Thursday, June 28, 2012

Marching to Your Own Happy Beat

This picture made me laugh because I can definitely relate to that big fuzzy brown bird in the background. In fact, it's pretty much the perfect lead-in to Tonya's question...

What do you do if you don't really have any reader/writer friends who get your writing?

Remember that "Sesame Street" song (and yes, I realize I could be dating myself here) that goes "one of these things is not like the other/One of these things just doesn't belong/Can you tell which thing is not like the others/By the time I finish my song?"

Well, even at a very young age, I resonated with those words because I often felt like that in my own family.

Now don't get me wrong, I absolutely adore my family. Each and every member is really nothing short of fantastic, and I'm not just saying that because we share a bloodline. But sometimes I still couldn't help wondering if I was switched at birth or something because my interests, especially the artistic ones, were just so different from everyone else's in my family.

Not only did I love theater, impressionist art and presenting any baked good I made in a fancy schmanzy way (all things that made my Mom say, "I don't know where you came from" on occasion), but I devoured books like nobody's business, was constantly tinkering with and developing my "voice." Further cementing my "odd duck" status was being that weird person who enjoyed flipping through the dictionary in search of new words that I could incorporate into my stories. 

And whenever I'd finish something new, whether it was a short story or a newspaper article for our school publications,  I couldn't wait for my family to read it. Trouble is, they liked pretty much everything I wrote but I was never sure they actually "got" it. 

The thing is, as writers, we can't help wanting affirmation, especially from the ones we love. After all, as much as we love writing, it can sometimes feel like a lonely endeavor and knowing that someone else digs what you're doing sometimes provides that added momentum. But at the end of the day, not everyone, even those we love the most, is going to resonate with what we write—or maybe he/she doesn't even have the capacity to.

That said, everybody's got a gut instinct. If you love to write, have a curiosity about the world and something to say, you simply have to trust that and march happily to your own beat. And I'm guessing somewhere along the way, you'll find that person who "gets" what you—and what you're writing. For me, that was fulfilled at the ripe ol' age of 28 when I met my husband Will, a fellow writer with a voice that's totally his own, too.

In the meantime, you've always got a slew of perfect forums to test out your voice  as you continue to move forward on your work in progress. With your blog, Facebook page, Twitter account and whatever other social networking mediums are hip at the moment, you can give people a sense of what makes you tick and build your audience, too. 

Sounds like a win-win, right?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lighten up! :)

A reader recently asked:

Any tips on nor taking it so seriously? I think my want to write a really good book is getting in the way of learning to write. I don't want to do it wrong or devote so much time to something that is bad. I notice I get stressed over the "right"choice most of the time. The feelings of "this is really good don't last long" so I end up stopping and getting frustrated because I'm not getting anywhere.

This is a tricky balance! No, we shouldn't take our writing so seriously that we shut ourselves down before we even get a chance to show some literary genius. But we shouldn't be flippant about our passion or calling or ministry, or whatever writing is to you, either.
Like most things in this industry, there's a fine line to balance on. This is easier though than others, because this step is all "behind the scenes" so getting it wrong here doesn't burn any editor/agent/reputation bridges ;)
My thoughts: Give yourself a chance. You are your own worst critic (for now. haha Once you're published, your own worst critics will pop up on Amazon) Don't sell your story or your writing ability short. But at the same time, don't think you know it all from the beginning and assume you're the next Jane Austen in modern day clothing.
My advice is to get feedback. Run your idea or first chapters or whatever you have by a trusted friend or critique partner - before you start bashing your story to death. Someone who loves to read and will give an honest and unbiased opinion! :)
KEEP LEARNING. Take classes. Sign up at your local college for creative writing courses this summer. Join online groups like the ACFW ( to network with other writers, attend conferences and take online courses on a regular basis. If you make these efforts, you WILL grow. You won't be able to help it.
Also, you have to FINISH WRITING A BOOK. You will never be taken seriously by an agent or editor if you can't finish a manuscript. I'm not kidding. That's on almost every legit agent or editor's list of "musts" - you must finish a novel before submitting to them. Because anyone can start a book, not everyone can finish one. So go with an idea you love, and FINISH. By the time you get to the end, chances are, you will love your story.
And lastly, read what you write. The more you asborb publised, quality novels in your genre, the more you will start to subconsciously apply the style to your own writing. (style as in, proper sentence structure, lack of dialogue tags, using natural dialogue, pacing, etc.)
What do y'all think? Any more advice for our dear Reader here?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Keep Your Routine

Some of you laughed when you saw the title.

The kids are home from school.

It's the middle of the summer.

You have been asked 25 times if there are any more purple popsicles. In the last 25 minutes.

Or--you don't have any kids--but the heat is sapping your resolve to do something amazing with your writing this summer.

Can I just say I hear ya?

Been there. Living there. Want to offer hope {to myself as well as you}.

I'm not saying we have to keep our usual routines this summer. I'm saying we can save the sanity by setting a new routine that includes doing what we love in short increments.

{You will get more done in fifteen minutes of writing than you think. A heck of a lot more than you will in 0 minutes of writing.}

Same goal, same time of day, just fifteen minutes.

Will you accept the 15 minute challenge? Tell us about it in the comments!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What Are You Reading This Summer?

One of my favorite memories of being a kid in small-town Wisconsin was checking out books from our local library and reading to my heart's content. While everyone else was swimming and tanning and spending every second possible outside, my nose was always in a book.

Of course, my summer reading experience wasn't complete without a tall glass of icy lemonade by my side—even if I was reading indoors, it was a must.

And it was during those hot summer months (and yes, it gets quite balmy in Wisconsin, too) when I discovered Judy Blume and Jane Austen, and later on, "The Babysitter's Club" series and Robin Jones Gunn. I'd read books about places I wanted to travel to someday and biographies of the professional athletes I liked 'cause I was really into sports at the time.

Funny thing was, no matter what I was reading, my thoughts would inevitably turn to the book I wanted to write someday. In fact, I'd get downright giddy thinking about my byline on the front cover of my very own novel—and what font it would be in (yeah, I'm a giant dork).

Reading is such an important part of writing, and I still credit my summer adventures in reading to why I love to write so much today.

So with that said, I'm dying to know...what are you reading in your downtime this summer and has it inspired your writing?

I'm reading a new novel called "Apron Anxiety" at the moment and am totally loving it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ariel needs a makeover!

So I finally saw the 2011 version of FOOTLOOSE the other night. And learned a big lesson on character development. Some of you might have seen my facebook rant on the topic ;)

I loved the movie, thought it was really fun. I'm a sucker for a dance flick since I have zero rhythm. I'm about as good at dancing as I am at math. bahahaha. Yeah.

I thought Ren was awesome. Great character, good sympathy, well developed. We saw his rebellious side but we understood him. He had more gold in his heart than brass. He was solid. And the boy could move.

But Ariel. Oy. Julianne Hough did a fabulous job portraying the angsty teen role, but this was terrible character set up. First, her reasons for rebelling didn't match the method of rebellion. She was given zero sympathy because other than knowing her brother died three years ago, we had zero insight into her attitude.

Plus, Julianne Hough didn't dance. She moved suggestively and wiggled her barely-denim-clad booty. Sigh.

Ariel, gorgeous as she was, needed a makeover. Internally. I was actually a little upset/disappointed when she got the guy in the end because I didn't think she deserved him. I think she made a turning point and was headed in the right direction at the end of the flick, but that change was so new and so 180 that it needed time to germinate and grow. Be real. Believable. Personally, the girl needed another entire movie to get her act together before she deserved Ren.

Take what you can from this guys, and apply it to your writing. Make your characters real. Relatable. Have the reader feel sympathy for your harder-crusted characters. Give them reason to be the way they are. I actually felt more sympathy and understanding for the evil Queen in Snowwhite and the Huntsman than I did for Ariel and her immature shenanigans. Because they showed it to us. Give your readers insight into your characters. And to do that, remember, you have to know them first.

They got it right with the Queen. They got it right with Ren. They missed the mark by a mile with poor Ariel.

Personally, I think the nerdy/best friend/goofy/sidekick guy totally made the movie anyway ;)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Having it all Together

I was minding my own business, driving to church, when suddenly I heard the familiar stutter. It was the engine, and it was talking to me:

Feed me.

Only I was miles from the gas station, I was wearing a pair of red heels completely not conducive to walking, and it was ninety-five degrees outside.

Easy, right? Make a phone call. Only (and I kid you not) it was at this very second my phone began to scream death chants at me. I’m dying! I’m dying! Beep. Beep.

I felt like I was on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, but with only one lifeline. I knew there was enough juice to make exactly one phone call as I veered to the side of the road and searched for the hazards on my husband’s Jeep.

(Did I mention it’s my husband’s Jeep? That the gas gauge is broken? That he apparently determines when it needs fuel by “how it feels when the engine cranks”? Nice.)

So I called a deacon from church. I listened hopefully as his phone rang again… and again… and again… finally to be answered. Only he was at the beach. Nowhere near my stranded car.


My deacon-friend blurted the church number quickly enough for me to hang up and dial the pastor’s wife, who sent a search party to the highway just as my phone breathed its last.

(And why did I not call my husband? He also was having a rough night and accidentally left his phone on the kitchen table.)

I arrived at church in time to teach four out of my five classes. But it wasn’t pretty. I was hot, I was sticky, and I was in a mood. Also, I’m pretty sure four out of every five kids won’t be coming back to VBS tonight because of the gas fumes that were leaking from my pores.

I tell you this story as a confession:

I used to obsess about “having it together”.

I couldn’t teach, couldn’t write, couldn’t contribute unless my life resembled a perfectly pristine, starched, white shirt.

No wrinkles.

No flaws.
No mistakes.

I think it’s something we do as Christians; we don’t want people to know when we screw up. We don’t want to admit we don’t have it all together.

But God has something different to say about us. He wants us to do our best—all for His glory—but trust that He uses our weaknesses as strengths for His kingdom.

1 Corinthians 1 says, But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise;

God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not —to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

Feeling flawed today? Like you don’t have it all together?

Go ahead. Breathe deeply. Let it go. God might just choose to use that to further His kingdom.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A LONG month

First off, I have to apologize for being absent the last three weeks. If you follow my personal blog, you know that we have had a very emotional couple of weeks.

To make a long story short, we found out we were pregnant a little over a month ago and about three weeks ago, I started spotting. We went to the ER late one night, saw our baby's heartbeat, went home, went back to our doctor five days later and were told that our baby's heart had stopped, there was no growth and we should go home and wait for a miscarriage.

I continued to bleed and we cried and grieved. We had a follow-up appointment a week later to see if the miscarriage was complete and instead found a baby with a HEARTBEAT and that the baby had grown. Oh friends, it was such a miracle!! I am still in shock!

So, all that to say, I'm officially on semi-bed-rest. I'm still spotting and bleeding and we would so appreciate your prayers for our little miracle baby!!

I will be back next week (I promise!) with something writing related, but I did want to update the Scribble Chick family on what was going on. Please keep us in your prayers!! And please leave your prayer requests for us as well - the biggest and best honor about being a part of this Christian family is that we can pray for each other!!

Love to you all,


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I is for Ideas....whatcha got? :)

A reader recently asked two questions, which I shall tackle here :)

1. What do you do if you have an idea that you feel is beyond your skills to do it justice? Save if & work on simpler things?

This is a common issue among new writers. And you know what's it called? DOUBT. Or maybe FEAR. Or you could label it INSECURITY. None of those things come from God. Therefore, ignore them. It's good to be humble and realistic about the current level of expertise you have as a writer. I'm not saying start poking your chest out and bragging about how you could tackle any subject, any time, anywhere. ;)  But there's a fine middle ground where you need to camp out. My opinion on this question is that you can do anything you put your mind to. A high concept story is a powerful story - and yes, it needs to be done well. But that doesn't mean don't even try! It means pour your heart into it. Keep learning the craft of writing. Get critique partners who know more than you to edit for you and teach you. Take classes and learn learn learn. And whatever the topic is on, research it. Make sure it reads as realistic. An idea beyond your skill doesn't exist. Rather, you have an idea that is so awesome, you need to make sure you give it the full attention it deserves. Don't sell yourself short! :)

Do you think Stephanie Meyer or JK Rowling as new authors pondered their ideas and then said "Nahh. I'm not good enough yet?" Nope. They started writing. And are now household names.

It can definitely be argued that Stephanie Meyer's writing style is amateurish, but a lot of that is the editorial's fault and rush job, as well. So whatever. But you get my point :)

2. Do you think a beginner should focus on only one story at a time?

I would say yes, as a general rule. Simply because you want to give each story your full attention. A half-hearted story is definitely not going to get published, maybe not even get FINISHED. So give each of your "babies" the time they deserve. If you get another idea in the middle of your first, jot down the main points of it so you can remember it later, then dive back into Project 1.

Sometimes in a career, though, authors have to learn how to juggle writing a new WIP, editing their previous, and marketing their previous before that one, that just released. So it's good to learn early on how to manage your time and juggle multiple books at once, but rarely (unless under rare deadline crossover between two publishers) do authors literally WRITE two books at once.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How to Find an Agent

Pretty much anyone can get an agent. The question is—how do you find a really good one?

Here are a few things you might want to consider:

1) Betsy pointed this out sometime ago, but it's worth repeating: Having a bad literary agent is worse than having no literary agent. 

 A representative who bullies publishers or is simply unprofessional will not only ruin his name—he will also ruin yours. It’s worth the time to do your research (visit preditors and editors for more information).

2. Again, worth repeating: a good agent will never charge a fee to consider your work; she has enough business of actual money-making clients to support her business already.

3. You will have a better chance of snagging an agent’s attention if you get a referral from someone he respects.

4. You do not get this referral by stalking, sucking up to, or harassing the agent’s clients. (But you already knew that.)

5. You get this referral by making an IRRESISTIBLE product and developing GENUINE relationships.

6. Show off your skills on blogs, in your critique group {you don’t have one—no excuses! There are plenty online!}, or at conferences {don’t have the $$? No excuses—there are scholarships!}.

6. Don’t stress about the referral. Yes, it’s nice to have one. But when it comes down to it, your work speaks for itself. Is yours saying what you want it to?

{Let’s talk about that next Tuesday. What is your book REALLY saying about you?}

Bekah is the author of The Bare Naked Truth about Waiting, the book that takes a satirical stab at the lies girls believe about sex (Zondervan, 2013). Bekah likes to help new writers find their niche like so many others have helped her find hers. Questions? Write Bekah.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

That Don't Impress Me Much!

For reasons unbeknownst to me, especially since I like country music about as much as the requisite root canal, I have Shania Twain's "That Don't Impress Me Much!" stuck in my head this morning.

Strangely enough, though, the sentiment of that rather insipid song is a pretty perfect lead-in to tackling the question from Gracie, one of our Scribble Chicks readers.

She asked...With the first book that you submitted/put forward I'm sure that you doubted your ability. Do you look back on that first attempt now and feel embarrassed at what you were trying to sell? How do you know that your writing is good enough? How do you separate thinking your writing is boring (because you've read over that particular scene a thousand times already) and realizing that, hey, the first 40 pages really are yawn worthy?

Speaking from personal experience, I knew the first draft of what eventually became my debut novel, Around the World in 80 Dates, lacked a certain something after I gave it a thorough read-through. There were scenes that just weren't gelling for me, characters that needed a little more oomph (or better yet, deserved the ax for their sheer lack of memorability) and dialogue that needed tweaking. I also needed better pacing in spots and a couple of minor plot overhauls.

So how did I arrive at these conclusions exactly? Well, first off, I didn't try and have any perspective mere moments after typing "The End." In fact, I stepped away from my manuscript for probably three weeks before revisiting the story I'd dedicated the better part of a year to. As writers we can't help being close and protective of our own words, but with a little distance, it's far easier to be objective.

Also, something that helped me discern the quality of my work is that I'm also a reader. You've probably heard this a million times already, but that's because it's true...good writers are big-time readers. Think about your favorite book and what you liked about it. Chances are, it wasn't a plodding, boring storyline with dull, lifeless characters, no real resolution and lots of passive verbs.

No, I'm guessing your favorite novel is nothing short of a masterpiece because the author whisked you away to a captivating new world that you had a connection to. It's a story where the characters feel like real living, breathing humans, not cardboard cutouts, and the story's accompanying themes resonate on a deep personal level. And when a book you're reading is something truly extraordinary, the turns of phrase will be so dynamite that you wish you'd thought of them yourself.

If you aren't feeling those things when you're reading your own work, it might not be ready for the masses just yet. But it's also important to remember that you won't always be impressed with something you've read again and again and again. You might be thinking "That don't impress me much," and that's because anything, no matter how wonderful, is a drag if we're too familiar with it.

And if that's the case, you might consider passing your draft along to a trusted but honest friend, family member or editor for his/her feedback. Now I can't stress this enough, but make sure that person is someone you respect, someone who gets you and has your best interests at heart. While it's never easy hearing negative things about your work (and trust me, you will have to grow a thick skin over's just part of the process), these comments ultimately help propel us forward. Perhaps, the story you merely thought was "good" will become something "great," which is precisely what every writer wants, right?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hurry Up and Wait

We hear it said often that we should make the most of every opportunity. Then as Christians we're taught to wait on God's timing. What does that mean? Especially when it comes to our writing careers?

For me, I think it means a balance of both.

Waiting on God's timing doesn't mean sitting still and doing nothing. We still have to act. Sure, God is CAPABLE of getting us published without our ever sending a submission out but really - I don't think that's going to happen :) 

He WANTS us to move forward in faith. To do our best job, turn it over in His hands, and hit send. That's when we wait on His timing - when we've done our part, to the best our of ability, and to the glory of our Lord. And trust in His will for the outcome. And His timing.

Ministry to me is a partnership with God. It's being a vessel to be used of the kingdom. That means we have to try.

And remember - just as hesitating isn't productive - rushing God isn't productive either. Don't slap something together and send it off because you're eager to see your name in print. Don't slap something together and send it off because you need a paycheck or because you're giving it one last shot before giving up. Sure, God can use even a half-hearted attempt but how many more blessings will abound for everyone if we gave it our full heart?? What if your half-hearted book did get published, because it was God's will for that story, but you end up only reaching half the readers you would have if you had given it your all?


Don't cheat God. Don't cheat yourself. Do your best work, putting aside the fears and doubts and the whispers that Satan loves to utter, and focus on God's will. God's timing. Be sensitive to His Spirit leading you. Maybe you have a story all ready to submit, but you feel an urging to wait. In that case, WAIT! But don't wait because of fear of rejection or fear of failure. Big difference there, guys.

What is your struggle? Do you find yourself rushing God or lagging behind?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Is it Worth the Cost?

Guys. (Or should I say chicks?)

I am on a six month sugar fast. 2 weeks down, 24 to go. It’s actually turned out to be fun.


There have been cravings. I have made one birthday cake for my boy, one shower cake for my friend, and one set of cupcakes for a good cause… and not even licked my fingers. That’s right…

I’m insane.

Insanely focused.

I’m taking these extreme measures because I want to be healthy and have energy for my career and my family. Not everyone responds to sugar in the dangerous way my body does, so not everyone has to be so extreme. But my point is…

There are things in life we don’t always want to do—but we do them because the end result is worth the sacrifice.

Sometimes people tell me they couldn’t be writers because they can’t do the sacrifice—they aren’t good at radio interviews, or don’t like to have their work edited, or they can’t stand rejection…

Wanna know the truth? There aren’t many of us who love our first few radio interviews. Not many of us are excited about getting our edits back. And I don’t know anyone who does a happy dance at the sight of one more rejection letter…

So I have to ask—are these things worth pushing through for the end result? Do you have an amazing story God wants to tell through you?

Count the cost. Not everyone thinks it’s worth it. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But after some soul-searching, if the answer is yes… if you know there’s a story inside of you that’s going crazy to get out… you know you’re ready.

And nothing will stop you.