Monday, February 28, 2011

What if you lose interest?

Side note: This inevitably happens at least once during a deadline to me.

Other side note: This is not a paid endorsement of Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs, Welch's Fruit Snacks, Starbucks or any other delicious inspirational food listed below.

Last side note: Yes. I said Welch's Fruit Snacks. Try 'em. You'll love them.

Here is a very common scene in my house. I'm in the shower, thinking about my writing and I come up with the BEST IDEA in the WHOLE HISTORY of the world.

Pretty much, they will be casting Brad Pitt and George Clooney in the movie version of my book before my book even hits the store shelves, it will be that good.

So, I rinse the shampoo out of my hair, throw on a pair of sweat pants, run for my laptop, and start crafting the first sentences. I get one chapter done, two chapters done, three chapters done and then I go back and start reading, prepared to sob uncontrollably at the sheer genius that is on the electronic page before me.

But instead, I start reading and before I even finish the first chapter, I've got another BRILLIANT idea that would be potentially even a BETTER story than this one would be! Because really, now that I'm reading back through it, this story is pretty pathetic.

Enter Welch's Fruit Snacks and Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs. Consolation food.

Anyone relate??

Sticking with a story through thick and thin is a hard thing to do. Especially once you read back through it. :) I rewrite scenes constantly and one time, I scrapped about six chapters out of a story - I think it ended up being two thousand words I threw away.

That one stung.

If you are in the middle of writing something and you are losing interest faster than icing slides off of hot cupcakes, here's a few tips to try:

* Read back through your work and try to find the point where the story started heading into No Man's Land. Copy the work after that, move it to a new document, then go back to your story and start over from there.

* Get a Frappucino. Not sure why, but this has pulled me out of many a slump. And if you can't get a Frappucino, at least have your characters go get one.

* Get your mom to read through the story and see what her thoughts are. Even if your mom isn't a writer (mine isn't), they tend to have some sort of weird radar detector of what needs to change in your story to keep it moving (mine always does).

* Figure out what it is that is making you lose interest. Do the characters have boring jobs? Do they have boring friends? Are they boring themselves? What is your plot about? Can you describe your plot in two words (and no, WATCHING MOVIES is not a good plot)?

* Set it aside and work on something totally different. If you write fiction, write something nonfiction for a little bit instead.

Finally, if you've read through it thirty times, you've gotten eight Frappucinos, your mom has graciously looked it over and over and over, you've given all the characters jobs that rival Keifer Sutherland in 24, and NOTHING has helped salvage your interest...

Then start working on something new. Maybe you'll pull ideas from your old story, maybe you won't, but the importantly thing is to love your story and be excited about working on it.

HOWEVER. Writing "on demand" is a learned art. And publishers love writers who can write on demand. If your goal is to someday write for a publisher, you need to learn how to write - even if you aren't "feeling" it that day.

What are your tips for sticking with a story??

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rewrites, anyone?

A reader recently asked: Have any of you ever gone back to something you previously wrote and tried to rework it?

Excuse me a moment...


Sorry. In a word, YES. :)

I'm not laughing at you, dear reader, I'm laughing at myself. Because oh, this is quite the story with me. Some of you may have already heard this already, if so, forgive me. I forget who I've told and who I have not.

Sevvvvveeeeeerrrrral years ago, before I was published or had an agent, I wrote a romantic suspense. It was the third book I'd ever written. I wrote it, had a paid critique from fab author Susan May Warren at an ACFW conference several years ago, and wow, she gave me fantastic advice! I went home from conference, re-worked it, rewrote it, and thought it was SO much better. I even changed it from first person to third.

I started submitting to agents and getting rejected. But I LOVED this story and refused to give up. Then I got wind that fab author Dee Henderson was offering one-on-one paid mentoring/critique/editing services via her website. My grandma and mother chipped in as an early Christmas gift and bought me so many hours of her time. And man, Dee raked me over the coals in such a fabulous way! She basically told me this plot wasn't working as is and gave me several suggestions on how to take my original idea and make it so much more, so much bigger/deeper/better. I was impressed, to say the least, and of course I took her advice. We emailed a lot for several months and she really helped me dig into the story. That mentoring session was PRICELESS.

So I once again, from scratch, rewrote this story that so many authors had helped me with. I learned more about writing during this process than any conference, workshop, or book could have ever taught me.

Thinking I had a winner at last, I kept submitting, and finally it got the attention of my now-agent, Tamela Hancock Murray. She loved the story and believed in it with me, and signed me based on this novel. :) She shopped it around to no avail, and then we sold my first Love Inspired so my career path/genre changed and here I am now, writing LI's and now YA for Barbour :)

But I never gave up on my romantic suspense. Two years ago, I pitched it at a local conference, and a secular publisher showed interest. I tweaked it significantly based on what they had mentioned. Sent it in. Rejected. Last year, same conference, different publisher, showed interest. Asked to see full proposal. I tweaked it again, back more the way it was. Well they never even sent a rejection! (I took the hint after a year passed and multiple check-in attempts from my agent. lol)

Then my agent heard a well known publisher was looking for romantic suspense, specifically. I once again pulled up my poor manuscript, polished it up AGAIN, and we submitted.

All of this has taught me God had and has a plan. None of that writing, rewriting, rewriting and rewriting was a waste. That story is still not published. LOL! But even if it never makes it to a shelf, it will always hold a special spot in my heart because of the growth associated with it, the milestones marked, the milemarkers passed. Nothing we write is in vain, people. Nothing!

So, you can see why I laughed... =P

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How do you decide if an idea is good?

Tonya asks, "How do you decide if an idea is good enough to work on as a book?"


Don’t you hate that annoying guy who answers questions by asking questions?

Today I’m that guy.

Here are some thoughts to help you decide if your book is worth writing:

1) Does the story grip you? Because if it doesn’t grip you, it isn’t going to grip an agent or editor.

However, just because you love the idea doesn’t mean the publishers will. Which leads us to ask:

2) Is there a felt-need for your book? If the manuscript will be non-fiction, is there a big enough market to justify the money a publishing house would have to invest? (I.e., are enough people really going to buy the book Growing Polynesian Water Bugs in Your Refrigerator?)

If the book is fiction, what genre is it? Where would it rest on the shelf (or hopefully fly off of it)? Is that genre selling books or has it been dead since that French poet in 1909?

3) Will you spontaneously combust if you don’t write this book? Because even though I like a good fireworks show every now and then, I like passionate writers even more.

Sometimes your idea doesn’t have to make sense. Sometimes other people will think the concept is crappy. Sometimes you will just need to write the book for you. And there’s nothing wrong with that… as long as you know that’s why you’re doing it.

So, Ladies – whaddya say? How do you know when your ideas are worth considering?


BJ Hamrick is the editor of Real Teen Faith.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Navigating the Bad Review Blues

As a music, movie and book critic for the better part of a decade, I should've known this day was coming...

But after remaining mostly unscathed in the ol' reviews department when my novels released, it finally happened.

Cue ominous music.

Yep, after so many thoughtful and generous affirmations of my work from fellow writers, readers and critics, I found a couple of really bad reviews online—one star for both of my titles—and from the same reader, no less.

Now when you're a writer, you can't help but develop a pretty thick skin along the way. After all, rejection is often part of the getting-published process, and if you crumbled to pieces every time someone said "no, that's not really my speed, try again," there wouldn't be much of you left to actually finish a manuscript.

Still, I'm not a robot, so when I read that my characters, especially my protagonists, weren't "very inspired or quirky enough" and that "my story didn't go anywhere," basically leading to said reader skipping straight to the end, that definitely hurt. Truth be told, when you spend that much time—you know, the better part of 14 hours a day, especially during those last few weeks before deadline—carefully crafting your characters and their respective storylines, and someone says that, it's basically the literary equivalent of saying your baby is ugly.

Naturally, my first instinct was to type something very snide in reply, asking her why she bothered even checking out my second novel if the first was such a disaster. And then I wanted to inquire about whether she'd ever written a book herself. Of course, my snap judgment was that she was merely enjoying the role of the proverbial armchair quarterback, lots of opinions, but no actual grasp of what goes into writing something so close to your heart.

But as any writer worth his/her salt already knows, writing a blog entry, e-mail or letter when you're a bit of an emotional basket case is downright dangerous, so I wisely stepped away from the keyboard and started folding laundry instead, hoping I'd magically forget what she said.

Yeah, that didn't work, but at least I had freshly laundered clothes in the dresser, right?

After a little more sulking, however, I eventually had sort of an a-ha moment. It wasn't this crazy revelation that warranted the skywriting treatment, but it was reassuring all the same. Whenever you offer something to the masses, you're not going to please everyone—pure and simple. I mean even Stephanie Meyer's much-beloved sparkly vampire debut Twilight got 606 one-star reviews on Amazon.

Even though your novel (or that unpublished WIP) is your baby, some people are still going to think it's ugly. So take it from someone who's been there now, you'll feel bad, and then you'll inevitably feel inspired to keep getting better at your craft. There's always something that every writer can improve on, no matter how experienced he/she is, and sometimes reviews—even the really bad ones—can help push us forward.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Don't judge a book...but we know you will ;)

I don't think we've talked book covers much on Scribble Chicks before! Let's remedy that, shall we? :)

The good news is, book covers are important. They can make the reader pick up a book they might not have normally, help readers discover new authors (like YOU!) and really set the mood and tone of the story.

The bad news is, book covers are important. And authors often get very little if any say-so in the process.

This is where trust in the marketing department comes in! I've thus far been involved with three different publishers during the course of my career. The first was my small press, POD novel MIDNIGHT ANGEL by The Wild Rose Press 's inspirational line (now known as the White Rose Press) They actually let my uncle, an artist, draw up the artwork completely. I had TOTAL say in it. (I think things with White Rose have changed a little since 2006 in that regard but that was the case when they were new)

With my Love Inspired novels, I get to submit ideas for the cover, scenes from the story, mood/tone suggestions, etc. And they might or might not be considered. Of all my LI novels so far (Return to Love, A Valentine's Wish, Rodeo Sweetheart, the Christmas compilation Mistletoe Prayers, and my upcoming August release Fireman Dad) only Return to Love and Rodeo Sweetheart followed my scene suggestions (to a point, though Rodeo Sweetheart was almost dead on in my head what I pictured!! Loved it!) The marketing department for Love Inspired knows their stuff and knows what sales and knows that if there is a kid, puppy, or fireman (or other hero figure) on the cover, they will sell better. Its what that particular readership is after. Of course there are exceptions, but they take polls and really figure out those numbers and stats. Its not a guessing game. So, even if we might disagree at times, we have to trust the marketing dept knows what they are doing! :)

I'm not sure how things go cover-wise at Barbour Books, since I've only been contracted with them a few months and haven't seen my cover yet for my January 2012 release. But I did have to fill out a cover form with similar suggestions like I made at Love Inspired! But I've seen other Barbour covers and truly haven't seen one I didn't like :) So I feel safe that my novel will be in good hands with the art department! (and the marketing!)

Does the above come as a shock to you? Did you think authors had more/less say in the cover?

What kind of books do you as a reader feel led to pick up? What's a turn on and what's a turn off? I hate to admit it but for me, BEFORE I had my daughter, I wouldn't even pick up a book if it had a kid on the cover! haha. Now of course that has changed because I've changed. But it used to be a turn off for me.

So how do you judge??? :)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How Do I Keep People from Stealing My Ideas?

I’m sitting in Barnes & Noble, sipping hot chocolate, staring into space. At least I think I’m staring into space. Until I hear,

“Do you see that girl over there? She’s checking me out. She’s staring at me.”

And I realize – I’ve been staring “at” a 15-year-old blond-haired-surfer for the past several minutes. Sadly, he’s mistaken my writers’-block-staring-into-space for wow-she-thinks-I’m-hot--aren’t-I-awesome?

I want to jump. Slap the boy. Explain I have my own fully-grown blond-haired-surfer at home.

But the B&N boy is convinced it’s all about him. Which honestly, reminds me a little of myself.

Especially at the beginning of my career.

I am ashamed to admit that several years ago I was scared to share my writing ideas with other writers for fear my brilliance would be stolen. I know, conceited, right? I just knew my amazing book or article would be ripped right out from under me.

But that was before I realized:

•    Writers are full of their own ideas. Most writers have more concepts than time, and they are more in love with their own ideas than the ideas of others.
•    My plans are not the most awesome on the planet. This one hurt. A lot.
•    Even on the very minuscule .0000002 chance my idea is “stolen”, no one can ever steal the way I would write this story… the voice, the tone, the humor… or really anything I would use to make the story “mine”.

So there you have it. Next time you’re worried about sharing your dreams because someone might steal them, remember the blond-haired-surfer in Barnes and Noble. And remember your writer-friends probably have their very own surfer at home.

And they probably like him a lot better.

B.J. Hamrick is the editor of Real Teen Faith.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Today I think we can learn something from those little Valentine hearts.


Ever noticed how they say so much in two to three words? "Be Mine", "Yours Only", "Love You", "Call Me", or my personal favorite, "UR Cool".

I think I would pretty much melt if my husband gave me a heart candy that said "UR Cool". :)

How many words does it take you to say something so meaningful in your stories? Editors LOVE brevity. The quicker you can say it (while still keeping your prose and rhythm), the better. I've had editors tell me to scrap my entire first chapter and start at Chapter Two. Think of your story as a nice, Valentine meal - editors (and readers!) would like to get to the main attraction - the steak and scallops and skip over the appetizer salad.

Look over your WIP. What's essential to the storyline? What isn't? What gives your book flavor? What just adds too much seasoning?

How will you say, "I love you so much I am going to give you this tiny corn starch, water, sugar and artifically-flavored heart?"

Have a great Valentine's evening!! :)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sellin' out - and I don't mean of books :)

We've had some great discussions these past few weeks on plotting, "pants'ing", insecurity vs. security, and genres. Thanks for the participation everyone! And remember, any new suggestions or topics you'd like us Chicks to focus on soon, just ask in the comments or email us. :) We're here to help!

Today I'd like to talk about selling out.

And I don't mean of your print run ;)

This past week we've talked about genres, how to know which book to write next, and if a certain genre feels the most natural to you, if that's a sign to stick with that for awhile. (all of those comments and feedback are under Christa's post last Thursday if you want to review/catch up)

Erynn also wrote on Monday that a good story will sell (eventually! we still have to have patience! ::wink::) regardless of the genre or what is hot on the market.

I wanted to add on to that a little because she's so right!

I've known some authors who hop bandwagon to bandwagon, writing stories in multiple genres based on what the market was producing rapidly at that moment. But the sad thing was they were always behind, because the market was always changing. Historicals were hot, then not. Chick lit was hot, then gone. Romantic suspense ruled, then declined. Historicals came back, then YA shot up in popularity while suspense dipped back down.

Etc. etc. etc.

So you can see the vanity in this desperate attempt to chase fads to get published. For example, a lot of people started writing supernatural stories after Twilight's success but really, how many do you remember reading/enjoying/staying with you? How many even actually made it to the shelf? (especially in CBA)


So don't be a fad chaser. Stick to the story of YOUR heart. Your passion will shine through regardless of genre, regardless of marketing, regardless of what industry professionals forecast.

Here's a secret that I firmly believe will take you FAR in your writing career. Don't miss this!

You ready????

You sure?? ;)


The best way to make a story impress an editor is to believe in it.

There you have it. Passion. Faith. Belief. If you care about your story, an editor/agent will be 1000000000000000000000000 timex more likely to as well. Fad chasing doesn't leave much time for passion...

So don't be a sell out!

Monday, February 7, 2011

And all I could say was... "Hello."

Fifteen bonus points to whoever can name that movie! :)

I loved Christa's post last week! And I especially loved the commentary that followed! And yes - I wrote Miss Match very loosely based on Emma and Cool Beans very loosely based on Persuasion. I'm rather fond of rewriting classics - or at least borrowing their plot lines!

I've heard it said that there are no new plots and I have to agree. I present Exhibit A - Avatar. Which, in all honesty, was just a dressed up, sci-fied, blue-bodied Pocahontas. It even had it's own version of the talking tree.

That being said, we can still be original - both in our voices and in our characters. So, even if you are writing the newest version of Moby Dick, you can still make it unique to YOU - because no one else will ever write the same way you do.

My agent told me once that great stories will always be published. Whether that's a retelling of Mary Poppins, a book about dragons, Mr. Peanut's back story or the latest and greatest chick-lit - if you write it well, it will find a home.

So, don't get down on yourself or your writing if you have been working for the last four years on an Indiana Jones-style novel and find out that no one is publishing those anymore. Great fiction will always sell. Learn to write, write your story well, and wait to see what God has planned for you.

It's going to be great!!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Are Any Ideas Too Big or Too Crazy?

Before I dive into this week's reader question, I wanted to say to my fellow Scribble Chick, the lovely Betsy St. Amant, I'm thinking of—and praying for—your family. Your mother-in-law was clearly one terrific woman, and I really enjoyed celebrating her life with you on your blog.

And I'd also like to send a shout-out to Petunia who e-mailed me the following questions this week:

Is it possible to have an idea that's too big for you skills? And what's the best thing to do in that situation? I have started my first novel and feel I have a good idea. I also get the feeling it could be better if I were more experienced. I get stuck with scenes and conflicts where I'm not sure where to take it next. All I can think is the situations I write aren't conveying what I want to say. There's some sort of disconnect. What do I do? Set it aside to work on something else? Plow through and polish when I feel more equipped?

Also on starting something new...I'm thinking about trying to draw from a classic, is that a good idea for a beginner? I know Erynn talks about doing that, is that common of authors? Any benefits & drawbacks? Ooooh, what about taking a secondary character in a classic and writing a contemporary story about them—just brainstorming on that one! Would love any input and thoughts on coming up with ideas.

First off, thanks so much for your questions, Petunia. No doubt about it, working out the particulars of even the best story idea can be a daunting task. In many cases, it involves loads of research to get those crucial details just right, and I'm guessing that many writers have felt just like you at some point—unqualified to write a book about that, whatever that is.

But if it's an idea you're really passionate about (and really, the test of that in my estimation is if it's the idea you just can't simply stop thinking about, no matter how hard you try), it's definitely worth continuing to pursue. If you're stuck, you might try brainstorming with a fellow writer/writing mentor that you really trust. In fact, whenever I'm working on something and a little unsure of where the story should go next, I immediately start talking it through with my husband. He's a fantastic writer with great instincts, so his insights often help me get "unstuck" and moving right back on the track.

Many times in life—or writing—the "big" and often scary task is the one that's the most rewarding. So if you know it's the idea for you, I'd keep working at it. But from the sounds of it, you've got lots of potential ideas that could be interesting, too. I think adapting classic literature in a timely way can be really fun and relevant. I sort of did a modern-day take on Emma with my second novel, Blessed Are the Meddlers, and whether it's a lead character or a supporting one from classic lit, that's a fun way to tell a story. But whatever you choose, just make sure it's something you love and can live with for a long time because that's what it takes to eventually type those lovely words "The End" at the conclusion of your manuscript.

Wishing you nothing but the best on your writing journey, Petunia,

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Personal invitation

Hey gang, usually I direct people from my personal blog to our Scribble Chicks site here on Wednesdays, but I'm posting about my mother in law's funeral over at my blog today, and would love for you to come read about it there. Consider it a personal invitation :)

Thanks for the prayers and support. Means a lot, gang!

(if you're not up to date on the situation with my MIL, just read a few posts back on my personal blog where I summed up her story and showed pictures)

Visit me here:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Keeping track of your ideas...

It happened today -- the thing I'd dreaded my whole life -- the thing I'd promised myself I would never allow.

The thing only people like my parents or teachers or... people much... how can I put this delicately?... older... than me would do.

I needed coffee to stay awake.

But that wasn't the worst part.

I pulled up to the drive-through window to pay for my caffeine infusion and realized... wallet was at home.

Sure, this forgetfulness-spurt doesn't compare to the time Aunt Agatha forgot the garage door was down and pulled into the garage anyway. Or the time a lady 50 years my senior forgot her age and pinched my husband's butt... in public.

But still... I am getting old. I am forgetting things. And I just turned 27.

I think that's the worst part.

But despite all of this, there's one thing I won't forget. It's my writing-ideas. Some of you may scoff at this, but a few of us who are lacking brain-cells really do need creative ways to remember those random ideas that pop into our heads on the freeway, or during 2 a.m. insomnia attacks.

Here are a few ideas:

- Napkins. In an emergency, they make great writing paper. As long as you don't lose the napkin or use it in another type of emergency. (I'll leave that to your imagination.)

- Notebooks. You can never have enough tiny notebooks. In order to keep from looking like a female version of Columbo, though, you might want to get some cute sparkly books from the dollar store. And change out of that dark trench coat.

- There's always the skin God gave you. Maybe writing on it is a health hazard like your fourth grade teacher always told you, but what's worth more -- your brilliant idea or possible lead poisoning? I'll leave that for you to decide.

In all seriousness, ladies, I need your help in this forgetful stage of my life.

How do you remember your deets?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad