Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Not another victim...

So here I am in Louisiana, wondering if we'll be washed away tomorrow. I'm in North LA, thankfully, but we are still expected to get some flooding, heavy winds and rain tomorrow and maybe Friday from good ol' Mister Isaac. We have a small generator, so we can run several rooms at a time and save our food in the fridge and deep freeze and stuff. (and let me straighten my hair. ahem) My poor Little Miss HATES storms though and keeps wanting to check the weather report. I'm determined to NOT let her see the swirling mass on the radar, or she'll be in my bed every night for a week!

My point today is:

It's easy to get caught up in fiction (especially us, we're a fiction blog after all lol) and its easy to think about how fiction often stems from real life and etc. Right? At first I was thinking about Isaac "wow, this could be good research for a future story". Which is TRUE. But...it sort of makes me feel guilty, like I'm downplaying the experience for those really going through it. People really are stranded on roofs and being rescued by firemen and helicopters and National Guard, guys. People really are flooded out of their homes and living with a mass in a school or public building indefinitely. People really are going to have to go home one day and see their scrapbooks and family heirlooms floating in water. People really are going to find their pets drowned or their family member is missing or their job was flooded out and they're unemployed. People really are victims of crime and theft during an already tragic time.

I think we should learn from these types of hard situations to make our stories realistc, yes - but more than that, I think we should DO something about it. Not just glean details for research or fiction but truly pray. PRAY. Send money. Volunteer time. Be connected to the event and the people there, not just try to savage the drama from it for our own uses.

Been thinking about that a lot today. Especially since this is hitting on the anniversary of Katrina. It brings all that back. My husband has family in Metairie and New Orleans (hence our last name).

What do you think? How can you get involved? Are you in a danger zone from Isaac right now?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Who's Your Audience?


“My book is for everybody.”

 Do you want to know what that sentence is? It’s the S.O.D., a.k.a., Sentence Of Death.

 I’ll admit—I hope everyone reads my book. But if I’m being realistic, I need to remember that different people have different needs.

 (There are exceptions, like The Purpose Driven Life, or The Shack, that appealed to a wide range of people. But most of the time, editors are looking for a specific target so they can HIT it.)

 So how did I “find” my audience?

 1-Writing for teen girls was a natural outflow of the ministry I was already a part of (camp ministries, after-school ministries, youth groups…)

 2-It was in my heart. I struggled a lot in my teen years, and I wanted to be a voice to remind these girls that not only would they SURVIVE, they would GROW.

 3-I got outside help. It sounds obvious, but sometimes we need to take a few steps back to figure this audience thing out. So if you’re struggling with targeting your audience, ask a friend to read your blog. Find out how “young” or “old” your voice sounds.  Who does it appeal to?

Q4U: Who’s your audience?

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Proposal, part three

Here are part one, part two and part 2.2!! 

By this point, you should have a title, a hook and a teaser paragraph. And your name and contact information, of course. ;)

Next up? You can go one of two ways. A lot of people just hop straight into the synopsis, but you could also pause here and add a Theme and an About the Author, which I would recommend, though either way is fine.

Your Theme is a good place to put either a Bible verse that inspired you to write this story or the basic "this is what my character/readers will get out of this book" idea. Try to steer away from being preachy and go more for generalizations like, "[Insert main character's name] learns to trust God's will for her life rather than rely on her own control."

The About the Author section is a VERY important section. Be sure to write down every writing-related experience you've had or every place you've been published if this is your first novel. Also, look beyond just writing experience. For example, if you're writing a novel about a deep sea diver and you are a deep sea diver, put that down as well. When I wrote Miss Match, I made sure I put down that I was the age of the characters I was writing about so that the publisher knew I had a real "voice" when it came to my character.

As always, if you've got questions, comments or concerns, please let us know!! :)

Friday, August 24, 2012

It's FRIDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yeah, it's been another one of those weeks. Lots and lots of writing deadlines, so I gotta say that I'm a little more excited than usual about the weekend's impending arrival.

How 'bout you? What's on the docket for the weekend? I'm heading to Colorado and can't wait to resume my reading of Dearie...it's one fantastic biography on a truly incredible woman, the late Julia Child.

Bon App├ętit, all, and happy weekend!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Writer's Block - or IS it?

The dreaded Writer's Block! By definition...

writ·er's block -
n. A usually temporary psychological inability to begin or continue work on a piece of writing.

Or ...

a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece of writing

Or even...

Writer's block is a condition, primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition varies widely in intensity. It can be trivial, a temporary difficulty in dealing with the task at hand. At the other extreme, some blocked writers have been unable to work for years on end, and some have even abandoned their careers.

YOWSA! :)

Ever been there? 

Thankfully I've never been there to the extent of it affecting me long term. I've had days where I've been too stressed or sidetracked or busy to sit down and write quality words, or not inspired enough at the moment to    feel any desire to continue the story that day. But never to the extreme that I couldn't write anything at all for days.

Have you? How do you handle it?

Thankfully God made me with the ability to write well under pressure. (generally) Do you do better under pressure or with a deadline (self imposed or otherwise) or do you need freedom and lack of pressure to let the words flow?

There's no wrong or right way. We're all a little different and we have to do what works best for us as individuals. So what's your groove?

Here are some tips on how to beat writer's block. But really, first, you need determine if you even have it. I think there's a difference between true writer's block that probably comes from personal problems, stress, lack of sleep, pressure, fear, etc. and simply just not liking our story enough to continue with it. Figure out that difference in your novel first and go from there before you start going through these "beat it" steps.

1. Do something else creative. Use your brain in a different way - watch a movie, draw a picture, sketch, color in a coloring book! (this is really fun)

2. Take a break - watch a movie, read a novel, take a bubble bath (or all of the above!)

3. Exercise. Let those endorphins flow! They really work wonders and clear your head. And help you stay healthy and not get writer's-booty.  

4. Take a nap or rest your eyes a while. 

5. Treat yourself to your favorite snack - chocolate, ice cream, carrot sticks, whatever it is. (Candy corn cough cough)

6. Interact with family or friends. Brainstorm with a writing buddy or just call your great Aunt back that you've been avoiding for a few weeks. The conversation will distract and relax you and maybe even provide fodder for your story. 

7. If you don't do well under pressure, then take pressure off. Remind yourself that this isn't life or death. Adjust your deadline if need be. Talk to your agent if this is a "real" deadline and if it's self imposed, cut yourself some slack and make a new timeline plan. But if you DO work well under pressure, crank it up. Give yourself a deadline.

8. If this works for you, instigate a reward/bribe program. For every paragraph written, reward yourself with a game of Solitaire, checking email, hanging out on FB or getting a handful of M&MS. ;)

9. Change location - go to Barnes & Noble, or go sit outside, or just move to another room in your house. Can work wonders!

10. Work on something else. Keep writing but ditch the story for awhile and write an essay. A newspaper article. Work on a poem or short story. Get words flowing somehow in some way then switch back. Or even consider jumping ahead in your story. If you're blocked on starting Chapter 4 but know that somewhere around Chapter 7 there's going to be a great kissing scene or fight scene or whatever, write that first. No one makes you go in order ;)


What works for YOU?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

So you're in love with a writer? Have fun with that.




I finally joined the 21st century and bought an iPhone this week. Actually, My Boy bought it for me after he listened to me tell a friend why I couldn't keep up with social media.

*Expletive*. Now I have no excuse.

If you love to write (which you probably do since you read this blog), how does your spouse support or hinder your dreams? (No spouse-bashing, please. Unless it's anonymous and entertaining.)

I honestly couldn't have gotten a publishing contract without My Boy's belief in my dreams (or at least his excellent acting skills).

Here are just a few tips for those who love a writer but aren't sure how to show it...

-Take the writer's "job" seriously. Even if they're not working a paying gig right now, the freebies are building a platform that can cause future success. (A.k.a. sales. Which might just work for your $$$benefit$$$ some distant day. ;)

-Be sympathetic. There are going to be ups and downs in this journey, and lots of rejections. This is normal. Sometimes all a writer needs is a little empathy and a lot of chocolate.

-Offer to help around the house some, especially when your spouse has a day-job. It's just the nice thing to do.

-Don't whine about the price of conferences when you just bought a new car for yourself. Consider these opportunities an investment. Just know they're a little like the stock market... it could still all go bust, but you married your spouse for her gambling habits anyway, right?

-Brainstorm with your writer. Let him/her bounce ideas off you and give KIND feedback. (Writers talk. A lot. It's how we process ideas. But we also like to listen... lucky you!)

-Buy an iPhone. For yourself. Because you will probably want to keep track of the random personal stories your spouse is telling about you on the Internet. ;)

That's about all for now... until you add your 16-point list to the comments.

1...2...3... Go!

***
Bekah Hamrick Martin is the author of The Bare Naked Truth, the book that pokes fun at the lies girls believe about sex.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Proposal, part 2.2

Hi all,

Here's the first two posts in this series (one and two)!

Last week, I was asked to provide some real life samples of the proposal and I realized that would probably be a helpful thing. ;) So, here are some examples from my proposal that eventually became my fourth novel, Cool Beans. (I wrote the word "fourth" just so y'all would realize that this isn't a one-time-only thing you have to write. Sadly.)

My proposed title was "Cool Beans" and thankfully, they kept it. I love when that happens! :)

Here was my hook:
 
Is there really such thing as too much coffee? Not when your best friend unknowingly starts dating your high school sweetheart.

And this was my teaser paragraph (note that you can also reference this as an "Overview"):

Everything seems to be going perfectly for Maya Davis – she’s got a good job at a coffee shop, loving parents and is happily single. At least until her best friend unknowingly starts dating Maya’s high school sweetheart, her annoyingly perfect brother moves back to town and her coworker starts showing interest in her. Apparently God’s will for her is to spend her days commiserating over ice cream – or does He have more to teach her? 

Try to separate the two with a signifier (I wrote "Overview" above the teaser) and you can put the Hook directly under the title.

I'll be back next week with the next components of the proposal! Please be sure to leave questions if y'all have them! :)
 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Just One Word at a Time, Baby!

I'm not a fan of his scarier stories (yeah, I'm a giant wimp), but I absolutely love Stephen King's advice on writing.

Seriously, if you haven't picked up a copy of King's On Writing, you really owe it to yourself to do so.

Anyway, one of his quotes that's always stuck with me is what he had to say about his "process." And yes, I realize that's a very pretentious way of putting it, but if actors always feel the need to use it, why not us, right?

"When asked, 'How do you write?' I invariably answer, 'one word at a time.'”

Yep, that's all it takes, my fellow writing friends. Just one word at a time. So if you're like me, and sometimes you struggle with the sheer enormity of the task, just remember what our Uncle Steve says. All it takes it one word at a time, baby (yep, I added the baby).

The end.

Have a great weekend all!
:) Christa

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Expressions and cliches and overusage, OH MY

You know that expression, "those who can't, teach" ?

I've always hated that, because it seemed like a slam on teachers. And I've never been a teacher, at least not in the traditional sense, and it bothered me! It also never really made sense, because in my mind, if you can't do something or don't know how, then how could you teach it anyway? Psshh.

I guess in theory, it means something like football coaches who don't play anymore because of age or physical injuries or handicaps, but can still teach the game. Maybe? That makes sense. But the expression still seems derogatory. Anyone else ever felt that way?

And now that I'm "teaching" writing in various ways, it really offends me. lol Hopefully it's not true! ;)

That just goes to show you that sometimes, expressions and cliches in our writing can ring the wrong bell. Ha! How's that for a cliche? I think I used two in that sentence!! ;)  Think about it, though. What rolls off our tongue sometime (there's another one) and seems to be truth or a good way to say something, can often offend or have a negative reaction in the reader.

Or worse, make the reader skip over the familiar words and not read them at all.

Have you ever done that with something you know so well? I find myself sometimes doing that with Bible verses (yikes!) Think about it - most Christians have John 3:16 memorized a week after they come to Christ. Or for those of us who grew up in church, we know the more familiar verses we've heard in Sunday School or from the pulpit our entire lives. When we see them in print, we tend to rattle them off rather than let the words soak in. We miss the message because of the words.

Don't do that to your reader.

Remember, if something flows a little too easily (there's another one! lol) then it's probably a cliche and can be rewritten in a stronger or fresher way. If a cliche fits the scene or the moment, don't panic, just make it unique.

For example. Instead of your character thinking "another day, another dollar" when arriving to work at Taco Barn, have them think "another day, another taco" to be silly or "another shift, another quarter" to be sarcastic about how they are underpaid. Or instead of "love is blind", what about "love requires extra-strength bifocals"? Or instead of "free as a bird" why not "free as a streaker on game day". (ha! Sorry. I crack myself up)

The reader will appreciate your turning the cliches around, and it's also a great way to work comic relief or straight up humor into your story.   :)

Okay, just for fun, let's see how many cliches you can put into one sentence. hehe....

I won't beat around the bush, trust me, you should always avoid cliches like the plague, because while you think they might be an ace in the hole or an ace up your sleeve, they're actually not all that and a bag of chips.

Your turn ;)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Love this kid. Love Photoshop.





The Proposal, part two

Here's the first post in this series!!

By this point, your page should look like this:

Erynn Mangum
My Address
More of My Address
My Phone Number
My Email
Any Other Way of Contacting Me

KILLER TITLE


Next, you need to write a Hook.

Not this guy:


A hook is basically a one-to-two-sentence summary of your novel that not only tells a little bit about what happens in your book but also leaves the reader hanging enough to want to find out more. The goal is to have the editor or publisher listen to your hook and ask, "And then what happens?"

Bet you are glad that I put the word "basically" in there, huh? ;)

Try not to over think it. It needs to sound as natural as possible and I like to end with a question. For example, I might have written something like this for my new book, Paige Torn's hook.


"Paige Alder is the girl who can't say no when it comes to covering responsibilities that aren't hers. Will she learn that a need does not always constitute a call from God before her life becomes one of chaos?"


Once you've got their attention with the hook, you can now write a teaser paragraph. This should be one paragraph (Four to five sentences) describing your story. Again, keep it short, keep it sweet. Only the major turning points and major characters of the story should be mentioned here.

Any questions? Concerns? Please leave a comment so we can tell you our opinions. And remember that in the world of publishing, any and all advice is just that - OPINION. ;)

Looking forward to continuing this series with y'all!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Why I'm a Sucker For a Fantastic Setting...

This week, one of our Scribble Chicks readers asked about one of my favorite parts of reading and writing—the setting—and how that helps or hinders your story, so Ashley, this post's for you.

Considering I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin where almost nothing remotely interesting ever happened (yes, even the weekly newspaper's big headlines read something like this: Cow Nearly Gets Hit When Attempting to Cross Highway 8), I relied on books to help me escape to wonderful, far-off places like Los Angeles, London and the apartment building in New York where Fudge tormented his poor brother Peter in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.

Even at a young age, setting was absolutely crucial to me because I wanted to be anywhere but Ladysmith, Wisconsin. And maybe because I still love exploring this great big world of ours, setting still remains important to me...both as a reader and a writer myself. In fact, I can't tell you how many novels or memoirs I've purchased just because Paris was involved. Ditto for practically anywhere in Italy, Spain or even busy urban settings like Chicago, New York, Tokyo and Toronto. And when life feels chaotic and a little too crazy, there's no better escape than the fictional locale of Stars Hollow, the quirky Connecticut setting for one of my all-time favorite TV shows, "Gilmore Girls."

But locations don't necessarily have to be glamorous or grandiose to make a big impact. In the little-seen Ryan Reynolds' film Buried, he spent an entire hour-and-a-half stuck underground in a dark, creaky casket full of cobwebs, spiders and one very scary snake. But the way the filmmakers used that unconventional setting to their advantage was nothing short of genius. They made you, the viewer, feel the very claustrophobia that Ryan's character undoubtedly experienced while trapped for hours in there. In a sense, that casket was a character in a story short of people—and that's something every writer should keep in mind when writing his/her stories, too.

The setting must also serve the story well. Don't pick Paris just because it's romantic or NYC just because every one else does. You need to pick the right location for the story you're telling. For example, in my current W.I.P, Tuesday Nights in Italia, I made a slightly left of center choice of setting when I selected the Twin Cities, a.k.a. Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Not only is it an area I know well because I lived there for eight years, but for a story about people who find unexpected community at an Italian cooking school, I knew it needed to be a place where people needed a true escape. And since it's winter (or at least feels like winter) roughly half the year in MSP, I thought that would be the perfect locale for this type of story.

Plus, since there's a slew of readers who probably haven't ventured that far north before, it would be an opportunity to introduce them to a place that's way cooler—and not in the temperature-sense—than people generally give it credit for. While you never want to sound like a travel guide when you're writing, an adept storyteller can provide such a vivid sense of place that maybe the reader would enjoy it enough to learn more—or heck, even want to visit!

All that to say, setting is very important, so make it count when you write. For me, it's (almost) as important as the characters. After all, just think about how different Pride & Prejudice would've been if Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters didn't live in the middle of the English countryside. Or what if Twilight had been set in Nashville instead of the oh-so-cloudy Forks?

As you can see, those settings served their respective stories well, and a greater readership thanks Jane Austen and Stephanie Meyer (whoa, how did they make it into the same sentence?) as a result.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

I have a confession....

I have a confession...

I joined the PTA.

I feel about 47 years old.

Which isn't old, truly. But I'm 28. Which suddenly sounds REALLY old. Ha!

Little Miss is starting preschool this Fall. Last year when she was 3 years old, she went to a 3-day a week private preschool at a church school from 9-12. It was fabulous, and she learned so much. Well after much prompting of her children's church minister at our church, I had her tested for Gateway, which is an advanced learning education program here in Louisiana. I honestly didn't think she'd pass, because even though I know she's smart/advanced in many ways, this was a tricky two-part test and one of her friends didn't pass. I almost canceled the test! But we kept the appt and she passed with flying colors. Her math skills were actually scored off the charts (and uhhh let's just say she did NOT get that from me! ha)

So suddenly, my plan of putting her back in the same church school for 4 year old preschool, 5 days a week this time from 9-12, went out the window. She got into Gateway! This is huge! So we chose to put her into the public school that is literally the only school in north Louisiana that offers a gateway program, so she could utilize it. She and her fellow gateway-ers will be in school from 8-3 five days a week, like kindergarten! I'm still blown away. I thought I had another year of her being home more before we started real school. But I know this is the right thing for her, and thankfully, its a more lenient program in regards to absences/tardies than the older grades, so if I wanted to just go pick her up early one day, I totally could. (and will. with cupcakes.)

So last night was the parent/teach meeting where we all met in the cafeteria and got the skinny and were bombarded by the PTA (who were all SUPER nice ladies!) who totally suckered me into purchasing $61 worth of goodies. HA! Not really, it was all me, they were fantastic. And I was all "new school new mom giddy" and came away with three t-shirts, a stuffed animal mascot for Little Miss, a year's worth of spirit day pizza party goodies and a PTA membership.

Who AM I? lol

I'm a SCHOOL mom, that's who. And so far I'm loving it. Her BRAVE lunchbox I ordered for her on Amazon came in the mail today, and we're picking out school supplies later this week. I'm stoked. And all nostalgic, because oh my gosh, she's 4 and in SCHOOL.

And we just got back from the dentist, where they flouride-ed her and flossed her and brushsed her and she sat like a good girl in the chair. Like a big kid. Where does the time go?

What does this have to do with writing you ask? Absolutely nothing! LOL! But it was my turn to post today and this is all the stuff circling my head.....so if anyone wants to find a writing analogy somewhere in this chaos, please feel free! :)

PS - my teeth hurt. I had a cavity, not her! So much for PTA-Super-Mom  ;)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Let's Get Lost


Every time I go into her room, she’s asleep on top of her favorite tiger book.
The Tiny Human
If she was awake, she would be turning the pages and roaring.
And it makes me wonder…
When was the last time I escaped into a book?
Like really, really escaped?
So this is my challenge… to myself as well as to you…
To take that hour of T.V. I usually watch… and escape in another way.
Through the pages of a book.
What are you reading?
**** 

Bekah is ready for fall, so she can dress like this while simultaneously snuggling with her Favorite.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

No one likes perfect...

We think we do, but we don't. No one REALLY likes perfect. Perfect is boring. And perfect characters in a novel are like a coffin nail.

Readers want relatable. So think real life.

For instance, I know a Christian girl who got into an argument with her husband. She just KNEW she was right. She even had Scriptures to prove it. But her husband didn't see it that way. It was a really frustrating situation. Another Christian friend said to her "Guess it's time to start praying for conviction for your husband, and let God handle it." The girl said "You're right. And I will. I'm just still in the 'praying he stubs his toe' stage."

Ha!

That's real life. That's not being perfect. And I bet we've all had similar situations/conversations like that one :)  So put that into your characters. How SHOULD your characters respond to an event? Think about that, then maybe do the opposite. Or do what your first instinct is, you know - that first instinct we have like "toe-stubbing-girl" that we as Christians typically turn off because we know it's not the right thing to do/say. Have your characters do it or say it!

THAT is worth reading.

Christian fiction already has a bad rap for being predictable, preachy, or perfect. Unrealistic characters. Cookie cutter characters who do the perfect thing that no one can relate to.

Let's show them they're wrong :)