Monday, February 28, 2011

Mastering Your Craft

by Edie Melson

When someone asks me what I do or where I work, I always hesitate to mention that I’m a writer. Not because I’m ashamed of it or think I’m not worthy to be called a writer, but because it often leads to some frustrating conversations. Let me see if any of you can relate to some of my experiences. 
  • “I've always wanted to be a writer. Can you help me?”
  • “I have a book I've written. Can you send it to a publisher for me?”
  • “I used to write in high school—maybe you could look at a few things and tell me what you think.”
  • “I've been through (fill in the blank) and want to write a book about it. Can you tell me how to get it published?” 
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently wrong with these questions, the problem comes when I answer them. I’ve found that most people don’t really want to hear the truth – they want a shortcut to fame and fortune, not the truth. 
  • There’s no shortcut to becoming a professional writer. It takes time and commitment.
  • I don’t have an inside track into getting your book published.
  • If I take the time to look at your samples, I’ll tell you the truth and that may not be what you really want.
There are no shortcuts to becoming a master at your craft and writing is no different. Even exceptional talent needs time and experience to hone it into brilliance. I rejoice when I find those who are willing to put in the time and really learn about the craft of writing. Those individuals are a pleasure and I love taking time to help them. 

Now it's your turn to share. What funny situations have you encountered when you confessed you were a writer?

Don't forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,
Edie

Saturday, February 26, 2011

God's Path

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross and follow me. If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find it. Matthew 16:24-25

“Take my life and let it be, consecrated all to Thee.” 

I heard the words to that old hymn today and found myself transported back in time. Twelve years ago I hit a crossroads with God. Even back then I knew He’d called me to writing—in my heart I knew—but all around me everything was rejection and heartache. I’d been so thrilled when God called me to write. It just felt . . . right. I already had my future mapped out. I’d write Bible studies and teach and speak—bringing His Word to His people. I didn’t see anything except the glory.

I railed at God that night, shaking a metaphorical fist toward Heaven. “I didn’t ask for this gift of writing—this insane compulsion. Why make me suffer for it.” Even before the echo of my cry died away I knew it for the lie it was. I remembered an earlier time, when I’d committed myself to God, asking Him to do what He willed with my life. And now I complained because He had? I’d known what that commitment meant and the suffering that would come. How could I have ever thought suffering would be easy or martyrdom pleasant.

But that night at the crossroad I saw a different future. I saw a future where I didn’t second guess God’s plan, but kept my gaze locked tightly on Him. I chose to trust Him and believe that He knew what was best for me, no matter what.

That was the night I died—died to myself and my dream—and began to learn how to live for Him. It was when I learned that to be truly His in every way means giving up my every way.

I didn’t know if God would resurrect me as a writer. Only time held that answer and I had to come to a point where I refused to care. Did I care? Oh I cared, I desperately cared. My dreams, my hopes, my ambitions had been tied to my writing. Now my ambition became the emptying of myself so that I could be filled with God. I learned that didn’t mean “make me look good because I work for You.” Instead it meant, “Make me look any way You choose because I’m totally Yours.”

The Rest of the Story
Why am I sharing this now? Because with the passing of years has come perspective . . . and peace. So many of you are where I was—second guessing your calling because it doesn’t look like what you thought it would. I urge you to stay the course. Place your confidence in a Worthy God. My life hasn’t taken the path I thought—it’s taken a much better one. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thursday Review—Polishing the Pugs

Polishing the Pugs, by Kathy Ide
a book review by Renee Cassidy

Upon first glance at this month’s book, I had to smile at the title. What are Pugs and why should they be polished?

Further examination revealed the subtitle, PUGS stands for Punctuation, Usage, Grammar and SpellingDeborah Raney, one of my favorite fiction authors had recommended this book, “a fantastic resource, concise, well researched and conveniently organized. I refer to it often.”

Kathy Ide’s masterpiece of a reference book takes a complex subject and breaks it down into useable bites of information.  For those of us who are editorially challenged, this book provides simple steps with common mistakes to review. She jokes that her colleagues called her the PUGS lady and rethink simple emails to her.  So would I after reading this book! The book is divided into four sections to address the acronym and include punctuation, usage, grammar and style.

The introduction starts with the statement, “A book with problems is a book rejected.” How true when acquisitions editors are presented with sloppy manuscripts. Many are already looking for small reasons to reject the submitted work.

The 10 reasons to polish the PUGS include the following:

  • PUGS errors decrease your acceptance chance.
  • PUGS cause miscommunication.
  • PUGS errors cause confusion.
  • PUGS errors give an unprofessional appearance.
  • PUGS errors can be embarrassing.
  • PUGS errors cause readers to take you and your message less seriously.
  • PUGS errors could cost you money.
  • PUGS errors can be distracting.
  • PUGS errors can give Christians and Christianity a poor reputation.


Details are important in a writer’s bag of tools and display professionalism. The four sectioned book breaks down the detail elements by category.

Punctuation

The most commonly misused mistakes are displayed in this section from periods and quotation marks to commas and italics. At the end of this section, punctuation tips are added in three.
  • Use punctuation sparingly.
  • Be consistent.
  • When in doubt look it up.


Usage

Commonly misused words are displayed in this section. There are also helpful article tips on multiple pages. At the end of this section is filling in the blanks so that you can add your own most confusing words for future reference.

Grammar

There are huge reference books to address this subject, but Kathy Ide breaks down the huge books to the most common grammatical mistakes. The additional sections to address pronouns and modifiers are separated in this section. To round out this section, there are 4 grammar myths to learn and unlearn from your English classes. 
  • Never split an infinitive.
  • Never start a sentence with a conjunction.
  • Never end a sentence with a proposition.
  • Never use the word hopefully in place of “It is hoped.”
Spelling

Interestingly enough, it is recommended that a writer never rely on spell check.  This section highlights the commonly misspelled words.  It addresses publisher’s preferences, words for modern technology, hyphens and numbers.  This section is invaluable.

The conclusion of this book adds Kathy Ide’s personal information as well as how to obtain copies of this book.  Her website is www.kathyide.com. She's both a writer and a frequent speaker at writer’s conferences.  She also provides other services such as ghost writing and editorial services and has a great website for editors, The Christian Pen.

Renee Cassidy is an experienced freelance writer and photographer. In 2006 she won the Writer's Digest Short Story Contest and has gone on to write for multiple publications. With a degree in marketing she brings her varied experience to the benefit of her clients.
She has two grown children and currently lives with the two men in her life - Fritz, her German Shephered and Australian Cash, her quarter horse.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Clash of the Titles Conquerors!

Karen Witemeyer 
Clash of the Titles Conqueror
by Jennifer Slattery



Creating authentic, dynamic, yet admirable characters is perhaps the hardest part of writing. This is especially true of Christian fiction. Let’s be honest, how many novels about Pollyanna have you read in the past year? And how realistic were they? Perhaps they inspired you to act better, but did they reach to your gut? Did they tap into the deep recesses of your heart or did they skim the surface 
labeled as “clean entertainment” but not life-changing?

So how does Clash of the Titles Conqueror, Karen Witemeyer solve this problem? She falls in love with her heroes.

“I’m afraid I’ve had a crush on all my heroes,” Karen says. “After all, what would be the fun in creating a romantic male lead if I didn’t find him attractive myself?”  But that doesn’t mean she pastes Mr. GQ on her page. “I’m not just referring to his broad shoulders and dark hair. No, it’s the man behind the rugged exterior that makes me sigh.”

So what are some heart-pounding, yet non-gagging characteristics heroes should have?

Tenderness without sappiness. Strength without dominance. Christ-likeness without perfection. It’s a fine balance that makes the difference between a page-turner and campfire kindling. Characterization is deepened when it stems from personal experience. (Yes, I am giving you permission to become your neighbor’s/co-worker’s/grocery store clerk’s stalker—but if you get caught, I will deny it implicitly!)
As Karen crafts her story, she relives moments from her past. “There’s something so refreshing and fun about remembering what it was like to fall in love. The butterflies cavorting your stomach, the spark of attraction, the vulnerability of trusting another with your heart.”

These emotional memories add vitality to the text. They take characters from dull, one-dimensional puppets to authentic humans learning to depend on grace. Many authors are afraid this will turn their reader away from their characters, but in reality, it does just the opposite. It draws them to them on a deeper level by showing their humanity, their vulnerabilities, and their need for Christ.

Think about it for a moment. Pause to remember a time when you’ve felt closest to your spouse or a dear friend. With my husband, although I am attracted to his strength and steadfast character, it is often his moments of weakness that touch me most.

By incorporating your hero and heroine’s weaknesses into your story, you enable the two to complete each other, as demonstrated in Karen’s novel, A Tailor Made Bride.

“Hanna stirs Jericho’s heart like no other woman. Being with her softens him in a way that makes him feel stronger instead of weaker.”

She softens him, and in so doing, makes him stronger.

Or as Genesis puts it, the two shall become one. If we were complete, we wouldn’t need each other.

Visit Karen’s website to find out more about her debut novel, A Tailor Made Bride, then hop on over to Clash of the Titles to get to know our next two competitors.

Jennifer Slattery is the marketing representative for Clash of the Titles, writes for Christ to the World and Reflections in Hindsight. Find out more about her and her writing at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com. And stop by Clash of the Titles to join the fun! 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What Knot To Do

For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

I met several friends for coffee one day and of course took my knitting with me. For some reason it is impossible for me to just sit still—I have to be doing something. And when I’m visiting with friends that something is usually knitting.

As we went back and forth, discussing our days Karen mentioned how neatly my ball of yarn was behaving. She went on to share how she’d been in a hurry to start a recent project and hadn’t bothered to wind her yarn into a ball, instead leaving it in a loose skein. Anyone who’s ever tried to save time this way knows what happened next—a knot of hopelessly tangled yarn.

We all shared a sympathetic laugh as she explained the lengths she’d had to go to unsnarl the mess. But as she talked Mary was the first to draw the comparison. “Isn’t that just like life? When we get in a hurry and rush ahead of God, life ends up in a tangled knot.”

Oh the wisdom in that insight. It certainly made me pause. So I ask you, where are you rushing ahead of God?  Join me in slowing down and letting God order our days as we learn what KNOT to do!

Don’t forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,
Edie

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thursday Review—Writers Advance Boot Camp

“Why are you here?”

That’s one question I didn’t expect. We were in the middle of a break during the recent Christian Devotions’ Writers Advance Boot Camp and several of us were standing around talking.

“Excuse me?” I’m sure my deer-in-the-headlights look caught the speaker off guard. She went on to say she’d assumed I was teaching, but then noticed I wasn’t on the schedule. When I explained that I was at the conference as an attendee she got really quiet and someone else ventured another question.

“But don’t you already have all the information you need?”

Don’t I wish. . .

I went on to explain that a successful writer NEVER stops learning. Thinking back to when I was just beginning my career, there was a time when I thought I wouldn’t have so much to learn.

Boy was I ever young and naïve!

One thing I will say. I am more selective about my conferences and education opportunities. I try to pick options that force me to stretch and grow as a writer as well as provide places to network with other professionals.

Writers Advance Boot Camp turned out to be just such a place. Even though some of the workshops seemed to cover basics, I learned something new in each and every one. Most of the time I learned a LOT that was new. It doesn’t matter where you are in your career—if you have the opportunity to attend this conference do it. 

Don't forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,
Edie

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Clash of the Titles Conquerors

Clash of the Titles conqueror, Tina Pinson , shares her long journey to publication and how to stay true to the Writer Within—the one God made you to be.


I started writing in elementary school. I felt like God gave me a love for words and a grand imagination so I should put them to use.

I would write my stories and people would see the unique writer God made me. Editors would read my stories and be astounded (more true than not when they saw how horrible my editing was).

I won awards for poetry and songs. Published short stories, took writer's courses, finalled in the Noble Theme Contest (Genesis), and had an agent ask to manage me.

Years passed… no contract. Was I a horrible writer? No. It just wasn’t my time. Still, it stung. God never said it would be easy. He said to persevere.

People told me that Christian Fiction was a waste. They said if I really wanted to use my writing for the Lord, I'd write devotionals, or do a biography about someone who had done great things for the Lord.
I wondered if they were right. I wasn't getting published, maybe writing novels was stupid. So I tried to write like everyone else thought I should. It turned out bea u ti full y. NOT.

God gave me my words and my imagination. When I didn't use it in the way he ordained, I felt listless. Why? Because I needed to write God's will. There are people I was created to touch. If I'm not true to the writer God made me, I may not reach them.

I settled on the fact that I should write Christian Fiction. Now that I had that settled before myself and God, the editors would come calling. I would have a contract soon.

More time passed.

It hit me, while God had promised to meet my needs and give me a most awesome future, he never promised I'd be published (never said I wouldn't, either).

That was tough to wrap my head around, I couldn't believe God would give me these stories and not let me publish them.

So, I took matters into my own hands and self-published my own books, and God saw that they were good and blessed me immensely.

Yeah… and I never color my hair either.

I learned volumes, spent volumes and shed a few tears. Does self-pubbing work for some people? Yes, but not for me.

I ended up in a funk. My brain was all over the place. Words failed me. I thought God was so upset with me he took my gift of writing away.

Shallow thoughts, but they plagued me. I had to go right back and lay my writing, my pride, at God's feet. He filled my imagination and life with promise again. A promise that I'd never lost, I just didn't see it because my own desires made the truth so murky. God promised to use my words—me –even if I never became published. I also learned I could use some preparation. I had some work to do, some things to learn.

I worked on my quality of writing. Rewrites. Editing. But I had to work on more than the written word. I needed to tend to the quality of the writer within.

Toward the end of 2009, God answered, and Desert Breeze Publishing contracted two stories.

I just needed to be the writer God wanted me to be and stop bouncing from one plan to the next—to continue forward, and keep my focus on God's plan. I had to stop pushing, stop trying to be like other writers and remember to be myself. To not do so was to lose sight of the unique qualities God formed in me.

Now, before I let my emotions and thoughts get the best of me, I remind myself to go to God and rejuvenate my mind and spirit.

To reach that place… I rely on one of a writer's greatest assets…
Prayer. That's where every story begins.

EDITING EXERCISES

Here are the Editing Exercises Andrea wrote to test how well we paid attention—good luck!
Don't forget to join the conversation - 
Blessings,
Edie


Editing Exercises
by Andrea Merrell


1. Insert quotation marks where they are needed:

I can’t believe my eyes, Dad shouted over the roar of the crowd. What were you thinking?

2. Underline the phrases that should be italicized:
Gerald wrote an article for the local paper entitled, City in Crisis.
Spirit & HEART: A Devotional Journey was the first book published by Christian Devotions.

3. Which sentence is correct?
Maggie rolled out of bed, slipped into her pink robe, and slowly made her way to the kitchen.
Maggie rolled out of bed, slipped into her pink robe, slowly made her way to the kitchen.

4. Is the comma necessary in this sentence?
The whole youth group was taking a trip to the mall and Sally wanted to go, too.

5. Tighten this sentence:
Here is the check that I meant to give to you on Sunday before service that was for the mission project that was planned by the youth group last month.

6. Underline the correct word in each sentence:
Stacy and Rick were going to their/they’re/there cousin’s birthday party.
My Mom/mom gave me tickets to the ballet.
Its/It’s going to be cloudy and rainy all weekend.

7. Underline the correct sentence:
“Stop staring at me.” She shouted.
“Stop staring at me,” she shouted.

“Did you get the package I sent?” Frankie asked.
“Did you get the package I sent, Frankie asked?”

8. What’s wrong with this paragraph?
“So, how ‘bout I take you out for coffee and we discuss it. I’ve been told I’m a very good listener.” “I don’t drink coffee,” she said a little too quickly. “Well, how about dinner? You do eat dinner, don’t you?”

9. Whose POV are we in? (Jeff/Rae)
“Tell you what,” Jeff said, shaking his head up and down as if he loved the idea he had just come up with. “Tomorrow, I pick you both up at nine o’clock, take you to breakfast, then we head off to the pistol range.”

Rae felt like she might throw up.

Now it's your turn - pick out two or three and leave a comment to let us know your answers.

Andrea Merrell is Associate Editor for www.ChristianDevotions.us and Copy Editor for www.DevoKids.com. She is published in Spirit & HEART: A Devotional Journey, Faith & Finances: In God We Trust, and Closer to God: True Stories of Extraordinary Answers to Prayer by Guideposts. For writing or editing services, or for more information, contact her at andreamerrell@yahoo.com or visit her website: www.andreamerrell.com

Monday, February 14, 2011

Finding the Editor in YOU!

Today I'm really excited to introduce you to one of my good friends in the writing industry - Andrea Merrell. Andrea taught a workshop I attended recently at Christian Devotion's Writer's Advance Bootcamp and I invited her to give you the Cliff's Notes version here. Pay close attention, because tomorrow I'll be posting an Editing Exercise she also wrote to test our editing knowledge!
Don't forget to join the conversation -
Blessings,
Edie


Finding the Editor in YOU!
by Andrea Merrell

As a writer, your ability to catch pesky typos, make sure your usage is correct, and have your grammar up to par can make all the difference in a manuscript being accepted or rejected. Even if you plan to hire a professional editor, you’ll save time and money by eliminating common errors.

Both writing and editing should be done with resources at hand such as a good online dictionary, Bible software, and appropriate reference books. A good rule of thumb is: When in doubt…look it up! Hundreds of reliable resources are at your disposal on the Web, and you can Google just about anything.

Writing is the easy part. Writing for publication is the hard part, but it can be done with time, study, and determination. Getting your words on paper is the first step. In the movie Finding Forrester, Sean Connery gives this advice:  “You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is . . . to write, not to think!”  That being said, the second key to writing should be “to think!”

If you’re a natural editor, resist the urge to constantly go back and make corrections. If proofreading and editing don’t come easy for you, go back over your material and read it out loud, or have someone else read it to you. Read it slowly. Chances are, you’ve read it so many times, your eyes will skip over obvious errors. This will also help you get a better feel for syntax and sentence structure.

Even the best editor needs an editor, but we can all learn to catch the “biggies” and make our manuscripts as clean and professional as possible.

Some of the most common errors to look for:


§  Italics
ü  Italicize book titles, inner dialogue, and words you are trying to emphasize, but don’t overuse them.
§  Punctuation
ü  Watch out for comma usage.
ü  Placement of quotation marks.
ü  Don’t overuse exclamation points.
§  Verb tense
ü  Don’t mix present and past tense.
§  Overuse of certain words – He, and, that, just, really, or whatever your pet word might be.
§  POV (point of view)
§  Spelling – DON”T depend on “spell check” and watch out for words like:
ü  its vs. it’s
ü  their vs. there vs. they’re
ü  whose vs. who’s
ü  your vs. you’re
ü  Mom vs. mom
ü  Terms of endearment (honey, sweetheart, etc.) are always lowercased, as well as biblical, scriptural, and heaven.
§  Know how to use:
ü  ellipses ( . . . )
ü  en dash (Show – don’t tell.)
ü  em dash (Show—don’t tell.)

Two space or not two space—that is the question.
In the publishing industry, everything is subject to change. Two spaces are no longer acceptable. You can use “Replace” on your toolbar to correct this problem in your manuscript.

Show—don’t tell
Telling your story is not good enough—you must show it by making it come alive. Allow your readers to experience your story. Use all the senses. Help them see your scene as it plays out in their mind. Are there sounds causing them anxiety or fear? What does it smell like?  Is the meal described in such a way they can almost taste it?  Do objects seem so real they could touch them? Don’t just relate the facts. Help your readers connect with your characters and get lost in your plot. Even if you’re writing a simple devotion or article, pull on your readers’ emotions. They may not remember exactly what they read, but they will remember how you made them feel.

Reference material for editing
Andrea Merrell is Associate Editor for www.ChristianDevotions.us and Copy Editor for www.DevoKids.com. She is published in Spirit & HEART: A Devotional Journey, Faith & Finances: In God We Trust, and Closer to God: True Stories of Extraordinary Answers to Prayer by Guideposts. For writing or editing services, or for more information, contact her at andreamerrell@yahoo.com or visit her website: www.andreamerrell.com


    Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    Clash of the Title Conquerors!

    Making Every Verb Count
    by April Gardner

    Tina Pinson
    Just as every elementary student should know that a complete sentence needs a subject and a verb, every writer should know the importance of stretching that verb to its full potential. A verb at half-power makes for slow, bland writing, but a powerful verb propels a story forward.

    As I write the first draft of a novel, I force myself to ignore strong verbs. The first draft is only a skeleton of what will come, that pathetic, meatless version of the final product. Later, during the “gazillion” edits, I scour my thesaurus for the perfect verb for each sentence. It’s an essential step in the writing process.

    You’ll find a variety of excellent action verbs in author Tina Pinson’s Clash of the Titles excerpt. She applies a good many strong verbs, but I bolded only the meatiest.

                Spurred by inner wells of terror, Kaitlin raced for the doors. She groped for the handle, ignoring the pain. The timbers that secured the awning crashed, splinters of flame flickered like fireflies around her head, and fell to her skirts like droplets of orange rain. She stopped momentarily to brush her skirts and continued past the obstacle. Moving on, ignoring the rush of heat, she screamed for her husband, her child. Her legs ignited with heat, her lungs burned with the smell of seared flesh. She pushed on through the maze of lashing flames, ignoring the screams behind her.

     For full excerpt, click HERE.

    Why use strong verbs? For three main reasons:
    1.  Strong verbs show vs. tell. 
    Weak Verb: Kaitlin felt her legs burning. OR Kaitlin’s legs burned.
    Strong Verb: Her legs ignited with heat.

    Avoid using “sense” words—saw, heard, felt, etc. Instead, use verbs that portray the sense in a specific way, such as “ignite.” Ignite depicts sudden, intense eruption versus the more vague “burn.”

    2.  Strong verbs tighten your writing.
    Weak Verb:  She reached blindly for the handle.
    Strong Verb:  She groped for the handle.

    A strong verb eliminates the need for the verb/adverb combo. As a bonus, it reduces word count, and that’s usually a good thing!

    3.  Strong verbs keep your writing active vs. passive.
    Weak Verb:  Her skirt was covered in droplets of orange rain from the splinters of flame that flickered like fireflies around her head.
    Strong Verb:  Splinters of flame flickered like fireflies around her head, and fell to her skirts like droplets of orange rain.

    Did you notice the absence of “being” verbs (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been) in Tina’s excerpt? In this example, I removed the action from the flame by adding the being verb “was.” Being verbs are rarely useful in fiction.

     Let’s have a little fun. Rewrite the following sentences exchanging the weak verbs for strong.

    Marianne ran swiftly to catch the bus.

    The roller coaster ride was only half-way over when Max felt sick.

    Certain his team could win the tug-of-war, Paul dug in his heels and pulled harder on the rope.


    April is the senior editor at Clash of the Titles and author of Wounded Spirits.

    Sunday, February 6, 2011

    The Value of a Contest

    Lessons Learned From The Frasier
    by Edie Melson


    Today I want to share a post about writing contests—specifically about a new contest—The Frasier. I’ve been in this business for a while and I’ve entered a bunch of contests. I’ve even won a couple. But the value of contests for me hasn’t come with winning. It’s come with learning to put myself out there, dealing with seemingly unfair critiques by judges and by not always finishing first.

    Reasons to Enter
    • It’s good practice. For anyone with a desire to be published it’s necessary to take a risk. Any time we submit something we have the possibility of rejection.
    • It’s the mirror image of the REAL world of publishing. I've heard a lot of comments about various contests and the unfairness of the judges—actually I've made some of those comments. But it’s important to remember the publishing industry is a subjective world. Sometimes we don’t get the job just because they don’t like our writing. We may have followed all the rules and turned in a nearly perfect piece, but it just doesn't resonate with the powers that be. As professionals we have to learn to deal with that and move on.
    • It gives us anonymous feedback. I don’t know many people who are comfortable delivering bad news to someone they know. The same is true of critiques. Sometimes the only way we learn the hard stuff is when the person behind the red ink is covered with anonymity.

    A New Contest to Consider
    There are lots of good contests out there, but today I want to concentrate on a new one you might not have heard of. The Frasier is the brain child of Susan May Warren. I’ve mentioned Susie on this blog many times before—especially in conjunction with her amazing website—My Book Therapy.

    When she announced a brand new fiction contest last year I knew I had to give it a try. I wasn’t disappointed. I received the most valuable feedback I’ve ever gotten through a contest. The judges didn’t just say they didn’t agree with something—they gave me concrete advice on why it didn’t work and how to fix it. They also took time to let me know what I was doing right.

    None of this was by accident—Susie set it up this way. Her judges critique/score sheets ask for specific information and makes certain the judges communicate the helpful, and difficult, critiques we all need to shape us into better writers.

    The Bottom Line
    • Why did I enter last year? Because I trusted Susan May Warren. This year I’m entering for the same reason AND because I received critiques that have made me a better writer.
    • What specifically did I get that affected my writing? I gained insight on how to get beyond just adding the 5 senses to a scene. Instead, to make what the character senses heighten the tension and add to the depth of the scene. I learned how to take a step back and constantly evaluate if my characters were acting in a reasonable manner. Finally I learned how to evaluate when narrative is appropriate to a scene and how to use it without stopping the action cold.
    • Where do you find the contest link? Right here! http://www.mybooktherapy.com/index2.php/the-frasier-contest/

    So I encourage you to take a chance and enter a contest or two this year. Let the victories—and the defeats—strengthen you as a writer.

    What are your thoughts on contests? 

    Don't forget to join the conversation!
    Blessings,
    Edie

    Saturday, February 5, 2011

    Who am I Following?

    Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act, Psalm 37:5

    One summer I followed a friend to the beach in the car. I'd never been to this particular beach and didn’t have the written directions with me and didn't own a GPS at the time. I had to rely completely on her knowledge to get me safely to our destination. We arrived safely, but while I was following I began to see the similarities between my trip and my spiritual life. 

    • I had to stay alert and stay close as I followed her so we wouldn't get separated. I'd be totally lost if we got separated.
    • I had to stay behind her. After all, it wouldn't do me any good to get ahead of her — I didn't know the route to get to the beach.
    • I knew our destination was the beach, and as a believer, I know my ultimate destination is heaven. 
    As a believer I have to follow God closely to stay on the right path. I have to stay alert to keep from getting separated. I've got to learn to stay behind, trusting that God knows the best way to get where I'm going. He's given me a preview of my ultimate destination, but only He knows the path I'm supposed to take along the way.

    Don't forget to join the conversation!
    Blessings,
    Edie

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    Thursday Review—Scrivener for Windows







    by Lynn Huggins Blackburn

    I wrote my first novel in a Word document. It never occurred to me that there might be a better way to do it.

    Editing said novel was, shall we say, challenging.

    Somehow, I had deluded myself into thinking I would never forget exactly which page the tiniest detail lived on.

    Trust me. Write 400 pages and you will forget. You will scroll through chapter after chapter trying to find that detail. You will regret not being more organized.

    You might cry.

    But there is hope!

    I first heard about Scrivener at BRMCWC. I sat enthralled as the instructor — a well-respected, multi-published author — shared with us her approach to novel writing. And then — despair!

    Scrivener was only available for Mac.

    AAAAGGGGHHHH! I’m a PC. No Scrivener for me. I thought I might cry.

    But hope springs eternal! In the fall, I learned that Scrivener for PC was coming to a laptop near me. And, even better, the beta version would be released just in time for intrepid NaNoWriMo participants to test drive it.

    Here are a handful of the things I love.
    • Video tutorials. I’m very visual and the video tutorials were well worth the time. If you download Scrivener, start here.
    • Word count. In Scrivener, the word count is at the bottom of the screen at all times. Trying to meet your goal for the day? A swift glance will tell you how far you have to go. I’m a simple girl and this made me very happy!
    • Scene organization. My entire novel is in one file but broken down into however many sections I want. I can label my scenes in whatever way works for me—Chapter 2, First Kiss, Breakup, Vacation, etc. And I can add to or re-organize scenes with ease—no cutting and pasting.
    • Notes. My favorite feature for the draft phase. Your fingers are flying, smoke rising from your keyboard, when a plot twist appears on your screen. Your characters decide to vacation in Toronto. You've never been to Toronto. What do you do? Do you stop everything? No! You type on. And in the convenient "Document Notes” section, you leave yourself questions—How long does it take to fly to Toronto? What’s the average temperature in July? The Notes feature is far more user friendly than adding comments in a Word document.

    There’s much more, but Scrivener tells me I’m over my word count for this post already. Next month, we’ll talk about the beauty of Scrivener during the revision process.

    Side note: This means I’m actually going to have to do some revisions. My internal editor is thrilled!

    Don't forget to join the conversation!
    Blessings,
    Lynn

    Lynn Huggins Blackburn has been telling herself stories since she was five and finally started writing them down. On her blog Out of the Boatshe writes about faith and family while her blog Perpetual Motion documents the joys and challenges of loving and rearing a child with special needs. A graduate of Clemson University, Lynn lives in South Carolina where she writes, reads, knits, takes care of two amazing children, one fabulous man and one spoiled rotten Boston Terrier.






    *Additional Note - Here's the link to Part Two of the Scrivener Review