Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Editing and Rewrites? Pain or Pleasure?

How set in stone are your stories? Do you relish the rewrites and can’t wait to get in there and make everything better after you get the edits back or do you dread seeing the edits come into your mailbox? If we fall in love with our stories, there is a chance that we will be so fond of certain parts that we don’t want to let them go.

This happened to me recently. I had a sister as a character for my hero. I liked her a lot, especially since she was a “tomboy” like me. She’d rather ride horses and help rope calves than help her mother and other sisters in the kitchen. I even loved her name because it was the same as a dearly loved aunt of mine.

When the editor asked me to delete her because she didn’t play a very big role in the story and the time on her could be spent on other characters, my first reaction was no of course. I’d rather write more for her character than to eliminate her. It took going through all the edits and then coming back to those about Josie before I could begin to see the logic of what Lori wanted.

Difficult as it was, I cut out Josie and let my hero have only two sisters. As I read back over the final edits, I could see how much tighter and stronger the story became with more emphasis on the other minor characters.

Another area with which I have problems is confrontation between my characters. I have a difficult time writing angry scenes and having my characters rant and rave at each other, but when forced to do, the story becomes stronger and the characters more sympathetic when both sides are presented and both have a good case.

Our editors are there for a reason…to make our stories the best they can possibly be with some polishing and rewriting. Very rarely do I every completely disagree with editing or rewriting suggestions, but when I do, I have a very good, logical reason for it.
What are some things either in your writing or in your personal life that you have difficulty dealing with? How are they resolved?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Filling the well

Filling the well

Sometimes there’s a detachment. That spark that you rely on to keep the well springing over with life has left you dry, and there’s not a drop to leave you with even the slightest amount of juices flowing. Because we don’t write in the real world we need to get our inspiration from a made up world. So how do we accomplish that when the creativity just isn’t there? My last blog was about writer’s block so this one offers some ideas on how to remedy the problem.

Activity with other authors can be helpful. Blogging together as we do here at JUST THE WRITE CHARIMSA creates a good mix of different writers to share their ideas. Other thoughts might be teaching a workshop, attending chapter meetings and getting together with other writers can all be helpful. Sometimes we just need other authors to inspire us to get back into our story or they see a loop hole we missed. Brain storming together makes the chore more fun and may take us some place with our story that we never dreamed of. If it’s difficult to get out amongst others there are a ton of online classes to choose from. There are times when I’ve learned something new and it makes all the difference with whatever I’m struggling with.

Since I’ve started writing I don’t read as much but that’s one of the best ways to get the creative juices flowing. When you are inspired by a story it usually helps things along with your own. Conferences can be a great way to make contacts with other writers. I went to six in a row when I first started writing but the cost started to catch up with me so I’m more selective with how often I go. But those first few years were invaluable for me to learn the craft.

Some more simple ideas are to use colors in your writing according to the mood of your scene or entire story. Colors can affect ones mood and also our writing. I like to take a quick walk with the dog each day just to get some sun and step away from the computer. Something that’s helped me to get revived is to listen to music. I have my favorite songs on my iPad that are easy to access and can change my slump into some auditory inspiration.

Writing exercises, peeking at other author’s websites, social networking, and the news can also be motivators. But my favorite is people watching. There’s nothing like the creative ping when you hone in on someone and create their entire life by just a few short glances, it helps create more in depth characters.

These are just a few ideas. I’d love to hear more from other writers… 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Fish Out of Water Stories

I’ve always enjoyed fish-out-of-water stories because I’ve often felt like one myself. When we moved to Hawaii and lived in the heart of Honolulu, I was one of the few non-locals in the middle school. And if anyone had any doubt about that, the minute I opened my mouth, my southern accent gave me away. We wound up moving on base when housing became available, so the following year I entered a high school filled with other military brats who had similar life experiences. That was one of the few times in my life when I felt somewhat normal. Then we moved again, and I rediscovered how different I was. That's probably why I almost always relate to unusual characters in books and movies.

Some of my favorite fish-out-of-water movies include “Legally Blonde,” “Mr. Mom,” “Meet the Parents,” “E.T.,” “Splash” (literally a fish out of water story), “The Jerk,” "Edward Scissorhands," and “Back to the Future.” I think that one of the things I like about them is that we’re forced to see humanity from a different perspective as the characters’ differences become more obvious.

As a writer, I’m having fun with Missing Dixie, the first fish-out-of-water story in my Uptown Belles series, because it enables me to push my heroine to grow and develop outside her comfort zone. Being a small-town Alabama girl on her own in New York City, she has to face unfamiliar circumstances on a daily basis. This in turn gives her all sorts of opportunities to become stronger in every aspect of her life, including her faith. Without her trust in the Lord, she’d be running all the way back to Alabama, but she knows that Jesus is right there by her side, every step of the way.

I like having the fish-out-of-water theme because I can push my characters by plopping them into the middle of situations that make them uncomfortable. That’s when you can see what they’re really made of. My southern belle Cissy might come across as a flake sometimes, but when she is forced to be strong, she has to dig deep and develop mental and emotional muscles she never knew she had.

Do you like fish-out-of-water stories? Have you ever been a fish out of water?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Resistance is Futile!

Resistance is Futile!

My Borg friends will understand this statement. If you are not familiar with the Borg and you are an aspiring or published author, you will probably recognize a better version of this statement: “Resistance is Inevitable!”

In February, I attended the Platform Conference featuring Michael Hyatt. I had the opportunity to sit at the table with Michael (yes, we are on first name basis -- at least for my part!) and I had a follow up “coaching” session with Michael four weeks later. What I learned from that conference is priceless. Authors today MUST build their own platform as publishers no longer provide marketing and publicity for their authors. I am also now a member of Platform University and I strongly recommend Michael’s book, “Platform” and considering a membership in the university.

But, what I wanted to talk about in this post is Resistance. Michael devoted an entire hour to this topic and frankly, I didn’t want to hear it. Let’s just say I was resistant to the idea that my writing career meets resistance. That is a huge chunk of denial!

I would recommend buying the book and reading the entire section on Resistance but I’d like to hit a few highlights of how resistance presents itself in my writing:

There are two sources of resistance: external and internal. I have very little control on the external sources of resistance. These are often related to the changing world of publishing. But, these sources can also be very close to home: children, day jobs, aging parents, health issues, etc.

But, there are some forms of internal resistance we should consider:

1 -- Writer’s Block. I have NEVER suffered from writer’s block! Ever! For me, it is a matter of finding enough time to sit down and do a “creative” dump of all the ideas whirling around in my mind. But, in March, I took a week off to write and for four straight days, I sat in front of the laptop and did NOTHING! Blank! Empty! So, how do you overcome the resistance from writer’s block? I realized that in my study, I have surrounded myself with creative “cues” that unlock the creative forces in my mind. But, in a strange location those cues are gone. I had to develop another way to stimulate my creativity. So, I just started writing on the blank page -- just putting down thoughts and ideas as they flew through my brain. Soon, by day five, I was cooking with gas!

So, what do YOU do to break the writer’s block? Share some tidbits with the rest of us.

2 -- Procrastination. Well, I’ll talk about that later.

How do YOU overcome procrastination?

3 -- Fear. This is a BIG one. Who am I to write? Where do I get off thinking I can be a published author? What will people think about me when they see what I’ve put down on the page? Do I dare bleed all over the page?

Fear is the biggest culprit for me. Fear of rejection. Fear of criticism. Recently, out of nowhere, an email arrived from someone I’ve never heard of. Turns out this person had somehow gotten their hands on a script adaptation I wrote back in 1988 of a play called “The Living Last Supper”. When I was handed the original play by my fine arts minister at the time, I was told the play was out of print. I was asked to adapt the clunky, sort of King’s English version to a more modern sounding version and to shorten the dialogue so a group of inexperienced deacons could play each one of the disciples. I adapted the script. It was so successful, our church performed it for eight straight years. During that time, I was asked for the script and I shared it, ALWAYS informing the person that it was an adaptation of the original play.

Well, this stranger took me to task for plagiarism. He accused me of passing off my adaptation as the original play. How in the world did he even get a copy of my script? I hadn’t dealt with that script for over 16 years! But, the man insisted I do the “right thing” and withdraw the script and put a disclaimer on my website. So, I did. I did so out of outright fear! What if this man ruined my albeit tiny, but growing writing career by calling me a plagiarist!

And, here is the final solution for Fear. I always stop and ask myself, “What is the Lie?” Am I a plagiarist? NO! Am I worthless? NO! Can God use me for His work? YES! Fear can be conquered so simply by asking this one question. And, here is why. Who is the Father of Lies? SATAN! Who is the Father of Truth? GOD! And, from fear and anxiety and procrastination and even some of those external sources of resistance, the TRUTH will set us FREE!

Oh, by the way, I seem to recall a little verse that says something like this:

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. James 4:6-8 ESV

(I want to be sure and give the proper source so I will not be accused of plagiarism!)

How do you handle fear? Share some of your wisdom with the rest of us!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Writing Conferences

 Next month I'm attending Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference in Ridgecrest, NC. I love learning new things about the craft of writing. If you are a writer who wants to get published and need to learn the ropes, this is one place to do it. The last time I was at BRMCWC was in 2010. It actually seems much longer than that to me. I didn't get a chance to go anywhere last year and spent a lot of time writing and marketing.

I hope to make new friends, catch up with others I have only talked to on different writing loops, and learn new things that will help me further my own career. Sometimes I think it's important just to hang out in the coffee shop and talk about what's happening in this crazy world of publishing. Other times it might be good to try and digest something you just heard in a workshop and how that can help you move forward with a project. And then there are those times when you just need to escape back to your room for a nap. In 2010 at I was fortunate enough to meet Debbie Marrie from Charisma Media  who had acquired my series the end of 2009. That was a time I will never forget.

What's the last conference you went to and what was something special that happened to you along the way? If you're going to a conference this year tell us which one and why and what you hope will happen.

Have a great week!


Friday, April 5, 2013

Learning Patience...Patiently

There’s an old joke that goes: Lord, grant me patience . . . right NOW!
As a writer, I have learned something about patience over the years. It takes patience to come up with a story idea worthy of the months of labor you are going to spend on it. I’ve learned that it takes patience to develop your outline and write the first draft. It requires a great deal of patience as you send out your letters of inquiry and the rejections begin arriving, one by one. Patience is required after you finally find a publisher because an editor gets ahold of your manuscript and takes it apart and you have to patiently put it back together again. Several times! Then when the manuscript is acceptable, it still takes months for it to be printed. After that the fun part begins of promoting your book and developing a following, one contact at a time. This is the normal process of a writer learning patience.
My experience has required me to stretch even a little further. Two months after the release date of my book in the U.S., my novel is still not available in Canada! The release date was advertised as 2/5/13, which in the States is February 5. But internationally (that is, in Canada where I live) the date means May 2. And no matter how many emails I’ve sent and booksellers I’ve contacted, I can’t get the mistake corrected. So now that the initial publicity wave has come and gone south of the border, it hasn’t even begun in Canada yet. And that has been an exercise in frustration. Translation: patience.
My grandmother used to quote this old saying: Patience is a virtue, secure it if you can; seldom found in women and never found in men. I am trying to develop patience, Grandma. Honest I am. But it sure would be nice if the problem could be resolved NOW!

Monday, April 1, 2013

April Fool's Day: No Joke

Most people I know enjoy playing a practical joke or two on this day of tom-foolery and trickery. What I didn’t know was that this holiday dates from the 14th century. Had something to do with the Gregorian calendar and the moving of New Years Day from April to January 1.

It’s a holiday celebrated all over the world in such places as Italy, Portugal, England, India, Scotland, Spain, Denmark, Sweden and Mexico among others. It’s a day of pranks and fun and was even traced to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in 1392. However, current thinking has it beginning in 1582 in France when the Gregorian Calendar was introduced. Since communication was so slow in those days, a lot of people didn’t find out the news until several years later and some were rebellious and refused to recognize such a change.  These rebels were labeled “fools” by others and were subject to great ridicule.

The tradition evolved and the custom of playing pranks continued on the first day of April. It spread across the continent both East and West. Hence the international flavor of the day, but each country celebrates in its own way.

In England the jokes are played only in the morning. The victim of the joke is called a noodle, and it was considered bad luck to play a practical joke on anyone after the noon hour. That sounds like a good idea to me.

So, no matter where you are today, someone just might play a practical joke on you, so be prepared and have fun.

Leave a comment below and tell me about a practical joke played on you or someone else that was funny and harmless. You just might win a copy of one of my books, your choice if you do.