5 Courses of the Rough Draft – Are you hungry yet?

Rough Drafts can be a tricky thing. The process that one author takes will look completely opposite from that of another. Each of us have our own style, techniques, and rhythm we abide by – even if we aren’t aware we stick to a routine.

For a while I felt the pressure to write my manuscripts the same way other authors would write theirs – and in the same time frame! One of my favorite authors regularly blogs that she can write a book in about a month. Another friend I spoke to yesterday said she’s lucky to get one manuscript done in a year’s time. And I even have a friend who said she’s always been such an editor, that writing is a very long process – a single novel of hers is now in the 3-4 year range, and still not complete.

The more I read other blogs and talk to fellow writers, it’s clear there is no cookie cutter way to write a story. Everyone is different, every writing process is different, and these are all good things. Some of the most successful authors publish multiple books a year, but even more authors publish only 1 per year, or 1 every few years. There is no rule that says a writer must produce a certain amount of work to be a success.

We’ve been called to write, and that’s what we need to do.

Here is the process I take when writing my own rough drafts: Continue reading

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What is your writing routine?

I’m often asked how I get so much writing done when I also homeschool my three daughters. And until about a year ago, I would’ve said it was quite difficult, actually.

For most of my life writing was a hobby, something I only did every few months when an idea hit me and I could convince my family that ignoring them was in their best interest. (For my own sanity, that is!) It wasn’t until I released my self-published novellas that I decided to refer to myself as a writer, and it took even longer than that before I would tell people that I wrote for a living. (Much longer.) Because let’s be honest – I may not earn a dime from it (yet), but it’s what I choose to do every day! However, along with this daily writing declaration came a need for balance, a routine that my family and I could accept. It has a tendency to change every few months – depending on changes with school, family member responsibilities, etc. But overall, this is how I’m able to balance the love of my craft with the love of my family. 

The Space:

Very recently (and painfully) I was reminded just how important a true writing space is. We have an itty-bitty room upstairs (literally like a walk-in closet) that my husband set a desk and chair in, along with a lamp. He declared it mine and told the kids ‘not to disturb mommy when she was in there’. (Thanks, hon!) And it works great. However sometimes papers get piled on that little desk and then there no room for my laptop, so I just give up and sit in my bed to write. That is, until I got a pinched nerve in my shoulder and couldn’t write a for a few days! That was less than 3 weeks ago, and the memory is still fresh in my mind. (Ouch!) Not fun.

Take your space seriously, people. Set it up and use it. (And make sure it’s ergonomically correct, too. 😉 ) And if you live in a small house, I hear ya! But something a speaker at our local Lancaster Christian Writers meeting said last year has stuck with me. Even if you don’t have a physical space to call yours, you can still make it yours. Use a set of candlesticks, a coffee mug, or some other personal item that says, “This is my writing space. Please leave me alone when I’m here and in thought!” 

Coffee Encouragement Continue reading

Why do you write?

My middle daughter is currently studying Ancient Egypt in her homeschool history class. One of her least favorite things to do is read. (It’s hard to believe we’re related, I know.) Since reading happens to be one of my most favorite things – ever! – I volunteered to read out loud a historical fiction book that’s required for her class. Win-win, right? Actually, it’s been more of a win than I ever anticipated!

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The book is called ‘God King’ by Johanne Williamson. It’s a historical fiction novel that tells the story of a boy king, Taharka, who becomes Pharaoh as a child, only to lose this throne to an older brother. He spends years in  hiding, as he travels as a medical assistant, to Judea. Here he must decide if he will make an alliance with the king of Assyria, or King Hezekiah. Very little information exists about any of the characters, but Ms. Williamson took what little there was, and created a believable possibility of what very well might have happened. Continue reading

Book Review: ‘brown girl dreaming’ by Jacqueline Woodson

I picked this book up because the title intrigued me enough to take a closer look… and then the beautiful cover finished the job of convincing me it just had to be read. ‘brown girl dreaming’ is written by Jacqueline Woodson, author of many award winning middle grade books, including this one, which received the Newberry Honor and Coretta Scott King Award.

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** ‘Nothing in the world is like this –
a bright white page with
pale blue lines. The smell of a newly sharpened pencil
the soft hush of it
moving finally
one day
into letters.’ **

Synopsis: Jacqueline Woodson, one of today’s finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

The short: Is it possible to give more than 5 stars out of 5?? Because if any book has ever deserved a higher rating than physically possible, it is certainly this book!  Continue reading

Just Write.

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Greater Philly Conference. It was my first ever writer’s conference that lasted more than a single day. I skipped the ‘Early Bird Wednesday’ but had three very full days of classes, appointments and worship. It was exhausting. It was costly. And it was absolutely worth it! 

The big difference between this writer’s conference compared to others, would be that it is faith based. We did lots of praying, had worship multiple times and talked about how we can incorporate the message of Jesus into our writing – whether fiction or non-fiction. I received counsel regarding the technical part of my writing, as well as encouragement in branching out and writing things other than fiction. It was fantastic and I loved every minute of it.

But these things weren’t what changed me. 

toystory Continue reading

Confessions of a closet Pantser

I have a confession to make.

I am a Pantser. 

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I didn’t know I was a Pantser. I’ve never been a Pantser. But lo and behold, I found out this week that I’ve had a forty-year-old Pantser living inside me, waiting to come out!

Ask anyone who knows me, and they will be able to tell you without hesitation, that I most certainly must be a Plotter novelist. I’m slightly OCD (ok, maybe a lot OCD) about a whole lot of things, and organization makes me feel good. It makes me feel safe.

The current novel I’m revising began with a 30-page backstory. Thirty pages, people! And that was just the beginning! I have dozens (hundreds?) of pages with character backstories, timelines, revised plot lines (and even more revised plot lines). And I’ve got sticky notes all over my dining room wall, ready to be moved around at a moments notice. After my most recent writer’s conference, I even have pages defining the Myer’s Briggs personality types for each of my characters. And that’s just for one book. Holy schmoly, I. am. a. Plotter.  Continue reading

Passion, writing, and a little bit of Shrek

This morning my four-year-old daughter and I were in the car alone, and I decided to put on the soundtrack to Shrek Jr. the Musical. My two older daughters are currently in the production, so we’ve been singing the songs a lot, lately. During one particularly upbeat song, the music swelled and Fiona belted a high note. Naturally, Scarlett and I sang right along with just as much passion, holding our jazz hands in proper theatrical performance style. Then the song ended and she bounced in her seat, eager to sing the next one with just as much gusto as the last.

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It occurred to me that there are times my writing lacks this type of passion.

Just a few weeks ago, I attended a writer’s conference and had the opportunity to sit down with one of the faculty members to discuss the query letter I’m currently sending out for a manuscript. I’d already received a number of rejections – totally expected, but still stunk– and I wanted to pick her brain to find out if there was anything more I could be doing to make some headway in finding an agent.  Continue reading

Practice Writing

So I’ve been focusing on my writing lately (hence, the lack of blog posts!) And I’ve been reading about writing (that always sounds funny to me, but it’s true.) And over the past 8 days I’ve had the opportunity to attend 3 different writing events. I say ‘opportunity’ because earlier this week I got sick and didn’t get to make one. (Boo!)

And here’s what I learned (again.)connecting with other writers energizes me. Each time I think, “I could be spending that time writing!” but choose to go to a writers gathering instead, I always (always!) come away feeling better about my art and my ability to produce it. Yay!

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Diving into the unknown

The time has come. I am finally ready to stop talking about getting (traditionally) published and ready to go for it.

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It’s not something I saw in my life twenty years ago, or even fifteen, for that matter. I’ve always liked to write, but never considered that it might turn into something more. Even when I was first married, I would disappear into a hole for a month or two until I finished a manuscript, my husband would ask what I was going to do with it, and my reply was always, ‘nothing’. It wasn’t too long after that that I began to entertain the idea that I might one day actually see my name in print.

But there’s a big difference between writing a book and actually setting about finding an agent and publisher. It takes four times as long to revise and edit the manuscript as it did in creating the first draft, and that time doesn’t include being sure the query letter is properly written and the right amount of research for each agent to be queried, has been done. Which, of course, is one reason why I never followed through with the traditional route.

johnnydepp Continue reading

The humility of reading books and exercises of gray matter

One of my goals for the New Year has been to read more books on the art of writing. I’ve read a few books here and there, but have always been afraid of becoming one of ‘those writers’ who only ever read about writing, without ever actually doing any writing. Eep.

I’ve heard about ‘those writers’. They read and read and read, yet never actually put pen to proverbial paper, chasing after a writing perfection that very well may never be achieved. I decided over a year ago that it was time to give up my perfectionistic behavior, beginning the journey of publishing my set of serial books. So, reading books about writing books? Well, it just seemed like I could better budget my time, to be quite honest.

wasteoftime Continue reading