Letter to My Book // Left to Die

Last year, I was inspired by Katie Grace and her fantastic letter to her novel. I wrote a letter to my first book, The Old River Road. It was such grand fun that I did it again with Left to Die. Perhaps this will become a habit of mine???

 

Dear Left to Die,

Never, ever, ever has a book come together so fast. YOU WERE SO EASY! Too easy. Easy enough I was afraid you would be one of those horrible hidden-away-forever manuscripts. Two weeks is all it took to get the rough draft down. Two weeks.

You, my beauty, go down in the record book as fastest, easiest book ever. Less than six months from first draft to publication. Yes, it did help that you were less than 3o,000 words. That makes all things easier.

On the more serious note, you forced me to look into the “what if’s” of my own beloved sister’s story. To imagine what could have happened to her. To mingle personal experience, what I learned from books, and what I’ve heard from missionaries, and imagination. More so, you forced me to do things I didn’t want to do. Forced me to remember things I wanted to forget. Forced me to search a part of myself I wanted to leave alone.

But it was worth it. Well worth it. The response to you–to the story you tell–has been incredible. Yes, it is true that some are put off by the intensity of the story you tell. But that’s not your problem. Already, God is using you to do amazing things. I can’t wait to watch and see what happens over the next few years.

lovingly,

your author

Silencing Your Inner Editor / / Guest Post by Abigayle Claire

I’m super excited that my amazing critique partner and sweet friend, Abi, is here to talk about editing! Abi and I have worked together on various projects over the past year and a half, and I can definitely say that she’s one of the most amazing editors I’ve ever worked with. And today, she’s sharing some tips from her personal experience being both an author and an editor, and how to keep those elements separated. Enjoy!

 

 

I am a freelance editor and a novelist. Being able to keep those roles separate is really not as hard as you might think. It all comes down to silencing my inner editor–something every writer has to learn how to do.

There are times to write and there are times to edit. It’s really as simple as that. Only do one at a time.

When I’m editing a novel for someone, I’m reading slowly, questioning everything, and searching every word for something off. I want to do that only when I’m editing.

When I’m reading a book, I try to avoid doing that. But if something stands out to me as awkward, my brain immediately jumps to what sort of suggestion I would leave the author. That’s not a bad thing, but try not to pull yourself out of the book. Reading an engrossing book is excellent practice for silencing your inner editor so that you can still enjoy the story.

When I’m drafting a novel, I also want to silence my inner editor as much as possible so that I can focus on writing. Editing comes later. But at the same time I want to write a solid draft.

I attain the balance by:

 

Keeping in mind my bad habits and avoiding them where I can. For example, passive voice is an issue of mine, and POV can be as well. If I can make those decent from the start, it will save me editing.

NOT being lazy about writing. Like I just said, just because you’re drafting doesn’t mean you have to forget how to write. Spelling and punctuation should all fill their proper roles still. Save yourself work where you can.

NOT rereading what I’ve written. This can be really hard for me. Rereading the last few sentences of what you wrote to pick it back up again is one thing. But do not reread entire paragraphs or pages! It will switch your brain from writing mode to editing mode.

Changing very little as I write. This goes back to not rereading. Sometimes you don’t even have to reread to know that you’ve written words that need help. Now is not the time to change them! Once you’ve put the period on the sentence or ended a paragraph, consider it sealed until the editing process.

Thinking about what to write next. I sometimes spend a long time thinking about how best to word a single sentence or piece of dialogue. Not every time, but it doesn’t hurt to spend a few moments being purposeful.

Rethinking the direction. Sometimes, more than just an individual sentence, I have to consider what the story lacks as a whole. Figuring out where a chapter is going can save you a lot of pointless words and thus make editing easier.

Leaving myself notes when I know I’ve made a consistency error. This is a huge one! If you know you’ve written something that doesn’t line up with something previously, or you need to fact check, leave yourself a note! Your editor self will want to know that. Sometimes I leave myself a note in all caps in the middle of a sentence and sometimes it’s more subtle and I use the comment feature on whatever program I’m writing in.

 

Those are just examples of some of the things I do while writing. They may not all fit your writing style and I’m sure there’s more you can add. But silencing your inner editor just enough is a huge part of writing an effective draft.

All those fears and concerns that are tied up in the words of your book? Set them aside while writing and focus on each word.

Once every word is written, give yourself a small breather. Then come back with fresh eyes and read it as an editor, looking for things that need to change.

Even though I am an editor for other people, editing for myself will always be different. For others, I only have to find a problem and give a solution. For me, I have to do that and fix the problem myself. That’s the scary part, because until that book is published it’s just a bunch of words that can easily be changed for better or for worse.

It’s a big responsibility! But don’t let your fears strangle your confidence or your progress. The biggest thing you can do is not edit alone. Because the words are yours, there are some things you will never see. As long as you know that, get some trusted friends to help you out. You still have to make the changes, but they can help you know how and what to change. They’ll also share the good things of your story and remind you why you began in the first place.

Once you feel your story is there, hire an editor to get that professional finish.

Keeping the roles of writing and editing distinct will help make the time you spend with your words more effective. Don’t lose your passion for the story just because the middle gets messy! You will see that book on a bookshelf.

 

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Are you currently in the writing or editing stage? How do you silence your inner editor?

Blogging Tips for Those Who Have No Time

*ahem ahem ahem* (can we all just ignore the fact that it’s 12:30am on Wednesday morning and I forgot until now that I needed a post to go up TODAY? *facepalm* The irony. I wish I could say I’m just being sarcastic, but… -_- )

 

 

Let’s face it: Bloggging is HARD.

Ever wonder why I miss posts? Disappear without explanation?

The short answer is I have a life.

The short solution is that I should find time in that life for blogging.

Well. I tried that and IT DIDN’T WORK.

So. After much trial and error, I present to you a random conglomeration of blogging tips for busy people.

NOTE: Don’t hold any of this over my head because I’m about to divulge my deepest darkest blogging secrets.

 

ONE

Plan out posts a month in advance. You don’t have to completely write the posts and get them scheduled (though if you can do that, great!). Just write down on a calendar what post is going up on what day. And a week or two (or the night before like I’m doing right now) that, finish up the post and schedule it.

 

TWO

Find a graphics template you can use over and over again. I use Canva to make the graphics for my post. I use the same template every. Is this boring? Probably. Do I care? Not really. It gets the job done and looks mildly professional. (Note mildly.)

 

THREE

Have a few book review post drafts formatted, grammar-checked, and ready to go live. If worst comes to worst, just click GO on a book review post and voila, you’ve got yourself another week.

*clears throat* no I’ve never done this why do you ask?

 

FOUR

Keep a running tab of EVERY SINGLE post idea you ever get. It doesn’t even have to be a complete idea. ANY idea you get should be written down. Who knows…it might be weeks, months, or even years before you use it–or you may never use it–but it’s there. It’s already thought-of. If you’re scrambling for time, pulling an old idea out can be one of the best options.

 

FIVE

Plan out, write up, and completely draft a three or four month long series. If you post just one of those posts each month (be sure to link back to previous posts), you’ve just 1.) created a reason that readers might wish to return to your blog, and 2.) bought yourself some time.

 

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What’s something that has helped you stay on-track with blogging?

(tell me all your secrets because I’m a miserable little human writing a post of blogging tips at 12:45am. *rolls eyes*)

 

NaNo Make-Up #2

It’s time! Our first NaNo Make-Up went so well, we’re gearing up for another!

 

Because I’m such a pathetic human and cannot manage to do NaNo the months it is actually running, I have decided to come up with my own times to NaNo when it works for me. So, I’m hosting a Make-Up that will run from March 15th to April 15th. (Yes, I know it will overlap with the actual CampNaNo. Sorry.)

You can set your own word count, or set a project/outline/editing goal–whatever you want! If you are going to join, send me a message and I’ll add you to our group Google Hangout. Also, you can add your goal to the group Google Doc. Some of us will be using MyWriteClub for goal tracking. It’s not a requirement, but if you want to join that, feel free!!!

I hope you can join me! It will be fun!!!

Top 3 Writing Blogs

 

Who doesn’t like learning about new writing resources? I know I do! But honestly, with all the fantastic writing blogs out there, it can be hard to narrow them down. These three, in no particular order, are the ones I spend most of my time on.

 

~

 

Go Teen Writers is awesome because of the broad spectrum of topics they cover. I love all the articles about getting over writer’s block, what to do when characters are misbehaving, and how to work with a frustrating plotline. Also, GTW is all about getting beginning writers started, providing encouragement, and opening opportunities for young writers to get their work critiqued by experts.

 

I just recently discovered The Writer’s Alley, but what a treasure trove! This is a blog that is a wonderful mash-up of authors in all walks of life and all seasons of stories. There is something for EVERYONE on there! I haven’t had a ton of time to go digging through archives, but the few posts I’ve read about time management have been wonderful.

 

 

This is also a new find for me thanks to my critique partner Abi, and I love it! The posts are a little shorter and more to the point than the first two blogs, which I sincerely appreciate! Lots of good stuff on this blog.

 

~~~

 

What’s your favorite writing blog?

NaNo Make-Up #1

Because I’m such a pathetic human and cannot manage to do NaNo the months it is actually running, I have decided to come up with my own times to do NaNo when it works for me. So, myself and Emily McConnell are hosting a NaNo Make-Up that will run from January 15th to February 15th.

 

You can set your own word count, or set a project/outline/editing goal–whatever you want! If you are going to join us, send me a message and I’ll add you to our group Google Hangout. Also, you can add your goal to the group Google Doc. Some of us will be using MyWriteClub for goal tracking. It’s not a requirement, but if you want to join that, feel free!!!

 

I hope you can join us this month! However, if it doesn’t work for your schedule, know that we will be doing a second Make-Up from March 15th to April 15th.

 

November Goals/Writing Update

I’m going to go back to monthly wrap posts, but instead of trying to wrap up October, I’m just going to start with November goals. :P

And since I don’t have time to make a cool feature image, let me leave you with this neat picture I took yesterday that I’m a little proud of.

 

img_2969

 

Writing

Even though I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo, I’m going to be fixing up and finishing a bunch of other projects.

  1. Finish Even Through Rain
  2. Publish above short story (Information forthcoming)
  3. Complete edits on secret project (Details forthcoming)
  4. Send said project to editor
  5. COMPLETELY OUTLINE Long Lake Legacy book 2. (LOTS of details forthcoming ;-P )

 

 

I don’t really have any other specific goals for this month other than writing, since that will be my focus. But who knows…life has been throwing me curveballs as of late!! ;-)

 

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Do you have any goals for November?

Are you doing NaNo?

If not, are you working on something else?

How I Write a Book FAST(ish)

Letter to My Book

That’s probably not a title you expected from me. I didn’t either. But I’ve come to realize that I do write fast, even if it seems like it takes an eternity. The Old River Road took eight months from first words to published. So how do I do it?

Let me introduce you to this lovely thing I call Binge Writing.

Binge Writing, otherwise known as a Writing Spree, is something I started doing out of sheer desperation. NaNo of 2015 was my very first attempt at writing 50,000 words in less than a year (in less than 3 years, actually). And I did it. 50,000 in one month.

After November, I was pretty convinced that I would just participate in every single NaNo and camp NaNo available. Great idea, in theory. It just so happens that April, July, and November are pretty much the very worst months for me to buckle down and focus on something.

Also, I have the attention span of a gnat. It’s called ADD. I like instant gratification. And yes, THERE IS A WAY to have it in writing.

I schedule two binge writes a month. 5 days of 2,000 words per day, one week off, then another 5 days of 2,000 words a day.

Why 2,000 words a day?

This will vary from person to person, but I’ve found that 2,000 words is my sweet spot. I know without a doubt that I can write that much and not be stressed.

Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true. I can write that much with minimal stress. :)

That number is flexible, however. Some weeks, if I have a lot of schoolwork to do or I’m working more hours, I might lower it to 1,500. Or 1,000. Or 500. The point is to write some amount of words, consistently, for 5 days.

It adds up overtime, kinda like change in a jar. When the jar is full, you can be surprised at how much money is in there. When the week is over, you can be surprised at how much that word count has come up.

Give it a try. And tell me how it went! :)

~~~~~~~~~

What are your writing habits?

 

Writing Romance: Where to Draw the Line?

(UPDATED 4/15/17)

 

Letter to My Book(1)

For some people, merely hearing the word “romance” has eyes rolling. For others, it sets hearts pounding. For others—namely the writers—it brings memories of much face-palming and head-desking.

Let’s face it: plenty of things go on between couples that other people shouldn’t see, whether it be a private conversation, a passionate kiss, etc. Therefore, they shouldn’t go in books. Readers are smart, and a little imagination can go a long way. There is no need to be explicit about subjects that should be reserved for husbands and wives.

For years, writing romance has caused me countless headaches and ruined stories. The very idea of writing a book with romance had me gagging. Hence, I decided that the best route to take was to write romance-free books.

* cue sarcastic laughter *

Yes, well, to my thirteen-year-old brain, that sounded like the ideal solution. It was a great idea in theory, but my characters revolted. I found myself needing a way to handle their romance rather than ignore it.

But that led me back to my biggest fear—gag-worthy romances. I never read many of those in the first place, but just about everyone in this world, including myself, will admit that they have read an encounter between a couple that made them uncomfortable. Even if the couple is married, the way they show affection to one another—affection that is not “wrong”—can feel very wrong to be reading it.

On the flip side, there are those books where the couples rarely show affection to one another to the point where their lack of affection pulls you out of the story because you are too busy trying to figure out if they “go together” or not.

 

 

As a reader, either one of these scenarios can be maddening. As a writer, it can be hard (or IMPOSSIBLE!!!) to know how much romance is appropriate to show.

So how can you know?

Each writer must examine himself or herself individually to find their ideal balance. For me personally, it has taken years of careful thought, prayerful decisions, and a lot of self-examination. Whether I be writing a romantic scene or reading a romantic scene, I ask myself this question:

Would that couple be doing/saying/behaving that way if someone was standing in the room watching them?

 

Think about it: do you feel uncomfortable when a couple in a book hugs? Or when a husband and wife kiss each other in greeting? Neither of those things bother me in books. Neither of them bother me in the real world.

 

 

Let’s look at some examples of well-done romance in books. This first one comes from A Penny Parcel by Avery E. Hitch. The main characters, Luke and his wife, Grace, are lying in bed. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Wrong. Look how Avery Hitch handles this bedroom conversation:

 

“Luke rolled over….

Grace slid her hand across the sheets and reached for his. “I still love you,” she said in a painful whisper.

He gripped her hand, but said nothing. Even with her hand held tightly in his, Luke felt like everything was slipping through his fingers.”

 

Did that make you nervous? Uncomfortable? It didn’t bother me. Yet look at what we have—an intimate conversation in an off-limits location (for bystanders), yet nothing about that scene was uncomfortable. Would Luke and Grace have behaved differently had someone been in the room with them?

Now let’s look at a different kind of scene—one that involves kissing. (Stop rolling your eyes it does have to happen sometimes.). This is taken from a story of mine.

“She turned her head slightly to press her lips against his. Eight years of marriage still hadn’t taken away the flutter in her heart.”

Could I have described the kiss in more detail? Sure. Do I want to? Not really. Could I have described it in more detail while still keeping it appropriate (according to my personal guideline)? Probably.

What about integrating physical contact? Same rules apply. This example is taken from my first novel, The Old River Road.

“ “ Don’t worry about that,” he chided, grasping her about the waist and pulling her toward him….

Clara felt soft kisses placed on her head….

William ran his finger down her nose with a tender smile.”

 

How about that? I cut most of the dialogue to save time, but there you have an example of some playful banter and physical touch without making the reader feel awkward.

 

 

Here’s one massive pointer I would give anyone who wants to write romance:

Focus on the relationship, not the passion.

What does that mean? To me, it means that I strive for ways to show my readers how much my characters love each other. That can be done in so many different ways…acts of service, kind words (not necessarily flirtatious, but if you like that kind of thing, it can work), and internal thoughts admiring character qualities. And those are just a few examples. Love can be shown in so many ways. You are a writer—utilize the more subtle ways of showing love between couples, and leave what happens behind closed doors where it belongs. It is entirely possible to write a sweet romance without giving too much information.

In my own writing, I have made the decision to not write any romantic relationship that goes beyond what I would be comfortable seeing/hearing were I in the room with my characters. I have been told that the romance I write is “immature” and should be “more graphic.”

I must admit that I actually laughed when I heard that.

But you know what? I’d rather write “immature” and “un-graphic” romance that I believe is appropriate than worry about overstepping my bounds and making some readers, not to mention myself, uncomfortable.

 

DISCLAIMER: I do not claim to be right, nor do I claim to be an expert on the subject. I know that not everyone is going to agree with me–and that’s OKAY! These are merely some of my personal convictions when it comes to writing romance. No offense intended whatsoever.

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How do you feel about writing romance? Are there any specific guidelines you’ve set up for yourself? I’d love to hear–new ideas are always welcome! :)