I feel as if a hearty “Welcome Back” is required with this post, but it would be for me! Thank you, faithful following of readers, for your patience during what is turning out to be an extremely busy time for me as I sort my way through the various steps of production for my novel, Realm.
What began as a little spark of an idea has become a big dream come true. I promised updates, so here’s where we are so far:
Metadata optimization is complete. I admit that a quick search on Google backed up by a discussion with the patient, brilliant team at BookBaby helped me understand exactly what metadata is as well as why it’s necessary that it be optimized. Once it’s available for purchase, my book will be easily found.
Interior Design Proof. Wow – BookBaby did an amazing job with the interior design of my novel. As I scrolled through the .pdf in the two-page layout view, I kept whispering to myself, “It’s a book . . . it’s a real book.” The title page and the first page of each chapter were just perfect, and seeing my work portrayed so professionally thrilled me to the point of happy dancing around my kitchen. There were a few tweaks that I requested, so as horrible as it sounds, I had to choose “reject proof” and shoot it back to BookBaby. I’m confident that the minor details will be ironed out quickly.
Cover Design Proof. This was a tear-inducing moment when everything I conveyed to BookBaby was made a reality on the cover of my book. The picture they provided included the spine and the back cover as well. Again, all I can say is, “Wow.” I requested a minor modification on one small section, which required the painful choice of “reject proof,” but still, I was extremely pleased with how BookBaby captured my vision for the cover.
So, as the Design Team goes back to work on a few things, I have turned my attention to marketing research. What a trip that has been sifting through the “dos and don’ts” and “run screaming” world of marketing.
Stay tuned for more exciting Realm updates, and as always, thank you for taking this journey with me.
Have you ever longed for a dream project to become a reality all the while living in a state that hovers somewhere between excitement and fear? If so, then you’re probably an artist. And if you’re an artist, then you know that talking about what you’re going to do is where creativity goes to die and fear to thrive.
For writers, we often talk about all the great stories we’re going to write. Many of us even have a notebook devoted to story ideas where we jot them down so we can pretend to stay focused on our WIP. Then one day, when the guilt gets to be too much, we make the commitment to not just set aside time for writing but actually write.
We attend writers’ groups, join online writing communities, and scour the Internet for writing advice all in the hopes of producing a piece of writing worthy of publication. There are good days and bad days, and then one day, it all pays off.
Stepping out in faith has been a large part of my writing process, and I’d say finding an excellent beta reader was where it started. I have been blessed to have a beta reader who catches my mistakes, asks the right questions to keep my plot on course, and challenges me to see things from a different perspective. He also provides amazing feedback and encouragement.
Then there’s my editor, who is a Godsend. When I was feeling my most resistant to completing my own dream, she entered the picture as an answer to prayer. Her expertise and energy never cease to amaze me. Combined with my beta reader, I have two people in my corner who often believe in me more than I believe in myself.
My blessings don’t end there. My husband has been through every high and every low of the writing process with me. I know I sometimes take him for granted, but as soon as I remember, I express my gratitude. He’s so compassionate and forgiving that occasionally I agree with my mother: I don’t deserve him.
My son lies on the other end of the spectrum from my husband, but that’s not a bad thing. Sometimes, his tougher approach riled me up, but it made me strive to be a better writer and prove to the little upstart that I could finish. Besides, what kind of parental example would I be setting if I didn’t complete what I started, which is the whole point of this post.
It is my very great pleasure to announce that my novel, Realm, is officially in production.
Thank you, dear followers, for taking this journey with me. Stay tuned for all the exciting updates.
Every year I take the Goodreads pledge to read twenty-four books. This year, I finished with sixty-one books. This is a new record for me. I’m actually going to end with sixty-two as soon as I get to the one sitting on my to-be-read stack, but I’m also kind of a stickler about not counting a book until it is absolutely finished. You never know what could occur during the course of my day to prevent me from completing it. I wouldn’t want to offend the Goodreads gods or something.
I’m sure I’ve said it on my blog before, but I’m going to say it again: if you want to write well, you must read well.
Let’s start with quantity first. Get your hands on everything you can and read it. Books, articles, newspapers (do we still have those?), fiction, non-fiction, read inside your favorite genre and outside your favorite genre. Read, read, read.
There are going to be people who tell you what the best is by labeling it classic, best seller, or some other tag to entice you. That’s fine, give it a whirl. Remember, though, that the final decision is yours on whether or not the book deserves such high and lofty praise. Keep in mind, however, that good writing can occur even if you don’t care for and/or disagree with the piece of writing (fiction or non-fiction), so analyze every aspect of what you’re reading before bringing the hammer down on a particular work.
Now let’s talk about quality. The more you read, the more you will expose yourself to the good and bad in writing. Very soon you’ll be able to discern not just what appeals to your reading tastes, but what lends to the foundation of good writing. Again, this will only occur if you crowbar yourself out of your reading rut and into the vast libraries of the world. Keep in mind that the popularity of the book/how well it was received, the money it made, shocking subject matter, being written by someone the public did not expect, and the tale being turned into a movie are not factors by which one should judge the writing.
I’m not going to include the research, data, or links to posts about how much smarter one becomes by reading, but it’s true. It just is. Your vocabulary and knowledge will increase, and at the very least, you’ll spark new interests and have something worthy to discuss with other people.
So, I challenge each of you reading this to set a goal for the quickly approaching new year and get to reading. Take a moment to let me know in the comments what you read this past year, what you loved, what you hated, and why. Word of mouth is often how I find my next great read.
Writing inspiration comes in many ways from many different places, and if you’re like me, it never fails to arrive at a moment when you’re unable to grab a pen and paper to jot it down. Regardless of how you gain inspiration, you now have a great story idea in your head that you know in your heart must be released into the world.
The writing process usually begins with some plotting, perhaps a little research, and maybe a smidgen of editing along the way. Before you know it, you have a first draft in hand.
You love this piece of writing because it’s your creation from start to finish. When you dig in for the fine-tuning, you realize that your WIP could use something. It’s good, but it’s not great like when you first conceived it. Obviously, you don’t want to add superfluous dialog or excessive description that reads like filler. Still, there is something needed.
Hopefully, your writing journey has not led you to the dark side of writing. What I mean is the use of foul language and/or violence in any of its hideous forms as a means of ramping up your story.
One of the promises I made to myself and my readers was to realistically portray life in my writing. I don’t shy away from difficult topics. The tagline on my blog says as much: Writing Life One Word at a Time. With that being said, there are certain topics that, if written about, must be handled carefully and certain expressions that should be used judiciously and sparingly.
I remember several years ago attempting to read a novel about a violent assault on a young woman complete with some of the most callous description I’d ever read. The novel was highly acclaimed, but all I could think was Dear God . . . this very thing has happened to someone’s daughter, and here it is being written about most insensitively for use as entertainment. In addition to that book, there have been many other novels that I stopped reading because the language was so vile and added nothing to the story.
Do these scenarios happen in real life? Of course. Do people spew foul language for numerous reasons? Yes. Can a writer incorporate painful situations and extreme emotion into his/her writing without compromising quality? Absolutely. My point is that if you’re including violence and swearing simply for shock value, then your approach to writing is immature.
Another instance where writers need to exercise maturity is when writing about intimacy. I cannot tell you how many cringe-worthy sex scenes I skimmed until I could locate the storyline again. These books were often tossed aside because most people are especially bad at writing a sex scene.
Before you assume that all I read is smut, please be assured that is not true. Unfortunately, though, examples of what I’ve described slipped into otherwise terrific novels written by good writers. I have been shocked out of an engrossing storyline by such miserable scenes, and I had to wonder if the author had a moment in which he/she lapsed into poor judgment.
Is it because we live in an era where everything—no matter how vulgar, painful, or private—is made accessible that writers have allowed this into their writing? I would implore you to exercise extreme caution regarding what you set before your eyes because it becomes that which you take into your heart and mind. And there are some things that are not meant for entertainment.
To take the beautiful tool that is language, drag it through the mud, and slap it on the page for thrills is the shallow end of the writing pool. I encourage you to write deeper. Use your fiction to shed light on the complicated matters in life but do it without glorifying evil.
Have you ever asked yourself why you’re writing? I’ve been seriously pursuing writing since about 2014, and there are days when this question niggles the back of my mind. I have ridden a roller coaster of emotions where my writing is concerned, changed my goals many times, sought and rejected help, entertained quitting altogether, searched my heart to determine why I tortured myself so, and kept writing all along.
Here’s what I’ve discovered.
Show me the money
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to earn money for my writing, and there was a time when I struggled with this even though I was able to approach my writing leisurely because my husband’s salary was more than sufficient. I didn’t have to panic that I needed to produce a living wage and therefore churn out garbage just to make some cash.
I examined the root of my overwhelming desire to make lots of money from writing, and I realized that an unrealistic dream was being sold to writers. It’s the one in which I fantasized being the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, dreamt about large advances and/or Hollywood knocking on my door with movie deals, and imagined that I’d be the next newly discovered writing sensation.
These types of dreams are nice, but they are the exception rather than the rule, and you need a stronger reason for writing. This isn’t compromising or settling. It’s being mature enough to understand that money alone is poor motivation for writing. I urge caution with your writing dreams and stress learning the satisfaction that comes from a job well done.
Keep in mind that if you want writing to be your only career, you’re most likely going to need another source of income until you reach your writing-for-money goal. I highly recommend starting while you’re young if you want writing to be your only career. However, don’t be discouraged if you waited until you were older. There are many circumstances that may necessitate waiting, but there are also some advantages such as wisdom, experience, and more time.
If, one day, you find yourself abundantly blessed by earning money for your writing, exercise prudence on where you allow that money to take you. I suggest investing it back into your writing and/or assisting others with their writing.
Fame is a vapor
Fame is money’s wily cousin who can lead to dangers because fame plays into one’s ego. I re-examined my objective of simply writing for the thrill of adoring fans or seeing my name on the cover of my book. This doesn’t mean that I’m against a solid fan base for a well-written book, but should I attain this level of success for my writing, I will maintain professional boundaries to ensure that my writing doesn’t succumb to my need for celebrity.
I strongly urge you to not waste your writing potential on fame. Rather, live your writing potential to its fullest. Find a method whereby you can maintain humility and focus on your craft. Again, investing in others, especially fellow writers, with your time and expertise is a great way to achieve this.
Just for the joy of it
As hard as writing is sometimes, there is a joy that comes from it. You know that moment I’m talking about, when the words are pouring out of you, and you can’t get them down fast enough? This is why I write.
I won’t pretend that I haven’t had to work for these moments, but they’re worth it because writing is a deeply satisfying way to express myself. Every word can be carefully placed and edited to perfection.
There are times I write with the intention of no one ever reading it. It’s quite liberating, and the privacy it affords removes all anxieties and invigorates my soul. It is perfectly acceptable to save my writing for me alone.
But the best lesson I learned was to write without the expectation of making any money. The willingness to share my writing without compensation as the goal produces some of my best stuff, and the joy I experience in doing so let’s me know how far I’ve come on my writing journey.
Answer the question, please
While there is more I could say on the topic of why I write, my reasons would start to overlap. What I’ve presented here are the highlights of my writing journey. Now it’s your turn to share.
So, tell me. Why are you writing?
I’ve read a couple of writing books that address the issue of time, and the one thing that always annoys me is that the author is writing from a place of success, i.e., he/she is financially stable enough to do nothing but write. And that’s great for him/her.
The rest of us, however, still have regular jobs as spouses and parents, not to mention careers that take us outside our homes. Of writers who comprise this group, I extend much grace to the parents, especially if their children are still young. But hear me, O Potential Writer parenting babes: those little ones won’t be little for long, so enjoy them now.
In the meantime, jot your fabulous story ideas into a notebook to be revisited upon your child’s/children’s growing independence. Right now, the best thing you can do is raise them with love and devotion. This also applies to the writer caring for elderly parents or children who will always be with you due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control. Grace and peace to you as you set aside your dream for just a little while. I promise it will be waiting for you when the time is right.
Probably everyone who reads this post is old enough to remember his/her childhood when the days seemed endless, and sometimes, they even became boring because we exhausted all the great, fun things we wanted to do. Of course, we also know that the days aren’t any shorter now. We’re just busier with all the activities vying for our time and attention.
Gaining time at this stage of the game is a matter of prioritizing activities. I find that a calendar helps. Start by blocking off chunks of time when you’re required to complete non-writing activities (outside-the-home job, shopping, mowing, laundry, bills, cooking, etc.) and see what’s left. Analyze how well you’re doing some of these tasks and strive to do them better. Example: instead of running to the grocery store every time you need something, make a list and shop all at once. It really is that easy, and the minutes you’ll gain add up.
You’re going to have to sacrifice to make time for yourself, too. The first place you can do this is by cutting the amount of time you spend on social media. It’s crazy how much time we give to scrolling through nonsense that adds nothing of any value to our lives. Yes, it’s fun but pay attention to how long you’re actually on social media. It follows us everywhere, and like slaves, we attend every beep on our cell phones as if we absolutely must respond to that cute kitten picture or comment on the recipe for a triple-stack burger with peanut butter and jelly.
In fact, because writing is such hard work that requires a large amount of focus, you may need to separate yourself from technology for awhile until you have established good writing habits.
Giving up television is another way you can gain large amounts of time. TV has become as invasive as social media in that it’s possible to watch your favorite shows everywhere. I include the endless quantity of videos watched on YouTube in this category. Now that we live in the age of on-demand viewing, TV/YouTube/any streaming service needs to be monitored lest it continue to consume our lives.
Another time saving/time gaining measure is the ability to say, “No, thank you.” By this I mean choose what invitations you allow to take you away from your writing. This one requires some tactful maneuvering on your part, especially when the invitation is to a family function. Grandma’s 99th birthday party? Yes, you must go. Uncle Jimmy opening the pool for the season? You can miss that.
You may need to be strong with friends who don’t understand your commitment to writing. Multiple coffee dates, long phone chats, and just hanging out can chew through your writing time faster than hungry teenage boys through a pizza. Instead, schedule a dinner date with a group of friends to maintain your relationships.
So, you’ve bought back some time for yourself, but guess what? There’s still more to be had!
I find travelling with a single-subject, college-ruled, spiral-bound notebook and pen to be a lifesaver. This is especially true when I must leave the house in the middle of a fabulous writing session and I don’t want to lose the flow of the story. My husband drives and I write.
I also keep pens or pencils and notebooks around the house for the same purpose. While working in the basement, I’ve maintained the flow of my story by jotting down details in between folding t-shirts.
Enlist the help of others toward building your writing time. Politely explain your need and work out times when you can create uninterrupted. Even fifteen minutes a day can go a long way to building your writing confidence. To minimize the amount of time it takes to get back into the groove for your next session, quickly note the next idea in your chain of thought. You can use it as a launching point rather than scrambling to remember what you intended to write next.
There’s always getting up half an hour earlier or going to bed half an hour later, but I urge caution here because sleep is so essential in our 24/7 world. Then again, if you’re at the age where you’re awake for long periods of time through the night, grab that notebook beside your bed and jot something down. Remember to be considerate of the person who may be sleeping next you to.
Make good use of the recording feature on your cell phone while walking the dog or rocking the baby to sleep. Your speaking voice will soothe both.
Ask someone to take dictation when you’re elbow deep in a sink full of dishes or while your grease-stained hands are working under the hood of your vehicle. This is a great way to get words on the page as well as draw loved ones into your writing process. Not only will they come to understand your vision, but they’ll also get to spend time with you in a way that is productive rather than interruptive.
So, you see, there are many ways to accumulate time for your writing passion. Again, writing is hard work, and one way in which you may feel as if you’re wasting your own time is when you find yourself staring at the blank page or computer screen without having produced a single word. In this instance, you’re going to have to extend yourself some grace. It happens to every writer.
I will caution you against believing that it’s writer’s block. In truth, you haven’t found your groove yet, the muse isn’t speaking, or you’re a little unfocused. Don’t beat yourself up and don’t stop writing. Try again the next time you’ve scheduled yourself to write or the moment presents itself.
This post was going to appear a little later in my writing series, but thanks to Arthur Miller, who was in the same vein of thought as me, we’re jumping into the how of writing. You can enjoy Art’s story, and once you do, you’ll probably see why he thought how one writes is as important as where one writes.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, the how of writing has to do with the writing instrument you’ve chosen to use. You probably didn’t think it was any big deal, right? Just jot some scribbles on the page and call it a day. Sometimes, that really is how it must be. I’ll admit that many short stories were written on McDonald’s napkins with a goopy ink pen rummaged from the bottom of my mom’s purse while we drank coffee.
But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m going to assume you’ve done yourself the enormous favor of creating your writing environment in an effort to nurture your writing muse as she whispers to you. This is a calmer scenario where you can decide what you want to hold in your hand as you create writing gold. There are a couple approaches to this.
Go Elegant or Go Home
This is where my friend, Art, comes in. Art creates gorgeous fountain pens, rollerball pens, and refillable ink pens. There is something about holding one of these affordable treasures in your hand that inspires writing in ways that a Bic pen just doesn’t. I promise you’ll feel more connected to your craft because you’ll want to write something worthy of the pen! Even if you’re crossing out a portion you don’t care for, you’ll enjoy doing so with ink in your personal color preference. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself fantasizing about using your classy pen to autograph your published book.
Keep It Simple
Let’s not forget the humble pencil, however. Whether you enjoy a refillable mechanical or a good ole wooden No. 2, pencils lend that forgiving quality to your writing known as the eraser. Just make that purple prose disappear for good with a couple abrasive scrubs across your paper. What’s more, use your pencil on paper that has a good tooth, i.e., a little grain to the page. The sound of a pencil scratching across gritty paper is the sound of progress being made. You’ll come to love it.
Not This Time, ThinkPad
Did you notice I haven’t mentioned creating straight to a laptop? Technology has its place in the writing process but allow me to share a bit of advice. Using a pen or pencil to write will slow you down, and that’s a good thing, especially in the initial stages of your work in progress. We’re so afraid we’re going to forget a great piece of writing when, in fact, what we’ve failed to do is get our thoughts in order. Bullet point your ideas, organize them, and write in longhand or, if you truly want to sharpen your focus, print in all capital letters. This technique will help you find your groove.
Let me know in the comments which you prefer for capturing that next great piece of writing—pens or pencils.
Have you created your writing environment yet? I’m speaking to new writers who may not know how beneficial this is, and I’m speaking to established writers who may need a recharge. Writing comfort is essential to your creative process, but the definition of comfort means different things to different people. You may need to try a few combinations before you decide on one.
I strongly suggest supportive seating whether it’s the easy chair in your living room or the straight-backed wooded chair at your kitchen table. Make sure it’s seating that you can stay in for a decent length of time.
Writing surfaces need to be taken into consideration, too. I love my lap desk because it puts everything at the correct height, but sometimes I’d like to not have to worry about balancing it. I’m currently on the hunt for a desk that is not higher than my lap when seated. This will eliminate much of the neck and arm strain I’m experiencing. I find most tables and desks require me to reach too far forward or upward and tilt my head at an unnatural angle for my eyes to meet my laptop screen.
Don’t forget to stand and stretch after long periods of writing, an exercise more easily done in private than public places.
Eliminating distractions is crucial to your writing practice. I find the Internet and social media to be the worst diversions because they make so many seemingly harmless interruptions easily accessible, dropping them right at my fingertips. Especially articles about British royals.
On the other hand, my laptop and Bose speakers deliver an endless supply of classical music via Sirius XM as well as custom-made playlists based on characters and scenes. Music with lyrics, however, is banished because I cannot think with someone else’s words in my head, and I enjoy singing along too much. Although, when the 1812 Overture comes on, I will stop writing long enough to direct. It’s quite a sight.
As much as I love being around people, having fewer folks present when I’m writing means fewer interruptions. That does not mean I won’t stop writing to attend to friends’ and family members’ needs; service to others most definitely takes precedence. I’m talking about writing in coffee shops, which doesn’t work for me because the constant flow of people and music with lyrics requires too much of my focus to force them into the background. If you’re able to block out the cacophony or dismiss it as white noise, I say go for it.
Keep one thing in mind, though. You’ll want to write somewhere that allows you to have a restroom break without the fear of having your laptop, notebooks, and writing instruments stolen when you step away. I have had to pack up everything to hustle to the ladies’ room. It’s not the responsibility of the staff to watch your stuff. With that being said, I find libraries to be safer havens full of willing staff members who will watch over your things when you need to slip away for a potty break.
Don’ neglect the importance of good lighting when writing. While I love the ambience my Himalayan salt lamp provides, more sufficient lighting is employed to ensure I don’t strain my peepers. You may need to switch out bulbs in your home to achieve the right balance of brightness and softness. Don’t forget to take eye breaks if working on a laptop and blink often to lubricate your eyes.
If you prefer natural daylight, keep a pair of sunglasses handy even if you’re working inside and stop when the light becomes too dim. As pleasant as campfires are, they don’t provide consistent, bright light. Exercise caution there.
Keep your favorite foods/snacks close at hand to reduce the times you need to go in search of sustenance. If you choose to write at a restaurant or coffee shop, keep in mind that purchasing food and beverages is kind of expected, and that can become expensive. At home, you have access to food, but don’t fall into grazing instead of writing. I find eating a healthy meal keeps me focused, but I also like to keep a cup of tea nearby to soothe and inspire. Black licorice is my treat during and reward for a productive writing session.
Temperature is another key factor to your writing environment. There’s nothing worse than slogging through a writing session while perspiring or having your fingers cramp from the cold. Working at home puts you in charge of the thermostat while layering your clothes keeps things comfortable when writing out and about.
Again, you’ll probably need to change it up a few times until you settle into your perfect writing zone, so have fun with it. Let me know in the comments where you do our most productive writing.
I’d like to apologize to my followers for not posting anything new in about three weeks. It’s been a very strange time for me as I dealt with some health issues and the blessed busyness of the fall Appointed Times.
During the past weeks, one thought has been at the forefront of my mind, and I’d like to share it not only as a reminder for myself, but because someone else out there may need to hear it:
Walk away from that which does not feed your soul.
It sounds so simple on the surface, but you would be amazed how much garbage we allow to become entwined in our lives. I’ll never forget my first lesson in how the secular almost worked its way soul deep.
Please know that I’m not the type of person who looks for the bad in everything. Still, it took three tries for me to get a seemingly harmless situation out of my life.
Several years ago, I was invited to join a group with whom I shared a similar interest. It was a truly thoughtful gesture that I gladly and appreciatively accepted. Everything was great for quite a while, and the best part was that it was an all-female group, so naturally the conversation turned to lots of sharing about subjects other than our similar interest. I would have preferred more focused sessions, but since I was a fringe guest trying to fit in, I rolled with it.
But occasionally, the personal tidbits included things that were not only unrelated to our similar interest, but they were also confidences I did not want to carry for people with whom I did not share a connection beyond our purpose for attending the group. I felt very uncomfortable, and I started to see a negative theme emerging, one for which I did not have a label at the time.
And then the text that ended it all arrived one day.
It included a hashtag that literally made me flinch. It was just so unexpected that it had to have been made in jest. Just to make sure, I mentioned it to my mother because I still run things by my mom. She expressed much concern and suggested I politely bow out.
Which I didn’t because it’s my mom, and I thought she was overreacting.
So, I sat on the issue until I casually brought it up to two friends whose opinions I also trust. Their reaction was on par with a nuclear explosion. I was told—yes, told—to get out of that group for valid reasons upon which they expounded with love and not a little passion. I was stunned, and, I admit, I felt like an idiot.
But I’m so slick that I thought I’d just take a break, which I stated in the parting e-mail I sent to the other members. I said I was going to pursue other things and that my life was going in a different direction. I was wished well, and that was that.
Or so I thought.
I had every intention of rejoining the group after a couple months, and I planned on maintaining a connection via the group’s Facebook page. Adonai had other plans for me. I’d been told twice by three different people of the potential dangers, and still I thought I could fly under Adonai’s radar.
What finally got through to me was being immediately deleted from the Facebook group. While it hurt on the surface, it was the one rap on the head that made me understand in my heart that there was no foundation with what I’d been involved. I heard Adonai tell me, “I don’t want you there. You are not going back.”
I realized I’d been lying to myself about the other things I said I was going to pursue. Things of a much deeper, lasting nature. I felt so convicted that I took the different path that, for a short time, seemed as if it routed me away from my interest and, in truth, landed me right back where I longed to be with a better understanding of how to pursue my desires.
I wish the members of the group well, and I hope they achieve real success in every aspect of their lives. I certainly bear them no ill will. There’s no reason to, especially since I can look back and see how far I’ve come by walking through the doors Adonai has opened for me instead of banging on the ones He closed.