Monday, March 28, 2016

The More You Know, The Less You'll Pay: Part I

by Alycia W. Morales

Most people are on tight budgets these days. If you've already quit your day job to pursue your writing career, your finances may be tighter than others'. To top that off, we all have things we'd rather do with our money than pay an editor. Like attending conferences and writing retreats with our fellow wordsmiths. Paying a designer to build our website. Things that will further our platform.

Here's a money-saving tip:

The more you know and do, the less your editor will have to do. And the less you'll have to pay.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Using Sensory Perception in Your Writing

By Andrea Merrell

For the writer, inspiration is everywhere. All we have to do is be alert and ready, tuning-in to the world around us. This is where sensory perception is invaluable. Sounds complicated, but it’s simply a matter of being aware, perceiving things with our senses.

As an example, a couple of years ago I was on the faculty at a writers’ conference at a local university. After the lunch break, I was sitting in the area where books and other materials were being sold when a fascinating thing happened. 

I watched with keen interest as a group of students came through the door. Half of the students were blindfolded and being led by the teacher. As they entered the building, the teacher instructed those who were blindfolded to let their senses kick in. Their task was to absorb everything they could from their surroundings—things they could hear, feel, or smell. The rest of the students—the ones not encumbered by a scarf over their eyes—were to take note of what they could see. The exercise only lasted for a few moments, then the blindfolds were removed. All at once, the young men and women started talking over one another, excited and eager to share what they had noticed. It was amazing how much they gleaned from this exercise.

This reminded me of a ladies’ retreat many years ago at a local state park when our leader took us on a hike. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we were headed toward the lake. As we neared our destination, she stopped and gave us instructions. “When you reach that tree,” she said, pointing toward a massive pine, “stop talking and listen. You can sit or walk around, but don’t make a sound until I give the signal.”

As soon as we knew what was coming, we chattered like magpies until we reached the tree. It still amazes me to think how fast twenty women stopped talking. There was complete silence within our group for about ten minutes. Then our leader asked us what we had perceived during our time of reflection. As each lady shared, many of the things were similar: airplanes overhead, a crow, ducks quacking on the lake, and the wind whispering through the trees. One person thought she heard the sound of a gunshot while another overheard an argument between a young couple and smelled the rancid smell of someone’s charred burgers.

Putting the Senses to Work
Allowing our characters to use their senses will take our writing to the next level. We hear it all the time: show—don’t tell. This is when we make our words come alive as we invite our readers to experience our story—not just read about it. Can they see the scene unfolding before them as it plays out in their mind? Are there any sounds which might cause anxiety or fear? What can they smell? Maybe it’s a burned burger or the delightful aroma of fresh baked muffins coming from the local bakery. Can you describe the food in such a way that your reader can almost taste it? Do the objects in the room seem so real they can almost touch them?

This is more than a matter of just relating the facts. You can actually help your reader connect with your characters and get lost in your plot. Reading a good book should be like watching a good movie. When you learn to show and not tell, you can better tug on your reader’s emotions. This can be done no matter what you’re writing, even an article or simple devotion. You can paint a beautiful picture with your writing and make your words sing. Your reader may not remember every word you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.

(Photos courtesy of Miles/artur84/marin.)


Monday, March 14, 2016

The Value of Decorators and Editors

Today's special guest is author Lynn Blackburn.

By Lynn Blackburn

People tend to assume if you’ve written a book that you are super creative in many other areas. The reality is while you may be creative with words, that doesn’t mean you have one ounce of skill with fabric, color, or that you have a clue how to pick out a lamp.

I am one of those people.

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to develop a friendship with a wonderful designer. Her name is Lisa. I was terrified the first time Lisa came to my house. Embarrassed, even. What if she felt like my house was beyond help? Thankfully, she likes a challenge. She gets me. She shops at TJ Maxx and Marshalls and is even more careful about my budget than I am.

She’s particularly talented at taking what I already have and re-arranging it in a way that makes so much more sense than the way I had it. She then brings in a few additional pieces and asks if I like them. I can keep them or suggest we try something a little different.
Between the two of us, we wind up with a room that is still 100% mine, but it’s so much better than anything I could have come up with on my own. It’s my stuff, with a few new things I would have picked out if I’d had the sense to know how awesome they were, all pulled together into a cohesive whole.

About a week after my final edits had been approved for my first book, Covert Justice, I called Lisa for an emergency intervention. I had tried to go it alone. I had an idea, I went shopping, I started decorating. When I was done, my downstairs looked like the epicenter of a Hobby Lobby explosion. Lisa fixed it in two hours.

As she left, and I relaxed in a room that actually looked like the vision I’d had in my head, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities to the editorial process.

I was so afraid to send my manuscript to my editor. TERRIFIED. Embarrassed that she would read my words and deem them hopeless. As it turned out, my editor, Elizabeth, likes a challenge and she gets me. When I read through my edits, rather than crying or gasping in pain, I found myself laughing and chuckling at the remarks she made in the sidebar.

She made suggestions for re-arranging things, slowing down the romance, and adding in more conflict. When it was all said and done, the book we wound up with is still 100% mine, but it is so much better than anything I could have come up with on my own.

No matter how many books I write, I will always need an editor. Someone to take a look with fresh eyes, make suggestions, and help me turn my vision into reality.

So let’s talk about this. Are you afraid of editors? Want to brag on yours? We would love to hear from you?

(Photos courtesy of Miles/Ambro/tungphoto.)


Lynn Huggins Blackburn believes in the power of stories, especially those that remind us that true love exists, a gift from the Truest Love. She’s passionate about CrossFit, coffee, and chocolate (don’t make her choose) and experimenting with recipes that feed both body and soul. She lives in South Carolina with her true love, Brian, and their three children. Her first book, Covert Justice, released June 2015. You can follow her real life happily ever after on FacebookTwitterPinterest, Instagram, and

Monday, March 7, 2016

Trusting God with Our Writing Career

by Alycia W. Morales

As conference season gets into full swing again, it's important to remember that there's only so much we can control when it comes to our writing and obtaining publication.

If you've been to conferences more than once, you'll already know that there are a variety of writers out there who have just as much a variety of personalities. To top it off, there are just as many ways of handling rejection and acceptance, as well as critique.

The most evident of these is the person who blows up in front of everyone. They scream and yell at the publisher. They ugly cry on the agent's shoulder. These are the drama kings and queens who everyone stares at long enough to notice but then looks away out of embarrassment of being in the same space with them. These are the ones who bash industry professionals, which only points out their amateur status. These are the people we all shake our heads at, because throwing temper tantrums is going to get them blacklisted from those who can make or break their career. Check your pride at the door, because it won't get you anywhere at a writers conference.

Then we have the secret slayers. These writers are really great at putting on a happy face in public, but as soon as the door closes they're all about cutting down anyone who comes against them. They have the same pride as the drama queens. They just show out in private instead of public. Again, not what you want to do at a writers conference. Because people talk, and eventually the secret slayers' career will be slain.

Another type of writer is the one who handles rejection fairly well, but they must talk about it ... repeatedly. This one will go over and over and over how they feel. They will wonder and debate why their writing was rejected. They will be jealous of the person who had a piece accepted. They may whine a bit. And if they were smart, they thanked the one who rejected them for their time.

If we're really serious about our writing careers and want to make a good impression, we've developed what we like to call "thick skin" and wear it well. This doesn't mean it's any easier to handle having red marks all over our manuscripts or a rejection letter from our dream publishing house. But we don't puke nasty words all over everyone we come in contact with. We whisper to our friend or shed a few quiet tears on their shoulder as we fake that we're merely hugging them. And we smile and thank the one who rejected us for their time.

Because we understand that God is in control of our writing career.

He knows who needs to publish our book. Who needs to read it. And why we need to write it.
He knows when the time is right. When we've put in our best effort. When we just aren't ready yet.
He knows who will best represent Him and our work. He knows who we will relate to well.
He knows who we need to stay away from. He knows what we don't need to write.
He knows if this is just a hobby or if it's a career.

And when we listen to His voice and don't confuse it with our own, everything falls into place.

Even if it isn't our idea of favor, blessing, publisher, agent, direction, or timing. Because He surely knows better than we do. 

And if we can learn to trust Him, we'll not turn into the ugly crying drama queen who annoys everyone around them. Instead, we'll shine His light in love and allow Him to have the glory in our careers. Because it simply isn't about us. It's about glorifying God on earth and blessing our readers.