Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Mary's Dream

Merry Christmas! Let's not forget the reason for the season.

I just received this message from one of my married children. I don't know who the author is but I think you'll all agree it deserves sharing.

Mary's Dream
author unknown

"I had a dream, Joseph. I don't understand it, not really, but I think it was about a birthday celebration for our Son. I think that was what it was all about.

The people had been preparing for it for about six weeks. They had decorated the house and bought new clothes. They had gone shopping many times and bought elaborate gifts. It was peculiar, though, because the presents weren't for our Son.

They wrapped them in beautiful paper and tied them with lovely bows and stacked them under a tree. Yes, a tree, Joseph, right in their house. They decorated the tree, too. The branches were full of glowing bulbs and sparkling ornaments. There was a figure on the top of the tree: it looked like an angel might look.

Oh, it was beautiful. Everyone was laughing and happy. They were all excited about the gifts. They gave the gifts to each other, Joseph, not to our Son. I don't think they even knew Him. They never mentioned His name.

Doesn't it seem odd for people to go to all that trouble to celebrate someone's birthday if they don't know Him? I had the strangest feeling that if our Son had gone to this celebration He would have been intruding.

Everything was so beautiful, Joseph, and everyone so happy, but it made me want to cry. How sad for Jesus, not to be wanted at His own birthday party. I'm glad it was only a dream. How terrible it would have been had it been real."

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Oak Leaves

The ACFW annual conference in Texas was not my first writing workshop. My first writing conference was a one day Antioch workshop in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This conference gave me the courage to begin writing my first novel. I've been taking writing classes and attending workshops every year since.

When Rosanna, my writing friend asked me to attend the 2007 ACFW conference, I was willing, but didn't expect it to make a difference in my life. But after we joined ACFW and before attending the conference this group was already making a difference.

For one thing I was inspired to begin writing a blog.

As we boarded the shuttle to take us from the airport to the hotel we were greeted by a pleasant lady with a very warm smile. She was also on her way to the ACFW conference. We learned she was a published author and her name was Maureen Lang. Several times during the conference we took a few moments to chat and I purchased her newest book: the Oak Leaves.

I purchased the book because I had met the author and found her to be gracious and genuine. After I read the book I decided this will be the book I'd use to write my first book review on the blog.

With her book The Oak Leaves, Maureen writes a compelling tale that most women can relate to. We're nurturers. We want children. Healthy children who will one day give us healthy grandchildren. I know a family who had a daughter who was deaf. Everyone but the parents knew it for years before they had her tested and got her hearing aids. One of my son's didn't talk until he was three. He was my fourth child so I didn't think anything about it until his grandfather started worrying about it.

So I understand when Maureen's character Talie denys that her precious son, Ben is anything but just a little slow. I understand how she wants to protect Ben, her husband and herself from reality as long as she can.

And when she reads her ancestor's diary and learns about the Kennesy legacy, she can deny the truth no longer, I understand why she wants to protect her sister from the Kennesey "curse."

The story leads us though the present day with Talie and takes us back to 1849 as she reads Cosima's journal, making this a parallel story. Cosima wisely writes ". . .love is stronger than fear." This, I believe is the message Maureen would like us to take with us as we finish reading this inspiring book.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Happy Birthday

What do you think about on your birthday? What did I accomplish in the past year? Did I fulfill any writing goals?

I thought I'd finished my first novel manuscript, after working on it for nine years, and I was pleased to have a second manuscript half finished. After attending the ACFW annual conference, I learned that the writing rules have changed in those intervening years and it's back to the computer for rewriting.

Nine years ago Writers Digest recommended 60,000 words as the ideal novel size because of paper and printing costs. Now I find many publishers want much longer manuscripts.

Nine years ago Writers Digest taught me not to leave anything out. That's cheating they said. Now we are encouraged to jump cut and leave out the boring transitions. Leave description to a minimum. (Weave it into the story.)

To add words, I thought I'd need another subplot. I brain stormed with other writers at the conference on what that subplot might be. Then I took another look at my synopsis and I have a lot going on already. I need to expand the existing plot and subplots.

I've added scenes and that helps the word count rise, but I'm also deleting redundancies.

My goal for this next year: Revise this manuscript and make it acceptable. My mantra: Follow your dreams . . . and never, never, never give up.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Editing Check Sheet

Last week, on Tuesday afternoon DH (dear husband) and I left for PA to deliver a load of turfgrass to a golf course. We stopped at a motel about 40 miles from the job site. (See our site at www.lavyturf.com)

In the morning DH left me at the motel to read and meditate about my writing while he delivered the sod. It was a blessed gift. The lord gave me insites (a deeper layer) for several places in my wip (work in progress). Alone time, that I get very little of here on the sod farm, is very precious.

Twenty-four hours later we were home again, and I could get back to my computer. I wasn't expecting the gift of the morning alone or I would have taken the computer along. Reminder to self, 'never leave the laptop behind.'

And now more wisdom from Tiffany:

This is the editing worksheet I use for all of my fiction books but before you run out and think you’ll have to spend hours looking for all of these words STOP. There is an easy way to use this. This is designed to be used after you’ve completed your first draft or a sizeable chuck of your manuscript.

For Word users follow these simple steps:
Step 1: Click Edit on the toolbar
Step 2: Find
Step 3: Click on the word "more" at the bottom of the dialog box.
Step 4: Click the word "Replace" across the top
Step 5: Type ‘was’ in the "find what" box [do not put in the quotation marks. [That’s for you.]
Step 6: Type ‘was’ in the replace with box [again, no quotation marks]
Step 7: Put your cursor in the "replace with" box
Step 8: Click the word "Format" at the bottom of the page
Step 9: Click the word highlight
Step 10: Click replace all

Now do this with all the words on this list. It seems like quite a bit of work but truly it takes less than 1 minute for each word. If you have a problem with no color showing up make sure the highlighter on your tool bar has a color. I make each column a different color so it’s easier on my eyes. Likely your manuscript will look like a rainbow vomited on it but you can now go through and do meaningful edits.

Editing check sheet
Check for and eliminate:

Passive voice: Was, That
ing words adverbs [-ly]
to be
to demonstrate
to feel
to experience
to convey
to seem
to express
to display
to look
to show
to appear
kind of
somewhat like
sort of
almost like
just then
close to

Sentences beginning with it or there

What is at stake?

Is it worth fighting for?

Am I engaging the senses? See, hear, smell, taste, touch.

Take the time to give enough detail to let the reader see. remind them often when you experience something again what it is they are experiencing.

Let the reader see the scene.

Do my characters need to do more? talk more? think more? be described more? Do they exist in a vivid setting?

Is my purpose evident?

Do the readers have the information they need to follow the narrative or argument or recipe?

Is the narrative laid out in the clearest manner?

Is the tone appropriate?

Is there clear GMC and growth in the characters?

"Copyright Tiffany Colter. 2007. All rights reserved. For more information on Tiffany, her writing career planning services or free online articles and lessons visit www.WritingCareerCoach.com"

Thursday, August 23, 2007

One more day . . .

One more day until the Columbus workshop. I just got some wonderful advice from Tiffany Colter. I have her permission to share this information.

Five tips to maximize your time at conference:

I get the question quite often "I’m going to my first writer’s conference what do I need to know?" I created this sheet to help first timers as well as seasoned Conference Attendees maximize their time at writer’s conference.

1. Ask lots of questions

Projecting a professional image. (How NOT to look like a newbie)
If you’re planning to attend a writer’s conference for the first time I have just one piece of advice:

Ask lots of questions.This may seem counter-intuitive but it's true. New people want to show how much they know and have practiced so they tend to spout off, a lot. They do crazy things to chase editors and agents. YES at conference I did hear a newbie follow a poor editor in to the bathroom...

I went prepared with a list of questions. I kept the editor and agents chatting. I picked their brain for all it was worth. I handed them my one sheet on my various projects at the beginning but said NOTHING about them. I asked questions on the industry and allowed them to look at my one sheets as they answered questions they could answer in their sleep. I feverishly took notes as they shared years of wisdom with me.In the end I said "Well, thank you for your time. Would you be interested in seeing these projects?" The agent said "Sure, send it my way." The editor said "If agent X [the agent I'd spoken to the day before] takes you on tell him to send the project to me."

And you know what? I wasn't scared a BIT. I never spoke. I took great notes, learned more in 15 minutes than I ever imagined and had what could be considered 2 yes'.

More importantly no one had ANY clue it was my first conference, my first pitch or anything.I felt good because it was a casual side note "would you like to see it" rather than trying to convince them of anything. I think I sold myself well. So go to conference believing you are a professional writer and people will treat you like one.

2. Go prepared to learn, not pitch.

Of course you are going to pitch while you’re there and it is important to have a quick blurb that you can recite about your projects but go to a conference to learn. The conferences I’ve attended have offered two 15 minute appointments with editors and agents but other than that the draw of the conference was to learn, learn, learn.

I think it’s awful when I hear hallway chatter where people are talking on day one about how nervous they are about talking on day three with an editor. It seems like a waste to me to spend all that money and have most of your aspirations pinned to 30 minutes of the weekend. Instead have a pitch ready, create a one sheet, and know about the editor/agents that are coming to the conference but make your focus learning about the industry, craft, marketing and meeting other authors.

This is not a hard and fast rule that must be followed for success but this is what I have done to have success in my writing career. I’ve heard it said by Randy Ingermanson, "writing is a Marathon." If you want to consider that analogy then in the marathon that is a writing career, writer’s conferences are the cups of water people hold out and the runners splash on their faces. Writer’s conferences are refreshing and they are motivating but you can’t let your entire career rest on a conference.

You may think that I don’t think writer’s conferences are important. Quite the contrary, it is extremely difficult to move forward in this business without attending a writer’s conference on a regular basis. That is because once your craft intersects with the right editor or agent they can throw the door open wide to your writing career. The writing conference opens the opportunity to have contact with a publishing house who wouldn’t otherwise every see your unsolicited Manuscript.

Know why you’re going to conferences, that it’s not all about the pitch, and you’ll get the most out of your time and money.

"Copyright Tiffany Colter. 2007. All rights reserved. For more information on Tiffany, her writing career planning services or free online articles and lessons visit www.WritingCareerCoach.com"

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Excited abut the conference

Two more days before the Columbus workshop. The laundry is done so I'm practically packed. Did I tell you I'm excited about this?

The first morning, I have a twelve min advance critique with two book doctors. I find it interesting that all the critiques are with both these men, not one or the other. Less people are able to get critiques that way. But I'm not complaining. It's always a pain when you send your five pages in and then you edit it and they have the unedited version. Did I tell you I'm excited about this?

Then in the afternoon I pitch an agent. She sounds nice. I hope she likes Christian fiction. Six minutes and three pages. Six minutes. I had eight minutes to talk to the agents at the Antioch workshop and those eight minutes whizzed by. I have my paragraph synopsis (elevator speech). And one liners. I have only two days to practice. Did I tell you I'm nervous about this?

On Saturday, I just know I'm going to say something really stupid to the editor they're letting me pitch. She used to work for St. Martin's Press and I love their books. They always have great covers and I enjoy reading them. She now works for an imprint I know nothing about. So I will probably spout out something about St. Martin's Press in my nervousness and take up three of my six allotted minutes. Did I tell you I'm nervous about this conference?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Three more days . . .

Three more days until the Columbus Workshop. I'm eager to meet Teresa Slack, a fellow ACFW member. I've checked out her website and she writes the type of novel I love to read. I'm hoping to buy one of her books at the workshop.

If you haven't been to a writers workshop I encourage you put this on your to-do-list. You not only learn a lot, you rub shoulders with other writers. This is invaluable. Some one who understands that you love your character more than many real people. Some one who doesn't think you are anti-social because you would rather be writing.

This years week-long Antioch workshop started July 7, 2007. I'm still pumped from the teachers and the other workshop attendee's. The agents gave great suggestions. I told the first agent I was new at this so she was going to teach me how to pitch. She was wonderful. Mark your calendar for this one next year. June 12-18, 2008.

I'll let you know how the Columbus workshop compares. I'm working on my pitch. I hear some agents can be nasty. It makes me nervous because I can more easily praise anther's work before my own.

How do you prepare yourself for pitching at workshops?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Writer's Conference

This is my year to take in writing workshops. The first one was a Christian Writer workshop in Columbus, OH. Roseanna went with me to that one. We were both disappointed that fiction writing was not covered. It was still a good conference.

Then I went to the Antioch Workshop. The morning fiction was great and the intensive in the afternoon built from the morning lesson. Since I live close to Yellow Springs and the Antioch Workshop I plan to make this an annual event. If you have a chance to go to this one I highly recommend it.

I'm getting excited about the upcoming Columbus Writers Workshop. It is this Friday and I plan to meet another ACFW member there.

Then, Roseanna and I plan to go to Texas for the ACFW annual conference.

Does anyone want to comment on their experience of writers conferences?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Writing Group

As we speak our writing group has two members. We haven't had our first meeting nor picked a name. We do have our Critiquing Etiquette guidelines by JA Gaudet, so that's a start. We'd like to start a chapter of Americian Christian Fiction Writers here in the near Dayton area.

Rosanna writes Lit fiction from the single woman's perspective.

Sharon (me) writes . . . hmm. Well I think my first novel is women's fiction. I'm pitching it that way. My second novel, my wip is suspense.

This afternoon Rosanna and I went to Around About Books this afternoon to meet a fellow ACFW member, Michelle Levigne. She's from Ohio, but alas she lives too far away to join our writing group for monthly meetings.

If you are a Christian from the Dayton area who writes fiction we'd love to hear from you.