Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Happy birthday...


It's off to the zoo for some fun times with my little family!

(and FYI - if you want to eat a cupcake to help celebrate my birthday, it's only half the calories today...)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How Do You Get it Done?

It is a well-known fact by about three million people that I am a chronic insomniac. The reason so many people know this is because I never stop whining about it. But the day has come; I have found the magic cure.


I realize I am only in my second trimester, but I have suddenly developed the ability to sleep anywhere at any time. The girl who used to consider three hours of rest a good night's sleep now finds herself asking... can I make it an hour without a nap?

The pendulum has swung the other way. What I used to have 21 hours in a day to accomplish I now have about eight. With a few naps in-between. Which leads me to ask my dear readers... what's the cure for chronic sleep?

And don't you dare say a new-born.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, March 28, 2011


I thought BJ's post last Tuesday was SO timely because as of right now, I'm waiting for my agent to get back to me on a proposal I sent him.

About six weeks ago.

I don't think I ever realized how MUCH waiting there is when it comes to writing. You work and work and work and then you finally send the proposal into your agent (or a publisher you met at a conference) and then you wait.

Then, if they like it, they send it around and you wait. Again.

Then a publisher decides they like it and they take it to their publishing committee. Which means?

You got it. More waiting.

It can be frustrating. And it definitely requires a lot of patience. Patience that God is still in the process of teaching me.

So how do you make the most of the wait time? Keep writing, keep reading, keep being productive - well, as productive as you can be checking your email 43 times a day. :)

How do you guys endure the wait?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Nothing but numbers...

A reader asked a while ago - Do you aim to have a certain # of books sold? How many books sold is considered a good selling book?

This largely depends on the publisher. A small press that doesn't pay advances, only pays royalities, and is print on demand might be thrilled if you sold 1500 novels. Other small presses might find 5,000 to be more satisfactory. Traditional houses in the CBA that pays advances and royalities and initiates a print run usually prefers sales to be more like 25,000 - 50,000 to be considered "good".

There are also the variables of whether or not this is a debut author (who obviously won't sell as many books as a well known, established author who has written 25 novels). Another variable to consider is the release date. Books that release in certain months are often less likely to sell as well as books released in the peak of the summer, etc. Holiday books will sell well in the month before and during their holiday (February for Valentine's Day, November for Thanksgiving, etc.) but three months later after the holiday has passed, sales are obviously going to drop. The editor will expect this.

Again, this is all guess-timating, mostly because this subject is taboo, as often times authors aren't even totally sure of their numbers - and they're usually even less willing to share them with others. Still, I think for the most part its safe to assume that selling 100,000+ of a novel is celebration worthy and guaranteed to turn heads. ;)

I wish I could give more specifics. Let's see - I know that with my Love Inspired novels, my third novel sold much better than the first and second ones, even though the second and third novels both sold in the top percent of books for that month. Yet because of the month's overall sales, the numbers were still vastly different. Does that make sense? Basically it means that February sold less books than April overall, so even though my books both did well in those two months, the numbers and $ were totally different. (I'm still waiting to get my royalty report to show me how sales did for my 4th novel - the Christmas novella compilation).

I hope this helps a little. Basically the answer is - no one knows ;) But once you are contracted and established in a publishing house, talk to your editor. Ask your agent the hard questions. Get as much info as you can so you know where you stand. It never hurts to ask! You will probably be respected for trying to learn as much as you can about your career.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How Long Should I Wait for a Reply?

You did it. You fought your fear and submitted your manuscript to a magazine. Now every day you check your e-mail 27 times hoping for a posItive reply. Okay, it's 107 times, but who's counting?

How long do you need to wait before asking the editor for an update about the status of your piece? The general consensus here is 4-6 weeks (longer if you are submitting to a book publisher). Editors are busy people, and often just need a little time to catch up.

More often than not, however, I've found that editors have not even read my piece when I contact them eight weeks later (which is how long I usually wait). But how do you give them a nudge without seeming desperate or rude?

Here's a little example:

- Dear Editor
- Thank you for allowing me to submit my piece to (name publication).
- Since it has been a few months since I submitted the piece, I was wondering if i could simultaneously submit it with another publication.
- I would still love for the piece to work out with (name publication). Thanks again for considering it.


Non-desperate Writer

Your turn to chime in. What's been your experience in corresponding with editors? What have you learned?

PS - What do you think of Erynn's new blog design? I love it!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, March 21, 2011

Oh, the fun of research!

Courtney asked a couple of great questions after my post last week. Betsy added her thoughts and I figured I'd add mine here! :)

How much is too much research?

You might be asking this question to the wrong group of Scribble Chicks. :) The majority of us write contemporary fiction, which is probably the least research-laden writing out there. Honestly? I hate research. I can EASILY get very bogged down with mindless details and lose any sense of fun I had in the writing process.

So how do you make sure that facts fit and the story rings true if you hate to research?

Betsy mentioned this, but the easiest, fool-proof way to do it is to write a contemporary story in a fictional town in whatever country you live in. It's modern day so you don't have to research fashion, currency, pop culture, or any number of details you'd have to if it were set in the past. It's a fictional town so you get to make up street names, businesses and politicians. And you are the sole creator of this town, so if you want there to be a Starbucks on every corner, then PLEASE put a Starbucks on every corner.

Another idea is to set your story in a real town, but one that you are very familiar with. Do you live in Dallas? Write a story that is set in Dallas. Your grandma lives in Portland and you spent every summer there? Plop those characters into Portland. Writing like this gives you an added bonus too - you've got an automatic in with the people who live there. People LOVE to read local authors whose story is set in their town!

How about research that isn't location-driven? Let's say you want to write a story about a master surgeon and you've never even seen a scalpel, much less a surgeon?

Then you might have your research cut out for you. What I would recommend is to follow the old saying and write what you know. You're a kindergarten teacher? Write about a kindergarten teacher. Your sister is playing soccer on the college level? Write about a soccer player. Think through the people God has placed in your life and go from there. My latest books, the Maya Davis series, were all written about a barista and I followed a friend of mine who was working at the Borders coffeeshop around for a day, scribbling MILLIONS of notes, just to give the story more accuracy.

But, let's say that you DO want to write about a surgeon and it's a story that you just can't give up. Start asking around to see if any of your friends or family members know any surgeons, or anyone in the medical industry. See if you can meet with one. Most people are VERY willing to talk about their lives - especially if they know you'll be potentially thanking them in print someday!

And as far as the "little" research things - for example, your character is watching her sodium levels and needs to know how much is in a Saltine cracker - I recommend researching as you go. Keep Wikipedia and Google on your favorites list online. That way, it's just a quick couple of clicks, you've got the info and you're ready to go!

Happy researching!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

When the well runs dry...

A dear reader approached me Sunday with the following question: I really want to write fiction, but don't have any ideas. What can I do? I'm frozen & it bums me out, when I have an idea to pursue I LOVE writing. But when my well dries up I get frustrated!

I emailed her back personally but wanted to share my response with the rest of you and add a little to it.

Here's the thing, that I've said often in some form or another here at Scribble Chicks - Writing is easiest when its about something you really care about or are into.

It doesn't even have to be a "cause", it can just be something you personally really enjoy or know about.

For example, if you're into scrapbooking, you could write a novel about a scrapbooking club of girls. Or if you enjoy cooking, spin something off of a female or male chef. Maybe one of them falls for someone on his staff. Or mix it up and add conflict, and pair two completely opposite people. One who loves cooking, the other who is fighting a food disorder and can't stand to eat. (Anyone read Rachel Hauck's story "Dining with Joy?" It was abou a TV show chef who couldn't cook! Fantastic!)

Think about hobbies and pick something that stands out to you. Scrapbooking, cooking, gardening, knitting, sewing, crafts, music, reading. You could even write a book about a book club :) Or horse back riding, or animals, or government. etc. etc. etc. The options are limitless.

If hobbies doesn't flip a switch for you, what about causes? Children? Poverty? The hungry? You could create a story that centered around a good cause or charity. Pregnant teens? The homeless? What stirs your heart? What articles on CNN or MSN or the local news pulls your heartstrings and makes you think "MAN that is so unfair" or riles your interest/drive?

Think about what you care about, pick something that really interests you, and then dive in! We all experience that writers block time and again, but the best way to get past it is just to keep writing writing writing regardless...even if its awful and you end up deleting it later. ;)

I attended and taught at a writer's conference this past weekend and something one sweet lady said just cracked me up. She was telling me about when she got stuck writing, and she called it "constipated". Then she switched some things around, changed up the voice and the point of the view, and voila - steady flow! (a semi-gross analogy but hey it definitely is true! lol) Sometimes you just need to get unstopped!

There are truly ideas all around you. I'm a big fan of people watching/eavesdropping. (ssssh). Go sit at the mall or at a Barnes & Noble or at a Starbucks and just watch and listen. Make up a story in your head about the people you see and keep asking "what if" and "why" until it gets interesting.

For example: Say a woman walks in wearing a business suit, juggling her briefcase, her purse, her keys, a laptop bag, etc. Maybe she's flustered. Why is she so off kilter? Is she running late for a meeting? Who is she meeting? What kind of coffee is she ordering? What if she's meeting the guy in the corner table that's wearing saggy jeans and a sideways cap and is her complete opposite? What if they're working together? What if he's into her but know he never has a chance at someone so classy when he's so plain? What if SHE's into HIM instead? Or what if he's actually the rich guy and she's a lower class citizen trying to up her status for him by dressing fancy with that suit she waited 6 months to save for off the Macy's super-clearance rack...

You see how fun this can be!! :)

There are ideas everywhere if we stop to look. I think sometimes as writers we pressure ourselves into thinking "my next idea has to be the next Great American novel" and that pressure dries up our creativity. Don't think your plot has to be amazing. Pick something that works for you and interests you and holds YOUR attention and chances are, the passion you then put into the story will be contagious to editors/agents and readers. (unless you have some strong obsession with, say navel lint. That's probably not going to be a winner...) =P

The other side of this I'd like to comment on is the ultimate Well in our lives. As Christian writers, sometimes what we need in order to refill is to go back to the Living Water Himself and dive in. When you get stuck writing, analyze your spiritual life - maybe you've subconsciously drifted a little from Jesus in the hustle and bustle of the everyday. Maybe you stopped praying before you sat down at your laptop. Maybe you need to let HIM tell you what to write. If your heart truly desires to write for the Lord, He will help you. Read His Word, the Bible. Let Him speak. (And for writers, that's hard because that means we have to hush and listen) =)

Dip into the Living Water today and see if maybe that's what you need to get the well of creativity back up and running!

Monday, March 14, 2011

What to do with rejection letters

I'm sure y'all have seen this, but it's just too cute not to share!

Ha! And while I don't necessarily advocate ripping up all of your rejection letters, the theory is a good one! Take what you can learn from it and then move on - don't dwell!!

Hope you guys had a great Monday!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Faith Factor

Wow, what a week it's been on Scribble Chicks with some truly fantastic posts.

I loved Betsy's encouragement to persevere (something I truly needed to hear this week). I also thought Erynn did such a fabulous job of answering so many valuable questions in a single post. Plus, I was so excited to learn that B.J. is expecting...I'm guessing that baby is going to have some serious creative genes and a great sense of humor to boot. A heartfelt congrats, my friend.

Plus, I absolutely love how y'all are asking all kinds of wonderfully insightful questions about the writing process. Even when you've been doing it a while, it's still a learning process. In fact, I feel like I'm getting a continuing education on how it all works, and I've been a professional writer for a decade. And thanks to our ever-changing publishing world where eBooks, social networking, do-it-yourself marketing and the like are an integral part of what we're doing, too, it's not always easy to keep up. That's precisely why it's so great to learn from your peers.

So trust me, every single post here is great food for thought for me, too!

Now as we round out the week, I thought I'd tackle the questions that Savannah asked: Do you chicks consciously think about how much Bible and talk about faith you put it in your books? Do you ever hear that a non-Christian has read your book?

I'm sure every "chick" would answer this question a bit differently, but here's how I approach it. For me, the discussion of faith has to happen organically. I can't force it, and I definitely don't want to preach to my readers or have a specific faith agenda. Chances are, there will not be an altar call at the end of something I've written, unless that's what naturally seemed appropriate for the story I was telling. So when I sought out a publisher, I made sure I was teaming up with someone who "got that" about me.

My faith in Jesus means more to me than anything, and I could never trivialize it for the sake of selling books or for a story that "fit" with what a certain publisher is looking for. Instead, I love exploring the nuances of faith in the complicated world we live in and how that plays out in the lives of real-life people—like a travel writer named Sydney Alexander, a frazzled school teacher named Kristin or a fun-loving skeptic named Justin who can't come to terms with the idea that Jesus could actually love him. I've never been interested in simply preaching to the choir, and really, this is the perfect segue into the next part of your question.

Yes, many non-Christians have read my books, and I can't tell you how happy this makes me. In fact, nothing makes me more giddy than when I hear that one of my novels was actually "surprisingly good," even though the protagonist was (gasp!) a Christian.

Many of the book signings I've done haven't been in a Christian bookstore. They've been at the local Barnes & Noble or Borders (R.I.P.), and if it was my favorite kind of signing, I wasn't even sitting in the Christian fiction section. I was in the front of the store, talking to anyone and everyone who'd look my way—believers in Jesus, people who've never stepped foot in a church, teenagers who were more interested in the Reese's peanut butter cups sitting in my candy dish (and really, who can blame them?) than actually buying a book, etc.

And trust me, with a subtitle like "Confessions of a Christian Serial Dater" on my first book, everyone quickly knew where I was coming from. They may have even made assumptions that it was second rate or simply an excuse to proselytize. But once people realized that I wasn't interested in pushing my faith down their throats and saw that my book had an appealing cover (it's pink and adorable, who could resist?), they were still willing to give me a chance.

In many cases, believers and unbelievers alike have e-mailed to say they enjoyed my writing, particularly because of the relatable struggles of romantic relationships. And while I'm sure my perspective was a bit counter-cultural to some readers (What? No sex before marriage?), I think they still respected the effort because I wasn't writing with the intention to convert. I mean if that happened, I'd be thrilled of course. But I wasn't trying to shove exactly 37 Bible verses in or making sure I covered this particular theological argument.

I think if we're authentic with what we're writing, everyone—in and outside of the Christian faith—will resonate with something we're saying. And I think that's exactly what Christian fiction should be. It shouldn't be just entertainment for Christians or an opportunity to potentially preach to those who don't already have a relationship with God. Instead (and again, just my .02 here), I think we should focus on telling the best stories we possibly can—stories that are inspired by the Creator of the universe because we all have a little bit of that Creator inside of us.

So however that ends up looking to you (107 Bible verses or none at all), that's exactly how it should be.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Making a living as an author - impossible, or just really, really hard?

Well obviously making a living as an author is not IMPOSSIBLE because people do it. People other than J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyer, you ask? Yes. Look at famous names in Christian Fiction. Robin Jones Gunn. Susan May Warren. Rachel Hauck. Colleen Coble. Granted, we don't know for sure that they don't also depend on their husband's salaries to get by, but they do very well for themselves. That's a fact.

This is due to several things - perseverence, productivity, and God's grace.

I'm not about to think for a minute that God didn't shower those ladies with grace and mercy, allowing them to live their dreams and reach souls for Him. He was involved with that, to be sure. But they also did their part. They didn't sit around and wait for their big break. They dove in. They wrote books. They submitted. They got rejected. They joined crit groups. They tried again. They went to conferences and took workshops. They got agents. They tried again. They published books and then published more books and built a platform and an audience. They created blogs and websites and read craft books to keep learning new trends. They went on book tours and held book signings and weren't afraid to promote themselves. They taught at conferences, kept reading books, kept improving their craft, kept learning and growing and trying.

It's a never ending process. If you aren't willing and able to dive into that process and KEEP MOMENTUM, then your dream of making a living through writing isn't going to be just hard. It's going to be impossible.

Here's the thing. Right now, I'm waiting to hear back on a proposal for my 6th novel with Love Inspired. I just contracted a YA novel with Barbour and am waiting to hear back on the series proposal we sent afterward. I published several years ago with The Wild Rose Press (White Rose) in both print and multiple e-book stories. I've been a part of several non fiction compilations. I teach at conferences and I speak at churches. I do booksignings. I have a blog and a website and read books and attend conferences and network. I freelance for my local newspaper.

Am I making a living on my writing alone?

HECK no. :)

I hope to one day get there (and so does my hubby. haha!) But I know that everything is relative. EVERYTHING is varied. The editors are going to vary. Release dates are going to vary. Sales are going to vary. (based on everything from content to literally just being a certain month of the year. For example, my February release A VALENTINE'S WISH sold in the top half of its listings for that month with my publisher. So did my April release RODEO SWEETHEART. I expected the earnings to match - but they didn't. One doubled the other because the sales for each month were not anywhere near the same. That was an eye-opener.)

It's going to take time. A lot of time. The authors I mentioned above earned it. They didn't just hop on the train and ride to success. It took years. Not just a few, but a lot. They never gave up - that's a key factor.

Don't get discouraged and think this will never happen for you. It definitely can. But its not going to be fast and its not going to be easy (unless you really do get a one hit wonder series contract like Meyer and Rowling and soar to the sky!) Face reality and plan for reality, but don't be afraid to keep dreaming. If you don't set little goals for yourself, you'll never come close to reaching your big one.

Basically, what it comes down to is one fact - keep writing! If you don't write, you don't have anything to show at a conference or submit to an agent. If you don't write, your agent won't have anything to submit to a publisher, so nothing gets published. If you don't have one book published, you won't have five published. Or ten. And if you don't have books published, then obviously you're not on your way to making a living as a writer :)

So go write!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Two Magic P's

And I'm not talking about potty-training here, folks.

Not long ago I shared about my dreams - about waiting - about patience. I believe Patience is the first "P" that's essential in publishing, ladies. But -- and this is a big "butt" -- let's not mistake patience for apathy. 

Being patient doesn't mean leaving our manuscript on our computer because we received a rejection. It doesn't mean sitting on that "big butt". It doesn't mean waiting for opportunities to find us.

It does mean being Proactive (our second "P"). It does mean learning -- is there something I can do to improve the manuscript? Are there other publishers or agents who might be interested? Am I taking every opportunity to use my writing to reach my target audience?

Go easy, though. Break proactivity into small steps so you won't be overwhelmed. For instance:

  • Do a Google search for a Website that reaches your audience - then submit work to that website. 
  • Dedicate time to write, write, write and revise, revise, revise.
  • Look for a church group that needs a speaker for your demographic. Reach as many people as you can with the message God has given you - but do it in small steps that are manageable for you.
I know how frustrating it can be to be in the waiting  period -- both with publishing and with other life dreams. I shared with you before Christmas about how hard it was for two years to see one pink line on countless pregnancy tests.

About seven weeks ago, however, everything changed. After two years of patience and proactivity (finding out what was wrong with my body and what to do about it) -- I am thrilled to tell you we are welcoming a new little life into the world in September.

God believes in you. He believes in your dreams. All He asks is that you be patient and proactive.

Lilypie Pregnancy tickers

Monday, March 7, 2011

Questions :)

Y'all had lots of great questions last week!! :) I'm going to try and answer a couple of them today!

Like you Erynn, one thing I tend to do is rewrite past scenes. So I'll have something written on the comp & have an idea of how to change a scene. I scribble down on my phone or alphasmart & then when I get to my computer I don't know where to put it? Do you leave the rewritten scene in a new file or set it just before or after that first scene in your rough draft?

Typically, I'll rewrite scenes as I'm reading back through them. Every day before I start working on the next scene in my book, I read back through what I wrote the day before. It gets me back in the voice of the character and it helps me see any mistakes I might have made.

If it's a huge chunk of writing that I'm tossing out, I'll open a new document and paste the scene that is going to be tossed over there. That way, if I change my mind, I still have the original scene.

So, I would replace the original scene in your rough draft, but be sure to save the original to a new document. Just in case. :)

I seem to have the problem of getting ideas at inopportune times & scribbling something down for later. Then when I have time to write more it seems like a lame idea. I never know what to do with that?

We suffer from the same ailment, my friend. I'm the QUEEN of lame ideas. I think I have the curse of coming up with 54 different ideas a day and I have to admit that the majority of those ideas are pretty bad.

So, what do you do with those?

By all means, save them. Write them in the same document, put them all in the same file box, or keep them as a stack of sticky notes. You never know when your idea about a 180-year-old man who is trapped in a 17-year-old body that sparkles in the sunlight and munches on freshly caught bear, who then falls in love with a 16-year-old girl will become an international bestseller. :)

Or, you might be going back through those ideas someday and realize that with a little bit of tweaking, that seemingly "lame" idea could become a really fun story. If nothing else, they'll provide lots of fun entertainment when you need a little writing-self-esteem pick-me-up someday when you've published many novels and you'll be excited to see how far your ideas have come since then.

I'll answer the rest of your questions next week! If you've got any more for us over here at Scribble Chicks, Inc. feel free to leave them in the comments! :)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Because sometimes you just gotta laugh...

Sometimes, you just need a laugh. And as writers, we need extra laughs because otherwise we'd just cry a lot ;)

So for your laughing, giggling, snorting, eye-rolling pleasure...enjoy!

* * * * * *

A visitor to a certain college paused to admire the new Hemingway Hall that had been built on campus."It's a pleasure to see a building named for Ernest Hemingway," he said."Actually," said his guide, "it's named for Joshua Hemingway. No relation."The visitor was astonished. "Was Joshua Hemingway a writer, also?""Yes, indeed," said his guide. "He wrote a check."

There was once a young man who, in his youth, professed his desire to become a great writer.
When asked to define great, he said, "I want to write stuff that the whole world will read, stuff that people will react to on a truly emotional level, stuff that will make them scream, cry, howl in pain and anger!" He now works for Microsoft writing error messages.

A screenwriter comes home to a burned down house. His sobbing and slightly-singed wife is standing outside. “What happened, honey?” the man asks.“Oh, John, it was terrible,” she weeps. “I was cooking, the phone rang. It was your agent. Because I was on the phone, I didn’t notice the stove was on fire. It went up in second. Everything is gone. I nearly didn’t make it out of the house. Poor Fluffy is--”“Wait, wait. Back up a minute,” The man says. “My agent called?”

How many screenwriters does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: Ten.
1st draft. Hero changes light bulb.
2nd draft. Villain changes light bulb.
3rd draft. Hero stops villain from changing light bulb. Villain falls to death.
4th draft. Lose the light bulb.
5th draft. Light bulb back in. Fluorescent instead of tungsten.
6th draft. Villain breaks bulb, uses it to kill hero's mentor.
7th draft. Fluorescent not working. Back to tungsten.
8th draft. Hero forces villain to eat light bulb.
9th draft. Hero laments loss of light bulb. Doesn't change it.
10th draft. Hero changes light bulb.

I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, "Where's the self-help section?" She answered, "If I tell you, it will defeat the purpose."

A hungry lion was roaming through the jungle looking for something to eat. He came across two men. One was sitting under a tree reading a book; the other was typing away on his typewriter. The lion quickly pounced on the man reading the book and devoured him. Even the king of the jungle knows that readers digest and writers cramp.