Friday, May 31, 2013

Knowing When to Take a Break

It's been said lots of times, by me and many other people. If you're really meant to be a writer, you won't be able to give it up. Sure, you might try quitting for a little while, maybe because of a bad rejection you received or because of time constraints, but you'll always come back to it. Or you'll be miserable.

Still, though, even as people who know we're supposed to be writing, how do we know when it's okay to take a break? I know different ones of y'all have been talking about this for different reasons lately. I actually haven't gotten much word count in for the last few weeks, because I've been working on other aspects of my story (just not the word count progress part). Here's a quick list of things I think might say that you should take a (quick!) break. But remember, this is temporary. I'm not giving anyone permission to give up on this. ;)

1. Pray about it. =) God really does care about things like your writing. Do you feel like He's asking you to take a break for one reason or another?

2. Think about your progress. Are you making any? Do you think you'd make more progress if you took a few days/weeks off to decompress?

3. Are you writing more life than you're living? Unless you're on deadline, evaluate your priorities here. Even for serious writers, "real" life should take precedence, especially in your relationships. Writing IS important, don't get me wrong, just not AS important.

4. You're out of ideas. In that case, just have some imagination fun time. Brainstorm plots and characters and file all of that away for the next time you really write.

5. You have something big in your life you need to focus on first. This could mean all kids of things.

6. Your current story needs more time to simmer in your mind. In this case, you're lucky! This means you're actually working on writing when you're doing dishes, folding laundry, or driving. ;) But it can feeeeel like taking a break, since there's not a lot of typing going on.

7. I'm sure there are other reasons. And I don't love six point lists. ;)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Progress Report time

I'm all thrown off this week because of the holiday! Don't have a clue what day it is. Hope everyone had a good long weekend! Happy Memorial Day! :)

So let's do a progress report real quick. Everyone check in. What are you working on? What's your word count stats and goal? Are you progressing as you had hoped or lagging behind a bit? (or a lot) What's the reason behind the goal you set or the deadline you gave yourself?

Sometimes talking about our progress and our goals and deadlines makes us strive harder to meet them. So share! Let's keep each other accountable.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

When You Miss the Chocolate for the M&M's

My baby was so excited about the brightly colored M&M's that she never noticed the Godiva chocolate in the same bowl.

We do it every day.

There are extraordinary stories all around us.

We miss those stories when get distracted by the sweet details of our own lives.

So here's my intention: I'm slowing down. Looking for details that don't immediately jump out at me. Finding the story that may not look as interesting at first glance.

What about you? What story gems have you stumbled onto--or intentionally sought out lately?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Lesson of the Day

Back up your work! Seriously. No matter how unimportant you think those few paragraphs are, or how unsure you are that you'll ever use them in a finished store, back it alllll up.

Back stuff up.


Is everyone listening? =)

I'm stressing this because last year my beloved Mac betrayed me and the hard-drive crashed. Apparently it crashed so thoroughly that it couldn't be resurrected, even by the people at Apple. Yikes.

I lost some brainstorming things I hadn't saved, bits and pieces of stories I'd started and never finished. And that made me sad.

I also lost one of my favorite manuscripts of all time. The. Entire. Thing. Thousands and thousands of words that I'd dreamed about, carefully written, and poured my heart into.

That was beyond sad. I'd thought I'd printed a hard copy at some point, but all the searches I did of my closets and attic came up empty. My lesson, a hard learned one, from all of this? Make back up copies.

People use different methods to do this, so just pick the one that works best for you. Some people use programs, but I don't have one of those, so I can't really explain how they work. I have a flash-drive I put important documents on. If I've recently finished a manuscript, I also email it to myself so that it's on the internet, somewhere relatively indestructible.

Wherever you choose to do it, seriously, save your work in several places.

Lucky for you, you don't have to wait a year, like I did (yes! A WHOLE YEAR!) to see that my back-up lesson story has a happy ending. I was cleaning out from under my bed yesterday (seriously, should I be shoving things under my bed as a full-fledged adult???) and out of curiosity, I pulled out a storage container that had been under there, just to see what was in it. I found some old books, some binders, annnnnnd.....

A hard copy of my missing manuscript.

Yay!!!! =) But still, back things up. You could save yourself a year's worth of agony. =) And also, clean out from under your bed. Not writing related at all, but it's good life advice--I feel much better now that I have. =)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

15 Minute Speed-Writing

I wouldn't call myself a speed-writer, but it took having a baby with colic for me to learn how to write in 15-minute increments. (She didn't sleep any longer than that.)

And you know what I learned? It's not that difficult to focus for 15 minutes. And it's incredibly beneficial.

It doesn't matter how much you get done in those 15 minutes. It does matter that you sit down and write SOMETHING.

Case in point: it used to take me two hours to write a 500 word newspaper column. I can do the same thing in 20 minutes now. What sped me up? Taking the 15 minutes at a time.

I didn't focus on how many words I cranked out. I just focused on writing for 15 minutes. 

So what about you? Do you have 15 minutes a day? Can you write before breakfast, or over lunch? The more you practice, the faster you'll get--and hopefully, the more concise your writing will become.

Tell us about your writing goals. 

 Bekah Martin is the author of The Bare Naked Truth--a book about purity, even though she hates that word! (Find out why next week :)

Monday, May 20, 2013

What fuels your writing?

Sometimes, I tend to find myself reaching for anything and everything to keep the motivation going to finish that novel, complete that proposal and to start that new story. So, I decided to make a list of my top five favorite ways to fuel my writing for you today. Mostly so I can remind myself as well. ;)

* Reading

Never underestimate the power of a good book to get you motivated to write again. Sometimes when I feel like I have nothing left to write about, I'll spend a few days reading and be revved up and ready to write again before no time at all.

* Snack Breaks

Another great way to keep some energy in your writing is to have something yummy beside you while you write. I wish this was not the case but if nothing else, it keeps me making myself workout too. Which brings me to my next point...

* Workout

Nothing gets the brain moving than a little bit of cardio. Feeling stuck? Leave the laptop, look away from the screen and get outside and go for a walk. Or pop in a workout DVD. There are TONS of free options online for different workouts. Pick something that works for you.

* Switch it up

We've mentioned this before, but if you're in a rut, try moving locations from where you are writing. Usually write at the table? Move to the couch. Usually write at a desk? Move outside. If you normally write at home and you have the opportunity to go write somewhere else (I usually don't just because I write during my son's rest time), go find a coffee shop to work. The change of scenery can do MIRACLES for your WIP.

* Have a quiet time

And last, but definitely not least, be sure you are making time for God's word every day. Whether you are able to spend an hour or three minutes, try to sit down, pray and focus your mind on what you are reading. The best way I am able to write and come up with ideas is to pray through what God has been teaching me in my own life.

What are your tricks to staying motivated?

Friday, May 17, 2013

What's Your Genre?

Something one of y'all posted in the comment section on the last post got me thinking. There's a lot of talk among writers about genre and brand and voice and how what you write is unique.

If you think through this too much looking at a published author and their books, it can make your brain hurt. If you think through it from the point of view of someone who's not published yet, it can scramble your brain.

I know this is something that has long driven me crazy. I get the "brand" thing. As a writer, you want people to know what to expect from your books. I'm good with that.

It gets a little trickier for me when it comes to genre. You know why? Because MOST of the authors I've ever met have dabbled in different genres. And before we're published, it's super confusing to figure out which is "your" genre.

(Brief note: There's a difference between your genre and your VOICE. Camy Tang is an excellent example of that. She's written chick lit and romantic suspense, but the snarky, funny heroine with an attitude makes the stories be written with the same voice.)

Okay, back to my point. How do you figure out which one is your genre?

1. What do you LOVE to write?
2. What's easiest for you to write? (Doesn't necessarily mean this is the one you should choose, but it's good to consider.)
3. What do your friends or critique partners think is your strongest genre?
4. Which do you have the most story ideas for in the future?

And my personal favorite, which is the one I decided to go with when I was agonizing over my split-writing-personalities a few years ago....

5. Which one have you been contracted in first?

See, it's only after the contract that you have to pick a genre. I'm relatively new to the publishing side of things. Actually, really new. But I've been writing and going to conferences for awhile, and while I'm sure some people would disagree, I think this is the best thing to do. If you love women's fiction and mysteries, go for it! Write both of them! But if you sell first in women's fiction, stick to that for a while at least. You want to build up a following of readers and it's hard to convince people you can do that across genres.

Some people might say that it's bad to genre hop even before you're published, because it can scare off editors and agents. I don't think this is always the case as long as you're confortable with what ties your genres together. Maybe you write chick-lit and romantic suspense, but your characters are always strong women and your stories are always set in coastal towns. Maybe your style is similar. Maybe you have a similar theme (ha! There is again! Yay for theme!) that tends to come out in your books, like the fact that God is in control, and you show that in each of the genres you love to write in. I think if you're comfortable with what you write, it will show, and your love of several genres won't scare people off. As long as you're willing to commit once you're contracted.

So what I'm saying is--you don't have to pick right away! Yay! Isn't that freeing to know that you can write a happy scene where people are falling in love and then click over to your other manuscript and have a serial killer on the loose? =) So don't stress. It's okay to have a couple genres. But if you really want to pick, want to be able to identify yourself by what you write, or get to work on a website or a blog that really pertains to the one you write, think about those first four questions. I think that's one of the best ways to get your answer.


A Recovering Writer of Chick-Lit Who's Now Sticking With Romantic Suspense....

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What's your game plan?

What's your game plan?

We all have a dream as Christian writers,  which probably boils down to "get published".  :)

But the way to obtain dreams is to accomplish goals. Sooooo have you stopped lately to map out a list of goals that will serve as stepping stones toward your dream?

I think this is VITAL in the publishing industry, because things move so slowly there. It's nice to see yourself accomplishing goals and making productive steps along the way, because if you don't notice those little things, you'll feel like you're standing still or just constantly waiting waiting waiting.

And that's not exactly motivating :)

So think about your game plan. What can keep you moving and giving you fellow OCD'rs items to check off your list? What is your first goal?

This will look different for everyone, because everyone here is at a different stage of the plan. Some are working on a first manuscript, others might be working on a third or fourth. Some might have already pitched to agents/editors and are in the process of editing/tweaking their craft, while others are learning methods for the first time.

Some examples of these handy dandy stepping stone steps however, could include any or all of the below, in no particular order: (truly, no order, just as they come to me!)

1. Start a novel.
2. Finish a novel.
3. Attend a writer's conference.
4. Send query letters to agents.
5. Pitch a manuscript at a conference.
6. Start a second novel.
7. Finish a second novel.
8. Find a critique partner.
9. Submit an article to a magazine.
10. Start a blog.
11. Improve social media performance/build platform.
12. Join a writer's group.
13. Incorporate edits from a professional into your manuscript
14. Learn the craft of writing by taking an online or in person course.

What's your next step?

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Art of Teasing

I feel like I have some authority on this subject. To give you guys a little background, I'm the oldest of four children. I have a two-year-old son who has lots of friends who are girls.

My whole life has contained some form of teasing.

Sadly, the kind that I used to do and the kind that my son currently does is not really what we are going to talk about today.

(But if it was, here's what works really well for Nathan right now - grab a toy that is obviously desired and run away with it while laughing. Gets a reaction every time.)

No, today we are going to talk about two aspects of teasing that need to be incorporated into your books.

The Teaser

Also known as the "elevator pitch". We've talked about this before, but basically, editors like to see that you can describe your book or WIP in three sentences or less. The idea is that you could tell someone all about your book in the time it takes to ride one floor on an elevator. It's called a "teaser" because you want to leave the editor/publisher rep/random lady in the elevator wanting more. You need them to be begging you: what happens next??! This will go at the top of your proposal.

The key to crafting a good teaser is to let the reader know the very basics of your plot and I mean the VERY BASICS. Start with what your character wants and end with the question of whether or not they are going to get it. To use a common story, here's how Beauty and the Beast could likely have been written as a teaser:

"Belle lives in an idyllic countryside home but unlike her neighbors and fellow townspeople, Belle is not content to while away the days singing songs in the marketplace and buying bread. She longs for adventure and romance - and definitely not a romance with the town's bad boy who seems to have a thing for her. When Belle's father is taken captive by a mysterious beast who lives in a nearby castle, will Belle's thirst for adventure land her in bigger trouble than she could have ever imagined?"

Notice how there are very few details in there. Enough to paint a picture, not so much that we're taking up valuable elevator-door-opening time. ;)

The Teaser Ending

The other way to incorporate teasing into your book is really only applicable if you are writing a series. One of the best ways to hook readers in and get them to buy subsequent books is to leave your readers semi-hanging at the end of your story. However, be sure to wrap up the major plot lines introduced in your book.

In my new book, Paige Torn, I used this method. All through the book, I make hints to a rather important person in Paige's past who she would very much hope to never see again. Meanwhile, I have a whole storyline going in the novel about Paige and her current life. At the end of the book, the person from Paige's past is re-introduced as the plot lines from the current story are tied up. You want your readers to feel like it's a satisfying ending while also leaving them wanting more.

Want to practice? Try writing a very well-known movie's teaser. Then try to think of subplots in your current WIP that you could stretch into the sequel.

And feel free to leave your teasers in the comments! We would love to see them!

Have a great Monday, friends!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Humor Me and Pretend You're Back in High School English...

So today is kind of a big day in movies, I guess. Gatsby, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, comes out today! My husband has been wanting to see it, so he can talk about it with his dad (both of them are big Great Gatsby fans). What he didn't realize until we talked the other day is that LOTS of people are looking forward to this movie. When I told him that, he was super surprised. I guess he thought only hard core literature nerds would care. BUT that's not the case. Plenty of people are intrigued by the story, and I know why that is. As a fellow writer, you probably know too, or you would if you sat and thought about it for awhile.

Let me put on my former-English-teacher hat for just a second okay? Because I can't resist. =)

The reason people are going to run to theaters tomorrow to see a movie based on a book written decades ago is that it has a universal theme. People are people, and humanity's main characteristics and struggles know no boundaries in time. What people wanted in the 1920s is what they want today. Sure, buzzwords change, people like to pretend we're "original," but really we haven't.

Think about any of the classics you've read. They've stayed popular for a reason. Here are a few of my favorites (disclaimer: some of the language/other things in these books are less than stellar at times)

Pride and Prejudice
This Side of Paradise
The Scarlet Letter
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The House of Mirth
Heart of Darkness

If you've read any of those (or if you've read other classics that I haven't listed), think about the themes. We'll take The Scarlet Letter, since lots of people have read that. One of the main themes is hypocrisy. People who aren't who they say they are. Respected church leaders with dark secrets. Do we still deal with this today? Absolutely! Do we still judge people based on their sins and label them? Yes! Does Hawthorne think we should?

Even if it's not your #1 pick for a beach read (and let's be honest, I was an English teacher and it's not mine), you can see how this book impacts people because it has a theme we understand. Something we deal with, something we can relate too.

Gatsby's like that too. It has some universal themes about love (lust?) that people today relate to. THAT's why people are going to flock to that movie, in my personal opinion.

Think about what you're writing. What's the theme? Maybe you don't know yet. Most of my stories I have no idea what the theme is, what truth I'm trying to get across, until I'm part of the way into the story. But you probably have a theme. It's not necessarily something the reader will realize as soon as they read your book, which is good. We read fiction for entertainment. The gift we've been given as writers is the opportunity to weave themes into our stories that people absorb into their minds, whether they realize they're doing that or not.

So think of your story. What are you saying? What do you want to say? How can you work that into the plot, into the characters, in a way that's natural? How can you make your book something that will speak to people across geography, across age difference even?

I love theme stuff. I'm such an English nerd. =)

Comments: What are y'all's thoughts? Can you pick out the theme of the story you're working on? Maybe if you're feeling ambitious, also pick what you think is a theme from a current novel you've read lately and one from a favorite classic? Being able to do this with other people's stories will help you learn to make a theme shine through in yours.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Panties and piggybacks

Hey guys! Well at least my subject title caught your attention. hahaha.

I'm having quite a week as well, so I'm piggybacking on Erynn here and doing a quickie post.

I really would love it if you'd visit my personal blog today at  and read my post on "I Can't Find My Big Girl Panties". It's not exactly writing related, but when you're a writer, you realize that almost anything can be applied to our writing life/career/ministry. ::grin:: I hope it encourages you in some way!

I'll be back next Wednesday too with more craft posts.  :)

Anyone have any questions/topics they'd like to see discussed coming up? :)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Birth of a Book...

Y'all. This is the day I've been waiting for all year.

Who am I kidding? I've been waiting for it my whole life!

Today, I could walk into a store, and BUY MY BOOK!

Not that I would do that.

Check it out... and that's the Bare Naked Truth.

Monday, May 6, 2013


Hi friends,

Oh the week I have had!! It has been a wonderful week filled with lots of wonderful things like... drumroll please.. Paige Torn's release! But I am on SUCH an adrenaline crash now. I promise that if I didn't have my little man keeping me up and moving, I would still be sleeping.

So, all that to say, I feel totally incapable of providing any kind of writing advice today. So how about today we spend the day refreshing and recharging by picking up your favorite book and doing some sleuthing in it? Every time there's a scene in the book that pulls at your heart strings or makes you laugh or cry, stop, re-read and try to figure out how the author was able to make you feel that way.

Love to you all, my dear Scribble Chicks! I promise that I will be back on Monday, rested and with a fully-functioning (or at least semi-functioning) brain. ;)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Survey Says...?

I know we've talked about beginning before. Erynn wrote an awesome post on them a while back. And even if you missed that, you've heard beginnings talked about before. One of the big things that comes to mind when you're thinking of beginnings is Where should I start?

Ah, the eternal question.

I know it's best to start in the action. If you're going to write a book about a missionary who's on her way to Africa when she witnesses a murder in the airport parking garage and then has to run for her life (oooooh, I like that!!!), you don't need to give us eight chapters at the beginning about your heroine and how she feels called to be a missionary, and maybe go to Africa, and blah, blah, blah. We'd probably start with her witnessing the murder.

And hey, no stealing that plot line. I'm kind of liking it as a possibility for when I'm done with the next however many books I have in my head. ;)

Learning where to start has been something I've felt like I was getting better at. But for some reason with the manuscript I started a couple of weeks ago, I'm stumped.

So here's my question for you, if you'd like to weigh in. How much background do you like? Say a character is moving because of a job assignment she gets (in my case, she's a journalist). Do you like having her living her happy life in Place A for a chapter before she moves to Place B where the rest of the story would take place? Or would you rather she just be living her new life and allude to the fact that she's just moved, etc.? This isn't a hard-and-fast "rule" in writing. You're supposed to start in the middle of the action somewhere, but how much set up do you like before you're right smack-dab in the conflict? Or do you like any at all?

It varies for everyone, so I'm looking forward to hearing what y'all think!

All opinions are appreciated. =)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

It's time for...THE WEAKEST LINK!!

Do you remember that show? Did you ever watch it? It got to be addicting, sort of like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and all the rest.

I think the concept was genius though, and so true - a group really is only as strong as their weakest link. Sports teams, game-show contestants, politics, school competitions, whatever.

And the same is true in our writing.

Your book is only as strong as its weakest link.

You might be a rock-star when it comes to plotting high stakes, but you might falter with internal conflict. You might be a natural at writing beautiful descriptive scenes, but can't write dialogue to save your life. Maybe you're great at showing instead of telling, but you struggle with pacing.

See what I mean?

What do you need to brush up on in your craft? What topic of development or craft have you been avoiding because you just don't want to even deal with it? What can you do to enhance that element of your writing and make your writing stronger - make that link unbreakable?

Here's some suggestions:

1. Read books in your genre (see how the pubbed authors you really enjoy handle that craft element!)

2. Attend conferences, courses, mini-conferences, online conferences, or workshops offered on the subject

3. Read nonfiction craft books on writing (Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck of My Book Therapy have two, Deep and Wide and From the Inside Out. There's also Stein on Writing and James Scott Bell's Plot & Structure, and  Donald Maas Writing 21st Century Fiction, to name a FEW!)

4. Get critique partners to help you identify your weaknesses and brainstorm ideas of how to strengthen them.

5. Do exercises like writing prompts that focus on those weaknesses.

6. Read awesome helpful blogs like SCRIBBLE CHICKS to glean even more insight ;)