Monday, January 31, 2011

Prayers Needed

Hi Scribble Chick friends,

I just found out that Betsy's mom-in-law passed away earlier this week. She had been in a coma-like state following a tragic horseback riding accident many months ago. She was SO young and will be missed by so many. Her funeral is tomorrow.

Please be praying for Betsy, her husband BJ and their family! I know they would treasure your prayers right now.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:38-39


Some things should just not be written in your own words...


Today is Monday, in case y'all didn't know. My little Nater-Tot was up early this morning, we've already had two huge messy diapers (sorry - TMI), we had a little tussle over eating bananas, he was rolling all across the floor and getting stuck by the couches and the wall, and he's now down for a nap.


So if your Monday morning has looked anything like mine, I think we need to be reminded of this:

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and I am helped; therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank Him. - Psalm 28:7

What song are you writing today?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Give me outlines or give me death...

Okay, not really, that's a little extreme but you get the gist ;)

A loyal blog reader has asked me to elaborate a little on my outlining methods for the novels I write. As she hinted at, outliners are getting to be a breed of the past, while seat of the pants writers are multiplying like rabbits. Which is fine, because like I've always said - DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU!

So if you're a happy panster, feel free to hit "next" on your list of blogs to surf today. :) But if you are considering being an outliner and plotter, or think maybe you should become one, or are coming out of the closet about admitting to being one already, then keep reading and hopefully I can answer any questions you guys might have!! hehe.

Here's what I do as a plotting/outlining writer - the entire process from the beginning:

1. The Idea - this can come from something I hear, something I see, something I think, something I read, etc. This is the general gist of my next story. Sometimes its just a location. Other times its a character or a certain spiritual or emotional struggle/goal. Sometimes its a plot. Or a question - "what if this or this and this happened?" It's the spark that ignites my next novel!

2. The Brainstorm - once I get my general idea in my head, I start fleshing it out. I add characters or a setting or a loose plot or whatever is missing from the initial spark. I fill in the big holes and get an idea of the basic story and its characters. This is sometimes written down, sometimes discussed with a fellow author on the phone or sometimes just thought about it my head until I get a firm handle on it.

3. The Synopsis Stage 1 - I jot down my mental notes onto a Word document, committing them to "paper". This is where I just get everything out of my head onto the screen in a way that makes sense but is by no means polished. It just lets me see it to then brainstorm a step further. Eventually this section becomes my polished, final synopsis for my proposal.

4. The Proposal - once I get the basics written down, I start going over the different elements of my proposal which includes a hook, a tagline, a target audience, etc. This might seem backward for some people but for me, this helps me find the meat of my story early on. Once I write these elements into my proposal, I'm more finalized of my plan.

5. The Synopsis Stage 2 - this is where I start writing the synopsis. I take my original Stage 1 notes and start making them into an acceptable synopsis format, which is hard and sometimes more stressful than fun but it lets me get organized, see where in the story thus far I need more conflict, where it's dragging, where a new thread of conflict or intrigue can be added, etc. This is where the real writing takes place. I bring all the previous aspects together and make a solid, presentable story idea. Usually my synopsis are 3-5 pages though for my last Love Inspired proposal, it was somehow 8!

The neat thing about a synopsis for me is that it gives me an outline to go by when I write the full manuscript (hopefully, see Step 7 ::wink::) but it doesn't restrict me to the point that I can't adjust as I write. My editor will purchase the story (again hopefully) based on the synopsis I gave them but there is always room for changes. Major changes would have to be approved first, smaller changes can typically just be absorbed without incident, etc. But for me and my limited writing time available, I don't have the liberty of staring at my screen thinking "uhhhh what happens next?" which is what I would do without a basic outline to follow. I always know what is coming up and what I need to do to get them there. But I still get the freedom of creativity in that each scene isn't a nail-downed, super detailed description. I just see "oh, this convo needs to happen" or "the heroine needs to mull this over" or whatever, and I can still in the moment create the setting for her to do so, etc. I still get surprised by my characters at times or taken aback when something works out even better than I had planned. It's still fun to write, its just more structured than having no set beginning, middle and end points to reach.

6. The Polish - this is when I go back and read the entire proposal and synopsis, start to finish, and convince myself it's ready for my agent to review and submit. I send it to critique partners first to help me eliminate any potential "uh, this would never happen in real ife" type scenarios, etc. :) I read it outloud to make sure it flows naturally and then...the grand finale...(after writing the first three sample chapters)

7. Hit Send. Pray for contract. Wait and wait. Then hopefully, Ta-da! Contract signed, advance deposited, write full manuscript, sell a million copies...oh wait. ;)

That's me. Any questions?

Monday, January 24, 2011

When Your Best Doesn't Feel Good Enough

Anytime we get into creative fields, I think we tend to struggle with self-esteem.

Except maybe at the American Idol auditions. (Have y'all noticed that? Doesn't it seem like every person who auditions is convinced they are the next American Idol even though they sound closer to my squeaky file cabinet drawer closing or, well, like me in the shower?)

Side note: I will never try out for American Idol.

Writing is a very personal thing and because of that, I think it's VERY easy to constantly second-guess ourselves. I read back through almost everything I write and wonder how I could have rewritten it better.

To our dear Scribble Chick readers out there struggling with these feelings, you are not strange, weird, or crazy - you are very normal.

So how do you overcome those feelings of inadequacy?

* Start where you should ALWAYS start - with prayer. God is the One who has given you this desire to write, so go to your Heavenly Dad for encouragement. One of my all-time favorite verses to read when I'm working on a novel is this: "My purpose in writing is to encourage you and to assure to that the grace of God with you no matter what happens." (1 Peter 5:12)

* Remember why you are writing - are you writing to a specific audience? Are you writing a specific story that God has laid on your heart?

* Read, read, read and then learn from other authors. Who is an author you admire? Why? Break down their stories - are they great with character development? Do they write killer plots? Are you drawn to the rhythm in their writing?

* Read back through past things you have written. Sometimes it is SO encouraging to me to realize that I have gotten better - by the grace of God - over the years.

* When all else fails, go buy a venti caramel macchiato and a jumbo sized bag of M&Ms - there isn't a lot in life that is more encouraging than caffeine and chocolate. :)

And keep us posted - even if you just finished the first chapter in a new WIP, we love to help celebrate! :)

Friday, January 21, 2011

When we get off track...

Have you ever gotten to a place in your life where you felt you were completely off track? Like there was no bringing you back and God couldn't use you anymore?

As Christians, I think we inherently believe that God has a plan for our lives. Sometimes we even hear his still small voice give us a picture of what that plan will be---or at least the next step we should take to get us there.

But as is often the case, we mess up. We take a direction contrary to what we know in our hearts we should do. What happens then? Are we too far off the path?

I believe that God has a perfect plan for our lives. That's His ideal for us. But I also believe that if we veer off course He's more than able to bring us back.

It's sort of the way a GPS works. There's a perfect way to get from Point A to Point B, and if we follow the directions the GPS gives, we'll get there. But as often happens, we make a wrong turn somewhere along the way and find ourselves out in the middle of a cornfield wondering where the heck we are. That GPS doesn't give up on us at that point. It recomputes our route and shows us the turns to take that will still get us where we were supposed to end up in the first place. The path might be windier, longer, and crazier, but we still get there.

That's the way God works in our lives too. Sure, it would be ideal for us to never make a mistake, or a wrong turn. But we all do. So rather than bemoan this, we can throw ourselves at the feet of the God who loves us dearly, ask for forgiveness and His help in recomputing our way. He'll give it to us. He's a loving Father.

I had this experience recently in my writing. I had felt for a long time I was to write a fast rough draft in my latest manuscript. I felt like it was God's leading. But I didn't do it. Instead I spent months laboring over my characters, plot and whatnot. Finally I decided to quit the nonsense and just push through and write my story. However, I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd missed God in a big way. I worried that everything I was writing was off track and not what He wanted me to write.

Then I received an e-mail from an author friend that was the answer to my heart's cry. She said some things I'd been needing to hear about writing and following my heart to find the story God gave me. After reading her words I knew the story I needed to write. I began a new draft in the peace I'd desperately craved.

A week or two later God gave me a wonderful gift. It was just a little thought, but I felt it. He told me that right now, I was back to where I would have been if I'd followed those early inclinations I'd had about writing the fast rough draft. He'd re-routed my path. He can do the same for you.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

So, You're a Writer, Huh?

Whew, it's January 20, and I still feel like I'm catching up from all the Christmas/New Year/birthday festivities. But now that I'm back in the swing of things (including blogging), I thought I'd tackle one of your questions this week.

So here goes: How do you get over the anxiety of showing your work and talking about your work to people you know, like my family and friends?

Well, I'm not going to lie. I've been a professional writer for 11 years now, and when people ask me what I do for a living, it still garners some pretty interesting looks. After all, how could I possibly get paid for doing something I love like writing novels and reviewing movies, music and books?

Like anything else worthwhile, you gotta fight the naysayers (and yes, sometimes they will even be family members...tsk tsk) with some good ol' fashioned confidence. Even if you haven't written your Pulitzer Prize-winning effort yet, clearly writing is something you cherish, so why not share it with the ones you love? As you continue to grow in confidence as a writer, the process will get easier, I promise. And as long as you keep honing your craft, you'll have something to show for it that you wouldn't mind having anyone read.

Plus, another good reason to show your friends and family your way is for their constructive criticism and support. Before I ever show my novels to an editor, I make sure a small group of people I trust takes a look and provides me with feedback first. That way, I know I'm submitting something I can be proud of.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

We've all been there....

Q&A Time!! =)

A reader recently asked:

I have a basic plot, setting & characters sketched out. From the writing class I took I don't know what else I need before jump into writing. I've decide to do just that - take the leap & write. Except, I'm stuck. I have the first scene & then I don't know what to write even though I know some conflict that I want to happen, I'm having a hard time filling in the blanks.

Good choice. Definitely dive in and start writing. Sometimes just getting your fingers flowing over the keyboard will bring on creativity and new ideas of what to do next. But if that isn't enough, consider making a more detailed synopsis. Some writers are very much seat of the pants and can't stand writing by a planned summary (Hi Erynn!!! wink) but other authors really do need that structure to be able to relax and dig into the story. So maybe you are one of those (I tend to be!) If that's the case, try to go beyond basic in your planning stages and get a little bit better idea of what is going to happen. A basic plot is good but it won't be enough to keep you from staring at your screen saying "hmmmmmmmmmmm". =)

Synopsis can be nightmares to write but once they are done and you have that outline to follow, they are golden!!

The samereader also mentioned - Do you think the best thing I can do is just TRY to write something along that line, even if it sucks? I'm so afraid of sucking that I procrastinate waiting for the BIG idea.

Don't procrastinate. That's the worst thing a writer can do. I believe the best ideas stem from simply writing - even writing "bad" ideas. lol Your brain is a muscle of sorts, you need to exercise it! Use it. Let the creativity then flow. I really think just diving in will help. Or maybe the synopsis will as I mentioned before. Figure out what works for YOU and do that. Don't worry about what works for someone else. Find your game plan and stick to it. Motivate yourself with rewards or bribes or whatever you respond best too. (After I write 500 words in one sitting, I will go get a piece of chocolate) or etc.

And finally, our loyal reader says: I've done the above & then because I think I'm not good I delete it. That's a bad habit. Is it wise to keep what I've written in hopes that it'll help build another scene?

Step away from the delete key!!! Seriously, don't delete it. If it bothers you to see that scene lingering or makes you feel like its hanging over you or something, then just keep a file folder in your computer documents labeled "scraps" so you can always go back, just in case! You can always clean out that folder once a year when you know you won't use or need any of those scenes. But deleting something in the heat of the "Man, I suck!" moment isn't helpful, because typically, after you view it with fresh eyes after a few days, it won't be nearly as bad as you thought it was. Promise! =)

But defintely don't let insecurity confuse your talent. You ARE a writer. Every writer needs to grow. The fact that you are trying means you are growing! Keep growing. Keep trying. Rinse and repeat.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What makes a hit?

So I'm just curious today. What makes a hit?

Some names are guaranteed hits. Nicholas Sparks. Dan Brown. Karen Kingsbury. Francine Rivers. Anne Rice. J.K. Rowling. Stephanie Meyer.

But they didn't use to be. At some point, every single one of those authors were newbies. They went through the same excruciating process of submitting their first manuscript that first time. (and with the majority of their ages - no offense - I'm guessing they probably didn't click a computer button but rather went through the even longer and even more excruciating process of snail mail! ::wink::)

How did they do it? For some, they took a vampire and a human and voila - hit. Others took an age old theme of sin and redemption and voila - hit. Others preyed on the supernatural or on religious conspiracies and voila - hit. Not a lot in common between their various topics and themes except ONE thing.

Somehow, they all resonated with the reader in a way that didn't immediately leave them. Then movies were made from the books and the resonation lingered even more. Word spread. People were changed, in one way or another. (hopefully for the better, and hopefully not by believing anything Dan Brown concocted about theology! But I digress)

So the question I'm asking you today is, what makes a hit to you? And how can you try to make your own? Not for fame or fortune, because yeah that's nice but it's not ever enough. I'm talking about lingering effects. How can we make a hit that will change someone and lead them to the Lord? What ingredients do you feel make a hit?

Do share!

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Four-Letter Word That Might Be Holding You Back

Should I confess this on the Internet?

It's about a friend of mine. See...

Gym and I have been friends for the past several months, and so far
I’m really enjoying our relationship. I’ve taken full advantage of our friendsip by cowering in the corner… alone… on the rpm bike. Also, the whole swimming at 5 a.m. when everyone else is in bed has totally helped my self-confidence. And the group exercise classes? I love watching them from the balcony.

All this to say... I don't think this gym-friendship thing is going to last very long unless I actually join a class. The reason?


Perhaps you see the parallel.

I've seen some great writers stagnate because they took the closet-writer approach. They joined groups and never attended meetings. They paid for critiques yet refused to implement changes.

It wasn't laziness that held them back. It was fear.

But here's the thing: God will never do anything for us that we can already do for ourselves.

So my question for you (and for myself) is: How bad do we want it... this dream God gave us?

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.
-Joshua 1:9

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Anti-Resolution Crowd

In this height of Resolution season, I wonder if there are any fellow anti-resolution people out there? :)

Let me explain.

I'm weird. As in, I work well under pressure and deadlines...but somehow, at the same time, the more I try to do something, and the more obsessed I get with it, the worse my progress.

For example, if I really, really want to lose 5 lbs and tone up (like I do now and have wanted to for about 9 months) then I backslide. I eat. I'm constantly starving. I have zero motivation to exercise and I wanna cry every time I try on jeans. It CONSUMES me because I made it a goal.

If I have the thought of "hey, losing 5 lbs would be cool" and take action steps (non obsessive ones) to obtain it, while working that into my every day life, then I usually meet my goals. It's like I have to trick my own psyche.

Hey, we writers are complicated!! ::wink::

So a month ago, knowing the dreaded Resolution Season was coming, I got pro-active and started jogging. Trying to cut back on calories without obsessing over it. Just making baby steps that add up to big steps of progress, while not freaking out along the way. I was doing great!!!

Until I bought a scale.

I think the backsliding is about to begin. Yikes! Pray for me not to hop on that puppy 3 times a day, would ya?

So, my question is - are you like some of the other Chicks who can make a goal for the new year and be motivated to stick to it? (I'm so impressed!!!) Or do you need to join me under the Anti-Resolution banner and let's trick our psyche's together? =)

"Goals? What goals? Resolutions??? NO WAY! I'm just gonna, uh.... write more...and, ssshhhh, eat less....." hehehe

Monday, January 3, 2011

This year, I will...

I am not one for resolutions. Usually, I make pointless resolutions (such as, this year, I will not cause the death of more living organisms by planting flowers to die at my house) or I make serious resolutions and forget about them the next day (what? I was going to stick with a budget this year?).

But THIS year... I am going to be better at the following things: :)

* I will try my best to have dinner somewhat near the table by 6:30 so the Nater-Tot isn't melting down right in the middle of us eating (this one could be easy to hold to - my kitchen table is very near my counter tops).

* I will be better at blogging. You guys have had the brunt of my new hardly-any-normal-computer-time life. It's hard to type with two hands when a baby is constantly wanting to be held, be read to, be played with, be nursed or be rocked. But I do want to try and get better at taking advantage of nap times.

* I will get two proposals written in this next month. Now that said Nater-Tot plays a little better by himself on the floor, I should be able to get some typing in. That and my mom is going to watch him one day a week so I can work - THANK YOU, MOM!

* I will stop going to the post office with spit up all down the front of my pants. My apologies for past occurrences, fellow post office customers.

* I will be better at making time to read. Reading always inspires me to write better.

* I will try to not be so paranoid about germs and quit wiping everything within sixteen feet of my child down with a germ-x wipe.

Actually, I take that last one back.

What are your New Year's Resolutions?