Writing – Keep on, Keeping on

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by DiAnn Mills, @diannmills

Writing is a series of keep on keeping on. Our minds are geared toward the latest project while balancing social media and staying up to date on the craft and changes in the publishing industry.

We waken at 3 a.m. with a forgotten deadline looming over us like a bad case of flu. Yikes! How did I miss that! We bolt from the bed and race to our computers to confirm what we already know is true. For the next few hours until the rest of the world wakens, we’re digging ourselves out of an unfinished manuscript.

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I’ve been there, and you probably have too. Our scheduled writing day now means doubling up tomorrow, and we think seriously about giving up writing and handing the task to a more capable writer.

Many of us thought writing would be free of the worries and hassles of a boss. We longed for the day when we could toss aside the need to clock in, stay late, and arrive early for a job that didn’t excite us. We craved to be a writer. But we’ve discovered numerous demands are made on our time and effort from: publishers, agents, editors, copy editors, publicists, critique partners, readers and family responsibilities. Is this worth it?

Dear writer friend, we can’t go there. Don’t even think about quitting, or I’ll be camped at your front door balancing a computer, dictionary, thesaurus, and triple espresso. Our conversation won’t be pretty. Abandoning our dreams can cast us into a pit where failures and weaklings whine and complain. Who wants easy and manageable?

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Creativity is part of our DNA. Our blood races with the joy of arranging and rearranging words. We thrive on stories that contain amazing characters, unique plots, witty dialogue, purposeful setting, deep emotion, and even editing. Our job can be strenuous, but look at the rewards of a worthwhile manuscript that touches our readers’ hearts?

If we think back to the time when writing began as a dream, the urge to communicate through the written word became so powerful we didn’t know what to do with the idea. Ignoring it made the need greater. A realization swirled deep inside us. We could no longer deny our calling as a writer.

  • We sensed the power of touching the world with our prose.
  • We drew on our passion to entertain, inspire, and encourage readers with story.
  • We found a purposein our lives, one that is richly fulfilling.

Let’s make a list of why we love writing. Use sensory perception and feel the emotions of a job well done, a job worth all the effort.

My encouragement to you is to keep on keeping on.

How do pull yourself back up when life threatens belief in yourself?


High Treason

When Saudi Prince Omar bin Talal visits Houston to seek cancer treatment for his mother, an attempt on his life puts all agencies on high alert. FBI Special Agent Kord Davidson is the lead on the prince’s protective detail because of their long-standing friendship, but he’s surprised – and none too happy – when the CIA brings one of their operatives, Monica Alden, in on the task force after the assassination attempt. Kord and Monica must quickly put aside inter-agency squabbles, however, when they learn the prince has additional motives for his visit – plans to promote stronger ties with the US and encourage economic growth and westernization in his own country. Plans that could easily incite a number of suspects both in the US and in countries hostile to Saudi Arabia. Worse yet, the would-be assassin always seems to be one step ahead of them, implicating someone close to the prince – or the investigation. But who would be willing to commit high treason, and can Kord and Monica stop them in time?

DiAnn Mills is an award winning writer who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She currently has more than fifty-five books published. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won placements through the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards and Inspirational Reader’s Choice awards. DiAnn won the Christy Award in 2010 and 2011. DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a Craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. Find her on the web at www.diannmills.com.

Challenges to a Writer’s Life

by DiAnn Mills, @diannmills

The first of every year finds me cleaning, tossing, and organizing that which no longer has purpose in my life. In short, I get rid of the junk. The same is true of my writer’s life. What habits are challenging my success?

The process shoves the question into my life—Is this thing or event useful?

Sometimes it’s easy to choose what isn’t worth keeping, especially when I evaluate the items cluttering my work space or no longer of value.

  1. My desk is covered with to-do notes that need to be completed then tossed.
  2. No point in keeping this stack of papers when I have the information in electronic form and backed up.
  3. My to-be-read stack is taller than I am. Time to prioritize and give away.
  4. This pile of magazines is ten years old. Do I really need them?
  5. My laptop needs replaced. Time to explore and research a replacement.

Other times, the process is difficult when a bad decision has the potential to create havoc.

  1. Is my reader’s blog unique, interesting, or do I need more _______ ? (fill in the blank).
  2. How many writer conferences should I attend in 2018?
  3. How many writer conferences to teach or speaker invitations should I accept in 2018?

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  1. Am I spending enough quality time with my husband and family?
  2. Am I spending enough quality time with my friends?
  3. Am I keeping God first place in my life?
  4. Is my quiet time taking me spiritually deeper?
  5. My latest book is completed. Do I send it to my editor or read it through one more time?
  6. How many fiction and nonfiction books should I be reading per month?
  7. Am I spending too much time being unproductive?
  8. What can I do differently or change in 2018 that furthers my career?

How do we gauge if a writer challenge is productive or destructive?

Will the challenge help me be a better writer?

Our skills need to grow as though we are in a perpetual state of learning. Nothing of value is free, either time or a financial investment. Some of the items that strengthen our skills are reading the how-to books, reading bestsellers, attending conferences, editing our work, mentoring a serious writer, and taking advantage of online blogs, podcasts, and webinars.

Will the challenge help me grow spiritually?

Many writers believe their work is a form of worship. If you are one of these writers, then deepening your relationship with God may cost you time and friendships. Is a Christian writer strong enough to stand up for his/her beliefs?

Will the challenge help my readers?

Successful writers don’t create for themselves but for readers so they will be entertained, inspired, and encouraged. Reaching readers is an effort. Sometimes it’s frustrating and mistakes are made. But when writers explore what readers need and where they hang out on social media, we can join the conversation and provide what they are looking for.

Perhaps our obstacles are really ladders to professionalism. How do you approach the challenges in your writing life?


High Treason

When Saudi Prince Omar bin Talal visits Houston to seek cancer treatment for his mother, an attempt on his life puts all agencies on high alert. FBI Special Agent Kord Davidson is the lead on the prince’s protective detail because of their long-standing friendship, but he’s surprised – and none too happy – when the CIA brings one of their operatives, Monica Alden, in on the task force after the assassination attempt. Kord and Monica must quickly put aside inter-agency squabbles, however, when they learn the prince has additional motives for his visit – plans to promote stronger ties with the US and encourage economic growth and westernization in his own country. Plans that could easily incite a number of suspects both in the US and in countries hostile to Saudi Arabia. Worse yet, the would-be assassin always seems to be one step ahead of them, implicating someone close to the prince – or the investigation. But who would be willing to commit high treason, and can Kord and Monica stop them in time?

DiAnn Mills is an award winning writer who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She currently has more than fifty-five books published. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won placements through the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards and Inspirational Reader’s Choice awards. DiAnn won the Christy Award in 2010 and 2011. DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a Craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. Find her on the web at www.diannmills.com.

 

A Novel’s Critical First Page

by DiAnn Mills, @diannmills

A novel’s first page is critical to the success of a successful novel. Here the writer must hook the reader into the story:

  1. Establish genre
  2. Introduce a sympathetic character.
  3. Initiate a bond between the protagonist and the reader.
  4. Build a setting.
  5. Create a story disturbance

 

  1. A Strong Hook

Statistics show a reader makes a decision to purchase a book by the end of the first page. I’m worse! I choose to invest time and energy into reading a book in the first paragraph, and sometimes the first line.

The opening hook or first line of a novel plunges the reader into the story world by creating a curiosity or posing a question. Every story needs an alluring first sentence to entice the reader to continue on. The hook is the writer’s invitation to the reader to begin an exciting journey.

“Come join me in this adventure.”

The writer issues a subtle promise to readers that every word will be as powerful as the opening line. Writers spend hours delivering on their commitment. Our opening hooks establish the essence of our story and are designed to affect reader emotions.

I like what Donald New love says about opening sentences in his book Painted Paragraphs. “It is about the white-hot opening whose glow speaks for a story’s greatest strength: its spirit.”

The above quote inspires me to return repeatedly to my opening line.

  1. Genre

Establish the novel’s genre in the beginning: contemporary, historical, romance, suspense, fantasy, science fiction, thriller, western, young adult, or any of the other genres. Romance is often paired with other story types. The book cover and title often depict the type of story, but it’s the writer’s responsibility to establish genre in the beginning.

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  1. A Unique and Sympathetic Hero or Heroine

Writers choose how to characterize their protagonists and antagonists in a variety of ways that suit the writer’s personality. Whatever method is used, the result is a character who lives in the reader’s heart long after the story is over. Spend time with your characters and endear them to the reader by making them come alive. The antagonist must be better equipped to succeed in reaching the goal than the protagonist.

  1. An Antagonistic Setting

Ensure the setting is constantly working against the hero or heroine. Like an antagonistic character, the setting can be charming, attractive, and have an emotional impact on the character.

  1. A Story Disturbance

A story disturbance is not the story problem, but a frustrating intrusion into the protagonist’s life. Some writers refer to this as the inciting incident. Introduce the disturbance on the first page and resolve it quickly. How the character responds creates a bond with the reader, who becomes the character’s cheerleader. The reader is assured that whatever problem the hero or heroine faces, the result will be an adventure.

While the above five items are critical to the first page of a novel, the writer moves forward by ensuring tension, conflict, and suspense are continuously in the character’s path. Before the first one-fifth to one-fourth of the novel, a problem is introduced and the character chooses to accept the seemingly impossible. The character steps through the first doorway into the plot with a firm resolve to do everything possible to succeed.

A story explodes on the first page. Writers work passionately to emerge a reader into a story world that is unforgettable. Can you take the challenge?


High Treason

When Saudi Prince Omar bin Talal visits Houston to seek cancer treatment for his mother, an attempt on his life puts all agencies on high alert. FBI Special Agent Kord Davidson is the lead on the prince’s protective detail because of their long-standing friendship, but he’s surprised – and none too happy – when the CIA brings one of their operatives, Monica Alden, in on the task force after the assassination attempt. Kord and Monica must quickly put aside inter-agency squabbles, however, when they learn the prince has additional motives for his visit – plans to promote stronger ties with the US and encourage economic growth and westernization in his own country. Plans that could easily incite a number of suspects both in the US and in countries hostile to Saudi Arabia. Worse yet, the would-be assassin always seems to be one step ahead of them, implicating someone close to the prince – or the investigation. But who would be willing to commit high treason, and can Kord and Monica stop them in time?

DiAnn Mills is an award winning writer who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She currently has more than fifty-five books published. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won placements through the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards and Inspirational Reader’s Choice awards. DiAnn won the Christy Award in 2010 and 2011. DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a Craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. Find her on the web at www.diannmills.com.

 

Finding the Writer’s Voice

by DiAnn Mills, @diannmills

When I was four, my mother took me to my first dancing class. I wanted to watch before I joined in. I didn’t understand that I had to participate to be a part of the class, even if I made a mistake. A writer who wants to develop a unique voice can’t simply read novels, she must write.

Does the subject of voice make you want to run? You’re not alone. Explanations run the gamut from the way a writer pens her prose to bigger-than-life characters who attract us with their view on life. Voice is everything the characters experience and express according to their traits and the writer’s individual style. A writer chooses unpredictable characters, both in actions and in dialogue, and establishes a voice that draws us into the story.

A writer’s voice is her fingerprint, a way for a reader to identify style. It can’t be developed by studying a textbook or taking a writing course. Each writer has a unique way of stringing together words and sentences, a subconscious activity stamped with personal style, word choice, originality, and passion for the project.

We develop our voice over time—by writing, polishing our craft, and knowing our characters. It’s much like our unique conversational style, but with a strong additive: the character’s voice. That means no two characters ever quite sound alike. A strong writer’s voice doesn’t overpower the character, but hooks the reader’s attention and refuses to let go.

I like how Donald Maass describes voice: “not only a unique way of putting words together, but a unique sensibility, a distinctive way of looking at the world, an outlook that enriches an author’s oeuvre…An original. A standout. A voice.”

Your ability to dive into character and create an adventure strengthens your voice. In establishing that voice, weigh each word choice. Is it succinct and descriptive? Use strong verbs and vivid nouns, the ones your character would use. Have you chosen the best word in the character’s voice, one you’re comfortable with? A writer’s genre also influences word choice. A lot to think about, but when you tune out the critics and write the story of your heart with a character you love (or love to hate), voice will be in your fingertips.

I went through several stages of forming my voice while following rules, not following rules, then allowing my writing to morph into my voice. When I concentrated on good writing and put the guidelines into perspective, aside, my voice came.

As Thomas Merton said, “Not all men are called to be hermits, but all men need enough silence and solitude in their lives to enable the deep inner voice of their own true self to be heard at least occasionally.”

How have you established a writer’s voice?


High Treason

When Saudi Prince Omar bin Talal visits Houston to seek cancer treatment for his mother, an attempt on his life puts all agencies on high alert. FBI Special Agent Kord Davidson is the lead on the prince’s protective detail because of their long-standing friendship, but he’s surprised – and none too happy – when the CIA brings one of their operatives, Monica Alden, in on the task force after the assassination attempt. Kord and Monica must quickly put aside inter-agency squabbles, however, when they learn the prince has additional motives for his visit – plans to promote stronger ties with the US and encourage economic growth and westernization in his own country. Plans that could easily incite a number of suspects both in the US and in countries hostile to Saudi Arabia. Worse yet, the would-be assassin always seems to be one step ahead of them, implicating someone close to the prince – or the investigation. But who would be willing to commit high treason, and can Kord and Monica stop them in time?

DiAnn Mills is an award winning writer who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She currently has more than fifty-five books published. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won placements through the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards and Inspirational Reader’s Choice awards. DiAnn won the Christy Award in 2010 and 2011. DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a Craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. Find her on the web at www.diannmills.com.