Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Book Review

I figured supporting a fellow Word Painter would make for a worthwhile post today! Right, gang? So sit back and enjoy my review of Word Painter and Vision Forum author John J. Horn's book: 

Brothers At Arms:
Treasure and Treachery in the Amazon

4.5 Stars.

This lively, slightly improbable tale takes place in 19th century England. Lawrence and Chester Stoning are twin brothers, but they are as different as can be. Lawrence is an analyzer and deep thinker. Chester is a man's man, a bold fellow with a passionate thirst for gallantry. It is not until Chester follows one of his impetuous schemes and Lawrence dutifully follows him that the two brothers learn what it means to be brothers-in-arms - not brothers-at-arms. This bold tale follows the traditions of Henty with a splash of Haggard's "King Solomon's Mines". I also had flashbacks of "Robinson Crusoe".

I am not the type to always finish a book I start. If it is boring, I will put it down. Let me say this book kept me hooked to the very end. I laughed, I learned, and I experienced the hair-raising adventures on the edge of my seat. John Horn's dry, witty humor is evident on almost every page, as well as his clear love of history. I was very pleased with the historical aspects and was delighted to find a fellow author who knew so many little-known details. I also enjoyed the romance and knew exactly where it was headed from the very beginning, which was fun!

The only reason I did not give this book 5 stars was because I would have liked some more descriptions of the physical aspects of the characters, the geographic areas, and the depth of emotion. I do not say this critically. This is my own personal taste. I prefer more "show, not tell". For the most part, Horn "showed", but there were some instances I would have preferred more. Still, I realize this aspect of his writing style may be a part of the overall charm. 

I applaud John Horn for creating a unique book appropriate for the whole family. I was delighted with the refreshing originality of the style and the creativity of the plot. Recommended for action lovers, teens, families, and history buffs.

I received this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion. The sentiments above are completely my own. I was under no obligation to write a positive review.

Was this review helpful? Vote it up on Amazon! And be sure to add this book to your Goodreads shelves!



Alicia A. Willis is a home-school graduate, published author, and avid historian. She is a firm believer in the principle that one can accomplish anything by substantial amounts of prayer and coffee. Visit her at her blog to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!

Monday, October 28, 2013

~ Just a note to say hello ~

Hello there,

This is my first post on Word Painters, so I should start off by introducing myself. I'm Caitlin, the third child in my family and the aunt of eight energetic blessings. I'm a writer, classical music player, and stay-at-home daughter living in a quaint little town between London and Cambridge.


Though I'm an incurable tea-drinker, am entrenched in English spelling, have grown somewhat accustomed to the weather, and can sport the accent, I'm only a quarter British. I grew up in sun-soaked South Africa and embarked on an amazing adventure some years ago to be here today. But that's a story for another time. :)

Why Writing?

From a young age, reading and creative writing thrilled me. I knew I would write a book someday . . . and now, several years later, I thank the Lord for His grace and for opening the doors for me to write four! The first two were published last year by Vision Forum, with the next ones soon to follow.

Baker Family Adventures

The stories in the Baker Family Adventure series are about an American, Christian,

Friday, October 25, 2013

What's in a Name?

Naming characters is a fun process. But before you dive in head-first, there are a few things to think about that will help you choose the very best names. Let's break this down...

Think: Time-Period
If you read a lot of books from the 1800s, you will encounter names like Horace and Hester, but I doubt if you've met anyone in your generation or the one before sporting a name like that. Likewise, in ancient Mesopotamia (an old name for an area located in the Middle East), you would never want to name the King's nephew Jake. Especially since the King would be sporting a mouthful-of-a-name like Shar-kali-sharri! 

One thing I like to do when picking out names is do a quick Google search for the top names for the character's birth year. It gives me a good idea of what was "in" when their parents were naming them. It's hard to say what names will be like in the future, but if you're familiar enough with names from other works of futuristic fiction, you should be able to come up with something that will ring the futuristic bell in your readers' minds.

Think: Culture
In modern-day America, it isn't unusual to find people named Sung, Fernando, and Jaques all living on the same street. However, it's important to realize that when names like these are used, readers will often assume the characters have immigrated or their parents did. They will expect the obvious ethnicity of their names to have something to do with who they are. In other words, don't name just anyone Jaques; make sure he either lives in France or has a good reason, relevant to the story, for being so obviously French. 

Mariachi band | Wikimedia
Even among Americans, there are sub-cultures. (If I need something culturally specific, I Google something like “top Hispanic names” for the character's birth year.) I honestly can't see a blonde, blue-eyed girl from Maine being named Talitha any more than I can see the members of a Mariachi band from Arizona being named Larry, Bubba, Joe-Bob, and Stinky. Could happen, but it better be for a reason that has a major part in your plot!

Think: Sound
Have you ever read a book where the main characters' names all began with the same letter? It can become rather exhausting trying to remind yourself who, exactly, we're talking about each time something happens. This seems to happen most often in books about families. While it may be cute to name the children in your fantasy story Dorain, Destra, and Dronnan—your readers will eventually tire of it. Try to avoid alliteration among main characters. 

Also, even if their names do not begin with the same letter, try to avoid using the same sound (especially if the book is likely going to be read aloud). Sorry, either Ethan or Ian might need a new name. 

Also steer clear of names that sound alike in other ways: try not to have three best friends named Charlene, Darlene, and Marlene as your main characters. Cheesiness aside, it's going to be downright annoying to sort out after awhile. 

One other thing to consider is not just varying the sounds of the names, but also their length or number of syllables. Even if someone is speed-reading to finish reading just one more chapter before bedtime, they're going to easily catch that Alexander said one thing, Jim said another, and Daniel is the one who broke up the fight that ensued.

So, crack open that baby name book or Google some name lists, and have fun!

Sincerely,
Perry (a boy's name, usually) Elisabeth Kirkpatrick (a Scottish name—and I'm not even Scottish. Welcome to the melting pot!)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Show, Don't Tell

Show, don't tell. 

Scary words, at least for someone who lived and breathed the classics in her younger days. Many of the classics are written in third person and often didn't reveal the antagonist's innermost feelings and POV. It was all overview, a sweeping panorama of all the events taking place.

Let's just say since I've published my medieval trilogy, I've learned many readers prefer the second person and show, don't tell. Which is fine. I never really intended to stick with classical style after my series was complete. I've gotten the opportunity to practice new techniques. And writers need to grow.

But how exactly do you show, not tell? Here are some examples of telling.

Emma walked into the Starbucks, ordered some coffee, and sat down. She opened her laptop, realized it was low on charge, and nearly cried.

One word:

BORING.

Totally, completely boring. There is no life, no sense of reality, not POV. Just the overall facts.

To effectively create your protagonist's (or antagonist, as the case may be) POV (point of view), you have to see the world through their eyes. Not above, looking down from ceiling fan or wherever you choose to be. Taste what they taste, feel what they feel, and cry when they do. Taking the same story, let's work on our showing.

Emma smiled at the young man walking out of Starbucks, allowing him to hold the door open for her. Stepping into the warmth, she paused. Inhaling, she basked in the scents of French and Italian roasts. How long had it been since she had bought an espresso?

Too long.

She walked up to the counter, making eye contact with the cute pig-tailed barista. There was no need to peruse the menu. "Hi. I'll have a hazelnut mochiatto please."

The barista took her credit card, swiping it. Secretly, Emma wondered how many times a day she had to handle other people's cards. The germs... Just thinking about it made her finger the Bath and Body hand sanitizer attached to her purse strap. 

"Here you go!"

Emma blinked. That was fast. She took the coffee, remembering to murmur some thanks. Deftly, she walked over to a vacant table. Perfect. Positioned right next to a window, her chosen seat offered a perfect view of the busy intersection and park.

Eagerly, she opened her laptop and pushed the on button. While waiting for her computer to load, she sipped her coffee. Its creamy sweetness and strong espresso flavor was just what she needed.

Ding!

Emma blinked, aghast at the computer's warning. Her laptop had 5 minutes of battery time. And she had forgotten the power cord. How could this have happened? She had deliberately forced time in her hectic schedule just for this moment, just so she could have some time alone. 

"No!" She covered her mouth too late, realizing her muffled protest. She wanted to cry. All her planning, her sacrifices, her late night study hours just to give herself some time today. And now this.

"Is anything wrong, miss?"

Emma looked up. The scent of masculine cologne hit her nostrils, and she immediately met the bluest eyes she had ever seen.

Hahah! Yes, I am ending there. What do you think? Do you get the idea of show, not tell? Now for your assignment! 



Finish the story in a comment below, using the tips you've learned!



Alicia A. Willis is a home-school graduate, published author, and avid historian. She is a firm believer in the principle that one can accomplish anything by substantial amounts of prayer and coffee. Visit her at her blog to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Worthwhile Writing

     I am sitting at the desk in my classroom enjoying a few minutes of peace and quiet while my class is out doing P.E. I am supposed to write a blog for Friday's spot on the Word Painter's site, yet, my mind is hopelessly blank. Some days I just do not have it in me to write anything, and on the days that I do, sometimes a little voice inside me says it is not worthwhile writing so why even attempt it?
     To be honest, I am just me. I have no special background of awesome credentials to make my name well known in the world. I struggle as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, you name it, wondering if I am being the best person that I possibly can to those I love. I struggle as a Christian, taking shaky steps in the direction God is leading me, wondering why God continues to want me as a daughter of the King. How can He love me the way that I am, constantly failing, constantly being a human like the next person? Yet He still does.
     I wear my heart on my sleeve. My husband says I am an open book. I see myself as a simple person, someone easy going, most of the time. With this view of myself, I often wonder who am I to write a book or a blog with words that would be worthwhile reading? I am a nobody. I am the girl who was the quiet wall flower who never had anything to say to anyone. I did not think my opinion mattered, nor was I brave enough to come out of my shell to communicate with the people around me. So, as an adult, what do I have to share with the world? Well, God thinks I have something and He presses me to continue on. God does not see me the way I see myself (thank God for that!). He does not view me as a nobody. I am someone special to Him and He has given me a talent. He has placed a love of writing in my heart and does not want me to hide it under a bushel. His desire is for simple me to share the glory of His Name by using the talents He has graciously given to me. My words may not seem like much, but by placing them into His hands and letting Him scatter them to who may need to hear them, I am trusting Him with a very special gift and I know He will never fail me. Even if it only reaches a few people, I pray that my words bless, build up, and encourage exactly those who need them.
     How about you? Do you see yourself as a nobody? Are you afraid of opening up and using your God given talents for Him? Are you afraid of being too simple, scared you might never become a 'somebody'? You already are a somebody to Jesus - let Him take your life, your words, your talents, and use them as He sees fit. Place the entire matter into His hands and let Him guide your mind and hands as you write to make a beautiful masterpiece that glorifies His precious Name. Go ahead and take that first step. With God anything is possible!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Multi-Tasking

It's been one of those days. You are exhausted. Maybe you are even sad. Or excited. Something is over-stimulating you and you cannot write. 

But.... You know you must work. Your time is precious!

What do you do?


Not really. Don't panic. Just multi-task! I know Sarah Elizabeth mentioned this in her writer's block post. So I wanted to expound upon it by giving you a few ideas on how. When you cannot work on your WIP, work on these:

  • Blog posts. Compile several of them and save them to draft! Blogging is very important to building your marketing platform, so be sure to do it regularly. 
  • Research. Do your historical or writing research and save your findings to a Word document.
  • Newsletter. If you have a newsletter (advised for published authors), work on them! 
  • Website. Update it. Learn some basic HTML. Look at other websites and add new features to your own!
  • Read. Yes, reading is a good exercise for writers! Read books from genres similar to your own. Make a point to tuck what you like and dislike about styles away in your brain.

You see? There is so much you can do! So don't sit in despair and while away your time. Do something else that applies to your calling as a writer.

What ideas do you have?


Alicia A. Willis is a home-school graduate, published author, and avid historian. She is a firm believer in the principle that one can accomplish anything by substantial amounts of prayer and coffee. Visit her at her blog to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!

How to Write Dialog Tags

Greetings all, this is John here, excited to write about a subject which fascinates me and should fascinate you if you want effective dialog.

Dialog or Dialogue?

First things first. How is dialog(ue) spelled? It depends who you ask. Some say that the difference between spellings is caused by the difference between British English and American English. Some say “dialog” is always wrong, unless you’re referencing a dialog box on your computer.

My personal preference is “dialog,” and that’s how I’ll spell it in this article. But, no matter which way you spell it, dialog means conversation between individuals. It’s the words that come from your characters’ mouths.

What Is a Dialog Tag?

He said. She said. The man inquired.

Unless your audience reads minds, they’ll need a little tip from you as to who is speaking when. A dialog tag is that tip. It can also be your way of telling the reader how the words were said.

In the following three examples, the sections in bold are dialog tags.

“I want it now,” Frank asked.

“I want it now,” Frank pleaded.

“I want it now,” Frank snarled, jerking his thumb at the Tabasco sauce.

I actually break “dialog tags” into two categories: speech tags and action tags. A speech tag simply indicates who said what. For example:

“I want it now,” Frank whispered.

An action tag doesn’t specifically say that your character said anything, but it indicates it by the action your character performs. For example:

“I want it now.” Frank jerked his thumb at the bottle.

Both options communicate that Frank said the words. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call both speech tags and actions tags “dialog tags.”

Your dialog tag may dictate whether Frank is a jerk or a gentleman, so choose carefully. Better yet, let your dialog speak for itself — but I’ll say more about that later.

Synonyms for Said

At this point you may be wondering “how many different ways can I say ‘said’?” After all, we don’t want our vocabulary to be over-repetitive, right?

Wrong.

Contrary to popular opinion and the many lists of synonyms for said, one of the best ways to draw your reader out of your story is to show off your vocabulary in dialog tags. Shakespeare is allowed to “quoth,” but if he tried writing today under a pseudonym I don’t think he’d get very far.

The reading brain is attuned to the word “said.” It taps a little gear in our heads and the story keeps cranking on without a pause. But when we see a character chattering, barking, quipping, or blurting, that gear gets a little jolt. It takes a millisecond to compute that word. And each time that happens, it’s a tiny jolt out of the storyworld.

Of course, there are exceptions. Sometimes you need to communicate that a promise of everlasting fidelity was whispered. But even there, you can probably let your dialog speak for itself.

You Can’t Elbow Words

Another common writing mistake with dialog tags is making your characters do impossible things. I’ve seen a person nod his head, but I’ve never seen one nod a word. Elbows can be great reminders when somebody’s about to spill a secret, but it’s hard to deliver a speech with one. I challenge you to go to a mirror and “frown” a word. Wait — finish reading this article first, then try. You may be at your mirror for a while.

All that to say, not all verbs are related to speech.

Incorrect:

Give me the sauce or else,” Frank frowned.

Correct:

Give me the sauce or else,” Frank said, frowning.

Give me the sauce or else.” Frank frowned. (Notice that period after the dialog. That separates the sentences and makes Frank frowned into an action tag, which works.)

It’s an easy concept to master. Next time you write a dialog tag just picture your character speaking. If you can create someone who can elbow a word, let me know. I’d love to meet him.

Caveat: I haven’t always been a faithful practitioner of these two rules. Each book I write is a learning experience. Semper reformanda.

Let Your Dialog Speak for Itself

Dialog tags are necessary, but if you need to dot your pages with “said quickly” and “asked angrily” you may well have one of two problems.

Problem 1: Your dialog is weak.

Dialog which needs constant explanation is a problem. Your characters need to be able to communicate their anger, or joy, or timidity, through their word selection and sentence construction.

Problem 2: You have too many characters in your scenes.

When two people are talking you can often forgo dialog tags for lines at a time because the back and forth makes it clear who is saying what. Add a third person to the conversation and no matter how strong your characters’ dialog is, you need to tell your reader which person is speaking. If you have twelve angry men on a jury, have fun. You can often create more powerful scenes by limiting the number of characters in each scene.

Speaking of Speaking . . .

That’s enough of me talking about talking. There’s still much to the world of dialog tags which I haven’t explored, so I may have more to say in the future. Now it’s your turn. Go write some cutting dialog, tag it right, and have fun!

What do you think about dialog tags? Any questions? Leave a comment!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Puppet-Writing 101

Photo credit: Jonathan_n | sxc.hu
So, you have this amazing story and you need some people to act it out in your book. Well, you've come to the write place. In 5 simple steps, I'm going to tell you how to write the perfect actors--ones on strings, no less!

Step 1: Think about your storyline and decide what stereotypes would best fit the plot's needs. Go beyond, "I'll need a good guy and a bad guy." If you need your bad guy to be stealing something, make him the quintessential thief (you know: mask, big black bag, tiptoes across rooflines--the works). If your good guy needs to be a romantically interesting rancher, go all-out Roy Rogers.

Step 2: Pick some names that fit your stereotypes in Step 1. Also, good guys must have good-sounding names and bad guys need to have names that smack of evil and darkness. Be careful to draw this distinction; you really don't want people getting confused at any point.

Step 3: As you begin writing, make sure to tell the narrative bits in the stiffest way possible. (Like a sports commentator--minus the excitability. "He picked up the guitar. He then began to play and sing. Everyone in the room listened.") Remember, these are just puppets, so you really just have to report their movements as succinctly and factually as possible.

Step 4: Also, the perfect puppet will deliver his lines flawlessly and say exactly what he should. (Oh, and puppets usually use near-perfect grammar in everything they say.) The words will be just right, so don't worry about the delivery or pacing or spacing or stuttering or repeating oneself or misunderstandings that come about in real-life conversation. Never forget: puppets aren't very creative by themselves.

Step 5: Don't get too involved in fleshing out your puppets because if you allow them backstories, feelings, motives, character, and individual personalities, you may find you have difficulty keeping them to exactly what you've mapped out. This step is extremely important. Be very careful, or you might end up with people instead of puppets. And characters with backstories, feelings, motives, character, and personalities drive stories. Really good ones.


What books have you read that made you feel like the character of the characters was not driving the story, but being driven by it? What tips might help us all avoid this in our writing?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Use Your Senses

Interrupting this post to say we have a winner for last week's giveaway, A Home For My Heart! Congratulations to Taylor Audrey. Taylor, could you shoot me an email at writerforhisglory@yahoo.com? I'll get your mailing address sent off to Anne!

Also, pardon any delays on publishing/answering comments. I am going to be out of town and don't know if I will have WIFI. Please do comment - I'll respond soon! Thanks!



Use your senses. What senses, you may ask?

Your five senses. 

Let's face it: we get to scribbling away and often forget there are more senses than just hearing. Our dialogue can go on and on, but we forget the senses which will bring our readers into the life of the story. To get them to breathe the very air our characters do, we have to remember all five senses.


You know the sense I always forget? Scent! It is so important in creating the overall mood. So, with my WIP (for you new writers, a WIP is a Work-In-Progress), I am working hard on describing scents. Here is a sample:

The rustle of clothing sounded through the room. Philip smelled the musky scent of alkaline and earth, used by the fullers to clean garments. In the closeness of the environment, a faint whiff of the Indian cologne the soldiers wore could be detected. Its sweet, botanical scent mingled pleasantly with the warmth of the burning oil and odor of close human bodies. 
Copyright 2013 Alicia A. Willis. All Rights Reserved.

Did you catch any of that? You breathed in the scents, but the odors in themselves taught you a few things about the culture. You learned how they cleaned their clothing. You learned that the soldiers wore cologne and what kind. You learned about the oil they used for light and the fact that everyone was close together.

That is what you call show, not tell. You portray the scents and historical detail through the senses of the character. Put yourself in the character's place. Imagine their circumstances. What scents would come to your mind in certain situations? 

Here are a few ideas:
  • Are you writing a western? What would your dashing cowboy character smell like? His clothing would probably smell of smoke and cattle. Think of sunny skies and pelting rain storms. Think of cigarettes, of coffee in the crisp air.
  • Does your protagonist work in a fashion outlet store? Think of new clothing, of musky male scents, of floral women's perfume. Yes, even think of cleaning supplies and stain remover.
  • Maybe your protagonist is a barista. Think of strong French roasts, of yeasty sandwich bread, of lemony pound cake. Think of strong cleaning solutions and warm milk.
  • What about your antagonist? He/she can conjure up some scents too, you know! Maybe your antagonist is a male bank robber. Think of dark, mysterious cologne. Think of hair tonic. Maybe his business suit just came back from the cleaners and still carries the scent. His briefcase may smell of old leather. 
Ok, that should have been enough to get your creative juices flowing! I know it did mine! 
Leave a few ideas of your own!

Monday, October 7, 2013

5 Tips for Writers Block

I absolutely detest it when I have a 'mental block' (or, more commonly known among writers as 'writers block'). It truly is the most annoying thing.



Unfortunately, I don't think there are many out there who have never had one- and it doesn't always relate to writing. I get mental blocks just walking into another room and immediately forgetting what I was getting in the first place. Or forgetting a person's name. Or what it was you were going to put on the grocery list. All sorts of things can be labeled as 'mental block'.

So, how do we, as writers with deadlines and the need to finish a manuscript, deal with such a monstrosity?
Well, I honestly don't really know. However, I have learned a few tips 'n tricks that work quite well. Here are 5 of them.

1.) Get up and walk around. Often times, when you're sitting and staring at a computer screen for a long time, your brain starts to go into 'boring mode' (as I like to call it). It is a simple science fact that when your brain isn't stimulated, it is, obviously, non-stimulated. Why do you think it's easier to watch an action movie than listen to a speaker at a conference? It's because the brain isn't being visually stimulated. So, my trick is to simply get up. Go do something for a few minutes. The best thin is to go and take a walk. There are SO many things outside to stimulate the brain. Just go and take a look. :-)



2.) While you're walking or doing other tasks, it is best to NOT think about your book/writing project. You need to get it out of your head for a bit. Let your brain rest. Believe it or not, it will still be present in the back of your head while you're occupied with other things. So you don't have to worry about forgetting anything (but then, there isn't much to remember, is there?)

3.) Experience it. Being a fictional writer, my characters can do anything I want them to. Unless I'm writing a historical fiction, I don't have to stick to any historical correctness. (Let it not be said, though, that I don't like history books!). So, in my case, I try to 'experience' what my character is experiencing. If she just broke her arm in a bad fall, what would it be like to not have the use of that arm? On comes the Ace Bandage and I make myself not use that arm for the day. How did it feel? Frustrating? Painful? What about if she had just lost someone who was very dear to her? Try to imagine what it would be like if you were in that position. What would a day look like without so-and-so. (Yes, that might be slightly morbid, but, amazingly, it works really well).

4.) Have at least two projects going at once. Not all authors like doing this, and I respect them for it. I, on the other hand, am a person that suffers from 'multiple manuscripts disorder'. My youngest brother gets on to me quite frequently about it. However, to me, it is really helpful. When I'm having trouble with my book, I can just stop writing in that one for a bit and go to another. In this way, I'm not wasting my writing time by not writing. I still get to write, but my brain is able to focus on something else for a bit.


5.) Write it all down. But wait, you just said that we have a mental block. How can we write when we have a mental block? Well, this option is for those who just want to barrel through the mental block. Some can't or don't prefer that method. Sometimes I prefer it to the others. It just depends on my mood. :-) So, the thing that helps me best it to write down all the possibilities of the next section. Does he decide to run or talk to the bad guy? If he runs, where does he go? If he talks, what does he say? You know those 'decision trees' or 'flow charts' that you did in science? The ones where you asked yourself such and such questions to identify what sort of a cell you were looking at, or what species this animal was categorized with? Well, use this same technique with your book. It's almost like an outline, except for those of us who are classified as 'visuals' (need to see it in a different way) it is easier to use and understand.

So, there ya have it. These are 5 things I've learned in my years of writing that help me best overcome a writing block. I should perhaps add a 6th. That if none of those work, look at your clock. It might be that you are up too late and your brain simply cannot and will not function at such a late hour. :-)

Do you have certain things that help with your writers block? I'd love to learn some more!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

When Inspiration Hits

Empty space. Dead air. Numb and void. Call it what you want, but my mind went completely blank for a few months during the summer. I tried sitting down to write, but every time I did, my thoughts seemed to wander everywhere but to the paper in front of me. I began to wonder what was wrong with me? Why was it so hard to think of even the basic idea to blog about, something that would be interesting to both the reader and me? Even brainstorming was difficult. I had been taught that one way to open up the creative flow was to write down whatever came to mind and naturally it would go in the direction I wanted. It was a bunch of hogwash. Whoever came up with that idea did not have five children running around. All I ended up with was a bunch of figure eights, some hearts, and a huge shopping list of food I needed to buy. 
 
I thought all was lost. I thought to myself that it would be a sad day indeed when I could no longer include myself in the writer's category if I ever needed to sign up on a new social media site or website. But then it happened. The moment of wonderful bliss when sudden inspiration hits and the light bulb turns on over your head! The "Aha!" moment during the day when you least expect it, or even during the middle of the night when you wake up and know exactly what you should say or write about. 
 
It happened to me again today. I was simply walking along the parking lot, minding my own business when 'BAM!' I saw something that sparked the imagination and it set my mind a running full steam ahead. It was as if I had drank one of those high energy drinks and the creative juices started flowing into every fiber of my being. That is all it takes! And I love it! It is almost as if someone took their finger and gave my brain a quick flick, shaking up the ideas inside that had settled on the bottom, kind of like a snow globe. It never fails to awe me how it all works out. I love how God can help me see a simple thing in nature, or the expression of a playful child that sparks an idea in my otherwise dead brain, and it sends me scrambling to my keyboard to put it all into words before I forget. 
 
Now, there are plenty of times when inspiration hits and I do not have anything near me that I can write on. It happens to me in the shower quite often...the shower and the car. I have learned to keep a notepad and pen in my bathroom and as soon as my hands are dry enough not to drench my paper, I write my ideas down while they are still fresh in my mind. I even have a mini tape recorder for the times when I need to remember a song or ditty that came to me while washing my hair. As for the car, I keep a notepad in my purse for those rare moments when I am driving all alone. When the children are not there to distract me, I can focus on what is going on outside the car and see things I would not normally notice. Whoever made the law against texting while driving may be smart, but if they ever saw me making quick notes on my paper in the middle of the steering wheel, they might think to add to that safety list, "No writing while driving!"
 
The middle of the night is another time I get ideas. I have awakened many times at night and tried writing by the light of my alarm clock so I would not wake my husband or sleeping babies. I found I could not go back to sleep until the thoughts were safely written down on paper, even if it meant the words were unreadable in the morning.

Inspiration can come out of the blue when you least expect it. Always be prepared and have something to write on so you do not lose the moment. Even if you can not use it today, save it in a file or box for the future when you lack inspiration. It may be just what you need to keep that brain working smoothly and keep you on the right track of writing, if only to maintain that status in all the important websites you keep. God bless!        

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Guest Post by Anne Mateer!

Giveaway runs October 2-8

Today we are so happy to welcome Anne Mateer! I have had the pleasure of getting to know Anne a little better over this last year. She has a wonderfully sweet spirit and has definitely been an encouragement to me in my writing journey. Her success as a writer/author is inspirational, particularly to those of us who hope to follow in her footsteps with our own works of historical-fiction! Be sure to enter the giveaway for her new book at the end!


Some of you may recognize her as the author of three published novels: 

A Home For My Heart (Just Released!)

 


I hope you enjoy reading Anne's account of her journey of writing
A Home For My Heart as much as I did!
I thought it would get easier, wielding a situation and characters into an entire book, crafting a story that would capture the reader’s attention and imagination. It hasn’t. If anything, it’s become harder.

The release of A Home for My Heart marks my seventh novel--four unpublished, three published. (The eighth is turned in, being prepared for a 2014 release.) And while, yes, I’ve learned so much along the way that have made me more confident in the writing process, I’ve also come to see my weaknesses more clearly, and the desire to strengthen these is what has made the writing of each book more difficult.

A Home for My Heart was particularly grueling in this respect. First, the research was elusive. A scrap of information about a home for orphan and friendless children in a small central Pennsylvania town captured my imagination. But details were not readily available. It took digging and searching, even then coming up with only pebbles of information when I sought boulders, or at least rocks of some heft. Being a stickler for historical accuracy, it galled me to “make up” too much, even within the confines of a novel. This became a weakness to be overcome.

In my previously published novels, subplots were minimal, most characters contributing to the main character’s story. This was fairly understandable, given that each is told in first person point of view, which makes story lines about other characters harder to develop in depth. But I felt A Home for My Heart needed to tell the story of some of the children in the orphan home as well as the matron’s story. I thought I had done a fair job of this in my first draft, but my editor helped me see that my effort had fallen short. A very glaring weakness. One that required many hours of anguished work and yes, even tears.

Finally, I knew that in A Home for My Heart I wanted to explore an established romantic relationship with the main characters rather than a budding one. Much more difficult to portray. Much more difficult to keep a level of conflict and anticipation. Another place where I knew I didn’t excel but felt the pull to attempt. Another source of agony in the writing and rewriting.

A Home for My Heart turned out to be by far the hardest book I’ve written. In the process, I rediscovered that pushing yourself to do new things, better things in your work is difficult, sometimes overwhelming. That climbing to new writing heights requires perseverance and commitment and tenacity. That perfecting your craft requires an eye of reality to assess you work, tear it apart again, remake it. But I learned something more than how to create a better story. I learned that the end of a difficult project is so much more rewarding, so much more satisfying than one that doesn’t require as much effort.

Are you in comfortable, content place in your writing? Don’t stall there, shying away from recognizing or strengthening the weak places in your writing. Reach farther. Stretch higher. Attempt something you don’t know if you can do. Whether that book becomes published or remains one of your practice pieces isn’t what matters. The goal is to grow as a writer and as a person. When that happens, you will always come away with something to be proud of. 


Anne Mateer:
While I have been writing for what feels like my whole life, I began seriously studying the craft in 2000. Since then I have completed five novels, had several pieces published in local periodicals, attended six writing conferences and managed to final in ACFW’s Genesis contest in 2006, 2008, and 2009. My first historical novel, Wings of a Dream, released in September 2011. My second, At Every Turn, is currently available. But writing is only a piece of my life.   

I am mostly just a woman trying to live her life in a manner pleasing to the Lord. That involves being a wife to Jeff and a mother to my three teenagers–neither role coming easily but both roles stretching me, requiring me to press in closer to Jesus. And because of this, Jesus has taken an insecure, fearful, sometimes angry girl and is turning her into a more trusting, peaceful, grace-filled woman. At least some of the time. There is still such a long way to go! - See more at: http://www.annemateer.com/about/#sthash.7yK3SbFS.dpuf





    Anne is graciously giving away a copy of her new book, A Home For My Heart! To enter, leave a comment. You can double your entries by adding the book to your Goodreads shelf and leaving a second comment saying you have done so.