Sunday, September 18, 2011

Who do we write for-- millions, or an Audience of One?

Wow! Only three days until the ACFW conference. And only two days until I hop in a car full of one sheets, first three chapters, and a gala dress and drive eight long hours to a city I’ve never been. Eeek!

Then I have to talk to people I’ve never met. Pitch a novel to professional agents and editors. And learn A LOT.

The last one comes easy. The first two don’t. I’m worried I’ll go blank when someone wants to know what my novel is about, mess up my pitch, and spill something at the gala dinner. Maybe even on someone important.

So what do we do when we’re handling nerves and doubts? Maybe we’re worried about a contest entry, book sales, getting an agent, and the list goes on. Maybe we’re also thinking it would have been easier to have never taken up writing, and instead we should be doing something “more useful.”

I’ve thought all this and more, as I’ve prepared for this conference. Yet, you don’t have to attend the conference or even be a writer to understand what I’m talking about. In life we all doubt. We all deal with discouragement. We all have second thoughts.

So do we keep going and plugging away at this writing thing?

If the Lord has called you to write then YES! No matter if we’re attending the conference or not, no matter if we’re on our first rejected manuscript or our tenth, our writing is important to the Lord. If it adds something to His kingdom, even if you’re the only one who reads it - it matters to Him. Sure, we wants publishers to love our books, readers to leave glowing five star reviews, but if that’s the only reason why we write it’s time to revaluate. Rather than listening to what others are telling you, listen to the Lord, the One who gave you the talent in the first place. When we’re writing for the Lord it doesn’t matter if we get a contract or not. It doesn’t matter if we get five star reviews. All that matters, is Him. An Audience Of One.

It’s tough to keep this in mind when we’re being bombarded by the worlds messages, but with Him anything is possible.

And it’s by His grace and His grace alone, that I’ll be at the
conference! Hope to see some of you there!!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart!


Sunday, September 11, 2011

How Not To Be A (Melo) Drama Queen

Melodrama is a problem that many beginning writers face. We give our characters problem after problem (after all, they tell us to add lots of conflict!) and sometimes the way we show their reaction is unrealistic or over the top, especially if you write romance. Yet this problem, which could result in our losing that valued contract or agent, is easily remedied. Another writing friend and I were discussing this recently. This prompted me to think about how this can be toned down in my writing. So here’s some tips to mellow out the drama:

1- Less is more. Those of us who are really descriptive authors may raise eyebrows at this. But let’s look at the example of a mother who finds out her child has been kidnapped. Rather than have her running around wailing and screaming, it might be much more poignant if she just stood there shocked and shaking. Or if your main characters are saying good-bye to each other, which portrays the emotion best: sobbing hysterically or a look of despair while their fingertips touch as they walk away. These examples show, that instead of using a scene that will make readers roll their eyes, use one that will heighten their emotions and touch their hearts.

2- Deepen Character Emotions- As writers we want our readers to feel deeply with the characters. Portraying this without being overly sentimental is the challenge. Sometimes just deepening the emotions and inner conflict of your character makes their actions much more believable. You can write a love scene that might otherwise sound cutesy, but by deepening emotion and inner conflict, such as having the characters experience doubts and inner turmoil, makes the scene much more poignant and deepens your characters in the process.

3- Avoid Contrived Character Actions – One of the things to avoid when plotting a novel is to have characters acting in a way real people never would. For example having a character ignore threats on their life, so at the end they can get shot, isn’t a good idea. Who would really do that?? Think of ways to make your characters act rational. Who knows a twist might appear that you never thought of.

4- Avoid Character Stereotypes – Readers have them all memorized and will avoid reading your novel if they’ve read about your type of characters before, in a different novel. However, stereotyped plots and characters can be used if you develop creative twists and give the characters qualities that set them apart from every other novel. A great example of an author who did this very effectively, is Julie Lessman in her novel “A Passion Most Pure.” She took the sibling rivalry plot to the next level, adding twists and turns and creative characters. This set it apart from every other sibling rivalry romance.

Melodrama is very subjective. What one reader thinks is melodramatic, another reader might really enjoy. There is a fine line between adding the right amount of drama in your story verses overkill. Finding that fine line is an art that takes time to develop. If you are planning on attending the ACFW conference in a few weeks there are several workshops that deal with this topic in more detail. So check them out.

ACFW Conference Workshops
1) A Kiss is Not Just a Kiss: Julie Lessman and Ruth Axtell Morren are the presenters in this workshop
2)Focus on Description: Susan May Warren is the presenter in this workshop
3)Adversity: Writing It, Writing Through It, Writing About It: Allie Pleiter is the presenter in this workshop

Here are some books that deal with this topic as well:
1)Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints  by:  Nancy Kress

2)Getting into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn from Actors by:
Brandilyn Collins

Learning this technique can be a challenge, but we must keep improving in our craft and becoming the kind of writers that our readers deserve.

What tips or techniques do you use to help in this area of your writing? Can't wait to hear from you!


Friday, September 9, 2011

And We Have A Winner!

Congratulations to Joy Melville, who's name was drawn as the Starbucks card winner!!!! She has been notified and will receive her card shortly.

A huge thank you to all who entered!!!!!!


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Post Conference Funk

With the ACFW conference only sixteen days away, I find myself getting more and more excited. I can’t wait to see friends, listen to the many wonderful speakers, and meet agents and editors. For us writers, it can’t get much better!

Yet, after a fleeting three and a half days it’s over and we return home. Home to begin the daily grind of sitting down at a laptop and trying to implement all that we learned. We may be excited to do this. Or we may be a little let down. After all, some of us have spent months planning for this conference. So what do we do? How do we cope with letdown and incorporate all we’ve learned into our writing, plus the other things we want to do when we arrive back to “the real world"? I can’t offer medication to beat “Post Conference Funk,” but I can offer a few tips.

Coping With Letdown- Let’s face it, writers are emotional people. We write stories and characters with emotion because that’s who we are ourselves. So after a conference, we might be tempted to spend days and even weeks, in a haze of gloom. This may be similar to the feeling you get when the Christmas rush is over and that long month of January sets in. Instead, before the conference, expect letdown will follow when it’s over, and you’ll be better able to cope.

Follow Through – After taking a few days off to de-funk and tackle the ominous mounds of laundry, you’ll want to evaluate what needs to be done. Maybe you received a request for a proposal or manuscript. Send those out. Maybe you made contact with someone who you’d like to interview on your blog. Send out the interview questions. Also, sending thank you notes to industry professionals you spoke with is a must. And if you made new friends, a quick “how are you" email might help with the letdown that you, and maybe even they, are experiencing.

Implement All You’ve Learned- You’ve heard great speakers and taken notes. Maybe as you were listening you realized changes needed to be made in some area of your writing. Work on making them. Beware however, of making changes just because someone said to do so in a workshop. Not everything that works for them will work for you. We all write differently and that is how God made us. However, all of us could use improvment, so implement the things you know God would have you to do. When we let Him guide us in our writing, how can we go wrong?

Revisit Your Conference Experience – Okay, maybe you can’t go back to the Hyatt, but you can go back to your pictures, notes, and conference recordings. These can help with letdown and, not to mention, learning things all over again. Listening to the recordings and rereading your notes will allow you to pick up on things you may have missed or revisit something important.

I hope these tips help stave off “Post Conference Funk” and make the aftermath of the conference just as educational as the conference itself (this would be easier if Tracie Peterson was my next door neighbor!)

And if you see me at the conference, don’t hesitate to say hi!

Happy Writing…

Conference Giveaway
As promised, I’m giving away a Starbucks card to one lucky winner. All you have to do is answer the question below. In your comment, leave an email address, and voila you’ll be entered! The drawing will take place the Friday the 9th, and the card mailed out soon after so get your answer in before then. This is a great opportunity --so spread the word!

The question is:

Who is the keynote speaker at this year’s ACFW conference?
A) Charlotte Bronte
B) Tracie Peterson
C) Jane Austen