Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mid-week Writing Encouragement!

Here's a little mid-week writing encouragement. Write on, friends!

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. 
~Anton Chekhov

There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
~W. Somerset Maugham

Fiction is a lie, and good fiction is the truth inside the lie.
~Stephen King

You can't wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.
~Jack London

When we are born, we are granted by God a specific number of exclamation points. When we use them up, it is our time to go.
~Dean Koontz

The lovely, inspiring photograph is of the craggy coast of Big Sur, California. I was refreshed and encouraged last October when I went to Monterey for a writers retreat. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Context, context, context . . .

Sometimes an unexpected juxtaposition is cool, sometimes it's just unfortunate. Take a look at this article.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Perspective and Relativity

Writers need to get inside the head of their characters, and they need to adapt the point of view to the character's age, gender, beliefs, location, etc., or the story will fall flat. Characters must be true to themselves and different from other people in the story.

I once overheard this conversation:

"I was rear ended in my Dad's SUV last week."

"What happened?"

"An older guy, in his late thirties, didn't stop for the stop sign at the corner . . ."

Funny, isn't it? Obviously the gal speaking was young, in her early twenties, I'd guess.

Fortunately perspective changes as we age. Once you leave your twenties, someone in their late thirties doesn't seem so old anymore.

Everything's relative to perspective. Often a writer needs to research a character to stay true to his/her traits. It pays to put time into fleshing out the folks that populate your book. A tip I recently learned was to go on youtube and watch videos taken where your book's set (if it's a location you're not familiar with). You'll see the setting and hear the way the locals talk and refer to things. Clever, isn't it?

See the photo above? I took that a few years ago at Evergreen Lake in Evergreen, Colorado. I love it. I can smell the piny scent in the crisp air and recall a pleasant morning spent with friends. But someone with a different perspective would react quite differently in the same setting. Apparently some people don't care for the cold or the mountains and would hate spending time in a frosty setting. But that's okay, it's just a difference of perspective.  :)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Good News!

Did the title of this blog grab your attention? Are you eager to hear some good news?

I ran across a NYT article that has some interesting ideas on how news disseminates.

In general, television news is filled with doom and gloom, partly because that's what's believed to draw audiences. The old "if it bleeds, it leads" mentality.
But researchers are discovering that when people choose which news is shared, -- via social networking -- good news spreads faster than bad news.

"Neuroscientists and psychologists have found that good news can spread faster and farther than disasters and sob stories."

According the article, thoughts/news about other people and what appeals to them is more often spread around on social media.

Isn't that lovely? Perhaps human nature is kinder than we thought. We're happy to share good news with our friends. In light of this, my last post makes even more sense, doesn't it?

Now, go forth and spread good news and joy!

Social media proves that folks like to share good news with others.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Celebrating tonight!

I'll be celebrating the release of a new book tonight. No, it's not one of my books.

My friend Lucille Zimmerman has strived for six years to bring her book to publication. I'm so very happy for her. She's worked hard, and her book, Renewed, is stellar!

As I was thinking about the book launch party she's throwing tonight, I realized I was (nearly) as excited for her as I was when my first book released.

And that's what I've been pondering. 

I'm blessed to be able to experience joy at someone else's good fortune. When God made me, He fashioned my heart to be a Romans 12:15 person. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.

I get teary just thinking about someone else being happy and weepy when I know someone's in distress.  As much as it's an inconvenience -- being so emotional can be an embarrassment -- I'm grateful I'm built this way.

I'm grateful I'm not a jealous person. I've known some jealous people, and I don't think they'll ever be truly happy or at peace. I've seen authors turn green over someone else's book contract or magazine article. It's not attractive. Someone else's accomplishment does not diminish yours, and it shouldn't affect your dreams and goals.

When I was younger I had a jealous person in my life. She's no longer in my life, but I recall her pressed lips and tight expression when she'd heard I accomplished something, been complimented, or had good fortune. I cared deeply for her, loved her, and to have her close up and not acknowledge my joy hurt me deeply. Her jealousy grew with each year. It wasn't enough for her to have the best or be the best, it seemed she didn't want others to come close to what she enjoyed. Eventually she began to disparage me to others, and I even discovered she'd told people I'd made unkind statements about them. Those lies still haunt me because I'm unable to track them down and plead to be believed that I'd never say such a thing.

I've given you a glimpse into my painful past. Despite the heartache that still visits on occasion, I've moved forward. Although she's never asked forgiveness, I've given it. The experience of going through that pain and disappointment has given me perspective. It has made me a better person. I weep more freely. I love with more abandon. I embrace others' joy and try to be a soft place for others' pains and disappointments. I've learned to look outside myself when people are going through something -- good or bad -- and respond with true enthusiasm or empathy.

I've grown in my capacity to be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. And  despite the sorrow that has scarred my heart, I'm certain it wasn't a wasted time in my life. Despite my occasional tears, I'm a stronger, happier person. I'm a Romans 12:15 person.

To get back to Lucille's book -- it's fabulous. I'd like to say I read it through, but my darling daughter borrowed it and I've just recently regained possession. I started the first few chapters and was hooked! The complete title is Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World. The book is beautifully written and filled with practical advice and simple tips. Buy it for your own benefit, and buy some extra copies to give away (that's what I did!).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What writers can learn from chef Gordon Ramsay

Have you ever watched Gordon Ramsay's show Kitchen Nighmares?

TV chef Gordon Ramsay takes on the challenge of turning around a failing restaurant. At the start of the program he goes into the restaurant as a diner, choosing several dishes to order.

He finds fault with each dish. The seafood's been frozen, the soup's under seasoned, the beef's too tough, the vegetables aren't fresh. He always sends all the food back to the kitchen with a scathing comment.

The next scene shows Ramsay talking to the restaurant's owner who disagrees with all of the chef's assessments. The owner always argues that the food is delicious and his restaurant is wonderful. Keep in mind, this is a failing restaurant. Yes, the person responsible can't see the flaws that are holding them back from success.

Sometimes it can be the same way for writers. They think their talent allows them to create perfect sentences formed by perfect words to constitute perfect chapters ultimately giving them the perfect book. But that's not so.

Authors often can't see the flaws in their writing. They think of a million other reasons why their work isn't making it to publication. They complain that people don't understand their concept, that agents or editors are too picky.

The reality is that they're not doing all they can to learn the craft. They're not asking for help in the form of a critique or a paid edit OR they just think other writers are jealous of their work and (again) not understanding their writing. Truly, I've heard comments like these.

The truth is that if you're failing to find success, you need to seek out help and LISTEN to advice. See that photo on the left? It's a critique I received. All those written comments are not praises, they're criticisms and suggestions on improving my skills.

The bottom line? Seek out help from other writers or paid critiques or paid edits. Open your eyes to the flaws in your work. Attend seminars and conferences, read books on craft. Learn the discipline of writing well. And above all, don't think you're the best writer on the planet.

Have you ever watched Ramsay's show? Have you seen how dumb the restaurant owners make themselves out to be? Don't do that. 

What writers can learn from chef Gordon Ramsay.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

While you're waiting . . .

In publishing, as in life, there's a lot of waiting to do. It's not easy.

Today someone passed on a poem about waiting that's too good not to share.

by Russell Kelfer

Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried;
Quietly, patiently, lovingly, God replied.
I pled and I wept for a clue to my fate . . .
And the Master so gently said, "Wait." 

"Wait? you say wait?" my indignant reply.
"Lord, I need answers, I need to know why!
Is your hand shortened? Or have you not heard?
By faith I have asked, and I'm claiming your Word. 

"My future and all to which I relate
Hangs in the balance, and you tell me to wait?
I'm needing a 'yes', a go-ahead sign,
Or even a 'no' to which I can resign. 

"You promised, dear Lord, that if we believe,
We need but to ask, and we shall receive.
And Lord I've been asking, and this is my cry:
I'm weary of asking! I need a reply." 

Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate,
As my Master replied again, "Wait."
So I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut,
And grumbled to God, "So, I'm waiting for what?" 

He seemed then to kneel, and His eyes met with mine . . .
and He tenderly said, "I could give you a sign.
I could shake the heavens and darken the sun.
I could raise the dead and cause mountains to run.

"I could give all you seek and pleased you would be.
You'd have what you want, but you wouldn't know Me.
You'd not know the depth of my love for each saint.
You'd not know the power that I give to the faint.

"You'd not learn to see through clouds of despair;
You'd not learn to trust just by knowing I'm there.
You'd not know the joy of resting in Me
When darkness and silence are all you can see.

"You'd never experience the fullness of love
When the peace of My spirit descends like a dove.
You would know that I give, and I save, for a start,
But you'd not know the depth of the beat of My heart.

"The glow of my comfort late into the night,
The faith that I give when you walk without sight.
The depth that's beyond getting just what you ask
From an infinite God who makes what you have last.

"You'd never know, should your pain quickly flee,
What it means that My grace is sufficient for thee.
Yes, your dearest dreams overnight would come true,
But, oh, the loss, if you missed what I'm doing in you.

"So, be silent, my child, and in time you will see
That the greatest of gifts is to truly know me.
And though oft My answers seem terribly late,
My most precious answer of all is still . . . Wait."

While a writer waits for success, there are certain things to do (in addition to writing!). One of the most important is to go to writers conferences and seminars. 

Two conferences that I've enjoyed are the Colorado Christian Writers Conference (CCWC) held in Estes Park each May and the Glen Eyrie Writer's Workshop held in Colorado Springs in June.  

Don't assume that you've got to live in Colorado to take advantage of either of these fine learning opportunities. People fly from all over to hone their craft, get to know other writers, and meet agents and editors. 

It's not too late to register for either event. The photo on top was taken at the CCWC and the photo of the castle (Yes! The GE Writer's Workshop is held in a castle.) was taken at Glen Eyrie. In addition to soaking up knowledge and making new friends, you'll get to enjoy some incredible beauty as well. 

In publishing, as in life, there's a lot of waiting to do. It's not easy.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Writers need the gift of perspective

Happy is the person who dreams dreams and is willing to take the steps to make them come true. Don't be afraid to start climbing and I'll see you at the top! ~ Zig Ziglar

I’ve been thinking about perspective lately. So much of life’s experiences depend on perspective, especially for writers. We commit ourselves to long periods of solitary work and then endure the difficult process of publication. Even after publication, it's not a walk in the park. 

But whether you succeed in being published or not, I think the journey's worth it. Writers tend to learn about themselves and their place in the world through the practice of writing. 

Here are two quotes on life, which author do you think had a better life?

  • We are born wet, naked, and hungry. Then things get worse.  ~Author Unknown
  • Here is the world.  Beautiful and terrible things will happen.  Don't be afraid.  ~Frederick Buechner

 The challenge in life is to gain control of your perspective. Look for the positive, even in the midst of a down cycle. It's possible, trust me. 

You can look at the hours of writing and creating as work, or you can view that time spent as being obedient to what you believe is your call or your duty. Time spent in creativity is never wasted -- either it will impact the world or it will impact you. Either way, it's good!

Be brave. Write despite the fear your work will never be read. God planted this dream in your heart. Write to please Him, and don't worry about the rest.