Friday, June 28, 2013

5 Tips for overcoming Writer’s Block … when you’re on a deadline by Joanne Bischof

Joanne Bischof

A writer’s journey doesn’t end with publication. It’s ongoing . . . and as you move down the road as a published author, there will always be more challenges to face. You may have experienced the freedom to “take your time” with the first book, but chances are, you won’t with the second or third. Author Joanne Bischof offers tips and encouraging words for those times you find yourself staring at the computer screen. ~ Dawn

5 Tips for overcoming Writer’s Block … 
when you’re on a deadline

1.  Get away from the project
Sometimes the key to unlocking writers block is a little distance. Whether it’s a walk, playing tag with the kids or time out with friends, a little distance gives our minds a chance to rest from the strain of what we’re trying to accomplish with writing. A few hours of a different activity can have us returning to our story with a fresh perspective and most likely, a recharged spirit.

2. Get an outsider’s opinion
A good critique partner can give us a fresh look at something we’re stuck on. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve emailed a scene to a trusted friend who can help untangle some of the knots I’ve tied myself up in. To hear encouragement or suggestions from another person can help us see when we’ve perhaps been spinning in circles by fretting over a scene that’s in good shape, or they can point out opportunities where it can be stronger. When we’re stuck with writer’s block, a trusted writing friend can be priceless in helping us take those next steps forward.

3. Search for good story
Set your own work aside and throw yourself into a good story. Whether it’s a book or a movie, simply allow yourself to melt into the telling of a great tale. As you watch or read, think about what it is that’s drawing you in. What’s connecting you to the characters? The setting? Are you feeling an emotional pull of some kind? What elements are fueling that? Taking note of these concepts can sometimes be the key to giving you some building blocks to ponder as you turn back to your own project.

4. Break it down
You know the phrase, “baby steps”? Don’t be afraid to take them. If the idea of an 85,000 word story or even a 1000 word article is making you hyperventilate, try breaking it down. I’ve been in this place several times and one thing I like to do is isolate a single paragraph. I’ll often make the font a different color, say dark blue instead of black, and seeing it stand out like that, I think to myself, “I can handle this one paragraph. I can make it shine.” Focus in and let the rest of the story fade away. Sometimes conquering one paragraph at a time for a short while can bolster your confidence again and help you find your writing feet!

5. When moving on isn’t an option
“Move on. Do something else for a while.” Easily said, but sometimes, it’s just not an option. When a project is due in several days or even several hours, this is when the going gets tough. The rubber meets the road. You realize you just used two clichés in a row and you want to bang your head against the desk. Take a deep breath. In the fall of 2012, the first book in my Appalachian romance series was published. By fall of 2013, two more books will join the series. That’s three books in exactly one year’s time. I tell you that so you know you’re not alone if you’ve been struggling with writer’s block. I’ve been in the position where an 85,000 word manuscript is due in hours and I’m so far behind it seems impossible. I don’t have any handy tips or tricks for this moment, except for the reminder that if it were easy … everyone would do it. Keep your head up and hang in there. Write something that’s true. Write something that’s from your heart. Remember that you’re here for a reason: because of what your words can do, and have the possibility to do—to reach others with the power of story.

Be Still My Soul     
Be Still My Soul

"Bischof kicks off her Cadence of Grace series with a tale of love blossoming in the most daunting circumstances. A gem..." Publishers Weekly

Pretty Lonnie Sawyer is shy and innocent, used to fading into the background within her family, and among the creeks and hollows of the Appalachian hills. Though her family is poor and her father abusive, she clings to a quiet faith.  But when handsome ladies’ man and bluegrass musician Gideon O’Riley steals a kiss, that one action seals her fate. 

Her father forces her into a hasty marriage with Gideon—a man she barely knows and does not love. Equally frustrated and confused by his new responsibilities, Gideon yearns for a fresh start, forcing  Lonnie on an arduous journey away from her home in Rocky Knob.

Her distant groom can’t seem to surrender his rage at the injustice of the forced matrimony or give Lonnie any claim in his life.  What will it take for Gideon to give up his past, embrace Lonnie’s God, and discover a hope that can heal their two fractured hearts?

Gideon only ever cared about himself. Now that Lonnie is his wife, will he ever be worthy of her heart?

Christy Award-finalist and author of Be Still My Soul and Though My Heart is Torn, Joanne Bischof has a deep passion for Appalachian culture and writing stories that shines light on God’s grace and goodness. She lives in the mountains of Southern California with her husband and their three children. When she’s not weaving Appalachian romance, she’s blogging about faith, folk music, and the adventures of country living that bring her stories to life.    

You can visit her website at  and Facebook page at

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Enhancing Your BIC Time by Susan Stilwell

Susan Stilwell
New writers face many challenges, not the least of which is discipline. Seasoned writers testify to the importance of “BIC” time, or “butt in chair” but it’s one of the hardest things for new writers to develop. These tips can help you not only be more disciplined, but also be more proficient.

Schedule Time To Write
There’s no substitute for blocking off time to write. Many writing instructors recommend you to write every single day. Others suggest taking periodic breaks. Decide what works best for you and then schedule your writing time.

You may have days where you’re super-inspired and fully-engaged in “writer mode,” where you sit down and crank out a couple thousand words in one setting. Take advantage of those because you’ll have plenty of days where you’re not. On those days, start in “editing mode.”

Edit Something Old
Instead of racking your brain to create something new, start with something old. Pull out a draft or an old piece and see if you can breathe new life into it. Read it aloud and start editing it.

Be ruthless. Delete dull or rambling passages. Pay attention to metaphors. Rework clichés. I find editing jump-starts my brain and puts me in a better frame of mind to -

Free Write
After you’ve spent time editing, write something new. Don’t worry about editing; just write. Save it, print a copy and stick it in a folder. Plan to come back to it in a couple of days as you start the process over again.

Even if you just write for one hour three days a week, think of the material you’ll acquire in a month! Another thing you’ll acquire? Discipline.

Butt In Chair. There’s no substitute.

Dora here. Scheduling time to write is key for me, along with setting a word count goal. 
What about you?  Is "BIC" easy for you or do you struggle with self-discipline?
Willing to share what works for you?

Susan Stilwell is a freelance writer, motivational speaker and Bible study leader who loves discovering God at work the ordinary, day-to-day stuff of life. Passionate about God’s Word, she’s a prolific devotional writer and a popular guest blogger. She and her husband Steve enjoy their empty nest in the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia.
You can connect with Susan on Twitter at @susanrstilwell and on her website,

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Using Marketing Hooks to Your Advantage

A few months ago I had the pleasure of listening to author Missy Tippens speak to the Carolina Christian Writers about creating a proposal for Love Inspired. One of the things that struck me was her reference to using "marketing hooks" in a proposal. I've asked her to explain here the importance of these marketing hooks.--Sandy

MissyWhen I was trying to sell my third book—the first I’d sold on proposal, I struggled to find just the right proposal idea. While brainstorming with my editor on the phone, she told me something that caused a light bulb moment. She said, “I think you’re trying to force these two characters together. Just start fresh and come up with a one-sentence idea. Send me that first, and then we’ll go from there.”

A one sentence idea.

Immediately I started thinking of one-liners, of marketing hooks. Of back cover blurbs.

And that’s exactly what we need to think about as we come up with new book ideas. Because no matter how much an editor loves a story, she may still have to get the idea approved by the marketing department before she can buy it. Everyone in the publishing house needs to be on board for a project to succeed.

So I started thinking of my book, thinking what are my hooks? In that book that became A Forever Christmas, I had (hooks in bold print): a single dad with full custody of two little boys. I had a Christmas story. I had a reunion story—the heroine dumped the hero in high school, then he turned around and broke her heart by getting someone else pregnant and marrying her. Plus, I already knew how the book ended—those two boys ask for the heroine to be their mom for Christmas.

All those thoughts were stewing in my mind, and it just so happened that at the time, I was working on a blog post for a group blog where we were doing fun posts for the 12 Days of Christmas. And a sentence hit me:

A woman with a mission. Twelve days till Christmas. Will this single dad grasp the true meaning of Christmas in time to nab the one gift his boys really want: a new mom?

Being the insecure writer that I am, I emailed a group of writer friends and asked what they thought. They gave me the thumbs up and said I had found my hook. The 12 Days of Christmas thing.

So I expanded that one liner and started thinking more about who my heroine could be and how I could throw her together with the hero. I came up with a long blurb that included my original hooks and ended with:

So she decides to put her own feelings aside and sets out on mission: force him to spend quality time with his boys over the 12 days before Christmas.

Will Gregory grasp the true meaning of Christmas in time to nab the one gift the boys really want: Miss Radcliffe for a mom?

Now, I had my one-liner and my blurb and emailed that to my editor. She responded that it had several good hooks (she noticed!) and gave me the go-ahead to come up with a new synopsis.

Are you beyond the idea brainstorming stage? You can also work in the reverse. Take a story you’re already working on or have finished and try to boil it down to a one-liner. If you can’t do that, then maybe you need to try to focus your story and consider adding something that’ll make it more marketable. It’ll help you have a fabulous pitch when you’re ready to sell your story!

I learned a valuable lesson while trying to sell the proposal that became A Forever Christmas. I still tend to jump in plotting and have to back up, to remind myself to focus and use this method.

Give it a try next time you’re brainstorming. It’s always helpful to start with a kernel of an idea that contains hooks readers love, something exciting an editor can take to the marketing department. I hope my experience has helped you.

Have you used this form of developing your story and one-sentence pitch? Feel free to share with us some marketing hooks from your current story, and/or your pitch.


Georgia Sweethearts (from Love Inspired, April 2013)

A Pattern For Love...
After inheriting her great-aunt's failing yarn shop, Lilly Barnes is determined to make it a success. All she wants is stability, something she doesn't think possible in the small town of Corinthia, Georgia. Then Pastor Daniel Foreman rents space in her store to hold meetings for his growing congregation, and this proves to be her lifeline. At first Lilly wants nothing to do with Daniel's big dreams, but she soon finds herself starting to share his goals. Yet trouble between her customers and his congregation make them both doubt the path they're on. That is, until practical Lilly shows him that love is a risk worth taking.


Missy Tippens, a pastor’s wife and mom of three from near Atlanta, Georgia, made her first sale to Love Inspired in 2007. Her books have since been nominated for the Booksellers Best, ACFW Carol Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Beacon Contest and a 2013 RT Reviewer’s Choice Award. A House Full of Hope has recently been named a Romance Writers of America RITA® Finalist. New from Love Inspired, Georgia Sweethearts is an April 2013 release.

Visit Missy at, and @MissyTippens on Twitter.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Character Motivation by Debby Mayne

Debby Mayne
Have you ever had a hard time creating your characters? Multi-published author Debby Mayne addresses what motivates her characters in today's post. Any of them sound familiar? What kinds of characters are in your work-in-progress? ~ Angie

Have you ever been to a class reunion? If not, have you met with old friends or family members that you haven’t seen in a long time? What did you do to prepare for the get-together? Were you more concerned with what they thought about you—how you looked, how you aged, and how successful you were in life—than you should have been?

The very common human condition of insecurity that stems from childhood is what motivates my characters in the Class Reunion series as they get ready to go to the big event. I wanted readers to get to know the people in my story and join them on their journeys. The editor and I agreed that the best way to do this was to write it in first person. Since I wanted to show the lives of more than one person in this group, all of these books are written in multiple points of view. To add to the immediacy and intimacy of the characters’ experiences, these books are present tense.

About the characters and their insecurities:

Priscilla Slater was class Valedictorian and voted “Most Likely to Succeed” back in high school. Everyone expected her to follow in her college professor parents’ footsteps, but she surprised everyone by dropping out of college and going to beauty school. Although she still wants her parents’ approval, she’s not willing to be miserable in a career she doesn’t want.

Tim Puckett’s dad abandoned him and his mama when he was a young boy. His dad’s brother took over and paid for Tim to go to college with the stipulation that he must work for the family business after graduation. Although Tim’s dream job isn’t being a beauty supply salesman he’s not about to look a gift horse in the mouth. The bonus is that he meets the love of his life. Too bad she doesn’t see him as more than a pal. But maybe if he helps out a little more, he’ll win the girl of his dreams.

Trudy Baynard’s beauty pageant trophies and Miss Piney Point crowns gather dust as she navigates her way through being a divorced woman who has packed on a few pounds and needs Spanx to get into her slinky dresses. She had enough sense to leave Piney Point after her no-good, womanizing man dumped her, but now she wants to see her former classmates. Her mission before the reunion is to get her high school figure back and make it look like she’s successful without Michael.

Celeste Boudreaux is tired of being the wallflower, so she forces her way on to the class reunion committee. It’s hard giving up her bad attitude, but once Priscilla works her magic on her and makes her downright pretty, she thinks she might wind up with a full dance card.

Laura Moss is exhausted. I mean, who wouldn’t be after a long day of keeping four young’uns and a sweet but alcoholic husband in line? And now that she has the class reunion to coordinate, she’s found her limits. But she can’t let on, which is why she allows others to contribute, even if they don’t do things the way she does them.

Do you see yourself in any of these characters? As I wrote their stories, I dug deep and found a piece of each of them inside me. Whether looking for acceptance like Priscilla or feeling “put upon” like Laura, my insecurities have shown themselves at some of the most inconvenient times in my life. Even as a writer, I worry that I won’t live up to the expectations of readers, editors, family members, and friends. Sound familiar?

About the Author
Debby has published more than 30 books and novellas, 400 print short stories and articles, 1,000 web articles, and dozens of devotions for women. She has worked as managing editor of a national health magazine, product information writer for HSN, and creative writing instructor for Long Ridge Writers Group. She also judges the Writers Digest Annual Competition, Short-Short Contest, and Self-Published Book Competition. Three of Debby’s books have been top ten favorites by the Heartsong Presents book club. Love Finds You in Treasure Island, Florida received 4-1/2 stars and a Top Pick from Romantic Times Magazine in July 2009.

Pretty Is as Pretty Does
Pretty is as Pretty Does
by Debby Mayne

Priscilla Slater goes to her ten-year high school reunion with equal parts dread and eager anticipation. Even though she’s a successful owner of a chain of hair salons and no longer has the mousy brown hair, crooked teeth, and discount-store wardrobe, she still feels like the ugly duckling. But when she arrives at the reunion, Priscilla soon realizes that her old classmates aren’t exactly as she remembers them. With humor and a just a touch of sassiness, Priscilla finds herself facing her own truth—and she may be surprised at what she discovers.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Creative Best Series: Eight

Annette M. Irby
Happy Monday writers! We’ve spent several Mondays delving into Galatians 6:4-5 from the Message Bible, and we’re nearing the end of our series. Today, let’s look at the next portion of our phrase from last week:

Each of you must take responsibility  
for doing the creative best

When are you at your best? First thing in the morning? After the kiddos are down for the night? Right after your day job? Or maybe before? How about Saturdays? Or Sunday afternoons? Maybe at 3 a.m. when everyone else is asleep?

Our critique group has just changed to an earlier time so we can hopefully better serve each other. We used to meet late on Mondays. I don’t know about you, but after a full day of work, or family, or anything, I can be rather fried by the end of the day. So, since many of us were feeling that way, we decided to give late morning a try. Hoping for clear thinking so we can be most effective.

If you don’t already know your own most creative hours, I recommend trying different times until you find it. When you discover it, put it on your calendar. Ask for help from your family to guard the time. And try to finish other tasks ahead so you can zero in.


I once knew an author who, because of her day job, had to be very intentional about scheduling her writing time. But just because the time was scheduled, didn’t mean she always felt free to use those hours for writing. If, for example, there were other tasks that needed doing (because she couldn’t do them during her workweek), those took priority. Blogging, e-mails, errands.

She worked most creatively when she had full permission to do so, even from herself. Does that sound familiar? I’m like that. If there are errands or other obligations, it is very difficult for me to give myself permission to get lost in my fictional world and write.

Writing Takes a Backseat

Why does writing sometimes slip down the to-do list? During this series on being our creative best, we’re giving ourselves permission. Say this aloud: I give myself permission to write. And I take responsibility to be my creative best.

If you’re like me, you can be creative in a few different ways—maybe in painting, sketching, crafts, scrapbooking, sculpting, music, writing, poetry, songwriting (some of these are applicable to me, some not so much ;-). And you could take those artsy endeavors in a few different directions. For example, you could paint something that glorifies God or something that doesn’t. But what glorifies God, lasts forever.

Our church believes in creative worship and encourages folks to glorify God during our worship services through painting or dancing, in addition to singing along. Then, the large canvases are put on display, sometimes for weeks. Left up to glorify God and to show that worship can be expressed in many ways.  

It's about Doing

He gave us creativity, it’s up to us what we do with it. We have an invitation to commit to pursuing God’s best in our use of His gifts. That’s what will last eternally. That’s what will minister to the most people.

That’s how to be our creative best.


Annette M. Irby has two published books and runs her own editing business, AMI Editing. She is also an acquisitions editor for Pelican Book Group. See her page here on Seriously Write for more information.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Only You Can Tell Your Story by Rebecca Kanner

Rebecca Kanner

Do you ever compare yourself to other writers? I’ll admit—I do . . .  But it isn’t much fun to lament that I’ll never be as good as so-and-so. Today on Seriously Write, author Rebecca Kanner shares part of her journey to publication. Embrace her encouraging words and go write! 
~ Dawn

Only You Can Tell Your Story
by Rebecca Kanner

A lot of us struggle with writing. In one of the classes I teach, “Silencing the Inner Critic,” some students have shared that their biggest obstacle to writing is a belief that their stories don’t matter. They compare themselves to others, or wonder what they could have to say that’s worth somebody else’s time.

I’ve struggled with this too. For two years when I was writing my novel and cobbling together a living doing freelance work, some of the people in my life considered me to basically be unemployed. I sometimes felt ashamed that I was spending so much time on my work. But a voice within me was stronger than any of the voices outside, and it told me to write.

When my students mention the names of great writers, names we all know, and ask questions such as Why should I write, I’m not Maya Angelou? I tell them, Just as you can’t tell Maya Angelou’s story (or Madeleine L'Engle’s, or Francine River’s), neither can she tell yours.

This is the message I want to give you: Only you have fully experienced your own struggles. Only you know how you continue to struggle or how you’ve overcome your struggles, or both.

The story I wished to tell in my novel is the story of how some of the things that I thought marked me as ugly or unworthy in some way—my struggles with anxiety, depression and eventually addiction—ended up saving me. In Sinners and the Sea: the Untold Story of Noah’s Wife, I convey this message by giving the narrator a mark upon her forehead that is seen as the mark of a demon. Because of this mark she is considered unmarriageable and her life is very hard. But then along comes Noah, a man who knows the mark is not that of a demon. He looks at what’s beneath the surface of her skin and sees a good woman. Without the narrator’s mark, she would not have been married to Noah, she would have been married to one of the other men her father tried to get for her. Because she ends up being Noah’s wife, she and the sons she has with Noah get to be on the ark. She eventually realizes that her mark has saved her.

Today I’m grateful to my struggles. They’ve brought me to the spiritual place I’m in today. There is an often quoted saying at one of the wonderful recovery meetings my addictions have led me to: God doesn’t make junk. Trust that He has made you perfectly and has given you the voice with which He wants you to speak.

The young heroine in Sinners and the Sea is destined for greatness. Known only as “wife” in the Bible and cursed with a birthmark that many think is the brand of a demon, this unnamed woman—fated to become the mother of all generations after the great flood—lives anew through Rebecca Kanner. The author gives this virtuous woman the perfect voice to make one of the Old Testament’s stories come alive like never before.

Rebecca Kanner holds a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction Writing from Washington University in St. Louis. Her writing has won an Associated Writing Programs Award and a Loft mentorship Award. Her stories have been published in numerous journals including The Kenyon Review and The Cincinnati Review. Her personal essay, “Safety,” is listed as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2011

Her first novel, Sinners and the Sea, was published by Howard Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, in April 2013. Rebecca will be featured along with other writers including Michael Cunningham, Russell Banks and Joyce Carol Oates in the upcoming book Truthful Fictions: Conversations with American Biographical Authors. She is a freelance-writer and teaches writing at the Loft in Minneapolis.

Visit her website at, like her on facebook at  and follow her on twitter @rebeccakanner.