Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Long Time Coming

Confession that you've probably already noticed?

I haven't written here in a very long time. In fact, none of us have, partially (I suspect, though I should probably only speak for myself) because all of us have been adjusting so much over this last year to how much our lives have been changing. But y 'all get that, don't you?

I've moved to Alaska since I wrote here last, and I'm sitting here in the sunlight (it's almost 11pm...) thinking about life and writing and it made me want to say something...Mostly to myself, but I hoped it would help me if I said it to someone else too, so I'm choosing you guys. Here it is.

We all have callings. I really believe that. And while sometimes your calling will change based on where you are in life...Sometimes it won't.

I have struggled lately to be consistent in my writing time. Something that was once so easy suddenly became difficult, spurred by loss in my life last year, then made worse when I had trouble with a proposal that I felt should have been easier to craft than it was. Then we moved, then we were adjusting, then we were helping our son adjust to the move or whatever it was that caused more behavior challenges than usual...

Basically, then there was life, right? =)

But tonight I felt reminded that my calling to write hasn't changed because of all of that. I am a wife. I am a mom. But I am also called to be a writer, to write the stories in my heart, stories that point to God's truth, whether I think anyone will really read them or not.

(Did y'all realized published authors worried about that too??)

The same is true for you, friend. The time you have to give to your calling may change. It may even be put on hold for awhile. But unless you really feel that God has told you to leave it alone and pursue something else, don't let it sit on the side for too long. I'm having to realize that. This writing thing? It's a unique calling. It may not feel like it when you're at a conference, or on an online writing community and you see how many other people have this same dream that you do. But it's unique--it's a job, it's a ministry, it's a hobby...and people won't get that sometimes. They don't have to understand how those things play out, how it fits into your life.

God gets it. You get it.

And you're still called. I'm still called.

I just needed to say that to someone else, and to myself tonight. =)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

That Thing About Compassion, Dear Writer

We're emotional creatures, we writers. We don't have to have mood swings or drama or crazy (though I probably have all three) to be creative...

But we do have to feel in order to help others feel. And most of us came into the world feeling deeply.

We hurt for the girl with the tracks on her arms at Old Navy. We are physically affected by others' pain. Some of us become emotionally paralyzed when our own grief hits, reflecting rather than doing.

{I would argue that taking a little longer to reflect is actually healthier than what American culture tells us... which is, move on without processing.}

I was twenty-one years old when I finally heard the words, "There is nothing wrong with you. Deep feeling means deep caring."

I'd lived my whole life believing I was too sensitive. That somehow, some way, I would grow thicker skin and become "normal" as I aged. That eventually my compassion level would switch to average.

A gift.

Dear writer friend, your ability to show compassion is a gift. Your pain, your agony, even, is your gift to the world--one that says, I see your pain. I feel your suffering. You are not alone.

Sound familiar?

God with us... Emmanuel.

His Spirit inside of you.

Keep being you. Keep feeling. Keep loving. And keep knowing when it is time to hand it off to Him... the one who comforts us so that we can comfort others with that same comfort.

I love you, and so does the one who never ceases to be with us...

Monday, October 27, 2014

Word crimes

This is such a fun video for us writerly-types that I just had to share it. :)

Now - 'fess up. What's your BIGGEST pet peeve when it comes to word crimes?? Mine has to be the there/their/they're. Their. I said it. ;) ;)

Have a wonderful Monday!!

Friday, October 24, 2014

First Things First

It's started to distress me how very, very fast I write and how very, very few words I get written some days. For awhile I tried not to think about it, then in classic over-analytical fashion I decided to really ponder it. And I think I've finally figured it out, thereby solving every writing word count problem you or I have ever had.


You have to be focused to write your best.

I'm going to give you a minute to soak that in, hold your coffee cup a little tighter, and try to process. Haha.

I know, it sounds obvious. Of course we have to focus to do our best work! But sometimes I think that means forcing myself to sit down at the desk and...stare. And sometimes it does. Inspiration can be forced. But sometimes we're fighting against ourselves.

I know I can't focus on my writing when there's a pile of laundry in my field of vision. I know I can't focus on it when it's 5pm and I have no idea what I'm feeding my family for dinner.

Do the things you need to do first and your writing will actually benefit from it.

So what I've learned this week? Making writing schedules and goals is great. We really are capable of juggling everything God is calling us to do, with His help. But we are responsible for taking care of some details about our lives that have to be handled before we can fully immerse our brains in our stories and say what we need to say.

If you're having trouble with making progress today, get up. You heard me. I'm bucking the "sit down until it comes" trend just this once to tell you to unload your dishwasher. Finish that school assignment. Put away the laundry that's been on your sofa for over a week (oh wait, no one does that? hm...). THEN come back to your computer.

And then, if you're like me, I'm betting the words will flow.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Plot, Schmot.

Every writer has their strengths and weaknesses. Some of us are fantastic at dialogue or description, another is a great plotter, still another might be the royalty of research.

My strength is totally in dialogue and totally NOT in plotting.

And as a result, I sometimes have to go back and cut lots and lots of words after I talk myself into a corner storyline-wise. Those cuts hurt.

So, here are some quick, easy and practical ways to work on your plots - even if you are a plot-as-you-go type like I am. These work best if you brew a pot of coffee or a sweet tea first. Just speaking from experience here.

* Start with a very loose outline of what you want to accomplish. It can even be as loose as something like Girl loses job, Girl gets new one; or, Girl is lonely, Girl meets guy.

* Keep a record of what has happened in the story - at least the major points. That way, you aren't repeating yourself later.

* Figure out the ending early and keep it in mind as you write. You don't need all the details, just a loose ending or a loose understanding of where you want the character development to be by the end of the book.

* Every main character should learn something or grow in some way by the end of their story. How is your character going to change? Keep this in mind as you write.

* Have fun and don't be scared to be spontaneous. If your character is taking the story in a direction that you didn't see coming, don't be afraid to explore the possibility of that direction.

How do you plot your stories?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Writing AND...

Anyone else struggle with where you writing fits in your life?

I'm a stay-at-home-mom, a "job" I never knew I would love so much. Seriously. It cracks me up some days how much I enjoy everything about it. But what this means is that people assume I don't work, and when I do tell them about my writing, or when people who know about it bring it up, what I usually hear is "I don't know how you do it" or "where do you find time?" or "I could never do that!"

I know everyone means for these things to be encouraging. (Haha, so if you've said those things to me, don't get angry! I know what you mean. =) ) But weirdly enough, sometimes they get to me. Sometimes my insecure brain twists things around and instead I hear...

You can't possibly be doing both well.

Good moms don't have time for that.

A good mom would give up writing and take care of her kids.

Life is about balance. And as I recently read somewhere...I think Tricia Goyer's book about being a work-at-home-mom, that kind of balance doesn't mean everything is balanced perfectly. It means our top priorities stay the same:

1. God
2. Family

And the rest of them shift. Friendships will shift around at different seasons. Sometimes the laundry is less critical than others. Sometimes we can justify another trip through the Chick-fil-A drive through and sometimes you just need to cook...

But it's a constant process. Whether you're a mom, or a wife (or both) or a student, or devoted to your day job, it's hard sometimes to think about doing that and being a writer. Do you know what that means? I means it's hard. Haha. That's all it means! It doesn't mean you're wrong to pursue both. Do you know what that doesn't mean, friends?

It means that unless God whispers to your heart that you need to lay your writing down for a season (and I know He sometimes does), then you do not.

Sometimes what God has called us to do doesn't make sense to other people.

Sometimes it doesn't make sense to our calendars. Haha. But I really am learning that if we rely on God's guidance to show us what is important when, then we can write and do real life well too.

Is God telling you to write and something else is telling you that doesn't make sense right now? Listen to Him. And share with us so the rest of us (like me!) who sometimes feel that way know we aren't alone.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Types of typers

Sorry for the cheesy title. It's late. ;)

Tonight, I want to talk for a few minutes about the two different routes you can take as an author - traditional publishing or self-publishing (or independent publishing, e-publishing, print-on-demand - I'll talk more about each of these in a minute).

Traditional publishing is what we typically think of when we think of an author and their publisher. I tends to follow the same steps every time:

* Author writes a proposal.
* Author gives proposal to agent.
* Agent sends proposal to publisher.
* Publishing board meets and decides they like the proposal .
* Publisher signs a contract stating they will publish the book and pay the author a certain amount called an "advance" (typically it comes in two installments - one when the author signs the contract, one when they deliver a complete manuscript or when the manuscript is deemed acceptable by the editor).
* Author submits work.
* Book goes through several edits - an overall edit, a line edit and a copyedit - this takes several months.
* A cover artist hired by the publisher creates a cover for the book.
* After a few more months, the book is printed.
* Publisher hires a publicity manager to get the book into influential people's hands or to arrange book or blog tours.
* As the book sells, you make 'royalties", or a percentage of each book's sales and those are paid back to you after you earn back the advance. Once you have earned enough to cover the advance, you then get royalty checks every few months (typically four times a year).

 If you are looking to be published by a traditional publisher, the absolute, hands down BEST way to get your work into the publisher's hands is to go to a writing conference. I know we say this all the time, but it's true. ;)

Self-publishing is very different. The entire process is a little different but unlike traditional publishing where there is a general framework that most everyone adheres to, self-publishing has a few different forms that are each pretty unique.

Independent publishing is what most people think of when they hear self-publisher. Basically, the steps go like this:

* Author writes the book.
* Author either pays to have the book edited or edits it themselves.
* Author provides cover work or pays for the cover work.
* Author then pays the publisher a lump sum to produce the book (some publishers will provide editing and cover art services as a part of their fee). As a part of the fee, you get an ISBN number and a set amount of copies. Some even provide it on online sellers like Amazon, etc.
* Author can then buy copies of their book at wholesale prices and sell them at retail prices to make money off the book. They also make money off online sales.
* Author is in charge of all of their own publicity.

Print-on-demand publishing follows the same guidelines as the independent publishing, except there may not be a mass production of books - with these publishers you pay as you go - meaning that they will print say a hundred copies and then when you need more, you order more and they print more.

E-publishing is the newest form to hit the market. In e-publishing, there is no hard copy of the book - it is strictly an e-book (Kindle, Nook, etc.). Here are the steps for this:

* Author writes the book.
* Author edits the book or pays someone to edit the book.
* Author creates a cover image or pays someone to create the cover image.
* Author uploads the manuscript onto Kindle publishing or Nook publishing or another online e-book distributor.
* Distributor sells the book and author and distributor earn money from royalty sales.
* Author does all their own publicity.

The biggest difference in independent and print-on-demand books and e-books? Independent and print-on-demand the author pays to have their book published. In e-book publishing, the distributor takes a percentage of the royalties (usually around 30-50%), but the actual publication is free.

So there you have it. A very, very, very quick and basic intro to a few of the different forms publication can take. What are your thoughts on all of this? Is there a form that you respect/prefer more than others? Why do you think you feel that way?