Thursday, April 29, 2010

For Lacy: No More Second Guessing!!

I had another idea for today's post in mind, and then I saw Lacy's response at the end of Betsy's "Roll Call," so I just had to weigh in...

Here's what Lacy asked...

Do you guys as writers struggle with feelings of insecurity like your ideas are absolutely lame, especially when you hear about other's ideas? I don't know what to do about the constant second guessing even though I love to write?

In a word: Absolutely.

Or at least I do, and I'm guessing that a few of my fellow Scribble Chicks have been there, too.

I think anyone who's pursuing the arts inevitably has doubts about his/her work. Sometimes ideas feel a little too out of left field. Or just plain not original enough. I'm guessing even Van Gogh wondered if that was the "right way" to paint a starry night.

But it's the presence of those little voices that either help or hinder our WIPs. I've found that on occasion, those creepy little nagging doubts will press me to be all that much better—to work a little harder to make sure what I'm writing feels just right. But the majority of the time, those lame, distracting little voices do nothing but discourage me. You know, try and convince me that I'm some kind of hack and shouldn't even bother. And when you hear them, all I gotta say is "Don't listen, and keep going for it."

And if that doesn't work, Lacy, here are a few other suggestions to help you fight all that second guessing yourself. These are helpful reminders I bookmarked a while back from Stepcase Lifehack.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Roll Call!

A writer's group that I'm a part of with my current publisher recently did a "Roll Call", where all of us authors listed what we're working on, and just chimed in with encouragement or advice or questions.

I think that'd be fun to do here!

I'll go first.

I'm waiting to hear back on a proposal for Love Inspired about a single mom and a fireman. The story has a lot of family tension, cute little kids, a fundraiser, and plenty of romantic sparks ;)

Your turn! What is your current WIP? Have you sent something out to an agent or editor yet? Share as much about your current project as you feel comfortable.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Comedy Central Writers' Block Video Clip

I'm just going to admit that all of my earthly belongings, including my brain, is packed in cardboard boxes this week.

Lucky for me, these writers are willing to share what they know about the topic of writers' block...

Writer's Block
Futurama New EpisodesFunny Demon Zombie TV ShowFunny TV Comedy Blog

Monday, April 26, 2010

What about a book about an Amish vampire? Now we're talking...

So, last week we talked about genres and Betsy brought up some FABULOUS points in her post about what genres are selling, what genres currently aren't, etc. Now, we're all for trying to get published. I think you should be learning as much as you can about writing, sending out your work, meeting people at conferences, making connections online, etc.

That being said, I don't believe that all of us should immediately start writing about vampires and werewolves and women in little white bonnets. Or, as the title to this post suggests, all of the above together (anyone else get a mental picture of Little Red Riding Hood's wolf dressed up in grandma's nightgown? Or is it just me?).

Considering my love of my DVR, my belief that beef comes from the grocery store, my fondness for showers, conditioners, makeup and nail polish, I definitely don't believe that I'm called to write Amish fiction. Much as I appreciate those who do, I think my story would end up being called "The Amish Girl Who Moved to The City".

I'm a city girl. Proud to own it.

And much as I love reading and watching movies about vegetarian vampires, I'm pretty certain that I won't be writing about them anytime soon either.

So, what do I do? Give up writing until another fad comes along that's more my style of writing? Wait until the current trend is to write about those rebellious Amish girls who move to a decent size town and they start to believe that fruit and vegetables come from the grocer's shelves?

Absolutely not! Betsy mentioned this and I'm going to echo her: Write what you want to write! If you are dying to write a vampire story (no pun intended), then write a vampire story (but be warned that editors and agents are going to want to see a serious twist on the story by this point). Wanting to write chick-lit? Write chick-lit (and as Betsy said, the overall "feeling" of a chick-lit story is changing a little. It's more about widening your audience. For example, don't write a chick-lit book aimed for 31-33 year-old, single, Christian, never-dated-much women).

On the one hand, we need to be paying attention to what genre is selling and what is not. On the other hand, we also need to be noticing beyond the genre - what makes that book unique? What makes that book better than the others out there? Great story-telling will always sell, whether it's romantic suspense, chick-lit, fantasy or a book about three little pigs who just wanted to build a couple of houses to stay safe from the wolf with the grossly over-sized lungs.

So what genre are you guys writing? What genre do you least like writing?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Can you learn to write fiction from nonfiction?

I think you can. Even though the best way to learn how to write novels is to read other novels, I can always benefit from reading nonfiction. For example, magazine articles can be studied for how the author does or doesn't write a provocative opening line. That can be applied to my short stories.

Awhile ago I read the book Lost in the Amazon by Stephen Kirkpatrick. It's a nonfiction narrative about a fateful trip the author took to the Amazon on a photography expedition. I saw the technique in how the book opened with a tense prologue where the author was lost in the jungle--desperate, frightened, and angry at God. But then the author cut away and started Chapter one weeks before that scene actually happened, building up to the desperate moment for a good part of the book. It's a technique that could be applied to novels. I've seen Mary Higgins Clark do this, where she uses the prologue as a teaser. We know the character is going to be in that terrible position soon, and we're looking for it.

I also read biographies of people in the professions of my characters to better learn how they tick. For example, one of my characters in my next novel is a cop. I tried to learn as much as I could about police work, so I bought the book Blue Blood by Edward Conlon, as well as several others. Biographies can give great insights into the psyche of people I might not otherwise have learned. Another example would be when I bought the book On Their Own by Martha Shirk, about kids who age out of the foster care system. One of my characters is a teenager in foster care, and I understood her better by reading that nonfiction book. I'd encourage any fiction writer to read biographies or diaries of people in similar predicaments as your characters.

The Freelance Life...a Post for Tonya and Anyone Else Who's Wondered What It's Like...

First off, I apologize for this post's late arrival. I just got back from five days in Nashville for Gospel Music Week and the Dove Awards, and well, time to actually write was in very short supply.

While there wasn't nearly as much going on as usual artist-wise in Viva NashVegas (yep, the sad state of the music biz has reared its ugly head), I still managed to pack as many appointments as humanly possibly into my schedule—and I'm still recovering.

And really, that's the perfect segue for this week's topic—the life of a freelancer, a post I'm dedicating to Tonya, who asked what it's actually like in the comments section. As you probably suspected, no two days are exactly alike.

Take today, for instance. After writing this post, I'll be walking from Borders to the local AMC Theater to screen J. Lo's umpteenth romantic comedy for one of my clients,

Then right after the credits have rolled, I'll head over to Panera, grab some lunch and while chowing down on soup and half of a panini, I'll write 800ish words on how amazing (or stinky, which I'm thinking will be the case here) the flick was and submit it to my editor for approval. After getting the green light from the illustrious Laura, she'll post it on Crosswalk, and I'll post a link on my Facebook page.

Not too bad for a work day, huh?

But as you also probably suspected, a freelancer can't live (and actually pay those bills) on reviewing movies alone. So that's why I write for as many clients as possible. After working in the magazine biz for five and a half years in Nashville, I finally had enough contacts (and trust me, contacts are key for success in freelancing no matter how outstanding your writing skills are) to venture out on my own. And now for four and a half years, I've been doing the self-employment thing and really lovin' it.

Contrary to popular belief, however, it's not the easy-breezy life that people automatically assume whenever they ask what you do for a living. To be successful and actually make a living as a freelance writer, you're working 'round the clock. And yes, sometimes you'll be working in your pajamas, which is a nice perk. Truth be told, I'm only doing that if I'm sick or haven't had enough time to actually shower and get dressed.

See, unlike my magazine days, I'm the entire company now: the receptionist, the accountant, the HR department and the worker. I guess for all practical purposes, I'm the C.E.O., too. Now that has a nice ring doesn't it? C.E.O. of Will and Christa Publishing, Christa Banister.

Basically, I'm responsible for everything from making sure my pesky taxes get paid, to prospecting for new clients and invoicing my old ones, working with the local colleges' internship programs and scheduling all my interviews and meetings. Oh yeah, and I create stylish copy on a deadline, too.

Of course, that's not even taking the whole author side of my career into account...

But I've always been a firm believer that we make time for the things that really matter to us. As crazy busy as it is, I absolutely love the variety that the freelance life provides. One day, I'll be visiting a movie set in Los Angeles. Another day, I'll be reviewing the new Death Cab for Cutie record. And later on, maybe I'll even squeeze in another chapter of my latest W.I.P or write a personal biography for an artist I really love.

That sort of freedom to write about so many things is why I'm willing to juggle such a crazy schedule. And for anyone wondering exactly what it takes to make it all work, well, I have a few thoughts.

1. A freelance writer must be a self-starter and self-motivated.
I'll admit, there are days when I'm not nearly as motivated as others, and I end up watching my favorite chefs on the Food Network instead of writing (gasp!). But that's definitely not the norm. Some people really thrive when they know a boss is watching over their shoulder. When you're a freelancer, however, you're the boss, and making your editors happy is your responsibility alone.
So if you want to keep getting assignments (and those previous paychecks), you simply gotta sit your booty down and do the work (even when you don't feel like it).

2. Network, network, network!
When I was in college and taking a freelance writing class, I was introduced to the freelance writing bible, The Writer's Market. And while it's definitely a decent resource for getting your first few assignments, your best tool for getting gigs is good ol' fashioned networking. The people who know someone on the inside are the people who get the great assignments. So it's imperative to get connected with people in your chosen industry...

3. Remember the "networking" in social networking.
Let's face it: Facebook, Twitter and the like are pretty great time-wasters. But when you're not playing Lexulous, it's a great way to showcase your work and meet fellow writers/editors with connections. So make sure you make the most of these opportunities without being obnoxious, and it'll go a long way to help your career.

4. Write what you know.
This is one of the best, time-honored truths that any writer should always remember and absolutely key to success in freelancing. Figure out what you know—and what you don't—and focus on getting gigs that highlight your expertise. Everyone has something worth writing about, and whatever that is can be used to your advantage.

Have other questions related to the freelance life? I'm more than happy to answer them, so feel free to lemme know what's on your mind 'cause I could go on all day. :)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What are you reading/writing?

Erynn gave us some great info Monday. It's important to know what you are reading - and writing - and why you like it. What elements of the genre make it your favorite? Why do you write what you write? Read what you read?

I'm doing a speaking event for the women's ministry at my church next month, and the title of our night is WHAT ARE YOU READING? Part of my speech is explaining to them some of the inside scoop in the publishing industry, and I plan on taking a poll to see which genres are their favorites.

Last I heard, and guys correct me if you've heard otherwise, is that historicals are the hot genre right now, especially Amish. Shocking, since a few years ago, editors at conferences were begging to be sent anything BUT historicals. Now the market has changed and they are begging FOR them! You never know when readers will change the tide - but its all about the reader and what they buy!

What's down in sales lately is romantic suspense, which is sad because I love reading romantic suspense! Also chick lit is on its way out - or at least being revamped into a different style (right Erynn?) The original, snarky, sarcastic, fun first-person voice chick lit laden with pop culture references is just not selling anymore - to readers or to editors/agents.

Another hot genre right now, thanks to Twilight series, is fantasy. Even in the Christian publishing industry, you'll start to find vampires and other worldly creatures.

I've heard it said over and over "It only takes ONE hit to change the tide."

So if you're writing a genre that is seeing a low right now, don't worry! The tide will change again. Keep writing what you are writing!! Write the stories of your heart and what God tells you to write and don't worry about the industry. If you follow the tide, it will have changed by the time you're ready to make a sale. So don't chase fads! Chase your heart =)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Those Things That Are Different

It's Monday!

I know - no need for a reminder, right? :) Mondays are usually the worst writing day for me - after coming off the weekend craziness, it takes a lot for me to sit down and focus on my writing long enough to make any kind of progress. I usually have to do it in spurts amidst all the other things I need to get done (for example, I just wrote about half my goal for today then went and vacuumed my house. We're having shedding husky issues here).

Last week, a fabulous reader named Ginny asked if we could post some differences between the genres. Love to! I know there are a lot of genres existing now that seem like they all belong in the same category.

Like, women's fiction for instance. "Women's Fiction" is a HUGE, over-arcing category under which falls romance, contemporary, chick-lit, historical, etc.

Here's a very, very, very basic guide to what each genre means. Which one do you write? Or which combination?

Chick-Lit - Of course I have to start with this! :) If you are writing for the 16-28ish age range (it can be younger and older), aiming for specifically single girls, writing in first person (and usually present tense!), and you've got romance and comedy, you are probably writing chick-lit. If your book was made into a movie, would it be marketed as a chick-flick? If so, welcome to the fun world of zero calorie desserts and lots of fun dialoguing. :)

Historical Romance - Usually set more than 50 years ago and involving lots of drama about relationships. Also, this category can often be combined with a little bit of suspense. Also, it's almost always aimed for women (particularly women in their late twenties to late forties). It's almost never written for men.

Historical Suspense - A great example of this would be Brock and Bodie Thoene's work. They write primarily historical suspenses (check out their Chronicles of Zion series). This can be written for men as well, but again, the primary audience is going to be women 28-48ish. Remember how Historical Romance had splashes of suspense? Historical Suspense will usually have a secondary romantic angle.

Suspense - There are lots of sub-genres for this category, including thriller, young adult suspense, horror, action/adventure, paranormal, etc. Basically, if your goal in writing is to scare the eyebrows off your reader, you probably fall into this category. Ted Dekker? That's you.

Romantic Suspense - Half of you is wondering about where the treasure is and who will get to it first - the good guys or the bad guys, and the other half of you can't wait to find out if the hero and heroine finally end up together? You've got a romantic suspense in your hands. The basic idea behind this genre is to fill the "down time" between the suspenseful scenes with tiny glimpses of romance. Dee Henderson is probably the master of this in the Christian market.

Young Adult - This is another one of those huge over-arcing categories. Any genre found in the adult category can be found in the young adult category. Most young adult books are written for the 12-16 age range. That doesn't mean you won't get younger or older readers too.

Contemporary Men's or Women's Fiction - The genre for the books that just don't fit into any of the other genres. Maybe you have a little bit of suspense, a little bit of romance and mostly just a good story? Welcome to the "Contemporary" label. The best way to represent this genre to a publisher is to show that you really know your intended age range. Are they younger or older? Married or single? Moms and Dads? Christians or non-Christians?

Crossover - Oh, the buzz word in Christian media these days! Thanks to Jerry Jenkins with Left Behind and the band Switchfoot, we now have this lovely dream of crossing over into the national media instead of just the Christian world. The best way to write a crossover book? Write a great book. Don't wash your faith out of your manuscript. Karen Kingsbury is one of those authors who consistently lands on the New York Times bestseller list and her books have never apologized for being Christian. My advice? Don't aim for a "crossover" book. Just write and write well.

I know I didn't include every possible genre out there - chime in with what genre you are writing in!

Ginny, I hope this answers your questions! Remember the proposal we talked about a little while ago? Finding out what genre you write is a very important part to include on your proposal. Have fun with it!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Chance to Vent? Well, Okay...

This was supposed to be the week.

My calendar was relatively clear (in my world, that's having less than five writing assignments), and I had purposely said "no" to other opportunities so I could set this time aside to finally dig deep into my WIP. I'm excited about it, and yet I haven't made the sort of progress I really need to get this thing from my laptop to readers' hands.

And then, out of nowhere, I get a sore throat, a fever, the nasty, nasty, drippy nose—the works. I can barely keep my eyes open, let alone type anything resembling actual prose. I'm taking naps round the clock, subsiding on chicken noodle soup and Weight Watchers ice cream treats to soothe my poor, irritated throat.

So you can guess about how many words I wrote this week on my WIP? Yep. A big, fat zero. But I did get the paying gigs done, so that's something.

Guess my body needed rest more than anything, and because I got that, well, that's the silver lining here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Never doubt...

Yesterday was a fun freebie vent, thanks to BJ's great idea =) Everyone feel better?

Today I feel like taking it a step further. Growing up, I heard the phrase "never doubt in the dark what you learned in the light".

Lately, my personal life has been a little dim. There has been no change in my mother-in-law's condition, and its really taking a toll on my husband. Also, just when we think we're getting ahead financially from my husband's layoff, something ELSE happens to set us back again and make me wonder how we're going to pay our bills (like three major truck repairs in the three months he lost his job! not kidding!) Today, after hearing the news about the truck issue, I just had to laugh, so I wouldn't cry. But then I cried anyway, and ate too many peanut butter M&Ms and felt sick.

But that just proves my point. As I stuffed my face with candy, I was doubting in the dark what I learned in the light - and that lesson is faith. Trust. Belief. It's easy to spout off Scripture and answers when life is sunshine and roses. It's harder when life is rainclouds and thorns. But that's when we need the promises the most. That's when we need to remember what we KNOW even if we can't FEEL it.

For instance, I KNOW God isn't cruel. But from this viewpoint, it seems like the situation for mother-in-law is exactly that. I can't feel that truth but I KNOW it. So I cling to it, because one day, whether in this life or the next, I will see clearly, rather than through this dim mirror. (1 Corinthians 13:12 - Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.)

I had my crisis earlier today. Then I put away the M&Ms and took some deeps breaths and repaired my makeup and told myself that God would figure it out. That this wasn't a surprise to Him. That he wants us to pay our bills and provide for our daughter as much as I want to. And the next thing I know, we were able to sell something to my grandfather he's been wanting to buy for awhile now, and the money was in our hands literally hours later. A glimmer of light, to get me through the next dark moment.

And you know what? I'm learning that sometimes the sweetest moments can come from the dark. Last night, for the first time EVER, as my Lil Miss and I were turning off her lamp and heading to her bed, she said "Mama, love you!" and kissed me on the cheek. Just like that unexpected blessing came in the dark, so does God's love and provision and blessing.

So if you're having a dark day, or week, or even year, you're not alone. God still has a plan - for you, your family, your writing. If you're doubting your writing ability or your calling, remember what He revealed to you in the light. Don't trust your own fragile, ever-changing emotions. Trust His promises and His truths.

They'll light your way.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wanna Play? Join the Scribble Chicks in this Game...

For those of you who may have missed this, you should know that I love my current apartment… with the same deep love the Republicans have for ObamaCare.

For starters, I love the way the apartment has cut my health care costs in half by introducing me to my neighbors’ second hand smoke, which actually wafts through our walls, thereby introducing me to a myriad of diseases and early death.

I also love the fact that I never have to pay for entertainment – free music, television, and radio can also be easily absorbed through the walls.

And lastly, I love the fact that when the “entertainment” reaches eardrum splitting levels, painkillers are also available through the walls – simply by banging my head against them.

Sad but true, I’ve done nothing but whine for the past two years about this place. All of you who still read this column (Mom… are you there?) know that the mere mention of our apartment makes me cry like a child who had his tonsils taken out without the reward of ice cream.

So I just wanted to relieve you faithful readers by letting you know that even though things are looking up – nothing is going to change about my whining.

Just kidding. The reason I really tell you all this is because I’m opening the door for you to whine a little. Just a little.

Tell us in the comments: What’s going on with you? Is your current WIP an obnoxious child who needs her tonsils taken out? Do you have more rejections than The Bachelor had offers for marriage?

Then, for every gripe you list, add a gratitude. For instance -

I still hate this apartment, but I realized as I packed the cardboard boxes that there are things I will miss about the place.

For instance, the nicotine. I wonder how many packs of Nicorette it’s going to take for me to curb these second-hand smoke cravings…

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pushing Through!

I have reached that point in my deadline where it's totally coming down to making myself sit down and write. No more waiting for inspiration to kick in, no more relying on sugar highs, no more claiming I'm tired and I need a nap instead.

Nope. I have to write.

Sometimes it's a real bummer. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE what I do, but there are days where I really just do not want to write. I don't want to force something that I'd rather wait to come naturally.

Ever have days like those? Days when you know that you need to be writing and you just don't even want to go there? You turn on your computer and go to Facebook instead of Word? And how do you finally get the strength to log out of your account and pull up your work in progress?

For me, setting small goals seems to work fairly well. Every day, I have to get 2,000 words in my current story before I can quit for the day. I know it's not much, but it does add up. In five days, I've got 10,000 words. That's seven weeks then for a full-length novel.

Do I always reach that word count every day? No, not always. Some days are crazy busy with other things (especially now that I'm in my third trimester - hello doctor visits!), but most days I manage to make it to 1,000 words, if not my word count goal.

I know I've talked a lot lately about forcing creativity, but it's a skill that I wish I'd learned better before I started having deadlines.

SO - do you guys set word count goals? And if so, what do you aim for everyday? :)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Don't Hold Back In Your Writing

A piece of writing advice I read years ago went something like this, "Don't hold back your greatest ideas until the next book you write. Use them now. You never know if that book of the future will get written, or even get published."

I've had to remind myself of this advice many times. A great idea pops into my head, but I think, "No, I'll wait 'til the next book for that one" or "I can't write that now---what if I can write it better in a couple years?"

Sure, if I'm doing things right, I'm always going to be writing better with each year that passes (I hope!). Maybe I will be able to tell the story better down the road. Or not. That's the issue. I don't want to hold onto my best ideas, because more good ideas will come later!

An example. In my first novel, Thicker Than Blood, I have a character who doesn't even show up in any scenes but was someone who got mentioned in the thoughts of another character. Her name's Abby. Now I liked the name Abby. Enough so that I didn't want to "use it up" for such a minor character. I tried changing it (she was going to be Nora, another name I like). It was a no go. This character had become Abby in my head. I felt like I wasted a good name! But as it turns out, as I wrote my second novel I had the wild idea to include this Abby character. And she took over the book! Which goes to show me the advice I heard was right. Don't hold back good ideas, or character names, for later.

Every book I write needs to be the very best it can be... right now. And this is good advice for life, too. Didn't Mark Twain say, "Don't put off for tomorrow what you can do today?" Which goes hand-in-hand with Jesus' words about not worrying about tomorrow, for tomorrow has enough troubles of its own.

Let's live life to its fullest today, no matter our vocation!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

It's All About the Hook

Betsy, being the genius that she is, stole my blogging hook without even knowing it this week. I, too, was going to talk about editing since we hadn't tackled that too much on Scribble Chicks, but cest le vie...

Since she did such a divine job of addressing the issue, (and believe me, she's right on track with her encouragement to fight for what you want editing-wise and the gorier realities of having copious notes scribbled on your glorious WIP), I'm going to default to my second writing choice this week: the oh-so-important hook.

Ever start reading a novel that seemed ever-so-promising only to be let down by the first line?

Yeah, me too. And while I've been forgiving enough to give most of them a chance to wow me with the next few pages, I still can't underscore the power of a good hook. It can be the difference from your reader actually turning the page or giving up altogether.

One of my favorite novels of late, Nick Hornby's Juliet, Naked (and no it's not as scandalous as it sounds, it's an album title) had a great first line: They had flown from England to Minneapolis to look at a toilet.

Now I don't know about you, but that's a pretty long flight for a glimpse at a toilet of all things, so I was hooked immediately. And low and behold, that toilet, an inanimate, seemingly insignificant object, actually became one of the novel's important minor characters.

And that's precisely why that first line you write is so incredibly before you move ahead to the rest of the story, I'd highly encourage you to make it a memorable one...

Here are three suggestions for how to make your lead line really sing:

1. If your novel is more character-driven, you may want to introduce your main character in a way that's clever and highlights your narrative style. If your character is strong-willed like my protagonist Sydney Alexander is, don't be afraid to be a little sassy. If there's something unusual about your character (say, Benjamin Button's propensity to age backward), I'd go with that.

2. Don't start off with too many details—just enough to hook your readers. We don't need to know that your guy is 5'11 with an athletic build, dreamy brown eyes and a faux hawk. Simple and compelling is always better than crowded and well, not-so-compelling.

3. Allow your readers to wonder where you're going with it. For example, the lead line to my first novel, Around the World in 80 Dates, was "When Daniel told me he was in between jobs, I believed him." That line shows you a lot (rather than telling, which is the archenemy of great novel-writing) about your protagonist with just one little detail. She's trusting when it comes to love, and that may be a good trait—or a bad one—depending on where the story goes.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Secret World of Editing

I just finished some revisions for my upcoming Christmas novella (October 2010 as part of a Steeple Hill compilation book) and realized we haven't talked much about edits on Scribble Chicks.

I wish there were some things about edits I'd known BEFORE I got published, rather than having to discover while in the sometimes heated mix of things.

So, here's some free information on the topic (although on second thought, cash, checks or VISA donations of appreciation are accepted...) =P

Tip #1: Handwriting.

Did you know that you have to be a handwriting analyst to be an author? It's true. Editors are like doctors when it comes to handwriting. (This is a broad statement for humor's sake, and I'm sure there are exceptions, but it's pretty accurate!) When I received my first line edits from my awesome editor, it took me days to read certain margin-scribbles. Part of that was because of the low-grade print job, which happens. I felt SO dumb. How could I email my editor and say "uh, excuse me...I can't read your writing. I'm so sorry. What do you want me to do on page 86?" But you know what? They'd rather you do that than be late on your deadline. Just sayin'...

Tip #2: You gotta fight...for your write...

Not really. But sort of. See, there's a secret in the world of editing, one I'm still learning because it doesn't come naturally to me. But line edits (or even revisions) are NOT the final straw-last say-end of the matter-no arguments type of edits. YOU, as the author, still get an opinion. You can ::gasp:: argue your point! No, you really can! You need to do it in a professional manner and be clear as to why you disagree with your editor - because, face it, they DO know more than you do, its their job to! - but sometimes, you might win and get to keep what you want to keep. If you don't try, then you'll lose. Of course, when it comes down to it, the editor gets the final say and your goal should NOT be to be known as high maintenance or difficult to work with, but if it's important to you, speak up. It's really okay to do that.

Tip #3: Wait, wait, wait.

I've gotten line edits before that literally made me feel sick. The "toss the papers across the counter, crawl under the bed covers, and grieve the day I ever chose this profession" kind of sick. The kind of edits that make me whine and groan that I'm the worst writer in the world, and all the editors at my publishing house were gathered around a table, giggling and snickering and laughing at my pathetic attempts at prose. (Seriously, I have NO IDEA where my daughter gets her drama queen tendencies from. None at all.) Then, a few days later, I picked up the line edits agian, re-read them, and thought...okay...I see their point here. And here. And oh yeah, I guess here too. There were still points I wanted to argue (see Tip #2) but basically, a little bit of time away showed me that once again, my editor is a genius, and I'm still learning. So give yourself some space from the emotion of it and eat chocolate and vent to your friends until you can see around your dark glasses of contempt. (However, be aware of the time, because you don't want to wait TOO long and miss your deadline! Yikes.)

So there you have it. Freebies! If you can learn these tips now, then you'll be that much more prepared when your publication moment arrives and can know what to expect - and be that much better of an author for your editor to praise. =)

Do what I say, not what I do.... j/k.

Sort of. lol

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Terrorism and Writing

I’m not sure if it was the crash or the blood-curdling scream that alerted me to the fact that two months after 9-11, I was on a plane with a group of terrorists. I sat there staring, shaking… wondering.

So this was it. My final moment. I’d always wondered if it would be heroic and strong… but the only thing that was strong was the sound of my heartbeat in my ears. And my breath. Maybe I could take these guys down with that.

But it was all happening so fast I could barely respond. One moment the terrorists sat in their seats, quiet and subdued. The next moment they hit the floor, shouting and crowding around the explosive device.

Which actually ended up being a digital camera, which was, apparently, a very expensive item, which had, apparently been dropped. Hence the screaming. Because we all know screaming in Arabic on an airplane after 9-11 about a dropped digital camera is a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

After a few hours when I crawled out from under my seat (where do you go when there’s a bomb in an airplane?), I realized… things aren’t always as they seem.

I hadn’t known all the details of the situation. After all, if I had known it was a digital camera hitting the floor, I could have avoided the whole being-bribed-by-a-stewardess-with-a-cookie-to-get-out-from-under-my-seat-thing. But no. I was just guessing.

And that’s the same thing we want to do to our readers – keep them guessing.

Because if we tell them every little detail of the digital camera, the flash, the whole thing, they are going to, quite frankly, take a snooze in the airplane seat and not wake up until Chicago.

Then they’ll leave the plane, eat a greasy deep-dish pizza that will send them to the restroom, and spend their time over the toilet not thinking a thing at all about your story. Which is not at all what we want them to do.

Because, after all, if Readers Digest sales have proven anything to us, it’s that everyone needs a good bathroom story…

So go get started on yours.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Spicing It Up!

I just put a roast in the CrockPot for dinner and it got me thinking: Writing is a lot like making a pot roast.

Now, before you dismiss me as the slightly food-obsessed pregnant woman (which might hold some truth), stick with me for a little bit.

I'm the type that buys meat when it goes on sale and just freezes it until I feel like making it for dinner. So, this is a frozen pot roast I just put in the CrockPot. It's got zero appeal factor for me right now - it's solid as a rock, it's raw meat and it's probably deadly to eat. But, give it about six to eight hours in the CrockPot and it cooks and steams and gets nice and tender.

I think our writing starts out like this. We come up with a killer idea - but it's in a very raw stage. It still needs time to marinate in our brains. I try my best not to brainstorm new ideas just because I've discovered that the ideas I have in the midst of everyday life are usually the best. They usually stem from something that's going on around me and they don't seem forced. If you are having a hard time coming up with new ideas, try to just step back and look at your life. What's happening around you? What is your family dealing with right now? Your friends? It's SO much easier starting from the "half-cooked" stage than the completely frozen stage!

Now, you could take this roast, put in the CrockPot, let it cook all day and eat it and it probably wouldn't taste too bad. It would be very bland, but it wouldn't be horrific. Just like taking an idea that you've thought about for a while and just writing it. You write it, it's done, it's nothing really special but it's fine for a Monday night dinner.

But wait - what if you'd added some garlic to that roast? Or onion powder? Or even something as basic as salt?

How do you add spice to your stories? How do you make the words come alive on the paper? How do you create characters that people remember and relate to?

Again, look at your life. Who is your best friend? What is he/she like? When you are drawn to a person, what's their personality traits? Writing that stems from things and people you feel strongly about leads to passionate writing. No more plain pot roast! We're adding chili powder to this one!

Anytime you are stuck in a story and just have nowhere to take it, look at your main character. Are they passionate about something? Are they excited about something? A character needs to feel the same emotions you feel in order for it to seem real.

So, here's a few questions for you to use when you're creating a new character!

* What is something that you hate?
* Who is someone you cannot stand to be around? Why?
* What does the word "love" meant to you?
* Imagine the best thing that ever happened to you. What were you feeling at the time? How was your stomach feeling at the time? Your head? Your hands? (This one is especially fun - think through an experience by going from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. Example: When my husband proposed, I couldn't really think. My hands flew to my mouth, my chest got so tight I felt like I was wearing clothes that were a couple of sizes too small, my legs were shaking, etc.)
* If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

Now, turn this list to your character. People feel things - let your character feel things as well.

You are so much better at writing than serving just a plain pot roast - add some spice and watch how the personalities start to carry the story!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Taking My Cues From the Persistent Widow

I don't know about you, but sometimes I feel a little like this guy (see left) when it comes to my novel writing.

Take my current WIP, for example. I feel so, so, so far away from my goal of making serious headway, and my schedule isn't exactly getting any less crazy (a blessing, of course, in the age of unemployment highs, but as a result of said craziness, my WIP is suffering an anemic shortage of well, words).

Whenever I get majorly discouraged, though, I think about two things: the parable of the persistent widow and my first few months of working at CCM Magazine in Nashville.

After a year and a half of odd jobs in Nashville following my college graduation (filing at a bank, working the overnight shift at Walgreen's, nannying for the lady from Hades—the kid was just fine, mind you, it's his Mom I didn't like—serving as the music guru at a Christian bookstore, doing the unpaid intern thing), I'd finally landed the gig of my dreams—working as an actual paid copywriter for

While I was oh-so-happy and very fulfilled with what I was doing, (I mean, nothing is more awesome than the instant-gratification of writing something and seeing it online only moments after you wrote it), I really wanted to be writing album reviews for the actual print magazine.

Now I knew I was still a newbie and ultimately had to pay my dues, but since the editor of the album reviews section was right across from my cubical, I decided to make my best pitch.

And thankfully, like the pro that he was, he was really nice about it and requested a few samples of my previously published reviews first.

"No problem, I've got tons," I reassured him, and the next day, he had exactly what he asked for—samples galore—all neatly print out and arranged by genre (yeah, I can be a bit anal retentive).

Just in case he didn't think I was serious about my future in album reviewing, I asked him what he thought of my clips a couple of times a week. As to be expected, he was much too busy to give me an answer right away, but I kept hitting him up Persistent Widow-style for a couple of months, until he finally caved.

By the way, I still remember the first CD I reviewed...The Big Surprise from The Elms. And for the record, I won't even mention how much red ink was used while editing my first review, but I didn't let that get me down either.

I guess why I'm mentioning all of this is because it's so easy to get discouraged with our writing—or rejection, a popular topic this week on Scribble Chicks.

Maybe you feel like you've gotten the shaft one too many times or lack the proper resources (i.e. the perfect agent or publisher, the luxury of oodles of time to write) to succeed. But if I've learned anything from my pal, The Persistent Widow, it's this: Anything truly worthwhile is worth pursuing again and again and again. And perhaps in the sea of "no's" or "wait 'til laters" you've received, you'll get a "yes," and it'll change your life forever.

Yep, that's exactly what reviewing that one Elms' record did for me. :) Now back to that regularly scheduled novel-writing...