Monday, November 17, 2014

Yes, New Writer, there really is joy in writing

I love to meet other writers. So much that tomorrow I've set up my first writer's group here in the new community where I live. At two o'clock, I'll take a notebook, a book to read and set myself down in a group room and wait.

Five ladies have contacted me. Several told me they would come and see if what I had to tell them interested them.

How does one convince someone to write?

I don't believe you do.

But I do believe you can encourage them by sharing basic beliefs about the writer's life.

Here's what I plan to do:

1. Ask if they read and what reading does for them. Does reading change their thoughts, encourage, give hope, entertain, lift moods?

2. Do they believe they are never too old to learn a new skill?  Laura Ingalls Wilder first published in her sixties.

3. Are they willing to take risks and share what they know so others might enjoy? Everyone has stories from life experiences they like to tell.

4. Is their skin thick enough to take feedback in order to improve their skills? How much of themselves are they willing to put out there? Can they take rejection?

5. Finally, I will ask them to dig deep about why they thought about writing in the first place. What  is it about writing that excites them, motivates them to seek more information, and to publicly say why they want to write. Everyone will have a different reason--but it's that reason that will make the difference if they write or not.

I may sit for a half hour tomorrow without anyone showing up. That's OK.

I know why I write . I also know the joy. Hopefully I can share that with others.

What made you first write?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Defining my Normal

I don't usually write two blog posts in one week. But something is nagging at my mind today to write another one. A real one. Not a writer's one. Or a marketing one. But the kind I used to write.

We've been in Florida now since March. I spend much of my time alone, thinking about my life and where the past few years have taken me. My husband turned 60 in August. I'm next. I can't help but count my future years and wonder how I'll fill them.

A few weeks ago, we flew home to PA to say good-bye to my father-in-law. During that week, we sided the home we've been building since the summer of 2013. We were supposed to live there forever and restart our business. Instead, we ran out of money and the jobs dried up over the winter. We got desperate and when my husband heard about work in FL, he jumped. We like to eat and pay our bills too.

So I sit here and think about when I'll live a normal life again. Never in my dreams did I imagine I'd not be in my own home at age 60, surrounded by close friends, attending a church I love and watching my grandchildren grow. Not once.

But God did.

I try to accept that this life in Naples is the new normal for me. Saving to finish our home. Creating friendships with people who have totally different lives than I do. Trying to find where I fit in.Trusting God to lead me along in this newness. Taking my hand and tugging me in the right directions when I want to run home, despite having the means to do it. Oh yes, I want to run home--to familiarity, to friends, to my house full of memories, to the future I once envisioned.

But how many other people planned for a specific future and didn't get it? My brother-in-law lost his life when he was in his early 40s, leaving behind two children and a widow. I'm sure they envisioned a different life than the one they were handed. A good friend got cancer. Another woman lost her husband to Alzheimer's.

Maybe that's my mistake. Thinking I knew what normal is.

So for today my new normal  is defined as moving around the country, building memories with my husband, and watching how God will use us in each setting. That's how I'm going to fill my remaining years. Living God's normal.

Have you been living under a description of normal you've created for yourself?

Monday, November 10, 2014

3 Reasons to stop Dreaming about Writing and Do it.

I've been writing stories since the fifth grade. Most writers can tell you with blinding accuracy when the writing bug bit them. Others only dream about writing.

Yes, they dream about writing. Maybe they've started a short story or scribbled in a journal somewhere that's packed away in the attic at their mom's house. Their children might stumble on it after they die and ask "Why didn't she write more?"

Three Reasons You Need to Pull out the Computer, Pen or whatever you Use today to Write

1. You have a unique story that begs to be told. I didn't live the life you did. You didn't live mine. But I bet something you experienced might help me with a life struggle.

2. Your writing muscle grows the more you practice. You can't use the excuse that you don't know how to write. With all the how-to books out there, writing groups and online workshops etc, that excuse doesn't work. Everyone writes badly when they first write. No one writes a great first story. We all learn as we go.

3. You will experience a joy like none other when someone reads your words and gets them. I can't  describe that deep satisfaction you receive when a reader reacts to a story you write from you heart, but it makes all the work worth it.

And I'll throw in another reason for free: You will please God. And isn't that what we want to do with our lives?

Monday, November 03, 2014

Doing the dreamwork.

Last summer, my husband and I built our dream home in PA. Mostly by ourselves. But it isn't finished yet. It's a work in progress. I especially remember this day. Truck after truck of concrete arrived and he and a few helpers rushed to smooth the messy stuff out before it dried. A lot stress, prayers and sweat that day.

Writing a book is like building a home. Stress, prayers and sweat. You lay out the story much like you do the blocks for the home's foundation. The pages grow and grow until you come to a successful conclusion. Your dream story. But like a home, if you don't get everything level in the beginning, by the time you add the siding or outside coverings, you could have a mess.

I'm there with my current WIP. I thought I knew where it was going but my story changed someplace in the middle. I'm finding I want to add extras and pick up the pace. It can be a grueling process. It is probably the part of writing most writers don't like.

We do it anyways.

I wish my home was finished. I wish I could spend a few weeks there, decorating the inside with my favorite colors and wall coverings. Sadly it's not ready yet. Just as my book isn't ready to pass to my critique partners or beta readers. It needs to be completed and edited a zillion times.

So I stop wishing and do the work. We rent a place here in Florida to earn money to finish our home. I don't always like being away from my friends and family but the plan works. In October, we flew back and sided the the house.

With writing, I schedule my hours, open my computer and type more words. Every day. I have a plan to finish this book by January. To get there, I must be diligent.

What are you dreaming about doing today? Do you have a plan? Do you have a partially finished book waiting to see daylight? Do you have a bucket list without any checks yet?

 Dreams don't happen by themselves. But they can begin today. One step at a time.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Getting the Call

If you are a writer, you know how much I liked typing my title today. It's been years coming--waiting on God to fulfill one of my dreams. I've often wondered what I would say and how I would feel when that moment arrived when an agent wanted to represent my work.

Today's the day. And I feel great.

The first time I met Linda Glaz face-to-face was in the bathroom at the Montrose Writer's conference in PA over a year ago. I know, say it. We aren't supposed to track down agents in the bathroom. I actually didn't, it's just that's where I first had the chance to introduce myself. In my defense, I'd already known her online and she'd already been kind enough to look at my work in the past.

We had the opportunity to sit at lunch together that week so I was able to observe her personality, too. I also took her classes and discovered her amazing teaching skills.

That's when I decided she was the kind of person I wanted to represent my writing. Trust me, I do my homework when looking at agents. She's also an author herself and knows her stuff.

The problem was I had to write a book she'd like.

So I dusted off one I'd started years ago and decided I would finish it, get it edited and send her a proposal.

Imagine my excitement when she emailed and said she wanted to call me and talk about the book.

So now I'm part of Hartline Literary Agency. What that means to me is my responsibility as a writer just increased. I want to keep my part of the contract and write books that might sell and market those that do harder than I have before.

But the best blessing for me is I have an experienced individual on my side who cares about her clients and knows her job.

Yes, God's timing is perfect.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Inspirational Fiction--to preach or not to preach

When  I started writing inspirational fiction, I struggled most with how to incorporate God into my stories without sounding as though I was preaching. As time passed, I've learned that I don't need to hit my reader over the head with scripture and strong passages of preaching to get my point across. Instead, I've found less is more.

Think about the times when you wanted to share with others what God has done in your life. When my husband and I first started attending church together in the 80s, we were excited and so gun-ho about our choice that we rammed our opinions down others' throats. It didn't go so well. We had to learn to share with grace and share when the opportunity arose because we wanted our friends and family to experience the same joy we were.

I've had the pleasure of critiquing friends' books over the years. When I suggest taking out long passages that preach, I often run into resistance. I try to explain that you can show how God works without adding a pastor in the book who preaches every other page. I often use a pastor as a character in my books but their dialogue is kept real, as though I truly was talking to them.

My goal in writing inspirational fiction is to point others toward God and open doors that might have been kept closed for years. In my debut novel, The Mulligan, I share how trusting God to lead us is better than pounding off on our own. I hope I've showed that truth through my story.We never know who will pick up our books and the last obstacle we want to throw in their path is a book filled with words they can't understand.

Keep your story real.

Has anyone else run into this challenge when writing inspirational fiction? I'd love to hear what you've done.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Perfect Timing

My sweet father-in-law went home to heaven last week. The call came five minutes before we were leaving for the airport to fly north. Our plans to side our home in PA quickly changed and turned into well-spent time with family consoling each other. I like to think of this perfect timing as a God-coincidence.

We encounter many such incidents in our lives. If my husband hadn't lost his job and attended golf school, I wouldn't have found my topic for my debut novel. If we hadn't moved to Florida in 2001, my daughter might not have met her great husband. If I hadn't gone to a bar that night in 1976, I wouldn't have met my husband and eventually gotten my life on track. I could go on and on.

Then there's the flip side.

As writers, we wonder why those first five books won't sell. Why it takes so long to get an agent or find a publisher. Where is  the perfect timing then? Why is getting published so frustrating?

I've come to believe and accept that God's plans are much better than mine. In my case, I had to write seven novels before I understood the craft. I needed the time to read craft books, meet critique partners and find what genre suites me best. I also had to settle down and not get so emotional about my writing. Learn to take rejection and realize it isn't the end of my world because someone doesn't like what I write.

For I know the plans . . .

Can you look back and see the perfect coincidences in your life? I would love to hear one!

Friday, October 03, 2014

Is it Finally Time to Query?

In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned my golden rule of writing is to wait until your work is totally ready to send out. That's not always easy. I don't always follow my own rule. I should.

Early yesterday morning, my freelance editor sent me my edits for my current WIP which is a book about a woman being stalked by a co-worker.

Once again, I was blown away by the suggestions given and the mistakes found in my work. She mentioned WEED words--we all use them. I must particularly like Again, Just, Really, Pretty, Over and Over, and Pile. Funny thing, I usually do a search for Just and Really but somehow missed them. Yup. All 190 of them.

Add a couple of floating body parts, spelling anyway with an s, and using too much information that didn't move the story forward and that was the beginning of my edits. There was more but all workable and helpful.

But here's what I learned again. Yes, I'll use that word--AGAIN. Why did I query a few places before waiting? I sat back in horror as I noticed a major error on my first page. That error probably made me look like a rooky writer.


Our brains can't always catch our mistakes in writing. Most of us aren't trained editors who take the time to read our words the way they do. My editor told me she read each page four times. Her dedication impresses me. She's in this process to help me succeed.

For that I'm grateful. I need to step out of my own way and learn the next golden rule in life--be patient.

Are you ready to query? Really ready?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A writing challenge

We're all anxious to get into the game of life. I remember being nine and how I couldn't wait for double digits. I also remember how I couldn't wait to celebrate eighteen because age brought more freedom. Oh and then I couldn't wait to get married and become a wife and mother.

I mostly remember wanting to be a real writer--to get published. My first publishing credit came through an online magazine at about ten o'clock at night. I watched with my daughter as the screen cleared and there it was. I was published.

I was officially off and running in the race to be a great writer.

That was many years ago and I've not reached my goal.

But I'm still in the game.

I used to tell my daughter when she played softball to just have fun. Don't worry if you win or lose. It's the fun in playing the game. I've had to come to that same place with writing. The challenge to do better every time I write a story is what counts. Will I whip out a better novel than the last time? Have I  improved my skills and can I put them into practice?

I'm in the game to have fun but also to be the best I can like the rest of my life.

Where are you with your writing today? Are you sitting on the sidelines waiting for the right time to jump in or are you in it to your neck--loving every moment?

Join me! If you read this post and need an extra eye to look over a stubborn chapter, let me know. I would love to be your cheerleader like so many have been mine.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

An Unlikely Beginning

I didn't plan to meet my future husband in a bar--a run-down redneck bar, no less. They used to call it The Bucket of Blood when my father hung out there years before. I think thirty-seven years ago they called it Ray's. That fall night when I showed up with my younger sister, all we hoped for was to join others on the smoke-filled crowded dance floor. My big plan that night was to find my sister another boyfriend. Not me.

Late into the evening, two ex-servicemen asked to sit at our table. The dancing and joking and hanging out commenced but for me, it wasn't working. You see, I only had eyes for the man who had befriended my sister.

So the following Saturday night, I returned to Ray's armed with a good friend. Yes, I left my sister at home. When that same man walked past my table, I did something I never in my life thought I would do in a bar. Or anyplace else. I spoke first--I said hello.

He remembered me. He dropped down across from me and it began.

We danced--me in my pink sweater, plaid stove pipe pants and he in his Earth shoes and blue corduroy bell-bottoms. It was 1976. I was graduating from college--ready to move into the next phase of my life.

I was also practically engaged to marry another man.

I don't know if God thought something in my life needed to change or something in my future husband's life did because that night He changed both of us. Eventually, we went outside and strolled in the moonlight on that country road while the blare of rock and roll music faded behind us.

It was the dumbest, most dangerous decision of my life. I know that now. It was the first time I ever left a bar with a man I didn't know. But for some reason, I trusted this man enough to do it.

The next day, I broke up with my boyfriend of two years and waited until the man I gave my heart to the night before called me.

There's more to the story but for me that was our beginning. Our marriage began like a ship in a thunder storm but eventually settled into smoother waters.

Over the years, I've learned that despite difficult circumstances, we can make it. Together.

And we do. A day at a time.