Thursday, September 29, 2011

Be Faithful!

The following post is a repeat from August of 2008.

Again I'm striving for publication with a manuscript currently on the market and I'm writing another novel. Despite the nagging fears that nip at the heels of all authors, I'm going to remain faithful.

1 Corinthians 4:2
Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.


I'm very mindful of the blessings the Lord has given me, among them the talent He's given me for writing. I still don't know where God and I are heading in this writing gig, but I'm impressed upon during my prayer times again and again to be faithful. All along I've said it's not my thing, it's God's.

How about you? Do you strive to be faithful in whatever He's given you? What gifts do you cherish? Please share -- I think it's a pity that so many people hide their gifts. That wasn't the reason the Giver gave it to you, you know.

BTW, the above photo is the view from my hammock. I like to pray there.



Here's another view from the hammock.

Psalm 139:14
Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Award-Winning Fiction

This past week the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) held their yearly conference. The highlight of the event is the award’s banquet where contest winners are announced: the Genesis contest for unpublished authors and the Carol Awards for the best Christian fiction published by traditional publishing houses in the previous calendar year. Here’s a list of the 2011 Carol Awards winners:

Debut Author

Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes (Tyndale Publishers)

Long Contemporary

Never Say Never by Lisa Wingate (Bethany House)

Long Contemporary Romance

Plain Paradise by Beth Wiseman (Thomas Nelson)

Long Historical

Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren (Summerside Press)

Long Historical Romance

Love Finds You in Homestead Iowa by Melanie Dobson (Summerside Press)

Mystery

The Camera Never Lies by Elizabeth Goddard (Barbour)

Novella

A Trusting Heart by Carrie Turansky (Barbour)

Romantic Suspense

The Silent Order by Melanie Dobson (Summerside Press)

Short Contemporary Suspense

Night Prey by Sharon Dunn (Love Inspired Suspense)

Short Historical

Her Healing Ways by Lyn Cote (Love Inspired)

Speculative Fiction

K├Ânig’s Fire by Marc Schooley (Marcher Lord Press)

Suspense/Thriller

Predator by Terri Blackstock (Zondervan)

Women’s Fiction

Beaded Hope by Cathy Liggett (Tyndale Publishers)

Young Adult

Anything But Normal by Melody Carlson (Revell)

Congratulations to the winners of other awards also presented:

Mentor of the Year: Bonnie Calhoun

Agent of the Year: Rachelle Gardner – my agent!

Editor of the Year: Andrea Doering

Lifetime Achievement Award: Tracie Peterson

Friday, September 23, 2011

Writing Goals

If you want to accomplish any task, you must set goals for yourself. Whether it's writing, cleaning the house, losing weight, saving for vacation--it won't happen if you don't plan for success.

As an author I encounter many people who say that someday they'll write a book. That's a nice goal, but you've got to start writing to attain it.

If you want to make your dreams come true, the first thing you have to do is wake up. ~J.M. Power

Now that you've established your goal, you must get going. Set a deadline: a page a day, 500 words a day, 1,000 words a day, or even 3,000 words a day. Figure out what you're comfortable doing--and what won't overwhelm you--and get started.

A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it's better than no inspiration at all. ~Rita Mae Brown

Deadlines are a fact of life in many occupations. Get over your aversion to one. When you hit your final deadline and write "the end," it's time to celebrate. Each day when you hit your daily deadline you get to go to bed at night satisfied that you've done your best, and you're on schedule.

God gives us dreams a size too big so that we can grow in them. ~Author Unknown

I've dreamed of writing novels since I was a little girl. It took many years of hard work and deadlines, but thank God, I've been able to attain my dream.

Sometimes the journey was difficult, daunting even, but that's no reason to give up. I had a fire inside me to push on and not give up. I set deadlines and met them.

What about you? What keeps you going? What deadlines do you set for yourself?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Advice from a pro: Novel Beginnings (and Other Beginnings)

I'm sorry this Tuesday's post is late. I want to discuss novel beginnings, but I've been sidetracked by another new beginning -- my granddaughter's. She was born last Wednesday, and I'm visiting California getting to know her preciousness.

And now on to novels:

I've been told that most novelists end up deleting the first two or three chapters to make them publishable. Their first few chapters contain the dreaded backstory. Backstory can derail your story before it even gets started. Often it's not necessary to the novel -- hence the need to chop it off.

Conversely, I've had the opposite problem. I tend to start a novel and gallop off into the story, and then I have to go back and write the first chapter or two. The reason why is because I'm expecting my readers to care about the character in my novel enough to hang in there until the end of the book, but I haven't given them a reason to care or understand who my character is. I tend to jump into the inciting incident without laying enough groundwork.

Jeff Gerke in his book Plot versus Character says you need to establish normal before you violate normal: It's important to show what a character's life is like before the main story intrudes. Otherwise, we simply can't tell (and don't care) that her life, which we haven't seen, has been turned upside down.

What's your biggest challenge when starting a new story?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ideas, ideas, ideas

As a writer where do you come up with ideas? If you ask a seasoned writer, they’ll tell you that ideas are in the air.

I've been mulling over ideas now because I'm preparing a proposal for my latest novel. Included in the proposal are several other book ideas.

Ideas are all around you. All you have to do is be observant. If you write fiction, look at the people around you, what quirks make you think, "What if that girl with the blue hair and nose ring was a closet Young Republican . . .?" What about the man in the grocery store, racing with his clunky cart down the aisle as if he's playing chicken with oncoming shoppers? Why is he in such a hurry?

All it takes is a germ of an idea to settle into a writer's brain before they're off and dreaming.

Don’t despair if you see someone else chasing the same idea. No two writers will create the same story, and ideas are not copyrightable. Your execution of an idea is what makes it unique.

And what about non-fiction writers? From where does their inspiration come? The answer is the same, from life.

Be attentive to the people you come into contact with. Ask questions. For example, I once visited a library that had a display of Hopalong Cassidy memorabilia. I contacted the man who owned the display and requested an interview. By focusing on different aspects of his collection and his passion for Hopalong Cassidy lunch boxes and paperback books, I was able to tweak the material and sell the article to two different markets.

What thrills you lately? What annoys you lately? Both of those topics are fodder for an article, short story, or novel. Open your eyes, remove your earphones, breath in the fragrance of the season, and write what you sense.

Where do you find your best ideas?

Oh, and the photo above is taken from my hammock under the maple tree. I hang there often and let my imagination roam.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Say What? -- Writing believable dialogue

Have you discovered the WordServe Water Cooler Yet? Today the Water Cooler is hosting my blog post about dialogue. Hop on over and take a look.

The WSWC blog is an online reference written by the clients of the WordServe Literary Agency. I'm proud to say that I'm one of the 30+ contributing writers. The blog will post daily about marketing, publishing, the craft of writing, social media, and anything else that will help other writers on their publishing journey.




Thursday, September 08, 2011

Writing Advice from a Pro

I’m a real sap for a good description. I’ve even been known to save a marketing brochure if the words tickle my fancy.

In fiction beautiful words strung together with care paint vivid scenes that the reader can use to anchor the action in the book. Today's insight from a pro is taken from A Novel Idea, a compilation book with advice from several best-selling authors.

In chapter seven Deborah Raney discusses the power of the right word. "Words are amazing things. With a unique combination of a hundred or so characters arranged into words, I can build a captivating set as surely as a Broadway stage crew." She illustrates her point with some lovely, evocative words to set the scene.

Deb advises, "You can improve your manuscript exponentially by simply reworking the first paragraph or two of each chapter to set the stage as vividly in the reader's mind as if he were watching a scene from a smash hit on Broadway."

I hope I'll be a learner as long as I'm a writers. Here's the beginning of a scene from my wip (work in progress), can you *see* it?

The storm had continued throughout the afternoon. A thick layer of white frosted the Victorian city. Snow piled up on ornate iron railings leading to solid front doors and pristine powder nestled on the windowsills. The city sounds muffled, and Margaret felt peaceful. The sidewalk stretched before her, a patchwork of lumpy piles of slippery snow and portions that had been safely scraped off. She picked her way south, careful to keep her balance.

After walking a few blocks, she came upon an empty lot where children played. Their shrieks and laughter made her homesick. Janice and Jeffry would have loved to join in the fun. She stopped and watched the kids rolling large snowballs around in circles, and then they worked together to stack them up, creating knobby-looking characters with coal eyes and crooked coal grins.


Photo credit: imagefactory from morguefile.com

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

What famous author do you write like?

A few weeks ago, I posted a link to an online quiz about what type of writer you should be.It's a fun short quiz. My answer was screenwriter.That tickled me because I think novels should run through your mind like a movie and also because I'm going to turn Searching for Spice into a screenplay. Well, I'm going to make a good try at doing it.

Anyway, here's another fun quiz that tells you which famous writer you write like. I took the quiz a few times with different excerpts, but you can also use a blog post, journal entry, or comment.

Here are the results when I used my current wip:
  • Margaret Mitchell
  • James Joyce
  • Douglas Adams
  • Kirk Vonnegut
Here's the results with my completed Lady in the Locket:
  • James Joyce (again!)
  • K.J. Rowling
  • Douglas Adams
According the quiz, my text from Searching for Spice resembled the work of:
  • David Foster Wallace
  • Chuck Palahniuk
  • Charles Dickens (go figure!)
Have fun, and tell me what famous author you write like!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Is Twitter Working for You?

My guest blogger today is Cherie Burbach, author, blogger, poet, crocheter, and geek. Today Cherie is discussing the value of Twitter to promote your book.

Thanks for dropping by, Cherie. What's the lowdown on book promotion and Twitter?

Cherie Burbach: One of the most common things I hear from writers who used to use Twitter was that it "wasn't working" for them. But was it? Were they sure? Twitter is a different platform than Facebook or other social media outlet, so it would stand to reason that some people would love it while others would not. If you're using Twitter now (or have in the past) and figured that it just wasn't worth the effort, here are a few points that may make you change your mind.

How Did You Measure Success?

In general, it's difficult to measure the success of one piece of marketing individually. Chances are, you're probably doing a number of things to help promote your book, including writing blog posts, giving out bookmarks, linking to things on Facebook, sending postcards, and the like. When you sell a book or two, can you always pinpoint exactly where the sale came from? Marketing, in general, doesn't work that way.

The individual marketing efforts you put out there help build on each other. Readers will stumble on blog posts, tweets, and other promotional items, and eventually they will recognize you or your book and hopefully buy it. But will you ever really know where, exactly, that reader first discovered you? Even if you gave them a coupon and they used it to buy a book, you wouldn't know that the reason they are using the coupon is because they have been reading your blog or Facebook posts, for example.

Is Twitter Driving Website Traffic?

While most marketing efforts are difficult to track, one way you can determ

ine if Twitter is working is by the amount of web traffic you're getting. You'll need to use a service like Google Analytics or StatCounter to help you figure out where your traffic is coming from. These types of services will let you see specifically which tweets were used to click through to your blog or website.

Are People Retweeting Your Links?

Generally if someone uses the "RT," or retweet button on Twitter, it means that they liked your link. That's the first step in getting interaction and having them find out more about you. If they like what you tweet, they may go to your blog, or follow you to your Amazon author page, for example. You can track this by your @replies, and use this feature to thank your fellow tweeter for sending out or commenting on your link.

Are People Chatting About Your Book?

What are people saying about you or your book? Use the Twitter search function to look for your name, book title, or subject matter. Not everyone will use the "RT" function, but they might talk about your book without including you in the tweet. Twitter search is one way to track effectiveness.

Is Twitter Supporting Your Other Marketing Efforts?

Twitter is unique in that it actually helps promote the other promotion efforts you're taking part in. If you have a book signing, for example, you can promote it before, during, and after! You can include pictures of you at the event, tweet about questions that readers asked you, or even thank some of them specifically for coming out.

If you have a blog post you want to share, Twitter is yet one more way to promote it, along with Facebook, StumbleUpon, Digg, etc. Twitter works as a promotional tool, and as a way to support your other promotional efforts. Can you really afford not to give it a try?

Cherie is the About.com Guide to Friendship and has penned eleven books and ebooks, including Internet Dating Is Not Like Ordering a Pizza and 21 Ways to Promote Your Book on Twitter. She has published over 500 articles on the subjects of health, sports, and lifestyle. For more info, visit her website.