E is for Experiment

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Not everything works the first time through.

I find myself thinking that a lot as I write. I tend to be a messy writer, more seat of the pants than anything else. On occasion I’ve been known to outline, but usually I only have a somewhat vague idea where I’m going and how I’m going to get there.

Of course both methods can lead to stumbles and outright falls. We write a scene and it’s not working. Obviously it’s not working. So we stare at it a bit and suddenly wonder something along the lines of, “I wonder what would happen if I….”

These are the moments that make us cringe when someone else is reading our work. The idea might have been a little off the wall. Maybe the point of view is completely different. Or you’ve tried something you never have before, like present tense instead of past tense, or first person over third person storytelling. To us, it’s the great experiment, and it’s one of those moments that (in our minds) is really going to work or fail in a really big way. Mostly it’s that failing thing that sets our teeth on edge.

The thing is, we’re forgetting the shades of gray (no, not that stupid novel). It might have worked…somewhat. Maybe we need a little more practice. A little more polish. Maybe it something that needs to be explored a little more (another fantastic E word). The thing is, TRYING is the important part.

Experimenting.

It’s hard to let go and try new things. But the payoff is amazing, especially when it all starts to come together. Today, experiment a little. Take that wild and crazy idea and run with it. And then play with it some more until you MAKE it work. Maybe it won’t be in the final product, but I guarantee you’re going to learn something new from it.

And that is something you can take with you to that next project…and the one after that.

Have you ever experimented with a new technique in your writing? How did it work out? What did you learn from it?

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D is for Daily

Oh yes, I’m aware of the irony. This challenge is about daily blogging and I’ve been letting life get in the way.

This is the hardest thing about being a writer, isn’t it? That whole, Writing Every Day thing that every book, every teacher, every published author tells you to do. How in the world are we supposed to write EVERY SINGLE DAY?

The argument I’ve heard is that a writer cannot write. In other words, if you’re a real writer you can’t help writing. I don’t quite believe this. I’ve heard many published authors admit that it’s hard to sit down and work sometimes. That in fact, other writers spend time procrastinating as much as I do.

So what then? Do we accept that daily writing just isn’t going to happen? Absolutely not!

We start with making a commitment. Pick a time a day when you’re at your best. Getting up early to write if you’re not a morning person isn’t going to work out for you. In that case you might want to plan your writing later, say before bed.

Next, apply that good old fashioned butt glue. Set yourself down somewhere without distraction (whatever that means for you). This might mean writing longhand in a notebook outside under a tree. Or on a laptop in a coffee shop. Again, use what works. The point here is getting words down.

Then start writing. Just…write. Maybe you’ll need a little time doing a freewrite. Journal. Blog. Something to get the creative juices flowing. Some people need time writing a few notes, a rough outline of where you are going in that next scene. Do what works.

And do it as often as you can. Daily? Yes, by all means. But don’t beat yourself up and think you’re not a ‘real’ writer if you miss a day. Just jump in where you are.

WRITE.

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C is for Change

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One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced both in personal life and in the life of a writer, is being willing to change. I suspect that a lot of people feel that way.

Change is hard. You get an idea and you start writing only to hit a roadblock somewhere down the road. You go back, you re-read the words, hand it off to others and suddenly you realize that the reason this project isn’t working is because you need to make a change somewhere. Change to a plot, change to a characters, change of point of view, or entire change of direction to something else entirely.

I tend to be one of those people who will stubbornly keep trying to fit the square peg in the round hole. I’ll do anything I can to force the story to work, simply because I HAD AN IDEA, darnit, and I liked that idea and I don’t want to change it. Sometimes it’s a very hard thing to go back and make that change.

I’ve seen it time and again as an editor too. That scene that feels like it’s been forced into the story, that character who doesn’t quite ring true. Something that seems so glaringly obvious that needs to change. Or be lost entirely.

Here’s where that whole “kill your darlings” comes into play – accepting that a change needs to be made, and then actually making that change.

I think that this is hard. There’s a certain feeling of, “I have to be professional” that wars with artistic integrity. That’s where you need to ask yourself – is this change just someone’s opinion who doesn’t truly understand the work, or is it an actual change that needs to happen?

Honestly? If you’re fighting that hard to put it onto the page, it’s usually time for a change.

What about you? Do you fight change?

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B is for….

Nope, not talking about books, or writing, or publishing today.

Today I did what I annually need to do, hate with a passion, would put off if I could…and am darn glad I did.

Today I did my annual mammogram.

All the guys in the audience are cringing. Probably every woman here is well. We don’t spend a lot of time talking about medical procedures, and probably shouldn’t on a writing-related blog – but it bears say, so I’m going to.

If you’re a woman then just do it. Perform your monthly self exams. And if you’re of age, then annually (or once every other year…kind of depends on your doctor’s recommendations, family history, lots of factors) get your mammogram done.

The age recommendations changed a couple years back. They used to say if you were 40 it was time to get it done. Now the school of thought is you can wait until 50. But being adopted I had my baseline done at 35 simply because I didn’t know my family history. Then I DID learn my family history, and found out my birth mother did have breast cancer, so I’ve been doing this annually since 40.

No matter what, you need to pay attention to your health. Because nothing will derail that writing career like a lot of pain and worrying and time spent in doctor’s offices. So do what you need to. All of you (guys, do I even have to say the word PROSTATE?)

Then when you’ve been reassured that all is well, you can put your best effort into that novel you were writing. Worry-free.

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A is for ATTITUDE

Well, it’s a new month, in a new year, with a new outlook to things. We’ve been on hiatus far too long, but we’re back now and ready to tackle the world.

It’s all about ATTITUDE. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially when you’re relaunching an entire company that’s been dormant (for various reasons) for several months. There’s a website to create, authors to contact, bookkeeping (yuck!) to get caught up on. It would be very easy to throw my hands up right now and say, “I QUIT” before even getting started.

Attitude is a tricky thing. You can tell yourself you need to quit pouting about work overload, but how do you get yourself on task when quite frankly the weather is a balmy 70 degrees outside and taking a walk sounds so much better right now?

With me anyway, I find what I love and focus on that. I do love publishing books, dealing with brand new authors, finding the perfect gem of a book tucked away in email somewhere that hadn’t been seen until now. Some of this other stuff, like filling out the taxes and cleaning up the website – well that’s just details – the stuff you have to do to get to the good. Like eating the cake to get to the creamy filling.

So today I’m keeping my eyes straight ahead on what I can’t wait to do. I buckle down and at work and feel that satisfaction of having gotten a lot done today. It’s a brand new day in a brand new month, the first blog post of the year.

I’m going to focus on a positive attitude as I move forward. Suddenly I can’t wait to get started.

What about you? How do you get back on track when you’re feeling that stinky attitude coming on?

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Recluse, No More

by Leilah Wright

For some reason, we writers tend to be a bit introverted. 😉 Most of the time that works well for us because we get to observe people in their natural habitat. But a common side effect of introversion in writers in becoming a recluse. We begin to spend so much time working on our latest idea that, in writing about the outside world, we forget to live in it.

Seclusion from others leads to a sunless, friendless, depressing existence. 

How can we change this habit? Get out of the house at least twice a week. While out there, meet someone new. (Don’t panic. They won’t bite.) Enjoy the sun for a little bit and soak up that vitamin D. Now, go back home and write about all the fun that was had. Repeat.

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A Little Bit of Green

By J. Christine Richards

 

Today we drove across the northern Cascades on our way from a family wedding to catch an airplane in Seattle heading for the Write To Publish Conference. We drove through an area recently devastated by a landslide. Lives had been lost and many homes destroyed. I had seen it on the news, but those pictures didn’t come close what I saw today. The emotional response as we drove was much stronger. One interesting thing I saw was new sprouts and leaves on stumps of trees which had been broken in the landslide. This sight actually brought feelings of hope. It is the miracle of rebirth and new life.

 

While the rejection we can feel at a writers’ conference is nothing compared to what these people lost in the landslide, I was reminded that even in rejection there is hope. But sometimes in our hearts that rejection can be emotionally devastating. I have sat with authors who have stayed up an entire night crying because an editor said their manuscripts needed to be rewritten. I have talked to authors who feel no one has or will ever like their work and there is no way their books will ever be published and even if they do self-publish, no one will buy the book. I have watched authors walk away from a pitch appointment and run to the bathroom to cry. At least one author I know was ready to pack his bags and leave a conference believing he didn’t have what it takes to be an author.

 

What can you or I do for those authors who have lost their hope? We can be that one person who gives confidence and encouragement. The author who packed his bags was confronted by one person who believed in him and he is now a multi-published author. One woman I who felt after several conferences her work didn’t have value found one person willing to affirm her and she is moving forward. At a conference breakfast table, one author who had cried all night found other authors encouraging her by telling stories about moving on from rejection.

 

Just as I saw new green sprouts among a landscape of dull brown and grey ugliness and destruction, we can give and receive hope. We can be the one person who reaches out with encouragement and affirmation. Even in the worst of manuscripts we can find always find one thing to compliment and use that as a springboard to help that author grow. This lesson can be used in every aspect of our lives, not just our interaction with other writers.

 

Be a little bit of green. Reach out and help someone else.

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An Introvert Is…

By J. Christine Richards

 

I’m trying to get back on track today because last week I didn’t keep my commitment to you, my readers. I was so tired from the conference; I didn’t accomplish much during the past week. That being said, this week I’m have to get my act together because I leave again in a few days—first for a wedding in Washington State followed by teaching and taking pitches at the Write To Publish conference in Chicago. I’m glad I have good neighbors to take care of my house and keep everything safe.

 

I wasn’t able to teach one of my classes at CCWC because there weren’t enough registered, but I will be teaching it at Write to Publish. Therefore, today’s blog is some information for those who weren’t able to hear it and a teaser for those who might be interested in doing so.

 

Bringing Out Your Internal Extrovert

 

My youngest daughter is the poster child for extroverts while I score very high on the introvert side. When I told her I was teaching this class, her response was “Didn’t you do that when you had me?”

 

Many people tell me they don’t think I am an introvert because I can be open and friendly as well as get up and speak to groups. The first thing this comment tells me is they don’t know the primary definition of an introvert or extrovert. Basically an introvert gains their energy from time alone. He or she is comfortable being alone and working alone. My family and close friends can tell you after a large event or conference where I spend my time constantly talking to people, interacting with them and focused on their needs, I come home and hide for a few days, sleeping and writing alone. An extrovert, on the other hand, gains energy being in crowds—the more people the better. My daughter gets just as tired being alone as I do being with people.

 

Most people think of introverts as shy and retiring. If they are around people, they keep it to only one or two. This can also be true for me. Being around people makes me nervous and unsure of myself. But I’ve learned over the years to do what one of my friends calls slipping into a persona when the situation calls for me to be active and relational with large groups of people. Another friend calls it putting on her “writer woman” hat. Either way, the goal is to be myself at the same time I act as an extrovert.

 

What tricks to I use to accomplish this in a real way? Is it possible for any introvert to be an extrovert when necessary? The answer is yes and that is what I will be discussing in the class at Write To Publish next week. I hope a lot of you can make it to the conference.

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Conference Crash

By J. Christine Richards

 

I made it home from the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. After four days of total adrenalin, I came home by way of a Rockies baseball game and an AWANA year-end awards program. As an introvert, the past few days have been a total drain on my energy, but it was totally worth it. Why do I put myself through all the stress of such event?

 

First, this particular conference is a time of renewal. Marlene Bagnull and her faculty not only help attendees build their writing skills, but also celebrate God’s love and help them grow in their faith.

 

Second, it was a time to connect with old writing friends and make new friends. The companionship of the writing community is important to the growth of writers and it helps them move forward in their writing journey.

 

Third is the opportunity to learn more about the writing craft and learn more skills to improve my writing.

 

I may be in crash-mode, resting today and trying to regain at least some of the energy expended at the conference, but to all my friends at CCWC, it was great to see you and I look forward to seeing you again next year.

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Divine Appointments

By J. Christine Richards

 

Tonight’s blog will be short because it has been a long day at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference and I have another long day tomorrow.

 

Today I spent some time comforting authors who for one reason or another missed appointments with agents or editors. It is important to note in each of these situations, something happened. Either they missed the appointment because they were meeting with someone else who was actually a better fit for helping them achieve the writing goal God has given them or they “ran” into the person they wanted to talk to in a place where the talk could be more effective.

 

It is important to remember just because we plan to meet with someone at a specific time does not mean that is the right time or the right person to meet with. When at conferences watch out for those divine appointments when the best event of the conference occurs.

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