Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Holy Time Warps

Lately, I've had to rediscover my methods of time management.

I started a part time job outside of the home, and while the hours are great in regards to my child (I am still able to drop her off and pick her up at preschool, meaning no one else is inconvenienced to do so) - it's not great for writing. Or for the gym. Or for the other things I WANT or NEED to do. And because I get home with her in the afternoons and we've been apart all day, she wants to spend time with me and I'm staring at my growing list of obligations thinking "wow - and that's not even allowing for time on my novel" (which uh has a deadline).

What's a girl to do?

Are you in this position? Wanting to write, needing to write, wanting to make a deadline that is self imposed or otherwise, and find yourself flat OUT of time? It's tricky, because sometimes we think we have no time and we do, and other times, we really do just have too many obligations and have no time to spare.

I'm sort of in the middle right now. I DO have a lot of responsibilities (2 part time jobs from home, 1 outside the home for 4 hours a day, a critique/editing service on the side, all the housecleaning/cooking, sole care-giving for my kid, book deadlines, maintaining several blogs, book marketing, bill paying, playing taxi and keeping my little girl's schedule of Wed Night church and her once a week ballet class, etc.)

Some of those responsibilities (like house cleaning) is a personal priority and choice - but isn't necessary to top the list. Unfortunately. We CAN survive if the laundry stays piled up or the dishes tower in the sink. My OCD neat freak self just has to get over it. Other responsibilities (like deadlines for the newspaper I freelance for, or working my other from home part time job that pays me monthly) HAVE to go to the top of the list.

And try explaining any of that to the four year old who just wants to snuggle and watch cartoons with Mama.

I've been riding an endless cycle of guilt trips lately - guilt over not being enough to spread around, guilt over not feeling as if I can give anything up - and you know what I've realized?

When you make time for God, you get holy time warps.

Seriously. I don't know if this is a supernatural feat or if it's simply a matter of clearing your heart/head for priorities to shine through, for focus to shift, and for perspective to change but hey - regardless, I'll take it :)

When we make time for devotional reading, for quiet time, for worship, for prayer - we win. The clock fails. Sure, there are still days of stress and feeling overwhelmed, but when I'm consistent in this commitment, everything somehow smooths out and gets done. I feel less stressed, I do more work with a clear head, and I can focus.

Some things simply can't be written in a How To book, because they're just not that complicated. Too busy? Well, here's my How To Make More Time book, in a single sentence:

Seek Jesus.

Why don't you try it this week and see? Report back to me please! Either here or on my personal email,  I'd love to see how God blesses your time in exchange for your obedience :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

If You Build It--Will They Come?

If you don't have a blog, and you want to write non-fiction books, it's probably time to start getting your name out there so you can get noticed.

"I have a blog, but no one reads it," someone told me recently.

No. They won't. Unless you get the word out that your blog exists.

Here are a few simple ways to do just that:

1) Comment on similar blogs. Compliment people sincerely on their posts. Readers will click over to check out your site.

2) Ask to guest-blog on similar sites. Bloggers are usually looking for someone to share useful information, and again, people will click your bio to see your site.

3) Use Twitter and Facebook to promote your posts. Just don't do it every day, or people will stop clicking. (Join in relevant conversation; don't just promote yourself).

You can do all this in less than thirty minutes a day. It's also great practice with deadlines for your writing.

Do you have a blog? How often do you post?

Bekah Hamrick Martin is a blogger at the Bare Naked Truth: What You Missed in Sex Ed (and Other General Blogginess). 

Monday, November 26, 2012

It's the Christmas season...

...which, if you're like me, is usually the time when all of the grand, wonderful writing goals I set for myself fall somewhere by the wayside until all the decorations, stockings and pecan pie have been put away until next year.

So, how can we make sure we are still continuing toward those goals even during this magical, I-should-just-stare-at-the-Christmas-tree-beauty time of year?

1. Set a schedule and stick to it.

It sounds easy, but it's hard to do. My normal writing time is for a little over two hours every weekday during my son's nap time. But you have NO idea how easy it is to find other things to do during that time. Dinner prep, laundry, cleaning up the house, Pinterest, you name it and it's a distraction for me.

2. Set small goals and then reward yourself when you reach them.

Yes, this is also used in puppy obedience school, but it works for me so I figured I'd share it. ;) When I sit down to write, I try to set tiny "mile markers" of sorts. Every thousand words, I get up and stretch or get a snack or spend a few minutes on Facebook or Pinterest or whatever other things I need to do that day. Then I sit down and start writing again until I reach another goal.

3. Keep it reasonable.

No, you most likely are not going to be able to write a complete novel in the month of December. But maybe you can aim for a fraction of what you normally do and if (or when) you complete more, that's just another excuse to celebrate with more pecan pie, right? ;) Don't try to overdo - the idea is to enjoy the season celebrating Christ's birth, not be completely stressed out by adding unrealistic deadlines to yourself.

What are you hoping to accomplish (or not accomplish!) this Christmas season?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving, Y'all!

Happy Thanksgiving, fellow writers!

And while we're on the subject of giving thanks, I can't help thinking of those responsible for my writing career...all my clients, editors, publishers, the authors who write the books that inspire me, the people kind enough to read my novels and articles, the lovely folks who've encouraged me along the way...

I'm eternally grateful.

And thank you, Scribble Chicks readers for joining us for the ride. We love your questions, the dialogue and having a place to talk about writing. It totally rocks and so do you! Hope you have an incredible, restful holiday with your family and friends.

So excited for turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie,
:) Christa

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Biggest pet peeve?

What is your biggest pet peeve in novels when you're just reading? What jolts you out of the story, or interrupts the flow, or makes you want to put the book down or even throw it across the room? What red flags raise in your head in regards to amateur writing?

We all have something that bothers us.

For some, it's head hopping (abrupt POV shifts that aren't separated by a chapter or page break, ala Nicholas Sparks - LOVE him, but come on!) For others, it's cliche phrases or predictable plots. For still others, it's a contrived plot, where things happen OH so conveniently (not kidding, I read a romantic suspense not too long ago by a super-famous, best selling, award winning author, and the heroine just happened to find an object she suddenly discovered she needed RIGHT then, in that moment, by chance. There was zero foreshadowing or set up. Uh uh. That's cheating!!! lol)

What is your pet peeve?

Remember, it's always so much easier to find fault in someone else's writing, whether that's a published novel off the shelf or a critique for a friend. Just be careful to search your own work as thoroughly and get trusted friends to do the same for you. He that cast the first stone, and such... ;)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How to Make it Happen

 Guys. I love this kid. I really do. But I think feeding her FROM MY OWN BODY for nine months was enough.

She disagrees.

She now wants to eat from my plate. Despite the fact she rejected the same food on her plate five minutes ago. So that by the time I’m done “eating”, I’m barely surviving on what I call the Mommy Diet. She’s had 15 bites and I’ve had two.

We’ve had to establish some boundaries. For starters, I try to trick her into eating all my vegetables. Also, if it’s chocolate—she can forget about it.

I tell you this to make a point: You only have so much food on your plate. I only have so much food on my plate. When we give too much away, we end up malnourished. Even when we give it away for a cute cause.

Time is food. If we’re called to this writing thing, we need to monitor how much we’re giving away. Are we obsessing that every closet be clean? Are we still scrubbing the bathrooms every day? Are we working out at the gym for three hours?

What’s your vice? It might be “good” on the outside… but are you feeling malnourished on the inside?

What do you need to scale back on so your writing dream can grow healthy and strong?


Bekah Hamrick Martin writes about What You Missed in Sex Ed on her blog, The Bare Naked Truth. She also writes about purity, God's Way, in her book, The Bare Naked Truth: Dating, Waiting & God's Purity Plan.

Monday, November 19, 2012


 I realize that the whole world is about to collectively pass out over the retirement of the Twinkie, but I was thinking we might focus on other issues today.

Like thankfulness.

And your characters.

And where and how they do and should intersect.

Particularly this week, since it is Thanksgiving week, I'm busy thinking through the characters in my newest WIP. Are THEY thankful? How can I, without getting onto a preaching kick, show a thankful heart in my characters?

Here's a fun little Monday writing exercise for you: Take one of your main characters from your current WIP, convict them of needing to be thankful and put them in a not-so-pleasant situation.

What happens? Do they change, grow? Do they become bitter? Do they remain unchanged or stagnant? How did you allow the scene to unfold by showing and not telling? Read back through it - were you ever preaching (either as the narrator or as another character)?

I'm thankful for so many, many, MANY things this year but one of the things I'm definitely thankful for is YOU, dear reader and the wonderful privilege of writing on this blog with my beloved Scribble Chicks. May God bless you and your family this Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Oh boy! (or girl?)

A reader asked if I'd expound on my advice for writing opposite gender point of view scenes from an earlier comment. So here I go!

First of all, I find it hilarious that my critique partners think my hero scenes flow more naturally than my heroine scenes. Oops. My husband would be equally confused since we are never on the same page ;) haha!

I think, though, the reason is because I always seem to know my hero better than my heroine for some reason. Because of that, his personality and voice flow more naturally into the scene. That is a reminder for me to do more research on my heroine and get to know her before starting the story. Does that ring true for anyone else?

If you struggle with making your hero sound like a guy, just follow these basic tips.

1. Match his inner voice to his profession. This makes it a LOT easier to get guy-sounding inner monologue going. For example, if your hero is an architect, have him notice structures of buildings or use metaphors of building blocks, angles, lines, and materials. This is good character depth regardless of gender. If he's a fireman, have him think in terms of heat and fire (you can easily see the metaphor choices there) If he's a cowboy, have him think like a cowboy. His natural comparisons and thoughts are going to border on what he knows. "She stalked away, faster than a bull out of a chute". (now that's a little cliche but you get my gist!)

2. Don't go overboard on description. Guys notice weather and setting and scenery too, but not in the same way a woman does (typically). Girls might see a field of wildflowers and think it romantic, beautiful, poetic, and would use color choices like fuchsia, turquoise, aqua, amber. The colorful field would make them feel things and contemplate. A guy would probably think (unless he's a master gardener) in color terms of blue and purple and pink. Basic. And he might not even really notice or point out the flowers in the first place. Guys would be more likely to focus on the mountain in the background than the flowers between the mountain and himself.

3. Watch your feeling choices. Guys experience the same emotions women do BUT in different ways. And their natural struggles are different than ours. Women's natural struggles are more along the lines of insecurity and wanting to be beautiful and feel safe and secure. Men's natural struggles are more along the lines of being enough, measuring up and receiving validation. Don't have your hero's struggle be that he thinks he's fat ;)

4. Clothing choice. Guys throw on jeans and a T-shirt and never think of themselves as wearing an outfit. Women, however - well, you know :)  This also applies to how the hero views the heroine's appearance. He would see her and note she was wearing a dress. Or jeans and a button down. Or a skirt and red shirt. He wouldn't think of her (most likely) as wearing a tunic sweater, a paisley sundress, or name brand ANYTHING.

5. Think of your own marriage or dating relationship and how you're different from each other. You see an action movie full of explosions and roll your eyes. But your spouse is like "YEAH!" You see a motorcycle and think "danger", your boyfriend thinks "adventure". Etc.

If all else fails, grab a guy friend, husband, uncle, father, or cousin (try to find someone in the same age bracket as the character, if you can) and ask if the thoughts and word choices you used seem more masculine than feminine.

I hope this helps!

Remember, when you're writing a point of view scene of the hero, he has to sound like a guy or it won't ring true to the reader. Even if some female readers don't notice it sounding off, your guy readers will--and so will your editor or agent ;)  Besides, you want your characters to resonate with your reader, so even if the reader isn't thinking "wow, that was a girly thing for him to think", you still want them to connect with the characters. And that means making them realistic.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Stuck? Need a Nudge?

Looking for a writing topic? Enjoy this random prompt generator. (It comes up with some pretty crazy stuff!)

Monday, November 12, 2012


Need a breather from your current WIP?? Sometimes taking a break, working on something new or finding a new angle can breathe new life into your story!

Take a look at this picture and get your Sherlock hats on:

Where is she going? Or is she already there? Is she running from something or running to something? Is it a happy trip? Work trip? Sad trip? What did she pack? Will she be meeting someone on this trip or traveling with someone?

The questions are endless... ;)

Now, grab a pen and write a paragraph or two about our mystery traveler! Have fun!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Secrets to Great Dialogue

Ever notice how the art of multi-tasking is absolutely essential when writing fiction?

It's a given that you've got to have a page-turning plot, compelling, well-developed characters and a warm voice that invites readers in, but another element of the story that's absolutely crucial is dialogue.

As I piddle away on my work in progress, I've been re-watching one of my favorite TV shows, "Felicity." Long before "Alias" and "LOST," "Felicity" was J.J. Abrams' first show, and like another one of my guilty pleasures, "Gilmore Girls," the dialogue is seriously one of the best things about it.

Even though it's a guy writing the dialogue for a show starring a girl, he absolutely nails it. All the hopes and fears and uncertainties that come with being a college-aged female are perfectly captured. In fact, there are moments where I'm convinced he stole my diary from my own college years because what he says is that spot-on.

And considering the motley crew of characters he's created, he still managed to give each and every person his/her own voice, too. Julie is vulnerable and artsy. Elena is sure of herself, almost to a fault, and not afraid to be blunt. Noel is the soulful, compassionate soul who wears his heart on his sleeve. Ben is charming but self-serving, yet in the most unexpected moments, there are flashes of humanity that surprise you. Felicity is thoughtful, emotional and contemplative.

The writers give these characters room to breathe and grow, yet they're always consistent in having their voice and reactions to situations fit within the context of their character. And never, ever do they waste a line of dialogue. Without being so clever that it's hard to imagine these people ever existing, the writers make sure every line has a purpose, namely moving the story forward and allowing the viewer to get to know the character in the process.

So now that we're on the subject, what exactly are the secrets to great dialogue?

Sometimes discovering what works is a direct result of finding out what doesn't. For instance, the worst dialogue is where the writer tries dumping a bunch of informative data into a conversation. It never, EVER sounds natural, and worse yet, it's a lazy way of letting you readers know something important.

Writers tend to do this most with flashback-type information like "Remember when my cousin got in that car accident? I couldn't get behind the wheel for weeks, and to this day, it's made me afraid of driving and riding in cars."

You never want your dialogue to sound like that because, let's face it, our conversations would never sound that way. And like Betsy said in her excellent post yesterday, keepin' it real is an absolute must.

Other things to avoid when crafting killer dialogue is addressing characters by their proper name (NO ONE does this in real life), getting too fancy with your dialogue tags ("said" is still your best option most of the time—adding some action to the mix helps break up the monotony) and putting words in the mouth of people that simply don't fit.

For instance, if you're established that a character is generally the quiet, thoughtful type, giving them a long-winded soliloquy (which should be avoided anyway) just isn't consistent. If someone's from the Midwest, having them say "y'all" all the time just won't work.

Finally, the best secret to great dialogue is simply listening. Go to your local coffee shop, the mall, even church and eavesdrop on people's conversations (discreetly, of course). The way they talk to each other is the best way of learning what works as dialogue in a story. While a quirky character with a very unique manner of speaking is certainly welcome and adds plenty of color, it's important to have characters firmly grounded in reality. And when you do that, writing dialogue will be a whole lot easier—and your W.I.P will be far superior as a result.

Now it's your do you write dialogue? What works and what doesn't?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Keepin' it real...

Hey guys!

So I have this whole "real" theme going right now, probably because of the launch of my new personal blog (  and that's coming into play again today.

Let's talk about Keepin' It Real in our fiction.

What, you say? Real fiction? Isn't that an oxymoron? A contradiction?

Not anymore! I don't know how many times my editor or my friend's editors have said "That would never happen" or "that's too far out there" (even if it might HAVE actually happened in real life!)

These days, the whole "but it's fiction" excuse just doesn't cut it anymore. A "fictional license" almost doesn't exist outside of maybe some historical novels I've seen lately, where author are sometimes allowed to tweak dates or years slightly to fit their story. Editors (and readers!) want real content they can relate to and learn from and experience and pretend is their own REAL life.

No pressure ;)

Here are some ways to keep it real in your writing today:

1. Keep it real geographically. When I was writing ADDISON BLAKELY, CONFESSIONS OF A PK, I had set the book originally in Texas. When the copy editor got to it, she was literally laughing at the absurdity of how cold it was in the story for September and October. I was showing weather more akin to the midwest. So....I moved my story to the midwest. LOL. Keep it real.

2. Keep it real technically. Characters can multi-task, but don't let them carry a purse, a diaper bag, a suitcase, a duffell bag, a tray of cheese crackers, three grocery sacks, a laptop bag and still hold their toddler's hand and also unlock the door. Now I've done about two thirds of that in real life and impressed myself, but still had to make two trips. ;) This seems common sense in our writing but it's actually really easy to forget our character picked up a coffee cup and never put it down. Keep it real.

3. Keep it real emotionally. Emotions are powerful for people and characters - on and off the page. Respect that and try not to make it cliche. Remember characters are people too, and just like your emotions are often raw and ragged, so are theirs. Let them express themselves in a real manner, though. We sometimes feel like throwing the coffee table but we don't actually. We sometimes feel like punching a hole in the front door but we don't actually. We sometimes feel like hitting our spouse with a throw pillow but we don't actually (well....hahaha) We sometimes feel like screaming or bawling in public but we don't actually. Keep it real.

4. Keep it real worderly. (See how I did that? Worderly isn't a word) Sorry, I blame it on the Halloween candy. Anyway, keep it real with your dialogue. Read it out loud as you go and see if it sounds stilted or too formal. We tend to write more formerly than we speak in real life. Make sure your dialogue is tight and not fluffy and filled with wasted words, but at the same time, make sure it flows and sounds real to your ear. Keep it real.

How do you keep it real?