Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Writing While On Vacation

We’re on vacation this week – visiting our youngest son, Jason, his wife, Danielle, and baby Kate – in the great state of Texas. The first thing everyone asks is, “How’s the writing going?” I did bring some writing projects with me, and have squeezed in a little bit. But that was on the plane.

Well! Sometimes it’s going and sometimes it’s not. When I used to hear or read something about writer’s block, I’d think hmmmm, I would love to have time to just write and write and write. I don’t need motivation or drive to do it. I did bring some writing projects with me, and have squeezed in a little bit. But that was on the plane.

Oh, foolish me! Sometimes I just can’t muster up the oomph to write. I didn’t see that coming. My friend, Jan, wrote a book Wake Up Your Muse that has 1001 story starters. At the FaithWriters Conference in Portland in June there was even a closing skit about our Muse. Maybe I need to start searching for my Muse or resurrect the one I already have.

One thing I’ve noticed in travels is how I view different towns and city with an eye and mind that wonders how this could be used in a novel. Stephenville, TX where we’re at right now is a charming, smaller city. We are staying at a bed and breakfast that is delightful. I’d love to incorporate into a novel or short story sometime.

I read somewhere that writers should never have a setting in a real city or town and then put lots of information that doesn’t exist in said place. Readers who KNOW will be quick to point erroneous information. It’s much better to create fictional cities and towns and sites.

I kind of like using real places. And in doing so, I fictionalize places and events. Isn’t a work of fiction is suppose to be, well, fiction?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Searching For That Perfect Title

Some writers struggle with coming up with a good title for their novel. We all know that when a reader picks a book the first thing they see is the cover, and then the title. They’ll usually read the blurb on the back, BUT they read the title first. How do you come up with your title?

As Christian writers we know our book or books will have a message. If not a blatant Christian message, it will have a theme running through it of morality, integrity, or clean wholesomeness. When I first started to seriously pursue writing, I determined that my novels would incorporate a Bible verse in the title, and that verse would set the theme.

Do you know the Bible is full of catchy titles? The first novel I wrote was a fictionalize story of my first marriage – it was more for healing than publication. I titled it As Waters That Pass Away based on Job 11:16.

My next novel I worked on is In An Eveningtide based on 2 Samuel 11:1, 2. It’s a modern version of King David when he’s on the roof of his home and sees Bathsheba bathing and lusts for her. I originally titled it The Roof of The King’s House, but felt I needed to shorten it. In An Eveningtide is included in the same scripture reference.

Another one is Grasping For The Wind taken from Ecclesiastes 6:9. This phrase is actually repeated several times throughout Ecclesiastes. Another novel I’m working on is A Lily Among Thorns based on Song of Solomon 2:2.

I also include the full scripture as an introduction to the novel. Are you struggling for a catchy title? Look in your Bible. I found that Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Psalm, and Ecclesiastes are rich sources. And why not include the scripture as the theme for your novel. The Bible is very poetic and flowery. Give it try!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Life Experiences

Like many writers, I write from my own life experiences, or experiences of others I know. In my book Like a Cedar In Lebanon one of the main characters is Jack. Jack seems a dastardly, unlikeable person in the first part of the book when I’m telling Lebby’s story. The second half of the book is Jack’s story – the horrendous things he suffered that made him the way he was. The story is about redemption, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Lebby’s life was based on many things I experienced. Jack’s life was based on things I learned and understood from working with men at Teen Challenge for nineteen years. There are also characteristics of Jack drawn from my experiences with my ex-husband and my son.

It took me many years to forgive my ex-husband. When he passed away recently, I realized there are still many wounded areas in me. Unfortunately there are many things about my son – I have four daughters – that remind me of my ex-husband. Dealing with my son, who has battled alcoholism from his teen years, is like reliving so many experiences from my first marriage.

Many years ago I heard a preacher say that the reason some of continue to go around the same mountain is because we didn’t learn the lesson God intended the first time. My son has been staying in my home for the past several days and will be here until the end of the week. He is helping my husband do some construction work on a church. We had to spring him from jail for this.

My son is just so much like his dad. I've cried enough tears over him to fill an ocean. God help me, I don’t want to keep going around this mountain! And I don’t need more material to write about, thank you very much! If I live to be a hundred, I won’t run out of things to writing ideas.

Life! To quote a line from a movie, “Life’s like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”   I’m so glad I serve a God who holds it all in his compassionate, capable hands.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Research for Writing: Blah!

I stand at the window and hope for rain that seems will never happen. It is the desert, after all, and that way for a reason. If we had an abundance of rain, it wouldn’t be desert, right?

The terrain in my home state finds its way into the things I write. Write what you know, someone told me recently. Perhaps they understood that I hate the research part of writing. Oh, I know some writers love to do research, but I don’t.  So I tend to write about things I know, or within easy grasp.

In Like A Cedar in Lebanon, I confess, I had to do some research – on medical conditions regarding a heart transplant, and about the Gulf War. But it was minuscule, not overly deep research, the way I like research to be.

I’ve also heard other writers say to make sure you get your facts straight in your writing. Readers will KNOW and point out your errors to you. Maybe I was an ignorant reader, still am, because I seldom care about factual errors. If it’s blatant, maybe, but otherwise I just want a good read, something to keep me turning pages to see what happens next.

I’m not talking about grammatical or spelling errors. Those I spot right away. Unfortunately! I say unfortunately because I hate to be distracted when I’m reading.

So I write, hoping, praying I don’t have to do research. I’m currently working on several projects. One: going through my manuscript about being a cougar from a Christian perspective. (yes, I AM married to a younger man, 16 years younger – we’ve been married 19 years). Two:

Two different short articles for a testimony contest with FaithWriters. Three: Two different novels. Four: Polishing a synopsis and first chapter of a novel for an entry to the Page Turner contest with FaithWriters.

So, I better get busy!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Why Write?

Why do you write? Why do I write? This question wasn’t birthed by me. I see it in numerous blogs and postings. So why do I write?

The desire to write has always dwelt within me. But life happened, and I suppose I assumed writing was not meant for me. The first serious writing I did was for NaNoWriMo in 2009, a fictional account of my life. It was catharsis for me, opening old wounds and dealing with them anew. Perhaps I had never truly dealt with some at all. Whatever the case, I was hooked on writing.

My next NaNoWriMo was a novel Like A Cedar In Lebanon. It dealt with things I had written about in my fiction life story. I poured my heart and soul into my novel, but the path to publication seemed daunting, overwhelming, a mountain I feared to climb. So I did subsidy, or vanity press, publishing.

By the time my book was out there, I realized I had broken all the rules of good writing. Although I love my novel, I’m a little embarrassed by the obvious flaws in the craft of writing it contains.

My book released in November 2012. Immediately family and friends bought it, way over-priced, I might add, but out of my control. These people who love me gave great reviews on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Then a dear friend of mine said she bought my book. I hyperventilated and had heart palpitations.

My friend and I go way back to our early teen years. Then we had much in common, but not so today. I remained a conservative Christian, she has not. Our political and religious views are worlds apart. I love her dearly, and I love staying connected with her. But....she was going to read my book – my very, very Christian novel. Should I warn her?

She read it, and gave me a glowing review on Amazon. And that, my friends, is why I write. I want to show God in the midst of a harsh, cruel world. To show Jesus concerned, and at work in the lives of a fallen and flawed humanity.

And if I make some money in the process it would be icing on the cake. A plumber called by God still expects to get paid for his services. A policeman, fireman, and doctor all want to help people but expect to get recompensed. Nothing wrong with a writer expecting the same thing.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Attending Writers' Conferences

Ah, writers’ conferences! There seems to be a prolific amount of such things, and as aspiring authors, we are encouraged to attend as many as possible. For the record, I have attended two main conferences and one mini-conference, which was actually more of a workshop, conducted by a major literary agent.

The truth of the matter, at least for me, is that I can’t afford to attend most conferences. The conference fees alone, although reasonable when you consider what’s offered, is hard for people on a budget, but then when you consider the cost of travel (air fare or otherwise), hotel accommodations, meals, etc, it can add up to a hefty chunk of money.

Another truth is – are you ready – writing, or being an author, does not a wealthy person make. Unless, of course, you’re famous – Stephen King, Dean Koontz, James Patterson – or…well, you get my drift. These famous writers actually have their books turned into movies. I mostly read Christian fiction, of which authors I didn’t even mention – my favorites like Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, Ted Dekker, and others – they have done well also.

What about us fledgling wannabe writers who feel we have a story burning in our hearts, a story that God inspired us to write? It is a lonely road to embark on that seems to require more time and money than we may ever get a return on. It’s hard not to struggle with discouragement and doubts.

I attended the FaithWriters Conference this past weekend in Portland, OR. I loved meeting new people, sharing stories, encouraging one another, learning new things. I won an award for an annual contest FaithWriters has, the Page Turner Contest, so perhaps you may be thinking I had a leg-up on some other the other conference attendees. Not so! I sat amongst these lovely people with my usual self-doubts and anxiety regarding if I will ever be recognized as having a gift the world wants to read.

It can, and probably will be, a very lonely road – this journey of writing. You have to ask yourself how badly you want this. If you want it, then don’t give up! Keep walking the path set before you. In the beginning, and throughout, your greatest cheerleader will be God Himself. If He believes in you, then it behooves you to believe in yourself.