Make Your Writing Better By Resting

From July 2015 to July 2016, I wrote three books for a total of 250,000 words.

For some super writers, that’s nothing. But for me, it was quite a feat.

While I’ve learned to write faster using the Story Equation, three books was still a bit much.

It started last summer when my editor proposed two books due by December 1st.

I was hesitant. I wasn’t sure I had the emotional energy to write two books! In the fall of 2015 I was just over a difficult year physically in 2014. What if I ran into problems again?

Connecting emotionally to the characters is important to me and that’s hard to do when I have to simply “produce.” Hard to do when a tough year hang over your head.

Yet the Lord nudge me, “Do it. Diamonds come from pressure.”

I did it. It was fun. But no time to rest. On to the next deadline to make this trio in a year complete.

Once I turn in The Writing Desk rewrites, I will have nothing pressing until January. I can take my time to read, dream, plan the next book.

And just be. Drive to the beach. Spend time just sitting at His feet.

Rest. It’s so key to a writer’s life.

In the Old Testament, God tells the people of Israel to “fast work.” We have to labor to enter into rest because it’s our default to work. To want to stay busy. To feel like the more we work the more we’ll get done.

I’ve heard testimonies of successful businessmen who worked 12 – 15 hours a day and still didn’t accomplish all they wanted.

But when they started “resting” before the Lord at the beginning of their day, they accomplished all their work and more in a regular 8 hour day.

I ended up on a two week vacation this summer in the middle of the deadline. I had a few restless nights wondering if I’d meet my July deadline.

How can one rest when there’s work to be done?

I finished. Two days early. On the heels of my father-in-laws passing.

God can multiply our time if we take time to rest and just be!

This fall I can take the top down on the car and drive along the beach if I want. Let the wind blow through my hair and my thoughts.

Take time to rest. Don’t go from one thing to the next.

Work hard on deadline. Rest in between.

You’ll be better for it.

*** 

New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Rachel Hauck lives in sunny central Florida.

A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, she worked in the corporate software world before planting her backside in uncomfortable chair to write full time eight years ago.

Her book The Wedding Dress hit Amazon’s bestsellers list the first half of 2016.

Rachel serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a mentor, conference speaker and worship leader.
Rachel writes from her two-story tower in an exceedingly more comfy chair. She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.

Here latest novel is The Wedding Shop“Spellbinding.” Starred Booklist Review
Visit her web site: www.rachelhauck.com.

Can’t Think Of A Thing To Write So…

By Rachel Hauck

I’m blank.

Sitting here trying to think of some blog-o-wisdom to share with you all but I got nothing. Bah-lank.

The truth is, there are a million voices—okay, not literally a million—telling you how to be the best writer you can be.

How to engage in social media. How to beef up the old newsletter. What to do at a book signing. How much swag to have on hand. What giveaways work best.

Or the crème de la crème, how to get you book turned into a movie. I mean, it’s just SO easy. Not.

(I’m feeling mischievous today.)

But the best possible thing you can do is write the best possible book. Nothing trumps a great book. Not the largest newsletter or the best giveaway or a million followers on Twitter.

I’m reading Me Before You and I am now a JoJo Moyes fan because of her great book. Actually, I’m at the end and it’s kind of depressing. Maybe that’s why I’m feeling feisty. But she told a fantastic story that had me emotionally hooked, invested and engaged.

Author Beatriz Williams drew me in with her voice and storytelling in A Hundred Summers. I’m a fan.

I didn’t need a free book, or a keychain, or a gift card to Amazon, though I wouldn’t turn those down! I needed these authors to wrap up my heart and imagination in a well told, well written, well executed story.

Authors, spend less time on marketing and promotions and more time on writing. Spend more time praying over your stories and what to write. Ask the Lord to open unimaginable doors for you.

I love to pray this: “Lord, don’t let me consign myself to a life of insignificance.”

God is the God of the impossible. But if we never reach for the impossible how will we ever know His reach? Or the keenness His hearing, or the wildness of His dreams for us.

Here’s the kicker… You must leave the outcome to Him. We write. We do our part. He does the rest.

If you look at Jesus’s commandment to the disciples in John 15, he says, “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” These became the premier commandments.

So, if we love God in and through our writing, the second focus for us is relationships. We need to build relationships within the publishing community, with our readers. The Father LOVES when we love each other! But the outcome is up to Him. Our highest attainment is to love. #lovewell.

Anything outside of those two efforts are wild guesses. Strategies to pole vault ourselves onto the bestseller list may be futile. Or, hey, they may succeed. But there’s no guarantee your methods will work for another.

So, my tips for you today? Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Now go write something brilliant.

*** 

New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Rachel Hauck lives in sunny central Florida.

A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, she worked in the corporate software world before planting her backside in uncomfortable chair to write full time eight years ago.

Her book The Wedding Dress hit Amazon’s bestsellers list the first half of 2016.

Rachel serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, a conference speaker and worship leader.
Rachel writes from her two-story tower in an exceedingly more comfy chair. She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.

Here latest novel is The Wedding Shop. “Spellbinding.” Starred Booklist Review
Visit her web site: www.rachelhauck.com.

Ladies and Gentlemen… It’s Back Story vs Character History!

Ding, ding!

Referee: “Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the first ever
bout between Back Story and Character History.”
Wahhaaaaa. Cheerers!

Ref: “In this corner, from the New York City, wearing black
shorts, weighing in at a hefty five hundred and eighty-two pounds is the
champion of all novel prose, Baaaaack Storrrryyyyyy!”
Waahhhh…. crowd
cheering.

“And in this corner, from Miami Beach, wearing blue shorts, weighing
a sleek one hundred and seventy-eight pounds is the challenger,
Chhhaaaarrracter Hhhiiiistorrrryyy.”
Wooooo…. Crowd booing.

Referee: “All right you twos, I want a clean fight. No
hitting below the belt, no tripping, spitting, holding or biting. Touch gloves,
go to your mutual corners and when the bell rings, come out fighting.”
Ding!

Character History leaps to the center, bouncing, dancing,
he’s full of pip. From his corner, Back Story lumbers to the center of the ring.
One cross from the herculean champ, Character History will be out, face down on
the canvas.
Character History circles, jabbing at his opponent.
“He sure seems confident, Bill.”
“I’ll say he does, Sam.”
Smirking, Back Story takes a wide stance, raises his gloved
fists and waits, his hawk-like gaze tracing the young fighter. He’ll not give
up his championship belt without a fight. He know, this young whipper-snapper
has no power over him.
Character History bobs and weaves. He taunts. “You’re going
down, Back Story. You’re going down.”
“Take your best shot, wise guy.” Back Story strikes, a hard
right jab.
Oh! Character History takes the hit on the chin. His head
snaps back and he wobbles to stay up. He’s against the ropes. Back Story
presses forward.
“This is it folks. Back Story will win in round one with a
one-two punch.”
Just as he swings, Character History cuts low and lands a
hard shot to Back Story’s ribs. The big man his stumbling, breathing heavily.
His arms slip low but he recovers, watching Character
History circle. He strikes again with an uppercut…
“But mercy, Bill, Back Story misses by a mile.”
“And here comes Character History. With a jab, cross,
uppercut. Ooo, Back Story is taking a beating. He’s teetering… he’s stumbling…
he’s against the ropes. Sam, it’s not looking good for Back Story.”
Character History throws one final blow. A sharp cross. And
Back Story falls! The whole arena quakes as he hits the canvas. It’s like
watching Goliath being quelled with one of David’s stones.
The ref is on his knee, counting. “One, twos, three, four….
nine, ten. You’re out, Back Story. You’re out.”
It’s over. In Round One.
“Ladieeesssss and gentlemennnn, Chhhhaaarrracter Hissstory
is the new prose Cham’peeean of the World.
***
Fun, uh? Okay, I can hear y’all now, “Rachel, what are you
talking about?”
I’m talking about back story verses character history.
What’s the difference? Strength, power, speed, agility and ability to sustain
the long haul of a novel.
Back story is old fashioned writing. It’s large and
encumbersome. Slow. Waddling. And most of the time, unnecessary.
But writers use it and readers endure it because it gives us
some glimpse into the heart and soul of a character.
Character History is hot, lean and sleek, fast and quick, in
and out, not weighing down the story.
Back story, we all know, slows down the action. We’ve heard
the rule: No back story for the first 30-50 pages.
But wait, what if an author needs the reader to know
something critical about the character for the opening scenes to make sense?
That, my lovelies, is character history.
For example, Billy Bob is about to go on his first police
call — a possible robbery — since returning to the force after being shot in
the gut while responding to a bank hold up. He’s nervous. He’s anxious. When he
gets inside the establishment, he draws his gun a bit too early and almost
shoots his partner.
What’s going on with him? I f we stick to the “no back story
rule” we miss the importance of this moment. His jittery nerves just make us
think he drank too much coffee. We don’t care.
What the reader needs a bit of history. A line or two of prose, or even better dialog, that gives
the reader a hint of Billy Bob’s emotional state.
The scar on his
shoulder from the bullet wound burned and twisted as Billy Bob entered the
bank. It’d only been four weeks… and in a split moment, he couldn’t remember
why he’d returned to this job.

Ah, the reader has learned there’s something more to the
story. It ups the readers attachment to Billy Bob. This bit of history adds
tension. What bullet in the gut? When? Who shot him? Why?
All of those question, left hanging, can be answered later
in the story. Good stuff. If the writer wanted, s/he could add a line of dialog
from his partner.
“You okay?”
“I’m here aren’t I?”
“Just wondering.”
“You do your job, I’ll do mine.”
Why was his partner asking Billy Bob if he was okay? Hmm?
The reader wants to find out more so s/he turns the page.
Back story is another matter. Back Story stops the forward
action and talks about things unrelated to the current scene and emotion. Sure,
it’s about Billy Bob and it’s all true, but the reader doesn’t need to know he
wanted to be a cop since he was ten while our hero is stalking a burglar.
Here’s a back story blob:
“Since taking a bullet in the gut, Billy Bob wondered if he
could still be a cop on the beat. But his dad had been a cop and his father
before him. Every Martin man wore the badge. Billy Bob remembered the first
time he held his father’s badge, feeling the cool metal in his palm, stroking
his finger over the shiny brass. He knew then, at then, he’d be a cop just like
his father. Mother didn’t want him to be. She worried about Dad, but if a man
put on blue and a gold badge, wasn’t he invincible?”
Wow! All that while checking on a robbery call? By now, the
reader’s forgotten what was going on. The burglar has escaped while our hero
mused over his past. Or worse, shot Billy Bob’s partner.
The reader doesn’t need that much information. Especially in
the midst of a tense scene. Save it for later. Perhaps in a conversation with
his Dad when our hero, Billy Bob, is facing a voice-of-truth moment.
Do I still want to be
a police office?
Why did I become a
police officer?

Back Story is more for the author than the reader. Character
History is for the reader, and the power of the story.
So, what’s Character History and how do we use it?
1.                   
Character History applies to the current action on the
stage. If your heroine cannot stand the hero, don’t let her behave irrationally,
leaving the reader in the dark. Don’t give us a snippy rude girl without giving
us motivation.
Drop in a line of history. “Ever since seventh grade when he stole her PE
clothes from her locker and she got detention, Jen couldn’t stand Colby Witherspoon.”
2.                   
Drop in history and exit quickly. Leave the reader a
bit curious. In writing Love Starts With Elle, I had a paragraph or so of
history about Elle so the reader could understand the significant emotion of
the scene and what action was about to take place – a proposal. Elle had set up
Operation Wedding Day for herself in the book, Sweet Caroline. She wanted to
find a man. But her plan didn’t work. When she let it go, THEN she met the
handsome Jeremiah Franklin. When Elle got her own book, I needed to add that
bit of Operation Wedding Day “history” to help the reader “get” and care about Elle.
3.                   
Character History sets up tension. Drop in a line about
how your character is afraid of…. snakes or heights. Don’t you love how Indiana
Jones hates snakes, then gets dumped in a pit of them? We first see his fear
when he’s escaping in a prop plane after taking the artifact from the cave. We
don’t get a bunch of lines about why and how he’s afraid of snakes, we just see
his reaction. Then when he’s dumped in the pit, our skin tingles. It’s Indy’s
worst nightmare. Most of ours too! Can you imagine how boring the scene
would’ve been if Indy went on for six or seven more lines about how his big
brother used to toss snakes on him when they played in his grandma’s creek? Who
cares at that point? We just need to know his history with snakes. Period. He
hates them.
4.                   
Character History is part of the prose painting. It’s a
nice clutch on forward action. It helps the reader take a breath and get into
the heart and mind of the protagonist. But be careful. Just a bit of history is
all we need. If your character is passionate about ending injustice of some
kind, show us that passion on the page, then through dialog or a fast line or
prose, hint at why this injustice bothers your heroine so much. But don’t give
the reader a montage that begins when our heroine is ten and ends when she’s
sixteen, then brings us back to the current moment. Give just enough to fill
the reader in.
5.                   
Character History sheds light on the protagonist
motivations. Let the history pertain to what’s happening on stage, in the
current scene. If your character is dealing with, oh, say, an errant child,
don’t stop and give a dissertation on the protagonist own childhood and
upbringing. Not necessary. Boring. But, do tell us how her mother was so kind
and patient, and it frustrates her how she is so impatient and sharp. That’s
all the reader needs to get what’s going on with the protagonist motivation.
Watch out for phrases like, “a sound brought her back into
the present.” Ooo, where did she go? On a back story rabbit trail? 
We all love
to sit and reminisce, but a novel is about tension, conflict and moving
forward. Most of us don’t stop to muse or reflect while arguing with our friend
or trying to save the world. Right?
Now, these are guidelines. Once in awhile, we do have a
character drift off in thought for a moment, but be guarded. Ask yourself if
there is a better, more emotionally impacting way to present the information.
If not, then go for the reflect and keep it brief.
So, there you have it. The bout between Back Story and
Character History. Go out writing and have a clean fight with your words.


Ding, ding!

*** 

New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Rachel Hauck lives in sunny central Florida.

A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, she worked in the corporate software world before planting her backside in uncomfortable chair to write full time eight years ago.

Her book The Wedding Dress hit the top bestsellers list the first half of 2016.

Rachel serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, a conference speaker and worship leader.
Rachel writes from her two-story tower in an exceedingly more comfy chair. She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.

Here latest novel, The Wedding Chapel landed on Booklist’s Top Ten Inspirationals for 2015.

Visit her web site: www.rachelhauck.com.

Oldies Hit Parade! What Are Your Favorite All-Time Reads?

It’s late on Tuesday evening and I brought home a portable record player, like the the kind with a turntable and needle, from my mother-in-laws.

Digging in the closet, I pulled out an old Donny Osmond album, his last before the current era, that’s never made it to digital. I thought it’d be fun to hear it again. It’s been more than 20 years since I had a way to play it. #timeless

Music takes me back. It’s a powerful tool that impacts our emotions.

But what about books? Can’t they impact our emotions too? Become timeless in our hearts. Absolutely.

While driving to Tennessee for vacation week before last, my husband decided to listen to The Wedding Dress, a book I wrote almost six years ago, since it recently hit the New York Times Bestseller List.

I cringed off and on the whole time. I heard every mistake, every over used word, but at one point my husband said, “Wow, I just teared up.”

And as the reader read the final scene, I teared up myself. Why? Because I loved the characters all over again and I didn’t want to part ways.

When the book ended, we were both silent for awhile. The story took us some place, Impacted us.

That’s the power of story. Never sell yourself short as an author to move the human heart.

My good friend Debbie Macomber said, “We don’t write to sell units, we write to impact hearts.”

Amen, sister!

The books that moved my heart are the ones I talk about, the ones I remember years after I’ve read them.

What about you? Do you have a book like that?

Softly and Tenderly, the second Songbird Novel I wrote with Sara Evans is still one of my all time favorites. Weird uh? A friend asked me during Christmas why I liked it so much. Don’t you know I teared up telling her all the reasons!

Here’s a list of novels that have impacted me:

The Little House book by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Introduced  to these stories in 5th grade, they became a permanent part of my DNA. While Laura was born 93 years before me, we were somehow alike, the same, sisters from a different time. We were both the second born, but while she lived on a prairie in little houses with three sisters, I lived in the ‘burbs in little houses with three brothers and one sister, we were kindred. Laura’s heart and strength were my heart and strength. Her life is a part of my life forever.

The Song of Abraham by Ellen Gunderson Traylor. I read this mass paperback in college and never forgot it. In fact, for a writing class, I wrote a Biblical story mimicking her style. Outside of the Bible, this book probably had the hugest impact on my spiritual walk. At a time when I was spreading my wings, growing up, figuring out who I wanted to be I read the story of a man who would be called Friend of God. And I wanted to be a friend of God. Traylor’s story invoked a truth in me through the fictional depiction of a real life man.

Shouldn’t that be our goal. To inspire? To point the way to hope and truth?

Rind The Wind by Lucia St. Claire Robson. The story of real life Cynthia Ann Parker, kidnapped as a girl in 1836 by the Comanche, eventually marrying one of their leaders. I’ve not read this book in eons, but it has everything. Drama, tension, conflict, humanity, glimpses of truth, a bit of fiction, and romance with a mysterious, notorious warrior, Peta Nocona as the hero. Look them up, it’ll have you reading and thinking for a long while.

The Guernsey Literary and Potatoe Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Loved this book, set in World War 2 on the English island that was occupied by Nazi’s. The story of  Elizabeth McKenna, caught on the island when war broke out, is challenging, impactful, a woman with the strength I’d hope to have given similar circumstances. A story to be savored and not forgotten.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett. A piece of history, a story of the south. Engaging, real, I was drawn into the story from the get go. By the end, I could feel the truth, the heart and read the last few pages through tears. I love stories dealing with racial issues.

The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah. Another World War 2 tome about the Nazi occupation of Paris. Two sisters find themselves dealing with the war in very different ways, but each one finding the courage to fight the war on her doorstep. Moving, deep, detailed, engrossing, a story to stay with you for a long time. Again, challenging me to ask, “In the face of evil, what will I do?”

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams. Okay, if you’ve been around me the past year and a half you know I loved, loved, loved this book. I wrote my editor and said, “I want to write like this.” She read the book too and loved, loved, loved it. I was first drawn in by a story set in the ’30s New England, then by William’s writing style but quickly it became about story, story, story. Tears at the end. Even cooler is Williams endorsed my next book, The Wedding Shop! Pinch me!

There are more stories but I’ll stop there. What about you? What books impacted you and linger with you through time?

As a writer, how can you aspire to impact your readers. Hint: It’s about character!

*** 

New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Rachel Hauck lives in sunny central Florida.

A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, she worked in the corporate software world before planting her backside in uncomfortable chair to write full time eight years ago.
Rachel serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, a conference speaker and worship leader.
Rachel writes from her two-story tower in an exceedingly more comfy chair. She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.

Here latest novel, The Wedding Chapel landed on Booklist’s Top Ten Inspirationals for 2015.
Visit her web site: www.rachelhauck.com.