Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Little Word That Destroys Your Writing Life

There was a little word in my life.

A little word that could. Literally.

You see when I spoke this word I could do all sorts of things. Make others smile. Convince myself I could handle one more task without collapsing of exhaustion. And I did...for a while.

That word was "yes" and it destroyed my writing life, caused exhaustion levels so high I was susceptible to every flu and common cold that passed through my town. That word kept me up at night trying to fulfill my obligations, whether it was completing more Bible studies, helping with a task nobody else had volunteered for, or sometimes I lay awake already overwhelmed with the thought of tomorrow.

One of my favorite childhood books was called The Little Engine That Could. In the story a trailing train needs to get up a gargantuan mountain. This train is filled with all sorts of wonderful things: playthings for little girls and boys and red-cheeked apples as well as lollipops.

My life was filled with all these wonderful things, too. Homeschooling, Bible studies, the wonderful co-op my children are involved in, our family-style community group at church, discipleship groups, prayer groups...so many good things.

So many good things that when I sat down with a piece of paper to write up a schedule I discovered the day didn't hold enough hours for all the things I had said yes to. Yet there were some things that never showed up on my schedule.

Things I forgot to say yes to. Walks in the park. Unhurried field trips, just for fun, not to learn anything. Painting with my husband. Drinking coffee on the patio with good friends. Just being with Jesus without an agenda and enjoying the quiet so I might hear him speak more.

And moreover, saying yes was the path to destruction of my creativity. Thoughts and ideas are birthed out of a quiet heart, one that has been still before God and allowed him to inspire. A quiet mind, one that is not racing with the busyness and rush of the day. Only a clear mind that lives in the silence can be filled with the noise of God's words. Even a still body, well-rested to be able to sit at the computer and brainstorm or to take a long walk and find beauty in nature that spurs on depth of thought.

Every yes I said to something was saying no to something else.

Engine after engine said no to pulling that train up the mountain. Some were too busy, others too important. It was the unassuming red engine that said yes. The engine doubted and questioned whether he could do it but in the end attempted the task with a brave front giving himself a pep talk as he went along. The boys, girls and toys shout in joyful glee, lauding the train by letting him know that all the other children will be happy with him.

Effort, diligence and being willing to do hard things are some of the tasks lauded by this book and well they should be. Discipline is essential to the work of life...and the work of a writer.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. -Colossians 3:23

Work heartily. Its the second part as for the Lord and not for men that can be problematic as well. Why am I writing? For men's approval? We would say no but when we obsess over the wording of a rejection note. What about the times when we struggle (albeit secretly) with competition? How about the times when we are afraid to admit we need help in some aspect of our writing?

The reader breathes a sigh of relief when the tiny engine successfully reaches the top of the hill, distributing the toys to the elated children and triumphant, rolls back down it preaching a self-confident mantra. I think I can, becomes I thought I could. Confidence rules the day in this book.

Only we aren't called to be self-confident, only Christ-confident.

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:-Philippians 1:6

Confident that he is working in our lives. Our salvation is only through him and he is continually working in and through us.

Sometimes in our own confidence, a yes can be a no to Christ's power. Its when I admit I can't do anything in my own strength that I am yielded for him to fill me more fully. Sometimes when I say yes I am thinking I can do more. Pile it on. I can handle one more task, until my back collapses with the burden. But I can do nothing in and of myself. 
  
Instead of people pleasing I need to bathe my yeses in prayer, growing in diligence in studying the word of God. If he has called me to write, I can be sure he will give me the wisdom to find the time to complete the task, whether its a book or an article. 

I've begun reading a book I'm enjoying called The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst. The author says:

The decisions you make determine the schedule you keep. The schedule you keep, determines the life you live. And how you live your life determines how you spend your soul. 

What decisions are you allowing your schedule to make for you? How can you be intentional instead? 

I wish I was writing from a place of arrival, living the priorities I set continues to be a challenge for me. But as I am prayerful and intentional I find I am learning to say no to those things that don't fit into my life at this stage. 









 Julia is a New York transplant living in central Virginia with her husband, two children, and three ragdolls. You can find her writing at Wonderfully Woven and Library Journal.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday Fun: Author Spotlight on the illustrious Allen Arnold! ***GIVEAWAY***

It is our distinct pleasure to welcome back a Writer's Alley favorite. Our guest today might be a debut author, but you probably know him to be a creative force who helped shape the landscape of Christian Fiction today. As the founding Publisher for Thomas Nelson Fiction, he led in the development of more than five hundred novels and now oversees content for Ransomed Heart ministries. 

A good friend and mentor to the Alley Cats, our guest endured a grueling gab-fest at ACFW with all of yours truly ... and so to celebrate the release of his new book we thought it'd be fun to put him in the hot seat. And if you come hang out with us a bit, there just might be a signed copy of his new book in it for you... to sweeten the deal.

And so, I'll squelch my need to be wordy and announce our illustrious guest without further ado... 

Allen Arnold



Amy Leigh Simpson So Allen, (I feel like a talk show host) tell us a little bit about your new book and the inspiration behind it ...

Allen Arnold Most of us are stuck in a story of without. We go about our tasks and get through our day without much hope, without our dreams realized, without deep friendships, and without experiencing the presence of God. Somewhere along the way, we got focused on doing more rather than being more. The result is that we feel overwhelmed, disheartened, out of time, and isolated. We are striving for validation and success. But even when that happens, it doesn't satisfy at a soul level. We still hunger for more.

But there is a better story. And it all comes down to one simple word - with.

The Story of With reveals how to actively pursue life with God and with a community of fellow creative bohemians. Here is your invitation to breathe deep as you discover how to pursue God from a place of identity, intimacy, and imagination. The book is a fast-paced allegory with some teaching. Because for this journey, above all else, we need our hearts awakened. And stories speak to our hearts in ways that facts alone fall short. So rather than more theories or principles, I offer you a better way to live, love, and create. I hope you'll enter into The Story of With


Ashley Clark What's one thing people don't know about you?

Allen Arnold I'm not sure how many people know I love to drink salsa by the glass. It creates some awkward moments in Mexican restaurants when I'm going through half of their salsa supply. Usually, I'll ask the chef if he can make it more hot. And then ask again. At our recent office Christmas party, we had a talent show...and my talent was guzzling two jars of super hot salsa, followed by a Mountain Dew chaser. I lost the contest but my sport coat did catch on fire. Hey, you asked. I never said it was a pretty picture!   ;  )


Julia Reffner Favorite Bible verse or verses?

Allen Arnold My favorite passage of Scripture is Psalm 27:14.

  “Stay with God!
     Take Heart. Don’t Quit.
   I’ll say it again:
    Stay with God.”
   (The Message)

This one short verse contains the essence of life for me. And it begins and ends with the most essential invitation of all. That the main thing is to do life together “with” God! We are his sons and daughters. And like any good father, he most longs for relationship. For us to pursue our hopes, dreams, concerns, questions, and creativity together. Not so we can do more. But so we can be more.

Amy Leigh Simpson After spending your career as a publisher, what has surprised you the most about the "other side" of publishing now that you're an author?

Allen Arnold For me, the most surprising aspect has been the emotional journey that I went on with the characters of my allegory. For instance, I remember weeping as I wrote the Diner chapter of the book. At another point, I was furious for days at a character for what he put Mia through. And I found myself wishing I could join Mia as she created with a group of wild bohemians. 

I also asked God to let me feel a sense of what many of the readers were struggling with as I wrote this book. So I felt a sense of isolation, being overwhelmed, feeling unseen, and disheartenment as I wrote several chapters. These weren't my emotions, but God allowed me to feel them deeply so I could empathize as I described how to escape the                                                                                    Orphan Realm and discover a place of freedom.

Casey Herringshaw What is your all-time favorite activity?

Allen Arnold My all-time favorite activity may sound a bit underwhelming...but it brings me so much life. I love weekends with my wife and kids where we have no agenda and no place we have to be. Maybe that's why I savor unexpected snow days so much - which actually happens a lot here in Colorado. It's the perfect time to start a fire, play games, tell jokes, watch movies, and take long walks around the neighborhood. I think at the end of my days, those are the moments I'll look back on and say, I was such a blessed man.

Angie Dicken Where is your favorite place to write?

Allen Arnold My favorite writing place is wherever I sense God inviting me to spend time with him. And man, he’s taken me to some wild, unexpected places to create. I want to be as intentional as Moses was in Exodus 33 when he says (and I’m paraphrasing here), “God, if you’re not in this, let’s call the entire trip off.” If I don’t sense his presence, I’ll call the writing time off. Otherwise, my words would have no spark of the eternal. I don't want writing to ever be a solo project for me. Success isn’t hitting a word count or bestseller list. It's simply this - did I create with God? If the answer is yes, it's been a successful writing time. 

As an aside, I'd love to write from a remote beach cabin overlooking the ocean, the waves crashing rhythmically as I create with God. I'm expectant that opportunity will come soon! I think it will because it's God who has given me that desire...and desire is always a prelude with him to fulfillment.

Laurie Tomlinson We are creatures of habit who all battle the enemy and Liar. How do you guard yourself from slipping back to the old m.o.?

Allen Arnold I've found that when I stay fascinated with God, the enemy shrinks in his power and his effect.I remember who I am - a Son of God - and who he is - a fallen created being who has lost everything. So I lean into my Father. I stay by his side. And when the enemy tries to break into that relationship, I declare that "I am not that man anymore." Then I command him - in the authority of God - to flee. When we do that, God promises that the enemy will flee. 

Bottom line - no matter what the enemy throws at me, I use it in a jujitsu-like move to draw me even closer to God. Even more into his presence. It's awesome! 

Krista Phillips You talked about the "old" you when you speak... stepping in front of an Airplane because you were a "get it done" kinda guy. Was there a turning point or catalyst that made you the easy breezy guy you are today?

Allen Arnold I was such a driven, productivity-focused man. And the problem was - it was working really well. I was receiving promotion after promotion. But it came at a high price. When you base your identity on performance, you are only as good as your last achievement. So the latest victory just raises the bar for the next hurdle. That's a soul-numbing way to live.

The turning point came about 15 years ago when my supervisor invited me to lunch and proceeded to reveal my toxic effect on my work team. I knew in that instant I could either choose offense at his words and defend my actions - or swallow hard and realize this wasn't the man I wanted to be. Thankfully, I took his words to heart and left that conversation a broken man. But broken is good when you've built the wrong foundation. It's actually the first step to starting anew.  I describe that scene and transformation in much greater detail in the opening pages of The Story of With 

Mary Vee Some Christian writers/authors wrestle with the required marketing big-bang-explosion of our work in today's world of publication. It rocks against what we've been taught in God's Word. Be humble. Can you help us? 


Allen Arnold It really comes down to this - do you believe God has given you the gift of words and story? And if so, do you trust him to see that dream through to its completion? If so, it relieves so much pressure to make something happen. The problem with self promotion is that it has to be sustained with self effort (a loose paraphrase from Bill Johnson, pastor at Bethel). If you believe that in the end, it is all up to you then you either sink or swim by your own efforts. Which either leads to ego if you succeed...or shame if you fail. And surprisingly, either outcome creates distance from God. Because if you succeed in the short term, you may feel you can rely more on a formula than God. And if you fail, it can cause resentment that somehow God didn't come through.

But if you stay with God and pursue your calling at his pace, then you absolutely can rest easy. He will see you through. And let me tell you, the result of that transcends any big-bang, man-made marketing plan. True, it may not look like you expected it too...but God never promised to be bound by our limited expectations. He dreams much bigger than we do...and he invites us into that journey.


Pepper Basham Allen, you have a picnic basket filled with your last meal!! What would that meal be? :-) On a more serious note, in your many journeys among authors, what have you found to be the most encouraging advice to give and receive?

Allen Arnold
Last Meal – Easy! Sizzling steak fajitas (we’ll need a special picnic basket to hold them without burning up!)  Plus generous portions of salsa, guacamole, jalapenos, grilled veggies, and black beans. Beverage of choice - strong black coffee.

Most Encouraging Advice to Give – Don't chase Success through your gifting. Chase God (the giver of your gift) and let the gifting become the doorway to greater intimacy with him. A chance for you to co-create with the Creator on the playground of ideas.

Most Encouraging Advice to Receive  I was reminded recently that the Journey of With is two-fold. Yes, it means "with" God. But it also must be "with" Others. So many writers describe themselves as introverted. They miss doing life, in all its messiness, with others. Yet we can't write a better story than we're living. And sitting at a laptop writing is good - but it isn't getting out and experiencing real life. I'm convinced we must surround ourselves with a small fellowship of bohemians with wildly different backgrounds. Not just people like us but people who stretch, encourage, and inspire us at a soul level...and who we can do the same for. 

***GIVEAWAY TIME***
Alley Pals: We hope you've enjoyed getting to know more about Allen and his inspiring new book. We know it will a blessing to a great many people... maybe even YOU! Allen has so graciously offered an autographed copy to give away today. So here's how we're gonna do this... Leave a comment with your name and email address to enter. If you would like your name to be added to the hat TWICE (to improve your chances) give this a share on Facebook or twitter to help spread the word (and make sure you mention "shared" in your comment so I know to look for it before I draw a name on Sunday evening.) :) 

Do you have a question for Allen??? He's hanging out with us today so pull up a chair, grab a cup of java (or salsa!), and lets have a chat! 

Happy Friday! <3


Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Story Never Dies


In 2011, I semi-finaled in the Genesis contest. While I didn't advance any further, I thought, wow, THIS story is something. And I was told by other authors, “You'll be fine in your ACFW appointments, you're a semi-finalist”. I felt like my story was the golden ticket to catching the eye of that agent who'd take me to publication.

Well, imagine the sob fest--and there absolutely was one in the St. Louis hotel elevator area where I'd called my husband--after I heard over and over again, “This will never sell.” And imagine the mourning that took place for those dear characters who'd become my greatest friends?

I felt like I walked away from the 2011 ACFW conference laying to rest a story that I had loved and cherished, but was as good as slush to everyone in the industry.

Fast-forward to present day...FIVE YEARS LATER. Most of my stories are sitting stale and quiet in the bottom of my “drawer”. And it's not for lack of trying. Some have been thoroughly shopped around by my fantastic agent, and while we've had some close calls, we're still waiting on “the” call for most of them.
If you'd have told me that I might have a chance with those stories that went in and out of editorial meetings, I'd have told you, “It doesn't work that way”. We've all heard that there are no second chances in the land of publishing, haven't we?

But we've also got a BIG God on our side as Christian writers, and my God IS the God of second chances. And just because we're told the finites of a story advancing through, or being tossed out by publishers, doesn't mean that our story is dead forever.

It just means that its first chance is over.

Don't say farewell to those characters yet. Just remember God had you write that story for a reason. And sometimes, His timing has nothing to do with the moments after you hit “send”, but it might be planned for months—or years—after The End is written.

I am here to tell you from recent experience. I'd laid a story to rest—thinking that it might only be one for my children to read some day. And suddenly, FOUR YEARS after I'd written this particular story, the publishing industry swung open a random door, and an opportunity arrived that made this old story seem like a perfect fit.

Yes, folks, that old story is seeing some movement. It's catching an eye. Even after it had been shopped, and its first chance SPENT, long ago.

This is the season of second chances for me. When I was a newbie writer, I didn't know there was such a thing. I was skeptical of the advice given by many experienced industry professionals, “Write what's on your heart, not what the market wants. Who knows what changes are ahead for the market?” It didn't make sense. If I took a story and sent it out and it was rejected, that's it, right?

Nope.

I suggest you DO write what's on your heart. If God's shaping a story there, then write. Don't worry about details like market and publishing. There's a reason you've been called to write it. And you'll find out the first time around, or in God's perfect second chance.

If this resonates with you at all, check out Laurie's post Write the Story Anyway. Don't give up!
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Angie Dicken is a full-time mom and lives in the Midwest with her Texas Aggie sweetheart. An ACFW member since 2010, she writes historical novels and has recently sold a story to Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical. Angie is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. Check out her personal blog at www.angiedicken.com and connect at:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/dicken.angie
Twitter: @angiedicken
Pinterest: pinterest.com/agdicken



Monday, September 19, 2016

Writers: Are You Asking for Help?

We’ve talked a lot about writing with community. Surrounding yourself with a group of people that you can trust your heart and writing with. People that become your friends beyond this writing journey and support you in nearly every aspect of your life.

They are your warriors. Your champions. The people that hold you up in prayer when the going is rough and the people you in turn laugh and cry with when they are joyful or struggling.
This is your tribe. These are your people.

But I was challenged recently for how often I actually come to my tribe—my people—and ask for help with my writing.

Allen Arnold has talked and ministered to many, many writers about not writing in a vacuum. About not being the “orphan” that writes alone, creates alone, processes alone and instead invites the Creator into the creative. Instead, invites in the people that the Creator has given the creative to form this story that He has laid on their heart.

It’s shockingly few and far between that I ask for help.

I don’t want to inconvenience someone. Take away time from their projects they need to be doing. Make them obligated to say “yes”, when they just really need to say “no.”

But I’ve been stuck on my story now for about a month and a half. Only written about a thousand words between family being in town, ACFW national conference and then more family being in town. It’s been a great month of fellowship and reconnection, but also a month filled with the trepidation of the next thing I have to do: which is dust off that story and start writing the next scene.
Only problem is: I have no idea what that next scene is.

Minor detail is all.

So the other night, at my writer’s mentoring meeting, I decided to pipe up. Gulp back any feelings of worry that I would put something beyond their time in helping me, and asked for help in outlining my story.

See, outlining your story might not be a big deal to you. You might love it. Get inspired from it. See new plot twists and scene ideas.

I hate it.

I’d so much rather sit down with my laptop and just write. Except then, I write myself into a corner and oops, I don’t know what happens next.

It’s not a complicated project, this request that I’m making. A lot of the work has already been done
in a previous brainstorming session. This is just me, needing a friend to join in writing these scene ideas out on 3x5 cards and inspiring my love for this novel all over again—and putting me back on track to do the work.

Once the words are said, it’s not hard asking for help.

It’s hard getting to that place where you have to ask for it. Invite someone else into your story world; let them take your hand and journey with you in this process.

Don’t get stuck in your cave. The answers don’t all lie in what only you are capable of doing.
So invite someone in. Let them take partnership with you. Don’t be ashamed, but let yourself be motivated and encouraged.

Because remember that tribe of friends you’ve formed? Yeah, they are here for you in this too. And you’re not alone. By a long shot.


What are you needing to ask help for in your writing today? Have you done it? 


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Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in colorful Colorado where she gets to live her dream stalking--er--visiting with her favorite CO authors. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

A Writerly Interview with Melissa Tagg

Today I am delighted to introduce y'all to one of my favorite writer people, Melissa Tagg. Melissa has this infectious joy that simply makes her a delight to be around. She is bright, incredibly gifted as a writer, and has this heart that is after God. I love her! Can't you just see the joy in her smile? Anyway...She has a new book, Keep Holding On, releasing this month, and here's a link to the first chapter. I asked Melissa if she would join us for a quick Q&A. She graciously agreed. So without further ado, here's Melissa.
 

We're going to start with an easy question: what's your favorite writer fuel? 

 Okay, this is going to sound terribly cliché but it’s the truth: coffee. Actually, beverages in general. I like to have a glass of water and a cup of coffee and then when I get stuck, I trade in the coffee for a Diet Coke with Lime. I’ve been trying to be more diligent about drinking water lately, though, so I generally don’t allow myself a second jolt of caffeine until I’ve finished off a couple glasses of water.

You're so healthy! What's the one thing you wish you had learned early in your writing career? 

That I am not a girl who handles deadlines very well. LOL! But seriously…when I suddenly went from writer to contracted writer, this writing gig took on a whole new flavor. And because I have a full-time day job that’s also very much a calling for me, dealing with deadlines got…not so fun. But honestly, I think it’s good to learn these things about ourselves. Because once I realized why I was struggling so much, I was able to make some decisions to help smooth out what had become a very wrinkled and exhausting schedule. I had to take some risks to change things up, but I feel like a different person now than I did earlier on—i.e. I’m healthier and happier and don’t come into work looking like a zombie anymore. And frankly, I think my writing is better for it.

Also, I wish I’d learned earlier that it’s okay to do things differently than other authors. I think I spent a lot of time trying to perfectly shadow others, write and market and just be exactly like them. And in doing so, I was pushing against the kind of writer and woman God wants me to be.

That not copying others is hard! What's your favorite book of all time? Other than the Bible. 

Oh man, that is SO hard to answer. I don’t know if I can truly pick just one, but one of the books I have read over and over and over from childhood to adulthood is Christy by Catherine Marshall. In fact, it’s been a couple years, so I’m pretty sure I’m due for a reread.

Now for some writing book related questions. Do you have a favorite writing book? What is it? Do you have a fight favorite writing tool? What is that? 

My favorite writing book is any craft book by Susan May Warren. She has this awesome way of teaching that just works…doesn’t matter whether you’re a plotter or pantser or smack in between like me, you can incorporate her teaching and truly grow in the craft. I also love every writing book I’ve read by James Scott Bell, including Plot & Structure and WriteYour Novel from the Middle.

As for my favorite writing tool, it’s an app called Freedom that turns off your Internet for however long you specify. It’s such a great tool to help me focus. (Although, sometimes I just go super hard core and turn off my wi-fi completely and hide my phone in my garage or walk-in.

What surprised you most while writing Keep Holding On?

This shouldn’t have surprised me because it legit happens with every. single. book. And yet, somehow it’s still a surprise every time…and that’s the moment when I realize exactly why God has me writing this story at this time. It’s usually because he’s working on something in my heart. I know, I know, the appropriate author sentiment to express is that we write to uplift and inspire readers…which, of course, I do. But truly, deep down…I write because that’s how God communicates with me. He just does.

Somehow, in journeying with my characters, He whispers (or sometimes shouts) exactly what my heart needs to hear and what my mind needs to process. And in the case of this latest book, that thing I needed to hear and chew on and really truly grasp is that God keeps holding on. I don’t know about you, but I have seasons where my passion dries up…my faith gets all dry and dusty. And then I feel guilty. And then that ugly mix of apathy and guilt just sorta builds a wall between me and any kind of intimacy with God. And yet…God keeps holding on.

Even when I’m on the brink of letting go, he’s still there holding on. That is a life-giving, soul-quenching truth and something I’ve very much needed to spend some time dwelling on. Funny thing is, I had no idea that’d end up being such a personal journey for me back when I titled the book Keep Holding On.

What's your favorite Needtobreathe song? Just had to throw that one in there for fun.

Oh my goodness, this is almost even harder to answer than the favorite book question. I LOVE THEM SO MUCH!! People think I’m joking when I say I want to just quit everything and become a roadie and follow them around the country…but I’m about 75% serious. If I HAD to pick a favorite song, it’d probably be Wasteland. I first heard it during a hard season in my life and I felt like it’d been written just for me.

What's your favorite kind of coffee or writing beverage? 

Coffee-wise, I love hazelnut coffee. I drink it straight black. Oh, and a good Americano makes my heart soar. As I mentioned above, I also love Diet Coke with Lime.

At what point in the book did you hate it? And at what point in Keep Holding On did you go oh my gosh I really can write? I know when I'm writing I usually have one or the other if not both...in the same weekend.

You know what’s crazy? This is probably the first book I’ve written where I didn’t actually have a moment of hating it. Some big things changed in my life while writing this book that removed a lot of previous stress, so I’m sure that’s part of it. That said, I ALWAYS struggle with two specific chapters in every book (I won’t say which two ‘cause I don’t want anyone to read them and go, “Yep, I can see why she doesn’t like these ones). And that was definitely still the case this time around. I wrote and rewrote those chapters and they still don’t feel entirely right to me. But there comes a point when you have to just say, “Okay, whatevs. It’s done.” LOL!

As for a moment when I thought, “Oh my gosh, I really can write”… that actually happened while writing the very first scene, which is super unusual for me. But I just love the first scene of this book! It’s the first time I haven’t drastically changed my opening from first draft to final draft. What you’ll see on the page now is very close to exactly what was on the page when I first drafted it. And I feel good about it. Which is nice.

Thanks so much for joining us, Melissa. Folks, I love her books. She writes such fun contemporary romance, you really need to try them if you haven't. You can find all her books listed on her webpage or anywhere books are sold.


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Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Blank Page

Every writer has that moment.

You know the one I'm talking about? It's that moment they look at a page--or a screen--and see nothing.

Just an empty page of white. Or maybe if you're doing it old school, a page of lines.

It's our blank canvas, so to speak. The words we write will create pictures not on the page, but in the imaginations of our readers.

I'm starting a new book this week and was struck by the wonder of the blank page. I can literally create any story I want right now. The sky is the limit, only bound by the reaches of my imagination.

The ideas swirl around in my head as I stare at that page. My fingers itch to start typing. My characters are fighting around me, demanding their story fill those pages RIGHT THIS MINUTE.

But there is an innocence about the blank page. It reminds me of the 5 times I held a child in my womb. I would sit there, a hand to my swollen belly--seeing their life stretch out in front of them just like that blank page, a story to be lived, a story that would have bumps and mountains and cliffs and valleys, joys and sorrows, black moments and hopefully, a happily-ever-after. Even though I know there will be pain, it also never ceases to capture my breath at the wonder of it, the exciting expectation of their story to be lived. Even the one baby who never lived to take that first breath... her story was still just as dear to me, even though it was a very short one.


My suggestion to you today is to enjoy that blank page for a moment. It's the moment of conception of your BOOK baby! (I really want to make a joke here about that... but I'm going to refrain. You are welcome!!) Let yourself get EXCITED about the process and pump yourself up about digging in. Don't look at the blank page with a scowl. Look at it with expectancy of story you're about to create on paper.

And as writer's who loves Jesus, look at it as the beginning of a journey creating with God. Where will God take you? (A shout out to Allen Arnold's new book, The Story of With, which I will be reading VERY VERY SOON!!)

The journey isn't always easy, but oh, what a journey it is.

Enjoy the ride, my writer friends!!

**SIDE NOTE**

My novella, A (sorta) Southern Serenade, released in a box set this week, Falling For You! You can get it for only 99 cents for a limited time! 

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Krista is a follower of Jesus, a wife, a mother, and writes romantic comedy. Her latest book A Side of Love, released February 29, 2016.  She blogs about finding JOY in the journey of LIFE at http://www.kristaphillips.com. She is represented by Sarah Freese of Wordserve Literary.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Most Essential Key To Editing Your Manuscript




Many great books and lecturers teach steps on how to edit our manuscripts. Like a diet plan, each one can work for the writer who is willing to follow the steps.

Today's post: The Most Essential Key To Editing Your Manuscript introduces an idea that is crucial for any editing method you use. 

I think we've all asked ourselves, "Why hasn't my manuscript been accepted? I've checked every word. What more do they want?"   Right? Today's suggestion may be the one idea that will help reveal issues, improve the quality, and potentially bring success.

I came home from the 2016 ACFW writing conference in Nashville excited to put into practice what I'd learned. I had a mashing of puzzle pieces gathered from Ted Dekker, Erin Healy, Jim Rubert, Allen Arnold and other instructors I sat under floating in my brain. My goal: I wanted to write and edit my manuscript with a depth that would suck a reader into story and not let go until the end. 

Notice the words, write and edit.

I'm going to present this information backwards because many of us have a finished manuscript. Let's start with the editing component.

Erin Healy, editor and author, stated in her class, "Always edit your manuscript using a different medium than you first wrote."

What she meant was:
If you key your words into a computer do not read from the same style screen when editing.
If you handwrite your words on paper, do not read the same paper when editing.
If you dictate your words do not listen to the text when editing.
Photo Courtesy

Our minds are easily tricked. We see, hear, feel what was intended, not what is actually there. For example:

You're walking along a dark road at night when leaves and branches suddenly crackle behind. A snapping rhythm mimics footsteps. You turn. Why? Because you know someone or something is there. You see nothing but are not convinced. There is someone there. Your hearing told you so. Your mind believed it. Your heart responded. Panic sets in, and the belief system set in stone.



When edit our manuscript using the same tool we used to write the words, we often become blind to errors. By the last page, we're convinced what is on the page is the best and is ready to send to crit partners, beta readers, contests, agents, or editors. To our surprise, red ink with suggestions for new content, grammar corrections, and character description errors are sent back. Ugh! Disaster!! 

The sad part is, after making these changes more hidden issues hide in the ink on the page. We can't see them. Why is that? 

We need to follow Erin Healy's advice: edit using a different medium. Preferably, and this is key, one that matches our learning style.

Some of us are audio learners, some visual, some kinesthetic, and some learn best by combining two or more of these. I knew I was a visual learner. One I see something, it sticks.  Or so I thought. Turns out, a second learning style happened at the same time to make information really stay in my brain. Without it, failure.

When Erin presented the idea of using different ways to see/hear/engage in story, she and classmates brainstormed ideas like: 

*Send the manuscript to your kindle-the change in formatting helps to reveal errors.
*Send to the kindle and turn on the reader.
*Scrivener users have a speech reader program that will read the manuscript.
*Word apparently has a reader (but I haven't found it yet. If you know how to turn this feature on, please tell us in the comment section)
*View on a desktop computer
*Have someone else read the manuscript to you.


My favorite new idea was Scrivener's speech reader. It took a while to find (Go to edit, choose speech, select start) After hearing only a few sentences, better words popped in my head, pieces of missing story world unveiled themselves deepening the story. The characters seemed to come alive and spoke through the reader's voice breathing life into the words.

So... this happened because some monotone male voice read my story? No. I really needed to experience the story in a different format than I wrote it.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. Seeing/hearing/sensing my story in a different format is only helpful if and only if I have a deep sense of my MC's journey. 

Author, Ted Dekker said, "Storytelling is different than writing. Storytelling is a series of events involving worthy characters who change as a result of those events. Readers long for an escape from life and they search in our novels for another way."

As I listened to the monotone male voice read my story, I walked about my house, envisioning the action, MC's distress, her momentary successes and failures, her choices and changes in plan, her journey and the forward movement to the last page. And when the words hit a speed bump, I stopped my monotone friend from reading and rewrote words, sentences, and paragraphs, slicing and dicing, adding and modifying, drawing out a swirling depth that engaged me to the heart. Wow! What a terrific feeling.

Allen Arnold, Jim Rubert, Ted Dekker all said writers need to cry, laugh, shout, basically spill emoji while engaged in writing/editing a story. This is an experience writers not only give to readers, they give to themselves as well.

Allen Arnold said, "Many writers burn out because they weren't sustained for the journey." He also recently share this meme:





In the depths of your writer's soul is a story waiting to be told. Vivid words that transform each main character from the first page to the last. Don't trust an edit from the first means used to write your manuscript. Step into the reader's shoes and join them through the pages of the main character's journey by using a unique tool to edit.

Happy creating!

I can't wait to read your comment(s)!

Help others--tweet or FB share this post

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Rock climbing, white-water rafting, zip lining, and hiking top Mary's list of great ways to enjoy a day. Such adventures can be found in her stories as well.

Mary writes young adult mystery/suspense, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and tell Bible event stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids. She has finaled in several writing contests.

Visit Mary at her websiteblog, and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter



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