Monday, December 29, 2014

HELP!

By Andrea Merrell










Ever feel like you’re going down for the third time, with no one around to save you? If so, you’re not alone. All writers, new and seasoned, have areas of constant struggle.

Maybe you have a problem with:
  • Time management
  • Constant interruptions
  • Self-discipline
  • Creating the perfect spot to find inspiration
  • Writer’s block
  • Staying focused on your project
  • Research
  • Marketing
  • Mastering the art of all-things-social-media
  • Physical limitations.

To break it down even more, many writers have trouble mastering things like:
  • Point of view
  • Crafting good dialogue
  • Creating realistic characters
  • Showing—not telling
  • Writing tight

Your Achilles’ heel may be something as simple as grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Whatever the case might be for you personally, remember: As writers, we are all a work in progress. The good news is that help is available in the form of critique groups, writers’ conferences, local workshops, online support groups, informative blogs, and your own inner circle of writer/friends.

The best remedy is practice, practice, practice. Don't try to do everything at once. Take one area at a time and work on it until it becomes a natural part of your writing life. Sometimes it starts with something as simple as a decision. Other times, it takes careful planning and the willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve your goal.

Don’t ever be afraid to expose your weaknesses—we all have them. The Bible says, Two are better than one, and Iron sharpens iron, so find an accountability partner, ask questions, and seek help whenever you need it. Sometimes it’s only a click away.

What do you struggle with the most as a writer? What words of wisdom do you have for those that have a problem with some of the items above? Where do you go for help? Leave a comment and start the conversation.

(Photos courtesy of Microsoftoutlookhelp and Keithburnettministries.com.)

TWEETABLES




Monday, December 22, 2014

7 Things I'm Doing Instead of Making New Year's Resolutions

by, Alycia Morales

Before I get to my regularly scheduled post, congratulations Tracy Crump! You've won a copy of Andrea's book, Murder of a Manuscript!

Here's the problem with New Year's Resolutions: they require resolve. Most people's resolve melts away like snow by the second week of January. There's no follow-through. And then there's the guilt...

I've decided that in 2015, I'm not making resolutions. Instead, I'm setting goals. I'm tracking accomplishments. I'm celebrating successes and evaluating failures. Rather than resolving to do or change something, I'm planning my activities.

1. I'm reviewing. This process began in mid-July when I realized how much work had piled up, how little time I had for my children, who were home for summer break, and how distracting it was to have to work with them in my office. I decided I'd do my best to set up enough work from January to May so that I wouldn't have to work from June to mid-August. I can then resume work until November, when the holidays roll around and I want to focus on my family.

2. I'm evaluating. As my editing work piled up, my writing fell to the wayside. Way aside. In July, I checked my personal blog. I hadn't posted since January. That's bad, because I'd been posting regularly, three to five times each week, for over a year. To have completely stopped blogging says something about how much I've written in 2014. Not much at all. So I've asked myself an important question: what happened? I took on more editing jobs, which is great for income. It wasn't so great for the rest of the things I wanted to accomplish in 2014.

3. I'm prioritizing. In the midst of my question asking, God whispered. I didn't call you to edit. I called you to write. In 2010, when I asked God what I could do with my talents, He didn't tell me to edit for Him. He told me to write for Him. Because I edited so much, I strayed from the path God wants me on. I need to trust Him to provide and be obedient in my calling. There's nothing wrong with editing. I know I'm going to keep editing. But I'm also going to prioritize writing so that I can do both.

4. I'm setting goals. There are a few things I'd like to accomplish in each area of my life in 2015. I'm going to set realistic goals in each of these areas.

5. I'm planning ahead. I used to be very organized. I knew everyone's schedule and rarely missed a beat. I only had two kids at the time, and I wasn't trying to earn an income. Having four kids and trying to run a business has left me a bit disorganized in the past couple of years. I've noticed my follow-through and follow-up has flown the coop, and all those kids have stolen some of my brain cells as they entered the world. I struggle to remember everything, and sometimes I even forget to write things down so I can remember them. This is discouraging to me, a perfectionist at heart. I strive for excellence, and when I don't see it in myself, I get upset, distracted, and frustrated. That's going to change this year as I plan ahead for everything. Conferences, writing projects, editing projects, kids' school trips, finances, savings, family vacation, Christmas - you name it, I'm setting up my calendar now.

6. I'm creating a personal schedule. It's been said that kids find security in a schedule. They know what to expect, which gives them a sense of safety and peace. I have things I really want to do, but they seem to take a backseat to the craziness of life. So this year, I'm scheduling as much as I can. I realize I don't have total control - that's for God to worry about. In scheduling myself, I will get closer to meeting my goals as I focus on each priority and find peace in my daily routine.

7. I'm putting God first. This is the key to it all. The most important. I have realized in the last few months that I have a hard time saying no. Thankfully, God has blessed people like Lisa Terkeurst with the ability to write encouraging words that help people like me learn to use their best yes. So when God whispers, "Don't do that," I'm going to listen and say, "I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to say no." Because He has something better. Something more important. A priority. A blessing. And I need what He has in store for me, because in that I will find peace and joy and rest.

Here are a few of my personal business goals for 2015:
  • Finish my novel before the end of March. (I'd like to have it completed earlier, but this is a reasonable amount of time to give myself.)
  • Write another book each quarter of the year. (That would be four books in one year. This may be pushing it, but I would be happy to have one written before December.)
  • Attend ACFW. (I've wanted to go for three years now.)
  • Be consistent in my blogging and post on time. (I'm usually a day late.) Get my personal blog (a new one that I recently started) up and running and obtain 1,000 readers.
  • Get 5,000 Twitter followers. (I'm hovering really close to having 1,000 followers now.)
  • Make a certain amount of money each month from editing. (I'll keep that # to myself.)
There are other things I'd like to do, but these are a few of the key goals I have. And here's why I want to do these things: I want to encourage as many people as I can to follow hard after their God-given dreams. Whether it's writing, being at peace with who they are, feeling successful as a parent, or something as simple as learning how to use their camera or how to crochet.

God created each of us in His image and with purpose. He's called each of us to do something for Him. What's He called you to do? What's one step you could take toward reaching your dreams in 2015? What's one goal you could set and schedule time to achieve it? Share with us in the comments below. We'd love to encourage you!

 

Tweetable:

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Bringing a Murdered Manuscript Back to Life

By Andrea Merrell


This week I'm giving away a copy of my book, Murder of a Manuscript: Writing and Editing Tips to Keep Your Book Out of the Editorial Graveyard. All you have to do is leave a comment below, and you will be automatically entered for the drawing.



And the winner of Yvonne's book is ... Nan Jones! Congrats, Nan. Please send your address to andreamerrell7@gmail.com and we will get your book in the mail.

“They murdered my manuscript! It never made it past their inbox,” the writer exclaimed. “Is there hope? Can it be brought back to life?”

I hear you saying, “Been there—done that—threw away the tee shirt.”

It’s heartbreaking for a writer to have her prodigy killed in its infancy by an agent, editor, or publisher. Unfortunately, rejection comes with the proverbial territory, but if we can discover the reasons, learn from our mistakes, and keep moving forward, we have a chance to breathe life back into our words and send them out again.

The key is to do your homework. Check the guidelines. Know what each publishing house, website, magazine, or contest is looking for, then spend time making sure your submission is as clean and professional as possible. Sometimes that requires going back to the basics.

Questions to ask yourself:
  • Does my proposal give the necessary information?
  • Is my manuscript formatted correctly?
  • Are my first few pages filled with typos?
  • Did I start with a strong hook?
  • Did I use redundant words and phrases?
  • Is there too much backstory in the beginning?
  • Am I telling my story or showing by using action, strong verbs, and creative dialogue?
When reviewing a submission, these are areas I notice first.

Getting deeper into the manuscript, I look for:
  •  Plot issues.
  •  Correct use of POV (point of view).
  •  How the writer sets the scene.
  • Well-defined and relatable characters.
  • Content that is presented in a clear and concise manner, with a natural flow. This is especially important in nonfiction.
Even in a simple devotion, you want to connect with the reader and pull on their emotions.

Last, but certainly not least, writing tight is critical in every genre.

Whatever you do, don’t be discouraged and never give up. Call on a writing buddy, consult your critique group (You do belong to a critique group, don’t you?), or hire a professional editor to help you polish your manuscript. Writing is most definitely a process and not an event. Having a teachable spirit and learning from mistakes is critical and will always take your writing to a higher level.

What do you struggle with? What tips can you add to the list. We would love to hear from you.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Yvonne's Thoughts on Christmas

Today’s guest is best-selling author of over fifty books, Yvonne Lehman. Leave a comment below and you will automatically be entered into a drawing for her book, Christmas Moments.


By Yvonne Lehman

Hey! I didn’t plan this. I don’t do things like this. I’m a novelist. Then what in the world am I doing with a Christmas book of three short stories?

Well, it’s like this. I had the opportunity to write a short story for a publisher that would be light, sweet, entertaining, and Christmassy. The pay would be a good flat fee and I thought, Why not?

I looked in my idea file and saw a few notes on a possible collection of midwife stories several of us writers considered for a compilation that never materialized. Not wanting my ideas to go to waste, I figured a midwife story just might be light and sweet enough.

Don’t laugh.

I started the story and other nice little ideas began to come like someone who doesn’t want to buy a toy for a young boy, and then a scandal. The characters veered from that straight and narrow path as if crashing headlong into a brick wall. Hmmm, or better yet, a mountain.

Sure . . . why have a holly-jolly-jingle-bell-white-Christmas when you can crash into it? Hold on. I did name a character Holly. Is that good enough?

I thought the publisher would love my stories, regardless. Not one . . . but three.

Again, don’t laugh.

Well, no. These didn’t quite fit with the light and sweet imperfections covered with a blanket of white snow. But then, Christmas events aren’t always snow-covered. I figured, why not entertain my readers with what’s beneath the surface and get to the heart of the matters like we struggle with even at Christmastime. Maybe the struggle is more difficult since we would love to have those perfectly happy and ideal Christmases.

I decided that we’re not always riding in a sleigh pulled by Clydesdale horses over a soft, snow-covered landscape singing, “Oh, what fun it is . . . dashing through the snow.” Sometimes, “Grandma gets run over by a reindeer.” Sometimes we get caught in a blustery blizzard and crash headlong into those mountains.

But . . . maybe it can be a blessed Christmas anyway.

Don’t laugh, but believe it.

Just read about the unexpected in Crashing into Christmas, my book of short stories for which I get no pay unless it sells. But it’s Christmas. The giving time. I will give a different free book, Christmas Moments (another of my recent unexpected books) to the winner of a drawing to be held this week. All you have to do is leave a comment below to enter the contest. And don't forget to check out Crashing into Christmas.

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Yvonne Lehman, best-selling author of fifty-five novels, founded and directed the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for twenty-five years. She is now director of the Blue Ridge Autumn in the Mountains Novelist Retreat, and has joined Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas as Acquisitions and Managing Editor of Candlelight Romance and Guiding Light Women’s Fiction. Her recent releases include Love Finds You in South Carolina, Reluctant Brides, and Hearts that Survive – A Novel of the TITANIC. Her first non-fiction book is Divine Moments (a compilation of fifty articles written by thirty-seven authors). Yvonne blogs at www.christiansread.com and www.novelrocket.com. You may contact her at yvonnelehman3@gmail.com.











Wednesday, December 3, 2014

5 Things an Author Can Do to Improve Their Craft

You may be a gifted writer, but there is always something you can do to improve your craft.

I've worked with a lot of first-time writers. I've also edited authors who have been published before. One thing I have recognized is that it isn't too difficult to discern who has worked on learning their craft and who has decided they should publish their story before the ink has dried.

If you're an author who understands that we never stop learning (even after we've hit the best-seller list or won the Christy award), here are 5 things you can to do improve your craft:

Book Photo Courtesy of
1. Read more. Especially in the genre that you're writing. But don't neglect those you aren't writing. I am amazed at how much I learn each time I pick up a new book. I don't only learn what to do, either. I also learn what not to do. I'm sure you can relate. You've read those books you want to throw across the room, right?

2. Invest in your writing. Read craft books. Subscribe to Writer's Digest or The Writer. Follow writing blogs like this one. Take an online course. Attend a writers conference. Spend the time and maybe a little money to learn new techniques or improve on old ones.

3. Talk about writing with other writers. I've learned so much just bouncing my ideas off my friend, Edie Melson. Little "rules" I wasn't aware of. When I get stuck, my writing buddies know just the right nudge to get me out of my writing ditch and back on the road to a successful story. Don't isolate yourself to your computer screen. Make some friends and meet them at the coffee shop. Work is more fun that way.

4. Hire an editor. Find one who is professional. You could learn a lot from their edits or suggestions. I leave my authors a ton of comments and suggestions, and I provide instructional handouts for various issues many authors tend to run up against, like telling instead of showing or misusing punctuation marks. And if I don't know something, I'm not afraid to ask someone in my vast network of editors and multi-published authors.

5. If at first you don't succeed, try again. And again. And again. Practice gets you a lot closer to perfect than sitting in your chair whining into your coffee about how cruel people are or how much they don't "get you." Stephen King didn't become who he is as a writer by crying over his rejection slips. He worked hard and kept at it. Read his book On Writing if you'd like to know more about how he became who he is as a writer today.

Tweetables:

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We'd love to hear from you! Do you have another tip about how to improve your writing craft? Leave us a comment below.