Friday, August 31, 2012

Traveling the Road Together

Welcome to Fortifying Friday, a day we usually feature guest authors. We invite them to share their personal journeys to publication or words of encouragement to take with us through the weekend. But we’re going to do something different today.

None of us takes this writing journey alone. Do you believe that? We're traveling the road together. So this Fortifying Friday, we’re focusing on encouraging and praying for each other.

Next month, you may be attending the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference in Dallas, Texas. If not that conference, maybe you—or someone you know—plans to attend another in the coming months. It’s exciting to attend workshops, meet other writers, and even pitch your novel to an editor or agent. But it can also be an intimating, stressful, and overwhelming experience.

Some of you may not have the funds to attend a conference. You may find it difficult to find the time or motivation to write. Things going on in your personal life may hinder your creativity. 

Maybe things are falling into place for you personally, but you know someone else who is struggling.

Would you do one or more of the following things over the coming week to encourage your fellow writers? A few minutes of your time could provide amazing blessings!

Encourage or pray for those who are:

1)      Attending conferences in the near future
2)      Stressed about deadlines
3)      Struggling through a personal or family crisis
4)      Finding it difficult to financially make ends meet
5)      Trying to meet their family’s needs
6)      Feeling defeated and discouraged
7)      Suffering through any illness, whether slight or serious
8)      Searching for ideas as they sit in front of a blank computer screen
9)      Desiring a spouse’s and/or family’s support
10)  Feeling spiritually dry
11)  Seeking community with other writers
12)  Needing to feel energized and inspired to write

If you need encouragement, or would like prayer for yourself or someone else, please leave a comment. You don’t have to be specific. God knows your heart.

Blessings to you, dear writing friends!
~ Dawn

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Rewards of Rewriting by Keli Gwyn

Rewrite. The word can put fear into a writer, evoking images of taking an axe to one’s story—or maybe even a chainsaw.

In December 2009, I got an amazing Christmas present: an offer of representation from Rachelle Gardner. She’d seen my story when serving as a final-round contest judge and requested the full. I was soaring in the ionosphere, which my science teacher hubby tells me is even higher than the stratosphere.

When Rachelle called to make her offer, she mentioned that the story needed work but didn’t tell me what I would have to fix. At my critique partner’s suggestion, I made a worst-case scenario list, noting everything I thought she might say.

I didn’t think big enough. When I got the feedback six weeks later, I learned that I’d released the tension one-quarter of the way into the story and needed to rewrite the final three-quarters. Yup. I had to delete 75,000 words and start over.

Two weeks later, after I’d come to grips with the news—and shed a few tears—I tore into my story chainsaw-style. I literally cut the hard copy to pieces, saving any scenes or snippets I thought I might be able to use in the new version. Then I set to work writing an ending to match the beginning, one that had earned me a number of contest wins.

I was no stranger to rewriting. I’d already rewritten this story two times. I could do this. I would do this.

I did, completing the revised version of the story six months later. I sent it to my critique partners, who told me it had a sagging middle. Oops!

Two months later I sent the finished product to Rachelle, who said it was ready to submit. She did, and six weeks later we had two offers. I got a contract for Christmas that year.

These days I don’t call myself a writer. I prefer to say I’m a re-writer. It’s not easy to rip a story to shreds and rewrite it, but the rewards can be great.

What would you think if you were told you had to rewrite a major portion of your story?

If you have performed a rewrite, what did you learn from going through the process?

Award-winning novelist Keli Gwyn writes inspirational historical romance. She’s a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America® and is represented by Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary. Keli earned her bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication/Print Journalism from California State University East Bay and worked as a copyeditor for a small textbook publisher. Her debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released by Barbour Publishing in July 2012.

An ever-resourceful widow, Elenora Watkins arrives in El Dorado ready to go into partnership with Miles Rutledge. When he refuses, Elenora becomes the competition across the street. Is this town big enough for the two of them?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How Do I Find My Theme? Part Two

Happy Wednesday, my writing friends, 

Now that we know what a theme is—the overarching essence of a story that explores truth without preaching—how do we find a theme that fits?

Multitude of Choices
Just about any theme imagineable has been put into books: the beauty of simplicity, betrayal, forgiveness, fear of failure, coming of age, loneliness, honor, sacrifice, reunion, freedom, temptation… Here’s a website with a huge list of themes. It’s fun to sample a few, see if any feel like a fit. Which ones create a spark that could work for my story?

What’s Your Theme?
Then it’s time to go deep. For a theme to resonate in my stories, I need to know what I’m passionate about. So far my books’ themes have been, finding our true home, overcoming guilt, and trusting Jesus above all else. Yep, each of these stirs me. Each theme represents a truth I care about.

This is when themes start to congeal into real possibilities. I ask myself what one message do I long to share to a hurting world? Or what issue captures my imagination, enticing me to dive in? What makes me cry or stand on a soapbox or rejoice? 

Now, I’ve got something to work with. But I keep these passions in the background, not settling on one just yet. First, the most important point.

Ask Your Character
Picture me, sitting at my computer but not typing. I’m staring off into space imagining Ellie (from LFY in Glacier Bay). Ellie’s details take shape—hair, eyes, strengths, skills. Finally I come to her flaws. “Ellie, why do you care what those people think of you? You’re trying to mold yourself into what they want, not what Christ wants. Oh, Ellie, what am I going to do with you?”

Hidden in that little heart to heart lies the theme. Do you see it? Just switch up fatal flaw. Ellie’s fatal flaw is caring too much about what others think. The theme is trusting in Jesus above all else. Isn’t that fun?

And even more exciting, this theme came out because it’s a part of who I am. It flowed from my own inner struggles smack dab into poor Ellie's life. 

These steps have helped me, how do you find your theme? And I loved hearing about your favorite themes in books and movies last week, feel free to keep that going. I'd love to hear! 

Tune in next week for part three about how to integrate theme into our stories. It'll be fun!

God bless and happy writing, 


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Where Do You Get Your Ideas? by Lorena McCourtney

Lorena McCourtney is one of my favorite mystery writers because her characters are so real. She doesn't use superheroes. No, they are ordinary people who use their faults, weaknesses, and faith to get extraordinary results. Her uplifting stories always offer a bit of hope to flawed readers, like me. Today, I'm thrilled to share with you how Lorena gets the ideas for her uplifting books. ~ Angie

It's probably the question a writer is most frequently asked. Where do you get your ideas?

The basic answer, of course, is that ideas are everywhere. Just reach out and grab one. But it's easy to pass over a good idea unless you have an idea of how it may fit into a possible story. For this, I use what might be called a Circle Concept. It's simply a circle, with five essentials lined up around the edge. Plot. Characters. Setting. Theme. Title. An idea may enter at any point in this circle.

SETTING: We live in southern Oregon, and I love beachwalking on the coast. That's where the idea entered my Circle Concept. Write a book or series with a coast setting. Several times I've seen signs on the beach warning of dangerous "sneaker waves" that seem to come out of nowhere and just rise higher and higher on the beach. But greater than an actual ocean wave sweeping in seemed to me to be a life event that struck like a sneaker wave. This led into the plot. What kind of event could really devastate someone's life. Death? Infidelity? Divorce? Illness? I picked infidelity and divorce. So then my main character became a woman confronted with those problems – and, because I write mysteries, a murder. But note here that the original idea that became the series, The Julesburg Mysteries, wasn't a murder but simply a setting.

CHARACTERS: As a woman growing older, I've sometimes had the feeling of becoming more and more invisible. So, this idea entered at the "character" point on my Circle. Ivy Malone is an older woman, feeling invisible. She's become quite popular, using her "invisibility" as a sleuth in The Ivy Malone Mysteries.

PLOT: This is probably the most common entry point in my Circle, often coming from the news. For my most recent book, "Dying to Read," this came from hearing about all the well-educated, experienced people who've lost a job because of the economy, and then simply can't find another one. A plot then arises out of wondering what does this person do then?

TITLE: Yes, I've done books that started with a title simply popping into my head. I find this useful because it seems to give focus to a story. "Sometimes a Lady" was one, and it was easy to build a story around a woman who was sometimes a lady – and sometimes wasn't. But I've also become resigned to the fact that what strikes me as the perfect title may not hit an editor the same way,. But even if a title gets changed, it has served its purpose in sparking a story to go with it.

THEME: Many writers says they don't really see the theme until they're well into a story, maybe even at the end. I've usually had a theme in mind earlier on. Themes for me often come from some Biblical verse that, even though I may not have particularly noticed it before, suddenly reaches out and grabs me.

About Lorena (in her own words)
I grew up in various small towns in eastern Washington, and I started trying to write when I was in the fifth grade, usually horse stories. I sent them to magazines, but they were not impressed with my "talent," and sent them right back. My interest in horses continued on through a university degree in agriculture. (Which I can assure you is not a particularly useful education for a fiction writer – but, of course, I didn't know I wanted to be a writer then.)

Some of my most popular books have been the lighthearted Ivy Malone Mysteries, about an older woman who finds she seems to have aged into invisibility. And invisibility can be a rather handy asset for a sleuth. The first book "Invisible" is currently a free download on Kindle, Nook, etc.

"Dying to Read," my current release (and 42nd book altogether), is Book #1 in my new Cate Kinkaid Files series.

Connect with Lorena on her website:

Cate Kinkaid, desperate for a job, goes to work as an assistant private investigator. Her first assignment is supposed to be easy and uncomplicated, no danger or mayhem, definitely no murder. Instead she finds herself up to her elbows in Whodunit ladies, a paint-blobbed hunk, a deaf white cat – and killers.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Do Violence to Your Reader, Part IV: Stretch Your Characters on the Rack by Jill Elizabeth Nelson

Hey writerly friends, have you noticed the longer you work on a story, the better you get to know your characters? Me too! Annette here. This week, Jill Elizabeth Nelson finishes her great series by sharing how making things tough on our characters will keep readers hooked. Enjoy!

Do Violence to Your Reader, Part IV: 
Stretch Your Characters on the Rack
by Jill Elizabeth Nelson

A first draft will not explore and stretch characters to anywhere near their potential. So it is vital to go back in and poke and prod and stretch them until they reveal fresh layers of their lives, including personality, character, and backstory.

One caveat—writers will not necessarily use everything they know about their characters within the confines of the story at hand. An author should know more about their characters than they could ever use in a single manuscript. In other words, your character's dimensions should be broader and taller than the scope of your novel. This way they will utterly fill the canvas of your story-world.

One way that a writer can stretch their character on a virtual story-rack is to bring them to a place where they must do something they would never do and/or say something they would never say. If that moment is natural to the story and pivotal to its resolution, the reader will suffer agonies along with the character and love every moment of the delicious torture!

For example, Desiree Jacobs, the heroine of my To Catch a Thief series, is the CEO of her own international museum security company. She's a never-say-die-person. Give up is not in her vocabulary. When she sets her mind to do a thing, it gets done.

Toward the end of Reluctant Runaway, the second book in the series, I place her in a situation where she finally hangs her head and says, "I give up." The unthinkable admission takes an emotion-laden scene and supercharges it to gut-wrenching. In the next instant, an unexpected twist occurs, hope is resurrected, and we race on toward the conclusion of the story.

A common short-coming, particularly for newer writers, is to go too easy on our beloved characters. The opposite produces a story worth telling . . . and worth reading. Be vile and cruel to your characters. Take a bad situation and make it worse. Confront them with impossibilities. Drag them through their worst nightmare. Force them to face their greatest fear. Ultimately, shove them in a corner and make them do what they would never do. The result will amaze and enthrall readers.

Here’s your assignment:

Evaluate one of the characters in your current WIP (work in progress) and drill into them until you can “see” their personal line in the sand—the place which serves as their personal boundary of thought or behavior. Now, devise a situation in which they will be confronted with the necessity of doing or saying the unthinkable. Can you incorporate this moment into your story in a way that will deliver that all-important Emotionally Resonant Reading Experience?


Award-winning author and writing teacher, Jill Elizabeth Nelson, writes what she likes to read—tales of adventure seasoned with romance, humor, and faith. Jill is a popular speaker for conferences, writers groups, library associations, and civic and church groups. She delights to bring the “Ah-ah! Moment” to her students as they make new skills their own. Her handbook for writers, Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View, is now available at Amazon (see links below).

Connect with Jill:

(print version)      (e-book version)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Stoke the Fire and Refuse to Compare by Heather Burch

We’re human, aren’t we? So even though we want to be supportive of our fellow writers, it can be difficult when we see others leap ahead of us in our writing careers. It can be especially discouraging if we believe that we’ve worked harder and longer than the person who just landed a nice contract. Today, author Heather Burch talks about the temptation to compare ourselves to others. Enjoy her inspiring words. ~ Dawn

Stoke the Fire and Refuse to Compare
by Heather Burch

Two things have gone over and over in my head since I was asked to do this post. Stoking the fire God has placed in you and refusing to compare yourself to others. It was only when I sat down and began to write that I realized the two are infinitely woven.

Let’s tackle the second. If you begin to compare your writing journey to others, you are headed for shipwreck—and that’s exactly what the enemy wants for you. Writing is a task laden with rejection. I don’t have to tell you that. You’re a writer. An author. You already know. No matter what level of success you reach, there will still be layers of rejection. I’m not saying this to discourage, but rather encourage you. Deal with the root of rejection right now. Learn its strategies and schemes and separate yourself from it. You see, we have chosen to pen words—or you could say to lay our souls bare before the world. I used to joke about being a pastor. I’d say, “It’s equivalent to pulling your heart from your chest and handing it to people knowing they may try to crush it.” Writing is a bit like that. But we still do it. Just as a pastor continues to hand his heart to each new person who attends his church.

When my series sold, I learned several hard lessons. Some of my close writer friends actually became snarky and hateful to me. Not blatantly, but in a very passive aggressive manor. I was stunned. I was beyond hurt. But God showed me they were comparing their writing journeys to mine. Shipwreck Island. Here are a few reasons that’s so destructive.

1.       God created you to write something different and specific. When you begin to compare, you run the danger of beginning to mimic.

2.      Comparison is the enemy’s playground. Have you ever heard, “Why did she get such a big book deal? You’ve worked so hard. You should have that deal.” He uses the same tactics in our Christian walk. Have you ever heard, “They’re not such a perfect family. I heard … (insert gossip here.)”  

3.      When you enter the arena of comparison, you are working with limited knowledge. I can’t tell you how many writers said to me, “Wow. You really sold quickly. I’ve been writing for fifteen years.” It may seem like my journey was a quick skyrocket, but they don’t have facts. I’d written five complete novels before selling Halflings. I’ve been writing for 20 years and have a rejection letter on my first manuscript from 1992. (And yes, Richard Curtis, you were right.)

Why am I saying all this? I believe there are amazing writers out there who haven’t sold and are beginning to question themselves. Listen, stop looking outside for that confirmation only God can bring. He loves us beyond love and He wouldn’t have called you to this if He wasn’t going to equip you. Write. Write your heart. Know that some may try to crush the words you agonized to pen. Know that even if they do, God has hedged you with his love. Write. Write because there are words only you can give and God has placed it on your heart to do so. Write. Don’t give up and don’t look back. And don’t look around. Focus on the prize. Keep your eyes trained on the horizon. And God will meet you there.

Now, stoke the fire. Write from the deepest part of your heart. Write from that place inside you that can only be reached by digging deep. Honor your readers. They’ve invested their time—which means they’ve invested their lives—into the words you’re writing. Be honorable. Writing is a partnership and a contract between the author and the reader. Don’t break their trust. If you are committed to that, God will flow through you. 

Click to reach Amazon.
Heather Burch is the author of the Halflings Series which launched in February and received rave reviews from USA Today, Publishers Weekly, Romantic Times and Booklist magazine. Book two, GUARDIAN has an October 8, 2012 release date. Book three will release in April of 2013. Heather lives in Southern Florida with her husband and two sons.

You can find Heather at:
twitter @heatherburch
facebook Heather Burch Books