Tuesday, December 29, 2015

When Life Happens...

Life happens.

I hear from clients all the time. I'm just too busy. I know. I know because I've been there myself. In fact, I'm too busy now.

Writing is not happening.


Do I feel guilty? 

No. And neither should you.

You see, good writers build their manuscripts off of experience. Off of the things the Lord is teaching them. Off of things that truly matter. And we cannot accumulate those things without down-to-earth, real-life happenings. Real life is good. Realizing that the writing journey is one that takes flexibility is good.

But being swamped with regular life does not mean that you abandon writing altogether. I am swamped with preparing for my wedding and moving four hours away from my family. Oh, and Lord willing, we will be heading to the Philippines to do missionary work two weeks after our honeymoon. (Details HERE.)

But all that does not mean that I have abandoned my next book. One can brainstorm while they do the dishes. One can glean ideas from watching a good, old-fashioned, swashbuckling action movie with the family. One can watch people on a continual basis and study human nature. And God is always teaching us things that can be the spiritual side of our manuscripts. 

So don't be discouraged when life gets in the way. Just be creative with your time. Remember that there are seasons in life. And appreciate where you are and how your experiences right now will shape your next book. 

How is your writing coming? 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Encouragement

Hello everyone! I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been busy lately, right? Anyway, because of that, today I’m posting an article I wrote on my personal blog two years ago; I had just published my first novel and was in a pondering mood. (It seemed to resonate with people then, so I’m thinking it’s safe to share it again!)

Every writer is different. “No, really? You don’t say!” But, I make that statement because sometimes we writers don’t take that to heart. Am I the only one who occasionally wishes she had certain other writers’ gifts? Maybe they’re very prolific and their stories generate effortlessly like rabbits. Maybe their writing style is as lyrical and inviting as a song. Maybe they’re so well-informed, intelligent, and profound that their books are life-changing. If only you could write like any or all of the above…!

But every writer is different. God has different plans for each one and has gifted them accordingly. Maybe you’re meant to write just a few long and weighty tomes in your lifetime. Harper Lee published only one book, To Kill a Mockingbird, but look at its legacy. Maybe you’re meant to write down-to-earth stories that resonate with practical people more than a poetic style of writing ever could. Maybe your books are meant to entertain and cheer readers up rather than stretch their minds.

And then there’s the realization that writing isn’t all there is in this world, even for writers. If you’re like me, you get depressed on a weekly basis over how little time you have to write. How will I ever get anything written if I never write? But God doesn’t just give writers one gift—oftentimes there are a multiple number of things that any one writer is valuable for. Maybe it’s mother- or fatherhood, or a day job, or a special talent in music or art…there are lots of important things to be done in this world. Writing is only one of them.

So, the next time you feel discouraged, remember that writing is profitable in many, many different ways and on many levels…even something written for your eyes alone is worthwhile if it helps you. Our desperate aim is always to get everything in our heads onto paper or into type and to as many readers as possible, but if we managed to accomplish that, our writing days would be done, and we wouldn’t want that, now would we?!

My conclusion, to myself and to anyone else, is to remember that the essential thing is to work hard and write for God’s glory, and the results are up to Him.

Kelsey Bryant is an author, blogger, and copy editor who loves the Lord. She revels in many things: the beauty of God's Word, the music of English, the wonder of nature, the joy of creativity, the freedom of motion, the richness of literature, the intrigue of history ... and much more. To learn more about her, visit her website or blog.
 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Short Story Contest at Becoming Writer ($500 in prizes)

Greetings all, John J. Horn here.

A contest announced last week inspired me to take a quick break from my Work in Progress to craft a short story.

The writing community Becoming Writer is celebrating their one-year anniversary with a short story contest offering $500 in prizes.

Check out the contest here.

It's mandatory to submit your short story for critique by fellow writers before entering in the official contest. My short story is in the Becoming Writer workshop now, and it's very helpful to get feedback and a variety of perspectives from the other writers in the community.

Go check it out!

John J. Horn is a Christian author from Texas. Purchase his Men of Grit series from Amazon here and sign up for his newsletter at johnjhornbooks.com.

Friday, December 4, 2015

A Dry Well of Ideas

I hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving! It’s hard to believe it’s December already, isn’t it? Throughout this busy month of the year, it’s hard to make time to write. I understand why some people take a break; we all need them, so December is a sensible choice.

Sometimes what’s harder (at least for me) is having ideas ready for me when I do get time to sit down and type. We’ve talked before about “writing when you’re not writing”—which means using the blank spaces of time when you’re walking, driving, riding in a car, washing dishes, et cetera, to plan what you’ll write when you next have the opportunity. But sometimes the idea well is so dry that no matter how far you dig, you can’t come up with anything. When that happens, small thought sessions aren’t enough.



Here’s what you could do to dredge up fresh ideas when you’re so stuck no amount of staring at your computer screen or blank sheet of paper or otherwise forcing yourself to think will help.

  • Pray. Every time I’ve been discouragingly stumped and I’ve prayed and rededicated the story to the Lord, the solution came to me. Sometimes in the same moment!
  • Talk to someone. Even if they don’t know exactly what’s going on in your story, mulling over something aloud can turn up fresh ideas. Or something they say could give you the spark you need to keep going.
  • Read an inspiring book. It could be about your subject, or totally different; just whatever you think could get your juices flowing. I find how-to write books creativity inducing.
  • Watch an inspiring movie. Since movies can be such a strong influence, I think the best selections would somehow pertain to your WIP...you don’t want to get distracted or inspired in the wrong direction!
  • Research. Sometimes you just need to know more about what you’re writing.
  • Write to yourself, explaining your problem. It can be more effective than thinking or speaking because it’s the same action as what you need to be doing. You may even write something you can use for your WIP!
  • Reread parts of your story, or revisit your notes. The answer you’re seeking may be there, and your memory may just need refreshing. That may be all it takes to get you over a mountain.

What have you done to get out of a seemingly hopeless writers’ block?

Kelsey Bryant is an author, blogger, and copy editor who loves the Lord. She revels in many things: the beauty of God's Word, the music of English, the wonder of nature, the joy of creativity, the freedom of motion, the richness of literature, the intrigue of history ... and much more. To learn more about her, visit her website or blog

Friday, November 20, 2015

So Many Words!

Happy National Novel Writing Month! If you’re taking part in the month’s “festivities,” I hope things are going well with your project. If you need a little pep-talk, you may want to peruse this blog post by a friend of mine, Deborah.

Producing fifty thousand words of fiction in thirty days is no mean feat. I’ve never done it, but I know plenty of writers who do it year after year. I’d like to know their secret. I’ve heard that sometimes in the mad rush to write them, the words get trampled and are unusable later. But other times they’re in fine shape and the foundation of a strong novel. Some full-time writers probably work that long and hard on a regular basis. What is the difference? Perhaps plotting and planning and spending quality time on it?

Since I haven’t done the 50,000 word “NaNoWriMo” (short for National Novel Writing Month) challenge, I’m not really qualified to write about how to succeed at it, but I’ve picked up on a few things my savvy, overachieving writer friends have done. I’ve also implemented a goal for myself this month, to complete half the goal by writing 25,000 words by November 30. (It seems so comparatively small, but then, we shouldn’t downgrade any improvement we can make!)

Usually I’m a slow, painstaking writer, so although I work consistently on a novel, it takes many months to complete, and my average is about 10,000 words a month. So...how am I able to write so many more words this month?

The daily word count target to attain 50,000 by the end of November is 1,667. That seems like an overwhelming amount to some of us. I can’t yet imagine writing that many words daily on a single novel for thirty days straight. But this month I surprised myself by exceeding that target on two days, and they were decent, usable words, too. What was different? Why did it work so well?

Every writer is unique, so what I’ve been doing won’t necessarily work for you, but maybe at least one of these tips will help out or inspire you:

  • I had a clear idea of where I was headed next in the story each time I sat down to write.
  • I committed to writing at least 834 words every day.
  • I made it a daily priority. One day I was gone from home, but I made up for it the next day (which was when I got over 1,667 words in).
  • I didn’t overthink what I was writing. I didn’t fling down words, and though I did a bit of editing to make sure they stayed good quality, I didn’t sweat getting every little word or detail right. I put off extra research for later. As a result, the words flowed easily and quickly.
  • I cut down on other activities when I could. This gave me more time and a less cluttered mind. (In fact, this article was kind of done at the last minute...)
  • I pondered and planned while I couldn’t actively write. It takes only a few moments to make a crucial decision for a story, one that will undo a plot snag or lay down a clear path for the story to travel next.
  • I told people about my goal and whether I reached it each day. Accountability works!
  • I prayed about it. God gives strength where we are weak, that’s for sure.
  • I thoroughly enjoyed it! The more I wrote, the more I wanted to write. Nearly every night, I closed my story with reluctance. As my blogging friend wrote in her article, love for one’s story is a major motivator.

So whether you’re doing NaNo, or plugging along on your own time, keep it up! Have fun reaching your goal—the joy is in the journey maxim is especially true for writing! In fact, taking joy in the writing journey is what carries you to the finish.

Back in spring, we had a discussion about writing goals. This is more about how slow writers can write faster, or how we can keep up momentum. Are you a slow writer, or a fast writer? What do you do to make each individual session more productive?

Before I forget...
Unsplash, edited

Kelsey Bryant is an author, blogger, and copy editor who loves the Lord. She revels in many things: the beauty of God's Word, the music of English, the wonder of nature, the joy of creativity, the freedom of motion, the richness of literature, the intrigue of history ... and much more. To learn more about her, visit her website or blog

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Beginning Authors Need Readers, Not Money

Greetings all, John J. Horn here.

Most authors tell you the same thing: It's hard to make a lot of money from books.

It's really hard to write a bestseller. If you're going to make enough money from writing to be a full-time writer, the most likely way you'll make it happen is by writing many books, none of which are bestsellers, but which add up to a decent income.

When you're a beginning author, you don't have that backlist of books bringing you a small but steady royalty check. That's why readers, not money, should be your goal.

I still consider myself a beginning author. My first books came out a couple of years ago, but I'm young and I have much to learn about the art of writing. And I have to build a backlist of books. That's why my number one goal is not to make money from my books, but to get them into the hands of as many readers in my target audience as possible.

This is a model that many startups and apps use. It's why venture capitalists give hundreds of millions of dollars to businesses that are losing money. First you build a customer base of people who like your product/service and use it regularly. Then you monetize your users.

There's nothing wrong with making money from the beginning as an author, and if you can do it, super! But my recommendation to any beginning author reading this is to focus more on getting brand recognition and an audience which is excited about your books, than on maximizing your royalty checks.

You also don't want to undervalue your books. Giving away everything you write for free might not be a good plan, because people generally value content based upon how much they pay for it. If you can find that happy medium of charging enough for your books to show that they're worth an investment, but also maximizing the number of readers who will pick up your book, then you're well on your way.

John J. Horn is a Christian author from Texas. Purchase his Men of Grit series from Amazon here and sign up for his newsletter at johnjhornbooks.com.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Being Inspired by Real Lives



[ The NEW EDITIONS of the Baker Family Adventures are now available from Grace & Truth Books!  Find them HERE - plus many other titles and free shipping on orders over $49!]







It’s November.

For many of us, that means general busyness. For some of us, it means NaNoWriMo, a deluge of words and ideas when we slip so frequently from real life to the fictional world that the challenge can become figuring out which one we’re living.

I’m not doing NaNo this year, but I sure know what it’s like to have a tired ol’ brain that feels dry as a wrung-out sponge. A great way to spark enthusiasm for a project is to be inspired by the lives of people who went before us. Some of these characters of the real world achieved amazing things by being diligent with the talents and opportunities they’d been given. They used their time wisely, and exercised faith and determination to press through challenges. (Hint: many of them lived before Netflix.) This is inspiring stuff, no matter what your field of work.


Saints and Scoundrels

Saints and Scoundrels, by Mr. Robin Phillips, is packed with biographies of men and women who either used their abilities for God’s glory or twisted them to suit their own ends. We read of heroes of the faith: little-known ones like Thomas Chalmers and Edmund Burke, as well as famous ones like J.S. Bach and Jim Elliot. We read of villains—King Herod, Rousseau, Gramsci—and their impact on today’s culture.

Each “life” is compact enough to enjoy (or deplore) in one sitting, so if you can squeeze a bit of time for reading into your evenings, do look out for a copy. If you’re a NaNo-er, pressed for time and in need of encouragement, here are a couple of facts to set you going!

- Columbanus was a Celtic monk-and-missionary who spread the Gospel across Europe. His more Biblical view of forgiveness set him at odds with the pope—but this opposition didn’t stop his work.

 - J. S. Bach—we all know of the glorious music, but how many of us know about the man? Johann Sebastian wrote hundreds of cantatas while holding a position that demanded most of his time. Not only did he have a Christ-glorifying approach to composing, and influenced students to the same end, he also is credited with turning people to Christ long after his death … through his music. (What does this say about the potential of literature?)

- Dorothy Sayers became a wholehearted advocate of the exciting glories of the Gospel, working against the dull Gnosticism that had taken over the Church in her day. She aimed, and succeeded, to show the real light and life of Christian doctrine in God’s Word without the stuffy veneer that had driven her away as a youngster.

If you’re looking for inspirational material to jump-start flagging morale, check out the Saints and Scoundrels biography collection here.
If you’re up to your elbows in nouns, languishing and in need of some fiction, do grab a Baker Family Adventure to read at your leisure once NaNo is over! 

What are some of your favorite biographies? Why?
What inspires you to rise above challenges and accomplish hard things?

   Caitlin R. Hedgcock is a Christian author who aspires to use storytelling for God’s glory. She lives with her family in England's picturesque county of Hertfordshire. Visit her website or Facebook page to find out more.