Put down your pitchforks and stop dialing PETA. I am not about to advocate leopard patties as part of a wholesome diet.
Actually I prefer frozen foods over canned.
But I did get your attention, right?
Grabbing the reader's attention is important, but equally important is not grossing them out. There's got to be a balance. Delighting your reader with unique plays on words or surprising descriptions is a great way to have your characters and story linger in the mind of a reader long after they've closed the cover of your book.
Example from Lisa Mangum (one of my favorite authors):
"Jason's voice always reminded me of butterscotch: smooth, golden and sweet. Maybe it was because he was that same golden color all over, from his wheat-blond curls falling over his hazel-gold eyes to the light tan on his skin."
Jason's description has stuck with me because honestly, who compares people to butterscotch? Her depiction works so well because butterscotch is a surprising AND pleasant comparison. Keep in mind that this technique can easily become dangerous. Don't cross the line into freakish mind pictures such as canned leopard.
The goal of your writing is to make your reader go "Oh!" not "Eew!"
What if you never got paid one worthless cent for your writing? What if you never won any contests, received any awards, or even got a high-five for your work? Would you still write?
Tough questions, but honest ones, the kind that blow away the author-wannabe chaff and leave the real writers lying in a heap on the ground.
Writers write. It's what they do, remuneration or not. Kudos are fantastic, but if writing is in your blood, the lack of which won't stop you from penning story after story, poem after poem, post after post.
So here's my question of the day, and make sure you take some soul-searching moments to think about it before you whip out a yea or nay...
Are you a writer? Don't be afraid of the answer. Embrace it.
With only 15,000 words left to write on my current WIP, I understand the last minute jitters that lots of writers experience when finishing a manuscript. I'm tempted to simply work on editing what I've already written or come up with a completely different ending than the one I planned. Why?
Because I'm scared.
Yep. Knee-knocking, cold-sweat-on-my-palms kind of scared. And I bet I'm not the only one. Do you ever wonder:
- What if my climax is really as exciting as a cold piece of toast? - Have my main characters developed a sufficient amount? - Did I present enough Biblical truth without whapping people upside the head with scripture? - Is my ending too soon? Too late? - Was the drama believable or just plain over the top?
And those are just a few. It's enough to make you skip over to Pinterest and waste away the day. But that's what slackers do. Newsflash: Writers write.
So the trick is to not let these little terrorizers paralyze you to the point of not finishing your manuscript. Pressing on in spite of your doubts is hard.
I read an interesting article about blogging this weekend. In a nutshell, the things you shouldn't have on your blog. I agreed with 9 out of 10 of them, so guess what this post is going to be about. Yep. The one percent.
Lifehack had this to say about Blogrolls and Link Exchanges:
"If you must have a list of links of other blogs, move them to a separate page. Your sidebar should be reserved for the things you absolutely need your readers to see or do (and having them click away to someone else's site shouldn't be your priority)."
I'm thinking...Nah, not so much. I LOVE blogrolls on other peoples sites and here's why:
1. It opens up a world of new blogs for me to check out.
2. If I respect the blog I'm reading and they recommend another blog to me, I'm pretty sure I'm going to learn something new and valuable by checking them out.
3. It tells me information and helps me to get to know the author of the blog I'm reading by seeing what kind of tastes they have outside their own blog. 4. It's a great way for me to recommend sites I love to my readers.
5. Building a platform is oh-so-much-easier when you've got blogger buddies who advertise your site on theirs via a blogroll entry.
So, what about you? Agree or disagree? Are blogrolls a valuable tool or not?
"You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children."
~ Madeleine L'Engle
Hmmm. Makes me wonder if I should switch to Young Adult. Here's the deal...Charlotte Bronte may have just cornered the market for dark and brooding historicals for all of eternity. My finished manuscript (which deals with an opium addict in the early 19th century) just isn't selling to publishers, leastwise not in the Christian historical adult fiction genre. So either I lower the ages of the hero and heroine...
Or I slap on bonnets and call it Amish fiction.
Which leads me to wonder...what in the world is it that makes some books too difficult for grown-ups? After pondering that for a few minutes, I came up with 3 reasons.
1. Life is too crazy-go-nuts.
When leisure time rolls around, we don't want to think. We want to kick back and relax.
2. Life is too stressful.
Reading an intense story adds to the frenzy. We want to stick our heads in the sand for a few minutes to escape.
3. Life is too gritty.
Extreme sex, violence and in-your-face hatred abounds. We want to hearken back to a lifestyle that was more innocent and pure.
I'm not saying those reasons are 'right', nor that every reader out there agrees with them. I'm saying merely that they are...which is something to consider if you're hoping to sell to the general market.
It's summer and it's hot....which made me think of hot topics in Christian fiction. Yes, my mind really does work that way.
Basically there are three controversial bugaboos in Christian fiction: language, sensuality, and violence.
Should there be any? How much is too much? Who gets to decide?
As a baseline when I'm writing, I first look to Jesus when I create my heroes. With that in mind...
Jesus didn't use vulgar language even when nailed on the cross, though I suspect we all would've cut Him some slack for a few slipped curses.
Jesus loved with every pore in his body but not in an erotic way.
Jesus had violence committed against him but did not commit violence Himself. Yet. He will return astride a white horse someday and be armed for battle, though of what kind, I'm not sure.
That being said, as much as Jesus is my personal hero, He's not a fictional character in one of my books. So yes, my characters do sometimes let fly a naughty word (though I don't name it), they have physical reactions to the opposite sex, and they'll smack someone upside the head if they feel it's necessary. None of this, however, is overtly graphic or the primary focus of the story.
But that's just me. Who really gets to decide what goes into a piece of Christian fiction? The author, the publisher or the reader?
Ultimately, I'd say the reader and publisher are tied for first place. An author can write whatever he/she wants, but if a publisher or reader doesn't pick it up, it's kind of a moot point. A reader is only going to buy what they like to read, and a publisher is going to put out what a reader wants to read, so that's why I give them equal weight.
Great stories can be told without the use of F-bombs, literary porn, and guns galore. Sometimes those are merely crutches to prop up a weak plot.
Is there something you're passionate about, yet aren't doing anything to achieve that passion?
Take writing, for example. Are you in love with the idea of writing a manuscript yet haven't consistently sat down to slog your way through it? What's up with that?
Knee-jerk answer: fear. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of what others might think.
It's a valid answer, but sometimes there's a deeper issue, a layer below that fear, in a subterranean level of your heart. You're probably not going to want to hear what it is, but hey...when did that ever stop me?
Is it really a fear of failure that keeps you from your goal...or that you're too proud to fail?
Or perhaps what you're labeling as passion isn't passion at all. What if it's pride wearing a mask? Do you simply want the bragging rights to say, "Yeah, I'm going to write a book about such-and-such," attract all the attention that swaggering kind of statement reels in, and bask in the telling of your story instead of parking your behind in a chair and typing your fingers down to nubs?
So here's my question of the day. Make sure you take some time to think it over before you answer...
What is keeping you from achieving your passion?
Naming your roadblock is the first step in hurdling it.
You grab your laptop in one hand, a sparkling glass of ice
tea in the other (yes, there’s a lemon slice floating in it), and toodle out to
the patio. It’s the perfect afternoon for writing. Sunshine. A slight breeze.
And two empty hours all to yourself. Ahh.
You set down your drink on the cute mosaic bistro table you
scored on clearance, flip open your computer, bring up your WIP, poise your
fingers over the keyboard as a great new plot twist percolates in your brain,
Your teenage girl flounces out in a sweetpea perfume cloud.
“Mom, can you drive me to the mall?”
“But I have to meet so-and-so.”
“So take the bus.”
“Are you kidding? I need to be there in like fifteen
“Need is a relative word.”
Teenage eyes roll like they’re on spin cycle. The next ‘mom’
is more drawn out than a proper southern belle…and you live in Minnesota.
“Honey,” you explain, “this is my job. I don’t see you
sashaying into your dad’s office and demanding he drive you hither and tither.”
Teenage face scrunches up. “What’s a tither?”
“Never mind. The answer is no.”
Teenage feet stomp off.
Teenage feet return.
“Can you just—”
”I said no.”
Teenage growl. Feet stomp off.
Feet return, this time accompanied by the jingle of keys.
“What if I promise to make supper later and do the dishes?”
Wait for it. Hold, hold…
Huge teenage sigh. “Fine. And I’ll clean my room.”
You close your laptop and shoot to your feet. Sometimes a
trip to the mall is worth it. Besides, by this point, you can’t remember
what-in-the-world your plot twist was.
On the road, my girls and I swung through Colorado Springs
and caught up with author extraordinaire Lisa Bergren. We restrained ourselves just enough to keep from licking her toes.
Yes, we were that excited to meet
her, which you’d totally understand if you’ve ever read her River of Timeseries.
Lisa was in the publishing biz even before her superstar
author status, working with Multnomah and Waterbrook. She continues to do some
freelance editing for other publishers as well.
So after I wolfed down a burrito bowl, I asked her for some
sage writing advice to share with my faithful blog readers. Here it is…
This came to me from someone else: is your plot boring? Here's a quick fix.
A) What's the worst thing that could happen to your main character?
B) Have that happen.
C) Watch them work through it.
Voila. No more boring plot.
Timelines are important. Begin each scene with a time and date stamp. They can get edited out on the final draft, but in the meantime, you can make sure you're on track. A calendar works well for this too; write in chapter and scene #s on the days they occur for easy reference. Also helps on keeping up with your phases of the moon (writers love to write in full moons--so evocative--but they don't happen every week).
Make sure to check out Lisa's books. You won't be sorry! But your family might, since you'll be too busy reading to make din din.
When the muse hits and your writing flows, it's like...
...a groove you fall into, the sloping sides keeping you from veering too high around the curves, kind of like a bobsled track, lickety-split and dangerous.
...the sweet spot when you're teetering a chair on two legs instead of four, wavering on the thin line between flipping backward and cracking open your head, or slamming forward to an abrupt halt.
...driving down the highway with your hand out the window, your palm riding the crests of the wind, up and down, a rhythmic, soothing dance
...doing backward crossovers on ice skates, balancing on the outside edge, knees bent, body angling toward the ice, one false move and you'll crash, but for one brilliant moment in time, the ice is yours to command.
...freefalling, a rush, words you didn't know you knew flying from your fingertips.
...a rock skipping across the top of silver water, droplets spraying into the air, multiplying into a thousand diamonds
...the feeling you get when you put in the final piece of a jigsaw puzzle
“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the
outgoing gutsto do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
~ Sylvia Plath
The same old adage you teach your kids, “Choose your friends
wisely,” is just as applicable to you as a writer. Here’s a few fellas that
would be worth making into your new best buddies…
Writing takes boldness. Not the part where you squirrel away
with your laptop and create fantastical tales. Anyone can do that. It’s the
pitching of your work, the querying, the sending out of proposals that takes intestinal fortitude. Why? Because of the dreaded rejection factor. It takes
guts to share your best piece of writing knowing that you might receive a
this-is-the-worst-writing-I’ve-ever-seen kind of response.
The best way to cultivate a relationship with this new buddy
of yours is to stop overthinking yourself. In the words of Nike, sometimes you
just gotta do it. Write your best, comply to all the guideline requirements of
your chosen agent or publisher, then just send it off. Do not overthink
yourself and don’t dwell on the possible negative reply you might get back.
If you wait to write a manuscript until you learn all the
writerly rules, you’ll never begin. Sometimes you just have to improvise. Go
with your instincts. Take a risk and wing it. Honestly, sometimes when you
improvise your writing, your story takes on a fresh new angle. Throw out your
inner editor and let your thoughts flow onto your paper. Improv is a bff kind
Now then, there’s one shady character I need to warn you to
stay far away from. He’s the creeper that stalks you, draped in a trench coat,
and has really bad personal hygiene habits. His name?
Second guessing yourself is enemy number one. Why beat
yourself up when there are so many others who are willing to do it for you?
Write your best and don’t be ashamed of it. It is what it is. You’ll always
have areas for improvement so it’s a waste of time to fret over your foibles.
Open your hand and let it go.
In case you can't tell, I'm kicking off summer with a road trip and am currently zinging across the country with my two girls. Yep. We are DEFINITELY off the leash! If you stick your head out your window and listen real hard, you'll probably hear us in the party van giggling down the highway. But when I get back home, the vacation is still not over. I've got a stack of summertime reading I'm itching to get my hands on. So when I pull up a lawn chair and plunk down my glass of iced tea, here's what's on my stack...
Rebellion by James McGee Rebellion is brewing in Napoleonic Paris, in the new action-packed novel from the author of the bestselling Ratcatcher October 1812: Britain and France are still at war. France is engaged on two battle fronts - Spain and Russia - and her civilians are growing weary of the fight. Rebellion is brewing. Since Napoleon Bonaparte appointed himself as First Consul, there have been several attempts to either kill or overthrow him. All have failed, so far! Meanwhile in London, Bow Street Runner Matthew Hawkwood has been seconded to the foreign arm of the Secret Service. There, he meets the urbane Henry Brooke, who tells him he's to join a colleague in Paris on a special mission. Brooke's agent has come up with a daring plan and he needs Hawkwood's help to put it into action. If the plan is successful it could lead to a negotiated peace treaty between France and the allies. Failure would mean prison, torture and a meeting with the guillotine! (excerpt taken from Amazon)
Rebel (Book 3 in the Brides of Alba series) by Linda Windsor With Merlin dead, the succession undecided, and the Celtic church on the defensive from Rome, intrigue sweeps the court of the High King Arthur. But it’s battlefield news that consumes Queen Gwenhyfar’s young scribe, Kella O’Toole: her fiancé is dead and her father gone missing. Determined to find him at all costs, Kella defies the queen’s orders and sets out for Pictish territory. Her foster brother Alyn, a disillusioned priest who questions his calling, agrees to help her. The journey itself is perilous. But it’s their secrets that land Kella and Alyn in a viper’s nest of treachery that threatens both their lives and the future of Albion. Can they summon the love and faith they need to find their way not only out of danger, but into happiness? Brilliantly researched, vividly imagined, and movingly written—a memorable climax to the Brides of Alba series. (excerpt taken from Amazon)
Veiled Freedom by Jeanette Windle Naïve and idealistic, relief worker Amy Mallory arrives in Kabul ready to change the world. She soon discovers that as a woman in Afghanistan, the challenges she faces are monumental. As the new security chief to the Minister of the Interior, former Special Forces veteran Steve Wilson is disillusioned to find that the country he fought to set free has fallen into its old habits of greed and corruption. Afghani native Jamil returns to his homeland seeking a job while his painful past continues to haunt him. All three search for truth . . . and for freedom . . . but at what cost? (excerpt taken from Amazon)
And my token piece of non-fiction is Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan God is love. Crazy, relentless, all-powerful love. Have you ever wondered if we’re missing it? It’s crazy, if you think about it. The God of the universe--the Creator of nitrogen and pine needles, galaxies and E-minor--loves us with a radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. And what is our typical response? We go to church, sing songs, and try not to cuss. Whether you’ve verbalized it yet or not...we all know somethings wrong. Does something deep inside your heart long to break free from the status quo? Are you hungry for an authentic faith that addresses the problems of our world with tangible, even radical, solutions? God is calling you to a passionate love relationship with Himself. Because the answer to religious complacency isn’t working harder at a list of do’s and don’ts--it’s falling in love with God. And once you encounter His love, as Francis Chan describes it, you will never be the same. Because when you’re wildly in love with someone, it changes everything. (excerpt taken from Amazon)
There you have it. So...what's on your summer reading list???
I used to play Mad Libs as a kid. Okay. Who am I kidding? I still love to play Mad Libs. If you've never had the experience, here's a quick run-down...
Mad Libs is a book containing a collection of short stories with many key words replaced by blanks. Beneath each blank is a specified category, such as "noun" or "verb." One player asks the other players to contribute some word for the specified type in each blank. Finally the story is completed and read aloud.
The result is usually funny and slightly nonsensical.
So if you need a mildly entertaining break from your WIP today, give a Mad Lib a try. You don't have to run out and buy a book, nor do you need to snag a buddy to play with. Simply click here to go to a website that allows you to play on your own.
Are you ready to stretch your limits? Instead of reaching for yet another bonnet book and/or tried-and-true women's fiction, why not branch out a little? Check out a title in one of these unique genres to spice up your summer.
Dystopian This genre is set in a futuristic era in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society is maintained by corporate, technological, bureaucratic, or moral control. Usually makes a statement about a current trend in society. Classic Example: 1984 by George Orwell The story of one man's nightmare odyssey as he pursues a forbidden love affair through a world ruled by warring states and a power structure that controls not only information but also individual thought and memory.
This is a style wherein fantasy and the mundane world intersect in a modern and recognizable urban setting. Think contemporary vampire and you've pretty much nailed the bulk of this genre. Finding a Christian urban fantasy is pretty much a study in futility, but one can always hope that there will soon be some titles popping up. There are some YA urban fantasies that are relatively tame, however. Example on my TBR list: Griffin Rising by Darby Karchut Griffin is no ordinary teen. He is a Guardian Angel charged with protecting and keeping as many humans out of danger as he can. This book chronicles the early adventures of the teenaged Griffin as he comes to terms with his supernatural nature.
In this genre, the author speculates on how the course of history might have been altered if a particular historial event hadn't--or had, as the case may be--happened. Like what if the south had won the War of the States (Civil War for us northerners) instead of the Yanks? Example on my TBR list: The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle (disclaimer: haven't read this yet, looks great, but likely isn't for the squeamish) When Tudor explorers return from the New World, they bring back a name out of half-forgotten Viking legends: skraylings. Mal Catlyn, a down-at-heel swordsman, is second to the ambassador's bodyguard, but assassination attempts are the least of his problems. What he learns about the skraylings and their unholy powers could cost England her new ally--and Mal his soul.
This is a subgenre of Alternate History. It involves advanced technology in an altered past. Example on my TBR list: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld It is the cusp of World War I. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ genetically fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet. Aleksandar Ferdinand, a Clanker, and Deryn Sharp, A Darwinist, are on opposite sides of the war. But their paths cross in the most unexpected way, taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure...one that will change their lives forever.
So here's my challenge...choose 1 new genre to read this summer. Even if it doesn't turn out to become a favorite of yours, at least you'll have branched out a bit!
I hear voices. Loud. Incessant. And very real. Which basically gives me
two options: choke back massive amounts of Prozac or write fiction. I chose the
latter. Way cheaper. I've been writing since I discovered blank wall space and
Crayolas. I seek to glorify God in all that I write...except for that graffiti
phase I went through as a teenager. Oops. Did I say that out loud?