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.

Realistic Dialogue is a Must

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By Hallee Bridgeman, @halleeb

Before I started writing, I was a reader who could never stop reading a book – meaning, if I started it, no matter how much I didn’t enjoy it, I had to keep reading to the end; even if it meant that I had to skim my way through it.

That changed one day when reading some historical romance by an author I can’t remember. The book started well enough. The heroine was a widow, alone on the estate, afraid. A storm had picked up and lightning flashed in the night sky. A loud cracking sound of a door banging had her leaving the warmth and safety of her home to go out to the barn to make sure a door hadn’t blown open.

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Okay, so we have a young woman who was afraid, and she goes to the barn and finds – a man. A stranger. (A tall, dark and handsome stranger, but I digress.)

And she’s alone. And afraid.

What do you think she does?

She doesn’t run back to her house and lock all the doors and windows and get the shotgun and make sure it’s loaded. No. She begins this long expository on the history of the area and the history of the house and how it was built by her grandfather and left to her father and left to her and her now late husband. You’re going to think I’m exaggerating with this next part, but I’m not. This dialogue took up FOUR PAGES. FOUR. It would have been agonizing to read four paragraphs, much less four pages. If I’d been that tall, dark, handsome stranger, I would have re-saddled my horse and took off back in the storm.

Now, I was a voracious reader and had read my share of not great books in my lifetime. However, this was truly the first book I ever threw across the room.

Writing good dialogue is important. Do you know why? Because the reader needs to hear the dialogue in his head. It needs to ring true to him, to sound like something people will actually say. If it doesn’t, then your book might get tossed across the room. Or, it might get deleted off of an ereader. And that reader will never come back to your books.

How do you make your dialogue realistic?

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If it doesn’t sound right and normal and natural to you, then it’s not going to read normal and natural and right to your reader.

Make sure the dialogue is organic to the scene and not just used to drive the story – or to show off your research abilities. Picture the scene in your head, the movements of the characters, the lighting, the noises. Then, speak the words your character would say. Do they fit that scene? Does it make sense that your character just said that? If the answer is no, then find something else to do other than that dialogue.

If you said yes, then, wonderful! Put it in there. Continue the conversation until your characters have said exactly what they need to say before they end the conversation.

In the self-editing phase, make sure that all of the dialogue is tight and right. My number one trick to that is to read it out loud. I know it feels silly. Trust me, I’ve written 24 novels, and I’ve sat at my computer and read every single one of them out loud. The silliness doesn’t ever go away when you start with chapter 1, but by the end of the book, you’re in a flow and it feels less awkward.

What you benefit from that is the ability to hear your dialogue – and you use a different part of your brain when you hear versus when you read. So, if it sounds right to you reading it out loud, it will definitely sound right to the reader who is reading it.

Read More Writing Tips

Numbering Your Days with One Word by  Beth K. Vogt

How Christian is Your Fiction? by Dan Walsh

How to Show and When to Tell by Susan May Warren


Jade’s Match

Two Olympians are matched in a media campaign that turns into something more than a game.

Rio Games silver medalist and social media darling CORA “JADE” ANDERSON is approached by a popular cell phone company to launch a flirty but fake media campaign with ice hockey star DAVIS ELLIOTT. When things get off to a rocky start, Cora and Davis both wonder what they’ve gotten into and how they’ll get through the months until the Korean games.

It’s not long until things start to warm up between the athletes and soon this fake romance becomes something much more real. Cora knows just how to work social media and engage her fans, and as the world watches and interacts with them, their love grows. When Davis is selected for Team USA, the opposition starts. As a Korean American, he’s already facing odds Cora can never comprehend, but he takes his frustration at the racism to the ice and lets the puck take the beating.

Things come to a head just weeks before the games begin. Can Davis and Cora’s very public relationship survive the aftermath of a very public confrontation, or are they going to have to let their love go when the Olympic flame is extinguished at the closing ceremonies?

With more than half a million book sales, Hallee Bridgeman is a best-selling Christian author who writes action-packed romantic suspense focusing on realistic characters who face real world problems. Her work has been described as everything from refreshing to heart-stopping exciting and edgy.

An Army brat turned Floridian, Hallee finally settled in central Kentucky with her family so that she could enjoy the beautiful changing of the seasons. She enjoys the roller-coaster ride thrills that life with a National Guard husband, a college sophomore daughter, and two elementary aged sons delivers.

A prolific writer, when she’s not penning novels, you will find her in the kitchen, which she considers the ‘heart of the home’. Her passion for cooking spurred her to launch a whole food, real food “Parody” cookbook series. In addition to nutritious, Biblically grounded recipes, readers will find that each cookbook also confronts some controversial aspect of secular pop culture.

Hallee is a member of the Published Author Network (PAN) of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) where she serves as a long time board member in the Faith, Hope, & Love chapter. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the American Christian Writers (ACW) as well as being a member of Novelists, Inc. (NINC).

Hallee loves coffee, campy action movies, and regular date nights with her husband. Above all else, she loves God with all of her heart, soul, mind, and strength; has been redeemed by the blood of Christ; and relies on the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide her. She prays her work here on earth is a blessing to you and would love to hear from you. You find Hallee on her blog at halleebridgeman.com.

 

Writing (Life) Tips to Remember

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by Katherine Reay, @Katherine_Reay

A young woman, a college sophomore interested in studying writing, reached out to me with questions recently. We met and for an hour and I gave her my best advice. And I reminded myself of some points regarding both writing and life I’d rather not forget – and so often do.

I thought by writing them down and sharing them with you, I might remember them better myself…

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  1. What would you tell your young writing self? This was one of her first questions. “Just chill” popped out of my mouth immediately. I think we all can get so caught up in the chaos surrounding writing, we can forget the joy of the process. Wild success or a long struggle for publication can derail you on either side of the spectrum. Anxiety about any or all of it (including social media and marketing) can inhibit your joy, your voice and weaken your stories. Enjoy the story you are writing right now and relish the process of writing in general. I also added that no one would travel this road if it weren’t one’s calling, in that individual’s very DNA. So if writing is on your heart, trust it’s there for a compelling reason and trust,and enjoy,the journey.

And on that point – some stories aren’t ready to be told right now. I shared with her that my “writing” began after an injury in 2009. Prior to that, writing was a frustration for me. I did not “just chill” and tried to force stories out of me. I couldn’t get a handle what I wanted to say, nor could I eek out the time to say it. What I hoped might be my career in my twenties came much later, after I’d had more experience, seen more of life, and, honestly, gone through more pain. The stories I tell now are different because the writer is different. So again, this goes back to trusting the journey. No experience is wasted.

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  1. What would you give up to become a better writer? It was an interesting question and made me think about the details that fill my days. I noted at the end of 2017 a lot of goofing off had entered my writing time. Writing from home there was always something to be done: laundry was piling up, the kitchen needed to cleaned, my phone was always chirping and wasn’t there something good to eat? So one goal for 2018 is more focus and fewer distractions. I’ve put my time into a block schedule and the phone is on Do Not Disturb. On the whole, I think it’s a good idea to take look at what fills our time every now and then and assess what we can change – either to become better writers or to become better people, ideally both.
  2. What is your number one recommendation? I truly believe writers are readers. We can’t pour out words if our wells aren’t filled with great stories, strong voices, new ideas and a mind quiet enough to digest them. Craft books are important – Donald Maass writes some of my favorites – but touching a wide variety of stories, fiction and nonfiction, is paramount. Fill up the well continuously.

And, as I’ve said in all my posts: Have fun!(Another bit of advice to always remember!)

See you next month and thanks for sharing this time with me…

Katherine

Read More Writing Tips

How Christian is Your Fiction? by Dan Walsh

7 Tips for Writing With Young Kids at Home by Lindsay Harrel

How to Show and When to Tell by Susan May Warren


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.

The Challenges of Becoming an International Writer

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by David Rawlings, @DavidJRawlings

Since the Internet shrank the world – and social media put us in touch with everyone everywhere – there are now opportunities to be an international writer. We can go beyond the borders. Suddenly our audiences aren’t well-meaning family and the biggest segment of our city we can reach. Now we can potentially reach the world with our stories.

Being an international writer sounds so cool, doesn’t it? You might picture a foreign language version of your cover, or flying across the globe to attend a conference.

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Early on in my fiction writing journey, I felt led to go for the globe, and if that meant I wanted to write inspirational fiction based on my Christian beliefs, then I needed to focus on the marketplace in the USA.

The trouble is I’m 8,000 miles away.  It didn’t make the job impossible, just harder, and it did raise some challenges. If you’re an American writer, focused on the American market, these are challenges you may not even know exist.

Understanding the culture of your marketplace

I’m an Aussie but writing for an American marketplace, so that means I need to speak a different language when I write. That doesn’t mean I have to type in a Texas drawl, or add extra letter As to get the hard Boston vowel sound, but I do need to ensure that my analogies, phrases, spelling and grammar are seamless for a reader in the USA.

For my latest manuscript, it meant changing my language to call an airbridge (the Aussie term) a jetway (an American term),  put temperatures in Fahrenheit (we use Celsius) and refer to Senators rather than Members of Parliament (we have both, but you don’t have the latter).

Hey, that’s fine. I spend my time researching the right flavor of latte for my protagonist to drink anyway. I’ve already blogged about the things I need to relearn after a career as a corporate writer, and one of the key things was the need to do your homework to ensure you are speaking the language of your reader. It just adds more research to the process.

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And it also means that earlier in this blog post, I had to convert my language (13,154 kilometers) into American language (8,000 miles). And I had to misspell kilometres at the same time.

Distance

Personal connection is so important in any industry, but it is vital in writing.

We need to stem the smothering isolation by connecting with others to tell us that the last paragraph we wrote wasn’t the worst thing ever committed to paper, and in that I’m including the rough draft of the lyrics for Achy Breaky Heart.

It helps to pitch face-to-face or put a face to the name on the submission. It can be better to catch someone over coffee at a Conference than risk your proposal sliding into the spam folder.

But personal connection can be difficult when you’re physically distant, and are only communicating via social media and email.  You don’t have that same connection.

What it does do is ensure your connection through social media is more meaningful. It should be anyway, so it forces to you to use social media to connect, not just post for the sake of posting. It means you follow up comments and likes with words of thanks or continuing a conversation. It should be anyway. And because the first port of call for people is your web site, it means your blog is updated on a regular basis. Which it should be anyway.  It means that you painstakingly select the right conference to go to. Which you should anyway.

Oh, and God bless Skype.

Time zones

An extension of the distance is the difference in time. I have small windows of opportunity where I know people in the USA will be upright and awake … at the same time as me.

It takes a little more organization, but it can be overcome.  It means I have mentoring sessions or chats with my agent earlier in the day than I’d like, but it’s a necessity to chat at 7 a.m. And it saves you having 2 a.m. Skype calls. Nobody wants to have a sane, lucid chat at 2 a.m. in the morning. Nobody.

And the time difference also slows down conversations. I often find that I’ll get key emails or messages from people overnight, so that instantly adds twelve hours to any exchange.

So they are some of the challenges of being an international writer. Perhaps you have others.  I’d like to hear them.

It’s important to realize these are just the challenges – and it’s not all hard work. Being an international writer also gives you some advantages that locally-based authors simply don’t have.

I’ll cover them in my next blog post.


Based in South Australia, David Rawlings is a sports-mad father-of-three with his own copywriting business who reads everything within an arm’s reach.  He has published in the non-fiction arena and is now focused on writing contemporary Christian stories for those who want to dive deeper into life. His manuscripts have finaled in competitions for ACFW and OCW and he is currently represented by The Steve Laube Agency.