Tag Archive | writing

What’s Your Word for 2017?

Project for New Year 2017

Happy New Year! Are you sad to see the old one go? Thrilled to see this new one come? Vice versa? When I sit down and take a moment to think back over the year, 2016 was a pretty good one, but I’m hoping 2017 turns out to be even better.

Last year, I had two words to propel me into 2016: optimism and perseverance. While I didn’t stay optimistic 365 days out of the year, I did see progress in tamping down my negative thoughts and not letting them drown out my self-pep talks. As for perseverance, my goal was to finish my latest (fourth?) draft of my Christmas story and start sending out queries by summer’s end. I told myself I’d send out at least 35 queries before taking a break and revamping my strategy, if need be. I ended up only sending out 30, because…

…Query #21 to a small publishing company was rewarded with an offer of publication!

Yes, my Christmas YA (young adult) fantasy novel, Tinsel in a Tangle, will be published by Clean Reads in October 2017! *happy dance* More on that in upcoming posts. The decision to sign with CR came with a few lessons and epiphanies, and I really should write down what I learned so I can refer back to it when Negativity comes knocking in the months to come. (Because you know it will; Negativity is relentless that way.)

So what’s my word for 2017? PURPOSEFUL.

Purposeful in how I spend my money, what books I choose to read, movies I choose to watch, but mainly, this word has to do with how I will spend my time. Because somehow I’m supposed to find the hours to research book marketing so I can help promote my book when the time comes, find the hours to begin writing a new manuscript, continue posting on my blog, and then there’s the whole non-writer part of my life in which, as wife and mother, I play the part of companion, confidant, laundress, cook, housecleaner, chauffeur, teacher, counselor, shopper, etc.

In order to do these things well—according to how God would have me perform these duties, not according to society—I need to approach my days with purpose and prayer. I need to remember God is in control of my book’s success, not the writing world telling me I’m supposed to do A, B, C, D, and E in order to see success, because that could easily paralyze me. While I will do what I reasonably can for the sake of Tinsel when it’s released, my talents do not fall under “marketer,” or “promoter.” I’m the type of person who’d like to be recognized without having to call attention to herself, yet I’m not naiive to think God doesn’t have some growing for me to do in these areas. 🙂 Somehow, He’ll help me bring it all together, but it will be done with purpose.

How about you? Have you chosen a word for 2017? Did you choose one last year and see an improvement in that area? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

Signature

SaveSave

Advertisements

Something Fun ‘n Flighty…

…Because sometimes a Tuesday can feel like a Monday. So, here’s a little ditty just for fun. I wrote this a few months ago one Saturday morning when I woke up with the first line running through my head. Have a blessed day!

 

What Will I Do Today?

 

Today I’ll cross swords with an armored knight

Or face down a dragon in a deadly fight.

 

I’ll flit through the sky on papery wings

In a land of giants and magical kings.

 

Today I’ll pirate a ship on the seas

Hunting for treasure, attacked by the breeze.

 

I’ll brave the monster squished under my bed

And lure him out with some moldy bread.

 

I’m an agent.

A ninja.

A cat-loving ghoul.

The choices are endless,

For I set the rules.

 

Today I’ll snuggle with laptop or paper.

Immersed in a fantasy, drama, or caper.

 

Black letters adrift on an ocean of white,

I’ll open my mind…and then I will write.

 

Signature

The Writing World: Narrow-minded and Legalistic?

Early last month, I took the plunge and joined an online writer’s critique group, for I want/need to get unbiased opinions on my Christmas story. This group ranges in skill from beginners to experts, and one of the basic rules of thumb is to critique (or crit) two submissions from other writers before submitting your own excerpt (up to 2500 words) for critiquing. Each submission should receive at least three crits.

Now, I’ve been at this writing thing for over sixteen years. I might not always write the most exciting plot, but I know how to make a pretty sentence. I know my rules.

I thought I knew my rules.

If I don’t get anything else out of this critique group, I will take away this: I’ll never know all there is to know about the craft of writing. Ever. And that’s okay—as long as I’m consistently moving in an upward curve, right?

Raise your hand if you’ve heard any of these:

~Stay away from adverbs. (-ly words)

~Stay away from the passive voice. (any form of “to be”)

~Show, don’t tell. (don’t tell me the girl is panicked; show me what panicked looks like)

~Limit the use of tag lines. (“he said…,” “she asked…”)

~Only use “said” as a tag line.

~Better yet, don’t use tag lines at all—just action beats.

I’ve known the first three for a decade and a half, but the last three I just heard within this last year.

Now, how about these?

~Limit the use of exclamation points.

~Limit the use of adjectives.

~Only two prepositions per sentence.

~Never two prepositional sentences side by side.

~Beware the dangling modifier.

And on and on it goes!

(Oops. Just used an exclamation point.)

Okay, time-out. Throwing all that stuff about prepositions in there is like throwing a heavy yoke around my neck. It’s going to strip the fun out of the act of writing—precisely what I’ve tried to reclaim in writing my Christmas story. It’s hard enough to construct a sentence that sounds good—now I have to worry about the number of preps between periods?!

(Oh, no. Another exclamation point.)

If you’ve written for any length of time, you have heard that the writing rules were made to be broken…after you’ve mastered them. When I first started writing, I used adverbs with aplomb. These days, when I use an adverb it’s because I want it there. When I first started writing, the passive voice snuck into every other sentence. Now if it appears in my writing, I put it there on purpose.

My point?

The rules (and there are many) are phenomenal guidelines. If you follow them as often as possible, you will take your writing to the next level, guaranteed. Even though I came into the crit group with a solid foundation, I’ve already gained a better understanding of how to “show” rather than “tell.” And that whole preposition-thing? It isn’t a bad rule to have in your arsenal, after all. Makes for tighter sentences.

That said, there are some well-meaning writers out there that have taken these rules to the extreme and gone legalistic with them. That’s no good. I don’t care if you’re talking religion, art, education, parenting, marriage, etc., legalism never helps anyone.

I was thirty pages into a book when I realized the author wasn’t using tag lines. Good writing? Yes. The problem? Sometimes I was confused as to who was saying what because the author gave neither a tag line nor an action beat. Each time that happened, it pulled me out of the story. And at other times I felt the author went overboard in the use of action beats, just so she didn’t have to use a tag line. Again, it pulled me out of the story. Then I became irritated with the writing and never finished reading the book.

Another writer refuses to use exclamation points. Even when her characters are hollering or incensed, she uses periods. Seriously? Which sounds better in your head as you read:

“Get back here, you filthy urchin.” His fist pounding the air, he raced after the child.

Or:

“Get back here, you filthy urchin,” he shouted, fist pounding the air as he raced after the child.

Or:

“Get back here, you filthy urchin!” His fist pounding the air, he raced after the child.

Small changes, yet no doubt you read them differently. In the first example, there’s no indication the guy is shouting, so you might not think he’s as angry as I wants you to think he is. In the second example, a tag line had to tell you the man was shouting. In the third, the exclamation point says it all. No intrusion, no confusion.

Here’s the thing. Exclamation points, tag lines, adverbs, passive voice…they exist for a reason. Sometimes your sentence requires the use of one or all three in order to get your point across, in the way you want it read. Certainly, limit their use, follow the rules when possible. Narrow-mindedness isn’t always a bad thing—and in the writing realm, it will force you to dig deeper and work harder, growing you into a better writer.

Just be careful not to insert “never” at the beginning of these rules. That kind of legalism will do more harm than good to your manuscript.

Silence is Golden

My blog-life has been quiet for several weeks.

My real life, on the other hand, has not.

School started up again at the end of August and with it came new schedules, new routines, new meetings, new appointments. Around those responsibilities and those of the household, I also had a self-imposed deadline to finish the second draft of my Christmas novel by mid-October. Early on I realized I couldn’t work on both my novel and my blog at the same time if I wanted to make the deadline. Which I really wanted to do. So I took a break from the blog…and I pulled back from Twitter, FB, and Pinterest, as well, because let’s face it: all that social media can lead down rabbit trails and detract us from using our time wisely and productively. 

I’m happy to say I completed my second draft on schedule [insert happy dance here], and now…well, now I get to take a little break from writing to work on all the projects I’ve ignored since August.

Like the sideboard in the master bedroom I want to revamp. The “quilted” AWANA bag I should finish for my daughter. The fireplace I want to make for my dolls before Christmas. The Pookies I want to knit for some relatives. A couple of Shutterfly albums I need/want to put together before Christmas (Mom, pretend you didn’t read that last part). And another half dozen random projects I’d like to complete around the house/for the family. And all done by Christmas, of course.

Hahaha!   

Yeah. Impossible when one factors in all the daily-living stuff I need to accomplish, as well as preparations for the birthdays and holidays that fall in between now and December 25th for my family. So…I’ll just plug away at them and we’ll see how far I get come Christmas. 🙂

Pookies

Pookies!

I’ve already knit two Pookies out of four (see the pattern here on Ravelry.com), although neither is 100% complete (one still needs his hat and ears, and they both need embroidered noses) and I did relinquish some writing time a few weeks back to finish an iPad case/carrier for my daughter. I love the sense of being able to check things off my mental to-do list, and now that I can ease up a little on writing, hopefully I’ll be checking things off much faster than I did before!

felted iPad case

Felted iPad case with a pocket on the backside and a braided leather strap.

How about you? Am I the only one who piles on projects between the start of school and Christmastime, or can you relate to my unrealistic endeavors? 🙂

 

 

 

 

Signature

Letting Go Is Not The Same As Giving Up

Seeing as how we are officially halfway through the year, I thought I’d bring you up to date on my New Year’s resolution, which was to send out query letters to dozens of agents and/or publishers.

To be honest, I’m discouraged at how few agents and publishers I have been able to find that are willing to represent inspirational romance. I will be lucky if I can send out enough queries to warrant an impressive rejection pile on future projects. As of right now, however, I have stopped my efforts to find an agent for Her Knight in Rusted Armor after only six queries. Sounds kinda pathetic at first, doesn’t it? But I didn’t stop because my ego couldn’t take the rejections (I had psyched myself up for a couple dozen at least!). And I didn’t stop because I had already run out of options. I didn’t even stop because of the amount of time required to research each agent and tweak each query letter accordingly. I stopped because I realized I was wasting not only the agents’ time in reading my queries, but mine, as well, in working on them.

Writing can be such a conundrum!

Writing can be such a conundrum!

For how can I convince someone to invest in my work when I am no longer passionate about it, myself?

Oh, I’m still passionate about writing, but not about this particular story. I had hoped that in shelving Her Knight in Rusted Armor for a while (it sat untouched for over a year) I would be able to return to it with renewed fervor and a drive to see it published. Such was not the case.

And I’m okay with that.

Last year, I would not have been okay with that. This story represents hundreds of hours of work and tears and agony and joy. To just let it sit in my laptop and in my memory key seems like such a waste, for I will now have nothing to show for my years plugging away at this plot line and breathing life into these characters.

But over the past few months, God has slowly shown me not to look at the time as a waste, but rather to appreciate how much I have grown from this process. Grown as a writer, grown as a Christian, grown as a wife and mother, expanded my knowledge and experiences. I learned the nuts and bolts of fiction writing while plowing through the first version of Her Knight… fifteen years ago; I continued to gain knowledge and understanding about the writing craft through the several revisions of this story over the ensuing years; and I advanced in my writing abilities as I tried to apply that knowledge to the individual chapters, paragraphs, sentences, words.

Today, Her Knight in Rusted Armor and I have taken each other as far as we can go. For the story, this means it will not see the light of day on a bookstore shelf. For me, this means I get to draw on what I’ve learned from crafting Her Knight… and apply it (in the first draft rather than the tenth) to something new, fresh, and completely unrelated.

In some ways, when I focus on my writing career (or lack thereof) from the perspective of a driven American living in a society where success is defined by tangible results, setting aside a manuscript can be frustrating. There are writers out there younger than me–with kids!–publishing their second, third, tenth, twentieth book! Sometimes I find myself asking what’s wrong with me, that I’m turning away from the only story I have that is 100% complete. This means I’m now putting off my quest for publication for who-knows-how-much-longer!

But then the Holy Spirit steps in and gently turns my focus back to the Lord. He has me on my own path and I need to look to Him to guide my footsteps, not try to emulate other people’s paths to their successes. Oddly enough, I find that I’m not even sure what I hope my “success” will look like anymore. All the more reason, I suppose, to seek the Lord one day at a time, rather than chase after desires that have been known to change depending on the time of month or the pressures of outside circumstances. 😉

Anne Graham Lotz has said, “Let go and let God,” and I try to apply that to my writing endeavors. It’s not always easy. And I’m not always happy. But in the end, so long as I’ve pursued God in the midst of it all, I will find fulfillment in ways I never could have imagined.

Trust in God II

 

 

Oh, the conflict!

Ellowyne Wilde is mad at me.

I have done so much writing and reading and researching over the last month or so that she’s feeling a little under-appreciated. With spring officially arriving tomorrow, Ellowyne has PLANS. But before she can implement her plans, I have to find time to drive two hours to Missoula just so I can visit a Michael’s Craft store…because the capital of Montana has no Michaels, no Hobby Lobby, and our Joann’s was downgraded a couple of years ago so it now only offers things that have to do with sewing or scrapbooking or jewelry-making or knitting/crocheting (though not felting). So, the store sells hardly any flowers, no baskets, and no seasonal décor. Meaning, you could walk in there the week before Christmas or the week before the Fourth of July and the store would look pretty much the same. No joke.

No, no, I’m not bitter. Do I sound bitter? I just live in the capital of the state, that’s all. One would think…never mind. The point is, Ello is just going to have to stew a little longer.

Talk

Talk

To

To

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The

The

Hand.

Hand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My world has been so focused on writing-orientated things, in fact, that I figured I’d have to skip my post for this week. Until I stumbled across a link in my Twitter feed this morning and decided to follow it. I discovered Angie Arndt’s post, Would You Write Anyway?, and my thoughts haven’t stopped churning since.

Someone had asked her this question: “If you were never published, would you write anyway?” It’s a question I’ve asked myself so many times. I thought I knew the answer—of course!—but now I’m wondering if I’ll ever be able to answer that.

Think about something you enjoy doing. You’re good at it. You continue to learn the “tricks of the trade” and hone your skills as the years go on. You invest time, money, energy, tears into this passion. A decade passes. Maybe two. Over that span of time, you sacrifice other things here and there—lesser hobbies that couldn’t be fully developed, closer friendships, moments with your kids and significant other—to plug away at this one passion that drives you. If it’s knitting, you’ll leave a trail of gifts in your wake: clothes, handbags, accessories, stuffed animals, etc. If it’s wood-working, you’ll have bowls and vases and cutting boards and furniture and shelves… Painting? You’ll have scores of wall art or decorated furniture or snazzy interior walls for viewing… Pick a hobby/passion/job and follow it out for a few decades; you would hope to find something to show for your efforts, right?

But what if no one ever saw what you created? 

That’s how I feel about writing. Unless I get published, no one outside of my immediate family and those sweet friends who do me the honor of reading my WIPs (works-in-progress) will ever see what I have done with the time and talents God has given me. Is that enough? I guess that’s between God and the individual. For me, sitting here in 2015, taking it day by day with the future still an unknown, I’d say, yes, I’d still write. Because I’ve tried not writing before and by the end of the third week, I was about to explode from the pressure inside me that needed to write.

But if I come to the end of my life and I have nothing to show for my gift other than a bunch of works lingering in my laptop in different stages of completion…I’d be devastated! Each page of writing represents all of those things I listed earlier that I cannot get back: time, energy, sacrifice, tears, experiences, agony (am I doing the right thing?), etc, etc. Most of my almost-complete manuscripts consist of over 350 pages. If I never get published…that’s an enormous chunk of all facets of my life that I could have invested somewhere else, doing something more fruitful! Right?

Maybe.

I don’t know.

I don’t know!

Deep…breath.

Here’s what I do know: right now, I’m where God wants me, because I’m trying hard to keep my heart open to His leading and I’m okay—sitting here in 2015—with wherever He decides to take me. I’ve learned a lot in the last year and I’m excited about what He has to teach me in the future. And if I come to the end of my life and have no published works to show for it, then I’m trusting that at some point God will have told me, “This is as far as I want you to go with writing, Laurie. You are now free to turn your attentions and talents to those things that have been waiting in the background.”

Every one of us has a purpose, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. If we continue to press into Him and seek Him first, I believe He will direct us one day at a time in the way He wants us to go, so that by the end of our life on this earth, we’ll be able to look back and say, “I get it! I understand now why You did things that way. You are so awesome!”

So, will I still write even if I never get published?

Yes. Until God tells me to stop.

Two Steps Forward…

Can I tell you a secret? I’m so excited this week—and God stands smack dab in the middle of it.

Back in November of 2013, our church decided to fast and pray over a period of three weeks for God to work breakthroughs in both the congregation as a whole and in our individual lives. Now, before you start biting your fingernails, I’m not going to get into all the nitty-gritty about fasting and the how’s and why’s and all that. That’s not what this post is about. Suffice it to say, you can fast from anything for any length of time—though preferably in an area of your life in which giving something up is going to sting a little; where you might need to lean on God’s strength to get you through moments of weakness. (Imagine that!)

So when our lead pastor urged us to begin thinking about what we might fast from, I naturally considered all the areas in my life that made the idea of a twenty-one day sacrifice uncomfortable. Um…all areas except food, that is. Long ago I had concluded that fasting from food was a ridiculous notion for someone as thin as me—and who tended to get the shakes when accidentally missing a meal (you know: on days when I don’t want to “waste time” preparing lunch because I have to pick up the kids from school in less than three hours and I have oh-so-many-things to accomplish before then!). And since I get the shakes, I shouldn’t skip meals on purpose, right? Right!

(Right?)

For years, I lived in complete harmony with my rationale; after all, one doesn’t need to fast from food in order to have a healthy relationship with God.

Unless, of course, God asks you to fast from food.

I might not have visibly slunk lower in my seat that day during the church service, but my stomach curled up in a fetal position and cried.

Seriously, Lord? You want me to fast from breakfast? But that’s my favorite meal of the day!let me play you a sad song on the world's smallest violin.  -Mr Krabs by batjas88

Whine.

But my mom says I’m already underweight! I can’t afford to lose any more ounces by skipping a meal.

Whine.

But, hang on, Lord. I run in the mornings. How am I supposed to run on an empty stomach and then wait until noon before replenishing my dwindling supply of nourishment?

Whine.

And wait!—there’s my women’s Bible study on Friday mornings, followed by my weekly stop at Wal Mart…and any other wayward errand I have to run. You know I get hungry watching Beth Moore…and sometimes I don’t return home to eat lunch until after one-thirty on those days!

Whine whine whine whine whine.

(Is anyone else playing the world’s saddest song on the world’s smallest violin?)

It might have continued in this manner had God not spoken through my thoughts: “Am I not the God of impossibilities?”

Well, yeah, Lord, of course You are.

“Don’t you think I could sustain you during the hours you’re fasting for Me? Even during a run? Even during Beth Moore and your errands?”

I…guess so. But—

“Then I think it’s time you stopped making excuses and trusted Me to provide for you. Besides, your faith could use a little more growth…”

You know what I did, right?

Yeah. I fasted from breakfast for three weeks. Nothing like making one more aware of God’s presence than when you’re relying on Him to give you strength and energy before, during, and after a 3-mile run.

But since I yearned for breakthrough in certain areas of my life, I wanted my fasting to reflect my earnestness. And I did need to exercise my trust and faith that God would carry me through the morning hours no matter what my schedule looked like on any given day. Three weeks later—not once did I have the shakes; and I don’t think I lost any weight (happy, Mom? 😉 ); and amazingly enough, most days I didn’t crave food, even come noon.

That God revealed Himself to me in awesome ways during those weeks would have been enough—but He didn’t stop there. Two days ago it suddenly hit me He’s been steadily blessing me with breakthrough throughout this last year in at least one of the major areas for which I cried out!

Because not only has He continued to sprinkle me with ideas for this blog which I stepped out in faith to start in 2014, but it was two days ago that I finished the first draft of a Christmas novel I had begun to write during the late spring of 2013. 97,000 words in twenty-one months. For those who have chugged out 50,000 words in one month for NaNoWriMo, twenty-one months might seem like an eternity. For me, it’s a record. A breakthrough.breaking-free It represents a bit of freedom from my perfectionist tendencies—a breaking free from suffocating demands and impractical expectations.

Most of all, this represents God at work in me. His answers to my heartfelt prayers remind me He listens. He cares. He loves. He’s pleased to bring me pleasure.

The Creator-God blessing His creation through creativity. May that which I fashion always bear His thumbprint.