The Joy of Hindsight

By Jennifer AlLee

Here it is, December 31st, the eve of a new year. About this time we usually look back at the year with nostalgia (or with a shudder and a prayer of thanks that it’s over). Often, it’s a time to make resolutions. Today, I’d like to look back, but way back…all the way to Christmas of 1995 and another time-honored tradition: visiting the mall for a picture with Santa.

A wee bit of context here. My son, Billy (who prefers Bill or William now, but at the time was definitely Billy) generally loved having his picture taken and was quite photogenic. On this particular day, he was not, shall we say, agreeable to sitting on a strange man’s lap and looking happy about it. I watched as Santa tried to charm him, bouncing him on his knee and never dropping his jolly facade. I, however, was far from jolly. I was mortified. I wanted to explain to Santa and anyone watching that my son really wasn’t a little monster, he was just having a bad day.

When the ordeal of sitting for the picture was over, we moved down the line to pick up the proof sheets, which they printed on the spot. The result wasn’t good so I had no desire to purchase a package of pics to share with family and friends. But I wasn’t going to leave empty handed, so I bought the proof sheets.

It’s fair to say, I considered the day a failure. My son was miserable, we had not brightened Santa’s day, and there was nothing jolly about the outing. But a funny thing happened. The following year, I came across the proof sheets. When I looked at them, I felt none of the negative emotions from that day. Instead, I burst out laughing. Not a snicker or a chuckle, but a full out, fall over sideways, tears of joy kind of laughter. To this day, I cannot look at those pictures without laughing. What I saw as a disaster when it was happening has now become a great source of joy.

To wrap this up with a pretty bow and show why this should matter to all you writers, let me say this: There are times during life (in general) and writing (in particular) when it feels like everything is going wrong. Those times stink, no doubt about it. But it’s just possible that, somewhere down the road, you’ll look back on those times and burst out laughing. At the very least, you may smile knowingly, aware of the growth and strength that came from the perceived failure.

So, as we say, “Later, baby!” to 2016 and greet the new year, I have one simple resolution: To find joy in unlikely places. Care to join me?

TWEETABLES
Jennifer AlLee was born in Hollywood, California, and grew up living above a mortuary one block away from the famous intersection of Hollywood & Vine. Now she lives in the grace-filled city of Las Vegas, which just goes to prove she’s been blessed with a unique life. A multi-published author, she’s worked with four different publishing houses in the genres of Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Romance, and Historical Romance. When she’s not busy spinning tales, she enjoys playing games with friends, attending live theater and movies, and singing at the top of her lungs to whatever music happens to be playing. 

Write a Book in 3 months in just 3 Hours a Day

by Susan May Warren

Looking back at 2016, did you finish that you’d planned to write? It may be too late to finish this year, but 2017 is full of possibilities. 2017 is the year you can get your book written, or maybe two, dare I say three? Because you can write a book in just three months!

Write a book in 3 months? In three hours a day? And have a family life, too? Bah!

You laugh, but seriously, it can be done. Now, I’m not saying it’s easy. But the fact is, with a little “nose to the grindstone” as my father used to say, it’s possible.

Here’s how:

First, we talked yesterday about the four keys to a successful writer’s life. If you’ve committed to the task, found your writing space, wheedled out time from your schedule and determined to keep a running game plan, then it’s time to talk strategy.

Let’s assume you have 12 weeks to write a 30 chapter book, with approximately 3000 words per chapter. That’s 1500 words per scene. That’s 6 pages per writing session, 180 minutes per scene. That’s thirty minutes a page.

Calm down. Breathe. Think about it. Can you sit down and write a blog in 30 minutes? If you already had the idea, already had the words brewing inside you? Probably most of you can. Maybe you can even do it faster than that, but we want to leave room for editing, and revisions, and notes.

And I know at least some of you do that NaNoMoWrite (I feel like I’m talking Morkish when I say that and I probably didn’t even get it right!) – that write a book in a month thing. So I think I’m being rather generous at 3 months.

Now, you’re going to pad in on either side with 2 weeks of character development, and 2 weeks for rewriting and editing, synopsis and query letter. So, yes, we’re talking 4 months, but really, the concentrated, “under the thought blanket” time (as my kids call it) is three months.

Pre Week 1: Research of idea and premise, preliminary characterization and rough brainstorming of plot.

Pre Week 2: Further Research, the cementing of characterization and synopsis writing. Sometimes, a chapter by chapter summary of the book helps at this time.

We’re going to spend the month of January talking a lot about what goes into prewriting. There are people who take months in prewriting, so I don’t count that as actual novel writing time. They live with their characters in their minds for a while, having conversations, trying on names and attire until they have them just so…and then they embark. During this time, do enough research to get your story plausible, and outline the major plot twists in the story. I always write a synopsis at this point, also, as a sort of guideline.

Then I write my first chapter. Here’s a hint: Often your first chapter isn’t one you’ll really use. It’s the “finding your character’s voice” chapter and really, it contains WAY too much backstory to use in the book. But it’s helpful as a warm up to the big event.

Week 1: Starting day. First, gather your research material around you (use lots of those big brightly colored paper clips so you can bookmark pages), and a notebook. Open up a new file and call it something terrific like Susie’s Super Suspense Book 1. (Okay, not using my name, of course, or, I suppose if you want to….) Then, open up a new doc and title it: Chapter 1.

At this point, you’re going to turn off your internal nasty editor, the one that tells you things are not grammatically correct, or perhaps you’re using a word no one has heard of before, and you’re just going to write. Splash the words onto the page. Ignore the red and green squigglies – just write. A cup of hot cocoa helps, and I’m a big fan of mood music. If you get to a point where you’ll need to do more research, put in something plausible, and denote it with an * — saying you’ll GET BACK TO IT. Don’t disrupt your writing flow. If you have a word you hate, yet can’t find the right one – Asterik it! If you can’t remember a character’s name, or eye color – Asterik it! When you’re done with your ms, you’ll read through each chapter, do a search for the Asterik’s and change it when you’re mind isn’t cluttered with story.

But what if I come up with a great story thread half way through the scene? Should I stop and go back and fix it?

NO! did you hear me? NO! Make an…what? ASTERIK! Start writing the story from this point on with your new story thread. THEN, make a note in your notebook to go back and add in or tweak that story thread AFTER you’ve finished the book. Seriously. It’s your story. No one will read it until it’s done. It’s in YOUR brain. So you don’t have to have to add everything in until you’re ready.

And right now you want to…just keep writing, just keep writing…

Once you’ve finished your scene, SAVE. And then open a new doc, label it CHAPTER 2 (or maybe Chapter 1, scene 2), and make a few notes about what you’d like to open with next scene, or things you want to accomplish. OR, you can do this in the notebook I talked about yesterday. The strategy is to jump start your mind the next time you sit down.

Now:

Close the computer.
Stand up.
Stretch.
Dance through the house shouting, “I finished Chapter 1! I finished Chapter 1!

Go to bed, and pray for words for Chapter 2.

If you want, you can spend the weekends doing more research, or going back and rereading any points you wanted to refine.

Keep doing this for the next 12 weeks. You’ll be surprised at how disciplined you get, and how fast the words flow out. And how refreshing it feels to say, I’ll get back to all those asterisk later!

When you write the final chapter, take a weekend break. (Take your poor family out for dinner, for Pete’s sake!)

You’ll spend the NEXT two weeks adding in those threads, re-writing, fixing all the green and red squigglies and doing a rough edit, then a thorough edit, and then a polish. Okay, it might take you longer than 2 weeks. But the key is…the story is DONE. It’s out of your brain.

And you can say…hey, I wrote a book in 3 months!

Don’t let another year slip through your fingers! Let 2017 be the year you finished that book – maybe even two!

TWEETABLES


Write a Book in 3 months in just 3 Hours a Day by Susan May Warren (Click to Tweet)

Did you get that book written that you’d planned to write?~ Susan May Warren (Click to Tweet)

Just keep writing, just keep writing…Susan May Warren (Click to Tweet)



Susan May Warren is owner of Novel Rocket and the founder of Novel.Academy. A Christy and RITA award-winning author of over fifty novels with Tyndale,Barbour, Steeple Hill, Summerside Press and Revell publishers, she’s an eight-time Christy award finalist, a three-time RITA Finalist, and a multi-winner of theInspirational Readers Choice award and the ACFW Carol. A popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation, she’s also the author of the popular writing method, The Story Equation. A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at: www.susanmaywarren.com. Contact her at:susan@mybooktherapy.com.

Advice to New Authors

by Rachel Hauck

In this ever changing world of publishing, e-books on the rise, the popularity of electronically self publishing, it seems the author has to be writer, promoter and marketer. When I was first published seven years ago, there were twitterings of an author spending half of their advance on promotion, but I thought those were just rumors. Heresay. What “one” author had to do.

But it’s true. Then and now. When you get your first contract, plan on setting aside a third or a half for promotion. Consider it seed money for your career. Get it out of your head now that you’re writing to earn income for the family. You’ll be disappointed if you do. You’re writing to tell great stories. You’re writing because it’s your heart and what you love. You’re writing to eventually make some money.

A novelist career is a slow build of readership and dollars. In fact, the two are tightly correlated.

What do you do with those marketing dollars you set aside? Giveaways. Subscribe to a newsletter service. Pay for a good web site design. Hire companies like LitFuse to host a blog tour for your book or run a contest for you. Give away a Nook or a Kindle. Buy business cards. Bookmarks.

You want to start touting your book about two months before the release date. Post on your Facebook and Twitter. FB and Twitter are free and a GREAT way to build relationships with readers. And I do mean relationships. Social media is a conversation not a super cyber market where you only talk about your and your books. Or try to get people to buy something from you.

If you write have a category book that has a shelf life of one month, run a blog tour that month. If you’re book is a trade and has a longer shelf life, you might consider running a blog tour the month of your release and maybe a few months later. I always run my blog tours three months after the release date. Whatever promo or marketing publisher might have done would be fading by then as they moved on to their next quarter releases so I jump in and boost my books with a blog tour.

Spend about fifteen minutes a day on social media. Twitter a few times throughout the day. Look at others tweets and retweet them. Post on your Facebook. Answer comments others might have posted. Don’t stress over it, but try to stay engaged.

Managing your time is key to success. Whether writing a book or not. Your number one job as a writer, besides carrying for your family, is to write a great book. Before promo and social media, write a great book. Don’t get distracted with other things. If your writing suffers it’s hard to pull together again and get focused. Since we all work differently and have different responsibilities, it’s hard for me to say, “This is how YOU must mange your time.”

I have no children. I can write all day. I can goof around all day. I can do pretty much what I want. So if I were to say, “write every day from noon to five,” that might not work for you.

Here’s what I can tell you. Get a hold of your time. Schedule your days. Some people can schedule down to every 15 minutes! Yowza! Not me. I schedule in blocks. Morning. Afternoon. Evening. But I know what needs to be done and about how long it will take me to do it — more or less.

Talk to your husband and kids. Figure a way to involve the family in your success as a writer. Some authors have office days. Those are the days they work on the business, answer interview questions, email, do promo or marketing. I’m not that popular of an author to really need a day to get in touch with all the throngs who want to talk to me, soooo, I answer interview questions and email as they come in.

I have a program called Concentrate that shuts off my internet for whatever time I specify. When I’m on a deadline or need to get focused and finish a project, I launch Concentrate. I have it set for 45 minutes. Every 15 minutes, this computer lady comes on and says, “You are brilliant, keep working.” LOL. It’s great. When I get the twitch to goof off on the internet for a few seconds, I realize I can’t because of Concentrate, and I keep working. Yeah, I could turn it off but somehow that feels like cheating to me.

It’s important for writers to stay involved in life, in our families, in our churches and communities. Don’t say yes to everything that comes your way. No is a good word. But pray and ask the Lord to show you what He’s called you to do.

Cut off the noise like TV. Really. Amuse is the opposite of muse which is what we must do to write. I love movies and a good TV show. I learn from them. But in my house we only watch DVDs or Netflix instant. There is no nightly TV watching or channel surfing. When I had that option, it was a huge distraction. Five o’clock? Rerun of Gilmore Girls and I’ll be if I just didn’t quit working to watch.

Stop the excuses. If you’re a soft, giving personality, learn to toughen up and say no. If you have an addiction to TV, cut the cable for awhile. If you’re doing too much, let go of a few things. Don’t feel guilty or condemned. If God’s called you to be a writer, He’ll give you time to write. He’s not called you to do all and be all to everyone else so you don’t have time to write. Or so you have to sit in a corner of the house at midnight with your laptop on your knees writing while everyone else sleeps so you can get your word count. No, He’ll give you the time. Don’t fill it up with other things.

Writing is a job. Do it with excellence. Manage your time. Pray hard.

And whatever you do, don’t quit.

TWEETABLES

Advice to New Authors by Rachel Hauck (Click to Tweet)

Get a hold of your time~ Rachel Hauck (Click to Tweet)

New York Times, USA Today ​and Wall Street Journal best-selling, award-winning author Rachel Hauck loves a great story. She serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a past ACFW mentor of the year. A worship leader and Buckeye football fan, Rachel lives in Florida with her husband and ornery cat, Hepzibah. Read more about Rachel atwww.rachelhauck.com.

Counting The Costs of a Writer’s Life

by Rachel Hauck
Merry
Christmas, Happy New Year!
We spend a
lot of time at Novel Rocket, My Book Therapy, and in the writing industry as a whole talking about craft,
networking, marketing, promoting, and the general way to write a book. Panster,
plotter, planster (plotter and panster combination.)
But what we
don’t discuss much is the cost of giving your life to writing. Especially to
writing fiction.
There’s a
price tag, and while I love what I do, there are days I “feel” the price I’ve
paid.
I have no
co-workers. I sit in my lovely tower, which I adore, alone every single day.
Sometimes the phone never rings for me. I may not get a personal email or
friendly phone call for days.
My family
lives out of my state. I don’t have children. My life is carved out perfectly
to crank out two, maybe three books a year. But I gotta tell ya, it can get
lonely.
I’m so
grateful for the friends the Lord has given me. Susie Warren, Beth Vogt, Lisa
Jordan and others.
I can’t
write a book without calling Susie several times a week. Nearer to my deadline,
I might call her several times a day. I value her friendship and input! What a
gift.
But
practically speaking, she lives in Minnesota. I live in Florida.
One of my
favorite things from days-gone-by was my corporate job relationships. We had
some sure laughs and some grand lunches, and great success on the job. I loved
solving a problem and celebrating with my co-workers. The day-job provided
immediate feedback.
Sure, there
were the tough days, the drag-my-butt-into-the-office days. And I had a very
interesting boss. But overall, I enjoyed my office job.
I read about
writing being a solitary life. I’m good with solitary. But friends, it is a
really solitary life.
Writers have
to say, “No,” to extracurricular activities. We can’t be running around town
shopping, or lunching, or sadly, volunteering.
We have to
shut off the TV, the radio, the internet and just “be” with our stories and
characters. We must face the pain of making people that only live in our heads
and hearts come to life on the page.
Good writing
days are followed by hard writing days. We wrestle with our insecurities and
doubt. There might be days or weeks where we hear from no one in our
profession: not a reader, an editor or agent.
The only way
we go forward with any confidence is by sheer discipline and will. And it’s a
fight!
The other
day I was driving to morning prayer at church, wrestling with my lack of close,
local friendships. No don’t go feeling sorry for me, I do have friends. I do!
I’m not a hermit or miser. But, the friendships I used to have at work, or when
in college, are gone. At my age, many of my friends are busy with children or
even grandchildren!
As I mused
over this, I finally thought, “Maybe it’s not that I lack friends but I lack
the right perspective.”
I’ve chosen
the writer life and with it comes certain handicaps. It’s not 9-5. I’m not
surrounded by people all day. To do the job, I have to retreat sometimes.
The
challenge for us is to be content exactly where God has us. As I mused over my
situation, I heard Jesus say, “I’m your friend.”
I teared up.
“Will you come to my house for Christmas dinner?”
“I will.”
See, it’s
about perspective. What a true and dear friend we have in Jesus. And the
friends I do have in my town, are lovely and always ready for a lunch when I
can break free!
But, back to
the writer’s life. Are you ready to pay the cost? I’m not the only writer who
struggles with friendship time and heart-connections within the local
community.
I’ve heard
other writers share similar things. It’s why we’ve created the My Book Therapy
Community. It’s why there are writing organizations like American Christian
Fiction Writers.
Take stock
of yourself. Are you too busy being a friend and doing other things to write?
Even for writing moms, at some point, you have to close out the hubbub and
noise of the family and write. I’m awed by my mom writing friends like Susan
Warren, Cara Putman, Kristin Billerbeck and Tracey Bateman.
Are there
things in your life cluttering out writing?
Count. The.
Cost.
The life of
a novelist will cost you precious things. But it is worth it. So very worth it.
Tips
  1. Get with the Lord. Spend time with Him, praying over your schedule, asking
    Him to release your heart as an author.
  2. Counsel
    with your spouse or close friends, parents or other family. Is this the time to
    devote to writing and say no to other things? Or will that season come later.
    It is RIGHT and PERFECT to wait until the “write” season.
  3. Find a
    place that’s yours to write. Make sure no one else invades. It’s yours. Even if
    it’s a table at Panera or Starbucks, make it your writing spot.
  4. Schedule
    time to be with friends and family. Be purposeful. If you do ministry at your
    church or volunteer in the community, keep to a schedule. Don’t pick up extra
    jobs just because you feel bad for someone. Do ONLY what the Lord has called
    YOU to do.
  5. Write on
    the hard days. Sometimes those words are better than the ones who come on the
    good days. If you only have an hour to write on busy days, take it!

Writing is
purposeful. So is the writer’s life. Be purposeful. Tune out the noise. Still
your heart and mind.

Write,
counting the cost.
TWEETABLES

New York Times, USA Today ​and Wall Street Journal best-selling,
award-winning author Rachel Hauck loves
a great story. She serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction
Writers. She is a past ACFW mentor of the year. 
A worship leader and Buckeye football fan, Rachel lives in Florida with
her husband and ornery cat, Hepzibah. Read more about Rachel at www.rachelhauck.com.