Saturday, February 27, 2010
I had sent a goal and was only on w0rd 401 for the day. The first paragraph went fabulously. Then, each word became so difficult to plunk out- slow and I'd even say painful. It is difficult being fully aware that you are writing slush pile material, but still pressing on, knowing that you can't edit what isn't written. Giving up wasn't an option.
Join my brain in progress...The main character is having her hair done for a family photo. That is where the trouble started. What kind of hairstyle? Went to the trusty Internet for some pictures. Realizing that the style I was thinking of was in the wrong decade. One m character is a musician and part of the jazz era. Then I realized the car I'd given him wasn't created yet!
Thus began a desperate search through the 20's, 30's and 40's to attempt to pinpoint the year. Ahhhh! He couldn't drive a 40's Plymouth, have his favorite song be on the radio in the 30's and get into speakeasies. Well, I guess he could in my mind but it didn't translate to the written word well. Now I am faced with having to deal with the Depression or World War II. Sigh. How could a hair style lead to so much bewilderment?
Here is the funny part. My husband who is neither a writer, nor a fan of reading came home late from work. Needing to get these "hefty" ideas out of my head to keep my sanity, I share my dilemma. His eyebrow went up on one side, thoughtfully. I told my beloved that the writing was junk that day but I found out a few new things. Frank (my imaginary character) finally agreed to do.....and then....well his wife was not happy about THAT....and then Lizzy (the daughter) was at school and some girl said to her, "Everyone knows your dad is a lousy drunk!" I told him how my character responded. Am I rambling yet? I imagine so, you should see inside my head :).
As the writer, I was surprised to find out that the whole town already knew about Frank. And Lizzy surprised me by slapping another character! I concluded at least I learned something new about my story.
My husband was still staring at me like I was crazy. He calmly said, "She pinched her?" Then he started chuckling as he walked up the stairs. I was stunned. All that mental effort and that is what he took away from this genius plot?!?
What must it be like to love a writer? Someone who seems somewhat normal but talks about her characters as if they were alive. And he surely can't understand how I can be as surprised as the next person when there are new revelations about my fictional friends.
How about you, ever feel like you are somewhat caught in your writing; in the specifics of time or character? Can anyone relate?
Now, back to the turn of the century I go to start again. I have got to know what year my story takes place. After all, Frank needs a new suit for his photography session and I don't want him to be out of style...
Friday, February 26, 2010
I made up a new phrase or concept today. It’s called mental empathy. It sounds like mental telepathy and kind of works the same way only instead of knowing what someone else is thinking, I interpret what someone else is feeling. I use it when I’m writing. Do you? Maybe you do, but you’re unaware of it. Or maybe you’ve never made up a name for it like I have.
This is how it works. When I’m writing a scene I get into character and pretend that I’m the person I’m writing about. I put on their shoes and walk through their life and feel empathy for what they’re going through. I have the same back story and the same junk in my trunk. How does it feel? How do my past experiences impact my daily decisions, my motives and the way I perceive my world? Can my behavior be justified? How? Why? Would I want others to pity me or would I be too proud to complain? Would my junk make me a stronger person, more defensive, or bitter?
The way I get into character changes. Sometimes I have to close my eyes and listen to music and other times I need it real quiet. Maybe you need to get up off the sofa and walk through the motions. Do you have a limp? Are you old? Is it relevant to the story to mention how fast you move? What do you smell along the way? What do you hear? Do these affect your mood? Why? Maybe you have to dress up for the part. This can be productive, but be careful not to get too carried away—especially if you’re expecting dinner guests and your character is the opposite sex or a ballerina. If your guests arrive early they might think you’re, ah, quite a ‘different’ character.
After I feel empathy for my character’s predicament then I give her an out of the ordinary quirk—you know, a tic, a food fetish, something that makes her unique and identifiable—as an outlet for her feelings. For instance, a librarian who body builds, a cardiologist who smokes cigarettes or a little old grey-haired lady who loves to go to bloody boxing matches. You get the idea. It’s really fun to give them a quirk that’s not stereotypical. The unexpected is always refreshing.
So before you write, find some mental empathy and get into character. How many others do this, too? What are some of your character’s quirky behaviors that don’t fit personality stereotypes, but give your protagonist an outlet for the way she feels? Creative writers want to know.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Even so, fiction writers do write who they know. Fortunately (or unfortunately if you are a defamation lawyer), most of us create characters who are amalgams of different people rather than one recognizable person. But that isn't always the case.
(Before we get any farther, don't bother starting an argument over who vs. whom. I chose my word and I'm sticking with it.)
Imagine yourself living in the glow that follows your first published book. Then the sheriff knocks on the door and hands you a summons. Your brother has sued you for defamation.
Oh, you say, it won't happen to me. I only write fiction, and everybody knows fiction isn't true. Besides, I'll have a disclaimer at the beginning of my book saying that any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.
That may have been what Andrew Fetler thought when he published The Travelers. If so, he soon discovered that he was wrong.
The novel revolved around a family very much like Andrew's family and an older brother very much like Andrew's older brother, Daniel. But the fictional parts portrayed the older brother taking actions that Daniel found repugnant. So Daniel sued, and the entire family took sides.
The trial judge did not think readers would connect the character in the book with Daniel, so the judge dismissed the case without a trial. But the federal appeals court said the similarities were strong enough to let a jury decide whether readers would identify the real brother as the fictional one.
I don't know how the story ended. The dispute might have gone to trial or, more likely, it may have settled. But even if Andrew ultimately won the case, he had to bear the expense and stress of a lawsuit and live with the knowledge that his novel had divided the family.
Avoiding unnecessary conflict is especially important for Christians. Proverbs 12:18 tells us to be careful what we say (or write) so that we don't harm others. Because even true words can be hurtful.
So if you want to write about real people and situations in your fiction, make sure you change enough facts to disguise the characters. This requires time and creativity, but it could avoid hard feelings and a lawsuit. And your writing will be better for the effort.
Kathryn Page Camp
NOTE: The case discussed in this entry is Fetler v. Houghton Mifflin Company, 364 F.2d 650 (2d Cir. 1966).
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Reading Thin Places has been a real encouragement for me both as a writer and as one who has experienced some difficult life experiences. Writing from the heart requires a willingness to bare one's soul for the benefit of the reader. The writer who embraces the opportunity to serve God by permitting herself to be vulnerable can participate with her Lord in the life-changing process.
It's easier for a reader to believe a writer's attempts to teach, to support, or to encourage if that writer's ben there -- has had a similar experience and with God's help, has come through it in victory.
For example, I can empathize with the Christian woman who did not have divorce in her vocabulary, and who thought he believed in the sanctity of marriage, only to find herself divorced after twenty-plus years into a life together. I've been there. And, by God's grace, I have spent two more decades recovering and getting used to living alone -- yet never really alone. I've seen God bring good into my life through the circimstances. And now, I have time to do the writing I only had time to dream about while raising a family. At long last, I'm fulfilling the writing urge God has given me.
I can also encourage the distraught writer hopeful whose professor or managing editor has torn her heart to shreds by a harsh grade or critique. I've been there. Later, the publisher and the managing editor at the newspaper where I worked both praised my writing ability. I can say to the writer, "keep on keepin' on. You'll make it."
Why? I've been there.
It has taken a good number of years both to become content with my singleness and to improve my writing skills -- especially in switching from newswriting to fiction writing. My next challenge, to have my first novel ready for the ACFW 2010 Conference.
We Hoosier bloggers would love to hear what our readers have learned the hard way of writing, and re-writing, and re-writing again. How can you now encourage the writing endeavors of others? What are you doing to grow as a writer? Would you drop us a note and let us know what's happening with your writing?"
The article contained six local "publishers" with a brief write up of their mission. Aside from the prestigious Indiana University Press and the Indiana Historical Society Press most of the others were little more than someone who had self-published a book or two and then came up with a name for their very own publishing company. It seems that these days anything is legit. My husband said, "I guess I could record myself singing, burn it to a CD, make a company name and wa-lah! I now have my own record label." I laughed. Now in defense of people who want to genuinely start a business, I understand about small beginnings, even self-published beginnings might be the only feasible way to go. Many great businesses have started out in a garage. But it rankled a bit to see these publishing houses who someday want to "expand to other authors in the future" get the kind of press that the Indianapolis Star can provide.
What about you? Is there a particular TV/radio/print platform that you dream of landing (Oprah!?!)? Or if you have you been able to break into that great media outlet, what impact did it have on your career? Was it as rewarding as you thought it would be? What about prayer and trusting God in this area. The old push/pull between sitting back and trusting God to work in His timing and working toward goals plays into this issue for me.
I want to do what's right and have a pure heart, but I also really, really want to see my books in the Indianapolis Star! :-) (Anybody got a contact there?) LOL! Thanks for listening to my little rant.
Monday, February 22, 2010
But earlier nothing comes to my mind to write about. It’s not until I’m under pressure that I can focus much clearer and find the words I want to use. For example, the first novel I wrote took me a year and a half to write. The first year and three months I wrote a total of three chapters, over and over again. In the last three months of writing that novel, I wrote the other twenty-three chapters.
I’m sure this method of writing would make many writers cringe. But for those others who are saying to themselves, “That’s me!”—there’s still hope. How do I know that? Because I Googled it.
The result I’ve found is that successful writers have completed novels in a short time span and have come out with best sellers. Karen Kingsbury wrote her novel Ever After (100,000 words) in four days. I don’t know how she even had time to brush her teeth while accomplishing that, but she must’ve had a massive surge of creative juices flowing day and night. And a very supportive family.
If you’re writing under pressure, whether you like it that way or have no other choice, consider this verse from Philippians 4:13 - “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Life doesn’t always allow for ample time to write, so make do with the time you have. And have the guts to get it done. I like what Ernest Hemingway once quoted about having guts. He said, “By “guts” I mean grace under pressure.”
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Nearly two decades have passed since I sat in Mr. Schwartz’s German II class, but I’m still not done learning languages. Last February, I entered the world of writing. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that writing has its own language. Maybe you are new to the journey of writing or maybe you have been in the business for years but just never had the guts to ask someone what all these words, phrases and abbreviations mean. If that is you, let me try to help you out.
Wrinkles In Production? Wincing In Pain? No, WIP means your Work In Progress or the story/article you are currently writing. Don’t let its name fool you—you won’t be whipping it out any time soon, but rather sweating over it for possibly years to come.
Before my life as a writer, this meant a dreaded, crippling disease. So let’s see…Meaningless Scribbles? No, this is the grown-up name of your WIP. After all the blood, sweat, and tears, your WIP will become your finished ManuScript.
This has nothing to do with Joan of or Noah and should not be confused with your character's arc. This is what happens to your MS after it is accepted for publication. Your publishing house will want others to read your book and say nice things about it, so they will give them an Advanced Reader’s Copy or ARC.
Uh-oh. A four-letter word. Maybe… Book On Teton Yetis? Or…Book of Talented Yodelers? (You know Amish fiction is hot.) Let’s see…Bought Out the…no, we are not going there. No, this stands for Book of the Year and if your WIP grows up to be a MS then graduates to an ARC, you can enter it and hopefully win the ACFW Book of the Year contest for published books.
These are merely a sampling. If you are a new writer like I am, we have a long way to go. I still need to get my brand (ouch!) and learn to make my bed with one-sheets.
Nikki Studebaker Barcus
Friday, February 19, 2010
At first the woods didn't look like much: just tangles of leafless branches and brush. Gray limbs and white snow.
But as I studied it I began to notice that at least two kinds of woodpeckers liked those trees, and so did a little flock of chickadees. Sometimes I saw cardinals, probably flying in after brunch at feeders in the subdivision behind the factory.
I'm looking forward to seeing the woods change as winter turns into spring. Will a low spot in the middle turn into a pond? Will there be toads? Tree frogs? Mosquitoes? Wildflowers?
In the same way, at first I found the factory full of strangers. Now I recognize my co-workers as single moms, recently unemployed men happy to return to work, young people just starting out ... all kinds of people with all kinds of stories.
As a writer I should study my surroundings -- not just see but notice the details.
What are some of our best ways to notice details, of our surroundings? Do little details add a lot? Can details help us connect with those around us and reveal more of Christ?
What's new down on the farm? Come and see ...
Thursday, February 18, 2010
When I critique the first chapter of a novel for a critique partner, I like to start with a Quik Crit of the first 500 words. My focus is on the protagonist, the story question, and the hook. If those particular elements aren’t up to snuff, chances are an agent/editor won’t read past the 501st word.
Story trumps all, and since the protagonist carries the story it’s important to see how the protag is introduced. First I check for specific character qualities. I list them for the author and ask her, is this the impression she intends the protag to make on the reader? I’ve been surprised by how often a protag is introduced in a totally negative light. As in whiny, sullen, arrogant, resentful—in a word, a loser with nothing to make her/him attractive to the reader. In a recent crit, I pointed out how the protag was pictured as short, morose, weird, and punishing himself for something not explained to the reader. Imagine my surprise when in Chapter 2 he showed up as a tall, gorgeous hunk who was charming, confident, and striding toward his goal. Huh? The author was equally surprised at my first impression—until she examined what she’d actually put on the page. Secondly, I look at the action. Is the character moving the story forward? It doesn’t need to be at a gallop, but it needs to be more than simply milling around displaying character qualities.
I recently read an intro scene that was deliciously written. The protag was appealing, and I loved the author’s voice. But there was no story question worked into all those fabulous words. No hint of a flaw or a dilemma or where the story was headed. The character was simply… introduced, period. It was like being handed a train ticket with a lovely, young companion to sit next to, but without a destination to orient me. The train ticket is the author’s promise to tell a good tale, and the tale needs to begin with not just the intro of the protagonist, but with the big bump in the road—er, tracks—that makes it into a story.
We hear a lot about hooks—that chunk o’ chocolate that entices the reader to stick with the story long enough to get the train rolling. Fortunately the options are many and varied, and an author can be successful with a tried-and-true technique or come up with her own. The point is, by the 500th word, is the reader captivated enough to read on?
There are other story elements that can be looked at in the first 500 words, but the profit of the Quik Crit lies in evaluating what the reader’s first impression of the book might be. Are the most important elements there? The Quik Crit can also be used in a small gathering of authors (such as a “cluster” group) who would like their openings evaluated. Is the group on board with what the author intended, or did she unintentionally put the readers on the wrong train?
by Steph Prichard
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
SEPTEMBER 17 - 20, 2010
Hyatt Regency Downtown - Indianapolis MARK YOUR CALENDAR!
The last few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about conference. Even though it’s still 7 months away, or according to Cara Putman, 211 days, the ACFW conference planning committee is already working to make sure this is the best conference possible.
This year we Hoosiers have the pleasure of hosting the conference in our home state. Think about how beneficial this is for us. If cost has ever kept you from attending, this may be your year to attend. No airfare! Think of all the money you’ll save. And if you live close to Indy and are on a tight budget, you could even go home in the evenings after your courses. It’s not nearly as fun as being in the hotel for all the events, but hey, whatever you have to do, it’s worth it.
With all of this in mind, I wondered if any of the newer Indiana ACFW members had any questions about conference. What to expect…how to dress…what to take with you…free time… scholarships…what goes on during conference…roommates…dining…anything you’re wondering but haven’t had a chance to ask. Come on. Don’t be shy. Also, if any of the “older” members have any fun conference stories feel free to share them.
Don’t wait until this summer and wish you’d have started saving earlier in the year. Now is the time to squirrel away that cash and prepare for an educational and very inspiring conference.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
You might be a writer if:
In doing high school term papers, you emitted the politically correct moans and groans, but secretly enjoyed writing them.
You don't file your nails with an emery board; you wear them down on a computer keyboard.
You cannot write a grocery list without analyzing its transformational arc.
You volunteer to write missionaries or Aunt Maudie May Simmons not to gain eternal brownie points, but because you love writing letters.
You believe clean laundry is highly overrated and that ironing should be declared illegal.
You know every street, building and park bench in your fictional setting, but get lost trying to find your hometown DMV.
You are refused entrance to movie theaters because they recognize you as the criminal who tells customers how much better the book is.
You inform your tax accountant you want to claim your anniversary weekend getaway as "romantic research."
At the breakfast table, your spouse asks how your protagonist is feeling today.
Your kids have memorized your cozy mystery file of undetectable poisons.
You purchase a second residence to house all your books.
You like to eavesdrop on cell phone conversations.
You break out in hives if your allergic character eats shellfish.
She receives Valentine chocolates and you gain the weight.
You are arrested for vandalism because you corrected apostrophe use on signs with a spray paint can.
You and your family ate Cheerios and Cheetos for supper every night this past week.
The announcement that you are "on deadline" causes those who share your life to don body armor.
You haven't changed your car's oil since the Carter administration.
You're so used to writing for free that when you actually receive a royalty check in the mail, you return it as a mistake.
Repairmen refuse to come to your house. (Your plumber didn't appreciate your explosives research for your WWII historical, and he spread the word.)
You stalk strangers in Wal-Mart in order to take notes on their gaits and gestures.
Even your villains get more sleep than you do.
When you kill off a character, you call in an obituary to the newspaper. And [*sob*] send flowers.
Librarians catch you sniffing their books.
You make bomb threat calls to Starbucks so you can have the place to yourself to write.
There they are: an extensive but not exhaustive list of strange and alien indications of a true writer. Perhaps you, my readers/writers, and your families can suggest others?
Monday, February 15, 2010
Marketing in K-Mart Terms Vol 2
Do I need an Influencer?
This question is similar to the significant question-do I need an agent? Perhaps not as weighty, but worthy of consideration.
What is an influencer? An influencer is a promoter of your book. One who positively influences others. It is a form of viral marketing or word of mouth promotion. An influencer is one who invests in your book; one who is a member of your tribe. You certainly want someone who believes in your book, but who is also honest.
Specific steps an influencer can take:
- Of course, read the book. All of it.
- Talk about the book everywhere: to groups you belong to, with friends and family, at book clubs.
- Write about the book: on Facebook, Twitter and your blog.
- Review the book: on Amazon, on the ACFW website, your personal blog, the publisher’s website, on-line review sites, your newspaper.
- Have your book club read and discuss the book.
- Distribute bookmarks, flyers or other media items.
- Ask your library to order the book.
- Ask bookstores to carry the book.
- Record the book with an online tracking system (don’t know name) and then pass on the book. The book’s journey can be tracked.
- Participate in a blog tour of the book.
- Invest in a copy for a friend, for your church book store or library.
A real commitment is required of an influencer and the task shouldn't be taken lightly. These are only a few guidelines for an influencer. Are there other ideas you have to share?
A real commitment is required of an influencer and the task shouldn't be taken lightly. These are only a few guidelines for an influencer. Are there other ideas you have to share?
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Think I’m being facetious? Not so much. More and more, it seems, there’s a groundswell of women who make it their business to exhibit an absolute stone-cold hostility toward this perfectly innocent little holiday in the middle of February.
So what’s that all about?
Yes, I know. If you’re single and you don’t want to be, the last thing you want is a reminder of it. It can hurt. It can make you feel as if the entire world is one big Noah’s Ark...except for you. You may find yourself muttering, with Charlie Brown, “I already know no one likes me. Why do they have to have holidays to emphasize the fact?”
But does “no one,” in fact, like you?
I suspect that’s not the case.
You’ll hear, “Oh, it’s just another way to sell cards and flowers and candy.”
Ooooooookay. And this is bad...why?
Seriously. Putting aside for the moment the clear and obvious nutritional benefits from chocolate :-), do you really begrudge your local florists and confectioners a living?
I suspect not.
And let’s also not forget, some of our sisters and brothers out there in Writer Land make part of their living, if not all of it, writing the insides of greeting cards...yes, even Valentines.
Do you want them to have to stop?
I suspect not.
In fact, I suspect that the protests and slams and sarcasm we hear around Valentine’s Day have little to do with being “adult” or “realistic” enough to “see through” the holiday for the “fake” it is.
But they have a lot to do with fear.
Let’s face it. At the bottom of not having a “sweetheart,” after all, is the reality of being alone.
And being alone is scary. Just ask any of the little children we used to be.
...any of the little children, inside, that we still are.
But what if we stopped being afraid?
What if we could find a One and only who never lets us go...in the greatest romance of all?
And what if He lived up to everything we’d ever hoped for, beyond our wildest romantic imaginations?
Would we be able to fathom, then, why that might be worth celebrating?
After all, the One who loves us more than anyone on earth possibly could has promised every single one of us hearts, and flowers, and frills--mansions, even--“beyond anything we could ask or think.”
If that’s not worth a little romantic anticipation, I don’t know what is!
So--for many reasons--I’m a romantic.
Yes, I love the hearts and the lace, the candlelight and sweet poems, the chocolate and the roses. I love the walking-on-airs and the happy-ever-afters and the til-death-do-us-parts.
But most of all, I love the fact there is One person above all who loves me so much He can’t wait to see me in person. And no matter what day it is on the calendar, who else is in your life, or even if your mailbox has no greeting cards in it...He still loves you just that same way, too.
Ain’t love grand? :-)
Friday, February 12, 2010
That crazy-lady writer lives in my mirror. And since that comment, to her surprise she's discovered FB is a GREAT writing warm-up. In fact, it's one of the best she's ever used.
In case you're wondering -- writing warm-ups are as necessary for a writer as warm-ups are for a runner or bicycler or skier or even a motor. Semester after semester, I taught writing warm-ups to college students, and enjoyed the students' relief that "wow, they really do work."
What does it mean that warm-ups work? It means no writer's block! So in addition to reading and commenting on FB for a few minutes, here are several other suggestions to jump-start your writing motor and zoom past the writer's b---- word.
I suppose FB's smaller Internet sibling, Twitter, might be a warm-up. But I don't have time for Twitter. However, FB's long-winded, older cousin E-mail works well for me, although too many e-mails really are an energy drain. So beware. Use moderation.
Read or watch news is another suggestion, especially if the news makes you mad or concerned or excited. When you feel strongly, you write quickly and with power.
Now I know many writers disagree with this next suggestion, but many also agree with it. Edit or reread your previous day's writing. Not once have I had writer's block after using editing as a warm-up. In fact, since I started using warm-ups long, long ago, I've forgotten what writer's block feels like.
To conclude, here's a warm-up that will rev up your spirit along with your writing. And what Christian writer doesn't need that?! Read a devotional. This year, my daily online devotionals of choice are from the Crystal Cathedral. Even if I don't read all the words, the accompanying photo image is enough to make my writing motor hum.
Now please take a minute to share your favorite writing warm-up for the benefit of the rest of us. And just think, doing so will be your warm-up for today. I promise!
Millie Samuelson :-)
Thursday, February 11, 2010
I’m always amazed when I hear published authors announce they have never read a single book on the craft of writing. Frankly, it hurts my self-image, because I have to assume they are more intelligent, and that I will have to work harder to reach their skill level.
Maybe you understand where I’m coming from when I confess, I work hard for every tidbit of writing growth I gain. In the corners of my mind, the idea pops up that someday I’ll uncover some great secret of writing, but truthfully, I know there is no secret—only hard work and revision.
In my quest to grow as a writer, I’ve read every craft book I can buy or borrow, listened to hundreds of lectures from ACFW, RWA, and MWA, and I’ve often begged my family to read my stories and give me feedback.
Of late, I have even sought out material from the screenwriting genre. I have no desire to write a screenplay, but already I have gleaned giant nuggets of writing gold from the likes of Michael Hague, Sid Field and Robert McKee (www.thewritersstore.com).
My latest treasure has been, Inside Story; The Power of the Transformational Arc, by Dara Marks. Inside Story has filled a vacant spot in my writing library, (as well as a blind spot in my writing skills) and although I have read, highlighted and even typed notes from this book, I would easily fork over double the cost for a new copy if this one were lost or stolen. This three-hundred-page work focuses primarily on screenplays, but naturally, it is a great study for writing fiction as well.
Most of us understand our character’s need for a fatal flaw, and that he or she has to change and overcome that flaw or else forfeit reaching the story goal. This principle is common knowledge, but the thing that’s different about Mark’s book is that she guides the writer along a path to help find that character’s flaw and thus the transformational arc.
Reading The Inside Story, the first time was almost like sitting in a counseling session for me, because Marks kept holding up a mirror through which I saw my own flaws and inability to change. That should make sense to the writer because our characters ultimately face the same problems as we do—right?
Inside Story is the best work I’ve read on developing an emotional undercurrent in the story. After all, the transformational arc is probably the most important element in a good story. The character’s struggle to change binds us emotionally to the story, and thus makes us feel satisfied at the end (assuming the character changes). No struggle to change—no emotion in the reader—no sales in the marketplace.
Inside Story is not available from www.amazon.com yet, but it is available to order from www.thewritersstore.com or from Marks’ personal Website (free shipping) where she also has a nice book trailer on Inside Story. www.daramarks.com
Maybe you've found a craft book that has been helpful, which you'd like to share with us.
Kenny Noble www.kennynoble.com
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
A shooter looks down the sight of her 12-gauge shotgun, and even the recoil can mess with your shot. Especially if it hits you in the face and you begin to "flinch" when you shoot. (Kind of like getting bad reviews or rejections.)You get someone beside you or even behind you saying or doing something annoying, and that can also play with your shot (and play with your mind.)
So many things. You pull the gun in tight, place your face against the stock, and look into an area above your gun. You call for the target, and expect to see it rise up above your gun. Once it comes into your sight ("touching" the end of your gun in the sight) you pull the trigger. If you are behind the target, it's a miss. ("Loss!") If it has gotten out too far before you pull the trigger, you miss. Sometimes you shoot too quick. Sometimes you shoot too slow. (Just like reading the market!)
Over the years everything I do seems to come down to what I learned in shooting. I found I could apply the lessons I learned from my coach, Kay Ohye (an amazing mens' champion) to most of my life. I could hear his voice in my head as I would shoot. ("Don't get too quick! Patience!"--My biggest problem was shooting too fast.) No matter how I shot on one trap, I had hope when I moved to the next station. The point was to move on. Don't dwell on the last shot--think about this shot. You didn't quit just because you missed every target on the first station. (Five shots, but if you hit the rest of them, you get a 95!)You didn't let down and relax just because you hit 99 straight shots and just had "one more." (There are a 100 shots/targets total--4 traps/25 shots per trap/5 shots per station.)
If you just "throw" the end of your gun toward the target, you will not hit your target. Be steady, be focused, be calm. Focus. Focus on the target. This is the word I wrote down in my "goals" folder I started--Focus.
Think about what kinds of goals you have. Here's a template I use. You might want to try it.
Words for the Year: Crystal: Look/Focus/Act
Professional Goals for the Year:
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Our special speakers for this luncheon event will be Cara Putman and Crystal Miller. The topic for the luncheon will be Surviving the Journey: tips for the unpublished and published.
Cara has authored nine books, and next month A Promise Forged will be her tenth. Crystal has worked for editors, authors, literary agents, judged in writing and published book contests, had book review columns, and published over 800 nonfiction and fiction book reviews. Their joint presentation promises to be inspirational and informational. Come prepared to dine on linen-covered tables with linen napkins—no paper and plastic at this meal. The smoke-free Rathskeller is easily accessible just off I-65 and I-70, in downtown Indianapolis.
Address: 401 E. Michigan Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204
Please RSVP to Rick Barry by email at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can be sure of having the right size room reserved. Cost of the meeting is $5.00 for members, $10 for nonmembers.You can invite a friend, but remember that non-members may attend only two of our functions without becoming paying members.
History: The Rathskeller Bavarian restaurant is located inside Indy's Historic Anthenaeum Building. Built in 1894, the building was designed by Bernhard Vonnegut (grandfather of author Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.) and is home to Indy's oldest restaurant, our oldest existing gymnasium (the east end of the building houses the YMCA) and is home to the German Heritage Society. The menu features various Bavarian dishes but also a wide variety of soups, salads, sandwiches, and dishes that should satisfy a wide variety of tastes and budgets. You can eat a little or a lot. You decide!
Monday, February 8, 2010
The Substitute Bride was a fun story to write—with a mail-order bride, disgruntled groom and a small town filled with quirky characters. Here’s a peek:
They Struck a Bargain for Marriage
Fleeing an arranged marriage, debutante Elizabeth Manning exchanges places with a mail-order bride bound for New Harmony, Iowa. Life on the frontier can’t be worse than forced wedlock to pay her father’s gambling debts. But Ted Logan’s rustic lifestyle and rambunctious children prove to be more of a challenge than Elizabeth expects. She doesn’t know how to be a mother or a wife. She doesn’t even know how to tell Ted the truth about her past—especially as her feelings for him grow. Little does she know, Ted’s hiding secrets of his own. When their pasts collide, there’s more than one heart at stake.
Why was Ted disgruntled?
When he and Elizabeth are about to speak their vows, the bride suggests one teeny change—the name on the marriage license. A clear sign trouble lies ahead for this couple.
While I am excited to see my daughter’s name in print in the acknowledgements of the book, it pales in comparison to the thrill that I experienced when I read the actual study questions that she wrote. She wrote some insightful questions. She really understood the spiritual themes woven throughout the book. I’m so thankful for the high quality of Christian fiction written today. I have the opportunity to provide my daughter, a voracious reader, with fabulous books written in every genre that contain spiritual themes that further her understanding of our Savior.
In addition, it is so uplifting to be a part of a community of writers who go above and beyond to help one another. Brandilyn is an absolute sweetheart to give the girls this opportunity. There have been many other Christian writers who have offered knowledge, helpful hints, sample proposals, prayer, suggestions, critiques, and encouragement to me while on my journey to publication. How about you? Why don't you give a shout out to someone who has helped or encouraged you?
Saturday, February 6, 2010
To demonstrate, here's a summary of one of my son's favorite episodes:
- Diego is at the rescue center and hears an animal in trouble calling out for help. Diego and his sister, Alicia, figure out that the animal is a chinchilla named Chinta. Chinta is stuck on a tree branch over the water and can't swim.
- Diego heads out to save Chinta and arrives at the waterfall. He has to figure out a way to get down the waterfall in order to reach Chinta.
- Diego uses his rescue pack as a hang glider, and on his way down, the Bobo monkeys are on the same tree as Chinta, causing trouble and scaring Chinta in the process. Diego uses his classic line, "Freeze Bobos", and gets the monkeys to leave.
- Chinta's tree branch starts to break, and Diego swoops down on his hang glider and catches her.
- Once they get to dry ground, Chinta is hungry, finds leaves to eat, and misses her Mami and Papi. Diego promises to take her back to her family.
- They set off but can't find chinchilla mountain. Diego uses his spotting scope to find it.
- Puma comes up behind them and scares Chinta. Diego and Chinta hop over cactus plants to escape.
- They arrive at a dark cave and must go through it if they'll get to the mountain. There are multiple paths in the cave, and Chinta uses her good hearing skills to choose the right path. They make it out of the cave and see the mountain again.
- The mountain is too rocky for them to walk up, so they hop up like chinchillas.
- They reach the top of the mountain and reunite Chinta with her family.
Did you figure out the pattern? With every victory Diego achieves, a new challenge instantly presents itself. The writers of Go Diego Go! have figured out how to harness a toddler's attention (and it works, believe me!). They never let the viewer rest or get too comfortable until the very end.
Sometimes the attention span of adult readers isn't much longer than a toddler's. I've read advice in books and blogs about keeping conflict high in fiction. In Camy Tang's Story Sensei blog, she goes so far as to ask whether you have conflict in every page, or even every paragraph. If we take this advice to heart in our novels, we just might capture and retain the reader's attention from start to finish (and maybe they'll even redecorate their room into the theme of your book). :-)
Do you prefer to read a novel with high conflict or low conflict? Do you find it easy or hard to infiltrate tension into each page of your novel? How do you keep it from feeling contrived?
Friday, February 5, 2010
It's not just enough to save.
You've got to back up.
I'm a loser. I have lost two novels because of fried hard drives. Not one. Two. One of them I was able to rewrite and restore (and is my current work in progress). The other one exists only in my heart and mind now, waiting for me to one day put it on the page - again.
All of this could have been avoided if I had just backed things up. But I'm a busy, distracted Mom to kids with autism, a grandmother, teacher and pastor's wife. I don't have time to think about backing up, let alone do it. I thought it would be okay to simply e-mail works-in-progress to myself as a means of backing them up. Since I am constantly interrupted during my day, this method worked pretty well.
Until someone from Nigeria hacked into my e-mail account.
And e-mailed everyone in my account asking for money.
That's when google (Gmail) shut me down. I wasn't given a notice or any type of warning. One day I tried to log in and *poof* just like that, I wasn't allowed into my own account.
I lost everything. All the documents I stored on google documents, and all my e-mail contacts. When I tried to contact google to find out why, I learned that google had an automated restoration service. It just kept kicking me out. There wasn't anyone I could call because google doesn't use "real people" to solve technical issues.
For two weeks, I knew I was doomed. Finally, after I had posted a comment on a google blog that google wouldn't let me have my account back, someone from google contacted me via e-mail and helped me restore my account. I finally had my account restored, but only after I spent countless heart-wrenching hours trying to figure out all I had lost.
I have enjoyed using GMail since it started, and I continue to use it because it meets my needs the best. But the problem with using GMail is all the associated content. I have blogs, YouTube, Facebook and more associated with its log-in name and password. If I can't get into my Gmail account, I can't get into my other accounts. It was a huge problem for me when I was blocked. I lost my twitter account and had to start from scratch again. I was blocked from getting into my Facebook account because I couldn't confirm my e-mail address.
I don't know why I have to learn things the hard way, but learn I did. I knew I needed something more efficient at backing things up. I needed something automatic and reliable.
I now subscribe to Carbonite, an on-line back up service that automatically backs up every single thing on my computer. A friend of mine uses iDrive, and it will store 2 MB free.
I never have to worry about losing anything because Carbonite safely stores it on their server. I do recommend, however, that you store all your passwords on a hard copy and file it in a vault (okay, your filing cabinet) because if you can't remember your password, you won't be able to access your backed up files.
You could use USB memory sticks, but for me, that's just another thing for me to remember and to lose. For my life right now, automatic online back-ups work best.
Another thing I've learned is the importance of strong passwords.
When setting a password, don't use words. Words are easily detected by software created to hack into accounts. Instead of an actual word, use an acronym that you can remember. For example: "I make chocolate milk for my kids to drink." Would be "Imcm4mk2d." Including punctuation in passwords as well as upper and lower case letters and numbers makes a password harder to hack into.
People who hack into your accounts don't care that years of your life and hours of work are wrapped up in them. They are criminals. The only thing standing between them and your work is a strong password.
As for backing up, my computer tech said it best: "It's not a matter of if your hard drive will fry -- it's a matter of when."
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Nowadays I do more freelance writing than editing, but for five years I was a project manager for a Christian publisher. During that time I often saw manuscripts that repeated the same ancient errors. So here’s a tongue-in-cheek peek at how to write only if you want to make an editor groan—and then reject your submission. (By the way, I’ve seen these gaffs committed by both novices and Ph.D’s.) Applicable to cover letters, fiction, or non-fiction:
1. Make your opening as unimaginative as possible. For instance, cite a sterile definition from a dictionary. Or use stale, worn-out quotations attributed to an unknown “someone.”
2. Go overboard with mechanics. USE ALL CAPITAL LETTERS! Employ multiple punctuation marks!!!!!!!! Use exotic fonts and various type sizes to get attention.
3. Don’t proofread for spelling. Use groaner misspellings such as:
- “There are grave dangers in roll-playing games.”
- “Bob and Hank bought wenches, hooked them to the minivan, and hauled the truck out of the ditch.” (Hint: this is slavery!)
4. Use an undefined “we” in your cover letter.
- “We find that highly successful individuals read their Bible daily.”
5. Concoct illogical imagery:
- “I blessed his heart from head to toe!” (Huh?)
- “Has God become so common that our hectic thoughts do not even skip a beat when placed face to face with Him?” (Do thoughts have beats? Do they have faces?)
6. Dangle modifiers:
- “As former evangelists, their travels had proven the need for such a ministry.” (Literally, this means the “travels” had once been evangelists.)
- “A graduate and longtime friend of ______ _____ College, the Lord has truly blessed Pastor Hanson.” (Wow, the Lord is one of their graduates?)
7. Get cocky. Insist that you wrote it perfectly the first time and refuse to change a thing. Miss your deadlines – and then blame someone else. Get snooty now that you have become one of the elite – a published author.
Of course you would never want to follow such mock advice. But those are true examples of literary pitfalls that budding writers commit. Please never give your editor a reason to groan!
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
I suspect it’s fantasy for most of us who track the market, polish the proposal, peruse how-to books, write for cash, maintain daily word counts, update blogs, strive to meet contest or requested manuscript deadlines as dear hubby pokes his head in and says, “I have no clean clothes and, seriously, are we eating cold cuts again?” or #1 wife says, “Junior can’t find his way back from the sandbox. When are you cutting the lawn?”
How does anyone do all the things that a writer is supposed to do?
Well, don’t ask me, I was hoping you’d have some solutions. No, just kidding. It's an on-going dilemma and one I wrestled with for years. The answer depends on your own unique circumstances and placement on God’s path. In the meantime, here are three tips.
Everything does not have to be done now. We try to microwave our success when it should be more like preparing a luau: Build a deep pit, lay a good fire, prepare the food, lower the clay pot of goodies, cover it over and bake for hours and hours, then feast. Did you notice how many steps there were leading up to the feasting? They each build on the other otherwise you’d be eating raw, sandy food. There is a time for everything.
If you are spinning out of control, stop. Truly. Simply stop. The world will not fall apart, even if the kids are screaming bloody murder. You take time for absolutely everything else so make it a priority to stop and ask God what he wants to do with your life. Then plan small orderly steps to accomplish that.
Exercise those trust muscles. God is in control. If you believe that, than you can relax and simply ask God, “What am I to do this day?” In James 1:5 God invites you to ask him and is pleased to give you wisdom. If you are burning out, it’s sure that you are moving in your own strength for God will empower you to do what needs to be done, including caring for spouse, children, and the sick dog.
I’m interested. How do you manage all the things a writer must do? What tips do you have to add to these basic ideas?
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
What can a writer do to gain the best advantage for getting a story from the seed of an idea into the hands of readers?
The theme song of publishing experts and accomplished authors is, "Learn your craft."
- Study fiction craft books. Apply the principles.
- Study writing publications.
- Take online classes on the craft of writing.
- Attend writers' conferences that offer high quality instruction on writing great fiction.
- Study the methods used in other authors' novels.
- ACFW excels in developing writers in the craft of Christian fiction. Check here to connect with ACFW's archives of online classes. Click here for information about our upcoming annual conference that features a broad spectrum of fiction instruction.
- Discover what's working and why, what's selling and why, what's expected and why.
- Study the publishing houses to determine the best fit and most likely match of story, author, and publishing house.
- Keep abreast of industry news and how it affects novelists.
- Follow publisher and agent blogs for insight and information.
- Get familiar with publishing house, agency, and writing instructor websites.
- Study publishing house guidelines. Follow them implicitly when writing and submitting.
- ACFW's main loop is a source for information about the publishing industry. Click here to sign up for that email loop. Click here (under Resources, then Publishers, in the members only section) for website information for some of the major publishing houses. Our monthly ezine-Afictionado-is another source of information about the industry. You can click here for a link to that ezine.
Find a source for unbiased critiquing.
- Although some family members offer good advice for a novelist, the most valuable critiques usually come from people who are both prolific readers of Christian fiction and who have a working knowledge of Christian fiction principles and methods.
- Take advantage of paid critique opportunities at writers' conferences.
- Some writers work best with a critique partner rather than a critique group. The point is that every writer needs the advantage of someone else to evaluate what's been written, how the story flows, how it engages readers and holds their attention, as well as the mechanics of grammar, punctuation, and accuracy.
- ACFW offers a large-group critique group--Scribes--for fiction writers. Check here for information on how to get involved. From that large group, smaller critique groups develop their own individual styles and interests. Paid critiques are offered as part of our annual conference. Click here for conference information.
- Camaraderie with fellow writers affords the blessing of others with whom to commiserate when things go poorly.
- Writers also gain from having someone with whom to rejoice when the words or contracts flow freely, when characters behave themselves on the page, when the Lord sends a breakthrough for a plot point or a career move.
- ACFW members appreciate the knowledge gained through ACFW's main email loop in addition to the fellowship and encouragement those writers offer. Click here for more on the main loop. ACFW local chapters are also a key source of encouragement for writers. Click here for information on local chapters.
- The stories vary, but it's been said that novelists often have four or five completed novels on file before one is sold.
- The average length of time between embarking on the path to publication and seeing that first novel in print is seven years. Are there exceptions? Certainly. But novelists do themselves and their work a great disservice if they grow discouraged and give up after six months, thinking it's taking too long. Publication is a long, arduous process, despite its joys and rewards. Those who succeed are those who recognize it is a process, not an event.
- Learn to make productive use of the waiting time. Write more. Pray more. Study more. Connect more.
- ACFW comes alongside writers for the long haul. We make every effort to instruct, encourage, and support our members who are invested in pursuing publication in Christian fiction.
- Olympians and novelists have a lot in common. They invest many hours--a lifetime--working on their skills, repeating drills, practicing, practicing, practicing. Even the most naturally talented "pay their dues" on the track, in the pool, on the slopes, at the keyboard.
- Successful novelists view even discarded words as valuable--good practice.
- ACFW's Topic of the Week on our main eloop encourages greater understanding of the writing craft, the writing life, the publishing industry, and the power of practice. Click here for more information on our main eloop.
- Friends who understand a writer's heart.
- Writers who are true friends and keep us on track with the Lord, our writing, our lives, and our careers.
- An agent who will champion the project and the author's career.
- A great working relationship with editors.
- Connections with people of like interest, similar genres.
- Connections with people with different interests.
- Prayer partners.
- A growing circle of potential readers.
- As mentioned earlier, the main eloop is one way to build relationships with other writers. ACFW's main eloop for members is accessed here. In addition to other sources, our annual ACFW conference is a key opportunity to interact with, learn from, and develop relationships with editors and agents in attendance or on faculty. Check here for information about the conference. ACFW's prayer loop--click here --connects members and their needs in prayer. And ACFW's Book Club unites writers and readers in a meaningful interchange of ideas--click here. A newer resource-www.fictionfinder.com--connects readers, authors, publishers, booksellers, and book clubs with the best in Christian fiction.
- Pray before pursuing writing for publication. Lord, is this what You want me to do?
- Pray before writing a word. Novels written in human strength alone show it.
- Pray while writing.
- Pray after the book's completion.
- Pray as it's shopped around.
- Pray as it's rejected or accepted.
- Pray as it's printed and marketed.
- Pray as it reaches the hands of readers.
- Pray (as the Bible says) without ceasing!
- ACFW members will pray with you, privately or through our ACFW Prayer Loop, accessed here .
May the New Year dawn with fresh hope for your stories and your life.
Monday, February 1, 2010
Nala is a laugh a minute, but plagiarism isn’t. Even the word, plagiarize, sounds terrible sort of like Nala’s toenail grinding against the treadmill belt. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary gives this definition of plagiarize: to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own; use (another’s production) without crediting the source; to commit literary theft; present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.
Ooh – that could hit close to home. I remember in high school working towards deadlines for essays and reports suddenly wishing I had never heard the word, plagiarize. Nevertheless, most of us know how not to plagiarize.
As much as I would love to copy and paste every posting from my favorite blog (http://cba-ramblings.com) to my own blog, I have to resist the temptation and come up with my own ideas. You would have loved to read everything Rachelle Gardner says about agents. But, I guess you can go to her blog and read it.
And, books I wish I would have written. If I could “borrow” any scene from Denise Hunter’s Nantucket Love Story series and say it was mine, I’d be so well known. I’d love to take credit for writing James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure – techniques and exercises for crafting a plot that grips readers from start to finish. Uh-oh. Should that be in quotes? If I could even just copy the blurb on the back of Getting into Character by Brandilyn Collins, I’d have my name up there at the top with all the other big authors. (You gotta get that book. You’ll never write the same again.)
Sometimes I wish I hadn’t read so many books already. How can I know whether I’m stealing someone else’s words or ideas since they’re already in my mind? How can I tell if they’re really my own? How do you know? I’d like to hear how you avoid the dreaded literary theft.
Wishing you His best as you write,
Donna L. Rich ACFW Indiana President