Monday, December 21, 2015

No Rest for the Writer

By Andrea Merrell

Writer, do you ever get weary? Deadlines scream at us. Commitments nip at our heels like yappy little dogs. Protagonists march through our dreams, creating scenes and filling our head with lively dialogue … when we need to be getting that much-needed sleep. To-do lists taunt us throughout the day as we try to attend to other things that really need to be done.


The life of a writer is wonderful, exciting, and exhausting, especially if you have to juggle another vocation or various other responsibilities. If you’re like me, you never find enough time to do everything. Multi-tasking becomes the norm, and it’s hard to have that laser focus when working on an important project.

Then there’s life: jobs, housework, shopping, cooking, and family obligations. Our minds swirl with thoughts like: Hurry up! Do this now. Do that now. Keep going. Just one more chapter. Don’t stop now. Work harder. Get up earlier. Go to bed later. Meet that deadline. Skip that family birthday party. Your friends don’t need you. Work, work, work.

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: "Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved {rescued, delivered, restored, renewed, preserved, and made new}. In quietness and confidence is your strength (Isaiah 30:15 NLT).

“But I don’t have time to rest,” you might be saying. Resting can involve a week at the beach, ten minutes spent in quiet time with the Lord, or anything in between.

In Mark 6:31 (The Message) Jesus told his disciples, “Come off by yourselves; let's take a break and get a little rest." For there was constant coming and going. They didn't even have time to eat.

Did you catch that? The Lord wants us to take a break and get some rest. He longs to wash away all those things that make us weary and infuse us with His strength, His wisdom, and His peace. He wants to reorder our priorities and renew our minds with fresh, creative ideas.

Failure to take time out of the busyness of life can lead to over-scheduling, poor time management, unrealistic goals and expectations, stress, anxiety, and bad habits. These things create a chronic inner fatigue that can easily lead to burnout. 

One writer said, “If we don’t rest, we lose our way.” When we refuse or neglect to make the effort to enjoy a little downtime, we risk losing the ability to hear the voice of the One who created and called us—the One who has a wonderful plan and purpose for each of us.

Does God expect us to work hard and get the job done? Absolutely, but never at the expense of health, family, emotional well-being, or time with Him. He wants us to go the distance. When we stop and rest in Him, He will fully equip us with everything we need.

Even though we're in the middle of  the busiest holiday season of the year, be sure to take those special moments to rest and have fun. Spend quality time with the One who makes all things possible. Allow Him to direct your steps and light the path before you.


Alycia and I are so grateful for each one of our readers. We want to take this time to wish you a very merry and Jesus-filled Christmas!




(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles.)

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Are You Ready for a Writers Conference?

Today's post is by Love Inspired and Revell author, Lynette Eason. Not only is she a multi-published, award-winning author, she is also a conference teacher and as of last year, a conference host. If you're looking for a small writer's conference, be sure to check out Weekend with the Writers. I've attended and will be assisting with registration this year, so I can vouch for how wonderful this conference is.

Conferences, conferences and more conferences. Christian and secular alike, they’re everywhere. So, how do you know which conference is for you?

First of all, you have to decide where you are in your writing. Are you a beginner and just getting your feet wet in the writing world? Or have you been writing a while, have entered a few contests and gotten some feedback? Maybe you're that advanced novelist who has tasted the joy—and depression—of “almost”?

Monday, December 7, 2015

Deep Thoughts on Introspection

by Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

The other day I was editing another manuscript. Mind you, most of the manuscripts I edit are written by first-time, beginning authors. Although, there are some of us who've written multiple novels that are sitting in a file on our computer that haven't seen the light of day, because we know we're still learning the craft of writing. And someday, we'll birth THE novel that editors will love and will want to publish right away. So in that case, this may apply to us as well.

As I'm editing along, I'm reading a whole lot about what is going on inside someone's head. And then what is going on inside someone else's head. (After a hard break, of course, since we've switched points of view.) Granted, there may be a conversation or some semblance of action in between these deep inner thoughts. But 'tis the thoughts that fill the page. One after another. And they tend to be repetitive.

If I were to write out my thoughts, they'd look something like this:

It's Thursday. God, You're so good to me. Tomorrow is Friday. Which means I can sleep in the day after that. I tire of rising at 5:00 a.m. during the week. My best sleep hours are between 4:00 and 7:00 a.m. But life doesn't seem to understand that, so I rise tired. I have to go to the store today. At least I get to buy a present. That's more fun than grocery shopping. Vic's always telling me how I take too long when I go grocery shopping. I never come back when I say I will. It's a nice time away from the house and everyone in it, but I'd rather be at the coffee shop than the grocery store if I'm going to have a few hours to myself. I have a bunch of editing to do. Will I ever have time to write again? I am going to squeeze two hours out of my day to write. That way, I'll have around 5,000 words a week. Maybe more. Maybe less. But at least it's progress. It's December. Well, I'll start doing that in January. My schedule's already full this month, and I have clients that need their edits. I want to keep my word with them. I should be editing rather than writing this blog post. I'm hungry. I need coffee. Maybe I'll go to the coffee shop today and work for a few hours before I go shopping. Yeah. That'll work. That mocha is calling my name. Warm fuzzy feelings. Maybe Lynette can meet me there. Lord, I'm so thankful for my best friends. I hope they know they mean the world to me. I'm so blessed to call them friends. I should check on my hubby. I wonder if he's not feeling well. He doesn't usually sleep in like this. Lord, thank You for him, too. Please make sure he lives a long, long life. I don't know what I'd do without him. My heart would break, for sure. Bless him today in all that he puts his hands to do. Meet him in the moments and speak to his heart. Thank You for a man who loves You and only wants what's best for me and our children. I am truly blessed.

Notice how scattered they are? Sure, you learn something about me and my plans for today, but does anything I said get me anywhere toward accomplishing my goals for today? Not really. Really, this is all a bunch of fluff.

And that's what oftentimes happens with inner thought in the midst of our novel writing. We tend to overload it. We tend to drone on about something the character is feeling or experiencing without putting them in the middle of the experience as it's happening. Instead of showing the reader what's happening around the character, we jump inside their heads and try to show it through their eyes ... but from inside, rather than in the midst of life.

Here's the key question to ask yourself when you find you've written from a deep POV (also known as inner dialogue or introspection or inner thoughts): Does this drive the story forward?

If not, CUT IT. (I know. That's so hard to do. But it must be done.)

Here's another question to ask: Is this introspection all about how the character is feeling or is it backstory?

Chances are, it is. If this is the case, CUT IT.

Another question to ask is, do I feel like my character has to think these things in order for the reader to better understand who she/he is?

Guess what? Yep. CUT IT.

Here's what to do instead:

Put your character into life. Have them converse with someone. Put them in the middle of a conflict.

Granted, there is inner conflict and outer conflict. And yes, you need deep POV for that inner conflict, but it should only come in one- or two-sentence bites. Not multiple paragraphs or entire pages.

The way to show the conflict is to have them interact with the scene around them and the character(s) within that scene. We can still show the reader what is happening inside the character, but it's better done with their body language and the tone of their conversations.

If someone picks up a chair and throws it across the room, I'm sure our reader will be able to pick up on the fact that they are rip-roaring mad. And we didn't even have to get inside the character's head to figure that out. If there's another character standing in front of him, and she says, "I'm so sorry, Jack. Peter never should have intruded like that," it's pretty obvious that a) Jack isn't mad at her and b) Jacks' mad at Peter for some kind of intrusion. And we never had to go inside Jack's head to show that.

So, the next time you come across paragraphs and pages of introspection in your writing, ask yourself those questions and see if you can rewrite the scene to show what's happening outside of the character. If not, find a friend or mentor or hire an editor who can help you get outside of your characters and get them into the world around them. Because that will bring your characters and your novel to life.

Tweetables:
Some Deep Thoughts on Introspection ... via @AlyciaMorales {Click to Tweet}

Tips on how to cut the fluffy thoughts out of your novel & bring it to life via editor @AlyciaMorales {Click to Tweet}