
You've probably heard it said "A bad agent is worse than no agent". This is true. Before targeting an agent and especially before signing with an agent, research them. Ask fellow authors who their agents are and if they're happy with their relationship. If an agent hasn't made any sales in a long time, it's probably not a good idea to go with them. An agent who isn't going to be aggressive on your behalf is a waste of your time. But on the other hand, an agent who is overly aggressive or who has a bad reputation in the industry isn't going to help you much either. At the 2009 conference, I asked a trusted agent in the industry, who used to be an editor at a large traditional house, about this very thing on behalf of a friend. He said that he remembers a time when, during a committe meeting years ago, the board opted to turn down a book they really were excited about because they didn't want to work with that particular agent again - that's how bad this agent was.
So be careful, and don't be afraid to ask questions. Us SCRIBBLE CHICKS will be happy to help you if you have questions about particular agents. Email any of us privately. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, I'd like to encourage you to join the ACFW - American Christian Fiction Writers. This is a wealth of information available at your fingertips, for a low annual fee. I've been a member for what feels like forever now, and its amazing. The networking opportunities, the friendship, the support, the prayer back-up...more than worth it. So check out their website here: ACFW The ACFW also offers annual conferences where you get to schedule face-to-face meetings with agents and editors and pitch your stories. That is invaluable, and every agent/editor in the industry will back that up.
Don't be discouraged!! This is a big process and sometimes, it seems its just hard to land a quality agent as it is to get published. Both attempts take a ton of time and patience and prayer. Just do your best work and trust God with the timing. He'll see you through! =)
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
OK, it’s official. B.J.’s lost her mind. What three things could The North Pole and The Writers’ Conference possibly have in common?
1. The Elves
There are A LOT of busy little elves at the writers’ conference. Hundreds of them, in fact. Many of these elves have worked just as hard as you to pull together ideas, pitches, and projects. And they’re working just as hard to get the attention of editors and agents.
But before you stand on your head and jiggle your bell-clad toes, pause. Remember – not all attention is good attention. (Do you REALLY want to be remembered for all time as the elf who wrote his own name in lights on the floor of Santa’s workshop?)
Like your big elf ears, your writing will stand out on its own. Get out there. Share your work. People will notice it for its own merit.
2. The Frivolity
What do you get when you put 300 extroverted elves together?
300 karaoke rounds of Santa Got Run Over by a Reindeer.
Do yourself a favor: enjoy the frivolity. Hang out with people. Don’t refer to it as “networking”. Build relationships because you WANT to, not because you secretly hope to add everyone to your mailing list. And definitely not because you’re hoping the elf with the pointy toes will jab them into the editor at his publishing house and the editor will notice you and publish your brilliant piece of writing that you created while you sat in that boring session about run-on sentences.
3. The Sleigh Ride
Folks, anyone who tells you a writers’ conference isn’t a crazy ride is selling something.
Your emotions will swing from exuberant to exhausted in the span of about three hours. You will be so tired of people that you will want to move to the South Pole just to get away from it all.
Do yourself a favor. Take a break. Skip a meal. Walk through the woods. Ask yourself why you are doing this. Get back to why you started on this crazy ride.
Because when it comes down to it, we aren’t really working for Santa. When we figure it out, we realize it’s about something much, much bigger.
We all just want to be the best little elves we can be.
B.J. Hamrick is a journalist, humorist, and Real Teen Faith Editorest.
Monday, December 14, 2009
I wrote this a little while ago for my blog, and forgive me for copying and pasting tonight - I'm in the midst of making caramels for Christmas and I'm also dealing with a spacey brain (I'm blaming it on this one). :)
I want you guys to imagine the day you get proposed to with me. You've been dating this guy for a while and you're pretty sure he's The One.
So, one day, he takes you out on a date. You're all dressed up, but when he rings the doorbell, he's wearing shredded jeans, a grass-stained sweatshirt and his hair looks like it hasn't been shampooed in a little while. "Ready, baby?" he asks you.
You're a little wary, but you climb in his car and he drives straight to an alley between two buildings, right behind a dumpster. You look at this guy and say, "What are you doing?"
"Well, I'm getting ready to propose," he says. "I love you and I want you to be my wife. I just want you to know that I am probably not the most romantic man. I require dinner on the table at five-thirty on the dot. I am not planning on working hard ever, so you're going to have to bring home most of the money before you make dinner. And I really would like kids, but I don't want to help raise them, so if you wouldn't mind doing that. And taking care of the laundry, because obviously, I can't even dress myself. Oh, and I'm out of shampoo and I hate going to the grocery store, so I was hoping you would go get it afterward tonight. Pretty much, I'm going to just squash on the sofa and watch ESPN all the days of our lives."
Then he takes your hand and says sweetly, "What do you say, honey? Oh, I think I just saw a rat next to that dumpster."
If you have any sense at all, you'll be screaming, "NO, NO, NO!", jumping out of the car and running for your life, carefully avoiding the rats.
But...what if your proposal went something like this instead?
You open the door and your boyfriend is standing there, dressed in an amazing suit and holding a bouquet of gorgeous flowers. He takes you to the most beautiful outlook in town, leads you out of the car and to a picnic table he had set up there. There's a whole steak dinner made just the way you like it and flowers on the table.
"Baby," he says. "I love you so much. I will always love you. I'll always take care of you. Whatever you need, I'll make sure you get it as soon as I can. I've been preparing for this for the last several months, so I already have money saved up so we can buy a house or whatever it is you want. You never need to worry about the future. Will you marry me?"
Odds are, you would probably be more inclined to say yes to the second guy. He took the time to plan it, prepare for it, and he's promising to take care of you.
Now compare this to writing. Why would a publisher take a chance on someone who is like the first guy? Who doesn't know what they are doing, who doesn't care what they are doing and who hasn't prepared for it?
Proposing your story to a publisher is actually very similar to a guy proposing to a girl. You are trying to look your best, sound your best and you'll be promising some type of security in the future - a completed book.
So, how do you propose?
First, finish your book. We've already mentioned this, but the unspoken rule in publishing is that publishers prefer first-time authors to have a complete manuscript. It's security for them and less stress for you.
Second, you'll write the proposal. A proposal is a document about three to five pages long that contains everything anyone needs (and didn't need) to know about your book. It's a frustrating thing to write. Ask any writer and they'll probably say they hate writing proposals more than cleaning moldy food out of a sink disposal.
Now that you're all excited to write this proposal... :) Here's the elements that every proposal needs:
1) Your name, address, phone number and email address * This goes in the top left corner of the page. DOUBLE CHECK THIS!! You don't want an acquisitions editor to love your work and not be able to get a hold of you.
2) The approximate word count
* Write this in the top right corner of the page. Don't worry about putting something like this: 70,231 words. Just stick with 70,000.
3) The title
* Put this about a fourth of the way down the page, centered. You can write "Book Proposal" underneath it, if you like. Word of the wise: Don't get too attached to the title. It's very likely it will change.
4) The teaser
* Ever heard the term "elevator speech"? It's a three-sentence synopsis of your book that you could theoretically propose in an elevator ride. This goes underneath the title. Draw the editor in. Don't reveal the ending and it works perfect to end it with a question. "Will Gertrude ever find love?"
5) The synopsis
* You do get to reveal the ending here. Make this about two pages of your proposal. Don't get too wordy, you're focusing on showing the editor that you know how to create characters and craft a plot. Play with this! If you are going to break rules, here is the place to do it. Explain exactly what happens in your story.
6) Your qualifications
* Why are you the one who should write this book? What makes you more qualified than anyone else? Put down anything and everything that could possibly relate to your book that you have done or accomplished. If you are writing a book about a girl who is a marine biologist, and you are a marine biologist, definitely put that in there! If you've published magazine articles, newspaper articles, or whatever, write it down. If you have a blog that reaches 3,000 people a day, definitely write it down.
* What genre is this book? Where would it be placed on the shelves? What is the targeted audience? And what are you going to do to get it in the hands of the targeted audience? Be as specific as possible here. Don't say this: "My book will pretty much be loved by every person who reads it." Say this instead: "This book is aimed for Christian women ages 16-24." Are you a speaker? No? You're going to have to change that fast - editors want writers who will market themselves. Be sure to say something to this effect and mean it: "Erynn will do whatever she can to help market this book!" (Just don't use my name - I can't promise I'll do whatever I can to market your book) :)
* How is your book different than everything else out there? What are books it is similar to? How does it stand out from the ninety other proposals on this editor's desk? Again, be very specific. "This book is different from the competition, because all of the characters have a third eye."
9) Sample chapters
* These aren't taken into account in the three to five page count I gave you earlier. Insert the first three chapters (and polish those within an inch of their life!) into the end of your proposal.
And there you have it! Get it all typed up and looking sharp (remember the guy with the grass stains versus the guy with the spiffy suit). Knock the editor off their chairs with your charm and charisma. Editors want to be wowed!
If you have more questions or want to see a sample proposal, send me an email at email@example.com. I'll be sure to send you one. :) To quote High School Musical, "We're all in this together!"
Photo credits go to AlanBabb and Vocaris from stock.xchng (sxc.hu) :)
Saturday, December 12, 2009
"Thinking for a Christian is waiting for the Holy Spirit to generate a creative idea in you."
What a profound statement.
As creative people we're constantly searching out our next story idea, our next blog entry :), our next letter to friends . . . but why is it that so often we dig and dig by ourselves without waiting to hear what God might be speaking to us? I'm just as guilty of this as the next person, so don't think I'm pointing fingers here.
I don't want to forget that God is just waiting to speak to me, and He does all the time. It's ME who either doesn't hear, or more often than not, doesn't take the time to pause and LISTEN.
As Christians, we're supposed to be a little bit different from everyone else. We're not supposed to think like the world. I encourage you to take time to pause and wait on the Lord at some point during your day today and listen to the ideas that pop up in your head. And don't let your mind talk you out of receiving a creative idea just because you think it's you and not God. Chances are it's the Holy Spirit nudging you, like He so beautifully does.
Think about it. Your next creative endeavor could come straight from the Lord Himself! Will you receive it?
I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.
--Proverbs 8:12 (KJV)
Thursday, December 10, 2009
But seriously, if anyone has any sudden epiphanies on how you fit twittering, facebooking, myspacing, etc. into your life (and what tangible results it has provided), still feel free to give a shout in the comments section. I do all of these things regularly, but I'm still curious about how fellow writers view all that extra time spent online.
Today, however, I've got something else on my mind, namely procrastination and the upcoming new year.
For the record, like many writers, I'm the queen of procrastination. I thrive from the sheer buzz of being so dangerously close to a deadline. And no matter what's going on, I can find a million ways to stay distracted while the clock ticks closer and closer to said deadline. In fact, my favorite way of not concentrating on my work is IMDBing my favorite actors (and even some I couldn't care less about) and reading their respective pages, right down to the really random trivia.
Of course, given that I review movies for work, too, I can easily justify this as "research," which makes me feel way better while I'm wasting time. But if I'm honest with myself, I'm thinking I'd get a little further on my current WIP if I wasn't reading about Hugh Grant's favorite restaurants or Jude Law's shoe size.
But I digress...
As the New Year gets closer and closer, (something I still can't believe, even if the calendar assures me that it's so), I think it's tempting for many a writer to put off his/her literary goals until the ball in Times Square has officially dropped. Starting on January 1st just feels a little more tidy somehow, a little more definite. But if the Queen of Procrastination has anything to say about it (and she points that finger right back at herself, too), she'd encourage you to keep right on writing. Yes, NOW!
After all, that's how New Year's resolutions get broken year after year, isn't it? We create this ginormous laundry list of things we want to change about ourselves and our habits, and then get upset when it doesn't exactly work out. But if we start being disciplined (or at least having a semblance of discipline) before January 1, well, that's one less resolution to break, right?
Now that doesn't mean that you shouldn't actually take time to enjoy the holidays. I'm all for that (and can't wait to do that myself). But getting into the mindset that you'll really start writing once the New Year rolls around is a whole lot of pressure to put on yourself. Remember Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither will your story be, so you'll want to take each and every opportunity you can to start crafting it.
So step away from the IMDB.com and start writing now. You won't regret it, I promise.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
So you can see how my brain isn't in deep-thinking mode today! However, I would like to offer the chance for our readers to ask questions. We started this blog with a lot of questions, and they've phased out, so if you have anything new you'd like to us, please go for it! Just ask in the comment section here and us Scribble Chicks will answer as we can during the day. =)
And hey, if you stump us - free books for life. J/k! haha. ;)
Or if you don't have questions but would just like to share where you are with your writing and glean some encouragement or sympathy, well that's great too. Have at it!
Monday, December 7, 2009
Want to know what an author's least favorite word is?
It's not copyedit. It's not proposal. It's not outline, research or rewrite.
An author's least favorite word? Wait.
And if you're wanting to become an author or you are already established as an author, you'd better get used to waiting.
You wait for an agent to get back to you on whether or not they'll take you as a client. Once they say yes, you wait for them to look over your proposal. Then, they make suggestions, you make changes and you wait for them to okay it. Then the hard waiting comes. You wait while they propose it to publishers.
And you wait for a response. And wait and wait and wait.
In the words of Indigo Montoya, a character from one of my all-time favorite movies The Princess Bride, "I hate waiting."
But then I notice how many other things God has us wait for. We wait for husbands. We wait for kids. We wait for dinner, vacations, promotions. And I wait for Christmas starting December 26th every year.
"Wait on the Lord," the Bible says over and over.
Be still. Wait on the Lord.
But being still does not necessarily mean being inactive. Writing through the wait is not only cathartic (I'm still writing!), but it is also a smart idea. Try your hand at new ideas. Experiment with different cultures and times. Listen to what the Holy Spirit is teaching you and write about it.
Not only will you then have a bunch of other ideas and proposals on the back burner should the current proposal not pass with the publisher, but you will have grown that much more as a writer.
So what are you waiting for? :) And how will you work in the midst of it?
Friday, December 4, 2009
After I wrote my first novel Thicker than Blood, I really struggled with what to write next. Should I write a sequel or something new? I bought a little notebook at Barnes and Noble, called it my Novel Notebook, and started jotting down ideas. Early on in the book I made myself answer the question, "What I really want to write about is ____". I got the idea from James Scott Bell in his book Plot & Structure, and I figured if it worked for him, then I could give it a try.
Weeks passed. I kept writing in that idea book. I asked myself the question, "What I really want to write about is ____" again. I had an answer, but I still didn't know if it should be a book. I had so many different snippets of ideas, but I kept shooting them down. I was floundering and miserable.
But that's not really the point of this post. :) Fast forward several months, even a year. I eventually decided on an idea and started writing my second novel. Then one day I finished it and happened to go back to that original idea notebook just for fun. I discovered something that shocked me. Every one of those responses to the "What I really want to write about" question I had incorporated into the novel . . . unconsciously.
Or maybe not.
There often comes a point in our writing when we have enough information (even if it doesn't feel like it), and the breakthrough will come when we sit down and write. You know more than you think you know about your story. Why not try the unfettered approach today? Just write. Trust your instincts. I bet what you really want to write about will come through.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
But hey, a writing assignment is still a writing assignment even if singing chipmunks are involved, right? And when warm weather in California is part of the perks package along with the paycheck, which is absolute bliss for a Minnesota girl like myself, well, I don't care what movie I'm writing about.
Even if they're butchering Beyoncé's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," a song I don't care for much without all the squeaky delivery.
Getting ready for a trip is always a fun challenge when you're on deadline...or in my case, several deadlines today. But like oh-so-many days in the life of a freelance writer who also moonlights as an author, a good chunk of my day is spent in the social networking sphere. Yes, that's a just a fancy way of saying that I'm tweeting. Or Facebooking. Or MySpacing. Or all three.
For me, this is the trickiest part of my schedule to manage because you have to do it (after all, a great deal of being a successful author is all about the marketing and networking, right?) but still, you can't exactly measure it's value. Basically, I don't know if my tweets are making a twinge of difference at getting the word out about my work or the building of my brand (an idea that's still feels a bit pretentious if I'm honest), yet I know it still plays an important part somehow...
So I guess instead of giving advice or offering my proverbial .02 on writing, authoring and the like today, I'm asking for yours. As a writer, published or otherwise, how do you fit social networking in your day, and what do you believe its value is? You know, other than being an technologically savvy excuse for procrastinating on the writing of my next novel?
Ok, with that question hanging in the air...I'm back to my regularly scheduled packing...see ya next week!
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
I chalked it up to the holiday season, to needing a break, even to hormones. I prayed about my lack of motivation and my struggle with the story - this was the story of my heart, yet the words were NOT coming. I doubted all sorts of things, and asked my grandmother to pray that I would be sensitive to God's prompting and not force the story if the timing wasn't right.
(do you have someone in life that you go to for prayer requests like that? I know God hears all His children but it seems like when my grandma prays, things happen faster. lol)
I indulged in some holiday fun time over Thanksgiving and took a much needed break, then finally, yesterday, I sat down to work for the first time in almost a week. I prayed before writing, as I usually do, but this time, even I could hear the desperation in my voice. I needed this story to be my best, and in admitting that, I realized that I was putting a lot of pressure on myself that didn't belong there. This story isn't ultimately in my control - it's up to God what happens with it. I don't want to "do my best and let Him handle the rest" - I want Him in every step along the way, forming my best.
Because to be honest, my best alone is pretty bad. But my best with Him...now that knows no limits.
So, feeling a little freer than before, I incorporated changes from a critique a friend had done the other day, and that forced me to re-read and really think about the chapter. I ended up skimming other segments of the story as well, and suddenly...
A new plot twist fell into place, and when I examined it from every angle, it was like a missing puzzle piece. It added layers and depth I couldn't have otherwise created, and really amped up the conflict between the hero and heroine and gave the heroine more motivation for her actions, which was sorely needed.
I emailed my two crit buds and one of them called me immediately. I asked if I was crazy for even considering such a change to the story, especially with my current timing (long story there), and she just sat in stunned silence before exclaiming "Why didn't we think of this sooner??"
Now, I'm motivated! Now, the words are flowing! Now, I have a vision for this story that is so dearly important to me!
All that to say, next time you're feeling a little stuck - don't give up. Sometimes God might want us to put a story aside for days or even months/years, and you should of course be sensitive to His prompting. But sometimes, it might be that you just need a little intercession from a godly grandma and a heap of encouragement from a crazy crit partner.
And a few heartfelt moments spent with the Author and Finisher of our faith.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
I couldn't believe my ears.
Was the lady next to me in the dark theater seriously telling the main character in The Chronicles of Narnia not to go into the wardrobe?
Obviously this woman was scared of what would happen to Lucy as soon as she touched the door handle. And rightly so. But I still wanted to scold the lady for shouting. Clearly... she didn't understand:
Without the wardrobe there would be no story.
You probably see where I'm going with this.
There is nothing more frustrating than being a writer who cannot write her own life story.
Today I cried out to God to heal a situation in my life. Like really, really cried. Desperate tears. As I told Him about my anxieties, I felt His response... without the wardrobe there would be no story.
So here I stand on the threshold of all He has for me. My fingers grasp the door handle... my heart pounds. Unlike Lucy, I am somewhat aware of what is ahead.
I walk through this door on purpose.
As I take my first steps everything inside of me screams, No! Don't do it little girl!
But my heart argues. My heart knows that... without the wardrobe there would be no story.
Jesus -- let this be Your story.
B.J. Hamrick loves this blog and Real Teen Faith.