Thursday, February 28, 2013

Writing from Conception to Completion Using a Desk ~ Really?

My old desk
After using the same desk and office configuration for more than ten years, recently I decided it no longer fit my writing needs. I needed more working table space and less vertical storage for things to get lost in.

But what would I want? I went on a quest to find the perfect desk and matching storage space. Know what? I didn't find anything.

I liked this desk at Pottery Barn, but it didn't come with a matching storage unit. But now, armed with a concept or idea, I had something to work with. A lot like writing, don't you think? Once you have an idea, you can start working on it, right?

Hubby and my dad
I had a particular storage unit in mind, one that would accommodate at least six cubbies to hold files and folders with the potential for a couple smaller shelves. Hubby designed the storage cubby and found plans for a similar desk to the one I liked. The planning or design phase, similar to "plotting." 

The actual creating of the desk took coordination and help from my whole family. Legs and shelves had to be level, measurements precise, and, of course, the appropriate balance between looking nice and being practical. We bought and tested about five different stains until we achieved the right look. 
My new desk

Here it is. My new desk and storage unit. I'm still looking for a couple little baskets and a wall board, so until then, my office is still in the tweaking stage. 

From conception to completion. 
Writing a book requires the same skeletal components:
  • Concept or Idea
  • Plan (plot or premise)
  • Create (write)
  • Tweak (edit)
In my current wip, I just wrapped up the creating phase and cranked up the edit process
Where are you in your writing phase?
Have you made any changes to your work space to accommodate your writing needs?

Journey's Embrace
~ Releases tomorrow, 3/1, with Pelican Book Group

After an injury forces Deputy U.S. Marshal Sage Michaelson off duty, he heads to his hometown with two things on his mind: recuperating and reevaluating, but Sage can’t refuse his best friend’s plea to keep a protective eye on his little sister after someone ransacks her house. But Delaney’s not so little anymore—and definitely not the young “Dane” Sage remembers. 

Flight Medic Delaney Hunt has loved Sage forever. But, he’s all about control and order while she embraces life and takes risks. As much as the idea appeals to her, she doesn’t need Sage looking over her shoulder. But when things go wrong and she finds herself hanging by her fingertips, who does she call to rescue her?

Will Delaney ever be the woman Sage wants by his side? Can Sage learn to live by grace, recognizing that God is in control? Can they overcome their fears to embrace life together?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Writing Through Interruptions

Sometimes you can't find those large chunks of writing time, or maybe your office is in the middle of the your home's flight path with little ones (or maybe an occasional big one) soaring through your space. How do you find those minutes to be creative and accomplish your daily word goal? I asked Darlene Franklin:

"You're in a living situation in which interruptions are constant. What is one way in which you maintain your concentration in order to fulfill contracted deadlines?" - Sandy

Darlene: I work in small increments. That’s the key.

For instance, last week I aimed to write 2,000 words a day. That many words will take me at least two hours—two hours I am unlikely to remain uninterrupted.

So I take those 2,000 words and break them into four 500-word segments. I plan to take a break after each 500 words, to go to my second goal for the day (proofing 32 pages of a final galley proof. I also break that into segments, of course.

I break those 500 words down further. Depending on how distracted I feel, or how many interruptions I expect, I write 500 words in 2-3 increments. I can usually write 200-300 words without interruption; but if times are bad, I’ll go down to 150 words if I have to.

Writing 2,000 can seem overwhelming. Writing 150 words doesn’t threaten me at all.

I keep track of those small achievements on a spreadsheet. 169 words written; 1831 left to go. 374 words written; 1626 left to write. Soon I’ve reached the halfway point, and the numbers left to write go down.

That way, when I’m interrupted for a meeting, or someone needs to speak to me, or I have to respond to an email, I just pick up where I left off. Okay, so I didn’t write 150 words, but only 134. I’ll just make my next two goals (to reach 500 words) a little bigger.

If I could plan on 500 words in half an hour, or a thousand words in an hour, I might do more writing—but breaking it down means I meet my goals and my deadlines.


Award-winning author and speaker Darlene Franklin lives in cowboy country--Oklahoma. Oklahoma has the benefit of being the home to her son, his wife, and their four beautiful children. Darlene loves music, needlework, reading and reality TV. She currently resides in a nursing home, which has become a place of blessing. Connect with her on her blog:

If you're a slow writer like me, it can take all day to make a word count goal. What have you found to be helpful in meeting your goals when chaos reigns around you? Have you tried Darlene's method of using a number of small goals - eating that elephant one chunk at a time?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Is The Drive For Success Stealing Your Joy? by Rita A. Schulte

Rita A. Schulte
It's the end of February. How are those resolutions going? Are you meeting your goals? What drives you?

Rita A. Schulte will be sharing with us for the next three Tuesdays to help us determine if our goals are what we really need. ~ Angie

As writers we all want to be a success. We want to have our words touch people’s hearts; we want to somehow be immortalized through our work, and at the end of the day we want to sell books. That seems pretty normal---but percolating under the unconscious surface, could there be deeper reasons that being a success is so important to us? And, is the drive to “make it” stealing our joy?

Each one of us has attached meaning to what being a “success” is. To some, it may mean becoming well-known; to others it may mean finding value and worth through the praise and admiration of others, and maybe to some it’s about making money. Is that so terrible? It is if you’re placing your significance on it.

Drive States

How can we tell if our search for significance is riding on our achievements? Can we really discover what drives our need to be a success? Yes, by understanding what success means to us and discovering how it fulfills our needs.

Needs are essential to life. Without them, we won’t function in the way God has designed us to function. In 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow developed a hierarchy of needs that included physiological needs for food, air and water, as well as psychological needs like love, belonging, and self-actualization. Feeling a loss of any need creates tension. This tension creates a drive state to motivate us to meet the need.

Once our basic physiological needs are met, we are driven to meet higher level needs of love and belonging. Self-actualization is obtained when our full potential is realized. Higher level needs create the music of the heart. I call them “soulical” needs. Listed below are the five that I teach my clients along with their definitions.
  • Love---unconditional caring from another 
  • Acceptance---feeling full and complete as I am 
  • Value/worth---what gives me meaning and purpose in life 
  • Security---freedom from harm; safety 
  • Adequacy---the need to know I’m competent 
Our needs drive us to action, and the objects of their fulfillment (a book contract, notoriety, money) act as incentives to make us feel good about ourselves. If we value success it’s because success meets some, or all of the above mentioned needs. That’s why rejection is such a bitter pill to swallow. It causes us a loss of one, or all of our needs. We become discouraged because the message rejection gives us is that we aren’t cutting it, we’re failures, or we’re not good enough.

About the Author
Rita A. Schulte is a licensed professional counselor in the Northern Virginia/DC area. She is the host of Heartline Podcast and Consider This. Her shows can be heard on 90.9FM in Lynchburg, Va. and 90.5 FM in NC, and on BlogTalk Radio, and the Womens Radio Network.

Rita writes for numerous publications and blogs. Her articles have appeared in Counseling Today Magazine, Thriving Family Magazine, Kyria and Living Better at 50. Her book on moving through the losses of life will be released in 2013. Follow her, on FB at and twitter @heartlinepod. Her blog, Life Talk Today is

Monday, February 25, 2013

From Seed to Sprout, Part 4 by Sharlene MacLaren

Sharlene MacLaren
Happy Monday, everyone! Annette here. Today, Sharlene MacLaren has returned with the final installment of her writer's journey series. She's even brought along a poem. Two of her lines remind me of a child's comment lately that her teacher calls rough drafts "sloppy copies." Fitting, isn't it? Read on!

From Seed to Sprout, Part 4*
by Sharlene MacLaren

For many, editing is their least favorite aspect of writing. I’m probably the weirdo in the bunch because it’s one of my favorites. I love the rereading, revamping, revising, reviewing, reconstructing, rewriting, re-, re-, re-, but perhaps the hardest “re-” of all for me is relinquishing. No writer ever feels quite “done”, but there comes a time to move on to your next project. In fact, a couple of years ago, I penned a poem on this very topic, and here it is:

Inside This Writer’s Head…

The second draft, oh what a blast!
The editing is here at last!
Crossing ‘t’s, dotting ‘i’s,
Reread, rewrite, rethink, revise.

The road to “Finish” takes awhile,
Research, outlines, setting, style,
Files full of worthless news,
Stuff I’ll never even use!

All this for that first, sweet copy,
Who cares if it’s a wee bit sloppy?
Because—guess what— no need to whine,
The editing will make it shine!

Some writers really hate this phase,
Fine-tune, tighten, trim, rephrase.
But me? I find it sheer delight
It means the end is within sight.

I approach it with an eye for fun,
Remembering it’s almost done.
And, then, I’ll finally stop my stewing.
But wait! Another story’s brewing!

Everybody’s looking for a shortcut. When you’re traveling from one place to another you want to know the shortest route, but sometimes taking the shortest route can lead you into unfamiliar territory—which can also lead to roadblocks—which ultimately slow the process even more. It’s best to know where you’re heading and how best to get there, even if it takes a little longer. This will mean researching the market, learning who publishes the genre you write, and what types of stories they’re looking to publish. Don’t send your work of fiction to a house that only publishes Bible studies. Read their requirements for submission then follow them. You’ll find them on their websites. If I could recommend just one book on this very topic, it would be The Christian Writers’ Market Guide. Here is a resource book that will teach you everything you ever needed or wanted to know about how the publishing industry works.

So, you've completed your first novel—or maybe even your second and third! And you’ve gained enough confidence to start submitting your work to an agent or directly to a publisher. (Again, know the publisher you want to submit to and note their requirements pertaining to solicited and unsolicited materials. Many houses will not accept your manuscript without an agent’s recommendation.)

Remember that seed we talked about nurturing? God planted it, but it’s your job to bring it to fruition. If you never water, feed, or care for it, it will wither away and never amount to anything. Care for that gift of passion god planted in your heart – and then watch it grow!

***Thank you for coming with me on this writer's journey. Enjoy your journey, and make it count for God's glory and honor!***

*This series originally appeared on Sharlene MacLaren's blog in October, 2012. Used by Permission.

Sophia's Secret

Born and raised in west Michigan, Sharlene MacLaren attended Spring Arbor University. She traveled married one of her childhood friends and together they raised two lovely daughters. Now happily retired after teaching elementary school for 31 years, "Shar" enjoys reading, writing, singing in the church choir and worship teams, traveling, and spending time with her husband, children, and precious grandson. Shar is a regular speaker for her local MOPS organization, is involved in KIDS' HOPE USA, a mentoring program for at–risk children, counsels young women in the Apples of Gold program, and is active in two weekly Bible studies. She and her husband, Cecil, live in Spring Lake, Michigan with their lovable collie, Dakota, and Mocha, their lazy fat cat.

(paperback)        (e-book)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Murray Pura’s Writing Inspiration

Murray Pura
While traveling the road to publication, story ideas may come to us in a variety of ways. We see things take place around us, overhear conversations, and watch news reports. Personal experiences may also be used to develop story lines and characters. Today on Seriously Write, author Murray Pura shares what has inspired him during his own writing journey. ~ Dawn

Murray Pura’s Writing Inspiration

Writing Ashton Park was the convergence of many roads in my life onto one main road that became the novel. I created characters that were like the many English and Irish people I had met over the years. The landscapes of both England and Ireland I knew and into the story they went. I have many Anglican friends and I popped them into the mix too – people like J.I. Packer, persons committed to the Christian faith, full of courage but also full of grace and good will, happy to debate theology with you as well as share a cup of tea.

 I knew what had happened in Ireland in the 1920s – uprisings and revolution – and that became one of the major themes in Ashton Park. I knew what had happened in France and Belgium between 1914 and 1918 too – on the ground, in the air, at sea, and all that went into the story. One of the three sons would be a British soldier stationed in Dublin, another a pilot with the Royal Air Force twisting and turning in his biplane in the skies over Europe, the third would serve on a battleship that flew the ensign of the Royal Navy.

With the four daughters: one marries a clergyman, one nurses in France and falls in love with an American pilot, another is in the north of Ireland in Belfast married to a man who manages the family's shipbuilding interests, a fourth is a bit of a firebrand and marching for the vote for women, a suffragette. The more characters you have the more you can do with your storyline and the greater historic and emotional sweep you can give your novel.

Downton Abbey, written by Julian Fellowes, is the latest in a long line of stories about British aristocracy – there are Jane Austen’s novels, for instance, like Pride and Prejudice and Emma, Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Towers, R.F. Delderfield’s God is an Englishman. So there are similarities in my work with all those stories as well as Downton Abbey – class struggles between nobility and commoners; the children falling in love with the right person but often as not the wrong person in nobility’s eyes; the closer look at an aristocratic way of life fascinating to most people; the life of the servants downstairs compared with the life of the wealthy family upstairs. Where I differ most markedly is I have a main character who is in politics, a fiancĂ© who is an American, two estates (one for winter, one for summer), and the family is Christian – not in a tepid way but in a very committed and healthy and vigorous way – they pray about things, discuss theology, take God and their faith seriously, act in grace, and try to live lives in keeping with what they believe.

Click to reach Amazon.
Murray Pura was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His first story was published in Teen Power in the USA when he was 16 and earned him the princely sum of $25.00. His first novel was released in Toronto in 1988. Since that time he has published seven more novels, two collections of short stories, and a number of nonfiction titles including the Zondervan books Rooted and Streams. He has been a finalist for the Paraclete Fiction Award, the Dartmouth Book Award, the Kobzar Literary Award, and the John Spencer Hill Literary Award. In June of 2012 year he won the Word Award of Toronto for his novel The White Birds of Morning (Toronto's Word Award is the Canadian equivalent of the Christys). His novel The Wings of Morning has been nominated by ACFW for best inspirational romance. Murray pastored for 25 years and wrote on the side. He now writes full-time and currently publishes with Zondervan, Harper One San Francisco, Barbour, Harvest House, and Baker, among others. Murray has lived in Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Israel, and California, and currently makes his home in southwestern Alberta near Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. He and his wife Linda have two children, Micah and Micaela.

To learn more about Murray and his writing, please visit:

Website:, which includes the blog murmurings

Author page on Facebook called Murray Pura Writing, which includes the weekly blog The Wind At My Back and The Sun In My Face:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Everyday Valentine by Susan Tuttle

Valentines may be passed, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still talk about love, right? I was lucky enough to marry my BFF fifteen years ago. We’ve known each other for twenty-five years, but we were “just friends” for a good ten before realizing somewhere along the way we’d fallen in love. How lucky are we?

Now, when you’ve known someone that long, sometimes you think you know everything about them. You can almost fall into a rut. After we married, we had kids and settled into a nice pattern. When the kids reached school age, we decided we were going to homeschool. Things moved along nice and steadily. Hubby worked, I stayed home with the kids, and all our responsibilities naturally rolled into those categories. Which meant, laundry, grocery shopping, house cleaning, cooking…etc. were all mine. Along with schooling the kids. And I happily made our house into a home.

Then God called me back to writing.

Oh. I’d always wrote, it seemed as natural as breathing. But God was calling me into the ministry of writing and pushing me to devote more time to it. To seriously pursue it.

Now, with no agent, no book contracts, and only the whisper of God urging me forward, how was I to explain that to Hubby?

Luckily God paired me with the right man.

Because if you’re a writer, you know that there can be days or weeks where laundry doesn’t get done, the cupboards run bare (McD’s and pizza nights become the norm), and the house is destroyed. That’s been the biggest change for both of us—redefining our roles. It’s an act in constant progress, but we seem to be doing it. And over the past two years as I’ve learned to balance this calling and our home life, Hubby has supported me. Through every step, with no concrete outcome achieved, Hubby has been nothing but encouraging, prayerful, helpful…excited for me. Even when he comes home to a messy house or receives another call to pick up take-out.

And that is beyond lucky, that is blessed. That is love. Our lives have changed, and he’s changed along with them, learning to navigate this road with me and encouraging my dreams—even helping me to attain them. They are never too large, never too inconvenient, and never too far out of reach for him to push me towards them.

He’s my biggest support system.

He’s my everyday Valentine.

Now, it's your turn. 
Does your loved one encourage and support your writing?
How do you balance your writing and home life?

Dora here. Recently, Susan signed with Linda Glaz of the Hartline Literary Agency. 
Congratulations, Susan! That's definitely a "concrete outcome!"

Susan Tuttle is a homeschooling mom of three who is crazy about coffee, dark chocolate, and words—both reading and writing them. Combine that love of words with her passion for leading women to a life-changing encounter with Christ, and you’ll find her crafting Inspirational Contemporary Romance stories laced with humor, love, and healing transformations. When not cheering on her Ironman hubby, chasing the family dog, or tackling complex math problems to teach her kids (yes, even the second grader), you can catch Susan at her blog, Steps.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Case of the Misplaced Modifier

Part of creating a publishable story is getting the grammar correct. 

(We'll pause a moment to let my critique partners stop laughing. One, two, three...okay.)

Donn Taylor collects professional writers’ lapses into misplaced modifiers. While his collection is hilarious, it's enough to make any writer run to the computer to desperately search through their own work. To save myself (and you) the embarrassment of being part of his collection, I asked him the following questions: 

"What is a misplaced modifier and how do writers guard against them? Can you give some examples of your favorites?"

Donn: In normal English usage, a modifying phrase refers to the noun or pronoun (or sometimes verb) closest to it. A misplaced modifier occurs when the modifying phrase is placed away from the noun or pronoun the writer intends it to modify. The results are always confusing, but often ridiculous:                     

Looking in through the window, the new sofa could be seen.

This construction places the sofa simultaneously outside the window looking in and inside the building being seen. Physicists tell us this is probably possible with subatomic particles, but they have not yet extended that theory to sofas.

This kind of misplaced modifier usually occurs when the writer begins the sentence thinking active voice and, after the comma, changes to passive voice. The most common cures are to give the modifier something logical to modify or to change the modifying phrase to a dependent clause:

Looking in through the window, I saw the new sofa.

or, When I looked in through the window, I saw the new sofa.

Writers should find their misplaced modifiers during proofing or revision. The cure is always to rewrite the sentence so that the modifier is placed as close as possible to the word (noun, pronoun, verb) it modifies. With that lesson learned, let’s enjoy some prime examples that somehow crept through the editing process in novels from first-line CBA publishers. (I leave to my readers the process of moving the modifier to a logical place or rewriting the sentence to establish logic. I will content myself with a few sardonic comments.)

“[A] man in grey slacks and a blue blazer holding a walkie-talkie waved at them.”

Comment: Those sports jackets get more versatile every day!

Taking his first step, the slippery surface caused him to fall flat on his back.”

Comment: Surfaces that walk? Must be Sci-fi.

Standing up slowly, a wave of vertigo swept through him.”

Comment: Would things have been worse if the wave had stood up quickly?

Having come straight from the airport in the clothes they’d worn to travel, his query made sense.”

Comment: Remarkable! Casually dressed queries rarely make sense.

 “Adorned in mostly homemade ornaments, its pine scent mingled with the kitchen aromas.”

Comment: Adorned or unadorned, the scent still smelled. But at least it was sociable.

Hidden away in the cabin, my mind continued to wander.”

Comment: Confined to the cabin, it couldn’t wander far.

But some of the most ridiculous examples come from local newspapers:

The governor shot the coyote that he said was threatening his daughter’s puppy with a Ruger .380-caliber pistol.

Comment: The coyote had his teeth on the trigger.

                        The [injured] dog was discovered by an oilfield worker wrapped in a towel inside a white trash bag.

Comment: Oilfield workers have strange tastes in clothing.

The principle to remember: Keep the modifiers close to the words they modify. In revising and proofing, look for misplaced modifiers and move them to their proper places.
Donn Taylor led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam, and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. Afterwards, he completed a PhD degree at The University of Texas and taught English literature (especially Renaissance) at two liberal arts colleges. His novels The Lazarus File and Rhapsody in Red have received excellent reviews, and he has also authored Dust and Diamond: Poems of Earth and Beyond. His new book is another suspense novel, Deadly Additive. He is a frequent speaker at writers' conferences such as Glorieta and Blue Ridge. He and his wife live near Houston, Texas, where he continues to write fiction, poetry, and articles on current topics.

Links to his books are on his Web site: Other links: and           

Is checking for those misplaced modifiers a part of your editing process? What are some of the funniest grammar goofs you have found in print? How would you rewrite the above examples?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Writing for Me by Normandie Fischer

Normandie Fischer
Writing for me.

What, for an audience of one?

Les Edgerton (as quoted in Chip MacGregor’s recent blog post on finding your writer’s voice) suggests that we write for us. That we don’t talk down or up or around as if to an ideal reader, but that we imagine ourselves as the one picking up our book. As I read his words, I thought of the talk I gave last week in Portland, Oregon, on “Writing the Crossover Book.”

My intended reader has always been the me I used to be. (Although the me I am watches over her shoulder.) That me questioned everything and had no clue God existed outside of all that shouting from nature—you know, the sunsets and the sunrises, the trees and the rocks, the sea . . . oh, yes, the sea. That me was rather appalled by what I’d seen of church goers. Their behavior didn’t resemble their message, not from my side of the room. My atheist mother was kind and loving. Those other folk gossiped and judged and condemned. Some of them were racist. Some cruel.

“You need God,” the grandmother I barely knew said. Well, if I did, he’d better not look like those pew-sitters or rote-spouters. A God who still parted Red Seas? Maybe. A God who transcended man’s inadequacies, who had answers for this skeptic? He’d have to be a whole lot more than what I’d seen by my twenty-seventh year.

He was. He showed up and showed off. No, I didn’t turn into a perfect person, but I found a perfect God, one who hears and cares and delivers from bondage all who cry out to him.

I am my audience. The me of my twenties and thirties and forties and fifties. (Well, that gave it away, didn’t it?) The me who once questioned, who failed and still fails, and who has been yanked out of the mire again and again.

I don’t write for the ones who have answers, but for the ones who crave answers—even if  they don’t yet know the questions. I write for the hurting and the broken—even if they don’t yet recognize their brokenness.

I write about the real, the pain, the guilt, even if some of my stories flit in frothy bits of fun as they chase what-ifs. I want my stories to touch hearts like mine. My voice is the me crying to be heard above the noises that would blot us out and press us down.

About the Author
by Normandie Fischer
About Normandie Fischer 
I sail and I write. I also edit (as Acquisitions and Executive Editor of Wayside Press) and mess about at home in North Carolina with my husband and mother when we’re not heading off on board our lovely ketch, Sea Venture. Two of my women’s fiction books release this spring and summer, Becalmed and Sailing out of Darkness.

Becalmed, from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.
​​When a Southern woman with a broken heart falls for a widower with a broken boat, it's anything but smooth sailing.​

Sailing out of Darkness
by Normandie Fischer
Sailing out of Darkness, from WhiteFire Publishing. 
An unexplained apparition, wanderings through Italy, and mayhem back home push four lives toward their day of reckoning.​​​ Sailing out of Darkness is the haunting story of mistakes and loss and the grace that abounds through forgiveness.​

Connect with Normandie Fischer
Blog -
Website -