Friday, December 31, 2010

A New Year!

I posted this recently at my personal blog and wanted to share it with you too:

At this time of year most of us start thinking about the future---future goals, future pursuits, future dreams. It can be a great time of reflection, or it can bring us down as we think about all the resolutions we made and didn't keep.

But instead of focusing on what we haven't done, I'd like to ask you a question. What's holding you back from pursuing your dreams? Not just dreams of grandeur, but little things too. Maybe a desire to lose ten pounds. Or to spend more time with family. Perhaps you want to write a novel.

What if we didn't worry so much and dove in with abandon? What would our lives look like a year from now if we took a step out of our comfort zone and did one thing that God's dropped in our hearts?

How many years have you said things like, "Someday I want to _____"? I know I have many of those someday thoughts. Are they really that unattainable? Why wait for your kids to grow up or your hair to turn white before you pursue the things of your heart?

I'm not talking about shirking our responsibilities, of course. Our bills still need to be paid, our families taken care of. But I bet there's something we could pursue that would get us closer to reaching our dreams. Small steps are the key.

Let's not allow fear or what others think be our guides in 2011, but let's give our pursuits to the Lord who knows the exact next step we're supposed to take.

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. --Psalm 32:8

What's your dream for 2011? What tiny step can you take in the coming weeks to get you closer to it?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A lot of us Chicks are MIA this week with various Christmas preparations, so to all of you from all of us...


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Reasons to celebrate

We got a Christmas gift a little early this year...!!

Yep, after a SOLID YEAR of my husband not having a permanent full time job, he was offered a position last night by the district fire station TWO MILES from our house.

We have a job!

And not just any job, but his dream job, in his dream location. God is SO good and His timing SO perfect. I kept saying that all year, even though some days it was harder to feel than others, but I knew it to be true despite the occasional doubt clouds.

My husband has been volunteering at this station and working part time shifts for them off and on these past few months, while going through their hiring process against tough competition and performing other part time jobs to see us through.

Can I just say how relieved I am?????

I love the fact that I don't have to cringe anymore when I walk past his fire department graduation pic in the hallway. I love the fact that I don't have to cry nightly over our budget anymore. I love the fact that God provided us with some extra money recently that we could help share with friends in dire need, as others shared with us during our need. I love knowing that God set this up SO PERFECTLY and that Romans 8:28 truly played out.

I love seeing God's promises fulfilled and being able to brag on Him. :)

To GOd be the glory! Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Peeing on Sticks and other Dreams

I'd been forewarned, but it didn't make a bit of difference as I stared at the piece of plastic in my hands. I tried to hold them back, but the tears still welled up in my eyes.

One pink line. Again.

Would I never hold a baby in my arms?

I remembered the words of my doctor. People like me needed to be patient, she said. My condition made it more difficult to get pregnant, I was told.

I thought I was okay with that.

Then my friends got married. And pregnant. Many of them within the first several months of saying, "I do". I listened to complaints and woes about everything from swollen feet to premature labor.

Who would have thought someone could be jealous of those ailments?

But the longing in my heart ran deep beyond any temporary discomfort. I had one dream, and its reality eluded me.

Many of you also have a dream. People warned you at the beginning of this long publishing road that it would be difficult. You thought you were okay with that, but month after month, day after day, progress was slow --  and your dream began to ache.

Instead of bringing light and hope, your dream brought you pain and despair.

Can I encourage you today? If there was ever a time to believe in dreams -- it would be at Christmas. Take a moment today and ask your Dream Maker to show you how He -- the King in a manger -- can fulfill your dream in ways you might never expect.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ah, the proposal...

...and the dreaded synopsis. I am in the middle of working on a new proposal right now and I have to admit, I hate writing synopsises.

Or is it synopsi?

Either way, I hate it. With a passion. I do not like to outline, so often I don't know what's going to happen in the book until I'm writing it. I feel like a synopsis is just a big story-killer for me.

Any of you guys feel that way?

I've mentioned this before on this blog. And by the way, I need to apologize for not keeping up with my Monday posts as well as I wish I would. My little Nater Tot seems to suck all the time (and brain cells some days!) out of my days! I'm so sorry!

I have discovered a way to get through the synopsis though. Have you guys ever been SO excited about a book that you can't stop talking about it? And you pretty much ruin it for everyone around you because you spill the whole entire plot?

That is pretty much a synopsis. Write it down, make it about two to five pages long and then try to forget that you already ruined the story for yourself and go back and write it.

Unless you are one of those "outliner" types and enjoy ruining your stories for yourselves.

To which I say: Hey, could you please come write my synopsis for me? :)

Have a great Monday night!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Reliving the magic...

I got free tickets via a freelance assignment for my local newspaper to DISNEY ON ICE - PRINCESS WISHES. I was able to take my mom, grandma and Little Miss to the show, and I don't know who was more excited - me or Little Miss. ::grin::
I've always loved the Disney characters, and the opportunity to see Little Mermaid, Belle, Cinderella, Mulan, Jasmine, and Sleeping Beauty, and other Disney favs was priceless! But the best part of it all was introducing Little Miss to the fun. She's been watching Disney movies at her Nana's house, has Mickey & Minnie figurines, and even knew what ice skating was thanks to recently viewing a Snoopy (Peanuts) cartoon where Snoopy skated on a pond.
Here's some pics of the show...

It was incredible, and I took a ton more pics I didn't post. It was fun watching her laugh, point, clap, and turn to me and Nana with a smile to make sure we were watching and paying attention too.
I was excited about seeing the show for myself, but I quickly realized that watching it through her eyes for the first time was even better. Little Miss, just by being there and being snuggled in my lap, put a new sense of magic into what still would have been a great show. When Jasmine and Aladdin skated together to A Whole New World, I actually cried. It was so emotional for me, the sweetness of being able to share that with her.
Sometimes I wonder if our writing could stand a new glimpse of magic. What can we give our characters to help them have a fresh perspective of life or their circumstances? What can they see through new eyes that will give extra depth to their character and our writing?
Let's help our characters relive the magic this holiday season as we write. And maybe get a glimpse of it ourselves in the meantime ;)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Writing a novel in three months

I'll start right off and offer a big apology for being so lax in posting to this blog! I'm so sorry guys. Things have been crazy, but you think I'd be able to find a few extra minutes to type up a post. Um . . . yeah.

But really, we all have crazy lives. It's all about balancing our various obligations. It's also about cutting the things in our lives that waste time and make us feel productive but in the end get us nowhere.

All that to say I've been struggling just like you with keeping all the balls in the air. But I'm still here! This is a great blog, and I'm thrilled to be able to offer my two cents every now and then.

As some of you know, my first novel Thicker than Blood was published back in January, and my second novel Bound by Guilt is coming out in March. I've been struggling with what book to write next and have even tried to start a novel several different times. Nothing seemed to gel. But I want to be a writer, not someone who's written, so I've decided to take a different approach to all of this.

Last Friday I started my third novel . . . again. But this time I've decided to give myself a time deadline. The goal is to finish a rough draft by March 1st. That means I have to write 1200 words a day, five days a week, for the next three months, and I can't go back over anything I've written the day before. That's a real key for me. If I start to go back over stuff, it'll put a damper on all forward momentum. Can't have that. Not when I have to be done by March 1st!

So, maybe some of you want to join me in writing a book in three months. It's not as hard as it sounds if you work hard to keep your internal editor chained to a chair. :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Why Wait Until January 1st?

I don't know what it was—the realization that it's already December (!!!) or the fact that I just watched Bridget Jones' Diary for the umpteenth time, but when I flipped the calendar page yesterday, I decided I wasn't waiting a whole month to start setting some goals (by the way, I've never been a fan of the word "resolutions," it's always sounded far too ominous).

Truth be told, I was ready for a new start—pronto. And there's just something about putting everything off until January 1st that's never quite worked for me. After all, if you've got more than one thing on your list, that's a whole lot of change to start implementing all in one day.

Cue David Bowie's "Under Pressure."

So I immediately went to work and started writing down some tangible goals yesterday, and for the record, those aren't mine at the left. Although, I certainly wouldn't mind accomplishing #1, 2,3 and 5, how about you?

As far as my writing goes, I have several goals that I'm ready to get going on right away. I'll be honest, I'm a little bummed that I haven't made more progress on my next novel this year. I had extremely, extremely high hopes, mind you. Since it's my been two years since my last one, Blessed Are the Meddlers, hit store shelves, I thought this year would be perfect year to wrap up the next.

But for whatever reason, it took me a lot longer than usual to actually settle on a really superb idea. See, I had three that I was toying around with, and they all equally competed for my attention, which is never a good thing. Now I'm happy to say that after much deliberation (and the helpful input of those I trust must), I've decided on one. But even if I was a writing Superwoman for the next of the month, it certainly isn't getting wrapped up this year.

With a full plate of freelance writing, my novel writing has often taken the backseat. And while I'm certainly not complaining about my surplus of regular paying gigs (I'm very thankful, especially in a tough economy/job market like ours), I really have to fight for time to get my manuscript done. And so far, I haven't fought quite hard enough because I'm only a few thousand words in. However, thanks to all that goal setting yesterday, I've got a plan.

Now I just need to stick to it, which is another matter altogether. But I can do it, right?

Ok, now that I've shared a little about my writing goals for the immediate future, I'd love to hear from you. What are some of yours? What do you hope to accomplish next year that you can go ahead and start now?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Good news!

I'm super excited today to announce that I just signed a contract with Barbour Publishers for a YA novel, tenatively titled ADDISON BLAKELY - CONFESSIONS OF A PK, set to release January 2012.



God is good. This has been a long time coming and has been a twisty path!! I'm so blessed that He saw fit to open these doors for me at this time, and I can't wait to join the Barbour family and share Addison's story with you all.

To celebrate, Hubby took me to dinner and I signed the contract over sushi and cupcakes. :)

(yes, it's a good combo, trust me! haha)

I just want to say that I'm living proof that without Christ, my words are in vain. I'm considering this new contract a ministry opportunity and I can't wait to see what God does with the words He gives me. It's all for His glory.

Thanks for celebrating with me! Addison and I hope to see you January 2012 ;)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Running after Your Dream

My words to Ethan this morning: "I can't handle your nose anymore!" Apparently after an entire night of listening to allergy induced "sniff... sniff... sniff...", I turned heel and ran for the couch.

I vaguely remember any of this.

To say that I was facing the day well-rested would not be factual (I was also facing the day very embarrassed for my lack of sympathy toward my husband).

I know that many of you reading this haven't felt well-rested for years. You face each day overwhelmed with responsibilities... exhausted, and hopefully caffeinated enough to make it through.

The last thing you have energy for is writing.

But there's a reason you read this blog. You're living vicariously through other writers. You dream of making the time to write for yourself... but instead you only have the energy to read about what you want to do.

This blog post is for you. Today is your choice. You can say "I can't handle your nose anymore!" err... "I can't handle this dream anymore!" Or you can turn heel and run toward your dreams straight on.

They're waiting for you... so whaddya say?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I leave you with a smile...

May your table be full, your family healthy, your children happy...
and your pants elastic-waisted :)
Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Three Ways Gratitude Can Improve Your Writing...

Well, Ladies, with Turkey Day just one day away, I started to think about three ways gratitude can improve your writing:

1) Be grateful for the time you have to write. It may not be an hour each day, but use the twenty minutes you have before the kids get home from school, or after they go to bed. Make what you have count... your willingness to acknowledge God's gift of writing in your life (even in small increments) may just push your writing over the edge to greatness.

2) Sincerely thank someone who has helped your writing life. It may be a blogger, a mentor, an agent, or a publisher -- even someone who spent five minutes with you at a conference. Remember their words of encouragement, and dare to write them a thank-you note today. It's wonderful writing practice, and who knows? That publisher might just remember you because of that thank-you note [even though that's NOT why you're writing it :].

3) Thank your spouse for putting up with your crazy obsession with the written word. You might just be surprised at how much he or she will be willing to put up with in the future -- if you simply acknowledge their sacrifice they make today.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Points of View

Great post, Betsy!!

I was reading through the comments (P.S. Thanks so much, Emma and Betsy!!) and I noticed Tonya's question about maybe having too many points of view in her current work-in-progress and if that could be why she's having trouble figuring out her story.

I've done both (only been published in first person, but I've written two unpublished books that will never see the light of the publication world in multiple POVs.). Honestly, I think it is easier to write in multiple POVs, but more natural for me to write in first person.

In first person writing, you can really get the voice of the character and develop that through the entire story. The storyline progresses with the character, so while it is easier to get "stuck" in certain scenes because you don't have that convenient "hey, this scene is going nowhere, so I'm going to just switch to the other character's POV". BUT, it is also very natural to add thoughts, ideas and backstory without it seeming weird, odd or awkward.

For third person and multiple POVs, you do have that convenience of switching scenes and people whenever the story starts to fall a little bit. But, you're right, Tonya, it can be hard to keep all of the individual storylines going! Plus, you've got the added challenge of keeping each character's voice unique from the others.

I think the best example of multiple POVs is actually in movie-form. Did y'all see Valentine's Day? Such a great example of how you can have TONS of points of view and still have a cohesive story that works them all together. Notice that no two characters were alike and every character had their own issues and problems. And notice too how seamlessly they all worked together.

If you're going to write in multiple POVs, I would recommend getting a journal out and writing out each character - names, descriptions, jobs, lives, etc and make a special note about quirks in their particular voice (like, for example, "Leonard's POV will include multiple sports references."). Be especially careful of bleed-through - don't allow the same voice to transfer to different characters.

As far as keeping all the ideas and plotlines straight, write them all down in that journal! I really think it's easier to write in a linear fashion - start in Chapter One and finish when you write "The End". But, y'all know me - I don't outline worth a flip. Another tip that might be helpful is to read back through your story every day before you start working. Back up to a point where you've written about all four characters and read through each of them before continuing, just to refresh your brain on each of their different storylines.

Hope this helps!! :)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rachelle's Question

Last weekend, Rachelle (Rose) asked: I am an 18-year-old college freshman and I want to be a writer. I've had articles published online and I write for my church newsletter. Yet, I really desire to see one of my stories published. I plan on attending a writer's conference either this summer or the next. Herein lies my question: I currently have about 10 manuscripts. Some consist of less than 10 pages and some have more than 50. I'm thinking about taking a proposal to the conference. How do I choose which story idea would be best to take?

2. How do I decide which is my "best yet?" I've heard that first time authors are best off with a complete manuscript so go with one of my nearly complete or complete stories right?

3. I also have a series in which the first book consists of a short manuscript, the second is full-length with some expansions planned, the third is half written, and the fourth is but a dream.

Hi Rachelle! I'm going to answer your questions in stage, and Chicks, chime in on the comments if you have other suggestions or opinions! =)

Congrats on the online publications and the newsletter. Those are great stepping stones. Which conference are you attending? That's another wonderful step, as conferences can open doors that otherwise would remain shut much longer. In person networking is truly priceless.

My first thought about your various manuscripts is length. If you're wanting to pursue the Christian fiction industry (known as the CBA) a ten page story isn't going to work, nor is a 50 page. You really need to focus on word count instead of page count, since printed pages of computer paper hold more words than a printed novel page in a book.

Typical word counts for the CBA include:

Romance/Contemporary: 60-85k
Historicals: 85-100k +
Suspense/Romantic suspense: 75-85k
Young Adult: 60-85k

10-50 printed pages isn't going to make those limits. Maybe for a novella? I write for Steeple Hill Love Inspired, and our stories are slightly shorter at 60k average. Heartsong by Barbour Publishers are 55k on average. Other houses are going to only be longer. Definitely go with your longest manuscript and the one that is completed or will be completed by the time you go to the conference. It helps a LOT to be able to say "this is a completed manuscript" when you pitch it to an editor or agent. Golden words, I assure you.

If you have enough time, then I would pick your favorite manuscript of the group regardless of length and work it up to be long enough for a completed submission. The book that means the most to you will help during a pitch session to an editor or agent because they will be able to see your excitement and passion for the story. That's another key factor in a pitch at a conference.

So that sort of answers your #2 question - go with the story of your heart and it will be your best.

As for #3, I'm not entirely sure what to say but to reconsider my advice about word count and maybe decide which House or agent you are targeting and go from there. Different publishing houses have different guidelines and rules, and I'm sure that if you were to pitch a series, they would require a proposal that was outlined according to their rules (which can be found on most publishers websites) A fourth novel in a series that is nothing but a dream is probably not going to go over. Not to say you can't have a dream sequence within the story, but its going to need more than that to be published traditionally. I would definitely advise following the rules of the House you are most wanting to publish with and then formatting your stories to match their guideliness. Does that make sense? Also, be sure to read a lot of novels published by that House to see what they typically go for and publish.

I hope this helps!! Let me know if you have any more questions or if I misunderstood something.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Woe to Me...

Today has not been the greatest of all days.

It began at 6AM when my husband woke me up with these sweet words: "I heard Nathan making noise and went in there and Kody had pooped all over Nathan's room and I need your help."

Kody being our dog. Nathan being our son. Help being something I do not like giving at six o'clock in the morning.

So, by eight o'clock this morning, we had scrubbed carpets, banished the dog to the backyard, been to Wal-Mart for supplies and started the process of deodorizing the house.

Kind of a crappy day. No pun intended.

However, my day could be much worse. My mom reminded me of this since one of her friends is facing the idea of her husband being deployed to Iraq for a year.

It made me start thinking about how much drama I make in my own life and how much of it really doesn't matter. Carpets can be cleaned. Dogs can sleep in crates. Naps can be taken.

So as much as I like to moan about my day (and trust me, I have), it really isn't that big of a deal.

How often do we do this in our stories? How often do we settle for meaningless drama rather than attacking the heart of the issue in our characters' lives? One of the best things we can do for our readers is write about things that they themselves are facing.

So what are you facing? What is the Big Issue for you today?

Now - how can you incorporate that in your story?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Can Writing Actually Be Learned?

After I posted last week, I noticed Skylar's questions in the comments section and thought I'd provide my .02 in today's post:

I don't know if I should put this in the last post or not, but I I've a questions for you girls. So many writers talk about always being storytellers that when they were little teachers noticed or they were always able to keep people entertained:

1. Were any of you like that?
2. Do you have to be a great storyteller from a young age to be a novelist?
3. Can writing be learned?

Ok, Skylar, here goes:

I'll admit, I was definitely one of those weird little kids who loved to tell stories and put them down on paper from a very young age. Ultimately, I thank my Grandpa for that because he always loved reading to me.

In fact, my Mom always said I was actually a pretty cheap child to entertain because all I ever wanted was paper, markers and a few pens to write my stories. I'm pretty sure my first one was about a turtle named Buddy who liked to go to birthday parties—real Pulitzer Prize-winning stuff, I tell ya.

And yes, I'll also admit that English, reading and composition were always my favorite subjects in school. I always got a kick out of writing papers and coming up with the weirdest storylines possible for my creative writing class. I loved it whenever my peers laughed when I read my latest tale out loud and considered that the mark of a pretty good story.

Even with all that said, however, every writer's journey is a little different. My husband Will says that Abba's wristwatch has a tick-tock all its own, and I definitely believe that's fitting for when He reveals our calling in life, be it writing or otherwise. Even Jesus didn't begin His public ministry until He was 30, so if that doesn't prove that God uses people of all ages, I don't know what does.

In many cases, I think people who love words—and love to write—do realize that early on. But that doesn't mean that you can't still be a novelist if that "a-ha moment" arrives a little later. If anything, the more life experience we have, the more colorful the writing. It's sort of akin to Miley Cyrus writing her autobiography at 16. Sure, she's had whirlwind success and has traveled places that most people don't have an opportunity to at such a young age, but how much wisdom has she really gained along the way?

Your last question, if writing can be taught, is particularly intriguing. I've always believed that successful writers make their way with about 10% talent and 90% hard work. After all, how many people do you know who say they really, really want to write a novel but haven't even started yet? It's always the thing they plan on doing before they turn 30 or maybe it's something on their proverbial bucket list. But to actually sit down and do the hard work is an entirely different matter...

As probably any of my fellow Scribble Chicks will admit, it takes a lot of hard work, stamina and a great deal of patience to dream up engaging characters and put them in conflict, all while hitting on some compelling themes that readers will hold close to their hearts. And that's just the writing...we're not even talking editing, marketing, promoting, blogging, etc.

I do believe the talent to write is something people either have—or don't have. There's really only so much that can be taught. But if you're willing to learn and stretch yourself, I believe your basic writing ability can always improve.

Even though I've been a professional writer for 10 years now, I'm always challenging myself to use new words, stay away from clichés and to become the best at my craft that I can possibly be. But I've found that comes a lot more by actually doing it than reading a how-to book or taking a class, although both can be valuable tools that nudge you to the next level.

I think great writers are also great readers. What makes your favorite authors your favorite authors? What is it about their work that inspires you? That's also something very valuable to consider as you pursue your craft. Of course, you never want to copy their style verbatim, but every writer has his/her influences, and what somebody else has written (or hasn't written yet) can definitely inspire you on your journey.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

C is for Contract

Thanks for contribuing some questions last week, guys!

Here's one I'll tackle today...

Reader asked: "I know contracts and deadlines seem to come up on here a lot, but I'm still kinda confused about the whole topics of contracts. Does a contract mean you're forced (depending on what you signed on for) to write a book every year or two years? Can you ever just decide that you want to write something and write it, or do you have to do a book proposal first?"

This is all varied but typically, a contract is per book or per book series - not per career.

For example, here's how it works for me at Steeple Hill. I think of a story idea, create a proposal (which includes the proposal elements such as hook, back cover copy, target audience, etc. and a 3-5 page synopsis and the first 3 chapters of the novel) and submit to my agent. She then submits (after her approval/suggestions/opinions, etc.) the proposal to my editor at Steeple Hill. My editor then will either say "no, this won't work for us, try something else" or she'll say "i like this idea but you need to tweak this and this before I can contract it" or she'll say "I love it, let's contract it now".

( FYI - side note. Since I'm multi-published with Steeple Hill, I don't have to write the full manuscript before they will decide to contract or not. I "contract on proposal" whereas new authors starting out with a House must typically write the full manuscript first.)

That contract is good for that story. If it was a series, it'd be good for that particular series. That's it. Does that make sense? My editor WANTS me to submit as often as I can and keep books cranking out but I'm not forced to. It's in everyone's best interest for me to do so, but again, the contract doesn't state I must. I don't believe any publishers contract in that way but correct me Chicks if I'm wrong.

As for the last question in the above italics...I'm not sure entirely sure I understand what you're asking so if I'm off in my response, please correct me in the comments and I'll try again! :) I think you're talking about writing on proposal versus having to turn in a full manuscript as a new author? In which case I already touched on that. OR...are you talking about wondering if a contract forces you to stick to a certain/specific idea? If so, then a contract is done after the proposal is written and submitted, so it would be based on the idea you already pieced together. Does that make sense?

OR...are you asking if you have to follow the current trends of marketing or can you write the book of your heart? Which I think we talked about earlier in the week as well. The answer to that is always write what you feel called to write, not what is currently a hot topic or fad.

Sorry for the confusion! Hope this helps. Any more questions? Fellow Chicks, chime in!! =)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tell Us: Who's Your Eccentric Character?

This is for all of you out there who are writing fiction. One of my favorite things about fiction is the random eccentric character. So here's some fodder for ya:

It’s not really a habit for many people in our generation, but I realize that there are some folks out there who enjoy canning. Peaches, pears, figs – you name it. So when I read recently about a man who keeps navel fluff in a jar, I assumed the article was referring to canned oranges… if there is such a thing.

Turns out the words “navel fluff” are actually the Australian way of saying “belly-button lint”. (See? Suddenly I’m bi-lingual.) And not only does the man have one jar full of belly-button lint – multiply that by three.

I’m not going to lie – the pictures are disturbing. The owner of the navel fluff, Graham Barker, has been collecting his prized possessions since 1984. But out of all the questions that entered my mind upon seeing the photo of the “fluffs”– the most disturbing question was, why does each jar contain only one color of belly-button lint?

Although the jars are marked by years (the collection is divided into almost 10-year increments), the first jar of fluff is white, the second red, and the third blue. Leading me to ask… did the man ever change his shirt during those ten-year increments?

You can see why I felt not only distressed, but slightly nauseated while writing this column. Apparently news of the collection does not cause all people to feel badly, however. Some people are actually using the navel fluff collection as inspiration for the upcoming holidays.
In the words of one commenter on Barker’s website, “I find [naval fluff] so rarely, it really is a joy when it happens. Like Christmas, really.”
Real Question: Who's your most eccentric character?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

For Anonymous: Bible College or Writing?

One of our readers posed the following question: I am an 18-year- old senior who is going to bible school next year because I feel God is calling me there, but I still really enjoy writing. I can write novels and freelance stuff... any suggestions what to do for the rest of the year? ( I am not published, but dream of being)

Back when I was deciding what to do with my life and what my college major would be, (I briefly considered majoring in education because my Mom thought it was a good idea, but I eventually convinced her that journalism was the way to go, and 10 years into my professional career, I'm so glad I did), I knew that it would involve writing somehow. I just didn't know to what degree.

And once I made my way to bible college in Minneapolis, I was definitely the proverbial square peg in the round hole because everyone else had future pastoral aspirations or were planning on moving somewhere exotic like Bangladesh after getting their degrees in cross cultural ministries.
Yet, while those are all certainly valuable pursuits, I was reminded by a wise professor of mine not to ever believe that writing is any less noble of a pursuit. Or worse yet, that it's not God's work. Some of the biggest culture-shapers are writers, after all...

See, when you've got a love for words and creating stories, (and I believe that's a God-given talent), you'll always find an avenue to use that gift, even if it's not your main focus. And just because you're enrolling in bible college doesn't mean that your interest in writing has to go to waste. I'd encourage you to take electives that will help you hone your craft. If your university has a school newspaper or literary magazine, I'd make sure I was contributing, too, because it's clips like those that will lead you down the prized road to publication.

But even more important than actually seeing your byline in print is that you'll be using your ability to its fullest, which is really the best blessing of all, whatever you decide to do.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chicks to the rescue...

Anyone have any more writing-related questions today? Us Chicks are here to help!

Sometimes it's hard to think of topics we haven't already exhausted. We don't want to bore you guys! We'd love feedback. What type of topics/posts do you most enjoy reading? Which ones do you tend to skip or not read/enjoy? Would you guys be interested in reading author interviews on this blog? Any particular authors you'd like to read about specifically? We have pretty good connections through various groups and could easily get some Christian fiction authors represented here if you're interested. Just let us know yes/no, who/what! =)

Do you have any questions on editing, the agent/author relationship, the editor/author relationship, critique partners, writer's groups, the benefits of writer's conferences, blogging vs. websites, writer's block, etc. etc. etc.

We're happy to help! Just pipe up and let us know what you need! =)

Chicks to the rescue!

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Character Spoke To Me...

I have met numerous writers who have told me some version of this when asked how they dream up their stories: "Well, I just heard the character in my head. They told me their story. And I wrote it down."

I alternate on being envious, fascinated and very creeped out by these people. Envious because it doesn't seem like they have to put a lot of work into their writing if they are hearing the words in their head. Fascinated because they are hearing voices in their heads. And very creeped out because, let's face it...


Unlike these writers, I have never heard a character's voice in my head. I've never had a whole scene "come to me" like a movie reel, I've never had a dream that plotted my entire book and I've never felt like my characters were my friends - nor talked about them like they were so.

I think all of us here at Scribble Chicks enjoy writing tremendously. We love to spend hours working on a story, we love to see where the book ends up, we love the ins and outs of creating great stories.

But, I think all of us would agree. Writing is work.

Hard work. And sometimes, writing is more hard work than fun. Which means that instead of hearing our characters talking to us, we're more concerned with the ebb and flow of a particular passage or grinding our teeth over a scene that is making us want to throw the whole computer out the window.

When I'm coming up with a character, I usually have a vague thought about the kind of person I want them to be. Most of the characters I write are loosely based on a culmination of people I know. Tall, short, heavy, thin, glasses, curly hair - I have a basic thought of what they look like physically and a lot of ideas about their personality. Lastly, I have a overarching theme of what I want to explore with the book (with Miss Match, it was the sovereignty of God. With Cool Beans, it was learning to trust God).

So, maybe you're like me and you've never heard a character tell you his or her entire life story. Fear not - you might have to discover how hard writing actually is.

But in the process you'll also have a whole lot of fun.

And that makes it all worth it. Regardless of your ground-down teeth. ;)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Writing Fears, Part Two

I'm with ya, Betsy...being a writer can be a scary, scary thing filled with fears galore.

Like every time I work on a manuscript, I wonder if readers will get my sense of humor. Or if they'll like the characters I've created, the crazy scenarios I've dreamed up, the themes I've tried to tackle.

I'm also afraid my computer will go on the fritz right before I submit my manuscript to my editor (yeah, that happened three days before deadline before), and I'll have to start from scratch.

I also have the somewhat irrational fear that I'll never have a creative impulse ever, ever again, will have to go back to college and study something different altogether.

Such is the life of a writer. We've got neuroses like everyone else...some founded, some, well, not so much. But in the end, it's all absolutely, positively worth it, and hey, isn't conquering our fears part of life anyway? :)

What are you afraid of?

Halloween is looming, and I thought it a fine time to share our greatest fears regarding our writing.

Here's a few answers I polled and gleaned online from various sites...

Some days I fear that I will slave over my novel and finally (oh, finally!) finish it, only to find that it is horrible and no one will publish it and even my friends and family hate it.

I fear that I will never finish my novel at all. That life, children, and work will coalesce until I become so busy that it just sits on my computer unfinished. And then I'd wonder...

My biggest writing fear is that someday, somehow, I suddenly stop loving to write.

My greatest fear is that I won't "make it."

My biggest fear is that I'll stop for good.

I fear people won't tell me truly how my writing is.

I think my biggest writing fear is that my stories are too weird, too unrealistic and out there.

What are you afraid of?
The good news is, on Halloween and every other day of the year, even on our most insecure, self-doubting days, God's word is still truth.

Consider Psalm 56:3 "What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee." and 2 Timothy 1:7 "For God hath not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind."

Kick those fears to the curb! Come out from under the covers, boot up that computer, sharpen that pencil, and get to writing. Fight back against the darkness by writing in the light - the light of God's grace and glory.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chinese Guy Rescued from Man-Eating Toilet

Next time you’re tempted to write while you sit on the toilet, remember China.

If you think I’m going to say that’s where your phone was made, you’re probably right – but I’m also going to remind you about the Chinese man who recently dropped his phone down the loo while texting and decided to fish it out.

Only... he discovered the hard way that arms are not as thin as fishing lines. Let’s just say his body obstructed justice for his phone.

The details are sketchy on how the man managed to call for help – but it wasn’t with his cell phone. It took the strength of several firemen to smash the toilet to smithereens and pull the man’s arm to freedom. (It’s still unknown if the firemen had to ask advice from the Chilean rescue workers.)

Which leads me to the second life-lesson this Chinese man teaches us – not only should you avoid texting on the toilet, but you should be grateful for each day you're given, even if it is really cr*ppy.
BJ Hamrick writes the Bare Naked Truth about life...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Writing Prompt

You've lived in darkness and filth for 17 days, terrified you'll die in there too. You hear the noise again -- they are drilling; they haven't given up hope. But you the day is fast approaching when you know you won't hear the drill anymore.

Suddenly the noise grows. Dirt falls and you begin to wonder if you're hallucinating... is that a drill coming through the ceiling? There are shouts.

Can you describe your feelings in this moment? Use no more than three sentences.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bundling Up

It's getting to be that time of year again!

I love, love, love when the weather gets colder, the houses get warmer and the cider, hot chocolate, tea and coffee start flowing. I love wearing slippers around the house and bundling up in super cute coats and scarves to go outside. And when I don't have to go outside, I love snuggling in a blanket, drinking a hot cup of something steaming and hunkering down into my story.

This is the season for writing!!

It is so hard for me to get motivated to write when it's all summery outside. Particularly when it's an absolutely gorgeous day and all I really want to do is go swimming or take my dog to the park. Summer, to me, is for activity.

But fall and winter? Perfecto for writing time!

Are you guys like that at all? Is there a season - or a time - that you seem to get more writing done? I used to be the most productive in the mornings BTC (Before The Child). Now, I'm more of a hit and miss as far as time during the day.

But, I'm going to make the most of the time I do have! And seeing as how it's getting to be cooler (or sweather - sweater weather, as some of my friends call it), I'm so excited to see what God has planned for my writing now!

So, when do you write the best? And how can you plan your days around that?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tested by Praise

Today in my Bible reading I came across a Scripture that hit me over the head. You know that type? You're reading along and all of the sudden something pops out? This is what I saw:

Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised. Proverbs 27:21 (New Living)

Usually as writers we think it's the negative reviews and critiques we have to watch out for. Those are the ones that can derail us and set us off into a hole of self-doubt. Right? Sure, we can be impacted by negative reviews, but what about the positive ones?

Now I'm not saying we shouldn't listen to praise from our peers, family and friends. We all need encouragement. But something I was very surprised to find when my first novel got published was the temptation to believe my own press. Not that I got many huge, glowing endorsements or beautiful reviews in prestigious publications. Sometimes my test came just from someone telling me, "After the years you put into it, you deserved to be published." It would be very easy to think, "Yeah, I do deserve this."

The problem with that type of thinking, for me at least, is it can (notice I say can) lead to a wrong attitude about why, as a Christian writer, I'm doing what I'm doing. The truth of the matter is I don't deserve anything more than the next gal.

This same principle can apply to critiques of our as-yet-unpublished writing too. If someone tells us we're the next Jane Austen, and we let ourselves believe it, it could possibly make it harder for us to receive constructive criticism from an editor. After all, we write like Jane Austen. Why would we need to change anything?

You see what I mean?

So the key in all this is not to beat ourselves up and never receive praise but to remember every good thing comes from above. If our writing connects with someone, it's because of God's grace and His giftings in our lives. Not because we're better than anyone else. This will help us keep a balanced perspective when the good reviews roll in, but also when the bad ones come (and they will). Neither one should derail us.

What do you think about this subject, friends?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What I DIdn't Know Four Years Ago...

Four years ago today, I got some happy, happy news.

I was awarded my first book contract.

I still remember the congratulatory e-mail plain as day and how excited I was when relaying the news to my hubby, Will. I'm pretty sure the words "slow down" and "breathe" were used.

We celebrated later that evening with a 5:00 p.m. matinee (and yes, I still remember the movie) and a great Italian meal.

Now four years later, I'm feeling a little nostalgic and remember all things I didn't know when I got that contract—like how many hours a day I'd be writing for the next four months to actually finish my first novel (16 was the norm), what the whole developmental edit process was like (not nearly as painful as I expected) or that novels weren't written in AP style (as a journalist, I can't tell how difficult it was actually spelling out numbers over 10 with actual words like "forty" or putting that comma after the third item in a series, always a no-no in the magazine world).

Even worse yet is how ill-prepared I was for what happens after the novel is finished. Yeah, that's when the real work starts. As anyone who's already done so already knows, writing a novel is hard work. But convincing a bookstore owner that you're worthy of having a signing in his/her store, well, that's another matter entirely.

Now as I'm carefully plotting out my third novel, I come into it, knowing far more than I did in the beginning. But it's amazing how the world of books is a constant learning curve, and trust me, I understand why it's completely overwhelming for aspiring writers because I've been there. But I guess I'm writing all of this to say that it's absolutely, positively worth it, and I already can't wait for you to celebrate your book contract because indeed, it was a beautiful day.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Through new eyes

There's something I've been pondering and praying lately, especially as I drive through downtown on my way to work three days a week.

I drive pass the homeless standing on corners with their wilted cardboard signs, glimpse the glittering lights of the casinos and the not-so-gentlemanly "gentlemen" clubs a block to the right, and see the Tarot card reader/psychic building with it's neon sign to my left. I watch numerous minorities pile on the buses at the dirty bus depot, while across the street, well-dressed men and women in pressed businesssuits and briefcases, toting cups of Starbucks, waltz into their places of work. I see the top of the church steeple beside my office towering over the street, while joggers in sports bras and windshorts rush by it's shadow, right past another homeless man still sleeping in the shelter of the church's door.

And I I really see them? Do I see them as Jesus does? Or do I see them as an inconvenience? A misfit of society? Or a ministry waiting to happen? Do I see lost souls beneath the rags and the name-brand suits? Or do I just see the exterior shell?

I've been praying lately that I will start see God's people as He does. That my heart won't be hardened by fear or indifference, but softened with love and compassion. That I'll be full of mercy instead of judgment. That I'll be willing to give instead of grip my purse tighter to my side. That I'll look them in the eye and smile -- all of them -- without thought to race, gender, or wealth.

And I hope that maybe, just maybe, they'll see a little bit of Jesus in me.

What about your characters in your story? How do they see the world? Are they jaded, or desperate to help? Are they afraid, or eager to give?

Then spin it. How does the world see your character? What would I see in your character if they passed me on the downtown street?

Dive a step deeper into your characterization today in your novel. And while you're studying your fictional characters, maybe you'll get a fresh glimpse of the realistic characters God has placed in your life.

We might be the only Jesus they ever see.

And our characters might portray the only Jesus a reader might ever read.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

More Snapshots

This snapshot happened about six years ago, just before Jesus touched my body and made me whole.


Nothing in common.  Nothing to share.

Every morning I walked past her house.  Every morning I waved and smiled cordially. Every morning I glanced into her yard.

Three kids.  One smiling woman.  We had nothing in common.  Nothing to share.

"I'm glad the holiday's over," she said last Monday, as she bent over her flowerbed.  "Now I can get my pansies into the ground."

Whatever that meant.  I just nodded and kept trekking.

Small talk.  We'd spoken maybe… twice in the past four years.  Six sentences altogether.

I guess I never really cared… until yesterday.

The helium balloons caught her attention.

I stood on her doorstep and she smiled as I handed her three balloons – one for each child.

"I hope they can come to my house sometime," I said excitedly.  "I have a club for kids every week."

She smiled politely.  "Maybe they'll do that."

My heart sank.  What was I thinking?  Why should this woman trust me? She knew nothing about me.

We had nothing in common.  Nothing to share.

I paced down her driveway, staring at the broken concrete beneath my feet.

Suddenly her voice called.

"You wouldn't want some pansies, would you?"

Slowly I turned and saw them -- her pansies -- sitting on the porch. Plats of dirt and withering petals stretched as far as my eye could see.

"I--I couldn't take your pansies," I stuttered uncomfortably.

"Please," she said, "I'll never get them in the ground and it's about to frost.  They've been here forever.  I'm overwhelmed."

I don't know what made me say it.  I didn't even know her.  She was a perfect stranger.  But the thought echoed through my heart,

"When I was thirsty you gave Me something to drink…"

I could almost hear Jesus whisper, "When I was tired you planted My pansies…"

I smiled at the thought.

Suddenly the words flew out my mouth:

"Do you want some help?"

She stared, trying to determine if I was serious.

"Sure," she smiled.  "I sure would."

"I'll come back tomorrow," I promised.  "In the afternoon."

I waved goodbye and silently began to question my sanity.  When I was tired, you planted My pansies… the words echoed through my heart again and again.

"But we have nothing in common," I whispered.  "Nothing to share."

When I was tired, you planted My pansies…

Dusk turned to dawn and morning turned to afternoon.  Slowly I walked the short distance to her house and rang the bell.  Two tiny eyes peered from behind the curtain.

"Can I help you?" the little girl asked as the door squeaked open.

"Yes," I said.  "I'm here to plant the pansies, and I don't know where your mom wants to put them."

"She'll be out in a minute," she said as the door closed again.

The knob turned and there my neighbor stood.

Suddenly it struck me -- I didn't even know her name.  And I was planting her pansies?  Once again I questioned my sanity.

"You were serious." She smiled.  "Thank you so much for coming back."

We started in opposite beds, making quiet small talk.  She told me everything there was to know about the history of the neighborhood and who lived on this land long ago.

"You've only been here for four years," I said, "And you already know more than I do about this place."

"It's my job," she smiled.  "I'm a journalist.  I ask questions."

My breath caught in my chest.

A journalist?

I paused.  Should I tell her?  Really, it wasn't much to talk about.

But it was something in common.  Something we shared.

"I'm… I'm… I'm a writer too," I stammered.

Her eyebrow went up.

"Yeah… have you ever heard of Focus on the Family?" I asked.

She nodded.

"I freelance for them, and other organizations like them."

Then the worst happened.  She asked the dreaded question.

"Have you ever thought about taking your writing beyond freelancing? You know – a job in the corporate world of words?"

"Well… umm…"

My mind raced.

Should I tell her?  Should I tell this stranger my deepest darkest secret?

Shakily, I told the truth.

"I'm disabled," I said.

"Oh no!  What happened?"

"Autoimmune disease," I shrugged.  "I go through remissions and relapses.  So working from home seems to be the best at this point."

She looked at her shoes and then she looked at me.  A question hung in her eyes.

Was there something she wanted to say?

"I'm disabled, too," she finally said.

What?  Was I dreaming?

"C.P.," she shrugged.  "The prognosis isn't good."

I nodded.

"There comes a point at which you can no longer curl up in a ball and shut the world out," she whispered.

"You have to go on."

"Yes," I said.  "Exactly."

Slowly we turned back to our work.  In an hour we planted six plats of pansies.  Six plats of tiny withering flowers.  Six plats of hopeful little seedlings.

We saved those pansies from the winter's first frost, and in the process God saved me from the winter of loneliness.  Somehow the chill of chronic illness was lessened by the realization that I wasn't in it alone.

We had it in common.  We had it to share.

As the sun set behind the trees, I tucked my spade in my pocket and said goodbye.  She smiled broadly and waved as several small children crowded around her feet.

"Thank you so much," she whispered.  "I really couldn't have done it without you."

I smiled as I realized – together we'd planted a garden.

But somehow I knew we'd planted much more than pansies.

Your turn... what's a snapshot of something that's affected your writing? 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Love Story

This last weekend, my husband and I went to a marriage conference offered by our church here. It was a really great conference!

One of the verses they mentioned was Genesis 2:18, which says, "Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him.'"

Thinking on what to write on Scribble Chicks today, I started thinking about this verse. For those of us who write fiction that has some romance in it, how do we apply this verse to our characters?

I think so often we're told to focus on the conflict. "Where's the conflict in their relationship?" "Without conflict, there's no story!"

That's true, but unless there's a real sense of compatibility in your story, it won't ring true. Sleeping Beauty stories - where it's nothing but conflict and the characters themselves don't ever talk to each other (seriously. They only sing. I like Jon's singing voice, but I'm pretty sure I couldn't handle him singing to me all. the. time.) only work in Disney movies.

I can think of a hundred reasons why Jon and I are perfect for each other. If he's strong in one area, I tend to be weaker and vice versa. We fit each other in so many ways and yet, that doesn't mean that there's never conflict.

So, when you are crafting your next story and working through your next characters, think about the "helper" part of the verse. Why do your characters belong together? Why should we - as the readers - want them to end up together? And when they do end up together, is it a believable pair?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Tonya asked the other day "How do you know when you're done editing?"


I wish there was a cut and dried answer for this. But there's really not. Sometimes it's an instinct, sometimes its by the advice of critique partners, and sometimes, its just because of a time constraint or deadline.

I recommend taking my daughter's advice. Yes, she's only 2 years old but hey, she's got good ideas. :)

She's recently realized that red means stop and green means go in regards to traffic lights. At a red light, she'll say "Go mama!" And I'll say "I can't, baby, the light is red." She'll wait a second while she cranes around the seat in front of her to look out the front window of the car, and then starts yelling "Greeeeen...GO!!!!" Like she's trying to convince the light to change so we can rush on to our next agenda.

Sometimes, you just gotta change that light to green and GO - stop editing and send that manuscript out to whereever it's going.

If you're truly not sure when your project is considered "Done", you need to get connected with a crit group who will help you know when to stop editing. Because truthfully, its easy to "over-edit". That's just as dangerous as just not enough editing. You don't want to send in sloppy or poorly crafted work to an editor or agent but you also don't want to send in prose that's been so red-marked by your editing pen that the voice isn't yours anymore and the dialogue is stiff and the pace too tight, etc.

As with all things, practice makes the decision easier. :) It will get better! Just keep writing. Keep editing. And keep submitting.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

My Writing Inspiration

There's nothing quite like the ocean (my hubby and I's feet are stamped into the sand by the mighty Pacific in Santa Barbara, California) to inspire, and if there was any way I could take my laptop to the beach and write without my sun blocking my screen, I'd be in!

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea—e.e. cummings

On a complete sidenote, still trying to figure what's up with my foot on the left. There's no way my size 10 feet are that small.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Holiday fun...for writing...

So I'm a little brain-dead tonight (I pre-post typically for my Wednesday blogs because of my hectic schedule) I've spent a full day out of town in a tiny little courthouse running title and standing on my feet (well, my 4 inch wedges) all day then picked up Little Miss and ran home just in time for Hubby to meet me and we turn around and go to Wal-Mart, where we grocery shopped (at dinner time! Not smart) and bought a million dollars worth of stuff and spent about the same. Ugh. But we're good for another month. Whew.
I digress. Anyway, I'm tired, so I'm going to have fun and throw a quiz at ya. This is a holiday quiz - The Wrapping Paper Test.
Take it HERE.

My results:
You Are Considerate and Mature

You approach the holidays with responsibility and cooperation. You'll do your part to make sure that everyone else has a happy holiday. You aren't particularly picky or high maintenance during the holidays. You're happy to be in the company of people you love, and you're willing to "go with the flow." Of all the types, you are the most likely to give someone exactly what they want. You're also the most likely to wrap all your presents well - to prevent peeking!
What'd you get?
I wanted to link to this our writing by asking if you ever go into full detail with your characters. Most of us don't have the time to spend researching our character's personalities to the extent of taking online quizzes for them over every area of their lives, but sometimes I wonder if when we get stuck, have writer's block, or feel as if our character isn't speaking to us, if it might help!
So keep this handy trick in mind. Which wrapping paper would your character have chosen? Your hero, your heroine...and why? Maybe these little details can reveal new aspects of their lives and back stories you didn't know before.
Hey, it's fun to try it =)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What's Your Inspiration?

I missed last week's post because Typhoid Mary gave me the plague. This week I'm no longer ill, I just look like I am because of the dark circles under my eyes labeled  "deadline one" and "deadline two"...

So I thought it would be fun if you posted a link to a photo that inspires you to write. This one is near the beach in Connecticut, where my boy grew up every summer. I like to think of him wandering through the marshes...

Your turn!

Monday, September 27, 2010

What's In A Name?

I can see Shakespeare's point, but really, I need to disagree that names mean nothing and words would sound differently if we'd been raised with them meaning something totally opposite of what they are (wow - was that a run-on sentence, or was that a run-on sentence?). :) Some words and names just sound horrible - regardless of what they mean.

Consider with me the following words:

Pap Smear

I'm fairly certain that should "puke" refer to Willy Wonka's magical chocolate river, we still wouldn't find the word so appealing.

Same goes for names. "How do you solve a problem like Debbie?" doesn't quite have the same ring to it as "how do you solve a problem like Maria?" And we've all heard the story about how Cary Grant's manager made him change his name from Archibald Leach (good move, Mr. Manager!).

So, how do you come up with appropriate names for your characters?

I've always heard that the hard c sound is a clue that the character might be a troubled one. One example? Mr. Collins vs. Mr. Darcy. Or, Doc Ock from Spider-Man. What comes to your mind when you hear the name "Victor"?

Not good things, I imagine.

Does that mean that every person in your novel who has the slightest bent to their character needs a choppy name? Of course not - surprise your audience with a non-traditional name. But be careful with that. As much as the audience loves surprises, they also don't love finding out that Bambi was the one who murdered his mother after all. ;)

Stuck trying to come up with names? One great source for finding names is baby names books - 99% of the characters in my books had their names originate there. Flip through and think about the character you are going to write about. Are they funny? Loud? Subdued? Careful? I really do believe that the character makes the name - BUT the name also makes the character (Eeyore, anybody?).

What are some of the names that come to your mind when you want to write about an evil character? How about a good character? How about one stuck in between?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Write Like You're Ten

Remember when you were a kid? How books were enchanting treasures to be savored page by page. The library was your safe haven and empty notebooks were to be revered. That's the way it was for me. I didn't think anything of enjoying reading and spending my Saturday searching for new treasures on the library shelves. An empty page or a blinking cursor (on my dad's word processor that I called the computer) was the start of a new adventure. I didn't think about who would read the stories. Or even what anyone thought of them. Editors were non-existent in my world (unless you count my teacher, who was also my mom!). I wrote for the sheer joy of it. Granted, I wasn't prolific. I wrote when the muse struck, and if she didn't I found something else to do.

But what I'd like to encourage you to do is remember that childhood joy you once had. Even if you've forgotten some of that now as an adult, it's not too late to go back. Writing can be a joy again. Here are a few tips on how you can do this:

1. DO NOT EDIT ... until you're done. Give yourself the freedom to just explore.

2. Write whatever YOU would want to read. Not what you think the market needs, an editor wants, or what your friends expect of you.

3. Take time to enjoy life too. Your hobbies and other interests will provide the best inspiration.

4. Thank the Lord for what you do have, not what you don't.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Little Encouragement Courtesy of Madeleine L'Engle

I don't know about you, but sometimes, I wonder if I can actually make a difference with my measly attempts at putting words together into semi-logical sentences.

And I've been a professional writer for 10 years now.

But after reading C.J.'s brilliant reminder of how God really does care about each and every aspect of our lives (and yes, that includes our writing, too), I was encouraged. After all, if He's the giver of the gift, He's going to give us the means to use it, right? So I just have to keep being faithful and write, write, write away. In fact, it sort of reminded me (yes, I have odd trains of thought...I think all creative types do) of what author Madeleine L'Engle said:

"Our truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or sing or write, for only in such response do we find truth."
Madeleine L'Engle

I want to find truth, how about you, Scribble Chicks readers?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lessons from the Beach

Last week, I spent a few days in Gulf Shores, Alabama with my parents and Little Miss. (hence why I missed my post last week! OOPS!) We were able to share a condo for super cheap, and my parents graciously paid for my part of the gas and groceries. Hubby had to stay behind and work, he has a job right now that's temporary but going really well and didn't want to mess it up or lose pay. My sacrificial hero! =)

We had a good trip, I blogged about it Monday on my blog at Check it out for highlights and pictures! Little Miss was TOO cute on the beach! She did great, despite being taken out of her comfort zone and adjusting to a totally new environment and schedule. She's 2 yrs and 2 months, and I just wasn't sure if this vacation would be more stressful than fun. But she did GREAT in so many ways and really surprised me even on the 9 hour drive there and back!

It made me think about our writing life and how sometimes change is scary but it can often be just what we need. Little Miss thrives on her routine at home but had absolutely no problem temporarily adjusting to a new "home", a new bed, a new sleep routine (me and her had to share a bed for the first time in her life, EVER!!) different cartoons, different clothes (bathing suits and cover ups and sunhats and sunglasses) etc.

She also had NO problem adjusting back into her old routine, with zero protest. I feared she might not want to sleep in her crib alone after sleeping with me in a bed for 4 nights. But there were no issues at all! Same with the beach. She loved going but put up few protests about going back home. Such a trooper.

Which made me think...

Are we troopers with the change in our life? Are we afraid to branch out and try new things with our writing? Try writing a suspense instead of a historical? Try writing category instead of traditional? Try writing a novella instead of a full-length? Try pitching to a small press instead of a mainstream publisher? Try joining a new critique group or taking that creative writing course at the local college?

By holding on to our fears of change, we could be robbing ourselves of the blessings of new.

What came to mind when you read the above ? I'm guessing that's what you need to be praying about doing this week.

We might just surprise ourselves! And I happen to know God is a big fan of surprises. He loves blessing His children...just like I love treating Little Miss to Dippin' Dots and stuffed turtle toys on the beach. =)

Monday, September 20, 2010

But what about my campaign manager?

When I first decided to seriously pursue writing, I had all these grand ideas of what publishing a book would be like. I figured it would come out in hardback first, it would be shelved in all of my favorite bookstores and Wal-Mart and then, of course, it would fly off of those shelves because my amazing publicist would score these huge booksignings and people would wrap around the block to get their copies. Meanwhile, I would sit back, sign the books and smile.

My sixth book is releasing in October and here's what I have to say about the above paragraph:

Heh heh.

All of my grand ideas? Not one of them happened like I thought it would. There was no hardback copy, finding the books in a bookstore was more like a game of hide and seek, and booksignings? Only when I arranged them (and by I, I mean my mom).

Marketing my books does not come naturally to me. And actually, unless you've known me for a little while, most of the time you won't even know I'm a writer. I'm that bad at it. So, instead of giving you tips on how to be a great marketierest (not a word. I know. We're writers, we can make them up), I'm going to give you tips on how to be a really bad one.

Do with them what you will.

How To Not Market Your Book

1. Don't tell anyone that you're a writer or that you have books out that they could potentially buy.
2. Don't send people to your website.
3. Don't write a blog frequently. And when - of if - you do write one, don't advertise that you've written one.
4. Don't grow a fan base by responding to emails from readers.
5. Don't visit local bookstores and introduce yourself as a local author.
6. Don't do giveaways.
And finally...
7. Complain to your publisher about the apparent lack of work on their part while you sit on the couch with your computer and hide from humanity.

Got any more tips to add?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Does God care about your writing?

Hello fellow scribblers!

I've been thinking about what to write here for longer than normal. I keep staring at the screen wondering what I could say that would encourage, how I could share something that would lift you up.

Did you know that God cares about your writing?

See, sometimes we separate God from our lives and put him in a box that could never contain Him. As if all He's interested in is when we sit in a pew or chair at church, or sing a hymn, or are reading our Bibles.

God cares about every aspect of your life. Do you think He would have given you a desire to scribble if it weren't something He wanted you to do? But it's so easy to write off (no pun intended) the things that inspire us because we don't think God could possibly want anything to do with something we're actually into.

Far from it.

In case you think I'm getting on a soap box, this post is as much for me as it is for you. Honestly, I still wonder sometimes if I'm supposed to be a writer. And this is after being published. How could God want me to do something that seems so ... ordinary. Boring. Unmeaningful. Wouldn't he prefer I get up behind some pulpit somewhere and preach to the masses? Or go to a foreign country and pass out food to the poor. Those seem like worthwhile things.

But then I have to remind myself that He actually chose to put down his words in book form. If there had been a media more powerful, don't you think He would have chosen it?

See where I'm going with this? If you feel thoughts like this, you're not alone. I feel them. The other Scribble Chicks feel them. They're normal. But they're not necessarily from God. He doesn't fill our minds with doubts. His thoughts are peace. He leads by peace.

That's good news, don't you think?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Because We All Need A Little Grace.

OK -- first of all, you guys have some creative minds. Great job on the continuing story -- now someone needs to wrap it up. Any takers? (I'd love to see how it ends!)


I started a class.

Taking it, that is.

(Or is it taking me?)

I thought it would be an easy way to fight the guilt I felt in my gut. Actually, I thought it would be an easy way to fight my gut. (10 lbs. increase in two months = not okay.)

I mean – if I was the only person under 75 years old – how “aerobic” could “water aerobics” be?

I was not prepared for the level of condescendingness. (See? I had to create a new word to even describe it.)

Women half my height and twice my age said things to me like, “Hello little girl. Are you sure you can handle this?”

Ten minutes into the class they said things like, “Are you drowning? Blow bubbles if you need to.” (In the words of Dave Barry, “I am not making this up”.)

And the sad part is… I needed to. Blow bubbles, that is.

It's been six weeks and the old ladies and I have come to an arrangement… they don’t bother me, and I get the spot in two feet of water (which sounds so much less condescending than the words “kiddie pool”. And yes – I was making that last sentence up.)

Seriously, though, if I keep drowning at this rate the ladies will just offer me the puddle by the side of the pool to exercise in.

I say all this to make a point – things aren’t always as easy as they seem at first glance.

Several years ago I contacted an editor about a piece I really wanted to publish with his magazine. When we talked his answers were short and almost annoyed – to the point of rude. He showed no interest in my pitch.

I was put out. Polite. But silently angry.

A few weeks later I found out the editor's mom was dying. The day we talked.

Major jerk alert... and I'm not talking about the editor.

So guys, it's true. You never know what someone's going through. Whether it's in the publishing world or every-day life...

I’d rather be blowing bubbles in the deep end of grace than standing in the puddle of unforgiveness any day.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Taking Advantage of Breaks

Lately, I seem to have a partner with me whenever it's time for me to get some writing done.

As you can see, he tends to be better at spitting up on my laptop instead of actually helping. :) And because of this, my writing time has been pretty much nonexistent up until about a week ago.

Then I discovered that I can write, eat, email and clean up my house all at the same time. Or at least attempt to do all that. Sometimes the writing gets done, sometimes the house actually gets vacuumed (shock! awe!).

I'm one of those people who likes to complain about the lack of time that I have. "If only I had TWO extra hours! Just two - I could get SO MUCH done!"

But I've also been noticing lately that I do have time - I just don't take advantage of it. Naps are a good example - all together, I've got probably four or so hours of free time whenever the Nater Tot goes down for a nap. The question is how I use that free time. Facebooking? Cleaning? Making desserts that I don't need?

So, I'm making a resolution and I'm writing it here so you guys can help keep me accountable. I'm going to work on my writing every day - whether that means ten pages or ten sentences. And I'm going to do it before I do any cleaning, snacking or mindless internet wandering.

How about you guys? How do you (or do you not) take advantage of the writing time that you have?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Back to Square (or Page) One

Now that I'm finally settled into my new home office, I had a rather shocking epiphany while opening my friend Microsoft Word the other day: It's been a little more than TWO years since my last novel, Blessed Are the Meddlers, hit store shelves.

And when I started processing that, all I could think was "Wow, time really does fly" because it really doesn't feel all that long ago.

In fact, those 14 hours days of writing and writing and writing to meet my manuscript deadline are still pretty fresh in my memory, which I'm guessing is why I probably haven't made all that much progress on my third novel yet. It's not that I'm afraid of the work, mind you, but I've needed some time away to figure out what I want to invest all of that time in. Writing two books in a year will do that to you, trust me.

After all, it's not merely enough to crank something respectable out. When you're dedicating that many hours to something, you want to make sure it's absolutely, positively worth it. And for me, I couldn't figure out if that was going to be the third and final book in the "Sydney Alexander" series or something new altogether.

In case you're curious, I've opted for the latter and am excited beyond belief—especially after watching one of my favorite writing movies, Miss Potter, the other night. In the opening voiceover, Miss Potter (played by Reneé Zellweger) says, "There's something delicious about writing those first few words of a story. You can never quite tell where they will take you. Mine took me here, where I belong."

And as I've been hammering out the first line of my new novel, tentatively titled Tuesday Nights in Italia, I know exactly what she's talking about because the process has been nothing short of glorious. I must say that it's so much fun being back in the novel-writing groove, and I can't wait to see where the journey takes me, and eventually, when the time is right, my readers.

Ok, Scribble Chicks readers, I'm curious: How do you get your groove back after finishing a novel? And when you've finished, do you already know what's next? Or do you not think that far when you're writing?