Stepping out and opening myself up to new opportunities is not something that comes naturally to me. Talking to people I don't know. Going to new places with which I'm not familiar and don't know anyone. Really. These things used to terrify me, and I still quite often have a jumble of nerves trying to turn my stomach inside out. I have, however, figured out how to quiet them and do it - whatever "it" is - anyway.
I've often joked that God had me go to four colleges (after saying one and done before I began) and work about nine jobs in seven years (summers, internships, etc.) so that I'd get used to new situations. He was preparing me.
Now, I speak on a regular basis, traveling to unfamiliar places without a single familiar face. I'm still not the best at starting a conversation with strangers and small talk is not my specialty. But I've learned to make do.
I've also learned that there are doors God opens for us that we never would have sought out or even noticed on our own. I never intended on or imagined I'd be a speaker. I've always loved to talk, but mostly with people I know well. I never dreamed I'd be an author, either. I actually detested research papers and writing for school.
Now I love both. I get to meet some really great people and have some wonderful experiences. I also have the pleasure of even more doors opening. Most recently, I traveled to TX to interview a cousin of mine to write her life story (which, prayerfully, will be released May 2014.) It was an honor and pleasure. She is a vibrant, caring, lovely young woman who's faced some tremendous challenges. That's why I thought her story should be told.
The trip also benefited me in that I had the chance to visit family I only get to see every decade or so and some friends I haven't seen in about that long or longer. It was a wonderfully, blessed trip and I couldn't have expected anything else.
Then, on the last flight home, I was on a plane with an exuberant, comedic, engaging flight attendant. By watching him and listening to some interactions with other passengers, a nagging started in my mind. This man had a story, one I imagined deserved telling.
Usually I'm the girl who never talks to strangers or puts myself out there. But in the little over an hour flight, the nagging wouldn't go away. So as I exited the plane I stopped for a moment, handed him my business card and said, "I'm an author and you seem to have a story to tell. I'd love to tell it for you. If you're interested, please feel free to contact me." He was very gracious and appreciative. We said good-bye and I walked off the plane.
Today, four days later, I received an email from him, inviting me to tell his story. I have no idea what his story is (other than he was at one time a football coach - college, I think - and retired to become a flight attendant. Oh, and his dad is one of the last surviving veteran's from Pearl Harbor.)
I look forward to finding out what else there is.
But most of all, I'm glad I've learned to live outside of my comfort zone and allow God to open doors I never would have hoped, dreamed, or imagined.
It's funny how time seems to slip away unnoticed. I have several blogs (The Mommy Answer; Moms for God; Surrendered Living), none of which I consistently write on. And I have this one. I know I'm not consistent, but it always amazes me how much time passes in between checking in on each (or even one) of my blogs.
At least I have a legitimate excuse, I think, for this one. I spent the last several months writing and editing, speaking and signing. I had a flurry of events between October and December and barely caught my breath long enough to do my Christmas shopping.
January has been completely different: I haven't had a single event, and I'm really enjoying the break. We're getting back into routine here at the house (kind of) and I've been getting a couple manuscripts ready for release later this year. (Keep an eye out!) I'm also working on some incomplete manuscripts, working on them steadily for the more distant future.
I hope that you're able to join me on this journey and am honored by any who check out my books. So far I have 5, by the end of the year my goal is to have 6 MORE!
So, if I don't post here every day, or every week, or even every month, I hope you can extend some grace and still check back once in a while to see what's going on.
And just in case - Happy Valentine's Day. Hope it's full of love!
I am so blessed to do what I get to do. I just returned home from three days in North Carolina where I had the privilege of speaking to four wonderful groups of women. Such a treasure, these groups organized by Stonecroft ministries.
And such a blessing to have family and friends who step in and take care of and love on my children when I'm gone. They miss mommy, but have a great time doing extra-fun things.
It was a pleasure also to get to share my new books with several of the women. I look forward to sharing more in contests over the weeks ahead (first one ends tonight at midnight!) and at my Author Launch Party in 10 days. What an exciting adventure I've the honor to ride. Now, to go tighten my seat belt.
I've taken a break from writing about writing to talk about something almost all of us love and appreciate: contests!
I'm officially launching my first book give-away contest. It's always fun to enter them, but even more fun to win.
That's why I've created several ways to enter. EACH TIME you: comment on any blog post here or comment or like a Facebook post on my author page between now and midnight Thursday, October 14, 2013 your name will be entered in the drawing.
On Friday, October 15 I'll announce the winner both here and on my Facebook page and that person will be able to pick out which book they'd like to receive. Be sure to check out my Books page so you'll be prepared if you're the winner!
When I began this series, I never anticipated it would last for more than a half dozen entries. However, I should have realized that trying to sum up even the basics of what I've learned about writing over the years would take up more space than just a couple posts.
It's like a buffet, you go through once and get what catches your eye and when you return for a new plate, there's more of that food plus dishes you never noticed. The world of writing's like that.
And now we move on. Today's topic is that second most challenging (at least to me) aspect of quality writing: Deep Point of View (POV.)
Many of us have read books from an omniscient POV, meaning the reader is let in on everything and has a glimpse into all the characters perspective. It's like have a bird's eye view with the ability to float through walls and move from one place to another in a flash. There are some well written books that use this POV, but its not what today's editors and agents are looking for. They're looking for a deep POV.
So what does that mean? Simply put, the reader can only see, hear, smell, taste, and feel what the character who's perspective you're in does. The author can't intrude and tell you what that character's face looks like or assume what another character is thinking. If you want to show these things, a section break or new chapter is in order.
It also means if you have a character walk out of a room or they have their eyes closed, they can't see anything, so you don't want to write what else is going on in the area/room visually. This is a good opportunity us use the other senses, though. Is there something they can hear, smell, or feel?
There are some key words that take away from deep POV. Like with many aspects of writing, they're not completely out of the question, but should be used only when it's really the way someone would say/think something. These include, but aren't limited to: thought, considered, felt, pondered, suspected, wondered, etc. (For example, instead of writing, "I thought about what she said," you could say, "Did she mean what she said Surely she didn't believe Bo was guilty.")
The main transition for a writer is to not see a scene from the outside, but from within one of their characters.
Continuing on with our current theme, today's post will cover one of two very important - and often hard to understand - elements of Quality Writing, which is the third aspect of good writing. There is so much to creating writing that flows, sings, and engages, that this one part will be separated into several sections. Today will cover the first stubborn, hard-shelled elements referred to above: Show, don't tell.
Show, don't tell - I can't tell you how many times I heard this phrase as a beginning writer . And each time I wanted to scream, "Tell me what that means! Show me, if you have to." Over time, people did show me - suggesting with certain lines and areas in a submission to a critique group how I could accomplish this great feat. And now I'll do my best to share this skill with you.
Basically, showing boils down to this: you want to let the reader experience the events, feelings, sights, sounds, etc. with the character the majority of the time. Okay writing tells what's happening most of the time and occasionally shows the action/scene. Good, quality writing shows what's happening most of the time and occasionally tells.
So you don't end up with the same frustrations as I did early on, here are some examples, with an offer at the end.
Ex. 1 She was furious. (telling) She balled her fists and narrowed her eyes. How could he? (showing)
Ex. 2 The house was beautiful. (telling) The lawn had been mowed in a checkerboard pattern and there wasn't a weed in sight. A porch spanned the front of the house and six white, round columns reached to the top of the second floor. (showing)
Ex. 3 Suddenly, a fight broke out. (telling) Ken shoved his chair back and clocked Bart before he had a chance to explain. Peter jumped in from behind and tackled Ken. Both of the ex-football players crashed into the table, ignored the shattered wood and glass and rolled on the floor, each swinging wildly at each other. (showing)
Does that help? I hope so. And in case you want a little more assistance on this area of writing, I'll offer the help that has been so valuable to me - having a more experienced writer's feedback. I'm willing to accept up to five pages of your work to review and critique. Be forewarned - the hardest critiques to take are often the most helpful. That doesn't mean it's easy to see your writing - your heart, soul, and hard work - marked up with red ink all over it, but if you can accept it (which I've had to do hundreds of times) and can pull back from the emotional aspect of it, your writing has the potential to grow exponentially more than just studying the craft and writing in isolation.
So, from today through the next 14 days (through October 10), feel free to email me a sample of your work and I'll give you feedback. I can't promise it'll be fast, it all depends on how life goes here and how many submissions I get, but I will do my best to have it returned within 30 days with suggestions. Ready? email me here: email@example.com.
So, in review, the first post about becoming a writer talked about the necessity of perseverance and the second discussed helpful resources. Today, we're moving past the soup and salad to the entree of writing.
Have you ever thought, "I wonder what I really need to know about writing,"? I thought this often as a new writer. I also strove to learn as much as I could from wherever I could. After several years of writing, critiquing, rewriting, editing, and revising, I can look back on everything I've learned along the way - everything I wish I'd known in the beginning.
While it takes the work - effort and time - to put many of these things into practice, it's helpful to know the ins and outs of writing rules and tips for taking an idea and molding it into a well-written story. Writing is a craft, an art, and there are techniques that are just as important to the process as skill and practice. This post will cover the first 2 of the 3 mail elements of Good Writing.
1 - Plot Development: make sure it's enough to keep readers interested. A good idea, a good scene, realistic issues may not be enough for a reader to tag along for 300 pages, or 150 for that matter. A plot should develop throughout the manuscript, always keeping the reader guessing as to how things are going to work out. Don't avoid foreshadowing completely, but don't give away the resolution, either. Additional plots, anywhere from 1-3 subplots, are helpful in increasing investment in the overall story. Think about the best books, movies, shows. There is always something more going on than just the main story.
2- Character Development: the people in your stories should be 3-dimensional. So what does that mean? First, it's not just about what they look like, say, and do, but also what they feel, believe, ad what experiences brought them to those things, mixed in with their personality. You should know your characters in depth, down to some of the smallest details, but you don't want to and shouldn't include every minute detail about them in your manuscript. You'll know your characters so much better and more things about them than your readers need or want. Lastly, remember to keep in mind these questions: What's unique about your character or makes them stand out? Do they have a personality that attracts the reader? (Unless its the antagonist, then do they sufficiently repel the reader?)
This list is by no means complete and comprehensive, but hopefully is a good springboard. There are many great writing books available, and tips on various websites (do I see a future blog post?),
In my last post I talked about my journey of becoming a writer and the importance of perseverance. While this is an essential element to becoming a writer (an author, really, if one's desire is to publish and sell books), there are several more integral elements to be successful.
Instead of talking specifically about what those are, however (see the tease?), today the focus is on resources. Why? Because it's through those resources those of us who love to write learn to take our ideas from our head, to paper, and finally to print. While the desire to get published is often extremely strong, most of us would agree that we want to put our best product out there. And that means learning - a lot!
When I began writing, I didn't have a clue what I didn't have a clue about. I remember vividly completing my first manuscript and starting to submit it. No one was nibbling, but I didn't know why. My questions were: Are they just not interested? Is it well-written or does it need major work? Should I keep submitting, revise it, or trash it? I really just didn't know. Now I cringe at what that first manuscript was like. I know know what it needed, and still needs.
And how did I learn what all the mistakes were in my first attempt at a novel? Perseverance was part of - I kept writing and writing and writing. But I could have just kept on making the same mistakes if it weren't for the resources I've had a chance to utilize.
First are the books. I once read this quote (or something very similar): Want to get published? Write a book about writing. And it's true at least in part. There are dozens of books on writing, editing, and publishing. And most of them are very good! They have great tips, examples, and rules for writing that will help a writer improve their craft. They are also the most reasonably priced resource - often only a few dollars and sometimes found in your local library.
Second are writers groups. The net makes connecting with other writers easier than ever, especially if someone can't meet regularly with others. Because these groups are made up of writers with all levels of experience, and generally off some critiquing, it's a great way to learn more about the craft of writing and grow to the next level.
Third are writers workshops and conferences. These are more draining on the wallet, but are another wonderfully helpful resource for writers. They are great for networking, taking classes that are geared to your needs, and for encouragement. There's nothing that compares to being around a bunch of other writers. Critique partnerships and friendships often begin and are fostered through these events.
The world of writing and publishing is something that lives under the radar of most people, but when you open the door to this world, you'll find that it's a rich one, full of people and resources that are generally helpful, supportive, and willing to share. I'm so grateful for everything I've learned from other writers, editors, publishers, and authors - helping me take my writing from okay, to good, to its best.
I did not ask to become a writer and never dreamed I would. I remember a middle school teacher once saying that we all have one book in us. And one time, as a young woman, a story attempted to start churning in my head. I thought about it for a few days, then life took over and the idea evaporated.
Then, years later, I began to put thoughts, feelings, and ideas on paper to deal with new and challenging circumstances in my life. I wrote and wrote and wrote. And eight years later, I'm still writing. At last count, I have 15 books somewhere in the writing process - from first chapter written to completely outlined with nothing written to completed and in print. Yesterday, two more books began spinning in my head.
I'm not sure how to explain how the process works, other than the ultimate Creator has implanted in my mind the ability to come up with a lot of ideas. That part of the process is the easiest for me - the ideas. The work comes in developing a concept, turning it into words on a page, and then transforming those words into something that will engage, entertain, and encourage others. The last two bits of the process are the ones that require the most effort for me and take the most time. Sometimes, they simply wear my poor brain out. But once it's had some rest, like a once overheated engine that's cooled off, it cranks right back up and is ready to roar again. And I love it! I'm glad it never stops. I'm also grateful that it takes a break once in a while.
Because the ideas flow so freely, and my writing began as a coping mechanism, I never expected the work involved in producing a book. In the beginning, when I was fresh as morning dew and knew nothing about getting published, a fellow writer I sought advice from told me the average time from first word to first published book was 5 - 10 years. I shrugged the long-term idea off. Ha! Just to prove what I didn't know, here I am 8 years later, finally where I wanted to be so long ago.
The process has been anything but consistent - as I said, sometimes writing and ideas flood my mind and the page, at others they dry up like air in the desert. However, I have been persistent in the process. Second to the desire and gift to write, persistence is an essential element. If you know you've been called to write, keeping at it is a must. After weeks, months, and years of work. After rejections. After hard critiques. When you keep at it, you will eventually get there.
The last week or so has been a flurry of activity - much of it in my head and on my laptop. If you were able to observe me, you wouldn't see the flurry. You'd see me planted in a chair and connected to my computer like an umbilical cord. With the goal of publishing four books this fall (still not quite sure how that happened), I've had quite a few goals to meet this month. And with having just finished hosting a Backyard Bible Club and looking forward to a mission trip later this month, the window of productivity dwindled to a few weeks.
I imagine most people don't realize how much work goes into getting a book into print. I sure didn't before I started this journey (almost 8 years ago.) I've been so blessed along the way to benefit from multiple resources: books, websites, writer's conferences, and groups online. I feel like I've been in Author's University working towards my master's degree. I have a master's degree (in counseling), so I know what an advanced program feels like. And now it's finally all coming together.
With publishing comes so many other things: promotional material, building a platform, events to get the word out, a web presence, and design. Admittedly, most of this I find great fun. I've enjoyed designing and developing business cards, bookmarks, pens, and invitations. It's exciting to plan an event. Creating and getting my website up and running had me so electrified I couldn't go to sleep that first night. It's all very thrilling, and scary. And time-sucking.
I took a family day off last Saturday and this Wednesday for a fun mommy/kiddo time at the pool with friends. Still, my poor house had been very neglected. So yesterday I came up for air and straightened things up enough that my hubby noticed.
I love writing, but writing doesn't always lend towards balance. I am not a write-an-hour-a-day kind of author. I'm a write to the exclusion of everything else kind of author. Which is why I'm grateful for forced and Spirit-prompted breaks. I'll take a big gulp of air, and then dive back in for a few laps, hopefully making the ideas spinning in my head into something that will engage, entertain, and encourage you.
I love words - the written word, spoken word, and best of all, the Word of God! I hope to always speak life with my words.