Why Writing Fiction Is So Hard

by James L. Rubart, @jameslrubart

Why is writing fiction so hard? The short answer: it just is.

The longer answer: Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.”He probably could have said, “In this world, when you try to write a novel, you will have trouble.”

From my experience, this has proven to be true. I sent in my latest manuscript to my publisher a few days ago and felt like I’d just finished a marathon. Circumstances outside of my control made writing this story a bear.

This wasn’t the first time. I can say the same thing about all of my novels so far. So why I am surprised when it happens again and again? When we write our novels, there will be troubles. I’ve come to accept that this is a fact. We don’t have a choice in the matter. So at this point I can react in one of two ways.

  1. I can moan and complain and ask, “Why do these things always happen to me!”
  2. I can embrace how Jesus finished his thought. “… but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

I can choose whether I let the circumstances dominate my thoughts, or chose to focus on how Jesus overcame the world. He was fully man, remember? We can do what he did.

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He overcame the trouble by focusing on the joy set before him. What is the joy set before you with regard to your stories? One life changed? One hundred? Crossing the line of a finished novel that you didn’t think you could complete?

Choose Now What You Focus On

You probably know by now that multi-tasking is a myth. The way our brains are wired, we can only focus on one thing at a time. And here’s the amazing part. We have free will. We get to choose! What is good and pure and lovely and full of hope, or the dark, fearful, and worrisome.

Yes, in this world, circumstances will buffet your plans, your dreams, your writing schedule, your word count … you will have trouble. But take heart. If you choose to, you can overcome the world.

“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
– G.K. Chesterton

The Long Journey to Jake Palmer

What if there was a place where everything wrong in your life could be fixed?

Corporate trainer Jake Palmer coaches people to see deeper into themselves—yet he barely knows himself anymore. Recently divorced and weary of the business life, Jake reluctantly agrees to a lake-house vacation with friends, hoping to escape for ten days.

When he arrives, Jake hears the legend of Willow Lake—about a lost corridor that leads to a place where one’s deepest longings will be fulfilled.

Jake scoffs at the idea, but can’t shake a sliver of hope that the corridor is real. And when he meets a man who mutters cryptic speculations about the corridor, Jake is determined to find the path, find himself, and fix his crumbling life.

But the journey will become more treacherous with each step Jake takes.

James L. Rubart is 28 years old, but lives trapped inside an older man’s body. He thinks he’s still young enough to water ski like a madman and dirt bike with his two grown sons, and loves to send readers on journeys they’ll remember months after they finish one of his stories. He’s the best-selling, Christy BOOK of the YEAR, INSPY, CAROL and RT Book Reviews award winning author of eight novels as well as a professional speaker, co-host of the Novel Marketing podcast, and co-founder of the Rubart Writing Academy. During the day he runs his branding and marketing company which helps businesses, authors, and publishers make more coin of the realm. He lives with his amazing wife on a small lake in eastern Washington. More at www.jameslrubart.com

Don’t Head to a Writers Conference Without Packing These

by Pamela S. Meyers, @pamelameyers

Recently, my social media blew up with chatter about a new television movie. Set at a writers conference, the movie was great fun to watch, especially as the heroine, who was attending her first writers conference, had to overcome her fear of showing her first novel manuscript to anyone, especially complete strangers.

I was reminded how scary and unsettling a writers conference can be for a first-time conferee.

If you are about to attend your first writers conference in 2018, I say congratulations. You’ve made a very important step toward reaching your writing goals. Before you go,here are four things I suggest you pack besides clothing.

  1. Teachability. I’m not sure that’s even a word, but going into workshops and meetings with a teachable attitude is the best thing you can do for yourself. Learning the craft of writing takes hard work and practice. Even if something taught seems counter to what you’ve heard from others, don’t dismiss it out of hand. Make a note of it and come back to it later. You may find out it was good advice after all.
  2. Rhino Skin. If you are pitching your baby to an editor or agent, or maybe paid for a critique from a published writer or editor, you’d better not leave that thick skin at home. No matter how prepared you might think you are to hear negative comments, they still hurt. The rule of thumb for most writers who receive feedback from various people on the same writing is if you hear the negative comment only once, you don’t need to do anything. If you hear a similar comment twice about the same thing, give it some thought, but if you hear a similar comment three times, you need to take action.

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  1. A grateful attitude. There are not many places you can go to be in the presence of so many professionals from the publishing industry. They are there because they are looking for fresh new writers and want to help you grow in the craft. Every beginning writer should attend as many conferences as they can, but not all are able to. Soak it all in, take a lot of notes, and if possible, sign up for recordings of the classes you weren’t able to attend and listen to them.
  2. A positive outlook. Expect to receive negative feedback and plan ahead how you will handle it. Don’t take it personally. Remember an editor or agent appointment is usually about fifteen minutes long. The professional is trying to give you honest feedback in a limited time. Don’t become defensive and be sure to thank the person for their time and advice in a gracious manner. Then, if you need to, go back to your room and have a good cry.

The heroine in the movie at first became very defensive at what she perceived as a slam against her story and her writing, and she was ready to quit and go home. But by the end of the movie, she had a change of heart and began to see how the comments she once took offense to were actually helpful.

I’ll end this by saying my first writing conference turned out to be just what I needed to grow me as a writer. I went into the experience with a story I’d been working on that I was sure would wow editors and agents. In the end, it did none of that, but I learned volumes about starting my story in the right place, what kinds of details are important at the beginning of a story and what is not, and to never give up.

If you are a veteran writer, what was your first writers conference like? If you are planning to attend a writers conference for the first time, and have questions, please ask right here in the comments.

Happy New Year everyone. I hope all of you have a great writing year in 2018.

Second Chance Love

Chicago lawyer Sydney Knight and Texas bull rider Jace McGowan have nothing in common but everything to lose when they are thrust together during a weekend rodeo in rural Illinois. Sydney is determined she’ll get Jace out of his contract and return to Chicago with her heart intact, but Jace is just as determined to help her see they are meant to be together. Can a city girl with roots deep in Chicago and a bull-riding rancher with roots deep in Texas give themselves a second-chance love?

Pamela S. Meyers lives in northern Illinois with her two rescue cats. Her novels include Thyme for Love, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Second Chance Love, and Surprised by Love in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (a reissue of Love Finds You in Lake Geneva). Her novellas include: What Lies Ahead, in The Bucket List Dare collection, and If These Walls Could Talk, in Coming Home: A Tiny House Collection. When she isn’t at her laptop writing her latest novel, she can often be found nosing around Midwestern spots for new story ideas.

What if your word for the year is something you don’t like?‎

by David Rawlings, @DavidJRawlings

Everyone seems to be doing a “word for the year.”

Last year I decided to do it too. Being the thinking overachiever that I am, I decided that my word for 2017 would be Published.

It felt right. This was my goal, and it made sense that I would have a word that would lead me there.

Then God stepped in.  As I was praying about it, I felt strongly that He had something else in mind, and wanted me to focus on something else.  In fact, He wanted me to focus on two something elses.

And God has a sense of humor. The fun thing was that both of those words started with P as well, but they were Patience and Production.

I wasn’t really that thrilled with it.

I’d already spent a year approaching agents and publishers with my first manuscript. I’d built my platform and connected with other writers. I’d already been productive. And I certainly didn’t want to know that I just needed to be more patient.

So I settled into 2017 somewhat reluctantly, with those two words clunking around the back of my head. But I kept bringing them back to God, and those words came to fit. I settled into Production, developing my second manuscript and working with a mentor – Jim Rubart – on ideas to build my profile and  platform.  Patience was a harder fit, but I kept working as I waited – on God, on publishers and on agents.

June rolled around. My Patience was tested with no answers. But I kept leaning into Production.

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No surprise, but a few months later in the year God was proven right. My second manuscript – developed because I was being Productive while being Patient – was the one that interested Steve Laube, who is now my agent.

And Steve said two things to me when he submitted my novel to publishers on my behalf: now we wait, so get busy on manuscript number three.

Those two words again.

So my third novel is now well underway, and I finished 2017 with my chosen word – Published – nowhere in sight. But if I’d ignored those other two words, I wouldn’t have written the novel that landed an agent and that publishers are now interested in.

I’ve since been thinking about a word for 2018, and decided that I should probably learn my lesson and pray about it first.

My word for 2018 also starts with the letter P.  God must love alliteration as much as I do.

That word is Present.

There are two ways it applies to 2018: God needs to be present in my writing.  For me to do justice to the story He’s entrusted me with, He needs to be a part of it, as I write it.

I also need to be living in the present when it comes to my writing.   This will be the bigger challenge: because I’m pushing ahead trying to float my work past industry (well, my agent is … thanks Steve           !) I need to stop thinking about that moment when the manuscript will hit the right publisher at the right time.

That’s not the present.

I will also be pushing back on encroaching thoughts about finalist nominations from last year.. I need to stop replaying those conversations where someone validated my writing and, in turn, me.

That’s not the present.

What is the present?  Writing the next paragraph. Answering the next character question. Crafting and culling my word count as the story ebbs and flows.

It’s writing this blog post.

That’s the present.

And that will be my challenge. To let that word both guide and inspire my writing from the first days of 2018, not when I eventually get comfortable with it.

So, if I could be so bold, is there a word you need to accept to guide your writing in 2018?  And if so, what is it?

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.

The Power of a Word

by Patty Smith Hall, @pattywrites

It’s the first of the year, a time when people make resolutions and goals for the coming twelve months. They start exercising or eating healthier, or maybe they decide to simplify by cleaning out all the clutter in their house.

It’s also that time when people pop up on Facebook with their ‘word’ of the year. Some are about lifestyle changes while others deal with spiritual growth or personal goals. I like having a word to focus on, probably because I’m a very goal oriented person but even I was surprised by the starkness of my word.

My word for 2018 is ‘NO.’

A small word, yet so powerful if used correctly and with diligence. So how can you use a ‘no’ to reach your writing goals for this year? Here are three ways:

1) Decide what is important to you

A few years ago, I had a friend who was caught up in a whirlwind of activities. If she wasn’t doing something for her church, she was on some city committee or running a book club. Now all that’s well and good, but she was frustrated that her writing career had stalled. With all her social obligations, she didn’t have the time to give attention to her writing.

When you’re a ‘yes’ person, everything feels important and you want to help in any way you can. But the truth is you can’t, and make any kind of difference. You’ll stretch yourself so thin, there’ll be nothing left for what matters to you!

Ask yourself this question—if you had one week to do the one thing you wanted to do most in this world, what would it be? Volunteering at the kids’ school? Getting ahead in your job? Writing the first draft of your novel? Is your ministry teaching Sunday school or writing devotionals? This is your opportunity to decide what you want to do, no one’s else’s agenda but yours. Once you’ve narrowed your focus down to one or two choices, you know what you want to give your ‘yes’ too.

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2) Give up those activities that steal your time

Now that you’ve narrowed your focus down to one or two things, it’s time to cut those other activities out of your life. I’m not going to lie to you—this is difficult, not just for you but for those people that’s come to rely on your ‘yes.’ They may say things like ‘how will we ever get along without you?’ The guilt is hard to handle—I know this firsthand. Years ago, when I first started writing, I was substitute-teaching. Both my husband and I agreed that I should quit and focus on my writing, but the school where I worked pushed back on the idea. How would they get along without me? When I told my husband this, his reply was priceless—‘I don’t know, but they’re going to find out starting tomorrow!’

I love what my pastor once shared with me. We all want to be a part of good things, but God wants us to take part in the great. Are you too busy doing the good that you’re ignoring God’s great for you?

3) Say No to Time Suckers

We all can agree the internet is entertaining and intellectually stimulating and a number of other things. It’s also a black hole that eats up precious moments of our writing time. Looking up a document at the Library of Congress can turn into an hour long political discussion on Facebook! And by the time you’ve finished, you not only alienated potential readers, you’ve forgotten what you were researching in the first place!

Say no to the madness now! Guard your writing time like a bulldog with his bone. Employ apps like Liberate and Freedom which restricts your use of the web while you’re writing. Make a pact with an accountability partner. Set a word count and make it before you can check your email.

One of the most useful things I learned in school was a limerick my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Payne taught me. It goes like this:

Sixty seconds in a minute, didn’t take it, didn’t chose it but it’s up to me to use it.

Use your time, and your ‘no’ wisely.

Seven Brides for Seven Mail-Order Husbands Romance Collection

Seven women seek husbands to help them rebuild a Kansas town.

Meet seven of Turtle Springs, Kansas’, finest women who are determined to revive their small town after the War Between the States took most of its men. . .and didn’t return them. The ladies decide to advertise for husbands and devise a plan for weeding out the riff raff. But how can they make the best practical choices when their hearts cry out to be loved?

Patty Smith-Hall is a multi-published, award-winning author with Love Inspired Historical/Heartsong and currently serves as president of the ACFW-Atlanta chapter. She currently lives in North Georgia with her husband of 30+ years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters and a future son-in-love. Her next release, New Hope Sweethearts will
be available in July on Amazon.