Numbering Your Days with One Word

by Beth K. Vogt, @bethvogt

“So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.”

Psalm 90:12 NASB

 It’s that time of year again when I throw down my One Word challenge!I encourage one and all –  that means you! –  to abandon the time-honored tradition of New Year’s resolutions and instead, to focus on One Word for the upcoming year.

One. Word.

“The ball keeps dropping in Times Square each New Year’s. And we keep dropping the ball on our resolutions to improve. Only 20 percent of resolution makers report achieving any significant long-term change.” (My One Word by Mike Ashcraft & Rachel Olsen)

Bit of a reality check, yes?

This will be my thirteenth year to focus on One Word, and this choice has changed me personally, professionally, emotionally, and spiritually. Here’s a quick recap of my One Words in years past:

  •  2006: gratitude – I kept a gratitude journal and found my “glass-half-empty” attitude revolutionized.
  • 2007: simplify – A severe illness turned this word into survival. I embraced simpler things in ways I never imagined.
  • 2008: content – as in “be content with such things as you have” (Hebrews 13:5) I bought a lot less that year!
  • 2009 & 2010: forgiveness – I had a lot to learn and unlearn about forgiveness.
  • 2011: hope – I clung to this word when life hurt or when my heart ached for others who were hurting. I asked myself, “Are you going to abandon hope?” My answer: No.
  • 2012: trust – During a year of change, I faced doubting versus trusting — and chose to trust.
  • 2013: confidence – I’m so much stronger emotionally after keeping my heart and mind set on “not throwing away my confidence.” (Hebrews 10:35-36)
  • 2014: think – I anchored my thinking to truth more and more, rather than letting my thoughts go wandering around in doubts and lies.
  • 2015: collaborate – “to work jointly on an activity, especially to produce or create something.” I focused on collaborating with God in my writing life.
  • 2016: prosper – to act wisely, as in “And David was acting wisely (prospering) in all his ways for the LORD was with him.” (1 Samuel 18 14) This word stayed with me as I confronted a lot of major (and minor) decisions.
  • 2017: inheritance – Psalm 16:5-6 talks about having a “delightful inheritance.” To be honest, I wasn’t as intentional about my One Word as I’ve been in the past. Life was just one challenge after another. But God continued to show me the word again and again in small ways … and I’ve been encouraged that there’s more to this life than the here and now.

My One Word for 2018 is kindness. Why? There’s been a lot of divisiveness in the world this past year and we need more kindness. The verse I’m anchoring this One Word to is “Be kind to one another …” (Ephesians 4:32a) I also found a fun, multicolored visual on Etsy that says, “Throw kindness around like confetti.”

 In the book My One Word, the authors encourage you to think of your One Word as “the lens through which you examine your heart and life for an entire year” that forces clarity and helps you concentrate your efforts.

“We’re so busy with the surface-level things of life that we forget to number our days and tend to our hearts. We become so preoccupied with getting our lives to a manageable point or a better future that we miss both the moment right now and the reality of a coming eternity.” (Ashcraft & Olsen)

So, are you a resolution or One Word person? If you choose One Word, I’d love for you to share your One Word from this year – or the one you’ve chosen for 2018.

TWEETABLES

Numbering Your Days with One Word by @bethvogt on @NovelRocket #writing http://bit.ly/2BYP1PF

Choosing One Word for the year forces clarity and concentration @bethvogt on @NovelRocket #writing http://bit.ly/2BYP1PF

New Year’s Resolutions vs. Choosing One Word for 2018 @bethvogt on @NovelRocket #writing http://bit.ly/2BYP1PF


Almost Like Being in Love
She’s won a luxurious dream wedding—now all she needs is the groom!

Winning an all-expenses paid Colorado destination wedding might seem like a dream come true for some people—but Caron Hollister and her boyfriend Alex Madison aren’t even engaged. How is she supposed to tell him that she’s won their wedding and honeymoon when he hasn’t asked her to marry him? And while everyone says they’re perfect for each other, how strong is a relationship when it’s built around protecting secrets?

Realtor Kade Webster’s business savvy just secured his company’s participation in the Springs Tour of Homes. He never imagined he would run into Caron Hollister—the woman who broke his heart—right when Webster Select Realty is taking off. When Kade learns his home stager won’t be able to help with the Tour of Homes, he vaults past all the reasons he should avoid Caron, and offers her a temporary job helping him on the project. This time, their relationship is purely business—Realtor to Realtor.

Spending time with Kade again has Caron questioning who she is and what she wants. The man intrigues her—at times infuriates her—and reminds her of what she walked away from. Has she been settling for what everyone expects of her? How can Caron say “I do” to one man when she’s wondering “what if?” about another?

Beth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author and editor who said she’d never write fiction. She’s the wife of an Air Force family physician (now in solo practice) who said she’d never marry a doctor—or anyone in the military. She’s a mom of four who said she’d never have kids. Now Beth believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” Beth’s first women’s fiction novel for Tyndale House Publishers, Things I Never Told You, releases May 2018. Beth is a 2016 Christy Award winner, a 2016 ACFW Carol Award winner, and a 2015 RITA® finalist. Her 2014 novel, Somebody Like You, was one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2014. A November Bride was part of the Year of Wedding Series by Zondervan. Having authored nine contemporary romance novels or novellas, Beth believes there’s more to happily-ever-after than the fairy tales tell us. An established magazine writer and former editor of the leadership magazine for MOPS International, Beth blogs for Novel Rocket and The Write Conversation and also enjoys speaking to writers group and mentoring other writers. She lives in Colorado with her husband Rob, who has adjusted to discussing the lives of imaginary people, and their youngest daughter, Christa, who loves to play volleyball and enjoys writing her own stories. Connect with Beth at bethvogt.com.

Writing When You Can’t

by Normandie Fischer, @WritingOnBoard

This has been a season of I-can’t-write jammed with so many becauses that I can barely keep up with them. Because of family issues—ongoing, messy, time-consuming with a lot of travel involved. Because of sickness—caught during that travel and keeping me quarantined and without energy for too long.

I know you’ve had times like this. I had to back out of my monthly column here at Novel Rocket for a few months. I didn’t manage a self-imposed deadline to finish a Christmas story. I’m chapters behind in my latest Carolina coast novel.

But life happens, doesn’t it?

So, what can we do when life gets in the way of writing?

First of all, we can write.

Now you’re looking at me as if I were crazy. But it’s true. We’re writers, aren’t we? And how did we get that way? By staring at a blank sheet of paper or at an empty document on our computer screen?

No. We got that way by dreaming. By seeing scenes and hearing voices.

Yes, by being a little crazy. We’re writers because we can’t not let loose all that stuff cramming our imagination with noise.

So, unless we’re wracked by a high fever and a cough that my son suggested would earn me a sixpack in my midsection (it didn’t, I’m sorry to say), we still have a brain conjuring stories.

Right?

Which means we can move things along even when we feel as if we’re floundering in the quicksand of time-eating obligations.

First of all, don’t go anywhere without the ability to take notes. I mean it. My husband uses his smartphone. I use a small pad for—

  1. Story ideas.
  2. Dialogue ideas.
  3. New first lines.
  4. Cliffhangers for my WIP.
  5. The perfect ending.

I (of the crammed notepad) promise you that, once you get out of your sick bed or past that forced writing break, these notes will streamline your return to task. Or, if not a return to that WIP, a new start, a new story. The perfect revision. Because you never stopped dreaming, did you?

I jumped back into a new Carolina coast novel (new characters, new friends) with renewed vigor this month, but I also had notes for another book based on a first line that slid into my thoughts during one trip north. Three chapters of that one await their turn, which may or may not come before another Beaufort story takes wings. (I have six chapters written in that one.)

Here’s the thing. Rushing to finish isn’t necessarily the best thing for a story, and sometimes the forced time away will be just what you need to create a better work.  I had six novels published between 2013 and 2017, but five of those had been brewing in various stages of completion over twenty years before my agent sold the first. Twenty years. And, honey, they were so much riper, so much fuller, so much better because of the wait. Because of the time with a notepad or a red pen. I spent the years learning and listening and revising.

The best thing you can do is use your downtime to let the ideas flow, remembering you’re a writer who writes, even if it’s only in spurts of a word or two at a time. And don’t be afraid to wait.


Twilight Christmas

Two orphans. A big sister with Down Syndrome. And a community in need of miracles.

It’s up to ten-year-old Louis to protect Linney from the bad men. He knows what can happen to handicapped kids. He’s seen it before.

Only, it’s getting harder and harder to keep her warm and safe in this old storage barn as Christmas celebrations unfold around them.

And then there’s Annie Mac and her crew, who are involved in the pageant excitement. So is Lieutenant Clay Dougherty, her kids’ faux-father and the man who still makes her yearn for a whole lot more than she’s comfortable offering, especially when she’s plagued by crazy-making nightmares.

So many questions: Can Louis save his sister? And will Annie Mac find the peace she needs? What about poor Clay and the other Beaufort folk?

Normandie Fischer studied sculpture in Italy before receiving her BA, summa cum laude with special honors in English. Known for her women’s fiction—Becalmed (2013), Sailing out of Darkness (2013), and Heavy Weather (2015)—she ventured into the realm of romantic suspense with the release of Two from Isaac’s House. In early 2016, a novella, From Fire into Fire, will continue the Isaac House saga. Normandie and her husband spent a number of years on board their 50-foot ketch, Sea Venture, sailing in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico. They now live in coastal North Carolina, where she takes care of her aging mother. You can find Normandie on her websiteFacebook, and Amazon.

Beta Readers

by Katherine Reay, @Katherine_Reay

This is the busy season…

So I thank you for spending a moment here to chat writing. I truly believe that good stories convey a degree of truth. On some level, even the most plot-driven shoot-em-up-dystopian-apocalypse allows us to peek within the truth about our dreams, our human experience, and our faith, life, and perhaps death. Such writing takes diligence, perseverance, prayer, hours upon hours at one’s computer, sacrifice, a ton of good ideas, a few not-so-good ideas – AND COURAGE. Good stories, and especially great ones, take lots of courage.

Today I want to suggest you push what you’ve already got – courage – a touch farther. Take your manuscript and pass it to a Beta Reader. A Beta Reader can be a friend but isn’t necessarily one. It’s a person who is going to be honest, push your story, push you and, if you’re blessed, fuel your fire and stimulate you to new twists and turns. A Beta Reader might even show you some holes within your plot and gaps within your character arcs.

This was a tough one for me. I used to hang on to stories until the 11th hour – basically my deadline. At that point, I’m always too close to a story to envision anything new. This is probably why I’ve always loved the edit process. It has historically been my first crack at a Beta Reader and the new ideas that come from that input. But a few manuscripts ago, I let the story go earlier. I found someone who would be honest with me and call out stalled plotlines, inconsistencies, muddy writing and basically the mess that is my first draft. Her constructive criticism allowed me to push the story deeper before my editors got ahold of it. There were insights, avenues, and emotions I missed. Her observations not only forced me to recognize them, they jumpstarted the fixes.

Yet… It’s a risk. Letting a story go before you takes courage. But we’ve got that, right? We are given a spirit of courage – so let’s use it. Let’s step out, offer our stories for assessment, assistance, and even criticism – knowing that each will sharpen our writing and make it more powerful.

Thanks for stopping by… Now back to December’s Joy!

Katherine


The Austen Escape

Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues – particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.
But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath. While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them.
Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts.

Katherine Reay is the award-winning author of Dear Mr. Knightley, Lizzy& Jane and The Bronte Plot, an ALA Notable Book Award Finalist. Her latest novel, A Portrait of Emily Price, released in November 2016 and received Starred Reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and a Romantic Times TOP PICK!All Katherine’s novels are contemporary stories with a bit of classical flair. She holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University and is a wife, mother, rehabbing runner, former marketer, and avid chocolate consumer. After living all across the country and a few stops in Europe, Katherine now happily resides outside Chicago, IL.

5 Types of Rough Drafts

By Michelle Griep, @MichelleGriep

Last week I finished a rough draft of my newest novel. You think you know what I mean, right? Well, maybe not, little cowboy. What a rough draft means to me might mean something totally different to you, and sure as heck is not the same as what Great Aunt Martha thinks it is. So today we’re going to do some defining . . .

5 Types of Rough Drafts

Word Vomit

Sorry for the visual. Think of this one as stream of consciousness type of writing. An amplified version.A type-anything-and-everything-because-hot-dang-something-might-be-great-in-this-mess kind of mindset. Most often this is the type of first draft accomplished by partaking in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

Tighty Whitey

Bare bones. Tight writing. So tight, in fact, that there’s lots of white space because this is only the essence of a story. There will have to be lots of additional information added. Basically, it’s a glorified synopsis.

Practically Perfect

This puppy takes a long time to write because plot flow, words, and characters are well thought out, not just slapped down willy-nilly. Sure, there will be a few nits to comb out, but overall this rough draft is about as smooth as a baby’s behind.

Screenplay

Some writers pen only dialogue on their first pass of a book. They simply put their characters on stage and let them talk. Settings and character descriptions will be added in later.

Outline on Steroids

This is the opposite of the screenplay approach. Basically, it’s a this-happens-then-that-happens live-action play for the entire story.

The thing to note about all these approaches is that there isn’t any one “right” way to go about penning your first draft. All are valid. As for me, I’m of the Practically Perfect persuasion, and not just because it’s fun to say. I’m just a little OCD that way.

TWEETABLES


12 Days at Bleakly Manor

Imprisoned unjustly, BENJAMIN LANE wants nothing more than freedom and a second chance to claim the woman he loves—but how can CLARA CHAPMAN possibly believe in the man who stole her family’s fortune and abandoned her at the altar? Brought together under mysterious circumstances for the Twelve Days of Christmas, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters . . . and what matters most is love.

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She is the author of historical romances: The Innkeeper’s Daughter, 12 Days at Bleakly Manor, The Captive Heart, Brentwood’s Ward, A Heart Deceived, Undercurrent andGallimore, but also leaped the historical fence into the realm of contemporary with the zany romantic mystery Out of the Frying Pan. If you’d like to keep up with her escapades, find her at www.michellegriep.com or stalk her on FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.the next level.