Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Are you stuck?

I posted this video on my personal blog yesterday ( because WOW.

This is my new official anthem. This is my heartbeat.

Please listen to this, in full, and just soak it in. Let Jesus strengthen you on your journey, writing related or not, through this brand new song by Meredith Andrews. I LOVE how excited she gets halfway into it, you can tell so clearly how much she believes in what she's singing.


If you need a boost today, I don't know of a THING more likely to break your writer's block, lift your spirits, propell you forward, and inspire you to keep on writing for your King than this.

PS - prayers appreciated as I teach this weekend (Friday/Saturday) at the NOLA STARS conference in Shreveport, Louisiana. (local chapter of the RWA - Romance Writers of America) !!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Woman of the Night

I still remember the annoyance of listening to my sister breathe. In, out. In, out. I would give anything--anything--if I could just sleep like that.

My tiny fingers pressed against my eyes, harder… harder… if I squashed them hard enough, maybe I would get sleepy. I didn't… but I did discover little glowing shapes that stayed with me through the night.

I was four years old, but later insomnia followed me through middle school, high school, and college. I learned to work with it; writing papers most nights from 11-2. I was truly alive during those hours, but driving to work the next morning was somewhat like letting a toddler behind the wheel…

...after giving him a Percocet.

Then I met him: The Caveman, a.k.a., the man who rose and set with the sun. Literally.

How this gorgeous man fell in love with me, I couldn't figure out--until I realized after months of dating long-distance that he'd probably been sleeping through my late-night phone confessionals. For months after the wedding I would say, "Don't you remember?---" and he would just sit, wide-eyed.

It wasn't that he didn't care after 7 p.m. in the summer (or 5 p.m. in the winter). It's just that talking to him was as pointless as explaining to that two-year-old on Percocet why he had to get out from behind the wheel. He just wasn't with me.

About six months into this marriage thing, I realized one of us was going to have to change our biological clocks. The only time we were both coherent at the same moment was the middle of the day. This left any weekend I didn't happen to be at work for us to hang out.

I was desperate. I'm not proud to admit… I turned to drugs.

Benadryl became my dear my friend. I've been drugging for six years now, and my relationship with my man has improved greatly. I wake up to him refreshed, happy, and alive. (After my toddler hands me a cup of coffee and waits for a sign of life.)

Unfortunately, scientists just came out with a study that says Benadryl kills brain cells and contributes to Alzheimer's. I thought long and hard about that. I pictured us as old, decrepit lovers--me, unable to remember his name.

Wait a second. That's pretty much how I am now with my insomnia, right?

So I guess the question is… do I want my coherent years now, or later?

Questions 4 U: When's the best time for you to write? Do you wake up, or set with the sun?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Is it Conference Time Yet?

Maybe it's the winter blues. Although winter's my favorite season so that doesn't seem likely.

Maybe it's the fact that it rained for about a week straight recently and it's about to start doing it again starting tomorrow.

But I have writing conferences on the brain and I'm looking forward to the next one I get to go to, even though it's months and months away!

I'm planning on going to the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference in September. That's seven months away, which seems like a long time, but y'all, it's really not! I have little kids, so they make life fly by with all the growing up they do, and I know that September will be here before I know it. Which means I need to get serious about prepping for this conference and make a list of things I need to do before hand. I'm sure people have talked about this before, but once that list exists, maybe I'll share it with you. After all, who doesn't love lists?

But today I just want to tell you something you've also probably heard a dozen times. Conferences are completely worth it. If you haven't been, you need to go. If you have been, you need to go again. Yes, they take money and time. But they are an investment into your writing that will pay off in the end. Obviously, they're great for learning. The classes are designed to teach you things you can use in your writing, whether they're craft classes or classes on that mysterious, elusive "brand" authors theoretically have that's become such a hot topic and a buzzword. They're fabulous opportunities to meet with editors and agents. Even if you don't have a book to pitch to them, just talking to them is an excellent way to learn about the industry. Conferences are also a great way to meet other writers. One of my closest friends is someone I met at my first writing conference.

So. Whatever excuse you have to not find a conference this year and go to it, seriously consider whether it's a good excuse or not. If you'll be on a foreign mission working with starving children in India all year, that's cool. Probably the conference should wait. ;) But if it's a smaller excuse, see if there's any way around it. There are a lot of reputable conferences out there and one of them is bound to be close to where you live. You can google and find lists on several different websites. I'm partial to the ACFW conference, which will be in Indianapolis, Indiana this year. But like I said, there are some other awesome ones out there.

Are you looking at attending any conferences this year? Have you been to any in the past? What's stopping you from making 2013 the year that you go?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Putting the P in Pacing

I don't really have a P for Pacing, I just liked the 3 P's in the title :)

A reader asked yesterday what is pacing? (in relation to Bekah's post yesterday)

Pacing is the flow of your story. This includes not just the beginning, middle and end but the threads that are woven throughout to get the characters from point A to point B to point C.  (oohhh. Points. Maybe that's my P in Pacing? hahaha)

Pacing is key because without a solid sense of pacing, your story can come off forced or contrived or random. You want your writing to be intentional through out, and pacing is crucial to achieve that.

Go back to a book you've read before that just WORKED. You loved it. Zero complaints. I bet you'll find the pacing was solid throughout.

Think about it from the other way too - have you ever read a story where it was going good, but the middle sagged and got slow/boring and you were tempted to put it down? In suspense, this is where they say "throw in another dead body". ha. We don't always get that choice though in other genres ;) 

Or have you read a book where the beginning was slow but by the end you were like YES! Awesome story!

Or have you ever read a book where you were enjoying it but suddenly the book ended WAY too soon? Needed another 3 chapters or so to even out? Or vice versa, where the book essentially ended but there were still 3 chapters of nothing afterward?

Pacing. Pacing. Pacing.

This is achieved with practice. (oohhh another P in Pacing! YES!)  You just have to read and learn and write and let this come naturally. But you can write intentionally and keep this in mind as you go. Just being aware of this element as you write will help you achieve it. Think threads. Weave those threads throughout, even the small ones of subplots or side characters.

Any questions? Any more P's for me? :)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Are you a Downton Writer?

The first season I watched Downtown Abbey, I finished it at 2 a.m., and cursed the six hours I'd wasted.

I've watched every season since.

Are you a Downton watcher? If so, what draws you into the show? Characters? Plot? How is the pacing (a bit rushed toward the end of this season, in my opinion... but apparently there was a reason for that).

What can you use, good or bad, to strengthen your own writing?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Happy President's Day

And so it is with novels... ;)

Hop you are all enjoying this three-day weekend!

Friday, February 15, 2013

People Watching

I really think Starbucks has to be one of the best places, as a writer, to hang out.

I was on a Valentine's Date yesterday (I know, I shouldn't be thinking of writing on a date...) with my hubby and we went to Starbucks because we'd gotten out of the house without having our morning coffee, which is basically unthinkable.

So as we're sitting at Starbucks and this group of men come in. They were military of some kind, so you know, they look all tough in their uniforms. One of them says to the other "Do you like sweet stuff?"

I guess the other said yes, though I didn't hear him.

"Then get a white mocha. That's a good thing to start with."

A third guy laughs. "No. I tall, black coffee would be a good thing to start with."

And that was all the conversation I overheard. But just from that my mind was spinning. Think of the different personalities involved there, all the ways those could be combined into a story. Think of how everyone's coffee choice says something about them, and of how funny it is that a big, burly military man would sip a white mocha while in uniform.

You have to live life to be a writer. If you just locked yourself away with your ideas, they'd eventually dwindle, because ideas come from experiences. If you're stuck in one of those stages where ideas just aren't coming to you, that's the BEST thing you can do--go live life.

The second best thing you can do to cure writer's block? People watch.

And personally, I think the best people watching happens at Starbucks. Plus you get to drink coffee. It's a win-win.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Writing against the odds

There are times in your life (and if there hasn't been there will be) when you have to write and can't. Or need to write and can't, because your emotional energy is just drained. You're empty. You're hurting or overwhelmed or just flat out EXHAUSTED.

This could be a severe crisis that has happened, or a rush of time interruptions like the holidays, or simply a big temporary change in routine like Erynn's potty training experience of late ;)

But regardless, as a writer, you have to work through it. And you might as well start practicing now before it's official.

Note: Extensions can be given. It's not good to ask all the time, but when truly warranted and used infrequently, it's OKAY. It's OKAY to be honest and say "hey, I'm doing all I can but I need help. I need time." Don't be afraid of that in the future when you're working with editors and agents. Don't abuse it, either, of course.

But what do you do when the issue isn't going away, and you have to keep going?

This is where your relationship with God is crucial. You have to maintain this or NOTHING will happen. You will simply get used up. So in the chaos, in the crisis, in the storm, in the hectic-ness, remember that truth. Keep on investing time with God no matter what. If everything else falls through the cracks, don't let that. Because that's the only thing that will fix the rest.

Trust me, I speak from experience right now.

In the meantime, I hope your current writing days are breezy and easy. Just remember this lesson for me. One day, you'll need it.

And hopefully one day, I'll be on the other side of it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What Makes an Excellent Writer

Monday, February 11, 2013

Odds and Ends

Our dear blog reader, Crystal, mentioned business cards in one of her comments last week and it got me thinking - there are several odds and ends from the business side of being a writer that we haven't ever really talked about here on this blog.

And so tonight, I am going to talk about them. ;) In list form, of course, because a list is really the only thing I can muster after having what was probably 47 toddlers running around my house this morning during play group.

1. Business cards

Get some. Use them. Ideally, you should have your picture and tentative book title on there but even if all you've got is your name, email, phone number and website, that's totally fine. is a great place to order business cards for cheap - but beware that they will try to sell you everything under the sun when you are trying to place your order.


Just saying.

2. A blog or website

I think we've mentioned the importance of having a blog but it's also a good idea to go ahead and set up a website. There are TONS (seriously) of tutorials out there that can teach you how to set up a website for basically nothing. Blogger can host your site and give you a blog for free.

Worried about content for your site or blog? Don't be. Figure out who your audience is and write to them. My personal blog started off as a publicity thing for the writing but has become something of a scrapbook for me over the years. I post pictures, I tell stories about day to day things with my son. I love it now. Be real with your readers. Let them see the struggles you are going through.

3. A separate email address

While you are setting up a blog, go ahead and set up a separate email address just for agents and publishers. You have no idea what a huge headache this is saving you. This was a lifesaver when I finally set one up for me. Not only is it way easier to go back and see what emails I still need to reply to, it's also a way to keep all of my business contacts in one place.

And speaking of one place...

4. A folder of some kind

Yes, that is the technical term for it. Get a folder or a binder or something to keep every business card you get from agents or publishers. Make sure you can either write on the back of the card or write beside it and put the following information: date that you met them, what book you proposed, whether they took the proposal with them and what their initial thoughts were. That way, if you get an email months later from an unknown name, you'll know immediately what they are talking about.

5. That's all

I just have a thing against even-numbered lists. Yes, I am prepared for the comments - my sweet special education teacher husband labeled me OCD many years ago. ;)

Have a lovely night, friends!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Time to Write!

Everyone does their writing 'schedule' a different way. Some people do a certain number of words per day, or a certain amount of time. Some people write multiple times a day, some write less often.

I don't think there's a write or wrong way to do your writing time, with one exception. If being a writer is something that's really important to you, I DO think you need to do it. 

It could be coincidence, I'm not sure, but it was only when I finally made myself put some discipline into my writing life that I got that long-awaited first contract. I have little kids--one is 2 1/2, one is 3 months old. Last summer when I decided I needed to write every day, I only had the 2 year old (haha, obviously) and initially I wasn't sure if I could write consistently with a toddler boy to care for and chance around. But you know what? We make time for things we believe are important. And I eventually decided my writing was important enough to make time for. Sometimes I wrote during nap time. Sometimes my mom came over and babysat while I took myself to Barnes and Noble and wrote there. Sometimes I hauled the computer into my toddler's room and wrote while he played on the floor. I didn't stick to my schedule perfectly (does anyone stick to a schedule perfectly every day???), but it worked much better than just saying to myself "I'll write...sometime..." 

I really appreciate what William Faulkner once said "I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o'clock every morning."

Maybe 9 o'clock isn't a good time for you. If other life activities make this time not work, choose another. If the idea of being creative and producing something half-decent at an hour when coffee has not yet fully flooded your system and your brain is barely working, choose another for sure.

But, I would say you should choose a time that works for you, a certain amount of days that work for you, and try to put yourself on a schedule for at least a week or two, just to give it a try. Maybe commit to writing at least 5 minutes every day. Or say you're going to work on your story every Monday for an hour. Just something. If you love it--great! If you don't love it because right now you have other things you have to do that make it impossible--that's fine too, you can always try again later. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, both boys are napping, so I better go practice what I preached here and get some words in... ;) 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I've got nothing

I've got nothing today, guys. I'm sorry. There's some big stuff going on in my personal life, and I just ask for prayers today. I know God is in control. And when we're the most desperate is when He often likes to act. :)
I have faith! Thanks for your prayers.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Potty Training and Proposals

Ideally, the two should not combine.

More often in the regular, normal, oops-we-now-have-to-wash-eight-pairs-of-undies world we live in, they do.

We have talked an awful lot about proposals on this blog. Some of us have talked an awful lot about proposals in our novels and books too. So now, I want to ask YOU a question:

What else do you need/want to know about proposals? What would you like to know about finding an agent or a publisher? Need help setting up a website??

Ask away, friends!!

If you need me in the meantime, I'll just be Clorox-ing my entire house...

Friday, February 1, 2013


I’ve figured out the key skill you need to master as a writer. Are you sitting down? Do you have a pen ready to write this down?

Take a deep breath.

The key skill you need to master is…


Yep. You heard right. Waiting. (Is anyone still reading at this point? I’m imagining the sound of computers slamming across the United States…right?)

There was a time I thought unpublished writers held the market on waiting. This was during one of those L-O-N-G waiting times in my writing life and I was irritated. Annoyed. Pick any word like those—I was that. It just didn’t seem fair. Wait for months to pitch a story idea. Wait to submit more to the agent or editor. Wait while they think about it. Send in more when they ask for it. Wait again. It was SO unfair. (I’m not prone to drama at all…)

I thought getting an agent or a contract would solve that waiting problem. Only once that contract came, there was still more waiting. I waited for revisions. Labored over those and sent them in, and now I’m waiting again to see if they are good enough.

That’s as far into the publication process as I am right now, but I know if you ask some of the others on this blog, they’ll tell you the waiting doesn’t stop. Every step of this fun, crazy process of writing involves waiting. Some of those stages are easier than others. But everyone has to learn to wait—the sooner a writer realizes that, the easier it is to sit back and wait semi-patiently.

Not the best at playing the waiting game? Don’t worry. I’ve compiled a list of suggestions for you that I may or may not have used at some point. Some of these may be more effective than others. Use with caution. ;)

1.     Check your email compulsively while you wait to hear back about your story. Pretend you’re checking the weather, or the news, or something, rather than pulling up g-mail every 2.5 minutes.
2.     Drink some coffee. I’m not sure how this helps, but it’s coffee, so it must.
3.     Check email again.
4.     Make more coffee.

Or, if you want ideas that have a little more substance behind them:

1.     Work on something else. If you’ve got one story in to an editor or agent, work on another. Preferably something totally different to take your mind off of things.
2.     Pick up a hobby. Maybe in a push to meet a self-imposed deadline to send something off, you’ve been working for hours every day. Use a little of that time and pick up a new hobby. You have to live life to write about it—waiting gives you that time.
3.     Remember your friends who are waiting too, whether it’s writing related or not, and pray for them. Even if your situations are different, you know how they feel.

Happy waiting!